I’m a classic wedding gal through and through! When I saw the very first photo of Grace and Ben’s beautiful day I knew I was going to love it. I mean, the cathedral length lace veil and monogram button down combo?! But, after reading their sweet interview, I am even more smitten. For these high school sweethearts, sticking with tradition, classic design, and beautiful florals was not just to create a stunning wedding day, but to honor their family and their own love story. Custom corn hole boards are fun, but for Grace and Ben it was not only a nod to the amazing tailgates we have as Southerners, but Ben’s time as a collegiate football player at Appalachian State. My favorite reason for a decision, however, is why they chose not to have a first look. Ben’s father (also his best man) told him: “One of the greatest feelings you’ll ever have in your entire life is when your bride walks down the aisle towards you for the first time; you feel like your chest is going to explode.” Oh, Southern gents, y’all break the mold!
I found my wedding dress the week after we got engaged! At an appointment with my mom, I tried on about five dresses I liked, and then she pulled one from the rack that she thought I should try on. I did, not really sure if I would like it, and LOVED it as soon as I put it on, so much so that I decided I didn’t want to try on any more dresses and knew that it was the one! The only issue was that it was strapless, and I had always wanted sleeves. The amazing ladies at Joan Pillow worked with me over a period of about six months to create a custom designed bolero from coordinating Carolina Herrera lace to match my veil. I had a vision for it and they made it happen so beautifully!
How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Ben and I met at Charlotte Latin School. He played football and had a devastating knee injury his senior year. The injury resulted in multiple surgeries, causing him to miss so much school that he ended up choosing to repeat his senior year to get to play a complete season of football and re-earn his athletic scholarships to colleges. The doctors told him he might never walk again, and he ended up being an all-American college football player at Appalachian State as a tight end. Also, if he hadn’t had to repeat his senior year, we never would have met! I waved at him from my art class for a few weeks while he was playing foursquare outside for a physical education class. He asked one of my friends who I was, my friend gave Ben my number, and the rest is history!
What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? I grew up going to Kiawah Island with my family and have so many happy memories there, so as soon as we got engaged I had a feeling I wanted to get married there. Ben also loves it and has joined my family on lots of trips there. Whenever I was at Kiawah with my family, we attended Holy Spirit Catholic church and I thought it was beautiful. Plus, the people there are so kind and warm.
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We used the traditional vows at the church. Reciting the traditional vows that my parents and their parents before them promised to each other before God is something that was very special for me.
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? Old Testament: Genesis 2:18-24, New Testament: 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:8a, Gospel: Matthew 7:21, 24-29 (My husband’s favorite scripture verses!)
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding and why you chose them. We chose “God Who Created Hearts to Love” as the song to walk back up the aisle to once we were married because it completely sums up our belief about marriage — that we were created by God to love Him through loving each other. Our first dance was “All of Me” by John Legend; my husband specifically picked it out because the lyrics sum up what we are about. Neither of us are perfect, and we love that about each other. My dad picked our first dance song, “Lullaby: Goodnight, My Angel,” and we both cried. I loved that it was not a very common father-daughter dance song, and it brought back so many memories of my dad singing it to me when I was a little girl.
What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? We had custom corn hole boards set up off the back porch to entertain our guests during the cocktail hour. My husband played college football in the South and it was a great nod to the amazing tailgates we have as Southerners! We had chicken and waffles as a passed appetizer, with the waffle as a waffle cone and a piece of fried chicken with syrup inside of it– easy to eat and delicious! Along with Southern deviled eggs and macaroni and cheese balls, we also had a raw bar with local oysters and shrimp. One of our three entree options was shrimp and grits. Other than the food, the overall atmosphere of the event was very Southern in regards to the hospitality. As we planned the wedding, the main thought I always came back to was trying to make everything comfortable and welcoming for our guests. The staff at the River Course went above and beyond to make sure every one of our guests had what they needed at all times. Another way that idea was executed was in having lounge furniture right off the dance floor. The gorgeous upholstered sofas and chairs summed up what being Southern means to me – welcoming, comfortable, and relaxed elegance.
Describe your wedding cake or dessert. We chose to incorporate two flavors into the three tiers. The top and bottom were white chocolate cake with chocolate hazelnut filling, and the middle tier was sour cream pound cake with strawberry filling. In terms of the design, I wanted to keep it simple and have it be a part of the overall design of the event. The middle tier said, “And they lived happily ever after,” in gold, as well. I really wanted to incorporate our love of Disney and our engagement in a subtle way.
