Today we have a lovely Rustic Ohio Wedding shot by Breanna Elizabeth Photography to share with you! Alex and Jeff had a beautiful November wedding at the Centennial Barn in Cincinnati, Ohio! The rustic barn setting was complete with blackberry and cognac tones, and a hint of gold. This added the perfect amount of elegance to their rustic wedding day!
Meet Alex + Jeff!
How did you meet?
(Jeff’s perspective) Alex and I spent most of our lives right down the street from each other. However, ironically, it would take distance to bring us together. Although Alex and I knew of each other from attending the same middle school and high school, the Lord did not begin our story until a little bit later in life. In fact, the first conversation that we had was not until August of 2014, almost 6 years since I had even lived in Finneytown. I had just finished The Basic School, a six month course on the rudimentary principles of being a Marine Officer, and was in route to Fort Sill, Oklahoma to attend another six month course on how to be an Artillery Officer. Call it the modern age, but I had seen a lot of pictures of a very beautiful woman all over my Facebook as of late and with all my false bravado, hiding behind the buffer of social media of course, I thought it was a good idea to let her know just how gorgeous I thought she was. Fortunately, she took it as flattering, although looking back I have to question if it was teetering on the line of being a bit stalkerish. Love favors the bold I suppose. Well, despite my best attempts to woe her over a few Facebook messages, the conversation dwindled and we went right back to our lives, not realizing in the slightest what had just been put in motion.
About 4 months later, I was home for Christmas, and despite my failed attempts at winning Alex over a few months earlier I was spouting off to my Uncle Dave about this infatuation I had with a certain beautiful young woman. Well, it just so happened that Dave was Sydney Kate’s (Alex’s sister) softball coach, and somehow it made it back to Sydney Kate that I had been talking about her sister. Alright, maybe it didn’t just so happen that I was talking about her with someone I knew was close to her sister, maybe it was all a well devised plan, but hey a man can’t lay all his cards on the table from the beginning. Anyways, to my surprise my plan came together and a few days later, Christmas Eve of 2013 to be exact, I received a message from Alex asking if I was in fact home for Christmas. This started a brief conversation, mostly of me just trying to figure out if I had a chance to take her out, and eventually led to a planned run (date in my head) the next day at Ault Park (local park in Cincinnati, Ohio) . We ended up walking around the park for hours, not even attempting to run; just talking about all that life was giving to us at the time, going much deeper than I ever planned on for a first date. Our walk turned into Coffee at a local Coffee house where we spent the rest of the afternoon talking about the future and all that we had planned. Little did we know that from that point on our futures would become one. Well needless to say we found our better halves that day, and in the most perfect way. I was only home for two weeks on leave before needing to be back in Oklahoma to finish up training, so you better believe that every second of those next two weeks I spent learning and falling for this beautiful woman. By the time I had to leave for Oklahoma we had decided that we were going to give it a shot. Our feeling were so young and raw that we had no idea where our relationship was headed, especially whether it could endure a long distance test so early on, but we created three rules that we would follow and let the Lord do the rest. The first one was that the Lord would be the center of our relationship and at all times when people looked at our relationship they would see the Lord first. The second being that before anything else we were best good friends (this is a Forest Gump reference for those of you that live under a rock), we did not want the title of being in a relationship to change the friendship that we had created. The third rule, the most “important” rule, Alex and I can actually never remember which always makes us laugh. So I suppose by default the third rule is that our relationship will be full of laughter, always bringing out the happiness in each other.
As you can probably infer we made it through that first chapter of our relationship with flying colors, long distance and all. By no means was it easy, with Alex back at school in Statesboro, GA finishing up her degree in Child and Family Development, and I was finishing up Artillery School in Fort Sill, OK, but we made it work and most importantly started to shape our relationship into what it was going to be in the long term. At the end of January 2014, I graduated Artillery School and made one of the longest trips of my life. A 24 hour straight drive half way across the country, through a snow storm that had Atlanta looking like the zombie apocalypse had just rolled through, to see the beautiful woman that had stolen my heart. I was on my way to my first duty station at Camp Lejeune, NC and lucky for me Statesboro was not too far off my route. We were able to spend a few days together, filling in the gaps of our relationship where the distance had not allowed us to grow, and though we had not admitted it yet started to realize that we had fallen in love. Unfortunately, Alex still had a few months of school left and I had to report for duty. So began another chapter of our relationship, again long distance, although not as terrible as Oklahoma to Georgia. Thankfully this chapter of our relationship we were able to drive the 5 hours from Statesboro to Surf City fairly regularly, and we traded off weekends, desperately trying to spend as much time together as possible. This was a phase in our relationship marked by a lot of time in the car, and not a lot of time spent together. We made it work though, and our love grew stronger and stronger, despite the distance or in my opinion because of it.
