Wedding Favors

When the Gulf oil spill wiped out plans for Rachel Bethmann’s (’10) beach wedding, several local businesses stepped up to offer her a splendid replacement ceremony—for free, or close to it.

Bethmann had been planning to marry Aaron Clark (’10) in Pensacola, Florida, on August 8, but oil from last spring’s disastrous spill ruined the site, and Bethmann found herself without a venue—or any other services—five weeks before the wedding. Complicating matters was the fact that only some of the money her parents put toward the Florida wedding had been refunded, leaving her family with a very tight budget.

Earlier, at a bridal fair, Bethmann had seen a display by Castleton Farms, an estate in Loudon, Tennessee, that hosts weddings and other events.

“I thought it was beautiful, but I had really wanted a beach wedding,” Bethmann explains.

But after the beachside ceremony was canceled, she contacted the company about hosting her wedding. When she told her story to Castleton Executive Director Darla Walker, a friend of the family, Walker immediately set about trying to make the event work. Walker’s first step was to relay Bethmann’s story to Castleton owners Meade and Kathleen Edmunds, who agreed to host the wedding at no cost.

“Rachel had always dreamed of having a wedding on the beaches, and our owner heard her story and offered her the venue for free,” Walker says. In addition to helping her secure the venue, Walker contacted a slew of vendors, many of whom offered their services for free or at a substantial discount. The wedding thus acquired a photographer, a florist, lighting/décor services, a cake, and a fireworks display.

“I was shocked and speechless and so thankful,” Bethmann says. “Darla was amazing. She had all these other weddings going on, but she made me feel like my wedding was very important.”

Approximately 115 family members and friends attended the ceremony, which was held in the Castleton vineyard, a pastoral area with grape vines, trees, lawns, and a gently rolling landscape. Bethmann added that the estate was perfect for entertaining her out-of-town guests, who enjoyed exploring the grounds.

“It was simple but elegant,” she says. “It was wonderful.”

—Meredith McGroarty

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