The weeks leading up to a wedding are bound to be stressful, but when the bride and groom have seven kids between them, there’s far more to worry about than just flowers and catering. Three days before their June 14 nuptials, Sara Evans and Jay Barker skipped their respective bachelorette and bachelor parties and spent the evening in a Nashville emergency room with her 5-year-old daughter Olivia. “We were worried she had appendicitis,” explains Evans. (It was the flu.) The night before the wedding, the country singer was back in the ER—and this time she was the patient. “I think it was just exhaustion and the stress of Olivia,” she says.
Fortunately, everyone recovered in time for the big day, a laid-back gathering on a Tennessee farm that was, naturally, all about family. “It was so important for the children to feel they were part of this,” explains Evans, 37, who was escorted down the aisle by her son Avery, 9, and daughters Audrey, 3, and Olivia. Meanwhile Barker, 36, the former University of Alabama football star turned sports radio jock, was flanked by his own brood: Andrew, 10, Braxton, 8, and twins Sarah Ashlee and Harrison, 7. “Just the picture of him and his children standing there waiting to join me with my kids was absolutely precious,” says Evans. The little ones sat on quilts on the ground as the couple vowed, among other things, to love and raise each other’s children as their own. “Each one of them peeked around and talked directly to the kids,” recalls Barker’s radio show cohost Al DelGreco. Sara’s sisters sang Chantal Kreviazuk’s “Feels Like Home,” then Evans’ close friend Marcus Hummon performed a song he cowrote, “Bless the Broken Road,” which has special meaning for the pair. “The words say, ‘God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you,’ ” says Evans, who, like Barker, divorced last year. “That’s so true and so fitting for us.”
After the 20-minute ceremony, the Barker bunch piled onto a golf cart and headed to the reception in a nearby renovated barn. (Because of a storm earlier in the day, wedding planner Traci Phillips provided flip-flops to female guests so their high heels didn’t get stuck in the mud.) Inside, video screens displayed photos of Evans and Barker while a family-style feast was served. On the menu: yellow squash casserole, macaroni and cheese and fried chicken. “It all tasted so good,” says Barker, who sat with his bride and kids. The scene, notes DelGreco, “was like what dinner at the Barker household is going to look like.”
After dinner, a deejay took over, choosing tunes by Elvis, KC and the Sunshine Band and, in a nod to the groom, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.” Though the couple’s first dance was interrupted by their kids (who rushed to join in), Barker was able to show off his moves when “Footloose” blared from the speakers. “He is an amazing dancer,” gushes Evans. Barker says the same of his wife and adds, “We just have so much fun together.” In fact Evans wasn’t even fazed when two people’s drinks—red wine and beer—landed on her Vera Wang gown. “There was nothing that was going to upset me!” she says.
The couple spent their wedding night in a nearby cabin but reunited with their kids the next day. Before heading off to Fisher Island, Fla., for a grown-ups-only honeymoon, they spent a week at home as a family. “There’s no stress,” says Evans. “It’s like we’ve been together for 20 years.” Upon their return, the singer and her kids moved into the couple’s new house in Birmingham, Ala. Barker’s kids will visit every other weekend, and the younger boys are already fighting over who will share a room with Avery. “We both love the action and the chaos,” says Evans, who hopes to expand the family. “We want more. One more. I have to have a child with this man!”