In May of 2020 The Sonnet House hit the ground running to get Ashlee + Colby’s wedding planned in thirty days. They say if you want something badly enough then anything is possible and all the two of them wanted was to say ‘I do.’

We can’t really discuss Ashlee + Colby’s wedding planning journey without mentioning the word ‘pandemic.’ Let’s create a timeline for those reading: On May 6, 2020 we reached out to the two of them to see what they were thinking in regards to the originally planned wedding date of June 20th. At that point, Governor Ivey was planning on making an announcement on May 15th to announce plans for moving forward and I think looking back most people consider this a turning point in Alabama for Covid-19. On the 15th Governor Ivey announced that outdoor gatherings could be held safely if people could maintain six feet of distance between households and encouraged masks when around others.

A good bit of the wedding planning was done but there was plenty left to do. Most of which REALLY depended on that May 15th press conference. By Sunday afternoon the decision had been made: we were having a wedding! After a few e-mails back and forth getting everyone caught up on details we set a meeting to expedite the finalization process, on May 20th — 30 days before the wedding day. Ashlee + Colby were also able to squeeze in bachelor and bachelorette trips in there which is mighty impressive!

Any event takes a team to pull together but when you’re facing obstacle after obstacle, some of which aren’t even known yet, flexibility and understanding becomes the key factor and communication has to be a top priority. The Horton and James families will go down in history as some of the most gracious clients we’ve ever had the privilege of working with. In addition to planning their wedding day, we also hosted their rehearsal dinner which was originally planned at a private club which was unable to open at that time. We said this over and over in 2020 but it was true — we just rolled with it and took things as they came. The end goal was always the same: give Ashlee + Colby the best day possible by any means necessary and I think their answers to the questions below show that they had the time of their lives. They were sweet enough to answer a few of our questions recently and quite frankly it was pretty fun catching up and reminiscing on where we were in this pandemic one year ago. Enjoy!

pronovias wedding dress

Tell us a little about yourselves; how did you meet? What is your perfect date night? | Colby and I met our junior year at the University of Alabama in fall 2012. When we talked or spent any time together, I wanted time to freeze so that the conversation and our time spent together didn’t have to end. We started seeing each other in spring of 2013 and have been learning about each other ever since! We were both 21-years-old when we started dating and have seen each other grow so much as a person and professionally all throughout our twenties. Colby is a civil engineer now and I am an elementary teacher and we are extremely proud of each other’s  hard work, educational milestones and career paths. On a beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon, you could find us at one of the many breweries in Birmingham. We are laughing together, listening to music or watching some kind of sporting event. We usually have our dachshund-mix, Snoop, with us wearing a bandana and wagging his tail excited to meet people and be a part of such a fun environment.

Ashlee, your family owns Horton Wholesale, Inc. a Floral Co. in Montgomery, Alabama and while your parents are very involved in the family business – you aren’t. During planning I remember you telling me how you had never given too much thought to flowers or the process of choosing, ordering, processing, and arranging them…until it came time to plan your wedding. All couples obviously enjoy choosing the flowers and decor but I imagine it was extra special to you as you had the chance to learn this side of the family trade while also working closely with your mom and dad to bring your vision to life. What was that like? | I have to admit, you would think I knew so much about the business but I did and still do not. I know the flower industry is a very beautiful and timeless industry. Throughout our evolving society, the want and need for flowers has not been replaced which is extremely fortunate for the flower business unlike many other industries. If you think about it, there are always going to be weddings, funerals, and newborns due to the natural circle of life and so the desire for the beautiful aesthetics flowers bring to honor life will be present. With this responsibility the industry has, comes much hard work. You look at the outside product and see beauty, grace, and elegance. However, what we do not see and what I did not understand is the exhausting and intricate labor behind the scenes.

Growing up specifically in the wholesale industry, I saw my family work all weekends and holidays. I am not referring to solely my related family, I am referring to everyone in the business as family. The floral community is family. The floral community’s work is extremely tiring, working all hours of the week, devoting beauty and honor to lives around them. What an awesome livelihood and it is incredible that I saw my dad get up every morning to be a part of this service and work his hardest every day. I definitely didn’t understand and appreciate the industry to the fullest when I was a child, and am still learning and discovering new things about the industry to this day. Wedding planning really opened my eyes and deepened my gratitude even more so making sure every step of the process was taken care of.

I remember driving from Birmingham one Saturday morning to my family’s business in Montgomery. I walked in with my new puppy, Snoop, to be met by my family’s dog, Belle. Belle is also Horton Wholesale’s mascot, and you can find her beautiful self on their website or sitting on the couch in the office. She is a wonderful greeter and was very happy to meet her newest family member, Snoop. We let the two puppers visit a minute while I was talking to Linda Pegues, who I have known since birth and has worked there since it opened in 1992. It was the very last big-to-do I knocked off the list because I was fortunate enough to have had so much help.

