A Dreamy Tennessee Wedding in the Woods

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Picture this scene: A woman goes to dinner with family at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Knoxville, TN, and strikes up a conversation with a complete stranger. The stranger offers up his table and tells her he’d like to set her up with one of his best friends, who happens to live around the corner from her in East Nashville. They take a few selfies to send to his friend (a cute dentist) because life is short, right?

She and the cute dentist text for a while, but he doesn’t ask her out, so she chalks it up to friendly conversation. Months later, the friend visits, chides the dentist for not asking the woman out, and orchestrates a double date that eventually leads to wedding bells. Sounds like a romantic comedy, yes, but it’s precisely how Liz Long met her husband, Zach Adkins.

And, while that double date may have been the start of something special, it was the couple’s first solo date at Nashville’s Urban Cowboy that officially sealed the deal. After pizza, cocktails, and a neighborhood walk, they realized they’d found a connection. Five years later, the couple walked down an autumn-hued aisle in front of 170 guests at the gorgeous RT Lodge in Maryville, Tennessee. We love a happy ending, don’t you?

Liz and Zach tied the knot on November 6, 2021, at RT Lodge in beautiful Maryville, Tennessee.

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When it became clear the pair were headed for the altar, they worked together to design wedding rings — even though Liz knew an engagement was on the horizon, Zach managed to surprise her with the timing.

“We planned a random night out at Lockeland Table, and they didn’t have dinner reservations until late, so I suggested we go to Urban Cowboy first,” says Liz. “We were sitting there having a cocktail, and he suddenly had this huge box.” The proposal was perfect in every way, and Liz immediately booked Nashville-based planner Jessica Sloane to get the ball rolling.

Initially, the couple was set on a weekend-long destination wedding, but COVID threw a wrench in that idea. Instead, the couple refocused their sights on something closer to home. “We wanted it to be a weekend getaway for our friends and family with a ceremony in the middle,” says Liz.

The couple looked at several venues across the South, including one in Atlanta and one in Chattanooga, but it was RT Lodge outside of Knoxville that struck a chord. “I grew up in Knoxville, but I’d never been to RT lodge before,” Liz tells us. “Zach and I went to see it, and we knew that was it. It has around 57 rooms; it’s super cozy. It was perfect.”

The invitation suite surrounded by fall foliage.

A stunning invitation suite from Katherine Kelly Design boasts calligraphy from Liz’s dear friend, Shelby Reece Design.

Once their event venue was secured, Liz and Zach began working on the remaining details. “From the get-go, Zach was very involved in the planning process, and I wanted him to be,” Liz tells us. “That isn’t always the case with the groom, but we really wanted it to be our day, so we made every decision together.”

Knowing they wanted to invest in beautiful take-away memories of their special day, they carefully chose photographer Kyle John, who perfectly matched their vibe and aesthetic. “Our photographer fit what we wanted,” she says. “I could see the story behind our wedding, and I can remember the whole weekend just by looking at his photos!”

They booked the florist next, and then Liz set out to find the perfect wedding gown. Liz’s maid of honor flew in, and they went to quite a few dress shops, but Liz had a hunch she would find what she wanted at Nashville boutique The Dress Theory.

“I’ve been following The Dress Theory since I moved here,” she says, “so I had a feeling that’s where I would find my dress. That was the first appointment we went to, and I went in wanting a very vintage lace feel. I tried on a few dresses, but they weren’t right. Then, they came out with a fitted dress. I was like, ‘I don’t know about this!’ But I tried it on, and I was immediately in love.”

The bride's bouquet, with fall colors.

Liz’s incredible bridal bouquet, created by Colby West Design, is an eye-catching ode to autumn.

A lineup of boutonnieres in a vintage wooden bowl.

Beautifully displayed boutonnieres bring in classic fall colors along with greenery and herbs.

The bride's wedding dress hangs above a bench.

