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HOME: Weddings Index: Our Wedding Story:

A Hill Country Wedding

By Loretta and Jeff Hankins

This story was first written to answer a call for country-western wedding experiences in "Wedding Belles" by Country Woman Magazine. After the magazine had our story, original cards and photographs for over seven months, we were informed that another lengthly amount of time was needed to review the hundreds of submissions for a later publication. We started getting nervous about the photos getting lost, therefore we requested our submission be returned. Consequently, no part of our story was published. So, here it is now.

Jeff and I met ten years ahead of our finest hour while I was teaching country-western dancing at the college. Jeff was one of my students, but without a dance partner. Well, that's another story, but needless to say, it was fitting for us to choose a country-western style theme.

We planned a creek-side wedding in the springtime, one of the prettiest times of the year at our Texas Hill Country ranch less than 35 miles west of Austin. The initial planning began more than 15 months in advance after Jeff proposed while on a Christmas ski trip in Idaho. All this time, and more, was needed because we were so strong in our resolve for everything to be just right. For some reason we couldn't let anyone else do any of the preparations. We chose blank verse cards embossed with Texas Bluebonnets and Jeff created our Engagement Announcement, Invitation, Reception Card & Map, Service Card, Marriage Announcement, Seating Card, and Thank You Card on his computer. I designed and arranged all the flowers including the bridal bouquet, corsages and boutonnieres, a wildflower wreath, and baskets of silk wildflowers for the altar and reception tables.

Tex-Zen bridge completed With the easy stuff done, Jeff and I turned our attention to what made our wedding so special to us. Tex-Zen gazebo completedFor a symbolic wedding entrance, Jeff (a design engineer) and I designed and built, over a period of five months, a magnificent 20 ft long arched bridge (described on back of Service Card) spanning the creek that passes through our ranch. With that completed in January, we then spent the next two chilly winter months building a big 15 x 20 ft gazebo within which we would recite our vows.

So, with the bridge we built together, what do you suppose we planned for the wedding march? The perfectly appropriate "Love Can Build A Bridge" by The Judds. We also chose some old and some new Country Western songs with special lyrics and meanings for play during the 30 minute prelude to the ceremony and during the reception. Standing for Jeff was my brother-in-law and Nashville recording artist, Joe Lester. He would sing two of our personal favorites ("I Swear" and Joe's own "Grains of Sand") to punctuate parts of the ceremony.

The Gathering
-Song Play List-

Your Love Amazes Me - John Berry
I Swear - John Michael Montgomery
I Cross My Heart - George Strait
'Til I Loved You - Restless Heart
I'll Still Be Loving You - Restless Heart
To Me - Barbara Mandrel & Lee Greenwood
Evergreen - Barbra Streisand
You and I - Eddie Rabbitt & Crystal Gayle
The Wind Beneath My Wings - Gary Morris
I've Waited All My Life For You - Reba McEntire
One to One - Reba McEntire
All My Life - Linda Ronstadt & Aaron Neville
Don't Know Much - Linda Ronstadt & Aaron Neville
Love Can Build A Bridge - The Judds
Wedding tent

The day finally (Jeff says, "too quickly") arrived a mere two weeks after completing the gazebo. The gazebo and bridge were decorated with wildflowers and ribbons. A party tent for the reception was filled with tables draped in white and adorned with the baskets of wildflowers I had made. Horseshoes were placed alongside for luck. My sisters made silk rose-buds and filled them with seeds for our guests to throw. Our beautiful multi-layered gazebo-style wedding cake sat on a table nestled beneath the canopy of stately live oaks and elms. The bride's cake and the groom's cake shared the table. Symbolic of the theme song lyrics, "Love Can Build a Bridge Between Your Heart and Mine", these two heart-shaped delicacies were joined by a 1/20 scaled replica (Jeff made) of the bridge. That was so neat!
Between Your Heart and Mine

Loretta's dressI dressed in a simple, eggshell white, tea length gown. It had a lace yoke and a high Victorian collar. I wore matching old-fashioned lace-up high-heeled boots. When We Stand TogetherTo complete my ensemble, a Riata western hat decorated with flowers and trimmed with a tulle veil band that hung thigh length in the back. I carried a bouquet of silk wildflowers embellished with Texas bluebonnets (to represent my home state) and yellow poppies (to represent Jeff's home state of California). Jeff dressed in black jeans, boots and western tux jacket, and an eggshell white tuxedo shirt studded with black buttons. A boutonniere of wildflower buds graced his lapel.

