Courthouse Courtship

In June 2014, Jill Elsbury had been working with Milt Harper at Harper, Evans, Wade & Netemeyer for a little more than two years. She had gotten to know Milt’s wife, Deanna, and their daughter, Sara, but not the Harpers’ son, Joseph. That was because Joseph, a U.S. Marine, was in California attending the California Maritime Academy.

But Deanna was eager for Jill and Joseph to meet.

“We met June 8, 2014, when Deanna invited us to Las Margaritas,” Jill says. “We only found out later that it was a setup!”

Just three weeks later, life forever changed for the Harpers. On June 30, 2014, Milt collapsed with sudden cardiac arrest during a hearing at the Boone County Circuit Court. Jill was there and was the one who called Joseph. Milt spent months in critical condition but with time, made an incredible recovery.

That November, Joseph was ready to pick out a ring. He found the perfect diamond and asked to see its paperwork. He was astonished to see the diamond was certified on June 30, 2014.

“He knew it was meant to be,” Jill says.

Joseph gave the ring to Jill at his parents’ house on Christmas Eve 2014. The Harpers were having family photographs taken, and once the photos were done, Jill turned around and found Joseph down on one knee — which the photographer captured as well.

Jill and Joseph were wed on Sept. 12, 2015, at her parents’ home, set on 22 acres in Centralia. The Rev. Joe Jimerson officiated.

Jill wore a strapless Maggie Sottero ball gown with a full organza skirt. Crystals covered the bodice, and an illusion center added a demure touch to the plunging sweetheart neckline. She wore a John Hardy necklace, a wedding gift from the groom, and diamond earrings that her late grandfather — who had died three months earlier — had given to her grandmother on her 50th birthday. Jill carried a bouquet of garden roses in soft pink and white shades.

The bridesmaids wore one-shoulder, knee-length chiffon dresses in pale pink and carried pink garden roses.

Joseph wore his Marine Corps dress blues and an Apple watch, a wedding gift from the bride. His best man also wore dress blues, and the remaining groomsmen wore dark gray suits.

White chairs were set up on the lawn behind the home. White tulle draped both sides of the aisle, and faux flower petals and dried rose petals from Jill’s grandfather’s recent funeral blanketed the ground. The aisle began with a set of double white doors, which opened for the wedding party’s entrance; at the other end, above where Jill and Joseph stood to exchange their vows, hung a crystal chandelier, framed with white tulle.

Jill’s father walked her down the aisle. She meant to have her face covered with her blusher but forgot about it until she finished making her entrance. So she waited until the first prayer and then quickly pulled the blusher down. Despite her sneakiness, many were still watching and broke into laughter.

“It was kind of memorable,” Jill says.

During the ceremony, harpist Ruth Acuff played her 7-foot harp and sang, with accompaniment from her husband, Jeff Mueller, on the bass and Greg Spillman on the cello. Jill and Joseph exchanged traditional vows.

The reception also took place at the bride’s parents’ home, in an expansive white tent filled with round tables covered in pale pink cloths. Pink uplights gave the tent a romantic glow, and the centerpieces sparkled with touches of silver — such as a silver vase with a silver-painted twig covered in glitter — and all illuminated with battery-operated lights.

The four-tiered round wedding cake featured ivory-on-ivory detailing. Flowers in soft pastel shades filled the space between each tier, and a silver-colored H served as the topper. Guests were also treated to 250 gourmet cupcakes in various flavors, all made by the groom’s cousin, Diane Trammell.

Soft elegance reigned throughout the ceremony and reception meal — and then it was time to party.

“We wanted the reception to be the best party ever,” Jill says. “As such, a live rock ’n’ roll and country band played once dinner was finished. People were dancing the whole night.”

Jill and Joseph took a one-week honeymoon to the Dominican Republic and stayed at Iberostar, an all-inclusive resort.

Jill is the daughter of Tom and Julie Elsbury of Centralia and is a personal injury attorney at Harper, Evans, Wade & Netemeyer. Joseph is the son of Milt and Deanna Harper of Columbia and is a closing specialist at Veterans United Home Loans. The couple lives in Columbia.