Haley Downing and James Burks’ Elegant Springtime Affair at the Arboretum

Most brides don’t start talking to wedding photographers until after they get engaged. But Haley Downing knew her relationship with James Burks was no ordinary romance.

The pair met in February 2014 at a Super Bowl party their siblings invited them to. Haley, an Oklahoma native who’d been living in Houston, had just moved to Dallas. She and James talked, and he asked his sister-in-law for her number. He invited her to a charity event the next night, and as Haley tells it, they just clicked. She loved how thoughtful and patient James was, and how his laid-back personality balanced her outgoing nature. “He’s just a selfless person, and that’s really hard to find, especially in a guy nowadays,” she says. “Anytime we would go on a date, he wanted to make sure it was something I would enjoy, not just something he would.”

By the time they celebrated their six-month anniversary, they were attending marriage-preparation classes at their church. They’d talked about timing and knew they wanted an April wedding, and with fall right around the corner, Haley decided it couldn’t hurt to start exploring options. She reached out to Apryl Ann, a photographer whose aesthetic she loved, to talk options.

So on the last day of October, when James proposed at the Arboretum—following a day he’d packed with visits to their favorite places—the wheels were already in motion. Her mom and sisters, all in town to celebrate at a surprise engagement party that evening, had booked an appointment to go dress shopping the following day at Neiman Marcus, where Haley found the perfect Monique Lhuillier gown.

She and James snagged April 4, 2015 for their wedding date at the Arboretum, which had been a special place for them throughout their courtship. They selected his-and-hers cakes in red velvet and chocolate and, when choosing flowers and decor, decided to let the natural beauty of their venue shine. “The Arboretum is so beautiful I didn’t want to overwhelm or try to compete,” Haley says. “That’s why a lot of the tables at the reception just had garlands and floral runners rather than the big arrangements.”

Leading up to the wedding, Haley’s father took the time to take dance lessons with his daughter—something she says she’ll always cherish. “He really wanted it to be perfect for me,” she says. “It was really special to spend that time together.”

When the big day arrived, Haley and James said “I do” under an arbor James built by hand. Haley wore as her “something borrowed” the belt her sister had worn for her wedding; James wore his signature cowboy boots. In addition to the emotional ceremony, where Haley and James’ priority was to make sure God’s presence was felt by all 200 people in attendance, Haley says her favorite moment of the day was the first look she shared with her groom.

“I went back and forth about whether or not I wanted to do it,” she says. “But it was such a special time for us. I got to see him and tell him how excited I was to marry him.”

When the big day arrived, Haley and James said “I do” under an arbor James built by hand.


  • Ceremony & Reception Site

    Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden

  • Photographer

    Apryl Ann Photography

  • Bridal Gown Designer

    Monique Lhuillier

  • Bridal Gown Retailer

    The Bridal Salon at Neiman Marcus

  • Hair/Makeup

    Beauty & the Blush Artistry

  • Groom’s Attire

    Perry Ellis

  • Bridesmaids Dresses Designer/Retailer

    J. Crew

  • Flower Girl Dress Designer/Retailer

    Janie & Jack

  • Flowers

    Bows & Arrows

  • Stationery

    Blue Eye Brown Eye

  • Cake

    Cakewalk Bakeshop

  • Caterer

    Gil’s Elegant Catering

  • Band


  • Lighting

    Astounding Sounds

  • Videographer

    Von Wedding Films

  • Wedding Rentals

    Marquee Event Rentals

  • Wedding Rentals


  • Wedding Rentals

    BBJ Linen

  • Wedding Planner

    After Yes

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