Though Ali Jackson and Sam Bradshaw both grew up in Tennessee, they never crossed paths until they were asked to be in the wedding party of Ali’s sister and Sam’s longtime friend. Never imagining they’d exchange their own vows almost three years later, they started talking and Sam sent love letters to Ali throughout their relationship. On a cozy winter weekend at the Jackson family estate – owned by Ali’s father, country star Alan Jackson – Sam pulled another letter out of his jacket. Unsuspecting, Ali read the last line – “now I have a very important question to ask you” – and Sam got down on one knee.
From that night on, the betrothed knew they wanted to be married in the very same spot where they became engaged: right beside the fire pit overlooking the river at the Jackson family home. “We wanted a unique, dynamic wedding that would incorporate both of our personalities and passions: Sam’s love for the outdoors and my appreciation for grand, refined aesthetics,” describes Ali. “We ended up with a perfect combination of the two – the ceremony taking place on an elevated stage over the fire pit with an organic yet elegant vibe, and the reception in a magnificent tent adorned in glam and couture details.”
Since they originally planned their nuptials to take place at the end of May, the theme of the wedding décor was inspired by the gorgeous cherry trees that bloom in the spring and line the winding gravel driveway up to the Jackson family home at Sweetwater Farm. Although the celebration was postponed to July, lush cherry blossoms and a color palette of white and platinum achieved the bride’s original vision. As loved ones arrived, they were offered a photo op overlooking the Cumberland River, and as they enjoyed the celebration, the photos were printed, framed, and prepared to be given to guests as wedding favors later that night.
A raised, 100-foot aisle extending from the home to the fire pit was constructed over the pool for the sentimental wedding ceremony. “The elevated altar was situated directly above the fire pit overlooking the river where Sam proposed 17 months before,” smiles Ali. At the end of the walkway, the platform for the vow exchange was decorated with two cherry trees bedecked with phalaenopsis orchids, garden roses, tulips, and peonies at the base. Though the couple had a smaller wedding party, they still made sure to include their nearest and dearest. “Some of our closest friends walked down the aisle before the maids of honor and best men, and they were seated in designated rows behind our families,” shares Ali. “It was important to us to honor our lifelong friends in that way.”
“We wanted a unique, dynamic wedding that would incorporate both of our personalities and passions: Sam’s love for the outdoors and my appreciation for grand, refined aesthetics.”
As the mothers of the bride and groom processed down the aisle, a touching instrumental rendition of Alan Jackson’s song “Remember When” was performed; Sam’s brothers donning navy tuxedos and Ali’s sisters wearing silk column gowns followed. At last, the bride entered on the arm of her father in a timeless trumpet gown crafted from duchess silk satin with a Chantilly lace overlay; a cathedral-length train and veil trailed behind. She carried a lush bouquet of peonies, garden roses, tulips, and hydrangeas down the aisle to meet her beloved. As a true outdoorsman, Sam was dapper in a midnight tuxedo that showcased a custom woodland-inspired interior lining paired with a goose-feather bow tie. Just as they envisioned, Ali and Sam said “I do” exactly where she said “yes.”
Following an alfresco cocktail hour overlooking the Southern landscape, friends and family made their way to the nearby reception site. First, loved ones ascended steps to an open-air tent that reflected Sam’s love of nature with chandeliers fashioned from white antlers, sitting areas with suede sofas and hide rugs, and a 30” replica of his beloved Labrador retriever as a groom’s cake. From there, they entered a tent designed with Ali’s grand aesthetics in mind. Overhead crystal chandeliers created a luxurious look, and guests were seated atop platinum-toned chairs surrounding tables decorated with overflowing arrangements of vanilla-hued garden roses, orchids, tulips, peonies, and hydrangeas.
Ali and Sam made their way to the monogrammed sunken dance floor beneath an impressive three-tier floral chandelier for their first dance to “It Must Be Love” by Alan Jackson. Next, Ali and her father swayed to “You’ll Always Be My Baby,” which he wrote and recorded for his daughters’ weddings. The bride then changed into a second couture gown embellished with romantic organza petals to dance the night away. A 14-piece band from EastCoast Entertainment performed high-energy songs from both past and present. “They had the crowd excited from beginning to end,” affirms the groom. At the bride’s request, Alan Jackson and his band The Strayhorns performed a 30-minute set, complete with career hits such as “Chattahoochee,” “Livin’ On Love,” and “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere.”
At the end of the night, a dramatic firework show set the stage for Ali and Sam’s grand exit in the father of the bride’s first car, a 1955 Thunderbird convertible. “Except we didn’t leave!” admits the bride. “After most of our guests had left, we came back to enjoy an after-party with our closest friends.” A DJ provided high-energy music to keep the party going, LED cowboy hats were passed out on the dance floor, and late-night snacks including sliders, fries, and breakfast sandwiches were enjoyed. Despite wishing the pandemic away, the newlyweds confirm they wouldn’t change a thing about their special day.
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