1 Year Later: The Bowen Wedding

Hi there! Mary Parker Bowen {formerly ‘Johnson’!} here and I am so excited to share the story of how my husband Whit and I met, our engagement, and our wedding planning process as we approach our 1-year anniversary on May 12. I hope I help upcoming brides with the planning process, give a little inspiration, and tell you all about our special day! 

How Whit & I Met 

I’ll start off with how exactly Whit and I met. While we both went to Auburn University and had a ton of mutual friends, Whit is a couple years older than me, and we never ran in the same circles at the same time.  

In May 2017, when I began my move to Atlanta, I was staying at my cousin Taylor and her husband Thomas’ house until move-in. There, I connected with a close friend who also lived in Atlanta and worked at the corporate office of The Home Depot. She talked my ear off about a cute guy who worked on her team and how she wanted to set me up with him. The next week, she called and asked if I would fill in as a player on her kickball league since someone had backed out. I was most definitely not about the kickball part... but thankfully, I said “yes!”  

Post-kickball game, we all went out to celebrate and suffice to say, I was hooked on Whit! 

A couple of days later, we went on our very first date. I gave him my address to come pick me up...and lo and behold, Whit lived in the same townhouse complex just 8 doors down from me. What are the odds?!? 

Funnily enough, on the night of our first date, my whole family was in town for the July Americasmart Wholesale Show where Coton Colors exhibits, and against all the dating etiquette Whit and I were taught from a young age, rather than greet me at the door, I made him stay in the car secretly ran out of the house to join him. Meeting my entire family on our first would have been a bit overwhelming... and the whole situation continues to be a running joke in the family.  

We ended up going to Canoe, a classic Atlanta restaurant, and I was welcomed by the hostess as “Mrs. Bowen.” Little did she know that that was our first date, but that mistake would eventually ring true!  

The Proposal + Our Engagement 

In August 2022, my family decided to block off one entire week for an intensive focus on completing 12 photoshoots for the most efficient way to bulk-produce the assets needed for upcoming campaigns.  

My cousin Courtney and I were assigned the role of “Producers” of this particular Photoshoot intensive – aka those in charge of planning, organizing and making them happen. Whit knew I would be utterly distracted during this time.  

The final day of the photoshoot intensive was August 18, which coincidentally happens to be both of our parents’ wedding anniversaries. We had just wrapped up our last scene, and I was preparing to pop the champagne in celebration! 

I remember seeing Whit sneak out the back door of my Aunt Marcie’s house where we were shooting to head a few doors down to my parents’, but didn’t think anything of it. Five minutes later, Whit called my sister, Sara Kate, to tell her he needed me because he dropped his keys en route to my parents’ house. I instantly responded by saying, “What?!? No, he lost them, he needs to find them!” After guilt-tripping me, Sara Kate finally got me out of the house and into the field property between their homes to go “help him” where I was frustrated and barefoot with champagne in hand.  

I was pleasantly surprised to turn around and find Whit on one knee as he asked the easiest question I have ever answered. The spot we were in was a special place next door to the home I was born and raised in - a field draped in canopy oak trees and Spanish moss. Little did we know we would be having our first look on our wedding day, in that very spot!  

To my surprise, Whit had organized a big celebration after popping the big question with family and friends. Easy to say, this day will always be one of my favorites. 

The Wedding Planning  

In keeping with tradition following my oldest sister, Kyle’s wedding planning process, my sweet sisters, mom, dad, and brother-in-law organized a special celebratory kick-off to the wedding season by hosting a wine and cheese night. The purpose was a brainstorming session for the family to discuss dates, locations, themes, and the main components to start focusing in on the main deciding details of the wedding ceremony and reception. 

My mom has a tradition of gifting her daughters a Moleskine notebook where all notes, ideas, and comments along the way could be captured during the wedding planning process, and she gave one {in the perfect shade of green!} to us that night.  

However, if you know me, then you know I have quite a big issue with decision-making. My family joked my whole life that planning for my wedding would be a “torture-fest" for me due to the seemingly endless amounts of decisions there are to make throughout the process.  

All that to say - I wish I could say that I enjoyed this special time in my life, but I would be lying. I feel like you usually just hear about the “sunshine and butterflies” aspect of it all. But the planning process is hard, and it's okay for it to be hard. 

