DOWN TO EARTH
THIS NORTH CAROLINA COUPLE’S LOVE OF THE LAND SHOWS IN EVERY DETAIL OF THEIR ELEGANT-MEETS-RUSTIC FARM FÊTE, FROM THE HOMEGROWN FOOD AND FLOWERS TO THE BARN THEY BUILT FOR THE OCCASION.
Food and flowers farmed on-site, home-brewed beer, and a barn built just for the occasion made for memorable—and personal— North Carolina nuptials.
In retrospect, it seems almost destined that their paths would eventually intersect. Stephanie Hall and Michael Noël grew up in North Carolina and then headed west looking for adventure. After traveling, exploring, and sowing their oats, they returned to their home state. They finally met in 2012 when Michael, founding partner at an investment firm specializing in start-ups, visited Stephanie’s flower and animal farm at the invitation of her sister. “She works at Habitat for Humanity, and they were in a meeting together. She just knew he was the man for me,” says Stephanie. “He’s funny and kind, and his sister is a farmer, too!” Sure enough, the two nature lovers were a match made in hog (chicken, cow, sheep...) heaven. Seven months later, Michael proposed.
The obvious organic choice for the duo’s I do’s was the spot where they met: Sassafras Fork Farm, which Stephanie runs with her parents. “I was never the girl who held a particular vision for the perfect wedding, but I knew ours had to be something soulful, nurturing, and in sync with this place and time,” Stephanie says. Location set, the couple began planning. Everything for their wedding would be hand-grown, handpicked, or hand-built, starting with the venue itself: a new barn made from reclaimed wood sourced mostly from a local factory and an old home on the property. “The idea of putting up a beautiful building to welcome folks was so appealing, not just for our wedding but for many celebrations to come,” says Stephanie.
The carpenter on the job also made long wooden dinner tables and a bar; Stephanie’s brother-in-law brewed the beer; and the food was raised and grown by Stephanie, her father, and a few other local farmers. Then there were the flowers—lavish, breathtaking blooms. “I wanted it to feel like the trees and vines had encroached on the barn, like it had been taken back by the land,” says Sue Prutting, their floral designer. Prutting enlisted five florist friends from around the country (she called them the Flower Brigade), plus nine local growers, to assist with the setup.
On October 11, 2014, loved ones (320 of them!) filled the barn in the late afternoon to witness the couple’s nondenominational vows. A cocktail hour followed, including hors d’oeuvres of local cheeses, deviled farm eggs with roasted red peppers, fritto misto, crispy pork belly, lamb meatballs, and peach-glazed North Carolina shrimp, while a three-piece local band played traditional bluegrass music. The sun broke through in time to allow guests to wander outdoors, where they were joined by a few roaming chickens.
Next up, a family-style farm-to-fork dinner, featuring platters piled high with braised chicken and bourbon brisket (from animals raised and harvested by Stephanie’s father), fritters, and more. Later, the twosome two-stepped to Jack Johnson’s “I Got You,” starting a dance party that lasted until midnight. “A handful of close friends stayed into the early hours, and we hung out around the fire pit,” Stephanie recalls. “We ate leftovers, finished off dessert, sang, and just enjoyed basking in the warmth of the fire.” The night was so wonderful, in fact, that by the time they went to bed, it was almost time to get up and feed the animals again.