As you can see, my flower planning process was a lot less informal than most. I had my mother, father, and Ms. Linda who was at the hospital the day I was born. Although informal, that was very special to me because wedding planning is often very formal and a source of stress for brides. I had a very laid back, humorous, and humbling experience. Brides don’t want to seem dumb, for lack of better words, during the planning process. We want to seem confident and as if we are the most Type A, detailed, prepared bride that planners have ever seen. But the truth is most of us are not florists, culinary experts, calligraphists, or violinists. We do need so much help and expertise to plan our successful, dream-wedding. I was so thankful that my immediate family was there to help me with the flower planning process, and with laugh beside me while educating me on what they have to do every day to make a living.

I would also like to add how cool it was to watch my parents drive a van from Horton Wholesale, Inc. in Montgomery, AL to the Sonnet House in Leeds on Wednesday before we got married. We had been corresponding between Linda ordering the flowers from the wholesale side to Corey’s side of processing and designing the flowers once they came in. We had asked Ellen and Corey very plausible questions such as, “How much of this do we need to order? What is the height of this area on the stage?” And many more questions… Keep in mind we had been corresponding almost every day for the last month! It was nice to meet Corey and put a face to his name.

I loved all of the personalities coming together when we met. My dad was driving this van and my mom, Corey, and I helped dad unload the flower boxes from the van which is something I was used to growing up in the flower business. It was time for the flowers to process and then Corey to arrange them. My dad, just being a business-natured man, was asking Corey how long he was going to let the flowers process and what chemicals, if any, he was going to use. This was another educational experience I learned in passing. I hadn’t even thought about the flowers needing time to process before they were arranged. Corey and my parents talked about the nature of the business for several minutes and then, BOOM. I heard Corey say it was time to crack open a Red Bull and blast some music! He was very excited to be designing flowers for the first time in several months. I walked in the room where the flowers were stored the next day to see all of the flowers out of the boxes and in the buckets of water. My mind was blown. It looked like so many more flowers than it did in the van. Corey was blaring music, drinking red bull, and happy to be arranging. I was so impressed with Corey’s designs. It was truly an incredible experience having all of the flower industry personalities finally meet, after years of hearing about each other’s work and being able to come together.

What’s your favorite date night? | Birmingham has wonderful food and always has different and new places to dine. A typical weeknight date night for us is Mexican food. We love to talk about what all we have going on that week over chips and queso. Also, we like to try to eat at a new restaurant we have never tried every weekend we are in town. We still have not been to every restaurant because there are so many great places always opening! But it’s very fun for us because we know there will always be somewhere new to try. In 2021, some of my favorite date nights have been Ocean, The Yard, and Blueprint. The lights are dim, the service is wonderful, and the food is delicious. They are also near the downtown area, so if we want to continue the night, we can easily find our next spot.

During the planning process what were you guys most looking forward to on your wedding day (besides getting married?) | We were both most excited about our wedding reception. We wanted our family and friends to know how much it meant to us that they took time out of their lives, during a scary time, to be a part of our wedding. Weddings aren’t just stressful for the bride and groom, but they can also stress everyone who is a part of the wedding in some way. “I need to take off work, book a hotel, find a sitter, find a suit, get a gift, etc.” The tedious details go on and on.

We were so excited about our families uniting and also our friends uniting. We wanted everyone to put aside thoughts of their daily duties, and have a night to celebrate and believe in love. At wedding receptions, it is important for the bride and groom to stop and absorb the people they love the most and that love them the most in the world are all in one room, celebrating a happy event.  It should be a magical evening for all participants involved and I think that’s why Colby and I were looking forward to the reception so much. We knew the oldest guests had a reason to celebrate as if they were the youngest guests. All participants have something in common that they know to be the greatest thing on earth, true love – people staying together in life no matter what and never being alone. What a wonderful thing to cling to and celebrate during such a lonely year. We wanted the celebration to be thoroughly enjoyed by all; eat, drink, be merry, and for the love, please dance to our awesome band!

Where do you guys see yourselves in ten years? What’s next for you guys? | Ten years from now, we hope we are blessed enough to have one or two children. We are still debating on one or two! 😉 We will for sure still be proud dog owners, because we love dogs and think pets are great pals and responsibility lessons for children during adolescence. We will probably trade in our quiet Saturday morning jogs and fun brewery afternoons for mornings at the ballpark. I like to think our kids will play soccer, swim, or golf because I’m high-strung, remember? I am terrified of the injuries that come with baseball, softball, basketball, and football. Colby and my father are going to be very angry with me not wanting our children to play baseball or football but I guess we will deal with that in ten years.