“I’m not a super traditional bride; I didn’t want the ‘big ball gown’ feel,” Liz says of her dress choice. She ended up finding the perfect gown at The Dress Theory in Nashville, then added sleeves and had the train shortened to reflect her style and the season.

When the wedding day finally arrived, the bride took her time getting ready, enjoying a low-key morning and the chance to sip champagne with friends and family in the RT Lodge bridal suite. “The nice thing is that everything is within a few hundred feet — it’s all on one property,” says the bride. “I just strolled downstairs and got ready.”

As soon as they were dressed and ready to exchange vows, the couple met up for first looks on the mossy path leading to their ceremony site. Fortunately, the weather not only held up perfectly (it was a balmy 60 degrees), but Mother Nature worked her magic on the surrounding area, and the leaves peaked just in time to offer a vibrant fall backdrop.

RELATED: This Magical Highlands, NC Wedding Even Had a Bagpiper!

The bride reads a note from her future husband.

“The morning of my wedding, I woke up and did not have to make one decision. I was relaxed all day; it was perfect,” shares Liz. A token of his love and excitement for their impending nuptials, Zach gave his fiancée a letter and gift, which she opened before the ceremony.

A book and bottle of high end bourbon

Zach gave me the Van Winkle bourbon and the Dishoom cookbook,” says Liz. “We went to London a couple of times, and that’s one of our favorite restaurants there.”

Liz wears the veil her mother wore on her own wedding day.

“I wore my mom’s veil from when she got married,” says Liz. “She had a pillbox, Jackie O-type hat, so they took that off and cut the veil shorter.”

The groom gets ready by adjusting his cufflinks.

The groom adjusts his cufflinks in preparation for first looks.

Liz and Zach stroll on the RT Lodge property amidst the fall foliage.

The groom looked dapper in a deep crimson suit, which enhanced the wedding’s color scheme. “As soon as we picked the fall for our wedding, Zach immediately said he wanted a maroon suit,” says Liz. “That also dictated the colors we were working with. I wanted to pull in the natural leaves, but I also wanted some deep maroon and crimson.”

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Opting for a traditional-meets-modern ceremony, the bride and groom chose a hybrid of traditional vows and personalized nuances. “We did traditional vows, but we wove in a lot of our own messaging that was specific to us,” says Liz. A super small bridal party made for an intentionally intimate affair, with Zach’s dad serving as his best man and Liz’s longtime friend serving as her maid of honor. Additionally, the couple asked a dear friend to lead the message, and Liz’s childhood pastor was on-hand to conduct the vows.

The bride and groom walk back up the aisle after saying,

Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Adkins!

Once the ceremony came to a close, and the happy couple was pronounced husband and wife, guests headed to a cocktail hour, where they enjoyed a cheese and charcuterie station as well as a crispy phyllo appetizer with country ham and asparagus. Meanwhile, the newlyweds celebrated with a few minutes alone.

“Kyle took a couple of photos of us, and then we were able to go to the room I got ready in,” says Liz. “Zach and I had a little plate of hors d’oeuvres and signature cocktails — I had a cranberry gin and tonic, and he had a maple old-fashioned. It was nice to sit and be giddy about just getting married!”

As guests gathered for the seated reception, they located their table assignments on a grand, fall foliage-covered wall, then proceeded into the tent, where greenery and florals adorned every table. “We wanted it to be a very organic feel,” the bride tells us. “One of the reasons we were drawn to Colby, who did our flowers, is he’s one of the only vendors that RT Lodge allows to forage on the property. He made many centerpieces (and our ceremony arch) from leaves and limbs that he foraged in East Tennessee.”

RELATED: The “Bridgerton” Wedding Florals Made Us Swoon

A closeup of the foliage board with tags that direct guests to their tables.

“I had no idea Colby was going to create something like that,” Liz says of the leaf-laden board that offered up the guest table assignments. “We were blown away. Zach helped me tie all of the velvet ribbons on the place cards!”  

The interior of the wedding tent at RT Lodge, with tables and trees.

