The Wedding Tree

February 1, 2008 | By More
Story by Dianne Edwards
The Running M Ranch outside of Dover has been the site of weddings in the McAlister family for three generations. And Keri McAlister, who recently wed her fiance’ tod Rye, was no exception. the daughter of J.B. and Jeannie McAlister of dover, Keri chose to marry on the property because of her love of the land and the love she felt for her late grandparents, Bill and Ruby McAlister. 

Keri and Tod were introduced by her brother, Charlie. All three were avid softball players and played in the church leagues. When Keri and Tod met, their affection for each other was immediate. They became engaged and were married four months later on October 27, 2007.

The bride and her groom were married at sunset, under a massive oak now dubbed, “The Wedding Tree.” The white oak was, at one time, documented by Ruby McAlister as one of the largest oak trees in Arkansas. While preparing the grounds for the wedding, Keri and her family removed boards that had fallen from a tree house built for young McAlisters by their grandfather Bill.

Every aspect of the McAlister-Rye ceremony was “touched” by previous generations. A letter, written to Keri by Grandmother Ruby shortly before her death, was read during the service by brother Charlie. The letter, which told Keri of her grandmother’s love and pride, brought the guests to tears. Keri’s mother Jeannie said there weren’t enough tissues to go around.

Mandy Milliken served her best friend as maid of honor while Tod’s friend, Wes Boster, stepped up as best man. Candles lit and placed along the base of the huge oak illuminated the ceremony. Chinese lanterns and a chandelier cast a warm glow on all those attending.

The ranch was a favorite place for all the McAlisters. “Ruby was the kind of grandmother who had homebaked cookies and an ice cold glass of milk ready for the kids after school,” recalled Jeannie. “Keri wouldn’t have wanted to marry anywhere else.”

The wedding reception, which featured a beautiful four-tiered chocolate wedding cake, was held in the “middle barn.” Adding to the theme was a layered dessert served from a miniature wheelbarrow on the groom’s table.

Several months before, wedding invitations — designed to resemble tickets to a baseball game — had been mailed to the guests. A pre-wedding shower featured a baseball-shaped cake, created to keep with the couple’s chosen theme.

The couple shed their wedding attire, which for Keri included white cowgirl boots, and donned team shirts to play softball under the light of a full moon.

“They wanted the wedding to be fun — and it certainly was that,” said Keri’s mother. “They even had bleachers brought in for the guests who didn’t play ball.”

A white horse-drawn carriage, which brought members of the bridal party to the Wedding Tree, remained throughout the evening to offer rides to all the guests.

Keri and her brother Charlie have always been close, said their mother. In fact, Charlie married his fiance’, Kayte Ellenberg just a few months following Keri and Tod’s wedding, on Feb. 2, 2008, at Hector First Assembly. For their wedding, Kayte chose to bring the “outside in,” creating a natural park setting that included 15-foot trees. Kayte was instrumental in assisting Keri with her wedding and didn’t want to “take away” from the ranch setting that her new sister-in-law had chosen.

Keri is a teacher and coach at Russellville Middle School. The couple both currently lives and works in Russellville. In their spare time, one might find them at the Running M Ranch, gazing at The Wedding Tree, where their marriage began.

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Category: Bridal

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