Real Weddings: Erica Tate and John Carver
A rustic romance leads to an exchange of vows under the big Texas sky.
“I was the girl who always said I didn’t want a big wedding and I’d be fine getting married on the beach somewhere,” Erica Tate says. And then her boyfriend asked her to marry him.
Erica and John Carver met in high school, went on one date, and didn’t reconnect until 20 years later. After hanging out for a few months as friends, they became more, and on November 5, 2011, they became husband and wife. Their wedding at John’s family’s ranch in Bells, Texas, was a pretty big deal.
“John proposed in the most romantic way ever—by carving a heart and the words ‘Will You Marry Me’ into a pecan tree that stands alone in the middle of a hay meadow,” Erica recalls. That tree would become the centerpiece of their ceremony, though it wouldn’t come easy.
The ranch is not so much a functioning farm as a lovely piece of property 65 miles north of Dallas, with an outhouse and a metal barn. At first, having a wedding there seemed like an impossible idea, but Erica was determined, and wedding planner Emily Youngblood assured the couple that it could be done. The preparation was a true labor of love (emphasis on the labor). John, Erica, and Erica’s parents worked for 10 months—much of the time outdoors in the blistering summer heat—to turn grass and dust and sky into a rustic-chic dream come true.
They spread gravel, removed dead trees, and built a fence for the entrance. They gathered tree stumps and stained wooden slats to craft benches where guests would sit for the ceremony. Erica’s mother made directional signs from reclaimed barn wood. A drought had put the beloved pecan tree at risk, so John watered it with 500 gallons per week to ensure it would live to see their big day.
In keeping with the outdoorsy theme, an Etsy artist made save-the-dates from wood medallions. Invitations were illustrated with a tree and tucked into wooden envelopes. And after moving heaven and earth, it was time for the party.
Erica and John exchanged vows under their tree, and then guests took a hayride from the ceremony site to the barn for a sunset reception, where outdoor tables were set with white flowers and succulents in wooden boxes and weathered metal containers. Shabby-chic furniture filled the barn, and Erica’s dad loaned many of his animal mounts to accent the decor.
“Looking back, I think, ‘How did we do all that?’ But I wanted something really original,” Erica says, acknowledging that it was worth it.
After all, love doesn’t grow on trees.
Ceremony Site: Crazy Legs Ranch, Bells, Texas
Photographer: Gary Donihoo, F8 Studio
Bridal Gown Designer: Nicolas Villalba
Bride’s Boots: M.L. Leddy’s
Hair: Maitee Miles
Groom’s Attire: Ralph Lauren
Groom’s Boots: Cavender’s
Bridesmaids Dresses Retailer: J.Crew
Bridesmaids’ Boots: Cavender’s
Flowers: Debby Jewesson, Branching Out Floral & Event Design
Reception Site: Crazy Legs Ranch
Pies: Mom’s Bakery, Sherman, Texas
Caterer: Gil’s Elegant Catering
Band: Lone Star Attitude, with Jon Christopher Davis and special guest Rob Wexler
Lighting: Dave Von Blohn, Absolute Entertainment
Videographer: F8 Studio
Save-the-Dates: This Fine Day, Portland, Oregon
Invitations: Salt + Pepper Press
Calligrapher: Nicole Black, The Left Handed Calligrapher
Wedding Rentals: Suite 206; TLC Event Rentals; Royal Restrooms; Gold Crown Valet Parking; Creative Greenery of Dallas; Golf Carts for Fun
Wedding Planner: Emily Youngblood, Blessed Unions
Wedding Designers: Branching Out Floral & Event Design; Gayle Tate; Emily Youngblood