written by Kathleen Nacozy
photography by Bill McCullough Photography
Abby McAfee and Corey Daigle met in spring 2006 on a Tecate Tuesday at Austin's Lavaca Street Bar. Even before Abby met Corey, she knew exactly what her wedding would look like and where it would be. Abby's dreams of her wedding were very specific because she is a wedding planner whose family is in the wedding-making business.
Abby's parents, Mark and Melanie McAfee, bought Barr Mansion from descendents of the Barr family in 1980. It was then 82 years old and rundown, but Mark and Melanie fell in love with it. Originally they bought the home just to live in, but quickly discovered how costly it was to maintain the old mansion and they knew they could turn it into an ideal place for weddings. The McAfee's were right. Barr Mansion is now one of the most sought after wedding venues in Central Texas.
When Abby was a little girl, she was eager to help with the family business. Her parents joke that she started out in the Mansion's catering department at the age of seven. Since then, Abby has maintained a steady career at the Mansion. She is now the house florist and Wedding and Event Consultant.
A bride who plans weddings for a living can easily become overwrought with meticulous details. Or she can plan her wedding in a snap. The planning can be a breeze, practically on auto pilot. Abby chose this breezy option because she and Corey are characteristically cool.
They are a very relaxed couple. After dating for a year and a half, they were sitting in a neighborhood park one day and decided to get married. "We're laid back and kind of a modern couple," Abby says. "We didn't do any of the formalities. He didn't surprise me with a ring, and I didn't want a diamond." Abby chose a ring with a citrine stone, which is her birthstone.
The rest of Abby and Corey's wedding plans fell right into place. "I probably had everything planned in 24 hours." Of course, Abby and Corey would get married at Barr Mansion. They set their wedding date more than a year out, on April 19, 2008. From professional experience, Abby knows that a year is more than enough time to plan a wedding and a good amount of time to enjoy being engaged.
She also thinks that mid-April is the best time of year for a wedding. "That's when the weather in Austin is best and our gardens are in full swing," she says. "Ever since I can remember, that's when I wanted to get married."
The Barr Mansion family and staff did not put their busy spring wedding schedule on hold for Abby and Corey. Four other weddings were held at the Mansion that weekend, including one the morning of Abby and Corey's wedding. There were only three hours between the Saturday morning wedding and Abby and Corey's evening wedding. Abby outsourced the day-of coordinating to a wedding planner not on staff at the Mansion. She wanted her coworkers, who are her good friends, to enjoy the wedding without having to work.
Abby and her floral team did provide the flowers for her wedding, and for every wedding that weekend. She says her team worked very hard so she did not have to work on her wedding day. They did the entire weekend's flowers for her, except for Abby's bouquet, which she wanted to do herself. She made the bouquet the morning of the wedding using all of her favorite flowers. Everything else was done by Abby's assistants who, in three hours, transformed the Artisan Ballroom and surrounding garden areas into a vision of green orchids, white lilies, green hydrangeas, and ivory roses that were literally everywhere—including hanging from a candle chandelier in the center of the ballroom.
Abby and Corey's wedding suited Barr Mansion in the springtime. Her colors were green, ivory and champagne. She chose a wedding dress that was classic. "I chose a dress that I thought matched the actual look and feel of Barr Mansion," she says. "It was simple with really soft lace in a Victorian style."
The wedding party wore black and ivory. In line with her laid back mindset, Abby says, "My bridesmaids wore whatever black dress they wanted." Corey chose to wear a black tux, which is what his groomsmen wore also.
Abby and Corey were married at sunset under an arch of roses, lilies, hydrangeas and orchids. Rose petals from a thousand roses were scattered along the aisle, from the ceremonial archway to the Mansion where the processional started. The rose-petal aisle was a new touch Abby brought to the Mansion. "To my knowledge, in the 26 years we've been doing weddings out here, nobody's ever done that," she says.
The reception was a party from the get go. A dance floor in the Artisan Ballroom was accompanied by a combination of dinner tables and cocktail tables that overflowed to the outside lawn and patio. Abby and Corey wanted there to be lots of dancing, and their guests came through with plenty of jive. "No one was ever really sitting down," Abby says. "We danced the whole night."
Abby and Corey knew their wedding would be a success as long as there was "good music, good food, good friends… and good cocktails." Lots of food, 250 guests, and a bar that impressed even a seasoned bartender like Corey. They hired "A Hard Night's Day" from Austin and D.J., Jeff Walton to entertain their guests throughout the night.
For the couple's first dance, they played Moondance by Van Morrison. This is Abby and Corey's song because one night, back when they were dating, Corey pulled their car to the side of the highway during a road trip to Houston, and they danced to it under the full moon. Abby says that's when she became absolutely certain that she would marry Corey.
Bill McCullough Photography captured the theme of the couple's first dance beautifully during the reception when Abby and Corey stole a moment alone, dancing outside under a full moon. When Abby and Corey saw those pictures later, they realized that their wedding "was truly a marvelous night for a "Moondance".
After the reception, the couple left the Mansion in a limousine headed for the Lost Pines Resort. Their wedding party had surprised them with a night's stay at the resort and a couple's massage and a horseback ride.
Abby was not expecting a perfect wedding. She sees many, many brides wrapped up in finding the perfect dress, the perfect cake, the perfect flowers. She says, "Nobody has that. That doesn't exist. You have to make it your own. And whatever happens, happens."
When asked if she would go back and change anything about the wedding if she could, she says, "I wouldn't have done anything differently. Not a single thing. It was just the most perfect, beautiful night."
Abby wishes she could relive the night over and over again, or maybe just once, "There will definitely be an anniversary party at some point. But I think you have to wait at least 10 years for that."