Susan Foote Dowhower and Taylor Burke first started dating after they reconnected in a fairly unconventional setting—an ’80s-themed party. “I was dressed in a head-to-toe ’80s costume, while Taylor was in a navy blazer,” Susan laughs. “Fortunately my neon Rainbow Brite attire didn’t deter him!” From then on the couple, who had initially met when they both attended Washington & Lee University years earlier, dated for two years before Taylor surprised Susan with a proposal during a trip to the Inn at Little Washington. “The day was a little chilly and drizzly, but he insisted we take a walk to see the grounds before dinner,” she shares. “I remember he chose a quiet spot where the view of the hills with foggy clouds swirling around them was just magical.” With only the Inn’s llamas as their witnesses, Taylor asked Susan to marry him.
Once engaged, both knew the Mountain Top Golf & Lake Club in Cashiers, North Carolina was the obvious venue choice. “We spend time there every summer, and it’s my children’s favorite place to be,” says Susan, who has two kids, Eleanor and Benton, from a previous marriage. “When Taylor and I first started dating, I brought him to Cashiers to spend time there with my family and he fell in love with the area.” The summer mountain setting heavily inspired the couple’s wedding aesthetic, which ended up incorporating natural yet sophisticated elements like leafy branches, antler, banks of baby’s breath, faux boix table linens, and hurricanes with candles and moss.
As an interior designer, the bride already had ample experience entertaining and hosting parties and therefore happily welcomed the responsibility of planning her own wedding. “I’m a bit obsessive about details,” she adds. She worked with Alban Qemali at the Mountain Top Club to create a locally inspired menu, calligrapher Ginna Dunlap on all the printed materials for the ceremony and reception, and Gina Lanigan on the floral design for the event.
Since this was Susan’s second wedding, looking for a dress was a bit challenging. “Taylor wanted me to look like a bride, but I wanted to balance appropriateness with his wishes,” she explains. Susan ended up going with an ivory lace Monique Lhuillier dress that was simple yet stunning. “I texted my mother a photo of the dress and she instantly replied: ‘That’s it! That’s the one!’ ” As the wedding reception was set to take place outside, Susan chose a pair of gold Aquazurra wedges that she thought were “sparkly yet practical” and ditched the traditional veil for a leafy head piece with white floral touches instead. For jewelry, she kept things classic, donning her engagement ring, a vintage family bracelet Taylor gifted her at their rehearsal dinner, and her grandmother’s sapphire and diamond bracelet, which served as her something borrowed and her something blue.
When the day of the wedding arrived, the couple tied the knot in a ceremony at the Mountain Top’s “Overlook,” where gorgeous mountain views made for a picture perfect backdrop. “Our good friend Michelle Haney Maddux, who was responsible for reconnecting Taylor and me in D.C., officiated the ceremony,” Susan shares. A bluegrass band performed “Pachelbel’s Canon in D,” Taylor’s favorite classical piece, as Susan walked down the aisle escorted by her son, Benton.
After the ceremony, guests were ushered into the clubhouse, where Champagne and Moscow Mules awaited. The bluegrass band continued to play some of the couple’s favorites, including songs by Johnny Cash, the Grateful Dead, Fleetwood Mac, and the Rolling Stones. Appetizers also were in line with the Southern theme, with fried oysters, deviled eggs, crab shooters, and grits squares making the rounds. Afterwards, a tented dinner of North Carolina trout or strip steak awaited.
When it was time for the first dance, Mr. and Mrs. Burke got the party started with Led Zeppelin’s “Thank You,” again in bluegrass style. “The lyrics of the song speak perfectly to how we feel about one another: “If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you.” Some more dancing, this time to top 40 hits from a DJ, ensued all the way up until the club insisted it was time for the party to wrap up. “Guests left with a souvenir umbrella baring our cypher and the words: ‘Come rain or come shine 6.18.16,’ ” Susan recalls. “Weather can be unpredictable in Cashiers, so ordering umbrellas as wedding favors was my way of insuring against rain. I guess you can say I’m a believer in Murphy’s Law—I planned for rain so rain wouldn’t come!”