On October third, amongst family and COVID-19 tests, John and I tied the knot—exactly one year to the day, and in the same place, that we got engaged. We couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather: a 78-degree day in Fall- crisp, warm, and absolutely beautiful in Apple Lake, where John’s family grew up (New Jersey).
Though we wanted a small wedding, the fact that my family is so large made that somewhat impossible. With a global pandemic and lots of travel involved, we were so grateful that nearly everyone was able to safely make it. It was the first time our families met, and as our loved ones walked down the hill—shaded by the many beautiful trees just beginning to turn— my soul was warmed.
We made the—in hindsight—poor decision to do the cooking ourselves (full credit goes to John and Josh on the grill), with some help from family. My sister, Mary, baked us the most beautiful cake we have ever seen or tasted. About an hour in, the cake started to tilt dangerously to one side, so we quickly cut the cake and dug in before it could fall over completely. It was worth it, and the following day we discovered that the best remedy for exhaustion is a breakfast of cake in bed.
Our officiant, Joe, managed to make us both cry and laugh during the ceremony. Joe is John’s sister’s husband and the two of them helped us write our vows full of references to friendship and adventures —the core of John’s and my relationship. My brother, Josh, spoke. The Princess Bride was a family favorite to us Blounts, not having cable television and only a handful of movies- Princess Bride being one of them. Everyone laughed and my mother was mortified. “Mawwage.”
The rings were made by me: my engagement ring includes a diamond John and I both fell in love with just before the pandemic, secretly procured by John and gifted to me sans setting. I started making the ring the following day, with barnacles to symbolize the ocean where I was raised. The wedding bands were carved with a wood grain motif: A sapphire sits pretty in John’s band, a stone from his late grandmother and one of the original owners of Apple Lake.
Joe said it best in the ceremony when he shared the symbolism of our rings: “For Hannah and John, these rings are not just symbolic of their future, they also represent their past. Hannah’s ring represents the ocean her father has fished her whole life. The craftsmanship of these rings speaks to the tradition of handiwork learned from her mother, a seamstress. The barnacles are inspired by the waters of her childhood, spent with her many siblings, along the beaches of the Atlantic. These are the familiar moments with which she designed these rings, in composition with the wood grain symbolic of these woods where we stand right now.”
After searching bridal blogs, dress shops, and Pinterest, I came to the conclusion early on that the wedding dress I wanted did not yet exist. Though I never had that “white wedding” dream, I wanted to wear something really special. I envisioned a dress that felt bridal but was somehow a little different from everything else.
When I first met with designer Hillary Anne O’dell of Hilandel, she enthusiastically listened to my rant about dresses, sketching while I spoke; when I finished she turned her paper around, and there on her sketchpad was my dress. Hillary had the brilliant idea to incorporate some of my designs into the dress- adding pearl buttons and a touch of my own artistry. It was a match made in heaven.
Our photographer was Ash Bean, who photographs HBJ’s social and on-person images. She is a magician and captured the most enchanting moments of our day. Having worked with Ash for many years, it was both delightful and comforting to have a friend photograph our wedding. She made it easy, understanding what moments to catch better than we did.
While we wish we could have celebrated with friends as well, we look forward to a time when we can dance the night away with both the families into which we were born and the families we’ve made along the way.