Amanda Dermid and Jimmy "Ray" Robinson, Jr. met in a bar, a detail that still surprises them to this day. "Neither of us wanted to go out that evening, but we had persistent friends," admits Amanda. In getting to know Ray that night, she shared the cherries from her drink with him. It wasn't until several months into their relationship that he revealed the lengths to which he went to win her over. "Ray hates cherries and was spitting them under the table the whole night," she says.
Shortly before moving into their new home, Ray surprised Amanda with an emotional proposal, insisting that he wanted them to be committed to marriage before spending even one night there together.
As national director of sales for BBJ Linen, Amanda was no stranger to the world of wedding planning. However, the fun of working on her own event was sometimes colored by her exacting standards. She met this challenge by surrounding herself with highly talented professionals whom she knew shared her vision, beginning with coordinator Steve Kemble, who guided the couple throughout the planning of their extremely individualized event. Working with a theme for the celebration that mixed music, spirituality, and a healthy dose of Southern hospitality, the group decided upon a custom logo that would announce their nuptials to Nashville and beyond. It featured the neck of a guitar piercing the bride and groom's initials, underscored by the title of the famous gospel song, "Oh Happy Day." The design appeared everywhere -- paper suite, dance floor, elevator doors, guest towels, hotel room keys, etc. -- including a billboard that overlooked a busy downtown street during the week of the wedding.
On the morning of the wedding, Amanda hosted a ladies tea during which guests traded fabulous hats designed especially for the event by milliner Wayne Esterle, who is widely known for his fabulous Kentucky Derby creations.
Amanda and Ray designed the ceremony to be a unifying experience for them and for the very diverse group of guests that gathered to witness their vows. It was held inside the Ryman Auditorium, a Nashville landmark, and incorporated aspects of both the bride's Episcopalian upbringing and the groom's Missionary Baptist faith. But it was the carefully chosen music that the couple felt would be the best way to communicate their sentiments. Arranged beneath a twelve-foot cross of magnolia leaves, a forty-six-person gospel choir belted out spirituals, including "Oh Happy Day" sung by one of its original voices, Miss Lillie Knauls. The couple was also serenaded with a song written and performed in their honor by Wayne Haun, the owner of Vine Records. Once they were pronounced husband and wife, Ray and Amanda headed to the reception at the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel on a fire truck, honoring the groom's post-NFL career as a firefighter.
Greeting everyone at the cocktail hour was the couple's "over the top" wedding cake. Created by dear friend and cake designer extraordinaire Sylvia Weinstock, the confection was six towering layers of flowers, all hand made to complement the custom-designed linens that draped the cake table. (For the rehearsal dinner, Weinstock also created a groom's cake for Ray that boasted an exact replica of his station's fire engine.)
The flowers in the ballroom were primarily comprised of fluffy hydrangea blooms in various shades, which were mirrored by those intertwined on the room's enormous chandelier. Beneath it, Amanda -- having changed into a diaphanous halter dress -- and Ray, in a white dinner jacket, took to the dance floor for their first spin as husband and wife. They then joined their guests for a gourmet dinner that paid homage to southern cuisine: minted cucumber soup, braised short ribs of bison, cheese grits, sauteed Swiss chard, and sweet potato biscuits. This was followed up, of course, with plated slices of wedding cake, the fillings of which "were as diverse as the guest list."
Upon leaving the celebration, guests were given framed prints of the Ryman Auditorium -- special reminders of their unique experience in Nashville. All the small details that Amanda and Ray worked so hard to incorporate into the event added up to a true reflection of who they are as a couple -- one fortunate enough to have experienced the wedding of their dreams. "How many people get to leave the ceremony on the back of a fire truck, or get to lift the hearts of their guests simply by the song they play, or make their guests feel at home by the food they serve?" muses Amanda. "It was an 'Oh Happy Day' in every way!"