Within my role at Coton Colors, I am also in the industry of planning events, creating gatherings, and sourcing products, but when it came to my own wedding, I can honestly say that this was the hardest event I had ever designed and planned! It’s a totally different mindset to be in.  

Now that we’ve got that honest admission out of the way... let’s get into the fun part! 

Overall Design Vision 

From the beginning, I knew two things for sure: 

  1. I wanted most of my wedding budget to go toward my favorite thing: FLOWERS.  
  1. I loved the idea of a garden party-themed Spring wedding, but also loved the idea of a nod to Old Florida with a Palm Beach vibe.  

Which resulted in a theme that I nicknamed: An Old Florida Garden Party. 

Just like we encourage fellow hosts and hostesses to do when entertaining in their own homes, scheming up a theme helped me pull together an overall mood board that incorporated colors, textures, florals, and invitations. It made the following decisions much easier to align to since I had a guiding light to stick to – so very helpful for an indecisive girl like me! 

Settling on a Venue and Date 

Dates were limited as we were wanting a Spring wedding, so by choosing from the very few available is how we landed us on Friday, May 12, 2023 – which was at the time, just 9 months away!  

We knew from Kyle and Warren’s wedding {on New Year’s Eve 2015} that when planning any party for the Johnson family, EXPECT RAIN! It's become our signature with events! Whit and I looked at all the available venue options for our day, and each one had pros and cons, but we decided on a beautiful local venue: Goodwood Museum and Gardens. It's an indoor/outdoor venue, so we could rest easy knowing that if it rained it wouldn’t affect the entire event.

Goodwood’s Carriage House is a blank canvas for to transformed for a variety of occasions and events, which is exactly what I wanted – to make it our very own unique experience! We also decided that the ceremony would take place in a classic Tallahassee church: St. John’s Episcopal Church. 

Settling on that date and securing both the ceremony and reception venue did take quite a while, so to commemorate that big series of decisions being made {yay, me!}, we personalized ornaments and mailed them to our family and friends as an “unofficial” save-the-date reminder and announcement so they could plan ahead. 

In 2023, May 12 fell on a Friday. We instantly noticed vendors and guests praising us for having a Friday wedding instead of a weekend wedding. In hindsight, I must agree it was great having it on a Friday because following the nuptials, everyone could relax the entire weekend to follow. 

The Design Details 

Having the overall design vision and theme settled, we were able to dive into the details that followed and start focusing on how to best bring the theme to life and create an experience for our guests. Taking a cue from a helpful step in my day-to-day work processes, I started to pull together an overall mood board that incorporated colors, textures, florals, invitations, and more. I have to share the best app I use every day in my job for exactly this, and that is Milanote.

Milanote is an easy-to-use tool to organize your ideas and projects into visual boards. Having this complete resource helped tremendously when I was trying to illustrate the vision for my vendors or explain things in creative detail. I had tons of different boards broken out helpful categories like:  

  • Invitations 
  • Food Stations 
  • Bar 
  • Bridesmaid Dresses 
  • Wedding Cake 
  • and more! 

Let’s dive into the Mood Board and Design Details of my Old Florida Garden Party wedding: 

The Color Palette: 

  • Different shades of pink, greens, whites and blue. 

 The Flowers: 

  •  I wanted lots of color, different shades of pink and lots of them! 

The Patterns: 

  • I fell in love with this iconic mural and reminded me of Palm Beach – specifically the Colony Hotel which was the perfect tie-in for the Old Florida/Preppy part of my wedding I knew I wanted to incorporate early on. My amazing sister worked with a vendor to create this custom mural to be the main statement of the wedding where we brought into different details to the wedding. The most important detail... the invitation! 

The Save the Dates: 

  • I knew what I wanted for the Save the Dates. A simple tone on tone to have our guest save the dates. We brought in shades of blue and a pop of PINK for the envelope. My sister and I divided and conquered by addressing the envelopes with a green water color pen. 
  • A family friend, Kate Davis just launched her calligraphy business, and she brought the vision to life. 

