The bride had a special request. Would I leave our horses out during the ceremony? You’ll never guess what happened next!

One brisk February day in 2015, the phone rang. And, as so often occurs, on the other end of the line was a bride who would like to get married at Newell Lodge.

But this lovely bride was in her mid-70s, and the groom, in his early 80s. She had been widowed for many years, and likewise, the groom was a widower. Living together without being married was out of the question.

“I need your help,” she said. “I’m quite sure things have changed in the last 50 years since my first marriage.” She and her first husband had been married in Kingsland on a spring day half a century ago.

“Yes, ma’am,” I said. “Things have changed somewhat.”

Together, we covered the important issues: the marriage license, the minister, the guest list, the lunch menu, wedding décor, and reception – a nice meal, with wedding cake for dessert. The two would wear their Sunday best.

The live oak trees with swaying Spanish moss provided the simple outdoor setting for their wedding day.

A few minutes prior to the ceremony, the bride had a special request. Would I leave our horses out during the ceremony?

“My siblings and I grew up on a farm, and I would love to have the horses in the background,” she said.

“Sure,” I said. “No problem.”

Soon, it was time for the ceremony to begin, smiles and laughter all around.

Sometimes, my husband, Harvin, cannot leave well enough alone, bless his heart. He decides that he will “drive” the horses a little closer to the ceremony site, so guests will have a better view.

So thoughtful of him, don’t you agree? With this end in mind, he approaches the horses on the golf cart.

Understandably, the mares were startled and took off toward the ceremony, galloping right up to the minister!

The guests jumped up, moving as quickly as older folks can and managed to clear the way for the horses. Thankfully, the whole thing was much ado about nothing. A few chairs were overturned by guests, and a couple of horses stopped to graze nonchalantly nearby.

Much to my relief, the wedding party loved the adventure. Family and friends were laughing, taking pictures, and thought it was grand. Eventually, everyone settled down, and the ceremony took place. The lovely lady and her gallant groom were married.

Their “Simply Beautiful” wedding ceremony proceeded, a heartfelt expression of who they were as a couple: simplicity, nature, family, friends, and their love for each other.

The sweetness of it all brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. In one moment, Nature’s beauty and their Love was combined to create a magical atmosphere, horses and all. Thus, began their love story as man and wife.

Of course, I have been fortunate to witness many lovely and beautiful weddings at Newell Lodge.  Families and friends come together to celebrate this special day with their loved ones. But among these, this sweet love story remains one of the most special of all.

I hope it touches you, too.

Remember when life was simple?

On a recent, warmish day following last week’s historic winter storm, I sat in the swing under one of the hundreds of old oak trees here at Newell Lodge. As I lazily pushed the swing with my foot, the creaking of the chain broke the unending silence of the morning.

In my mind, the screen door slams as my sisters and I hit the ground running. I can still hear my mother’s voice, “Don’t slam the door.” We did anyway, time and again.

We played outside most of each day we weren’t in school and enjoyed every minute of it.  We climbed on top of our old grapevine, played dolls, rode our bikes around the block, got stuck in the sand, and skinned our knees when we finally fell. Then, helped one another up, and tried again.  

Nostalgic for those days, I realized that in this moment, sitting here, life is simpler.

Right here, right now.

That textured life for which we yearn is here, unfolded before me. The massive oaks dripping with Spanish moss, the horses frolicking in the pasture, the red headed woodpecker making his rat-a-tat music in the trees, the yard chickens walking around pecking, as though they own the place – each possesses a loveliness all its own.  

Newell offers the splendor of the absolute silence.  Yes, a blessed silence, where I can remember who I am, where I came from, and allow myself the luxury of just being me.  

If given the opportunity, each of us would weave beauty, simplicity, and nature into the fabric of our lives.. The naturalness found here, amid nature, offers hearts, souls, and minds a rest from reality, time to reflect and rejuvenate. Nothing presses upon us.  

Then I understand. Perhaps Newell is memorable for what is not here: no high levels of excitement, no iPhone games, no email messages, no schedules, and no demands other than those we choose for ourselves.

In a word, simplicity.

When I try to convey the concept of Newell, I find I am not explaining a place, but an emotion.  Newell affects me, just as it affects each person who visits. Newell has a spirit, a desire to be, a presence. As our guests arrive and depart, I am saying all the right things, when I really wish to urge them to “capture the soul of Newell and see what I see, feel what I feel.”  

Newell is more than land and cottages, it is a spirit of endless summers, bicycle rides, the slam of screen doors, the enchantment of fireflies, family bonfires, and the lure of Spanish moss.

Sharing the simplicity and renewal and joy that is Newell is my passion.

Perhaps it could be yours, too?

Kay Carter is a Southern hospitality consultant, hostess and owner at Newell Lodge and Resort at the Okefenokee Swamp. Email her directly at

Celebration and Festival of Lights

Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017

Ever wish Christmas still held that sense of wonder and awe? We hope you’ll recapture those memories and make some new ones with the Carter family this year at Newell Lodge.

This year, we’re hosting “A Country Christmas” Celebration and Festival of Lights on Saturday, Dec. 16, from 6-11 p.m. We’re getting ready for sleigh bells and fun!

This family style event is suitable for all ages who are ready to ring in the Christmas season. You’ll enjoy:

  • Thousands of twinkling lights outline the landscape, a beautiful live oak grove setting
  • disc jockey Brian Rauls of Under Pressure Sound & Productions will provide festive soundtracks for hoe-down style country dancing
  • marshmallow roasting and hot chocolate by the fire for children aged 12 and under
  • complimentary family photos taken on guests’ devices in front of the Lodge Christmas tree
  • festival style foods and hot beverages will be available from the concession stand
  • and more! Expect a few surprises!

Of course, the guest of honor is Santa Claus. He will be available for children to have their photo taken with him on the exact wagon the reindeer have pulled through the Swamp for generations!

We’ll also have a warm, kid-friendly activities space just in case it’s too nippy for the wee ones.

“A Country Christmas” Celebration and Festival of Lights will be Saturday, Dec. 16, from 6-11 p.m. at Newell Lodge, 661 Ozzie Rowell Road (try ‘Firehouse Road’ on GPS). Admission is $5 per person at the gate; children 12 and under receive complimentary marshmallows for roasting and their choice of hot chocolate or hot cider. Email for more information, or call Newell Lodge at (912) 496-2838.