Planning an Indian Wedding: Castleton Goes International

You haven’t heard? Castleton Farms is headed to India! As you read this, our Executive Director, Darla Walker, is jet-setting across the world with our bride Heena and photographer Ben Finch to prep for the big day. While over there, Darla and Heena will shop for the wedding sarees, jewelry, invitations and more, and back home, we’re going to be documenting every bit of it. While they’re all en route, we wanted to introduce Heena + Ronak to you all!

International Indian wedding planning

Indian wedding photography_Bill Waldorf


their storyThe two met at a graduation party at the end of their Junior year in college, and Heena claims she knew there was something special about him when she saw him walk through the door (swoon!). Little did they know, at that moment, where life would bring them! A few days after, Heena was leaving Atlanta for the summer so Ronak asked her to grab coffee at the ever-so-eclectic Java Monkey, and the rest is history. Heena commented, “It’s a good thing that I liked him enough to go on a date with him because I’m not the biggest fan of coffee!”


Indian wedding engagement_Ben Finch Photo


how he askedOne of the couple’s favorite places is Savannah, Georgia. The fact that 3 out of 6 of their anniversaries have been spent in the charming, historic town made it the perfect proposal location. Ronak had mapped out every detail of the day, which would end with him on one knee, at their favorite place in Savannah–the fountain in the middle of Forsyth Park, asking the girl he adores to spend forever with him. But life happens, and the day didn’t go as Ronak had planned. Every time he thought about proposing throughout the day, something went wrong. The day ended back at the town home where they were staying, and Ronak decided then that the time was right. He asked. Heena was taken by surprise. She said yes, of course, and here we are today!


Indian wedding engagement_Ben Finch Photo

castleton brideHeena had previously been to an Indian wedding at Castleton and fell in love with our property. When the time rolled around for her to choose a wedding venue, she considered Castleton because of the outdoor venue options. In India, over 90% of couples get married outside. While there are endless outdoor venues to choose from in America, the couple had difficulty finding an outdoor venue that could accommodate such a large guest count. Indian families consider everyone they meet part of their family, which explains their 500+ person guest counts. Heena + Ronak also mentioned choosing Castleton because of Darla and the built-in event planning that comes with every experience. Unlike American weddings, Indian weddings consist of multiple events occurring over a 3-day time period (at least!), so having an event planner to keep track of each detail and hold people accountable was a huge deal breaker for these two.

All of that being said, we are SO excited to have the opportunity to experience India with Heena, Ronak, Ben, and the whole family. Join us on this adventure and find some entertainment in our daily Facebook vlogs, Instagram inspiration photos, blog posts describing the details and importance of planning an Indian wedding, and one of our favorite parts – Pappu’s passage! That’s right. The little friend you see below is joining our journey. We’ll be posting photos of Pappu wherever we go, and it’s up to YOU to guess where he is. Darla will be bringing back some fun souvenirs for each winner! Be sure to follow us with the hashtags #PappusPassage, #WhereInTheWorldIsPappu and #IndiaExperiencesCastleton.

authentic patchwork Indian elephant

The First Look: A Groom’s Perspective

Your wedding day is a blur. People tell you that, but you just won’t understand until you experience it for yourself. The ten hours I spent on property seemed like ten minutes. But there was one moment where time moved slow. All day you are preparing to tie your life to this one person. The day belongs to you and her, this one special girl that means everything to you, ya know? But then they don’t even let you see her. You are being walked around with your eyes covered and being told, “Don’t come upstairs,” for fear you might see her. That is why the first look will forever be my most vivid memory of my big day. I just wanted to talk to her. Not even about the actual day, just to say hey or make a stupid joke that only we would laugh at like we normally would. Even reading our letters to each other around the corner wasn’t good enough. Hearing her voice wasn’t good enough. I just wanted to see her.

first look on wedding day

You tell yourself you won’t cry. You won’t be cliche. You’re not like the other guys. And then she taps you on the shoulder. You turn around, and in this moment, you know that your life is going to be better from this day on. You know that no guy could ever see her like you do. All of the tears, laughs, and inevitable things about love have brought you to this moment. And it’s here, while you’re wiping tears off your new overpriced tie, you understand why a wedding is beautiful.

first look on wedding day

Fifty years from now, I will never forget the smile I saw when I turned to see my bride during my first look. Hopefully it will feel just like it was yesterday.


