An L.A.-based couple sprinkles movie magic on a quintessentially Southern affair. By Erika Jo Brown | Photography by Rachel Browne
Although many couples meet in the workplace, not many can trace their initial rendezvous to the set of a space adventure flick. Eight years ago, Courtney Hunkele was standing in for sparkle-vamp Kristin Stewart while Harry Garvin operated a Steadicam rig for the Jon Favreau film Zathura. It was a real-life “meet cute” moment.
Over the course of the movie’s nine-week shoot, the two bonded over their shared Southern roots. Harry hails from Aiken, S.C.; Courtney from St. Simon’s Island. They began dating as soon as the film wrapped. Cut to Harry’s proposal. From there, the suspense built as the couple directed a blockbuster wedding to rival the cinematic set-up of their romance.
Lights, Camera, Action!
From the very beginning, the Spanish moss, the bustling seaport and the subtropical climate of Savannah were part of Courtney and Harry’s wedding storyboard. They began by scouting a historical venue that would serve as an unconventional backdrop for their celebration.
When they discovered the Georgia State Railroad Museum, a national landmark just off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, inspiration struck—what better symbol of both cross-country travel and Southern heritage than Savannah’s 1853 railroad complex? The couple marveled at the offbeat and authentic details of the nation’s largest standing antebellum railroad repair facility.
Although preserved bricks ring the perimeter of the old machine shop, the roof structure is gone with the wind, leaving a dramatic atrium that Courtney and Harry fashioned as an outdoor “church” for their ceremony. The blacksmith shop, a separate structure within the site’s footprint, promised an idyllic scene for a rustic reception. The bride softened its unfinished surfaces with refined touches, such as silver trophies, blue and white ginger jars and even a vintage photo booth. She also carved out a relaxed outdoor lounge with antique furniture leased from Beachview Rentals.
Floral arrangements were designed to look as if each sprig had just been plucked, furthering the event’s spontaneous-yet-serene look. String lights and lanterns imbued the whole environment with a warm glow.
Courtney acknowledges that planning a wedding from 3,000 miles away is a tricky venture.
“I racked up a lot of frequent flier miles going back and forth from Los Angeles to Savannah,” the bride admits. As the big date drew near, she returned at least once a month to ensure that all design elements were completed on schedule.
Luckily, she could count on a trustworthy crew.
“My mom and sisters were great about following up with vendors and going to meetings when I couldn’t make the trip,” she says. Courtney also credits her wedding planner, Nicole Rene Schwalge of Simply Savannah Events, with navigating and recommending vendors, such as Kaufman-Heinz Lighting and Urban Poppy Floral Design.
“I didn’t have to spend hours researching online and calling,” the bride raves.
The Show Must Go On
Despite the couple’s well-laid plans, they did experience a minor pre-wedding crisis.
“We had arranged to have my husband’s childhood minister perform the ceremony,” Courtney explains. “But two weeks before the wedding, he became ill and couldn’t make the trip from South Carolina.”
The couple scrambled to find a replacement, calling several churches and officiants— all of whom were unavailable during the height of Savannah wedding season.
At the last minute, one of the already-booked ministers referred them to Rev. Claire Williams, who was “miraculously available.” The couple consulted with her a few days before the wedding.
“She was so warm and lovely,” Courtney recalls. “She asked great questions and really got to know us. She performed the ceremony like she had known us forever.”
The couple coped with the hiccup as any two screen veterans would handle a change in scene—with flexibility and a healthy dose of optimism.
Harry and Courtney were determined to personalize their wedding with imagination and aplomb. An avid horsewoman, the bride scoured eBay for vintage equestrian touches and added old-fashioned show ribbons to the escort card display. On Etsy, the couple discovered the crisply modern stylings of graphic designer Jehoaddan Kulakoff, who created invitations using sketches of their silhouettes. To underscore the handcrafted quality of the day, wedding guests signed an embroidery sampler instead of a traditional guest book. Courtney later stitched over their signatures for a memorable keepsake.
To honor their families, the duo displayed their parents’ wedding photos on the guestbook table. During their day-of wedding shoot, photographer Rachel Browne even positioned the couple in the same pose as the groom’s parents’ portrait. And because Courtney’s father is a proud Georgia Tech grad, Courtney secretly instructed the band to break out the “Ramblin’ Wreck” fight song during their father-daughter dance.
Throughout the celebration, Courtney and Harry paid homage to their Southern heritage through taste and sound. Johnny Mercer tunes played during the ceremony and the Savannah Stompers tooted old Dixieland jazz standards at the reception.
The couple also collaborated with Creative Catering to prapare a “very old-school” menu of deviled eggs, crab cakes, fried chicken, pulled pork sliders, and shrimp ’n’ grits, among other local seafood dishes.
Although the couple opted for a traditional, three-tiered wedding cake, they also served childhood favorites—pineapple upside-down cake for Harry and that true confection of the South, a caramel cake, for Courtney. As a final act, departing guests were gifted with a sack of so-Southern Krispy Kreme doughnuts—a happy ending for guests as the couple’s sweet beginning unfolded.
BEHIND THE VEIL
The big day: Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012
Palette: Wedgwood blue and slate gray
Planning time: One year
Planner: Simply Savannah Events
Rehearsal dinner: Garibaldi Cafe
Ceremony and reception: Georgia State Railroad Museum
Officiant: The Rev. Claire E. Williams
Ceremony and reception music: The Savannah Stompers Jazz Band
Ceremony gown: Tara Keely
Reception dress: BHLDN by Anthropologie
Accessories: Toni Federici veil, Christian Louboutin shoes, Stella & Dot bracelet, antique handkerchief embroidered with the initials and wedding dates of family members
Hair and makeup: Chelsea West, Willow Salon, Richmond Hill
Bridesmaids’ attire: ML Monique Lhuillier
Groom’s attire: Hugo Boss
Catering: Creative Catering
Florist: Urban Poppy
Cake: Rum Runners
Stationery: Tusssk Designs, Etsy.com
Rentals: Beachview Tent & Event Rentals
Transportation: Timeless Motorcoaches
Lighting: Kaufman-Heinz LLC
Photobooth: Obscura Photobooths
Photography: Rachel Browne, Rachel Browne Photography