Real Columbus Wedding: Sarah Blackburn and Justin Parsons

From annual meetings to happily ever after for this New Jersey couple

Emma Frankart Henterly
Columbus Monthly
Sarah Blackburn and Justin Parsons married on July 15, 2022, at Strongwater.

July 15, 2022 | Sarah Blackburn and Justin Parsons traveled from their home in Princeton, New Jersey, to Columbus for their summer 2022 nuptials. It makes sense: Much of their relationship has its roots in Ohio.  

The pair met in Cleveland during the annual International Association for College Admission Counseling (IACAC) conference. Justin “tried very hard to impress” Sarah during dodgeball and even shouted his room number at her on the last night, she says, but the pair didn’t officially connect until the following year, at the IACAC conference in New Orleans. 

“After a night out on Frenchman street, the rest was history,” Sarah says. “Justin moved from California to New Jersey a few months later, and [we] have been inseparable ever since.” 

Ohio played an important role in the proposal, too. The couple were visiting Justin’s family in Ashland when Justin asked Sarah if she wanted to get Coney dogs for lunch with him and his nephew, Xander. “[We] went to pick Xander up at the rose garden where Justin's parents and siblings were married, but Xander wasn't there,” Sarah says. Instead, Justin proposed. Sarah said yes, and then asked the all-important question: “Are we still getting hot dogs?” 

The wedding day honored Sarah and Justin’s 160 guests in a unique and heartfelt way: The couple used journals instead of table numbers at the reception; inside, they hand-wrote a note to each guest. “We also left pens on the tables so that folks would be able to write back to us,” Sarah says. 

The wedding also had two atypical guests in the form of inside jokes. One was Suzy, a life-size baby doll who Justin used to be afraid of. “His nieces probably had more fun than anyone moving her around all night to scare the crap out of people,” Sarah recalls. “She was somewhere new everywhere you turned!” The other guest, a ceramic bust that’s been passed among Sarah’s family members each Christmas since 1973, is a regular at family events. 

The day wasn’t without its hiccups—the youngest attendees kept trying to escape the kids’ party in an adjacent room, and two substitute photographers shot the day after the couple’s original photographer gave birth three days earlier—“But all of it was still perfect,” Sarah says. “We had the best day ever.” 


Photographer: Megan Badia Photography 

Ceremony, reception and caterer:Strongwater 


Florist:SunflowerKate Florals 

Music:Brass Tracks Band and Buckeye Entertainment 

Photo booth: Buckeye Entertainment 

Stationery: DIY 

Child care services:Sitters Unlimited 

Accommodations:Hotel LeVeque and Courtyard by Marriott Columbus Downtown 

Rehearsal dinner:Graystone Wine Cellar 

Bride’s attire:Watters gown and a veil from BHLDN, Sam Edelman shoes, grandmother’s earrings and bracelet from Petal to the Metal 

Bride’s hair and makeup:614 Beauty 

Groom’s attire: Suit from The Black Tux, accessories from Nordstrom Rack 

Rings:Bohland Jewelers (Ashland, Ohio) 

Bridesmaids’ gowns: Various 

Groomsmen’s and bridesmen’s attire: Suits from The Black Tux