Around April of 2015 we were given another unforeseeable surprise, I would be heading to Fort Bliss Texas for 2 months of joint training with the Army. We had already been through so much, and had worked extremely hard to build a strong relationship with limited time together, but this was definitely going to be the hardest chapter in our relationship to date. Nevertheless, we embraced the opportunity the Lord had given to us and knew that if we accepted the situation, and looked at it as the path the Lord had chosen for us, then we would come out of it stronger and even more in love than we went in. And that’s exactly what we did, we prepared our hearts to be separated, prepared our relationship to grow despite the distance, and we took on this chapter of our lives knowing that we would come out stronger for it. Unsurprisingly, the Lord blessed us for it and by the time I came home in June our plans for the future were well established; based around spending the rest of our lives as husband and wife. By no means was it smooth sailing thereafter. While I was in Texas, Alex had graduated from college, and had moved down to Jacksonville, FL for a Child Life Specialist internship at UF Health Jacksonville. So this meant we were now dealing with a long distance relationship from Jacksonville, FL to Surf City, NC. Not ideal, but a whole lot better than Texas to GA or FL. Again we traveled a lot during this chapter in our relationship; driving to see each other just about every weekend for three and a half months, no seriously I believe there was only two weekends where we did not make the drive. It was an extremely exciting time in our relationship, and we were quickly making plans about how we were going to transition to the next phase in our lives together. During this time I moved out of the bachelor pad I had been sharing with three other guys, and found another condo that I moved into by myself until Alex was done in Jacksonville. At this point we had to start making some of the hardest decisions we had made since we started dating. We knew that the Lord was the center of relationship, and we were trying to follow his will and his guidance in all that we did. However, we had dealt with distance our entire relationship and knew that it was time to be together both mentally and physically.
Tell us your proposal story!
On August 30, 2014 while both our families were visiting us in Surf City I took Alex out to watch the sunrise under the guise of doing a Bible study. Little did she know the Bible that I had brought was actually brand new and had Alexandra Morgan Smoker inscribed on the cover. As the sun came up, and I worked up enough courage, I handed her the bible and asked her to read something from it. As she grabbed it she saw the cover and by the time she looked back up with those beautiful blue eyes in complete surprise I was down on one knee asking if she would spend the rest of her life by my side, walking down whatever path the Lord laid before us hand in hand. She said yes; the most simple but meaningful word I have ever heard and will probably ever hear again.
Now this was just the beginning of a lot of change both in our individual lives and in our relationship. As I discussed earlier I had just moved into a house in anticipation of Alex moving up to Surf City to join me. With this, we wanted to follow the Lords will for our life together, and follow the rules that He establishes for his followers. We truly believe those that are faithful to Him will be blessed. So we decided, actually we had decided this even before we got engaged, that we would get legally married right away. This, in our minds was the right thing to do, and showed that we were not moving in together because it was simply the easy way, but because we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together in marriage. So on September 26, 2015 in a small town courthouse, actually it was the jail house but we will stick with courthouse, Alex and I said “I do” in front of God and the state of North Carolina. Although it was not exactly how we always pictured our marriage happening, our day is coming soon, and we love to look back on that day and refer to it as our Commitment Day. There actually was another reason we made this decision that I do not believe I have mentioned until now, but I was deploying in December of 2014, only 4 months from then. We knew that we could not plan the wedding of our dreams in only 4 months. So the decision was made to have the wedding when I returned, and do a legal marriage beforehand. This was definitely a hard decision to make, specifically because Alex and I have always dreamed of our wedding day, and we did not want to take away from that by getting married before the wedding. However, the Lord had guided our relationship that far and had always provided for us abundantly, so we prayed desperately and were comforted by Him with our decision.