Ben Finch Photography

Michael and Kayla’s Carnival Themed Wedding!

Every now and then a wedding comes along that is completely over the top! In this case it is over the Big Top! I am talking CLOWNS, STILT WALKERS and FIRE DANCERS! In addition to cotton candy, root beer floats and carnival games! This wedding was not just fun to attend it was a ball to plan! Michael and Kayla’s Carnival themed wedding was one to remember. Check out the incredible video from Something Goode VideographyClick here to experience it for yourself!

The First Dance Is The Best Dance

The First Dance Is The Best Dance

The first dance is THE most important song of the night. Next to seeing you kiss at the alter, this is one of the most romantic events of your wedding; your big moment alone on the dance floor.  So yes, the song has to be perfect! 

When choosing the perfect song think back to experiences you’ve shared as a couple. For some couples, “your song” could be played, but for other couples that do not have one particular song, the decision may not be so easy. Take a stroll down memory lane and remember the movies and TV shows you’ve seen together. Recall concerts of favorite musicians you’ve attended. Remember special moments you’ve shared and the song that played in the background. As newlyweds, this touching first official spin around the dance floor, will create a memory that will last a lifetime. Have fun with it and make sure the song is sentimental to both of you!

Before making your first dance song decision, decide on the tempo you wish to create. You and your future husband have many options; adventurous, entertaining or romantic. If adventurous is the answer, plan on surprising the love of your life. Allow the bride to choose the first dance and the groom to choose the last dance, or vice versa. If entertaining is the answer, take dance lessons together. Choose a song that allows you to show off your dancing skills and add some pizzazz and personality to your first dance! If romantic is the tempo you are searching for, choose a sweet love song. Hold each other tight, sing to each other and tell each other how much you love them during this memorable moment. It all depends on how you, the bride and groom, want your guests to remember your special day. After all, it is your day and your way, so make it something to remember!

Finding that one special song can sometimes be difficult. It’s normal to draw a blank or have “Wedding Song Block.” That’s why Castleton has created a unique wedding song list, a list that can meet every Castleton couple’s desire! While taking a quick look at the songs below, feel free to click on the song title for your listening pleasure.  

We hope that you will find the PERFECT first dance song. One that reflects your relationship with one another and one that shows your true personality as a couple. Castleton’s desire for all of their brides and grooms is for the first song to set the scene and help the couple’s love story come to life, both now and in the future!

I Thought I Loved You Then– Brad Paisley

Amen– Dave Barnes

Love Never Fails– Brandon Heath 

God Gave Me You– Dave Barnes 

At Last– Etta James 

That’s How Strong My Love Is– Ottis Redding 

Love Is Not A Fight– Warren Barfield 

Loving You, Loving Me– Dave Barnes 

Better Together– Jack Johnson 

I Have and Always Will– Dave Barnes 

The Day Before You– Matthew West

Nothing Fancy– Dave Barnes 

Wanted– Hunter Hayes 

More Than A Man– Dave Barnes 

She Is Love– Parachute 

Say Forever– Redruth

Until You– Dave Barnes 

Make You Feel My Love– Adele 

On A Night Like This– Dave Barnes 

Marry Me– Train

Vintage Vineyard Wedding

Longing for a romantic wedding in wine country? A vineyard wedding is the ultimate in sophisticated rustic elegance. But there is no need to travel to France and leave all of your loved ones behind. You can get that same experience state side if you know where to look. The Vineyard at Castleton Farms coupled with one of our skilled wedding planners is the perfect combination to achieve your dream vineyard wedding. Memorable wedding designs come down to the details and there are plenty of creative details to include in this elegant wedding, but in this case the venue is more important than ever.  A vineyard wedding must simply stated, be held in a vineyard. Whether it is the ceremony, cocktail hour or the reception, some portion of the event must allow your guests to wander between the rows  of live growing grapes and taste the fruit straight from the vine. I love that Castleton’s vineyard is planted with the muscadine grape; a grape native to Tennessee and a taste that brings back my childhood with one bite!

