A couple starts their home on the range with a Western-themed wedding.
Taylor Jane Ford & Justin Light Showalter | Lewisburg | 6.16.18 | The Oberports
Taylor Ford grew up in what she calls “rodeo world.” She rode in barrel racing competitions all over, and her parents used to put on rodeos at the West Virginia State Fairgrounds in Fairlea.
And just like the wider world, Taylor’s rodeo world had its celebrities. Her favorite was Justin Showalter, a black hat-wearing cowboy from Lexington, Virginia, who rode bulls and bucking broncs. She developed a pretty serious crush on him, but never expected it would turn into anything. He was a few years older and, besides, he was always dating other girls.
Then, in July 2009, she was getting ready to leave a rodeo with her family when someone climbed into the truck. “It was like, ‘What’s Justin Showalter doing in my truck?’”
Her mom’s boyfriend made some excuse about giving Justin a ride to his vehicle. In actuality, the boyfriend was trying to nudge the two together. It worked. Justin and Taylor started texting. Then, when they saw one another at a horse show the following weekend, he asked her out to dinner. “I didn’t think it would go anywhere. Nobody gets to date their high school crush,” Taylor says.
Nevertheless, they started going out. The couple stayed together when Taylor went off to college at Concord University, and they stayed together when she transferred to Virginia Tech to be closer to Justin—a decision that did not go over well with Taylor’s WVU-loving family.
They broke up in the fall of 2015, but it eventually became clear this was a mistake “We dated other people for one year, and then we got back together,” Justin says. “That’s when we said, ‘Let’s make it work.’”
When Justin decided to pop the question in December 2017, he knew just how it should go down.
“I’ve always wanted a basset hound, and I’ve always loved the movie Sweet Home Alabama,” Taylor says. “So I’ve always told Justin I wanted a dog named Bobby Ray.” Bobby Ray, for the uninitiated, is the name of Reese Witherspoon’s best friend in the movie.
Justin told her she was getting an early Christmas present, and Taylor knew what that meant. “I was telling all my friends, I’m gonna get my basset hound,” she says.
When she pulled up to their house, he told her to wait in the truck while he went inside. After a few minutes, he told her she could come in. “He handed me Bobby Ray. Then he said, ‘Well, look on the nametag and see if I spelled the name right.’” Along with the dog’s name, the tags read “Will you marry me?”
“I had no idea that was going to happen,” Taylor says. There was no ring yet—Justin wanted Taylor to be able to pick it out—but that didn’t matter. “We were engaged for a year before I ever got the ring. I was just excited to have the basset hound,” she says.
Round ’em Up
They started preparing for their wedding right away. Justin and Taylor knew where they wanted their nuptials to occur—at Little Moose Farm in Lewisburg, Taylor’s family farm.
Her sister Barbara Lee had gotten married on the family farm the year before, and Taylor benefitted from her sister’s research. She ordered the same dance floor and caterer and even borrowed her sister’s officiant—Taylor’s childhood friend Kayla Whited. “We don’t really go to church, and we didn’t want to ask a preacher randomly.”
But Taylor also wanted to make sure her wedding was unique. “Barbara Lee’s was all about colors. It was beautiful. But I was like, ‘We need them to know this is a different wedding,’” Taylor says. “I wanted people to come to our wedding and be like, ‘I’ve never seen that before.’ I wanted to use things that encompassed our lives.”
She enlisted the help of florist Christopher Glover of Greenbrier Cut Flowers in Lewisburg. They spent months talking about how the ceremony and reception would look.
Eventually, they landed on a look straight from rodeo world. Taylor and Justin built a simple altar from cedar logs they found on his family’s land. In the middle, above where the couple would stand, they hung a bleached skull from one of the African Watusi cattle that Justin’s family raised. Glover dressed up the cow cranium with hydrangeas, blue thistle, peonies, snap dragons, roses, and other colorful flowers, then flanked the altar with pots of white hydrangea bushes.
Taylor also wanted to use steer skulls on the tent poles in the reception tent. “People thought I was crazy,” she says. But Glover understood perfectly what she wanted. He created flower arrangements similar to those on the altar and hung the skulls 10 feet above the ground—holding them in place, fittingly enough, with hay bailing twine.
