This was a very emotional wedding for me. I have known Alyssa since we were about 6 years old. I used to go over to her house to bounce on her trampoline and dance to Brittany Spears. We were even in Girls Scouts together! When she asked me to photograph her wedding, I was extremely honored and so supremely excited that I had dreams about it for months! This was my first wedding of the season and I was so happy to be able to shoot a dear friend in an incredible setting. St. Simons is a dream and Musgrove Plantation was the perfect setting for my long time friend to marry the love of her life.
“When I got pregnant, one of my small prayers to God was that I would have a little girl. Once Alyssa was born, my prayer changed; I started praying that somewhere in the world, there would be a little boy born just for my little girl. I truly feel that Waite is that person.” Nancy Ewing spoke these words during the celebratory speech at Alyssa and Waite’s wedding reception on April 29th at Musgrove Plantation on St. Simons Island, Georgia. The day was filled with joy and community as the Thomas and Ewing families joined as one underneath the giant Oak trees of the Georgia coast.
Alyssa’s childhood best friend and maid of honor, Audrey, introduced Alyssa to her cousin Waite one summer night on the beach. Little did they know, the two would eventually marry in Waite’s hometown and local church.
Family is of the utmost importance to these two. Alyssa adorned her grandmother’s pearl necklace and his grandmother’s pearl earrings while walking down the aisle to marry the love of her life. Her mother also had a special handkerchief embroidered with part of her veil for Alyssa to have handy in the pockets of her Romona Keveza gown. Not only did the heirloom details pay homage to the joining of families, but the speeches by both families brought the crowd to tears underneath a clear tent lit with twinkling bistro lights. Mr. & Mrs. Thomas were the picture of elegance and I’m sure their life together on this tiny island will be filled with memories of family passed and enriched by family to come.
Here is history included in the Thomas Welcome Guide! I was fascinated to learn all about the rich history of the people and the place I was capturing!
The Couple’s Roots
In 1958, James and Laura Williams (Waite’s maternal grandparents) moved their four sons and one daughter (Lucy, Waite’s mom) to Saint Simons. James had accepted a position as the Brunswick Hospital Administrator. By 1980, Tom and Joan Thomas (Waite’s paternal grandparents) purchased vacation property on the nearby island of Little Cumberland, just south of St. Simons, and their oldest son (Michael, Waite’s dad) moved down to build the house. Lucy and Michael met soon after, and they decided to stay and raise their family on “the Island.” After law school, Waite found an opportunity to work as an attorney in the area. He settled back into the island life and bought a house of his own near the Lighthouse. Within a few months of buying his house, Waite met Alyssa while she was living in Washington, D.C. At the time, she was working as a lobbyist at a boutique firm, having completed her Master’s in Political Management at GWU three years prior. They dated long distance for six months. In December of 2015, Alyssa, a third-generation native Floridian (through both parents, Nancy & Aubrey Ewing) and Caymanian by heritage (through her maternal grandparents, Capt. Junior and Mrs. Zita Kirkconnell), was given an opportunity to move south. Though a dramatic shift from hectic city life in the nation’s capital, Alyssa’s roots made life on the island well-suited for her. She rented a house around the middle of Island with for room for a home-office and Mango the cat, all just biking distance from the beach. Waite is still working as a lawyer in Brunswick, and Alyssa has launched a Political Action Committee. Since meeting, Waite and Alyssa haven’t looked back and couldn’t be happier to start their married lives on Saint Simons, an area with a deep history, where both beach and family are nearby.
Over 400 years ago, the Muskogean Creek Indians were the first known inhabitants of Saint Simons. By the early seventeenth century, Jesuit missions from Spain began arriving, but they were soon driven out by British settlers and hostile pirates. As the colonization of North America became more contentious, the British Crown sent General James Oglethorpe to establish and protect the area between Charleston and Spanish-held Florida. Saint Simons Island was on the front lines. By 1736, Oglethorpe had established a small but thriving town and two forts, Fort of Frederica on the north-west end of the island and Fort Saint Simons on the south. In 1742, the Spaniards advanced on southern Georgia and captured Fort Saint Simons. The Battle of Bloody Marsh ensued on the military road between the two Saint Simons forts. Oglethorpe’s forces defeated the Spanish troops, a defeat which would mark the beginning of the end for Spain’s claim to any North American territory. As the colonial conflict died down, the troops of Fort Frederica were withdrawn, and the town eventually abandoned. Over time, however, settlers returned to the Island. Development increased following the Revolutionary War, and prior to the Civil War, at least fourteen major plantations thrived here from the proceeds of the local premium strain of Sea Island Cotton. After the Civil War, however, the Plantation economy never returned. In its place though, the timber business grew. Four lumber mills were built on Saint Simons and the community bounced back from the post-war depression. As time moved on, Saint Simons began to attract more tourists, and with the improvement of roads and the construction of the causeway in 1924, became a truly accessible vacation destination. It has since evolved into the community we love today. There are many historical sites across the island, which mark the locations of these events.
Musgrove Plantation was named after Mary Musgrove, a pioneer known as a cultural liaison between colonial (General Oglethorpe) and Native American societies, for her peace keeping efforts, entrepreneurship, and land claims to the Sea Islands in Georgia. During the Sea Island Cotton era, Musgrove was one of the fourteen working plantations on the Island, but like the other Saint Simons plantations, it was abandoned following the Civil War and eventually put up for sale. In 1938, Nancy Susan Reynolds, the R.J. Reynolds tobacco heir purchased the original tract of land. She built cottages to serve as home base when the site was used as a family retreat. Since then, Musgrove has gained an international reputation amongst world and business leaders for its representation of a simpler, coastal Georgia. Committed to preserving the natural integrity of the site, in 2016, the current owners set in action a plan to turn over all but fifty acres of this property to Saint Simons Land Trust. Waite and Alyssa are thrilled to celebrate their wedding in this place and to share it with guests from around the globe.
Photographer: Kir Tuben | kir2ben.com | @kir2ben
Venue: Wesley United Methodist Church at Frederica http://wesleyssi.org/
Reception Venue: Musgrove Plantation | http://musgrove.co | @musgroveretreats
Planning: Sincerely Yours Events | http://www.sincerelyyoursevents.com/ | @sincerely.yours.events
Florals: Fern Wood Design Studio | @Fernwooddesignstudio
Ceremony Coordinator: Beth Williams & Co. | Bethwilliamsandcompany.com | @bethwilliamsandcompany
Beauty: The Back Porch Salon and Spa | http://www.goldenisles.com/listing/kimberlys-back-porch-salon-spa | @thebackporchsalonandspa
Catering: All About Events | http://www.allabouteventsjax.com/ | @allabouteventsjax
Dress: Romona Keveza | http://www.romonakeveza.com/ | @romonakeveza
Dress Boutique: Love Bridal Boutique | http://www.lovebridalboutique.com/ | @lovebridalboutique
Catering & Wedding Cake: Tasteful Temptations | http://tasteful-temptations.com/
Grooms Cake: Serendipity Bakers | https://www.facebook.com/serendipityssi/
Engagement Ring: Kirk Freeport | https://www.kirkfreeport.net/ | @kirkfreeport
Wedding Bands: Joseph Jeweler’s St Simons | http://josephjewelers.com/
Assistant Photographer: Brett Denfeld