Taking it to the streetBy BETH BUNCH,
When Ginger Michelle Maddox and Erik Shawn Martin Lowrey get married on Saturday, they won’t be celebrating this special day with family and friends in a local church or event venue.
The wedding ceremony will be held in the middle of Front Street in Downtown Hattiesburg prior to the start of the annual Fall Art Walk/Holiday Open House for downtown businesses. The ceremony site will occupy space in the area between Oddfellow’s Gallery and Southern Fried Comics.
It says a lot about the couple – who they are and what they believe in – Downtown Hattiesburg.
The couple has what they call a very downtown relationship. They live, work and play downtown. Maddox is an urban planner for the City of Hattiesburg, which involves land use regulation, floodplain management, historic districts and commercial development reviews in the city. Shawn is a divorce attorney with Lowrey and Fortner, whose offices occupy space downtown.
Lowrey is a Hub City native who grew up in the historic district. Maddox, who has deep Delta roots, grew up in Avon, just 15 miles south of Greenville.
The University of Southern Mississippi brought Maddox to town for her undergraduate degree. She then headed to New Orleans for graduate school and returned back to Hattiesburg for a job offer.
“When I came back I already had this family of friends, so it was an easy transition,” Maddox said. “It was like moving home for me.”
And that’s how she met Shawn, through mutual friends.
The first two times they met at Halloween and she was wearing a wig. They then went their separate ways before reconnecting again at a Downtown Crawfish Boil. They each attended with separate groups of friends, but ended up talking to one another all day. The following week he showed up at her office and asked her out. And they’ve been dating ever since.
Lowrey was the first person to move into the America building (also on Front Street) when it opened. Having owned a couple of houses, Lowrey had made up his mind that he hated grass and didn’t ever want to own anything he’d have to mow again.
“I decided years ago that if I ever decided to own again that I was going to own a building,” he said. The couple currently lives in a loft on Front Street. “We wanted to live downtown a couple of years to make sure we liked it before we made that decision to own a building.
“We plan on staying downtown the rest of our lives. unless we move out of Hattiesburg and I don’t ever see that happening,” he said. “Ginger works at City Hall. my law offices are downtown where we just finished up a big remodeling project, so that’s the goal, to stay there. Eventually we will build something downtown, put some businesses on the first floor and live on the second floor.”
Lowrey has purchased the empty lot across the street from the Lucky Rabbit on Mobile Street and hopes in several years to fulfill his dream.
“We just have a big connection with Hattiesburg and especially downtown Hattiesburg,” said Lowrey. “I grew up here, my father grew up on Adeline, his father grew up here. I’ve tried to leave three times and it didn’t take. I lived in Europe for a while, New Orleans and San Francisco. I didn’t fit in there, but don’t fit in here and that’s O.K. At least they know me here.”
The couple’s decision to marry in such a non-traditional setting is based on what they believe in.
“We are pretty nontraditional, so we weren’t going to get married in a church, and we really didn’t want a boxed venue,” Lowrey said.
“We really wanted to make it something that said something about us, and the venue is the easiest way to do that,” added Maddox. “We looked at a couple of places. We considered the library. Shawn is an avid reader and would read about two books a day if you’d let him, and we looked at parks and public spaces downtown. Looking at that kind of morphed into having the wedding in the street.”
Maddox said she loved streetscapes and the building environment, so “having that as my backdrop says a lot about being an urban planner and our lifestyle.”
Before deciding on Nov. 11, the couple looked at a couple of dates in November and that’s when they found out Art Walk was going on at the same time. When Nov. 11 became a real possibility, they contacted Andrea Saffle, director of the Historic Hattiesburg Down Association, and “she just flipped,” said Maddox. “She was so excited and thought it was a great idea. Thanks to her enthusiasm, we were able to make that work and coincide with Art walk.”
Plenty of stuff
As Lowrey described it, “I’m a divorce attorney, but I’m a divorced divorce attorney, so it means we don’t need any stuff,” he said. “I”ve got all the mixers, blah blah and so and sos we need. When we moved in together, we joined two households together. And like most people, I’m right at the end of Gen X and Ginger is a millenial, so we’ve got enough plastic whatever, spoons, forks, knives. We’ve specifically asked that no one give us gifts.”
Instead, the couple has chosen two charities friends and family can donate to, if so inclined. One is Earl Travillion School, “that is doing really good work.”