I am proud to see that two days after our one-year anniversary we will be proud first-time homeowners. Our closing date is June 22nd and we are continuing to pray about the situation and closing as it can be another stressful milestone in a couple’s life. I know Colby will be a great father and provider for our family. He is going to be in the yard as much as possible playing with our kids and making sure the lawn is as beautiful and green as his favorite golf courses. I hope that I will still get to educate young children, including my children, and want to be a “Class Mom” and try to help my children’s teachers with anything they may need. As a teacher, I know how much hard work goes into lesson planning and crafting and that every teacher needs an aid or two! Colby and I are family oriented-people, and I pray that our kids will be blessed enough to spend quality time with both sets of grandparents and cousins. I hope they learn life lessons from not only us as their parents, but from their wise elders in the family. I want our children to know how loved they are and that God and family will always be there for them. I want them to love others and put their best effort in anything that they do and want to do in life. It’s a lot to ask for in just ten short years, but Co and I were taught the Lord never fails. We need to keep him at the center of our marriage and our family.

What advice would you give engaged couples when things are seemingly ‘going against them?’ (like a worldwide pandemic) | Our best advice is keep your faith. Colby and I are strong enough in our faith and have the foundational knowledge to understand that the Lord works for good. His plans are not to harm you. We don’t look at our wedding planning situation going against us at all. Yes, it was stressful and looked gloomy near what we thought would be our wedding. When everything was over and we were in the getaway car, we looked at each other in awe of how perfect that sunny Saturday in June really was. It’s very easy and human nature to be self-centered as an engaged couple. Everyone is always asking questions that center around you and are so happy for you, and you can get swept away in the moment. If I may be completely honest, I had my selfish moments. But when the worldwide pandemic occurred in March of 2020, Colby and I knew that we no longer needed to put a strong focus and worry on our wedding. The world was up against a scary pandemic and that’s what needed to be addressed. The Lord would take care of our marriage in His timing. We didn’t know whether that timing would be what we planned or a totally new plan. But we knew that we still had each other and loved each other no matter what. After this past year, love and health are the biggest two blessings anyone can have. We have all been affected by the pandemic in some way, and now have a deeper understanding of just how important love and health are in life.

Keeping it simple meant I gave myself no more than three options for every decision I had to make. I just kept trying to make affirmative decisions throughout the planning because I knew I would drive myself crazy and get behind schedule if I wasn’t decisive. And we know the best decisions often are not made in haste. Sometimes, they are, but it can be really stressful.

My three guiding questions for EVERY decision was 1) Is this what you like and what Colby would like? 2) Is this a decision you would stand by and still think beautiful 50 years from now? 3) Are you at peace with this choice?

At the end of the day, it’s your wedding. You have to be true to yourself. I found myself getting caught up on thoughts of  if other people would approve of my choices. Thankfully, I had Ellen to plan with just 30 days before the wedding. Ellen, my mother, my maid of honor, and I met just 30 days before the wedding. If I wouldn’t have been decisive, that would have been a chaotic and stressful meeting. Honestly, I had two of the closest people to me beside me to help guide me. Also, I had the expert, Ellen. So in my mind, there was no need to worry.

Ellen guided all of us in a 4-hour wedding planning meeting on questions and small-details that usually take months to wrap up. We all knocked it out in 4 hours. How? Well, Ellen is an expert. She wasn’t going to lead me astray or pressure me into something I’m not comfortable with. Also, when Ellen asked me what I liked, whether it be a table linen or a vase, I chose what I truly liked the best. To make sure my choice was tasteful, and not too spunky for a wedding I would like to look back on in fifty years, I asked my mother and my maid-of honor for their input. It was a very harmonious and productive meeting. I cannot tell you how many times Ellen heard me say, “I trust your judgement,” during that meeting. She knew what she was doing and had planned hundreds more times than any of us ever had. All of the worrying for the past few months and lack of planning, came together upstairs at The Sonnet House in a few short hours. It was truly a day that the Lord had made.

Wedding Vendors Who Made It Happen:

Venue, Planning, Catering & Linens: The Sonnet House

Florals & Decor: Corey Daniel Florals

Photographer: Ashley Jen Photography

Ceremony Music: Amerson Events

Reception Music: 3rd Generation Band via Crescent Moon Entertainment

Groom’s Cake: Magnificent Cakes

Iced Sugar Cookies: Cookies by ME {Melissa Espinoza, past Sonnet House bride!}

Transportation: Coats Classic Cars

Bridal Gown: Pronovias

Bridesmaids Dresses: Ice Blue from Bella Bridesmaids

Groom & Groomsmen Attire: Mr. Burch Formal Wear

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