But when it came time to say "I do," she brought it back home to the family farm in rural Atwood, Illinois, where she and her nine siblings were raised by Debbie and Brian Henningsen.
"It just felt right to get married in the house that built me, the farm where I grew up," Clara, 23, said on the eve of the outdoor wedding that took place between rain showers on Saturday evening, May 4. “It is a blessed place.”
The fateful meeting on the sand in September 2010 was the first trip to the gulf coast for the Midwestern farm girl.
"A mutual friend introduced us one night when we were all hanging out on the beach," said Henningsen. "I had my guitar and they asked me to play some music, so I sang the song my dad and I wrote for Band Perry, 'All Your Life.' Later Jacob told me that the friend that introduced us kind of nudged him and said, ‘Dude, she's totally singing right to you!' I admit, I kind of was! So that became our song."
On Saturday night, to a recording by her father of "Beautiful You," the bride, in an Allure dress with "a huge puffy princess skirt," walked down the aisle to her groom, whose father Nathan performed the traditional ceremony.
Afterwards, the newlyweds, their parents, their 14 attendants and 300 guests feasted on a farm-style spread centered by a roasted whole hog requested by Jacob, 30, who has moved his landscaping business from Florida to Tennessee, where the couple will make their home.
The official honeymoon to the Caribbean will have to wait a few weeks as Clara, her dad and brother Aaron have a date with Brad Paisley on May 9, when his "Beat This Summer Tour" kicks off in St. Louis. The Henningsens, whose first single, "American Beautiful" (the title track from their forthcoming debut album), is climbing the charts, will open for Paisley in 29 cities.
"Jacob and I spent the first year and a half of our relationship long distance," says Clara. "We would go two months without seeing each other. It wasn't easy, but it kind of prepared us for the future. We know there will be times we won't see each other for a while. But that's okay. Our love is strong and we are so blessed to have found each other. I am so happy to be married!"