Mark and I met in the fall of 2007. While at UNA, we would go on to play lead romantic interests on the stage for two shows (The Diviners and Hamlet). From that point, our lives would join and separate and cross for almost a decade. Finally in December of 2016, our paths crossed and the timing was perfect. We’ve been together since.
While dating, he knew I had a dream to start a small theatre company in Florence. In the summer of 2018, we saw that dream come true and started P3Theatre Company. In May of 2019, our company was approaching its one year anniversary and we needed some new tech equipment. He reached out to our alma mater to see if they had any microphones that our company could borrow or buy. He scheduled a meeting with them on May 15th at 6:30 pm. I knew it as nothing other than a theatre business meeting. He knew it as the meeting that would change our world. I had absolutely no idea he was planning to propose that evening. Mark has always told me he knew the way he wanted to propose, but he didn’t know how to make it happen. He would add, It’s how I envisioned proposing to you in college. I always thought it would be at Stephano’s, the place we had our first date during Hamlet (which is another reason I had no idea it was happening). When we arrived at Norton Auditorium, I was in complete business mode. He said he was told we needed to meet the technical director on stage left of the theatre. These specific directions were given to make sure I would walk across the stage. As we walked the stage holding hands, he said, I bet the last time we were on this stage was during a show in college. I looked out into the audience and reflected on how sweet that thought was. But I was also very excited about new microphones for our company, so I quickly moved on. The very next moment the whole auditorium went black. I had absolutely no clue what was happening. A spot light came up on us. I turned and Mark Keeton was down on one knee asking, Chelsea Ann Hughes, will you marry me? I was so shocked that I kept repeating, Are you kidding me? He even had to ask me again, because I kept saying, You’re kidding me! After his second proposal, I answered with a very proud, ABSOLUTELY! And just like that, I accepted my dream role.
Mark and I had chosen elopement long before Corona was a part of our daily vocabulary. We wanted to make sure our day was solely about us and our love. We both love travel, so incorporating it into our big day was easy. After solidifying that an elopement is what we wanted for our day, our next goal was to find a photographer. Lucky for us we had some talented friends in the business, Jessie and Ben Skipworth. Fun fact: Jessie actually photographed my sister Kate’s wedding and Ben was our videographer AND officiant. We settled on our location on the Pacific Northwest Coast and stayed in a little bungalow in Crescent City, CA. This location gave us the opportunity to have our first look in the giant Redwoods of Cali and then took a drive up HWY 101 to the Oregon Coast for our ceremony at Secret Beach. As cliché as it might sound, it was the most magical day of our lives!
After our elopement, we headed to Alaska to chase the Northern Lights. We stayed in a tiny town outside of Fairbanks at a remote place called Borealis Basecamp. We slept in a small igloo (only 15 total on the property) with a see-through ceiling so you can view the lights from the comfort of your bed! Upon arrival, we found out that the owners were actually from Alabama. We never imagined when we asked what part of Alabama that they would say, Killen. What a small world! Basecamp was a once-in-lifetime kind of honeymoon with dog sledding, four wheeling in the snow, feeding reindeer, and some of the most delicious food! We hit the biggest jackpot with our elopement/ honeymoon.
Even though we knew we wanted an intimate elopement, we also knew we wanted to throw an awesome reception to celebrate with the people we love most. One of our favorite holidays has always been Halloween. When we found out that Halloween 2020 fell on Saturday, we knew it was pretty much fate for our reception date. We love the city of Florence and are especially fond of the downtown area, so finding Pickett Place was a godsend. We were the first official booking under the new owners, The Burdines, at Pickett Place so they offered us a sweet package deal that included the venue, live music from Drum and Drummer, and photography from Abraham Rowe. It may go without saying, but we are a pretty nontraditional couple, so when our friends at Soul: Wingery and Records said they could cater a fry bar for us, we were sold! It was a huge hit at our wedding (and if you haven’t tried Soul, go immediately and tell them The Keetons sent you)! Next on the list of non-traditional goodies was our beautiful black wedding cake by Bellaria Cakes by Tina. It was a delicious smores cake with layers of marshmallow icing, graham crackers, and Hershey’s chocolate bars. Candid Memories Photo Booth served as our inside entertainment alongside our Trick-or-Treat candy table. The reception tables were decorated with beautiful floral arrangements by Flori (Susan Rowe) and vintage centerpieces collected by us.
Mark’s applewood ring with opal inlay was found on Etsy. My opal engagement ring and wedding band was purchased at Billy Mitchell Jewelry of Moulton, AL. Mark’s blue velvet jacket was found at Macy’s online. His tailored pants were from Coats Family Clothing in downtown Florence. I found my beautiful Hayley Paige Swiss Dot gown at Ivory and Birch Bridal in Huntsville. We cannot recommend Coats and I&B enough! For the evening, we were surrounded by our closest friends and family members, which included Mark s grandparents (Gail and Ed McIntyre), parents (Cindy and Ronnie Keeton), brother, sister-in-law, and nephew (David, Holly, and Isaac Keeton). My grandparents and aunt (Jim, Shirley, and Tammy Hughes), parents (Allen and Lisa Hughes), sisters (Kate Zills and Molly Hughes), and brother-in-law (Caleb Zills). We spent the rest of the night BOO-gying into the full moon night!
If you’ve ever wanted a 100% stress free day focused on just you and your husband, then hands down, ELOPE! Then come home and throw an epic reception! You won’t regret it.
Ceremony photos by Jessie and Ben Skipworth
Reception photos by Abraham Rowe Photography