Five Weddings, Four Months, One Neighborhood

By Megan Willome

Mothers of the bride discuss friendship and destination weddings

Pictured: photo by Cat Mayer

Once upon a time, five children grew up in the same Waco neighborhood. They were friends, their mothers were friends, and their families were friends. They shared Fourth of July parades and Christmas parties in which Santa Claus visited their cul-de-sac. Although they attended different high schools and colleges, the four girls and one boy remained friends. In 2014, they all married within four months of each other.

Doran Bostwick Wright graduated from Vanguard College Preparatory School, Sewanee: The University of the South and UT Southwestern Medical School. She lives in Durham, North Carolina while she finishes her last year of residency at Duke University School of Medicine. Tara Brindley Henderson graduated from Vanguard and TCU. She lives in Fort Worth and is a nursing supervisor in the operating room at North Hills Hospital in North Richland Hills. Rachel Lundeen Gatlin graduated from Vanguard, Auburn University and Vanderbilt Law School. She lives in Nashville and is chief of staff for the first lady of Tennessee, Crissy Haslam. Chris Lundeen Chris graduated from Reicher Catholic High School and Auburn and received a mini MBA certification from Belmont University. He lives in Nashville and works for Avondale Partners. Caroline Squires Neerman graduated from Midway High School, TCU and Baylor Law School. She lives in Austin and works as staff attorney for the Chapter 13 trustee.

Each of the weddings took place out of town, and each family had individual reasons for choosing a destination wedding. They often found ways to incorporate Waco into the event.

I spoke with four mothers — Linda Bostwick, Trisha Brindley, Sue Lundeen and Cynthia Squires — about their children’s experiences growing up together, what made their destination weddings unique and what advice they have for mothers of the bride.

WACOAN: Describe the experience of your children growing up together in the same neighborhood.

Bostwick: They grew up together, and they’re kind of stair-stepped [in ages]. It’s that ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ concept. We’ve grown up together with our kids. Everybody but us still lives in the neighborhood.

It’s a cul-de-sac, so there’s no traffic. [Each of our kids] was born there or was just a couple of years old when they moved in. I love that neighborhood particularly because it’s in town, close to downtown.

We had neighborhood potlucks. We had Santa Claus come to visit every year.

Brindley: It only has two streets. It felt kind of like it was our own neighborhood. [The kids] thought it was their private space.

Squires: They all grew up together. The parents all are friends. The parents travel together — we take vacations together. That’s what these kids grew up with.

Lundeen: They just were very close growing up. Christopher was the only boy about this age, but he went along with the girls all the time. They were always involved in each other’s lives even though they didn’t always go to school in the same places. They were always attending each other’s birthday parties, confirmations, skiing together, hiking together in Colorado.

Brindley: When all these kids were young, we’d have our own little parade [for the Fourth of July]. We’d all bring our own strollers or bikes. People would ride in a Jeep or a Karmann Ghia. Neighbors would sit out with their boom boxes — that’s what we had back then — and play patriotic music. Sometimes we’d have someone come and lead the Pledge of Allegiance, and then we’d go over to one person’s house, and everyone brought something, and we ate lunch.

WACOAN: Sue, you had two of your children get married within three months in the same city, Nashville, Tennessee. How did that happen?

Lundeen: Yes, all three of our kids live there.

Rachel and Ben had been dating for a while, about a year and a half. They’re both 30, 31. They broke up for a while, and then Christopher and Bri got engaged the day after Thanksgiving [2013], when both our families were there [in Nashville], and then Ben and Rachel got back together. They got engaged at [The Chapel at Beaver Creek in Eagle, Colorado] in December 2013, and they wanted to get married there, but Ben had a close friend who’s in a wheelchair and couldn’t come to the wedding if they’d had it there.

Rachel and Ben wanted to get married sooner rather than later and wanted it to be outside, and that depended on when dates were open at Front Porch Farms [in Nashville]. They’re usually booked two years in advance, but this opened up when another couple cancelled. That’s why their wedding ended up being before Chris and Bri’s.