Now that you have an amazing venue, let’s talk about the details. Your colors can range from deep wine reds and purples to light fresh champagne peaches and whites. If you go for the lighter colors, tan or grey suits on your groomsmen are a great choice to keep your bridal party balanced. Vineyard weddings will often see the bride in a slimmer silhouette, but bolder brides may opt for a fuller gown in deep rich colors, especially for a dramatic evening ceremony with candles.

We love the idea of sending a bottle of wine as the invitation with all of the wedding information printed on the custom label.

These eco friendly cork invitations available on etsy are also a great first glance of what lies ahead for your guests.

Of course grapes of many varieties and should find their way into your décor and centerpieces, although your bouquets and boutonnieres should be void of this staining fruit.

The cocktail hour and reception for this type of wedding can be super elegant and refined.

The perfect accompaniment to wine is cheese! So a cheese sampling is a must, but also consider dishes made with a variety of different or unique cheese. For the cocktail hour consider Goat Cheese with Pancetta, a Cornmeal Soufflé with Blue Cheese or Smoked Salmon with Mascarpone. Grilled vegetables also pair well with cheeses especially when finished with an aged balsamic vinegar or rich olive oil. Fruit jams with cheese and crackers can be simple, but delicious.

A Caramelized Onion Tart with brie followed by a Grilled Corn Soup are sure to have your guests on the edge of their seats in anticipation of the main course. A grilled beef tenderloin or roasted duck or lamb are all wonderful options for the main course.

Now that your mind (and taste buds) are busy with the menu let’s talk about before and after the ceremony. Consider hiring a sommelier for a wine tasting as your rehearsal dinner. This is a great opportunity to taste and understand new wines with your bridal party. Speaking of bridal party, what gifts do you give these people that are so dear to you? How about a picnic basket filled with everything necessary for a romantic evening of their own; wine, preserves, local honey, crackers, marinated olives, roasted peppers and smoked meats. (there go my taste buds again).   

When you plan a wedding around wine, amazing food is sure play a big part. Congratulations, you now have a wedding your guests can’t wait to attend!


Featured Bride: Kayla Hyder











Of all the wonderful things we get to be a part of at Castleton Farms; from helping a bride plan her special day to standing by her side before she walks down the aisle, the absolute best is when I get to see into the special, intimate, personal moments that she will treasure for the rest of her marriage. Recently a bride as been sweet enough to share some of those moments with me and my eyes have been filled with tears more than once over the past week.

I want to introduce you to a very special Castleton Bride; Kayla. Kayla and her fiancé, Michael will be committing their lives to each other this Fall in a Vintage Carnival Themed wedding (and I for one can’t wait to see it come together)!

After Kayla’s recent wedding shower, she was sharing with the staff at Castleton Farms how totally perfect it was. So I asked her if I could share it on our blog and she said, “Absolutely!”

Of all the details that go into making an event prefect, some of the most important are that it is personal, heartfelt and sincere. Kayla’s shower had all of this and more. Held in the church she grew up in, she was surrounded by memories and a church family that has loved her for many years. More than just a venue, it is a place that holds a piece of her heart. Planning any event can add stress to your life, but Kayla chose to enjoy the time she and her mom spent preparing and made memories during the process she will treasure forever. (A great lesson from Kayla for all brides; the journey can be just as special as the destination!) Magazine worthy décor makes any event feel glamorous and great food is the icing on the cake (wink, wink), but Kayla added a very intimate item to her agenda that touched my heart. In light of her love for Hot Air Balloons she had a very unique balloon release! All of her guests wrote a wish for her and her future husband on a wishtag. They then read their wish for her and Michael out loud and tied it to their balloon. At the conclusion of the shower they released their wishes into the Heavens! How sweet is that! To have the people you love most in the world sharing their wishes for you and offering them up as prayers. Love! To top it off she received a special Bible from her cousin’s family and a custom handmade sign from a precious friend that read “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.”  What a beautiful image what marriage is really all about.

