"I could not have imagined using vendors who were not local."
Dawn & Dave Pennington
Chetola Resort & Spa September 6, 2015
Surrounded by friends, family, and fresh air, childhood friends Dawn Fouse and David Pennington tied the knot beneath a willow tree at Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock. These two nature lovers from Christiansburg, Virginia incorporated their favorite elements from the great outdoors and relied on the help of local experts to make their dream wedding a reality.
“We met in the sixth grade at E.B. Stanley Middle School in Abingdon,” Dawn said. “We were instant best friends.”
They grew up together and stood by one another until their high school graduation in 2004, after which they were separated and lost touch. The friendship they’d enjoyed as kids quickly blossomed into true love when fate reunited them several years later.
“We were reacquainted after about six years of no communication, and it’s been perfect love ever since,” Dawn said. “Our relationship is easy. We just go with the flow, we balance each other out, and we have fun.”
As children, the two shared memories of visiting the Boone and Blowing Rock areas with their families to visit Tweetsie Railroad, go skiing and ice skating at Beech Mountain, and go hiking in the summers. As bride and groom, the couple elected to return to the High South, which has been special to them ever since, to exchange their vows.
Dawn found the perfect Lea Ann Belter bridal gown at a shop near her parents’ home in Knoxville, Tennessee.
“I put the dress on and just knew it was meant for me. It has a beautiful sweetheart neckline, a fitted bodice that goes into a fluted A-line skirt, and lace overlay that cascades into an organza ruffle that falls to the ground to a chapel length train,” Dawn said. “The lace overlay matches the lace from my mom’s veil and gown from 1980, so I wore my mom’s veil in honor of her.”
The resort’s outdoor space gave them endless opportunities to bring in reminders of the things they love most, like Dawn’s favorite wildflowers in her bouquet and boutonnieres for the guys made with fly-fishing lures.
“My goal was for it to be a relaxed, fun party in a romantic atmosphere. That’s how we fell in love with Chetola — the willow tree as a simple but elegant backdrop was perfect,” Dawn said. “The antique creel fishing baskets, the earthy centerpieces, and the birch bark cake brought it all together. We used the names of our favorite outdoor places as table names instead of numbers.”
Dawn said the best planning decision she made was to hire Meris Gantt at The Whole Shebang and many other local vendors.
“Meris met with me to discuss my image and ideas. Afterward, she put me in touch with vendors she felt would help bring my ideas to life,” she said. “My wedding day came to life because I started with her help and direction.
“I could not have imagined using vendors who were not local to the mountains. From photography to stationery, it was helpful for them to understand that I wanted to bring out the mountains and the fly-fishing streams in all of the details. They knew the area and were able to do all of that.”
Walking away from the day as Mrs. Pennington was the bride’s favorite thing about her experience, but her most memorable moment was the first time she saw her groom before the ceremony.
“When I saw all of the final touches and then saw Dave for the first time, I was speechless and tearful,” she said.