Also in the reception tent, Taylor decided to decorate the head table with three antique bread bowls that belonged to Taylor’s grandmother and a Pendleton quilt with pops of turquoise. Guests’ tables would be adorned with turquoise splatterware pitchers and tumblers, the latter pulling double duty as guest favors. “It was cool for us, Justin says. “We’re from the East Coast, but we’re still cowboys. We had a cowboy wedding on the East Coast.”
White Dresses, Black Hats
It took Taylor a few shopping trips before she found a dress she liked. On her third outing, she visited Studio I Do in Roanoke, Virginia. Within minutes, she’d found the dress: a traditional form-fitting Martina Miliana dress with an illusion back and a dramatic fanned gown.
As the wedding drew closer, though, she began to worry the dress’s heavy fabric—when combined with muggy July weather—might make her miserable. So, two weeks before the wedding, she and a bridesmaid made another trip to Studio I Do. This time Taylor picked out a bohemian-style gown from Wilderly Bride by Allure with an open back and tassels around the neck.
She found her bridesmaids’ dresses online at Show Me Your Mumu. “I hate the typical bridesmaids look. I didn’t want to do cocktail length. I didn’t want it to be formal. I wanted my bridesmaids to buy these dresses and be able to use them again.” So Taylor picked out a series of jade maxi dresses and let her friends buy the dresses that suited them best. The only exception was Taylor’s twin sister Kathleen, who served as her matron of honor. She wore a turquoise dress to set her apart from the rest.
True to the cowboy theme, most of Justin’s groomsmen wore starched Wranglers, white pearl snap shirts, linen jackets, cowboy boots, and black cowboy hats. Except for his best man. “My mom was my best man,” Justin says. She wore a tan skirt, turquoise necklace, and white blouse.
The skies are not cloudy all day.
June 16, 2018 proved to be a sunny, almost cloudless day in Lewisburg. When the ceremony began, Taylor walked down the aisle to “Lane’s Theme,” a piano instrumental from the Luke Perry movie 8 Seconds, a cinema classic in rodeo world. “I was crying so hard by then,” Justin says.
The ceremony was short and sweet. The couple exchanged traditional “I do’s” beneath their cow skull-adorned altar, kissed, and walked back up the grassy aisle together as man and wife.
Once they finished taking pictures, Taylor made a quick wardrobe change—“I was so done with that dress,” she says—and the couple proceeded to the reception. They had their first dance to Dave Stamey’s “The Campfire Waltz,” but The Hackens Boys, a country band from Harrisonburg, Virginia, provided the rest of the night’s entertainment. The group even learned some of the newlyweds’ favorite cowboy songs for the occasion, like “This Cowboy’s Hat” by Chris Ledeux.
When they weren’t dancing, guests enjoyed beef tenderloin, mac and cheese, and parmesan mashed potatoes by The Dutch House in Lewisburg. But Taylor and Justin bucked tradition when it came to dessert. “I am not a cake person so I’m not spending $1,000 on a cake I’m not really going to want,” she says. So, instead, they had Amy’s Cakes and Cones in Lewisburg bake a bunch of apple pies, which were served with ice cream and a caramel sauce.
But one very special guest proved to be the reception’s main attraction—Bobby Ray. He had been part of the ceremony, walking down the aisle with one of Taylor’s nieces. But at the reception, he made the rounds greeting guests and sneaking food from the caterers. “He was a hit,” Taylor says.
The party started winding down around midnight, and it was time for the newlyweds to say their goodnights. Taylor and Justin didn’t leave on a honeymoon right away, but they agreed they wanted to spend their wedding night somewhere other than their own home. “I didn’t want to impose on anybody driving us to a hotel,” Taylor says. “So Justin says, ‘Why don’t we go stay in the teepee?’”
He had recently purchased a white canvas teepee for camping, and was eager to try it out. Taylor thought that sounded like a great idea, so Justin set up the tent a short walk away from the reception.
What better way to end a day in rodeo world?
Barbara Hamilton Ford & Gary Ford
Susan Smith Showalter & Charles D. Showalter
Studio I Do, Roanoke, VA
Show Me Your Mumu
Brooke Shehan, Lexington, VA
Christopher Glover Greenbrier Cut Flowers, Lewisburg
The Dutch House, Lewisburg
Amy’s Cakes and Cones, Lewisburg
The Hackens Boys, Harrisonburg, VA
A to Z Rentals, Huntington
Little Moose Farm, Lewisburg