Going to the chapel

When Jill Justice and Adam Long got engaged, it was time to build a church at The Greenbrier.

Fall/Winter 2016


The white clapboard chapel—topped by a bell tower and steeple and distinguished by columns and colorful stained glass windows—looks like it has stood on the stately grounds of The Greenbrier for ages.
And yet, it was built in 2015. The White Sulphur Springs resort’s owner, Jim Justice, who had eventual plans for the church at the resort he bought in 2009, was motivated to hasten its construction when his daughter, Jill, got engaged to Adam Long in November 2014. That gave the entrepreneur a mere 10 months to pull off the feat, from the time Adam asked for Jill’s hand in marriage during a walk on a lovely autumn day on the highest point of the Greenbrier County farm where they now reside to their star-studded nuptials that took place over Labor Day weekend in 2015.
Creating a venue from scratch, of course, was only one aspect of the event that required a great deal of planning and coordination, and many friends, family members, and associates gathered around Jill to make her vision come alive. They included The Greenbrier’s new director of weddings, Maren White; wedding planner Melinda Workman at Gillespie’s Flowers & Productions, which delivered approximately two semi-truck loads of dahlias, roses, and hydrangeas to the ceremony and reception sites; and even the chapel project manager, Jill’s godfather Bob Cochran, whose discovery, along with Maren, of when the sun would hit the altar’s centerpiece stained glass window just right to light up the chapel set the time that Jill would walk down the aisle and exchange vows with Adam.

Perfect day

But before there could be a weekend-long celebration of Jill and Adam’s marriage, the two first had to meet. That took place in high school in 2000, although they did not even live in the same state.
They first bumped into each other at a football game in Lewisburg, where she attended Greenbrier East. He was home visiting from Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia.
“I was attracted to her,” Adam said. A similar circle of friends kept them bumping into each other but geography kept them apart until he moved back to Lewisburg after graduating from West Virginia University’s College of Law in 2011. Jill was 80 miles away, finishing up her residency at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. “We were at least only about an hour and a half drive away, not multiple hours,” Adam says.
They began dating in the winter of 2013, and by November 2014, Adam, now an attorney for The Greenbrier, made a plan to propose during a walk. “It was a fall day but still clear, and you could see all the valley and it was just really pretty. It was just a perfect day in our book,” says Jill, who serves as president of the resort as well as a family physician at The Greenbrier Clinic.
As for the proposal itself, surrounded by a 360-degree view of the Greenbrier Valley, Adam got down on one knee and asked Jill to marry him. “And luckily she said yes,” he says. Jill and Adam considered a spring 2016 wedding, but decided they wanted to marry sooner. So, after consulting football schedules for both Virginia Tech and West Virginia University, they chose the following Labor Day holiday as the time for the event, with the ceremony on September 5, 2015.
Of course, there was that little issue of the chapel where the ceremony would take place to replace one that had existed at The Greenbrier years ago. “That’s something that never got started and, when we got engaged, it kind of expedited that process of going through with that plan,” Jill says. But with winter on its way, construction did not begin until spring, leaving six months to raise the roof and complete all the design elements. “It was really a time crunch to get it done.”
Jill also met with Maren, who was settling into her job as the director of weddings at the resort. “She was great about getting to know me first and suggesting things I would like and that would fit Adam and me as a couple,” Jill says. “She would get ideas and let us pick things. We did a lot of Pinteresting. It was very interactive.”
Maren had the task not only of helping Jill and Adam, as she would any other betrothed couple, but also balancing their low-key personalities with the sumptuous celebration the wedding inevitably would be. After all, the guest list for the ceremony filled the chapel’s 500-seat capacity, and a total of 1,250 were invited to the reception, including dignitaries such as former West Virginia Governor Gaston Caperton, current Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, and U.S. Senator Joe Manchin. “The first day I started working there, I learned of their interests,” Maren says. “I learned of their love of dogs and their color palette and I deduced that she is reserved as far as approaching it. I did keep that in mind and didn’t really try to make this wedding any more than what she wanted it to be. At the end of the day, it was going to be a grand affair, due to her family and the location, but it was about her and Adam. I tried to keep it personal to them as opposed to showy.”
One of the first ways guests witnessed Jill’s and Adam’s personalities was in their save-the-date cards, which featured a line drawing of a classic Jeep Wagoneer—a staple from Jill’s childhood—and her dogs Lilly, Butter, and Molly hanging out the windows. The Jeep became a reality when the father of one of her bridesmaids restored an early 1980s model that the couple used for day-of wedding photos. Dogs figured into the wedding in many ways, including when Boston terrier Molly walked down the aisle on a cherry blossom-covered leash as a flower girl; and when her likeness, carved in fondant, peered out from a cluster of white and pink roses on the bottom layer of a six-tiered, blush-colored wedding cake on an etched, gold stand.
Jill and Maren also took care to make sure all the guests felt tended to. For instance, when the wedding weekend arrived, each one received a welcome basket filled with bottled water; snacks; koozies; cupcakes from Jill’s Blacksburg, Virginia shop Gobble Cakes; and a beautiful, hand-painted itinerary. Those had been been personalized depending on which events those guests would be attending and featuring drawings representing each activity, such as the rehearsal dinner or a welcome dinner, and a Friday night party at The Greenbrier’s Casino Club featuring a Michael Jackson cover artist. It was just one of the many fine points executed by Maren and her team for all aspects of the weekend celebration.

