Grab a Badge
Diana & Bryan: A Tradition-Rich Military Wedding in Montgomery, Alabama
Photos By Candace Nelson Photography
By L. K. on Nov 23, 2015 at 4:00 am in Classic
Bryan Neal, a field artillery captain in the Army, and Diana Lee, a special education teacher, met in the summer of 2013 by a stroke of destiny at a winery in Clarksville, Tennessee. “Our meeting was definitely providential,” says Diana. Although the Alabama belle was instantly smitten with the dashing officer, she initially thought him too charming for comfort. “He was so handsome, I thought he must have a string of ladies after him,” she says. “I didn’t think I’d ever see him again, but there was something about him I couldn’t shake.” Plus, Bryan was persistent, texting Diana for months despite at first receiving the cold shoulder from her. Finally, the two struck a deal when their respective alma maters, Auburn and Texas A&M, battled it out on the football field that fall. “If his Aggies won, he would drive to Auburn to take me out,” Diana says. “If my Tigers won, I would drive to Nashville to take him out.” It was a win-win either way. With Auburn prevailing, the pair shared their first official date on Diana’s turf over Veterans Day weekend. A year later, on the very day Auburn and Texas A&M met again, Bryan proposed with an engraved Bible, a bouquet of peonies, and the most beautiful diamond sparkler Diana had ever set eyes on.
The couple exchanged vows the following spring in Montgomery, Alabama, at the Young Meadows Presbyterian Church, then dined and danced the night away at the historic Oaks Plantation in Pike Road. Inspiration for the day’s details was drawn from the bride’s Scottish heritage and her love of all things Southern, as well as from the groom’s military background. They endeavored, Diana says, to create “feelings of warmth, inclusion, tradition, chivalry, and community.”
“My grandmothers were full-blooded Scotswomen who lived in, and loved, the South,” Diana says. “Since they have passed, I wanted to honor their memory and the impact their roots have had on me. As a little girl, I dreamed of getting married in either a Scottish castle or an old country church, neither of which had room to host all of the people we love. It was up to the details to evoke the moods of these places.”
Diana’s eldest brother, Andrew, is an artist and designer, so he volunteered to create the couple’s monogram, which became the detail that set the tone for their wedding. “We decided to keep the tradition of having my maiden surname initial on the invitation and wedding program and my married surname initial on all monogrammed pieces at the reception,” Diana says. “Andrew’s design captured the look of an ancient Scottish church, with a nod to the South’s live oaks in the form of leafy branches shaped into a Celtic cross. The initials contained horizontal lines that reminded me of the shiplapped country churches I once dreamt about.”
Andrew worked with local calligrapher Courtnie Johnson and local stationer p. press to create the cream-and-gold paper goods.
Bryan’s band belonged to his beloved grandfather, after whom he’s named, and Diana’s diamond-studded band belonged to her Scottish great-great-aunt, after whom she’s named.
Lisa Thorne, the couple’s floral designer, intertwined their Scottish and Southern roots by including tartan and thistles in the boutonnieres, pinning the bridal bouquet wrap with an heirloom amethyst thistle brooch that had belonged to the bride’s Scottish great-grandmother, and creating lush garlands and arrangements using greenery familiar to the South.
The altar was garlanded in greenery accented with the same kind of sunrise-shaded peonies that Bryan gifted to Diana when he popped the question.
“To personalize the reception space, my mother brought in family pieces, including antique Persian rugs, a gilded frame from the 1800s, and a hand-embroidered turn-of-the-century settee,” Diana says. “Other family members also contributed items, including antique silver candlesticks, silver goblets, and silver platters. Over the mantels, our florist hung large gray-toned murals that looked like they could have come from the pages of an old illustrated edition of a Jane Austen novel.”
A bagpiper piping “Scotland the Brave” serenaded the couple as they passed beneath an honorary arch of sabers. “I am partial to Bryan in his dress whites, which are not the common choice for military grooms,” Diana says.
“Hire a photographer you can trust,” Diana says when asked about her best piece of advice for soon-to-weds. “As the day goes by in a flash, it is vital to have a skilled photographer who can capture the moments that might otherwise slip by undocumented. We were blessed to have Candace Nelson as our photographer. Candace picked up on the heart of our wedding and the essence of who Bryan and I are. She has a beautiful perspective and artfully captured moments and emotions that we will cherish forever.”
Guests dined on a feast of Southern comfort food catered by Jennie Weller. The mouth-watering menu included fried green tomatoes, made-to-order gourmet pizzas, barbecued shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, scallops, macaroni and cheese scooped out of a parmesan cheese drum, and melt-in-your-mouth beef tenderloin with sweet potato biscuits. The couple’s four-tiered cake was brushed with edible gold.
Sharing is Happiness
Photography > Candace Nelson photography
Event Design and Planning > thorne & thistle
Creative Direction > thorne & thistle
Second Shooter > david nelson
Ceremony Venue > young meadows presbyterian church
Reception Venue > the oaks plantation
Day-Of Coordination > thorne & thistle
Flowers > thorne & thistle
Catering > jennie weller catering & events
Cake > sonshine cakes
Furniture Rentals > the event group
Ceremony Music > trotline
Bride’s Dress > monique lhuillier
Bridal Boutique > Ivory & White
Bridesmaids’ Dresses > BELSOIE FROM THE CLOTHES RACK
Groom’s Attire > military uniform
Invitations > andrew lee, brides brother
Programs > andrew lee, brides brother
Paper Goods > sherry scruggs of p. press
Calligraphy > poppy pedals
Bagpiper > dr. teresa gordon
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