I walked in just before the ceremony, and I was in awe,” says the bride of their tented reception space. “It was so cozy! We did a guest book that I found on Etsy, and people could take Polaroids and leave a note. That was fun to go through after the wedding.”

A closeup of the menu with a wax seal, sitting on a table setting.

Displaying a keen eye for detail, the bride and groom added wax seals to all of their menus.

Table 14, with table settings and candles.

The wedding planner and florist foraged for acorns and other forest treasures for the reception. The result was a warm, elegant event space. 

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Having attended a total of 12 weddings between them in recent months, the bride and groom had solid ideas about what they wanted for their reception. Additionally, RT Lodge has an esteemed chef and pastry chef, so it was a no-brainer for the couple to settle on a seated dinner with a fantastic dessert bar to follow.

House-smoked meats, along with seasonal farm-to-table dishes, made for an exquisite dining experience for guests, beginning with a salad course of arugula, apples, and bacon. The second course, surf and turf, featured ribeye and shrimp with chimichurri, accompanied by asparagus and mashed potatoes. The dessert bar, in all its glory, showcased the two-tiered wedding cake flanked by fall-inspired confections such as pear cider caramels, cinnamon sugar doughnut holes, German chocolate cheesecake bites, and lemon curd macarons.

wedding table setting with fruit

As guests took their seats, they were treated with a glimpse of delights to come. Table runners were lined with an array of fresh fruit and nuts — lucky table number 13 is pictured here, scattered with in-season pears and persimmons.

Salad course from RT Lodge wedding.

Talk about a beautiful first course! The fresh, seasonal salad included apples and bacon.

The bride and groom laugh as wedding toasts are made.

A seated dinner allowed the bride and groom to relax during dinner and fully enjoy the festivities.

The dessert table with the wedding cake.

“The pastry chef at RT lodge used to be the pastry chef at Henrietta Red,” says Liz. “She won a show on Food Network right before our wedding!” Sure enough, their almond cake wowed, featuring homemade strawberry jam and buttercream.

As dinner wound down and live music commenced, the newlyweds enjoyed their first dance — a serenade from dear friend Trevor Terndrup, lead singer of the rock band Moon Taxi. Guests got in on the fun, too, filling up the dance floor and dancing to tunes from the reception band, Number One Party Band. Plus, a late-night French fry station offered guests a snack as they sipped cocktails and danced the night away.

When the reception festivities officially came to a close, the bride and groom led their guests to the lodge fire pit, where the celebration continued with conversations around the bonfire and a s’more’s bar. Liz and Zach reveled in the opportunity to spend as much time as possible with their family and friends, which brings Liz to her advice for future brides. “There aren’t many points in your life when everyone who loves you from across the world is gathering in one place to celebrate you,” she says, “so don’t lose the aesthetic and feel that’s truly you. Let the energy of the weekend be authentic. Our whole weekend was very us, and it was perfect.”

We couldn’t have scripted it better if we tried!

The groom dips the bride on the dance floor.

The couple’s first dance was a picture-perfect moment.

Thank you for sharing your special day with us, Liz and Zach! Special thanks to Kyle John Photography for the images. 


Ceremony and reception venue: RT Lodge
Planner: Jessica Sloane
Photographer: Kyle John Photography
Caterer: RT Lodge
Flowers: Colby West Design
Stationery: Katherine Kelly Design
Calligraphy: Shelby Reece Design
Hair and makeup: Amanda Gros
Bride’s gown: Pronovias from The Dress Theory
Bride’s shoes: Loeffler Randall
Jewelry: Mociun (bridal wedding rings), Consider the Wldflwrs (groom’s wedding band)
Bridesmaids’ dresses: Revelry
Groom’s attire: John H. Daniel Custom Tailors
Cake: Caitlyn Cox, pastry chef at RT Lodge
Ceremony music: Dogwood Strings
Reception band: Number One Party Band
Rentals: The McCabe Company 


Explore more dreamy wedding inspiration in our archives HERE!

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