WACOAN: When and where was each of your weddings?

Squires: Caroline is pretty traditional, but she didn’t have the wedding in a church — she had it on [Skier Bridge Lawn]. When it’s winter, the skiers use it to get from one place to the next. We had an 8-foot wooden cross built. The wedding was on August 2, 2014, at 6 p.m. This was in Beaver Creek, Colorado, at the Ritz-Carlton [Bachelor Gulch in Avon, Colorado]. It all took place in one spot.

We hired a painter [Laura Martindale of ARTISTICi from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina,] to paint the actual ceremony. She was located near the strings and started while the ceremony was going on and took a picture with her iPad and finished perched outside the reception ballroom. After the picture was finished, I gave it to the couple. She also made thank you notes with the picture, and Caroline used those.

Following the outdoor ceremony with that big giant cross, we had a cocktail area outside before we went into the ballroom at the Ritz-Carlton. We didn’t have anything the next morning [Sunday].

Bostwick: They [Doran and Adam] got married on July 5, 2014. It was in Austin at Mercury Hall [Events & Performance Center]. It’s off South Congress and First [Street]. It’s an old church they moved there [from Mercury, Texas, in 1997]. [The wedding was outside, and for the reception] they had a food truck that catered it and a local band.

The rehearsal dinner was at a working farm inside Austin called Springdale Farm. The bridesmaids’ luncheon was in Austin. On Sunday there was a casual get-together at Radio [Coffee & Beer] where people could get coffee and breakfast tacos. Many people were already on their way out of town.

Brindley: [The San Sophia Overlook] was a destination of 10,540 feet that you have to take the [Telluride/Mountain Village] Gondola to get to that spot. We got off midway at San Sophia Station. We had some [Chevrolet] Suburbans that took people from the top to the destination if they didn’t want to walk.

All the aspen leaves had changed, so it was very pretty, lots of gold. It looks over a whole series of mountains [the San Juan mountain range] that are 14,000-foot peaks, and you look down and see the town of Telluride that’s very Victorian and quaint. There’s a platform where the minister and the wedding party stood and little wooden benches for all the guests.

The cross that we used, we had left it with the florist and had flowers put on it and aspen leaves, real natural-looking. [The cross] was 10-feet tall, and that was the only decoration at the wedding. We did everything pretty mountain-themed. The groomsmen wore fly-fishing flies. The flower girls tossed a bunch of yellow aspen leaves. It was a grass aisle because it was all outdoors.

WACOAN: Sue, describe your two weddings.

Lundeen: Rachel married Ben Gatlin from Tupelo, Mississippi, on June 21, 2014, at a place called Front Porch Farms. It’s a venue about 20-30 minutes outside of Nashville [in Charlotte, Tennessee]. Rachel lives [in Nashville], and several of her husband’s friends got married there. She’s always wanted an outside wedding. It was warm out but not too hot. They had an arch made out of twigs with flowers. It was overlooking a valley that was gorgeous. The reception was there as well. I drove 20 candelabras up there — all from different friends [in Waco] who owned them — to use. Rachel works for the first lady of Tennessee [as chief of staff], so the governor and his wife were both there in attendance [Governor Bill and Crissy Haslam].

Rachel always wanted to get married in Beaver Creek — that’s why Ben proposed to her at Beaver Creek chapel. In fact, Ben’s wedding gift to Rachel was a pencil drawing of Beaver Creek chapel. Because of all that, Ben decided that that when they left the wedding, they were going to ski down a hill. So Ben build a latticework ski run down to the limo. They skied to the limo in boots and skis — on skis, in June. We had white glow sticks, all the people on both sides of the lattice, so it would look like snow. That was Rachel’s Colorado that she’d always hoped for.

Chris married Brianna Kourajian on September 6, 2014. They met at Auburn, where they both went to school. She’s from Peachtree City, Georgia. They got married at a venue called aVenue, right in the heart of downtown Nashville. Chris’s brother-in-law, my other daughter Sarah’s husband, Adam Garner, performed the ceremony.