What is your favorite date night?
Our favorite date nights essentially are favorite “day” dates. We truly enjoy being outdoors with our two dogs (chocolate labs, our fur babies) then coming home to a bon fire and drinks (Jameson and Apple Cider, coincidentally our wedding drink of choice). Time alone is precious, especially in the crazy military life that we live.
What was the inspiration behind your wedding?
We always dreamed of a rustic wedding, however what that entailed took a lot more planning than we expected. Couple this with wanting to do a DIY wedding and using Alex’s mother as our wedding planner, we had a hard journey in front of us. It was easy for us to choose the reception venue, a barn, that we would have free reign in decorating. As well as bringing in outside vendors. Centennial Barn in Cincinnati, OH fell in to place perfectly. However, the hard decision was where to do the ceremony. We wanted modern rustic, with plenty of light and lots of natural wood. This coupled, with bringing in our own Pastor, was not easy to accomplish. Eventually we settled on First United Church of Christ, just fifteen minutes down the street from our reception.
What was your favorite part of your wedding day?
Although it may sound cliche, our favorite part of the wedding day was our pictures. I (Jeff) and my groomsmen were able to show up early to reception venue, which lucky for us, allowed us to sample to alcoholic beverages that would staple our reception. The venue was perfect for our pictures, with the fall colors that we had dreamed of and the architectural surroundings that we wanted. To top it all off we had an amazing photographer (Breanna) that brought all of our wedding party together and made us feel extremely comfortable. We had decided to do pictures before the ceremony and reception, and was the perfect beginning to a perfect day.
What is one piece of wedding planning advice you have for our readers?
Set goals for yourselves. The way we approached the planning was to establish what we needed to get done month by month leading up to the wedding. We decided to establish what the major cost items and essential venues were up front, and plan those first. We followed this by the minuscule details that were essential to making our wedding exactly what we had dreamed it to be. By establishing these check points, each month we felt as though we were making progress in our planning. By the time we made it to the wedding month we were confident that we had everything together, leaving only the least stressful items to deal with.
What is one piece of couple/marriage advice you have for our readers?
Communication and forgiveness. There is not a day that goes by that we do not look forward to sharing with each other what that day entailed. From the smallest details to the greatest realizations we share everything. Being in the military there are many times in which we are unable to share experiences with each other, we have found that communication more than makes up for this. Some of our greatest joy comes from merely talking about our days. Forgiveness follows closely behind communication. At no point in time are you going to have marriage figured out. There are numerous times we will find ourselves saying, “I’m sorry, Im not a professional at being married, we are growing together.” Understanding that marriage is a growing experience is essential to forgiveness. Neither party is perfect, nor should they be, the quicker you are to forgive the quicker you are to allow love to envelope your marriage.
What are you looking forward to in your marriage in the next 10 years?
I (Jeff) have decided to transition from the military to the civilian sector. In the next ten years we truly look forward to establishing the foundation that our family has been lacking in the Marine Corps. We look forward to moving back to our home city of Cincinnati, Oh, buying a home, continuing relationships with family that we have been separated from, and having children. We are extremely excited for this next chapter of life, outside of the military, and all the adventures that it will entail.
Any additional information that you’d want to share!
Thank you for this opportunity to share our story. We truly believe our story is one that can be an uplifting light to many that deal with struggles of wedding planning and marriage. Ultimately, always allow love to win. Love is what begins the journey, and is what allows story’s to continue a life time.
Ceremony Location: First United Church of Christ
Reception Location: Centennial Barn
Bride’s Dress: Amanda’s Hyde Park Bridal and Hayley Paige
Bridesmaid Dresses: Jim Hjelm
Tuxedos or Formal Wear: Men’s Wearhouse, and The Tie Bar https://www.thetiebar.com/
Caterer: Eli’s BBQ
Music: Horizon Entertainment,
Flowers (arranged by the bride): Costco
Second Shooter: Rachel Kolb Creative