When deciding where to exchange vows, New Yorkers Elizabeth O’Keefe and Jonathan Cotton desired a setting much different from their everyday life in the city. “We wanted a ranch-like, almost high-class summer camp vibe,” explains Jonathan of their vision. Nestled among rolling hills, the affianced pair found exactly what they were looking for at a country inn in Highlands, North Carolina. To ensure 180 guests could celebrate properly all weekend long, Elizabeth and Jonathan rented out the entire property. The festivities included a barbecue welcome party complete with lawn games, as well as additional activities throughout the weekend – such as hikes and canoe trips – to keep loved ones entertained. “It was so fun to have all of our different groups of friends together, hanging out, and getting to know each other – making it the perfect weekend for us,” shares the groom.

On the day of the ceremony, friends and family found their seats atop wooden benches on the lawn for the alfresco service. The bride was a vision in her strapless bridal gown featuring a pale floral-print corset bodice and an A-line tulle skirt as she made her way down the aisle on the arms of her father and stepfather to a string rendition of “Sweet Disposition” by The Temper Trap. She met her groom beneath a four-post structure comprised of birch branches decorated with greenery and fresh flowers in shades of ivory, rose, and peach for the proceedings, which were officiated by the couple’s dear friend, Dan Jacobs. “At the beginning of the ceremony, Dan asked us to face the crowd to see all of the people who were supporting us,” notes Elizabeth. “It was the most moving part of the ceremony and brought me to tears.”

After the bride and groom recessed to “You Are the Best Thing” by Ray LaMontagne, loved ones entered the elegantly rustic reception space. The delightful décor was inspired by the pale pink, sage, and vanilla pattern on the bride’s dress, as well as the barn itself and the nearby apple orchard. Long wooden tables, as well as round varieties covered with ivory linens, were surrounded by vineyard chairs and decorated with a mix of high and low centerpieces composed of hydrangeas, roses, dahlias, and verdure. The venue was given a luxurious look by way of drapery woven through the wooden beams overhead and a large iron chandelier adorned with fresh greenery.

Following a sit-down dinner service, which featured an array of refined comfort food selections, guests enjoyed an assortment of sweet treats. “We didn’t have a cake because we didn’t want to stop the party to cut it,” smiles the bride. Instead, attendees noshed on an array of miniature desserts including pies, donuts, and pieces of the croquembouche confection. With their palates satisfied, the newlyweds and their loved ones continued dancing to the sounds of live entertainment. “Our band killed it the whole night!” exclaims the groom. To top off the fête, Jonathan surprised everyone by jumping on stage once the band announced the evening had come to a close. “I asked them to play one more song – ‘Wagon Wheel’ by Old Crow Medicine Show,” he remembers. “Lizzie came up on stage and danced with me while the band played and I sang. All of our guests were right up at the edge of the stage singing along, dancing, and smiling. It was truly magical.”

After their dramatic sparkler exit, Elizabeth and Jonathan continued the celebration at a local bar for an unforgettable after-party. Though the newlyweds admit they were stressed leading up to the big day, they encourage other couples to relax. “It’s only a party!” says the bride. “We tried to remember that it was one day and it would be a blast regardless. The important part of the marriage comes after the wedding.”