Get the church to me on time
When it came time to select her gown, Jill traveled to Kleinfeld Bridal in New York City, renowned as the shooting location of TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress. And Carleton Varney, president of Dorothy Draper & Co.—named for the designer who in the mid-1900s gave The Greenbrier its distinctive and colorful makeover—attended Jill’s appointment, offering his opinion on the feel of each gown. That fact, along with Jill’s connection to the internationally famed resort, might have made for an interesting episode of the show, but the bride had no interest in pursuing that path. “I’m too shy for that.”
She tried on about 10 dresses, including some full ball gowns. Then she slipped on a silk zibeline A-line, V-neck gown with a high collar by Tony Ward. “I knew what I wanted,” Jill says. “I had in my mind something simple and timeless when I went up there. I tried on some beautiful dresses, but they were just not me.” When she saw the Tony Ward gown, “I knew immediately, and that was it.”
Varney agreed with her selection. “I thought it was very appropriate,” he says, calling it “Shakespearean” in its aura and tone. “It’s a gown that looked like it had mystique and antiquity to it, but it was simple.”
With the date set and a gown selected, Jill’s and Adam’s wedding was taking shape, but there remained one large detail: the chapel. Jill’s father decided to have it built on the North Lawn where a historic old oak tree had died. Ultimately, the memory of the tree would be infused into the chapel when it was carved into two wooden crosses—coincidentally 42 inches tall, the same number Jill had worn as a high school basketball player.
As for the chapel’s décor, Varney drew on “spirit of the mountains” when he designed the stained glass windows with West Virginia’s flora and fauna in mind. “It’s a little rabbit, it’s a butterfly, flowers, and roaring water,” Varney says.
But would it all come together in time? Jill played the part of the cool bride even as she made daily checks on the progress. “I always had the attitude that if it got done, great, and if not, we would do it outside the chapel,” Jill says.
Of course, that was not necessary, as the chapel was officially completed the night before the nuptials as workers stained the floors. It ended up being a special place for Jill for more than one reason. Wood beams in the church have been inscribed with Jill’s and Adam’s names, the date of the wedding, and their status as the first couple married there. “No one can see it but it’s special, because we know it’s there,” Jill says.

