Southern Weddings

I’m attending a wedding at RiverOaks Charleston in a few months, and since I’ve been admiring today’s gorgeous wedding ever since we accepted it for V6 last year, I am so excited to see the venue in person soon! After deciding against being married at Shannon’s parents’ beloved Lowcountry cottage, Shannon and Clay chose RiverOaks for its beautiful views and undeniable focus on Southern hospitality, which they were committed to showing their family and friends. With the help of an impressive collection of vintage tablecloths, delectable, locally-sourced food, and subtle star details inspired by Clay’s proposal, this wedding is as springtime-sweet as it gets. We’re so grateful to Virgil Bunao for capturing it so beautifully and sharing it with us!

Tell us about finding your wedding dress. What was your favorite thing about it? I originally thought I would wear my twin sister’s wedding dress to help cut costs. Since we are identical twins, I wanted to alter it slightly to make it my “own,” so I consulted with an old friend whom I knew was now designing wedding gowns–Katherine McDonald, owner and designer of LulaKate in Charleston. Our meeting quickly went from altering my sister’s 12-year-old wedding dress to me trying on Katherine’s gorgeous gowns, which are pieces of artworks themselves. It took no time to decide on the dress for me. Her LaMour wedding dress was stunning–it had a pleated tulle bodice, cap sleeves, and embroidered floral detail. Perfect for a garden wedding! My favorite thing about it was knowing that I was the first bride ever to wear the newly-designed dress!

I got the idea to use two shades of green bridesmaid dresses from the “Virginia is for Lovers” shoot in Southern Weddings V5. I wanted the LulaKate dresses to be short, since it was an outdoor wedding, but I let each bridesmaid pick their neckline, which added a nice personal touch–they chose Zoe, Kristyn, and Jessica in the colors garden and grass.The wedding party was all family, so I just had to include the little ones as my sweet maidens! Since this wedding was held on the “royal wedding” weekend, I used the term “maidens” because that is what the English call their bridesmaids. I had five maidens that included my two step daughters and three nieces. My youngest niece was the flower girl, and my nephew was the ring bearer.

I have spent lots of family time out at our country home on the water in Meggett, South Carolina, and it is truly a gem of our beautiful Lowcountry. Clay and I both spent time there together while dating. I didn’t want to burden my parents by hosting our wedding there, so RiverOaks was the perfect venue for a Lowcountry plantation-style wedding with a similar feel. The color scheme evolved into shades of green, gold, and ivory, with splashes of peaches and pinks. We wanted it to feel fresh, fun, and spring-inspired.

Did you have a cocktail hour? If so, what was it like? The reception started with a cocktail hour on the front lawn by the pond. We had a self-serve bar with lemonade and ice tea in my mom’s vintage glasses and a specialty cocktail of blueberry lemonade vodka, garnished with mint and served in mason jars. A large community table covered in butcher paper displayed a spread of local cheeses, honey, jams, and chutneys, which were all family favorites from either Charleston, my hometown, or Asheville, Clay’s hometown.
What was the design inspiration for your reception? We were inspired by the “from the earth and home” feel that we enjoy so much at my parents’ cottage. A few words we used to describe our wedding were Southern, local, family, plantation, picnic, casual, and fun. The color scheme of greens, golds, and ivory with touches of peach and pinks was inspired by springtime and the colors in my mom’s vintage tablecloths. The star details were inspired by our shooting star proposal story.

The food was local, Southern, and seasonal, and it was all sourced from farms on nearby John’s Island. At the cocktail hour, we passed around two appetizers of artichoke and goat cheese bruschetta and prosciutto-wrapped melon skewers. The seated family-style dinner began with a bibb wedge salad with smoked bacon, local tomato, cucumber, and a chive blue cheese dressing. Dinner proceeded with large dishes passing around a choice of local shrimp pasta in a caper, garlic, lemon butter and fresh herbs, or applewood bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin with red pepper relish. For sides, we served garlicky local greens, creamy corn pudding served in husks, and a caprese salad with heirloom tomato and buffalo mozzarella drizzled in pesto.

