Vows on the Ranch
Julie Phensavath and J.T. Richards
Muldrow, Okla. – June 4, 2011
The wedding of J.T. Richards and Julie Phengsavath last year on the 1,500-acre Packard Point Ranch he manages for Steve and Jamie Clark couldn't have been imagined at one time by many of their friends.
When mutual friends introduced them nearly six years ago, J.T. was a Southside High School graduate working on the ranch where they eventually married. She was a Northside High graduate and self-described “complete city girl.”
“I got my nails done every week. I knew nothing about cows. I had never even been close enough to nature to see a firefly,” Julie recalled. But after dating only a few months, she and J.T. knew they eventually would be getting married. So, she began introducing him to her Laotian family.
“That was difficult at first, because my mother barely spoke English,” Julie said, “but J.T. acclimated very well to my culture and my mom took to him right away. She would make him some of our traditional foods that I won't even try and he really enjoys. She loves to cook for him.”
Although his and Julie's backgrounds are quite different, J.T. said they are bonded by a common sense of humor that keeps them from ever having a dull moment.
J.T. has a Realtor’s license (his mother, Janet, is a real estate broker) and a business degree (his dad, Phil, and his brother, Cole, are both CPAs). But J.T. learned the ranching business on his own. From mowing and doing general farm and ranch labor in his teens to renting land and raising cattle on his own, he has progressed to where it's his job to “worry about the weather, crops and cows” for a large cattle operation.
With plans in place, a tragedy befell the bride's family
After his formal proposal to Julie in the fall of 2010 – with two dozen roses, candles and chocolates – the couple agreed to an evening, outdoor wedding at the Packard Point Ranch in early June. Plans were right on track until just a few weeks before their wedding date when Julie received devastating news that her 32-year-old brother had died of a heart attack.
It was difficult to continue wedding arrangements with her family having to gather for a funeral so close to her wedding day. But, with invitations sent and friends and family from as far away as California, Massachusetts, Alabama and Iowa having already made travel plans, Julie and J.T. agreed not to postpone their wedding.
“We decided this would only make us stronger as a couple,” Julie remembered. “We had also just finished pre-marital counseling and we believed that God had a plan for all of us through all this, even though we may not be understanding it at the moment.”
Julie was grateful, however, for friends who helped keep her wedding plans on track while she and her family mourned her brother.
A beautiful wedding day of healing love
When their wedding day dawned, the weather was beautiful, the white guest chairs were perfectly lined up overlooking the bluff where she and J.T. would be taking their vows in a white arbor and all the couple’s plans seemed in order.
Since the couple had decided not to have attendants for the ceremony, it wasn’t until the pastor was going over the service’s procedures with them that morning that Julie realized with her only brother and her father no longer living, she had no one planned to walk her down the aisle. Thankfully, a quick call to her uncle Boon Bounyaseng, who had come to the wedding from California, solved the problem.
The bride and groom were blessed with a perfect spring evening for their ceremony and reception. The scent of newly mown hay perfumed the air as a violinist played before and after the ceremony. Lights twinkled around the swimming pool. An antique chandelier from the ranch house gleamed in the trees in honor of the special occasion. Many of Julie’s family members wore traditional Laotian clothing.
Tables were decorated with candles and Gerbera daisies in Mason jars many of the couple’s 150 guests took home as party favors. Rustic signs made of old barn wood from the ranch helped direct wedding guests to the right spots for the ceremony, reception and sit-down dinner.
As the guests were leaving, they noticed fireflies, with their tiny lights glowing in the dark, flitting all about the ranch grounds.
“Many of our guests assumed we paid for fireflies to be shipped in for the wedding, but they were mistaken,” recalled Julie, the former city girl. “Fireflies are just one of the many beautiful things that living on the ranch has to offer.”
STORY BY LINDA SEUBOLD
WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY BY SPECIAL MOMENTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Bride’s dress, shoes – Danielle's Bridal, Clarksville, Ark.
Bride’s makeup – Makeup Lounge, Fort Smith
Bride’s hair – Marie Kaelin, Malibu Salon, Fort Smith.
Catering – Golden Corral, Fort Smith
Cupcakes – Sweet Boutique, Van Buren, Ark.
Flowers – Sam's Club, Fort Smith
Invitations – Inscriptions, Fort Smith
Jewelry – John Mays Jewelers, Fort Smith
Rentals – Unforgettables, Fort Smith
Violinist – Lori Faye, Van Buren, Ark.
Band – Silent Thunder
Photography – Special Moments Photography, Fort Smith