WACOAN: What was different about being part of a destination wedding as the mother of the groom?

Lundeen: They were two totally different kinds of weddings. Chris and Bri’s wedding was right in the heart of downtown. Words to describe her wedding were ‘romantic’ and ‘vintage.’ Bri had blocks of wood that were 8-feet-by-10-feet on each side of the aisle, and they were [printed with] words to a Lady Antebellum song. She’s going to put those in her baby’s nursery someday. She collected vintage silver, and she got lacy doilies from both sets of grandparents on both sides and used those on the tables.

I was always kept abreast of the plans with Bri, but I wasn’t as involved in the decision-making. I went to Atlanta twice, once for a shower and once for a dress fitting. With a girl [Rachel], I was a big part of the decision-making process and a big part of making suggestions. When it’s your son, you get to do the rehearsal dinner, which is very fun. We did that at Cellar One on the Cumberland River.

WACOAN: Since a destination wedding often involves families — parents with children — how did you handle the issue of young children?

Squires: My daughter wanted [the reception] to be adults only, and that’s a problem if you have a lot of children in your family, like we do. Most of the kids were 11 and under. My daughter did not want to put Adult Reception on the invitation. We just let people know individually. They were mostly our relatives, my grandchildren.

She wanted her nieces and nephews in the wedding. The oldest nephew was a reader, and the other nephew was a ring bearer. Mrs. [Betty] Young made the ring pillow out of the extra fabric from her [Caroline’s] Cotton Palace dress. She also made the dresses for the two flower girls, who were 5-year-olds. The 3-year-old walked down the aisle with his dad.

What we had [for the reception] was a room just a few doors down from the ballroom. We had two babysitters that stayed there in that room, and my daughter-in-law brought crafts. It was like camp! [The kids] participated in the wedding, and afterward the parents took them to the room with the babysitters. They played games. The older ones would watch a movie. They ate in there. We got them pizza. It was a formal wedding, a seated dinner. The kids aren’t going to want to sit there while the wine is being served.

When the cake cutting was happening, the children came in and got some cake, and we let them dance for about 30 minutes. It was fun for them, but at 10, 10:15 [p.m.], we told the parents that we needed [the kids] off the dance floor.

Brindley: Betty Young also made my dress.

WACOAN: Why did you choose a destination wedding?

Brindley: We were going to do Fort Worth because my daughter lives in Fort Worth and went to TCU. We had reserved a couple of places there. She just called me and said, ‘I don’t want a big wedding. I want to do Telluride.’ We had a lot of Colorado memories. [Tara] learned to ski there when she was 3. We bought a cabin in nearby Rico, [Colorado] with another family.

We had a smaller wedding, only had about 90. [Tara’s] husband loves the outdoors, loves fly-fishing, loves hunting. The minister, in his talk, said something about why Tara picked this place — because of God’s beauty in creation all around us — but said that Cory loves having it here because he can go fly-fishing.

Bostwick: Doran and Adam, they’re older, so a lot of this was their choices. In terms of why they chose Austin, Adam is from Llano, and Doran is from Waco, so it’s kind of halfway. And they also met in Austin. Both have friends from around the country, so flying into Austin was convenient, to fly directly. Also for family [from out of town].

For [Doran and Adam], it was a lot about being able to include their friends. We sort of said that it’s not a destination wedding, but in a sense it was. They had each lived in Austin in the past but not currently. Adam went to the University of Texas [for undergrad].

Squires: [Caroline and Jason] chose Beaver Creek because we go every summer to that area. Jason came on a family vacation with us [when they were dating]. They met in Austin, but when they went on their first Squires family vacation at Beaver Creek, they immediately thought of Beaver Creek when they decided to get married. And during that first vacation they did the village-to-village hike, and that’s a tradition they do every time they go. They did that after the wedding also.

WACOAN: What did you like about having a destination wedding? What are the advantages?

