Just months after meeting Meredith Muecke, Anson Howard knew that his happiness was dependent on spending the rest of his life with her. “She was the ultimate lady: poised, intelligent, ambitious, supportive, and absolutely gorgeous… all the qualities I was hoping to find in a wife,” he says. In the window between completing law school and training with the United States Marine Corps, Anson popped the question with a family heirloom ring – and Meredith, who was thrilled, joyfully accepted his proposal.

“I believe the planning started the moment I watched the movie Father of the Bride as a six-year-old little girl,” confides Meredith, who had a very clear vision of the gracious style and Southern hospitality to which she wanted to treat her guests. “It has always been my dream to host my wedding reception at my parents' English manor home, and they opened their doors to welcome all of our wonderful family and friends.”

Anticipation began to build with the distribution of custom save-the-date cards. “The watercolor featured the two of us walking my dog, Gunner, in front of First United Methodist Church in Bay City,” says Anson. The illustrated house of worship was particularly meaningful since it was the same location where Meredith was baptized and confirmed as a child, and would serve as the site of the couple’s vow exchange.

“The ceremony décor was reminiscent of the stately magnolia trees that grow at my childhood home,” Meredith describes. The sanctuary walls were draped with grandiose garlands of fresh magnolias punctuated with cascades of orchids, hydrangeas, calla lilies, and roses. The altar was paved with a verdant mix of smilax and English ivy before being capped with white hydrangeas laced with phalaenopsis orchid sprays.

Eighteen bridesmaids sheathed in chartreuse silk preceded the lace-clad bride, who wore a custom Isabelle Armstrong gown. “Holding true to tradition, my first look at Meredith on our wedding day was when she walked down the aisle – and it was her first time seeing me in my United States Marine Corps uniform,” Anson confides. “It was a breathtaking moment we will treasure forever.”

Chartered buses transported guests to the Muecke residence for the post-ceremony celebration. “Welcome entertainment was provided by The Choraleers, a popular, all-male R&B group established over 40 years ago at Texas Southern University,” shares Anson. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres were enjoyed on the front lawn, where the entrance to the English manor was wreathed in white flowers. Dinner and dancing then commenced in the gardens, which were abloom with vanilla hydrangeas and masses of ivory roses.

Hundreds of yards of magnolia-leaf garlands stretched as far as the eye could see, and Meredith’s favorite oak was festooned with the leaves and wrapped with a curving bar. “An array of verdigris urns, filigree baskets, planter boxes, and candelabra – along with containers and vessels from my mother’s personal collection – were used throughout the home and garden,” reveals the bride.

Towering trees lit with Stockholm lanterns could be seen through the clear walls of multiple tents housing food stations, buffets, libation bars, and favor displays. Lush floral arrangements graced reception tables and upholstered banquettes where guests mingled and celebrated with refreshments in hand. Two amazing cakes were admired and enjoyed: a traditional white bride’s cake with cascades of fresh flowers, and a wonderfully elaborate groom’s cake featuring another likeness of Anson’s Labrador retriever. “The cake was a complete surprise to me, and I was blown away that Meredith had a pastry chef design it as a lifelike quail-hunting landscape with Gunner in it!” the groom exclaims. “At first glance, many groomsmen didn’t realize it was a cake.”

As Anson and Meredith danced for the first time together as husband and wife, the bride was overwhelmed by the warmth and conviviality that seemed to reflect the whole event. “We were dancing to ‘This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)’ by Natalie Cole on a dance floor constructed over the pool that I swam in throughout my childhood,” she recalls. “I was so touched to look around the tents and see so many special friends and family that traveled to celebrate our marriage. It is a feeling I will never forget!”

“I wouldn’t change a thing about the entire wedding,” the groom concurs. “I only wish we could do it again!”