As their wedding website states, “This is a local elementary school in south Hattiesburg that Ginger and I believe in. The principal and staff in our local area work hard with underprivileged children, but with the recent education cuts, they need all the help we can give them. Specifically, their attention to reading is the doorway for children in become healthy and functioning members of the community has really impressed the couple.”
The other charity is Project Healing Waters, which Maddox described as a veterans nonprofit, which teaches veterans with PTSD the skills and art of fly fishing.
“My brother has benefitted from that for his PTSD and it has made a huge impact on his life, so seeing that is really important to me,” she said. “We’d rather people give to things that are good for our community and family.”
Shawn expanded on those sentiments. “If people want to come downtown, there’s an Art walk. Buy some stuff and take it home. Just don’t give it to us, we don’t need it.”
Their website says, “We are honored you will share in our special day and your presence is gift alone! We are specifically asking not to receive any standard weddings gifts or packages. However, if you feel the need, consider one of the following ways to help the community we all share. Instead of a present for us, please support our downtown businesses and artists showing at the Art Walk on the day of our wedding and take something home with you to commemorate the day.”
They also encourage their guests to wander and explore at any time during the reception.
The couple will be having a small reception in a downtown storefront with cake, punch and coffee. They will also be handing out a list of downtown restaurants where wedding guests can go and find whatever – hamburgers, pizza or pub food.
“There are several different restaurants downtown and they can pick one and that way downtown makes some money off it,” said Lowrey. “And if there’s extra cake, we’ll give it to kids.”
The cake is a coffee cake being created by Town Square Cafe and Bakery. Their cake topper is being designed by local artist Vixon Sullivan, who is known for his work with the state’s official flower, the magnolia. “The cake topper will be two magnolias leaning against each other,” Maddox said.
As Lowrey describes, “It’s acutally a block party. Anybody that is out can come.” While they sent out official invitations, anybody came come.
“We’ve opened it up to chaos and community and we expect people to just walk up,” Lowrey said. “If we didn’t want it that way, we would have had it elsewhere.”
The ceremony site will include about 160 chairs set up in the street. Again, a local vendor, Celebrations, will be providing all the chairs and tables.
Music for the ceremony will be on vinyl.
“T-Bones helped us out with that,” said Maddox. “All the music during the ceremony will be on vinyl.”
Tyner Sullivan, a friend of the couple and deejay, will be providing music for the reception and dancing.
The wedding will take place at 2:30 p.m. with Art Walk beginning at 3 p.m. and running until 7 p.m. And as the invitation states, attire is as fancy or casual as you wanna be for a fall afternoon block party.
“I’ve actually never been a fan of daytime weddings,” said Maddox, feeling that oftentimes daytime weddings don’t feel like a wedding. “But having it at night poses a lot more problems, so when we realized we could do at the same time as Art Walk, a daytime wedding made sense. It’s going to be a party and that’s all I ever wanted. It will still feel like a celebration.”
The couple is writing their own ceremony and own vows and the officiant is a close family friend of Shawns. “It will be very short and sweet... and earnest,” said Maddox.
“One of the things we decided to do was with any tradition we couldn’t understand why it was a tradition, we threw it out,” added Lowrey. “Or if we’re doing it because people told us we have to out of a sense of responsibility, then we just said we’re not doing that, it’s not going to happen. But on the flip side, if it was something we thought was important or we got something out of it, we kept it. Some parts of it will probably be traditional.”
Following the ceremony, attendees may want to visit local artist's booths while the atmosphere changes from wedding to block party.
As far as their attire, they both have special finery for the day.
“There’s nothing like being the center of attention, so we spent a lot of time, energy and effort finding her dress,” said Lowrey. “So that if she does have to be the center of attention, she can stand it.”
Lowrey will be wearing a custom-made suit. “People traditionally spend a lot on the wedding dress, but don’t think about the suit,” the bride-elect said. “I can’t reuse mine anymore, but I wanted this for Shawn. I don’t believe the budget should be blown on the girl’s’ dress. This is for both of us. We were able to pick everything down to the buttons and stitching.”
Maddox found her beaded gown in New York, but bought it in New Orleans. If cold enough, she has a fur cape to wear.
“And she’s hoping it’s cold enough,” Lowrey said.