Lundeen: Nashville has so many different places to go, all kinds of museums related to music, good shopping, fabulous restaurants. It’s a very mom-and-pop town. People are trying to make it on their own creativity. They have a great selection of hotels, from lowest to highest end, so we had a choice of where people could stay. A big group of people stayed across from where Chris and Bri got married so they could just walk across the street. For Rachel and Ben, we had buses taking people out to the venue.

Brindley: It’s really fun for the people that go because it’s like a minivacation. They get to see places they haven’t been. It’s more of an expense for people, but they work it into their vacation plans. We had lots of rooms in three different hotels or condo buildings. A few people chose to rent a house with a group of people. We rented a house, too, that we could have a lot of family stay in. We probably had 12 of us staying there.

Some people came [a few days early], and they had time to hike, fish, do some shopping. We had a party Thursday night for all the people who were in town — just 20 people or so.

We also had a party on Friday night. It was sort of both [rehearsal dinner and welcome party]. There were some toasts, not as many. The day of the wedding, you had to get on the gondola a little after 10 [a.m.], and then the reception lasted until 3 [p.m.], so some people had been on the mountain all day, had a big lunch, had champagne, and it was raining by then. We did gather on Saturday night. It was a no-host situation at another restaurant/bar in Telluride. It was all very casual, very mountain-themed, very rustic.

Squires: We liked having everything in one place. We didn’t have to transport for 30 minutes, people out this direction or that direction. When [the bride and groom] left, they went in the elevator and up to the suite.

The other reason families are doing destination weddings is because families can use it as a vacation, and everyone can be together for the whole weekend. These guests are spending a lot of money to come from out of town. Expectations are high. And everyone is together all the time because you can’t leave!

Some [guests] came on Thursday night and stayed till Monday. Others came on Friday. Couples went rafting — a whole family went rafting together. Some went fly-fishing. Some went biking. Some went hiking. Colorado is a great place for pictures, so they took pictures with the mountains in the background.

We had the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner on Thursday night [at SaddleRidge in Beaver Creek]. On Friday we had a welcome party for everyone [at Vista at Arrowhead in the Country Club of the Rockies in Edwards, Colorado].

The welcome party was great because people were coming in from right off the plane. Friends gave us that party — friends and our family. The weather was great, and people got to see each other, and they had great food. At the [welcome] party we served brandy alexanders because Caroline grew up on Lake Waco — we went out a lot on the lake. We would often have brandy alexanders on the barge, and once she became an adult, she had them, too.

The bridesmaids’ luncheon was at the [hotel] pool, very casual. All the hostesses were from Waco.

Bostwick: To some extent, it simplifies the wedding. It was a smaller wedding than the one we had in Waco [with our older daughter, Ellie]. It doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t include your friends, but it changes the personality of the wedding. We had about 200 [guests].

We did have a lot of the people at the same hotel. Both Doran’s brother and Adam’s brother and sister live in Austin, and a couple of bridesmaids were in Austin, and we have friends in Austin, so they all put up some of the guests in their homes.

WACOAN: Are there disadvantages or difficulties associated with a destination wedding?

Squires: There are real considerations when you do these destination weddings. They’re not cheaper, even if you have less people. If you’re going to have an expensive formal wedding, it’s going to be expensive. You have to make several trips to scout locations, places to stay. For a destination wedding, you better get that venue quickly. The nice thing about having it in a hotel is they’re used to doing these things, and they did a lot.

When you have a destination wedding, there’s so much you don’t know. We only had six months to plan. I do think it’s important to have a [wedding] consultant. If you have time, interview a couple of them, get some recommendations. If you do have a year, go right away to interview the consultant. It’s more important because she knows the vendors, she knows the locations.

You must hear the band in person. We went back to hear the band in person after we’d put a deposit down. We wanted to use a local one, but they were not good. We had to fire them. We hired The Hudson Project, and they were fabulous. Again, you have to fly them in.
You have to really be on top of everything. We ordered Chiavari chairs — they came in as plastic, but we wanted wood, so we had to change it. It would have slipped by us if we hadn’t checked.

When you have a destination wedding, it’s real hard to take a dress on the plane. You don’t want it wrinkled, so we drove the dress up there.

