Although Katherine Worden and John Shepherd attended Duke University together, they did not meet until after graduation when their roommates began dating one another. From their first conversation, Katherine and John knew they were about to embark on something special––so special, in fact, that John proposed to Katherine during a vacation to St. Kitts in May of 2003. A little over two years later, their wedding in the Blue Ridge Mountains celebrated the creative and family-focused nature of their well-suited personalities.

The bride and groom had always talked about having an outdoor summer wedding, and Katherine loved the idea of one embraced by the warmth of a home rather than a reception hall. It seemed only natural, then, that they married at Katherine’s parents’ summer retreat in the hills of North Carolina. With picture-perfect views and a cozy atmosphere, it was a dream location for their August nuptials.

While the event’s menu was proudly infused with southern comfort (the guests enjoyed grilled pimento cheese sandwiches and sides of okra), the couple chose a very different––and complex––aesthetic for the décor. “I’m obsessed with India and really wanted to incorporate its warm, vibrant colors. But I also wanted a somewhat haphazard or vintage feeling,” explains Katherine. Cleverly translated: “I wanted it to look like a grandmother’s attic.”

Southern California-based planner Kathy Nosek admits that upon hearing the bride’s ideas, “My first thought was wow!” With the wedding location three hours from any major city offering a rental company, Kathy and the couple headed to a local floral shop to scope out their options. They were pleasantly surprised with their findings and built the unique design concept around towering iron centerpieces from which flowers, vines, and glass candles were hung. Paper lanterns and Asian parasols in the bright shades Katherine desired––pinks, oranges, and purples–– also rained down from above, complementing the vibrant table linens and chair sashes inspired by Indian saris. The Wordens’ own collection of Oriental rugs added to the lounge area that was arranged with a fire pit for toasting S’mores (in lieu of wedding cake) under the stars. By combining a little of this and a little of that, the attic theme— complete with Katherine’s late grandmother’s wedding dress on display—was beautifully realized. “I love how it ended up,” Katherine says.

After a highly personalized ceremony conducted by the father-of-the-bride, an ordained minister, the group showered the newlyweds with rose petals as they walked through a magical cave-like arrangement of “kissing” laurel trees. Adorned with hundreds of votive candles, the natural arbor looked as though it had been planted for just such an entrance.

The cocktail hour on the lawn included oversized glass canisters of homemade lemonade and a “cake” made from rounds of brie, which the couple cut ceremoniously. Once inside the multi-hued reception tent, Katherine (with a rose in her teeth) and John danced a tango for their first spin as husband and wife. Her brother Robert also took to the floor, singing for the pair.

Having successfully brought a little bit of the exotic to their down-home setting, Katherine and John had only just begun exercising their shared sense of adventure. After bidding guests farewell, the couple kicked off a Central American honeymoon with a stay in Belize before continuing on to an off the beaten-path ecotourism lodge in Nicaragua.