Because the couple is getting married basically in their own front yard, the makeup artist and stylist, Jaime Thames, from the James Channell Salon on Second Ave., will come to the couple’s apartment to do Maddox’ hair and makeup. “She’ll actually be walking from our front door to the ceremony,” said Lowrey. “It will be the comfort of our own home,” added Maddox, who has concerns about being nervous, not about Lowrey, but the ceremony.”
Because of their love for their hometown they’ve hired their friends and local businesses to help provide services for their big day.
“We’ve made sure that every vendor is somebody local or a friend,” said Maddox, who hired Megan Duckworth as her wedding coordinator. “As soon as I hired her I’d say 95 percent of my nerves went away.”
The couple will also have a list of all the vendors. “Anyway we can, we want to give credit to them.”
Hattiesburg photographer Kate Dearman will capture memories through photographs.
The couple, who loves Art Deco-style architecture, will have their “first look” at the Post Office on West Pine Street.
Both Maddox and Lowrey will each have two attendants. For Maddox it will be Whitney Miracle, and maid of honor Blayne Ward, who designed the artwork for the couple’s wedding invitation, as well as a previous Christmas card, and for Lowrey, his best friend Andy Graham and a groomswoman, Niki Pace, who has been with him for more than 20 years.
The couple, who became engaged last December, didn’t think they had time to get a wedding together for the spring. And Maddox didn’t want a summer wedding, because she “didn’t want to be sweaty,” so they moved to a more convenient time.
The date for the wedding, 11-11, was purely by coincidence. “We didn’t think about it until the date was set,” according to Lowrey. “And it’s an easy-to-remember date, as well as Veterans Day.”
Maddox said she just realized about a month ago that they would always have their anniversary off because it’s a holiday, “but really we wanted to come up with a day so we could overlap with the Thanksgiving holiday.”
Maddox also explained that’s it’s really difficult for both of them to take off work, so they wanted to double up their honeymoon time with holiday time too.
The couple is taking a two-week honeymoon to Iceland, Nottingham and London and have put just as much thought into their travels as they did the ceremony and reception.
Friends, friends, friends
Artist Abigail Lenz Allen volunteered her services to help with wedding decorations, as did other friends. They’ve been having decorating parties after hours.
Although earlier in the month, they weren’t quite sure how everything would be used, they were trying to make the area feel a little bit different and change the scene.
“Everything Abigail touches is full of love, and creativity,” said Maddox. “I was real excited when she offered. I couldn’t believe it. Whatever she did, I knew it was going to look great.”
At the reception there will be bricks and markers on the tables. The couple is asking reception friends and family to write a message on the bricks, which will then be used when they build something downtown.
The couple also commended Andrea Saffle and Rosie Knop, who have helped tremendously with this endeavor. “We couldn’t have done it without their help,” Maddox said.
Forrest Paper Company helped with the invitations, Brittany Purvis is emceeing, Abigail with decorations and Rebecca Chandler is teaching them their first dance. “There’s a lot going into it and we’re just trying to use people we know are local to do all of this,” Maddox said.
“We’ve really kept it friends and local, as much as possible. If we could get it local we did or tried, but we did have to order some stuff online,” said Lowrey.
“That’s what was important to us. If we were going to spend money, we wanted to spend money on something that was important, and helped out downtown too. It may sound a little cheesy, but we wanted to help the economy.That was really important. This is our home, it’s where we do business, our friends do business. We didn’t want to go out in the country, because that doesn’t have anything to do with who we are.”
Maddox said the couple did consider eloping at one time. “We started getting into the details, thinking we just could go to courthouse then our take a honeymoon, but in the end, a wedding downtown won out.æ
A couple of weeks out they were hoping for a great weather day with no rain. “I’m just not thinking about the weather,” said a hopeful Maddox on a cool October day. “I just want it to stay like this.”
The couple is just ready to get down to it. “As long as there’s someone there to sign a piece of paper and he’s there,” Maddox said pointing to her soon-to-be-husband. “That’s it. And board a plane the next day.”
During the planning, Maddox has been referred to as the opposite of Bridezilla, which Lowrey said he thought was “very nice.”
“We’re expecting chaos, so it’s O.K. if it is. We don’t care. If we wanted not chaos, we would have planned something else. If we wanted it to be just us and people we knew, then we would’t have planned it for the mdidle of the street right during an art festival. I think you can do something spontaneous with these kinds of events where people wander up and don’t know what’s going on. I do know they just happen to see you and they are glad they happened to be there at that time.”