    The Invitations: 

    • Confession: I am a sucker for paper. I love the traditional tie-in of wedding papers, and I so love and appreciate wedding invitations and knew this was something I wanted to make big. I found the vendor Dear Elouise located in Atlanta, GA and fell in love with all of their semi-custom options. We brainstormed the idea of bringing the mural pattern design detail to the gatefold for the wedding invitation and my sisters made it happen by working with the Dear Elouise team to bring this vision to life. It really set the mood for what was to come, and the final result was better than I ever could have dreamed of. I loved the ink color and beautiful calligraphy of the whole suite to bring in the perfect elements that represent the spring, old Florida, garden prep look that I strived for. 
    • The vintage stamps were something I absolutely loved. I searched high and low to find these stamps to tell the story of Old Florida with a nod to Georgia. I felt it set the mood right when you took it out of the mailbox and for what was to come. It may have taken hours to execute, but it was well worth it! 

      Asking my Bridesmaids and Maid of Honor 

      When asking my bridesmaids and maids of honor if they would be a part of my bridal party, I wanted to gift them something that they would keep forever.  

      I stumbled upon some glass knot keepsakes on Instagram and instantly thought of the phrase, “I couldn’t tie the knot without you! Will you be my Bridesmaid?” They were the perfect “Will you me my bridesmaid?” gift! I had 10 people in my bridal party: my two sisters, five cousins, and five closest girlfriends. 


      The Bridesmaid Dresses 

      I knew I didn’t want to opt for matching bridesmaid dresses, but instead I wanted my girls to be able to pick and choose the dresses that they want and would want to wear again. I gave them a color palette and mood board to choose from and we all worked together to create the perfect assortment of ‘garden party’ and my girls KNOCKED IT OUT OF THE PARK! The vision perfectly came to life.  

      Bringing It All Together 

      Leading up to the night of the wedding, there were plenty of festivities to kick-off the wedding week and get us into the festive spirit!  

      Welcome Party + Wednesday Wedding Kick-Off: Kyle and Warren hosted a small group of family and friends in their home {of course, it rained!} complete with a woodfired pizza truck and plenty of libations to toast. 

      Bright {White} & Blooming Bridesmaids Luncheon: Hosted by my Aunt Marcie and my cousins, Courtney, Taylor & Logan. A beautiful gathering {we shared all the details here!} with a bridal white theme which perfectly fit the occasion and contrasted the upcoming color-packed party we had planned for Friday evening! 

      Rehearsal Dinner: Hosted by Mr. & Mrs. Bowen at a local traditional Tallahassee landmark – the Governors Club. The masculine theme was perfectly suited for my husband-to-be... especially since our wedding reception was pink-packed! 

      Bringing us to...the beautiful evening of our wedding, Friday, May 12, 2023. 

      Together with the help of my entire family and our pro event planners at John Gandy Events, our entire vision came to life through the most beautiful ceremony and reception.  

      A few highlights from the night:

      • Dancing with my dad: The father-daughter dance was one for the books if I do say so myself! I chose a sentimental-to-us song: Drive by Alan Jackson, which perfectly described our childhood and even more so, my sisters’ and my relationship with our dad. We swayed and twirled, and the whole crowd joined in to sing the words, and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room! 
        • Husband + sister duet: The band humored us and played Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody for a complete recreation of a famous late-night duet of Sara Kate and Whit’s from years past. They nailed every single word and the crowd went wild! 
        • Dancing Queen Collins: One of my flower girls, Taylor’s oldest daughter, Collins, was the dancing queen as she tirelessly danced, climbed on shoulders to cheer on the band, and twirled the night away! On the bus ride home, she was so tired, she fell asleep sitting up with her dance floor props on and flower bouquet in hand! 
        • The Getaway Car: One of my favorite memories was at the very end of the evening where my new husband and I were leaving our reception. We waved goodbye to our loved one as a snazzy convertible drove us to our residence for the evening. The wind blew in our hair as we sang along with the radio and reminisced on the best night EVER. 

          Our 1-Year Anniversary 

          Ahhhh...one year of marriage under our belts and another celebration to commemorate! Whit and I have been saving something very special for the occasion, which is to sit down together and watch our wedding video, filmed and produced by a favorite vendor: Jimmy Nugent Films. Sharing our story here has been a fun way to recap an amazing few months, and a bit of insight into our family dynamics as we celebrated one of life’s biggest milestones and hosted a party to remember! Thank you for joining us! 

          I can’t wait for Sunday evening to relive the night in action...as The Bowens! 

          A full list of vendors I used:

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