Brindley: Having to pick vendors. The sources are a little harder because you have to rely on the Internet and the wedding coordinator’s opinion. She did a really good job and helped deal with other vendors and coordinate, especially the week of the wedding. I knew Telluride, but you don’t know all the people that you have to deal with.

I do think that at these resorts, probably all the vendors’ prices are higher than they are here [in Waco].

Lundeen: It’s tougher where you can’t go and see things as readily. You can do it, but it’s harder to do. You’re doing it long distance, but you can do a lot with the computer. Just the whole planning makes it harder when it’s further away.

Rachel didn’t have a wedding coordinator, but Kathy [Best] at Front Porch Farms was there for the day of. Rachel and Ben did really everything. They both knew what they wanted. I just kind of facilitated. They went out to the venue several times. I went out with them a couple of times when I was in Nashville. They had tastings at the restaurants of caterers they were trying to choose. It was less [planning] with her being right there.

Also sometimes older relatives can’t come because they can’t travel.

Bostwick: It was so different since it wasn’t in Waco. Doran and Adam, they knew what they wanted. A lot of the decisions they made. I wasn’t quite as involved in the specific choices, which was fine.

WACOAN: Linda, did it still feel like a destination wedding even though it was just down the road in Austin?

Bostwick: It did. I personally had not spent that much time in south Austin, and I really loved it, the eclectic atmosphere, [like] having a working farm in the middle of Austin where we could have the rehearsal dinner. It was pretty focused outdoors. I enjoyed the laid-back environment.

Nowadays, they have the bridesmaids and groomsmen get together ahead of time. It’s gotten very elaborate. This group didn’t do that, but [the wedding party] came in a couple of days early so they could hang out together. The guys went to someone’s ranch. The girls got manicures and pedicures. They all went to Barton Springs. Several of the groomsmen are musicians, so they went to hear music.

WACOAN: Do you have any advice specifically for destination weddings?

Brindley: I do think having a good wedding coordinator is really helpful, even for local weddings. There are so many details now.

It’s nice if you have ample time. I didn’t have as much as I wanted. When [Tara] switched to Colorado, we had to work around the snow schedule. [The wedding] was either going to have to be in September or June of the next year. I could’ve had more time to research vendors up there and compare prices. Some were already booked, so I had to make decisions quickly.

It helps to go up there in person. I met with the makeup person and the person who did the hair, and we had a trial run. I met with the florist and talked through all that, met with the caterer. [I met with] the cake person and all the visual things.

Squires: For destination weddings, I believe the number that’s quoted, it’s usually 40 percent [of the invitees] will come. For some reason in Waco it’s often 50-60 percent because Waco is so supportive of each other. Your friends will make that extra effort to come. We had about 207 people there, 211 maybe. We had 150 invitations, so potential for 300 some-odd people. You should count on about 50 percent when you’re from Waco.

And you have to have a Save the Date so people can get airline tickets, especially if they’re going to use points.

Incorporate your hometown as much as you can, like we tried to do with the gifts and the welcome boxes.

WACOAN: What can you tell me about those welcome boxes or bags?

Squires: She had a beautiful gold box. Her colors were gold, navy and pink. With a destination wedding you also need to have information in the welcome box or at the hotels where people are staying with the locations and times for the [wedding] activities as well as other activities, like golf, fishing, hiking, etc. that the guests can participate in on their own.

We put in M&Ms from Waco, Dr Pepper for the young people, [bottled] water. The cookies were made from Cecile Crumpler. She did them in the shape of Texas. She had a Texas cookie cutter, and I found an Oklahoma cookie cutter because Jason was from Oklahoma. We put a Texas and an Oklahoma cookie in every box. We had nuts, we had Advil, we had maps. Lane’s [on Austin] and Papillon could pull together a welcome box for you because they do those things for gifts.

Brindley: Everything in our gift bag was mountain-themed. The sugar cookies were made here by Cecile Crumpler. One was a rainbow trout, one was a mountain peak, and one was an elk.

