An Unplanned Wedding and the High Country Hurricane

    Wedding Season is upon us and with it the influx of high-strung tourists and the impossibility to book a Saturday appointment with my hair stylist. The High Country is a top choice for locals from surrounding areas and a coveted destination for visitors’ nuptials. With breathtaking views, unique venues, and abundant choices for vendors, the High Country is absolutely suited to host the hundreds of weddings that take place each year.

    I sat down with our very own Co-Team-Lead and Listing Specialist Extraordinaire, Sam, to discuss her “unplanned wedding” in Banner Elk, NC in October 2015.

    Sam moved to Boone from Texas about ten years ago. Shortly after her relocation, she met her husband, Clay. Though it would be six years before they tied the knot, getting married in the High Country was an easy choice for the pair. They had built much of their life together here, so it only made sense to wed in the mountains they both loved.

    Sam and Clay were intrigued by the Banner Elk Eagle’s Nest Community and the unconventional, hippie (as business partner Michael describes it) feel of the outdoor amphitheater, pavilion, and general set-up nestled at the top of the hill. The venue was designed for property owners to enjoy outdoor concerts and events. With only two other weddings hosted here, it was a bold choice to envision such a grand affair in this even grander space. After a year of careful planning, they were ready to walk down the aisle. With an October wedding, they hoped to be engulfed in the incredible fall foliage under the cool mountain sky with 150 of their closest friends and family.

    A few days before their wedding, Sam’s family and friends began arriving from Texas. The forecast looked a little more than worrisome for this outdoor affair. Hurricane Joaquin, (which Sam pronounces with confident precision as if she had named the hurricane herself), caused flash-flooding and downed several trees in the area. Monitoring the situation, Sam says it wasn’t until about 9:30 the morning of her wedding that she learned her outdoor venue would not be an option. With tree branches crowding the area, thick fog and wind whipping about, and a stage too wet for the band to set up their instruments and electrical equipment, they needed to come up with another plan. Sent into a momentary panic, Sam immediately began hashing out the details to now host the wedding at an indoor alternative.

    Thankfully, the family had rented a decent-sized house in the Eagle’s Nest Community, though perhaps not large enough to accommodate the 150 guests that had planned to attend. They played it safe and contacted a few local friends to relay their change of plans – their guest list narrowed and Sam scrambled to decorate the house which had abruptly become her unplanned wedding venue. Her incredible photographers, Brett and Jessica, arrived to capture the intimate moments of her getting ready as she was flitting around the house – without the privacy and mimosa fueled morning that she had envisioned. 

    She had spent the last year planning her perfect day and now had to replan much of it – including the relocated ceremony and reception site and logistics – in about 6 hours. As she was getting ready. For her wedding. Occurring in mear hours.

    As guests found their way to the house tucked on the hill, a spirit of anxious hope was building. The amazing caterers (Reid’s Café and Catering in Banner Elk), set up in the kitchen and the band and photobooth were relocated to the balcony, looking over the open living room below which quickly became the dance floor. The ceremony had become quite an intimate affair, with simply bride, groom and the groom’s young daughter joined by their friend and officiant taking the center focus. They wed right outside the doors of the gorgeous mountain home, in front of a custom stone fireplace on the expansive deck. Guests gathered around the couple – standing close to one another in what felt like a major game of sardines. Folks even poked their heads out from the door to catch a glimpse of their sweet kiss and romantic first dance.


    I was lucky enough to be a guest at Sam and Clay’s unplanned wedding and it was a gorgeous, fun, and cozy affair. I deeply enjoyed the sweet and intimate ceremony on the balcony of the house, the delicious food, the fun of the photobooth, and the spirited performance from Sam and Clay’s favorite band, River Whyless.

    As we talk, Sam honestly communicates the disappointment and stress brought on by the extremely last minute, out-of-their-control, upheaval in their plans. She laughs as I ask her if she would change anything should she get the chance to do it all over again. With a laugh, she admits “not have a wedding at all!”. She does offer this guidance to couples looking to seal the deal in the mountains: be wary of the ever-changing weather – and shoot for August or September for a cooler outdoor affair. But always, always have an indoor option/backup plan!

    Surprise! Mountain weather can be quite unpredictable – especially on the exposed mountain front in early October. However, High Country weddings can be so uniquely breathtaking! Sam’s other bit of advice is to be sure NOT to plan your High Country Wedding for the Woolly Worm Festival weekend, typically the third weekend in October when more than 20,000 visitors pour into town.

    Things definitely don’t always go as planned. Being able to roll with it and enjoy the spontaneity is not always something that comes easily. However, Sam, Clay, and their guests were able to celebrate the start of an incredible journey of their love and commitment to one another.

    Sam’s description of the wedding album on her Facebook page reads “Hurricane Joaquin VS Benfield Wedding – I think we won after all. Thanks to all who made it happen!”. I’m pretty sure we all won for this one, Sam. An unforgettable evening for a remarkable couple!

    Sam’s gorgeous dress came from Wildflower Bridal in Asheville, North Carolina.

    The beautiful and delicious ‘naked’ cake was prepared by Eat Crow in Banner Elk, North Carolina.

    Want to own your very own High Country wedding venue? We can help with that! Check out these investable venues perfect for Bed and Breakfasts, Retreat Centers, or my personal favorite, wedding venues!

    The Historic Green Hill Farm

    The Taylor House Inn


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