We all love beautiful things. And we at Castleton love to create beautiful weddings. But the most beautiful of all is the intimacy found in the true surrender of one person to another, trusting another person with everything we have that is private and precious and knowing it is as sacred to them as it is to us. Kayla, thank you for sharing with us that which is precious to you!






Hand Painted Wedding Cake

Hand Painted Wedding Cakes

Hand Painted Wedding Cakes

Every now and then I come across a new trend in weddings that absolutely blows me away. I have been lucky enough to stumble across such a trend. Nothing will personalize and glamorize your wedding like one of the most amazing trends in weddings; Hand Painted Cakes.  A hand painted cake is an edible work of art. Like a traditional cake decorated with butter cream or fondant, a hand painted cake can be either elegantly simple or ornately complex. Either way they are absolutely stunning to behold. The designs and possibililties for this type of cake are limited only by imagination. So this is one aspect of your wedding where you can jump in with both feet and let your imagination run. Most good designers love it when you come to them with unique ideas and new challenges. And keep in mind a great designer will be able to help guide you toward your dream cake even if you are not sure what exactly that is. So make sure when choosing your pastry chef you not only taste her work but also peruse her portfolio.

Having spent countless hours coloring, molding, rolling and cutting fondant I can appreciate the heightened artistry and skill that goes into the completion of one of these designs. Although I am sure it takes a great length of time to master this art, I can’t wait to attempt a simple one for myself. I have already ordered the special brushes and watched hours of tutorials with talented pastry chefs creating these stunning sugar spectaculars. I have volunteered to make a baby shower cake for a friend and plan to incorporate some of these techniques. Of course I will keep you posted on my attempt!

Love this Hand Painted Cake from Three Little Black Birds Cakes  in Colorado!










Downton Abbey English Garden Wedding

With the amazing Downton Abbey wedding still fresh in our minds, it is finally getting warm enough here in East Tennessee to experience the regal elegance of proper England in the maternal mountains of East Tennessee! If you, like the rest of America, have gotten swept up in the vintage glamour that is Downton Abbey, you have found the inspiration that can take your wedding from run of the mill to Edwardian Elegance.

Luck for you vintage; specifically 1920’s vintage, is hugely popular right now. Antique stores and upscale boutiques as well as thrift stores are a treasure trove waiting to assist you in the details.

When choosing jewelry look for pearls, cameos and enameled jewelry, all hugely popular in the early 1900’s. To capture the look and feel of the period as you walk down the aisle your dress should be highwaisted and lace. A floor length veil accompanied by an intricate rhinestone head piece will complete your bridal look. Soft grays, blues, champagnes and peaches create a soft romantic ambiance.

While your wedding decorations me be not be difficult to locate, your venue on the other hand must be on par with the aristocratic air of the day. A sprawling English estate may not be at your ready, but the Gardens at Castleton Farms are. Gardens that would awe even majestic Lady Mary!

If you are fortunate enough to book a venue as regal as the Gardens at Castleton Farms, a Garden Party would be a PERFECT cocktail hour, cucumber sandwiches, scones with lemon curd, lemon cookies or English trifle are all sure please the distinguished palates of your guests. To really evoke the richness of the period take a cue from Downton Abbey and model your dinner menu from courses served on the Titanic. Courses to consider are Oysters a la Russe, Glazed Duck and Asparagus salad. You might even consider serving your elegant dinner on the English Croquet lawn at Castleton!

If you choose a Downton Abbey English Garden Wedding you are not looking for simple, you are looking for lush, elaborate and over the top! So let your vintage diva shine!