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A Wedding in Memphis Ends With a Crowd Surfing Father of the Bride

By Alexandra Macon | Photography by 

Kristyn Hogan

Interior designer Austin Varner and Ben Macaskill, a VP at Brown Brothers Harriman, first met over a Fourth of July weekend in Long Island, where Austin was a guest of Ben’s brother. But it wasn’t until the next year, when Ben was living in London and Austin was spending time there for work, that the two really hit it off. “What started with a brunch date turned into an international, long distance romance,” Austin explains.

Fast forward a year and a half later, when Ben and Austin were enjoying a ski trip in Telluride. “After our first day of skiing, Ben asked if I’d like to go on a walk to watch the sunset,” she says. “Halfway through the walk, Ben mentioned that he had never been on this walk before. I turned around he was on one knee, asking if I would take this walk with him for the rest of our lives. It was the perfect moment in the perfect setting.”

Choosing their wedding venue was an easy decision. “I am from Memphis, Tennessee and my family still resides there,” she says. “We chose to get married at the Memphis Hunt and Polo Club, where I grew up swimming, playing tennis and spending a lot of time with my family and friends.” They hired Ruthie Bowlin and Russell Whitehead of R&R Events to help with the planning.

On the other hand, the dress search proved a little more complicated. “I must have tried on 40 wedding dresses. I had a pretty clear vision of what I wanted to wear, but I didn’t find it until the absolute last dress I tried on,” Austin explains. She ended up choosing a Mira Zwillinger dress that checked all of her boxes. Hair and makeup were kept simple and natural, and she kept her style classic by wearing vintage earrings that once belonged to her mother.

Meanwhile, Ben chose a traditional tuxedo for the wedding, but had a small wardrobe change before it was time to hit the dance floor. “He changed into black and white Nikes, which he gave to all of his groomsmen with our wedding date inscribed on them,” Austin adds. As for her bridesmaids, they wore a matching Monique Lhuillier skirt and top, paired with earrings that were a gift from the bride.

The day of the ceremony, Ben and Austin tied the knot at the Memphis Hunt and Polo Club, in front of a huge magnolia tree in front of 500 guests. “I was pretty relaxed before my walk down the aisle, however, I can’t say the same for my dad!” A priest and family friend married the couple, and as a nod to Ben’s English background, several British hymns were included throughout the ceremony.

Once they were declared husband and wife, the newlyweds and their friends and family headed to the reception inside. “When discussing the aesthetic we wanted for our wedding, it was important to me that we treat the clubhouse like a home,” says Austin. Food stations, including an oyster shucking station, a lamb chop grill, and a fried chicken and biscuit station were on offer. And later, their band, Jessie’s Girls, kicked off their set with the couple’s first dance “Loving You Easy” by Zach Brown Band.

Once the reception wrapped, Austin changed into a Carolina Herrera dress (“short and easy to dance in”) and the wedding band led their guests to the after-party set up in the wine cellar of the club while playing “I Got a Woman” by Ray Charles. “Once the door was opened, you could hear the remix of the same song being played by the DJ,” Austin adds. “It was a cool way to get the after party started!”

As for her favorite moment of the evening, the bride says it’s close to impossible to choose one: “Having everyone on the dance floor celebrating with us was pretty fantastic,” she says. “Although, my dad crowd surfing is probably a close second!”