After the selected music played for the Gathering of People, our theme song was queued. Jeff and Joe, meanwhile standing in the gazebo for the seating of people, at just the right moment began their walk to cross the bridge. Jeff remained at the far side of the bridge. Joe continued along a path to a hidden spot on the creek where my two sons, Fred and Chris, and my sister, Candie, stood with me. Joe escorted Candie back along the path, across the bridge and into the gazebo. My sons then escorted me to join hands with Jeff at the bridge. The boys shook hands with Jeff, kissed my cheek and placed my hands in Jeff's. While Fred and Chris crossed the bridge to the gazebo, Jeff and I stood alone together, again in unison with the song lyrics "When We Stand Together, It's Our Finest Hour". At the appropriate moment we proceeded hand-in-hand across the bridge and into the gazebo where we shared our vows and promises with our friends and loved ones.

Love Can Build a Bridge
-The Judds

I would gladly walk across the desert
with no shoes upon my feet
to share with you the last bite
of bread I had to eat.

I would swim out to save you
in your sea of broken dreams
when all your hopes are sinking
let me show you what love means...

Love can build a bridge
between your heart and mine.
Love can build a bridge...
Don't you think it's time?

I would whisper love so loudly
every heart would understand
that love and only love
can join the tribes of man.

I would give my hearts desire
so that you might see
the first step is to realize
that it all begins with you and me.

Love can build a bridge
between your heart and mine.
Love can build a bridge...
Don't you think it's time?

When we stand together
it's our finest hour.
We can do anything, anything,
and keep believing in the power...

Love can build a bridge
between your heart and mine.
Love can build a bridge...
Don't you think it's time?

First DanceDuring the reception, Joe's band, Country Gold, played as everyone Two-stepped, Waltzed, and Cotton-eye-Joe'd to celebrate in truly Texas style. Because we had requested no gifts, we asked each guest to bring their favorite covered dish or dessert to go with bar-b-que, and to include a written recipe for my bride's memory recipe book. These delicious "pot-luck" recipes were served with the likewise delicious beef brisket, pork ribs, chicken and sausage that was prepared by our local BBQ chef. To show our gratitude (for many people had to travel 200 miles or more), we had purchased special prize gifts and created certificates of appreciation for best: "hot" dish, meatless dish, appetizer, and dessert. The certificates and prizes were presented by our impartial food judge, Reverend Rabb.

Jeff's dad offered a toast as reciprocation for Jeff's poetic toast only two months earlier when his dad remarried.

A Toast . . .
To the Newlyweds,
Loretta and Jeff

By Bob Bancroft

April 16, 1994


To the altar you've not been before -
Let this be first and last.
Yes, the altar is the prelude to
The love that will be cast.

The fact that you have waited long
Will show the strong resolve.
And efforts made by the two of you
Shall ensure that love evolve.

Loretta and Jeff you've shown to us
Your sense of creativity,
By building on this land of yours,
A bridge of great stability.

We know that love has really built
This bridge of steel and wood.
Though, Loretta may not have drawn the plans,
We know she did much good.

With this review of what's been done
On this Hill Country of stone,
We hope to be invited back
When there becomes a home.

We share your dreams of happiness
That this site will surely bring.
For we know this place in Dripping Springs
Is where good times will ring.

To the newlyweds, Loretta and Jeff,
In the heart of Texas lands,
We toast you many happy times,
Which your great love commands.

Dad's Toast

For months after our wedding we received calls and letters telling us just how special and beautiful our wedding was. We also received a number of inquiries from family, friends, and friends of friends about the availability of our idyllic setting for their own wedding. My oldest son, Fred, and his new bride, Diane, followed with their wedding just last year. Photo by Carlos AustinAlthough inclement weather forced them to alternate "plan B" for an inside ceremony and reception, they got some beautiful photographs down at the creek later that afternoon. In fact, Fred and Diane can be viewed (at the time of this writing) at our creek-side setting by accessing their photographer's web page at www.concentric.net/~weddings. I am currently in the process of setting up to host and coordinate weddings several times a year at the ranch. Every time another couple crosses our bridge I will realize how truly special our wedding was.

Loretta Hankins

Click our Wedding Album to view a Slide Show for More Photos, Invitations and Cards . . .

Wedding Album


May All Your Dreams Be "Wild and Flowerful"

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