Traditional vows

For some brides, superstition dictates that they walk down the aisle on the upswing of the hour hand of the clock. When Jill and Adam married promptly at 5:30, however, it was not so much superstition as it was how, at that hour, the light would beam through the chapel’s feature window—depicting the Appalachian Mountains, a stream, dogwood blossoms, and a sun—as well as the timing of the festivities that would follow.
The bride and her father rode a carriage to the chapel. As they emerged, Jim told Jill that he loved her and was proud of her just before the doors—outlined in hundreds of white roses and hydrangeas—opened. Jill figures the timing was the doing of her wedding planner, Maren. “There was no time for nerves,” she says. “I know she did that on purpose.”
For Adam, in spite of all the glamour of the weekend, this was the part of the day he remembers most. “Seeing her come through the doors of the chapel was amazing. That’s what stands out the most. Jill came through the doors and I can just remember standing there. It really didn’t feel like 500 people in there. The doors opened and Jill was coming down with her father. It was the first time I had seen the dress and the first time I had seen her all day. It took my breath away.”

A special surprise

Accommodating 1,250 guests in a custom tent was no easy feat, but Steve Gillespie, project manager at Gillespie’s Flowers & Productions, was able to put together a tent that was nearly 28,000 square feet and provided both the grandeur expected of The Greenbrier as well as the cozy feeling Jill wanted. He achieved that by using five tiers on three levels so the space did not seem so big. When it came to decoration, Varney helped out again, and the tent ultimately was outfitted with 14 chandeliers, strings of light and white draping hanging from the ceiling, a black and white checkered dance floor, and of course, more white roses and hydrangeas.
There also was a smaller tent for cocktails at the site originally intended for the reception tent before that was moved to the 17th hole of the Old White TPC golf course. “We did two different feels for both tents,” Jill says. “The cocktail tent was more like a garden theme, but we wanted to make the reception tent more romantic and cozy. It sounds ridiculous because it was so big.”
Jill and Adam had selected the band Party on the Moon to keep their guests dancing into the wee hours, but before the band took the stage, Jim revealed a surprise to his daughter. Both Jim and Jill are big Lionel Richie fans and Jill had decided on the Commodores hit “Three Times a Lady” for their dance together. Little did she—or just about anyone else at The Greenbrier—know that Jim got the band’s famed singer and songwriter to perform. Surprisingly, it was a coincidence. “I told dad a couple days before the wedding that I had chosen that song,” Jill says. “He smiled ear to ear. He was really smiling, thinking, ‘This worked out. She picked a Lionel Richie song.’”
Guests enjoyed a buffet including country fried chicken marinated in buttermilk and spices and grilled prime filet mignon from The Greenbrier’s famed Draper-designed rhododendron china. “We really tried to do Southern comfort food,” Jill says. “We did fried chicken and sweet corn pudding and cheese grits and lobster mashed potatoes. They are staples at The Greenbrier and some of our family’s favorite foods.” Afterward, Jill and Adam cut into the crème brûlée-flavored cake, created by Amy Mills, the executive pastry chef at The Greenbrier Sporting Club.
As another special touch, Maren had napkins embroidered with Jill’s and Adam’s first initials, featuring sprigs of lavender tucked into the gray ribbon that had been tied around them, to be used at the head table. “Then, of course, the lavender sprig was something carried out through bridal party,” Maren says. Lavender also provided a lovely scent to the bride’s and bridesmaids’ bouquets, also featuring blush and cream garden roses, artemisia, and seeded eucalyptus.
Adam and Jill took a honeymoon to Maui, Hawaii, but not until after they had completed their wedding weekend. That included brunch guests on Sunday and traveling to Blacksburg on Monday to see a Virginia Tech and Ohio State football game. “It was neat because Virginia Tech has always been a staple in Adam’s and my life.”
And a year after her whirlwind-but-methodically planned wedding weekend, Jill looks back on the celebration with fondness for how she and Adam were able to make their personalities shine through in spite of the large scale of the event. “I think we had a real good balance,” Jill says. “A lot of people said the same thing, that it seemed very intimate and seemed very personal. As crazy as it seems, it didn’t seem like things were big or extravagant, surrounded by friends and family and with all the very meaningful things we did.”