Describe your wedding cake or dessert. Our personal wedding cake was an almond amaretto cake with buttercream icing and blueberries on top from Sugar Bakery, decorated with my parents’ wedding cake topper. Their cake topper had been damaged over time from storage, so Jill Templeton repaired it by sewing on a piece of my mom’s wedding dress fabric. Our wedding cake was the centerpiece on a large round table of local Southern cakes from our favorite bakeries. Our Southern Cake Bar was made up of coconut cake from SALT at Station 22, caramel cake from Carter’s Kitchen, seven-layer chocolate cake from Square Onion, and red velvet cake, carrot cake, and strawberry cake from Sewee Restaurant and Village Bakery. The little maidens were about to pop waiting to get into those cakes!

How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. We just so happened to live in the same neighborhood, right around the corner from each other! We were familiar faces due to the highly social nature of our young neighborhood. When we ran into one another at Zac Brown’s Southern Ground Music and Food Festival on Daniel Island in October 2011, a little spark ignited and our love story began!
Tell us all about the proposal! The date was December 14, 2012. We had been out to dinner at Carter’s Kitchen in Ion of Mount Pleasant and decided to go to the beach on Sullivan’s Island to try to see the Gemini Meteor Shower. We walked out on Station 16, which has a perfect view of Charleston’s harbor and skyline. We stood there for a good fifteen minutes before we finally saw one beautiful shooting star out of the east. I think Clay was waiting on one, because then, he leaned over and asked, “So…what are you doing for the next 50 years of your life?” I replied, “Hopefully, spending it with this great guy named Clay,” not realizing he was leading into a proposal! That’s when he popped the question! I was so surprised and soooo happy!!!! Needless to say, I was truly floating on “cloud nine,” or should I say, “star nine!”
Three adjectives that describe the day are: Genuine, personal, loving
How many friends, family, and loved ones attended your wedding? 175
Bride’s favorite detail of the wedding: I did an ink drawing of an old oak tree on my parents’ property in Meggett, SC, which is quite the gathering place for my family on weekends and holidays. I included a tiny shooting star hidden in the foliage of the tree. I had the drawing letterpressed onto our invitations in gold ink by Reaves Engraving printing company. My framer, Carol Williams of A Simple Tree, surprised me with a framed collage of the original drawing, the silver plate, and the letterpressed invitation. We had it proudly displayed at the ceremony.
Groom’s favorite detail of the wedding: Without a doubt, the bagpiper that Shannon surprised me with! He played “Highland Cathedral” as she walked down the aisle. I have Scottish heritage and appreciation, and I belong to the McLean Clan of Duart. I was really pushing to have a bagpiper play at our wedding, but it wasn’t appearing to work out in the planning process. She got me good!
Describe your wedding flowers: My hand-tied bouquet held a very sentimental branch of kousa dogwood from my parent’s home, which will bloom every year on our anniversary. It also included a lush mix of white blooms, including scabiosa, fringe tulips, sweet peas, and peonies, with touches of blush pink in the rice flower, astilbe, and ranunculus. We also included patience and juliet garden roses, with a hint of super green roses. The bouquet was wrapped with a vintage satin ecru ribbon and I pinned on Clay’s mother’s white lace handkerchief with her gorgeous antique diamond brooch.
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? No, we did the traditional Presbyterian vow exchange.
Were there any family traditions you included in the ceremony? We started a new family tradition at my ceremony. The ring bearer pillow was custom made by Jill Templeton of Circa Children. She designed and crafted it with a combination of fabric samples from my mom and sister’s wedding dresses. I plan to pin on a small piece of my wedding dress fabric to the pillow and then pass it down to the next generation of brides in our family, where they will each pin on their samples too.
Tell us a bit about your first dance. We danced to Zac Brown’s “Free” because we met at his concert and that song had a lot of meaning to us. Our first dance was the most I got to talk to Clay one-on-one all night!
Did you toss the garter or bouquet? No, I am an older bride (41), so most of my friends are married! This was my first marriage and Clay was well worth the wait. Good things really do come to those who wait!
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you looking forward to in the future? We have just completed my art studio in an unfinished room over the garage. I am transitioning into step-motherhood and am enjoying my instant family. We also hope to have a child of our own if we are so blessed!
What advice would you give to someone currently planning his or her wedding? At some point during your ceremony, be sure to take a pause and look around, make eye contact with your guests, and remember that moment on your special day. It is all so busy and goes by so quickly that to simply stop and take in a sweet moment will live in you forever. My pastor, Rev. John Hage, gave us this advice, and I am so thankful for it! John also had us write letters about how we fell in love and why we loved and wanted to marry each other so that we could share them after the wedding. What a treasure to have and reread on our anniversaries! I would encourage couples to do the same.

