Olivia & Justin

by Kendall McKinnon

A match written in the stars, two native Savannahians root their wedding design in the natural colors and community of their hometown

Written by KENDALL MCKINNON
Photography by CORBIN GURKIN

IT WAS A REGULAR SATURDAY. Olivia Parker and Justin Voyles were going to the Forsyth Farmers’ Market, then brunch — just like they always do. Voyles was sitting on the back porch for coffee, as usual, when Parker caught a glimpse of him outside with her dog, Ollie, on his lap. She snapped a photo of the sweet moment. Little did she know, at that time he was fastening an engagement ring to Ollie’s collar and practicing a question in his head. Within a few short minutes, Parker would say “yes” to much more than a lifetime of Saturday morning coffee.

a bride and her bridesmaids
wedding invitations
bridal bouquet of white flowers

Parker and Voyles are Savannah natives. The pair grew up together, and struggle to pinpoint the moment they met — sometime between 12 and 13 years old at the Savannah Civic Center ice skating rink. However, it wasn’t until a first date at A-J’s Dockside Restaurant on Tybee Island over Memorial Day weekend in 2018 that they solidified their togetherness. The two were engaged by 2020 and married May 6, 2023.

Planning for the big day brought the typical onslaught of decisions. For this couple, every choice was made with consideration for their upbringing and the city that raised them. For starters, the event would be big, as most of their friends, family and other invitees grew up and still live locally. It would also be in the springtime, when Savannah is at its greenest. Where to host so many people while showcasing the city’s lush natural beauty?

Forsyth Park Fountain at the center of a wedding reception
The Forsyth Park Fountain makes a beautiful backdrop for cocktail hour.

“I had always envisioned my wedding in Forsyth Park. I grew up on Gaston Street, right there at the north end of the park. I really wanted to incorporate the fountain and the big oak trees.”

— Olivia Parker

“I had always envisioned my wedding in Forsyth Park,” says Parker. “I grew up on Gaston Street, right there at the north end of the park. I really wanted to incorporate the fountain and the big oak trees.”

Parker enlisted the boutique event planning expert G. Blake Sams of Gregory Blake Sams Events to bring her vision to life — and to safeguard the reception from unpredictable Savannah weather. Together, they imagined a tented reception for the evening fête and delved deep into design details.

wedding reception tent with glowing lights and guests seated at long tables
Wedding guests gather in a grand, clear-topped tent lit by whimsical lanterns and shimmering disco balls.

One day after a meeting, Sams paused on the front porch of Parker’s mother’s house and had an epiphany. “Wait, I found your color scheme,” he said. He turned the bride around to meditate on the neutrals of the stucco walls, the French blue of the shutters and the soft green from the lush vegetation. They would pull the taupe, the sage and the gray-blue. Parker took a picture of their newfound inspiration. There was the color palette, right at home.

On the morning of the early May wedding, it rained. The storm rolled in right before the first look, and rain came down during the portraits. Voyles, caught in the middle of Pulaski Square, sought cover beneath a friend’s porch. If anything, it ensured the couple got the full Savannah experience. They wanted a lush, springtime wedding, after all. 

bride and groom cutting their five-tier wedding cake
Olivia and Justin cut into an elegant five-tier wedding cake created by Jim Smeal.

The skies cleared, and the rest of the day passed quickly and without a hitch. Parker recalls the expectation of nerves, but feeling none — only the comfort of her closest friends.

Right before she walked down the aisle, Voyles gave Parker a gift. Knowing that his soon-to-be-wife has a tendency for tears, he passed her a handkerchief embroidered with an inside joke to make her laugh instead. 

Still, after the ceremony in Christ Church beneath the luminous stained glass, Parker walked out of the church wiping away joyful tears.

bride and groom dance closely with disco balls overhead
The couple has their first dance.

A trolley ride with family and friends from the church to the park allowed the wedded couple a moment to decompress and take everything in. “The night went by so fast,” recalls the groom. 

After the ceremony, 350 guests gathered around the Forsyth Park fountain for a cocktail hour as the sun went down. Everyone then made their way through the park for the reception itself, which was hosted in a grand, clear-topped tent. Whimsical lanterns and shimmering disco balls suspended from the ceiling illuminated an expanse of white tablecloths, fanciful greenery and an artful backdrop behind the band all reflected the same deep, dusky blue of the wedding invitations. And in the middle of it all stood a great tree, a natural centerpiece for the bar enclosing it.

Olivia Parker and Justin Voyles escape in a vintage convertible from their wedding reception in Forsyth Park.

“For us, it was about honoring the landscape,” says Sams. “The idea was that it was a full moon and you’re dancing under these oak trees. It was a way of doing this sort of Southern look while still feeling fresh and modern.”

To close out the night, the newlyweds drove away in a vintage convertible. As is to be expected in Savannah, the driver was keen on chatting about the city’s history, and the couple were much obliged. The city has been their home, and now it remains their home — to share together. 

“It was such a perfect end to a crazy, fun-packed night,” says Parker. 

Details

  • Couple: Olivia Parker & Justin Voyles
  • Date: May 6, 2023
  • Number of guests: 350
  • Rehearsal dinner location: Garibaldi
  • Welcome party location: Collins Quarter Forsyth
  • Ceremony: Christ Church
  • Reception venue: Forsyth Park
  • Planning and design: Gregory Blake Sams Events
  • Photography: Corbin Gurkin
  • Parker’s attire: Valentini Spose
  • Bridesmaids’ attire: Dessy Group
  • Voyles’ attire: custom from J. Parker Ltd.
  • Groomsmen’s attire: groomsmen’s own
  • Hair and makeup: Colorboxx Salon; Amanda Harris
  • Rings: Mervis Diamond Importers; Levy Jewelers
  • Lighting/AV: Technical Event Company
  • Custom builds: TTS Studios
  • Tent and flooring: Beachview Event Rentals
  • Rentals: Snyder; Mayker; Event Works; Beachview Event Rentals
  • Linens: BBJ LaTavola
  • Draping: Party Tables
  • Florals: Blossom Bay
  • Reception music: Souled Out from On The Move Entertainment
  • Custom band backdrop: Kennickell Printing
  • Cake: Jim Smeal
  • Printed invitation suite: Emily Baird Design
  • Printed suite calligraphy: Laura Hooper Design House
  • Catering: Cru Catering
  • Bar: Ice Box
  • Transportation: Old Savannah Tours
  • Departure vehicle: Callan’s Classics
  • Restrooms: Royal Restrooms
  • Mockup table rentals: Emerson James

Find wedding inspiration and valuable information in Southern Coastal Weddings.