By Emily Williams
As newlyweds, Margaret Anne and Grant Smith turned onto the street headed toward the bride’s family home following their April 4 wedding, they were greeted by a street sign boasting a big white bow.
“Grant pointed it out and said, ‘Look, they put a bow up for us,’” said Margaret Anne, who very quickly responded, “No they didn’t. That isn’t for us.”
Yet, as they made their way toward their destination, the couple noticed that every mailbox wore a similar white bow.
When they arrived at the house, the 10 family members who attended their ceremony were out on the front yard waiting for their arrival. They told the couple to park and join them on the lawn, and as Margaret Anne and Grant made their way across the driveway, they began hearing car horns.
“My best friend, Katie Tynes, had coordinated this wedding parade,” she said. “All of our Birmingham people started honking, with signs all over their cars. One of our friends’ dads gave us a bottle of champagne. There was rice being thrown, balloons, confetti.”
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic looming over the weeks leading up to their wedding, and despite the altered plans coordinated at the last minute by the bride and her planner, Meagan Cease of M. Elizabeth Events, there was much to celebrate.
Though both from the Birmingham area, Margaret Ann Fuller was a Mountain Brook girl while Grant grew up in Homewood. She went to the University of Mississippi after high school and he attended Auburn University.
The pair met for the first time when Margaret Anne was between adventures. She had spent a year living in Paris and working as an au pair, and she met Grant when she stopped in Birmingham on her way to move to Dallas.
Tragedy brought Margaret Anne and Grant together after mutual friend Taylor Harsh died when struck by lightning in Gulf Shores.
“Taylor was one of Grant’s closest friends,” she said.
“I saw him at the memorial service – which was held a few days before the funeral – for the second time in my whole life, and he held me while I cried,” she said.
The connection was instant for Margaret Anne. She knew she had found someone truly special.
“I went home and told my mom, ‘He doesn’t know it yet, but he is going to love me,’” she said, with a beaming lilt to her voice. “And now we’re married.”
They dated from a distance for about a year and a half before Margaret Anne made the move back to Birmingham.
Water or Ring?
Grant popped the big question exactly two years after their first date, on Aug. 30, 2019.
“We love to walk,” Margaret Anne said. “A lot of people like to walk, but it is one of our big things. Every evening after dinner we would just go for a walk.”
The Friday before Labor Day, Grant suggested they take their walk before dinner. It was out of character, but Margaret Anne adapted.
The couple had discussed marriage before, so when Grant kept bringing up the subject during their walk, Margaret Anne was more focused on her intense thirst. She needed water in an all-consuming manner.
“Our walks are not small strolls,” Margaret Anne said. “It’s about a three-mile loop.”
As the walk came to a close, Grant kept pushing the marriage topic, expecting Margaret Anne to turn around and participate in the conversation.
“He wanted me to say something like, ‘That’s so sweet. Why do you want to marry me?’” she said. “But I just said nothing, nothing except for ‘I’m so thirsty. I’m about to die.’ All while running to the door.”
He was able to stop her at the doorstep, hugging her while all she thought about was getting inside.
“Then he started digging around in a planter,” Margaret Anne said. “I turned around to ask him, ‘What are you doing?’ and he was down on one knee.”
What followed the yes was a bit of a transitional blur. She turned around to see both her and Grant’s parents coming out of the front door to congratulate them.
“I also remember my mom pulling me off to the side and saying, ‘This is so fun, I know, but you’ve got to get in the shower,’” Margaret Anne said, as she was still sweaty from the walk.
When she arrived back at the celebration, clean and hydrated, she was greeted by all of her Dallas friends and Ole Miss friends, who had flown or driven in for the occasion.
Back to the Drawing Board
Over the months leading up to the wedding, the couple ended up looking forward to a sizable affair.
“We didn’t ever intend for it to be a very big wedding, but we just have a lot of different friend groups,” Margaret Anne said. “We went to different high schools. He went to Auburn. I went to Ole Miss. I lived in Dallas, so I have a friend group there.” Tack on parents’ friends, family and everybody’s spouses, and the list climbed to about 300.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, that plan began to unravel.
“We made the decision two weeks before (to scale down),” Margaret Anne said.
“Every day you would turn on the news and we would go from 100 (cap on gatherings) to 50,” she said.
Finally, the ceremony ended up as a 10-person event, including the bride and groom, their parents, two pastors and Margaret Anne’s brother, sister and brother-in-law.
Grant’s brother and his wife were stuck in Philadelphia, and his sister was in Boston, but they were able to join in via FaceTime.
While tears were shed, Margaret Anne said letting go of the big reception and hundreds of guests came as a relief amid so many unknowns.
“We never considered postponing the marriage or anything like that,” she said, so they had to embrace it.
Some of the more important details of the ceremony remained, and many of the changes ended up working in the couple’s favor.
“We knew we wanted to have it at Shoal Creek, because that’s where my parents got married,” Margaret Ann said.
Blessed with a beautiful weather day, the couple wed on the lawn outside of the chapel.
Margaret Ann was especially pleased to know she wouldn’t have to walk down the aisle with hundreds of eyes focused on her.
“My mother has always joked that my sister was going to try to walk down the aisle twice in her ceremony, and that I would try to come out when the groom does,” she said. “Well, I walked down the same path Grant did, so I was very happy.”
Throughout the ceremony, she recalls everyone crying, including the groom, while she could not stop smiling.
The couple was married by their church pastor, as well as Margaret Anne’s uncle.
“My uncle is actually my godfather, and he is the same man who walked my mom down the aisle,” she said. “It was so intimate, everyone could hear and everyone just felt so close to us.”
Following the ceremony, Margaret Anne’s “rock star” photographer, Meghan Murphy, took pictures of the pair for about 30 minutes.
Returning to see the parade waiting to celebrate their nuptials was icing on the cake for Margaret Ann and Grant.
“Despite everything, it still ended up being the most special weekend,” she said. “Even though we didn’t have a rehearsal dinner, we still went over to my sister’s house and all of our bridesmaids and groomsmen had taped their rehearsal dinner speeches,” Margaret Ann said. “How special is that? We get to keep this.”
She also never thought she would be making her own wedding reception food.
“Then, here my mom and I were cooking casseroles and quiches for our reception, which was also a really sweet memory for my last night in the house,” she said. She said her mother taught her to love cooking, “and it’s been something that my mom and I have always done together.”
The public celebration ended with the cutting of the cake, and the couple finished off the day by returning to their Homewood house and picking up Gianmarco’s takeout for dinner.
The hardest part, Margaret Ann said, was not being able to have all of their out-of-town friends together for the celebration. But they are working to organize a reception in the fall with a honeymoon to follow.