Photographer: Virgil Bunao Photography / Planning and Design: Marianne Caldwell, Lauren Heuber, and Jennigray Hewitt of RiverOaks Charleston / Venue: RiverOaks Charleston / Florist: Deborah Gibson Design / Caterer: Harvest Catering / Cake Baker: Sugar Bakeshop / Southern Cake Bar: Sewee Restaurant, Village Bakery, SALT at Station 22, Square Onion, and Carter’s Kitchen / Bride’s Gown: “LaMour” by LulaKate / Bride’s Shoes: Nina Culver and LulaKate / Bride’s Earrings: Skatells / Bride’s Bracelet: David Yurman / Bride’s Veil and Bridesmaids’ Dresses: LulaKate / Maidens’ Dresses: Us Angels / Flower Girl Dress: David’s Bridal / Hair Stylist: Dianna Reine of Salon Jolie / Makeup Artist: Kristin Pavao of Finger Paint Makeup / Men’s Attire: Jos. A Bank / Ties and Pocket Squares: Custom by Ben Silver / Paper Products: Reaves Engraving Inc. / Tabletop Rental: Event Works / Unique Rentals: Muster Branch Vintage Rentals and RiverOaks Charleston / Bar Service: Squeeze Onsite / Sailcloth Tent: Sperry Tents / Linens: RiverOaks Charleston and personal / Shuttle Bus: ACW Limo Service / Lighting: RiverOaks Charleston / Ceremony Officiant: Rev. John Hage of Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church / Ceremony Musicians: Kelly Graham and Ben Drechsler / Soloist: Rev. Courtney Mills Jones Willis / Bagpiper: John Weed / Band: Tony Howard Band, The Willis Blume Agency / Apron and Invitation Artwork: Bride and Shannon Smith Hughes / “Southern Ground” and “Just Married” Signs: Sarah Jeffers Beauchene of Reclaimed Artistry / Getaway Car: 1956 Oldsmobile Holiday / Framing: Carol Williams of A Simple Tree / Bridesmaids and Maidens’ Jewelry: Felice Designs / Custom Ring Bearer Pillow: Circa Children

RiverOaks Charleston is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

lisa Written with love by Lisa
6 Comments
  1. avatar Dana reply

    what a sweet proposal! love her flowers, too!

  2. avatar Jehnel Oboza reply

    Gosh, Virgil. Beautiful, as always.

  3. avatar Emily reply

    I fell in love with those glittery star wands as soon as I saw them, but when I heard the significance behind them, my appreciation went to a whole new level! The shooting star references were my favorite detail from this wedding!

  4. avatar Lytle reply

    Virgil is awesome!

  5. avatar Marianne reply

    We could not have asked for a sweeter couple and family. Both the bride and her mother are artists so they embraced our planning, design and styling based on their vision with ease and appreciation. The relationships formed through this journey will always be treasured.

  6. avatar Mood Board Monday | Tulle Wedding Skirts reply

    […] 1, image 2, image 3, image 4, image […]

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