By Donna Cornelius
Journal features writer
At most wedding receptions, it’s the cake that has the starring role among all the edible treats.
That was true when Arrington Mooney and Clay Collie got married. But cookies came in a close second.
Clay, who’s from Guntersville, had been working in Dallas before moving to Birmingham in 2011 “to be closer to home,” he said.
“A friend asked me to come over and watch the NCAA championship game,” Clay said. “He was a friend of Arrington’s. When I found out she would be the only girl there, I asked, ‘Do you think she’ll bring cookies?’”
Arrington, who teaches fourth grade and coaches girls’ soccer at Briarwood Christian School, had had a busy day before the game-watching get-together, she said, and didn’t have time to whip something up beforehand.
“I brought all the stuff to make cookies,” she said.
“When she walked in with it, we just erupted in laughter,” Clay said.
The Great Cookie Encounter led to a relationship between the two.
“We became good friends,” Arrington said.
“It took me asking her a few times for her to agree to go out with me,” Clay said.
They got engaged March 10, 2012 and were married a few months later on Sept. 15 at Meadow Brook Baptist Church.
At the end of their wedding reception, guests were served milk and Half Moon cookies from Full Moon barbecue.
Carrying the cookie connection over from their first meeting to their special day is just one of the ways Arrington and Clay made their wedding a one-of-a-kind event.
“I’d been in a lot of weddings, so I saw what I did and didn’t like,” Arrington said. “When I started thinking about what I wanted, I came up with a combination of antiques, classic, rustic and elegant.”
The couple chose to have their reception at American Village in Montevallo.
“We liked the historical aspect and the beautiful ballroom there,” Arrington said. “Also, you can bring in your own food, unlike many venues.”
To add personal touches, Arrington and her parents, Arnold and Kelley Mooney, transported pieces, including some knife boxes and Staffordshire dog figurines, from the family’s home in Meadow Brook to the reception.
The food, too, had family ties. Doris Patterson of Cullman made the groom’s Double Chocolate Chip cake using Clay’s mom’s recipe. Patterson also made the wedding cake, which was based on one of Arrington’s favorites– a sweet potato cake with cream cheese icing. Arrington first tasted the cake at Brick Street Café in Greenville, S.C., when she was a student at Furman University.
Caterer Lee Epting of Epting Events in Athens, Ga., used a family recipe to concoct biscuits. Epting, who created food stations inside and outside at the reception, also came up with a crowd-pleasing creation.
“He brought a lady in to make homemade pralines in a copper pot,” Clay said. “Guests could eat them or take them home as favors.”
Pralines are Kelly Mooney’s favorite candy, Arrington said, “so we had to have them.”
The venue inspired the couple’s weddings invitations, which were printed with a colonial-themed map of American Village on the outside and then tied with brown ribbons. Calligrapher Holly Hollon designed the letterpress invitations.
Carol Burns, the wedding day coordinator, had a large cast to oversee. Arrington and Clay each had 15 attendants for a real Southern-style wedding. But they didn’t choose bridesmaids and groomsmen on a numbers-only basis, they said.
“Each person we chose was a very conscious decision,” Arrington said.
Because the wedding party was so large, Arrington didn’t want a rainbow of colors in the attendants’ dresses or bouquets, she said. She chose acorn-colored bridesmaids’ gowns, and Susan Huff of The King’s Creation made bouquets using coral and white flowers.
Arrington’s bouquet was wrapped in her maternal grandmother’s handkerchief monogrammed in Carolina blue—Kelly Mooney is a University of North Carolina graduate—with Psalm 34:3.
The bride’s “something borrowed” was a pair of diamond and pearl drop earrings that four of her bridesmaids had worn in their own weddings, she said.
In the bride’s shoe was a sixpence brought home from England by her father when he was an Oxford University student.
Arrington wore her mother’s veil, but her dress was one she selected herself at the White Room in Cahaba Heights.
“I found just what I was looking for,” Arrington said. “It was ivory overlay over latte silk. I didn’t want the typical floral lace. This one had almost an Art Deco look.”
Another link to family heritage was the wedding’s Scottish accent. Arnold Mooney is a past president of the St. Andrew’s Society of the Middle South. The organization for those of Scottish ancestry promotes Scottish culture.
With that connection in mind, bagpiper Ryan Morrison of Birmingham played as Arrington came down the aisle on her father’s arm and again during the recessional.
The couple also incorporated thistles, Scotland’s national symbol, into some of the printed materials used for the wedding.
Two pastors officiated at the ceremony. Rusty Hutson was the pastor of Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Auburn when Clay was a student at Auburn University and worked with the church’s youth. Jason Ellerbee, whom Arrington said she’d known for a long time, also conducted the couple’s marriage counseling.
One of the bridesmaids, Chrissy Pursell, provided music.
“She sang and worshipped on the piano before the ceremony,” Arrington said.
Arrington’s sisters-in-law, Ashley Page Mooney and Leigh Garner Mooney, and Clay’s sister, Austin Elizabeth Collie, were also among the bridesmaids. Clay’s best man was his brother, Paul Cavin Collie, and Arrington’s two older brothers, Arnold Gaston Mooney III and John Hartwell Houston Mooney, were groomsmen.
Clay’s parents are Sally Campbell of Guntersville and Phillip Collie of Albertville.
Guests found plenty of hospitality at the reception. They visited several sumptuous food stations and could play croquet and corn hole outside. Guests also liked visiting the photo area, where a bicycle built for two—the same bike used on the couple’s “save the date” announcements—was set up.
There was no trouble getting people dancing once the band, 4 Barrel Funk, started playing, the couple said.
“I got to choose the band,” Clay said.
The bride’s father approved of the choice.
“They’re a Motown-ish band from Mobile and New Orleans, and they were happy to be part of a covenant wedding,” Arnold Mooney said.
A covenant wedding emphasizes and asks for God’s blessing on the wedding and puts it in the context of a promise and not a contract. Arrington and Clay also wanted to express their faith by taking communion during the ceremony. They used a small family communion set—a tiny wine bottle and four cups encased in a blue glass egg-shaped vessel–that had belonged to Kelly Mooney’s great-aunt.
Arrington and Clay and their dog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback called Gamba, live in Birmingham. Arrington said she loves teaching and coaching at her alma mater, Briarwood Christian. Clay works for Boosterthon, a school funding program that provides an alternative to traditional school fundraisers.
In addition to her mother’s veil and her friends’ earrings, Arrington’s bridal ensemble included another special piece.
“Several years ago, I went on a mission trip to Vietnam and bought a strand of pearls for my wife, although I didn’t know who she would be at the time,” Clay said. “I’d kept it for five years.”
Arrington wore the pearls, along with two other strands that were gifts from her parents, at the couple’s wedding. The sets of pearls blended perfectly—just like all the other elements of Arrington and Clay’s distinctive day.