Lundeen: We did baskets, little wooden baskets, and they had in them [bottled] water and Dr Pepper, M&Ms. A friend of Rachel’s [from college] made pecan pancake mix and put in Tupelo honey from Ben’s hometown. They brought a little bit of Waco with them to Tennessee. Rachel really wanted that.

WACOAN: Are there other ways you incorporated Waco into the wedding?

Brindley: I did most of the printing here. We had aspen leaves on everything, gold aspen leaves on the invitation from Crop-Paper-Scissors.

Squires: We tried to make as many Waco connections as we could. For gifts for people who helped, there are some local, jarred jalapeños [Crybabies Sweet-n-Sassy Jalapeños].

The bridesmaids’ gifts were designed by a girl who grew up here in Waco, Reagan Rowland. She’s a jewelry designer, and her business is called Henri-Lou [Jewelry]. She lives in [Los Angeles, California,] now, but she grew up in Waco, and we wanted to use her jewelry. They were gold necklaces with geodes at the bottom, and the geode had gold around it.

Gholson Jewelers — they made the necklaces for the flower girls. They had a little pink pearl on them.

Something else we did was donate to Compassion Ministries here in Waco rather than give a favor for each of our guests. We did have koozies in a basket for guests to take, but the donation was given in honor of our guests and was noted at the bottom of the program. I think this is a great thing to mention because if you have a destination wedding, you can still support and give to causes in Waco.

WACOAN: What advice do you have for mothers of the bride?

Bostwick: I think what I learned is that each wedding is going to have its own unique flavor and reflect the personality of the couple. Every wedding is different. I was pretty comfortable just letting [Doran and Adam] take the lead on their choices. They knew what their budget was.

I think delegating as much as you can is great. I don’t think any one detail is worth getting too worked up about. It takes a lot of planning, and then it’s over in just a couple of hours. It’s more important to relish that time and not get too hung up on specific details, and for us, it did allow my siblings to come and family that I don’t get to see that often. You want enough structure that things go smoothly. To have someone else in charge that day so you can just relax and enjoy it.

Brindley: I think you try to set a budget, realizing some things are out of your control.

Squires: Start as early as you can. We only had six months. Everything hinges around the date. One, get your venue and reserve it. Next, get your minister. If you’re going to have a live band or even a DJ, reserve them next. Those three things are the most important.

It’s critical to taste the food you’re going to have — definitely have a tasting. You do not want surprises.

Be careful of who you get to officiate the wedding. I recommend someone you know — your pastor or a good friend. Reverend Michael Attas [M.D.], he’s associated with St. Paul’s [Episcopal Church], did the ceremony. He’s a friend of ours. We had heard him do other weddings. He was already going to be there [in Beaver Creek].

Lundeen: One thing people don’t realize with a lot of weddings, all three of our kids included, is there are a lot of touches behind the scenes that people don’t know about that are special to the bride and groom — things that are unique to that child.

Try not to stress out about it. It’s a ton of details, but enjoy the process. It’s meant to be a fun time, so let it be a fun time. I was very, very lucky with my new daughter-in-law and both of my daughters that they went with the flow. They knew what they wanted, and we worked with them on getting what they wanted in their price range. It helps when there’s a calm bride!

WACOAN: Were some of you able to attend each other’s weddings?

Lundeen: All of ‘em! We made it a priority. Our kids didn’t get to all of them, but we wanted to have somebody from the family at all of them because we have such a connection. It was a busy summer with all these weddings, but it was so much fun for the kids who grew up together to be a part of it all.

Squires: Everyone was invited. In a few cases, some of the adults couldn’t come because of work.

Brindley: Every one [of the weddings] was different.

WACOAN: Any final thoughts?

Bostwick: It was just the unique childhood, their shared childhood. I do think that the neighborhood was a rich experience for all the kids, and I think, unfortunately, a little bit unique in this day and age just to have a safe environment to play and to play outside. [The five kids] went all different places. Just with social media, they keep up, and the families see each other regularly still.

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