Tell us all about the proposal! We both love Disney World, and our dating anniversary was January 1st. On New Year’s Eve, we decided to go to the Magic Kingdom together to celebrate seven years of dating. We spent the day there together and found a great spot to watch the fireworks starting at midnight, the start of our seven year celebration! We were right in front of Cinderella’s castle, and after the countdown to the New Year, as the fireworks were just beginning, Ben got down on one knee and whipped a ring out of his pocket and proposed! I was shocked and so unbelievably happy!
When did y’all get married? January 17, 2015
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 140
Did you decide to do a first look? Why or why not? We decided to not do one. Ben’s father (also his best man) has always told him: “One of the greatest feelings you’ll ever have in your entire life is when your bride walks down the aisle towards you for the first time; you feel like your chest is going to explode” We definitely wanted to share that moment of seeing each other for the first time that day as I walked down the aisle in the church and I’m so happy we did it that way. It was so incredible and Ben says he will remember that feeling for the rest of his life.
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: Our favorite detail was our custom logo designed by Studio R. It was our initials intertwined inside of a hand-drawn floral wreath. I loved it so much that we used it on our invitations, envelopes, cocktail napkins, corn hole boards, thank you cards, and most excitingly for me: our ice sculpture. I love ice sculptures, and knew I wanted one at our wedding. Our wedding planner suggested carving our custom logo on it. We placed shrimp and oysters on it, making it a raw bar set up in front of the huge bay windows. As the sun set, it illuminated and shone through the sculpture. It was beautiful and a custom touch I will always remember and cherish. It was also one of the first things our guests saw when they walked into the space for cocktail hour, and I believe it set the tone for the rest of the event.
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! Yes! Borrowed: I had two! I first asked the florist to wrap my bouquet in my mom’s white rosary that she got in Italy. Secondly, I borrowed my mom’s gorgeous pearl earrings with diamond jackets. They are classic and elegant, just like my mom. I felt so special wearing them. Blue: Betty, the wonderful seamstress at Joan Pillow Bridal Salon, surprised me at our last fitting by embroidering the inside of my dress right over my heart with a blue GJ (my new initials), and our wedding date. After spending months designing my custom bolero with her, we became really close and it was very meaningful for me that she did that. Old: I also had the florist wrap my bouquet in a strip of lace from my mother’s dress. I loved having a piece of her dress as a part of my outfit as I walked down the aisle, and along with her rosary, I cherished holding onto it.
How did you plan for your marriage while planning your wedding? It was a lot of fun to work with Haley and the ladies of A Charleston Bride to plan our beautiful wedding, but for the year we were engaged, Ben and I were most focused and excited about preparing for our marriage and life together. After being together for over seven years at that point, we were so ready to commit to spending the rest of our lives together in front of God and our family and friends. We met with my local priest for premarital counseling and attended a weekend getaway with engaged couples where there were speakers on issues ranging from financial planning to spiritual development.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? There were so many images I had seen on Pinterest and in magazines that I loved, but they were all very different from each other! It was hard for me to focus on what, exactly, I wanted our wedding to look like. It was overwhelming!! After my first meeting with Haley, all of my issues were totally gone, as she instantly was able to look into my head and know exactly what I wanted, but couldn’t articulate. She was able to read my taste completely, and helped me more than I can say with creating a vision. She is incredible.
What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? My most memorable moment was when the church doors opened for the first time, I stood with my dad, and looked out and saw the man I love more than anything in the world who was about to become my husband.
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? My advice would be to stress out as little as possible about it. At the end of the day, the most important thing is your marriage; the rest of it is just beautiful extras. However beautiful you believe your wedding will be, I promise it will be even more incredible than you imagined. Relax, soak it in, and enjoy it. It will be gorgeous and perfect no matter what little things go wrong.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? Ben and I recently brought a new member into our family, our puppy English Bulldog named Brutus! We plan to continue settling into our first home together, tackling very very small home improvement projects as neither of us are handy, and enjoying this time together.
Photographer: Virgil Bunao Photography | Videographer: Jim Jorden Productions | Planner:
Haley with A Charleston Bride | Ceremony Venue: Holy Spirit Catholic Church | Reception Venue and Caterer: The River Course Clubhouse at the Kiawah Island Club | Florist: A Charleston Bride | Wedding Cake: Ashley Bakery | Band: The Maxx from East Coast Entertainment | Paper Products: Studio R |
Bride’s Gown and Veil: Carolina Herrera “Alice” | Bridal Salon and Custom Bolero: Joan Pillow | Hair Stylist: Victora Melton | Makeup Artist: Moore Makeup | Bride’s Shoes: Kate Spade | Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Tadashi Shoji from purchased at Nordstrom | Groom’s Attire: Charleston Tuxedo
A Charleston Bride, Virgil Bunao, East Coast Entertainment, and Studio R are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!