The first conversation between Samantha Smith and Bubba Atkinson was, in reality, far from a friendly one. In 2016, Sam, who was then working for a Republican candidate, called up Bubba, the then editor in chief of news media site The Independent Journal Review (he now is the managing editor for Axios), to discuss the website’s coverage of the 2016 campaign. “I didn’t think Bubba’s publication at the time was being fair to my candidate,” she explains. After their initial disagreement, a mutual friend later introduced the two in person, while they were hanging out in a large group at the Georgetown waterfront, and they immediately hit it off. “Bubba brought his dog Charlie and suggested we all go to TGIFridays to get those crazy drinks they have,” she says. “And the rest is history!”
A year and a half later, the D.C. couple were taking Charlie for a walk after a yoga class when Bubba suggested they turn and head to the Georgetown waterfront. “When we got there, I was begging him to go to Starbucks,” Sam recalls. “So when he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him, I was completely shocked. I think I hit him on the shoulder a few times and asked him if he was serious before accepting.” After she finally said yes, Bubba and Sam headed to the Four Seasons, where a few friends joined them to celebrate, and were later surprised by two of Sam’s sisters who flew in from L.A. and Memphis to toast the newly engaged couple. “It was quite an impressive proposal to pull off without me knowing!” laughs Sam.
While the bride is originally from Memphis, Sam and her family frequently vacation in Park City, Utah. During a recent trip, Bubba joined them and quickly fell in love with the mountains during the summer. “We knew we wanted something laid-back but that would also be a fun getaway for our friends and family,” she says. “The St. Regis in Deer Valley ended up being the perfect location. Everyone could relax and take advantage of all the activities. We also wanted it to be a kid friendly environment for our nieces and nephews, so we even put in a bouncy house at the rehearsal dinner.” For help with their destination wedding, the couple enlisted Dori Thornton Waller of The Social Office in Chattanooga who easily made all of their ideas a reality.
When it came time to figuring out her wedding weekend wardrobe, Sam felt like she had a bit more work to do. She claims she’s not a fashionista, but says that thankfully she was able to turn to her six older sisters and four sisters-in-law, whom she notes are all extremely stylish, for some guidance. For a welcome barbecue the day before the wedding, her sister Rachel got her a pair of custom cowboy boots, which Sam paired with a white dress and jean jacket. And then for her wedding day, she chose a Monique Lhuillier beaded dress, which was not only beautiful but, more importantly, comfortable. “The beading was very intricate and caught the sunlight, which I loved,” Sam remembers. “I could also move around very easily with the small train.” For shoes, Sam chose a pair of blue Stuart Weitzman block heels, which she was able to dance in all night, and she rounded out the look with a “something borrowed” bracelet from one of her sisters.
Sam always envisioned herself wearing her hair down for her wedding, but was concerned it might be distracting as the night went on. She ended up deciding to wear it down for the ceremony, and then later in the evening, her hair stylist pulled it up into a messy updo before Sam headed out onto the dance floor.
As one of ten, yes ten!, kids, Sam ended up choosing her sisters, sisters-in-law, and three close friends as her bridesmaids. Since they all have very different senses of style, Sam took a very relaxed approach to the dress code and simply had each of them pick a navy blue floor length dress. “They did not disappoint with their picks,” she says. “They all looked stunning!”
The day of the ceremony, the couple and guests gathered on the St. Regis’s terrace, which was full of green trees and simple flowers with a hint of Carolina Blue, a nod to Sam’s alma mater UNC Chapel Hill, lining the aisle. Sam and Bubba’s family each had a role that day: nieces were flowers girls, nephews were ring bearers, siblings and spouses were attendants; and a close family friend, Tim Bowers, ended up officiating the ceremony. “He was really able to capture the joy and the importance of family in the ceremony,” she adds. Once they were declared husband and wife, the two processed out to an instrumental version of “You Make My Dreams Come True” by Hall and Oates.
For the reception, their wedding planner flipped the typical layout of a St. Regis Park City wedding, and while the ceremony was set up on the stone deck, the reception was basically floating on the mountain side. “The scene was something out of a dream, to be on the mountain with no humidity, drinking cocktails with all of our favorite people,” says Sam.
A Champagne saber kicked off the party, and after drinks, food stations with caviar, cheese and charcuterie, smoked meats, chicken fingers and fries (the groom’s favorite), Scottish salmon, and grilled and roasted farm vegetables, were on offer. Sam’s dad gave the one and only toast of the evening, and “there was not a dry eye in the house when he finished,” says the bride.
From then on, there was a lot of dancing to Miami band Flavor’s high energy playlist. “They were truly unbelievable, our guests were on the dance floor all night,” notes Sam. And when a windstorm later forced guests inside, the band happily agreed to move and just kept going. “They even accommodated my amazing four year old nephew so he could sing his favorite song: The Weeknd’s ‘I Can’t Feel My Face.’” In case you’re wondering, that wasn’t the song that closed out the couple’s big night, instead for their last dance, they appropriately picked Tina Turner’s “You’re Simply The Best”—a fitting ending to a perfect night.