I’m convinced that the South Carolina Lowcountry is one of the most magical places in America. The coastal views, the Spanish moss, the sweeping plantations–everything about this part of the South makes it a true gem, and of course, an incredible wedding location. Although Frances and Joe live in Richmond, Laurel Spring plantation was the perfect place for their elegant, oh-so-Southern wedding–the plantation has been in Frances’ family for years. Beautiful and sentimental? Y’all know we love that!
Thank you kindly to Ashley Seawell for sharing Frances and Joe’s big day with us!
What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? As a child, I would pull into the gates of our Laurel Spring and remember always feeling like I was home. I remember vividly the feeling of pulling into those gates being different that day. Not only was there the calming, home feeling, but I also had a feeling of excitement for what the day held for Joe, our families, and me. That feeling continued up until I rounded the corner and finally saw him for the first time. It was a double feeling of home that was pretty incredible.
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: The fact that the whole day could be spent in one of our most favorite places with our loved ones really was enough, but personally, I also really loved how the boutonnières turned out. They were perfect for the setting and really provided the right rustic elegant feel, as they were made of cotton, rice, and quail feathers: all aspects of the Laurel Spring experience and history.
Describe your wedding flowers: We used peonies, white roses, and some greenery for the bridal bouquet and hydrangeas for the bridesmaids. Lots of greenery, flowers, vines, and cotton were used throughout the reception, with some quail feathers involved too. All simple, but very beautiful and fitting for the rustic, elegant plantation setting.
Did you decide to do a “first look”? Why or why not? We did not do a first look. It was not that we had anything against first looks, but we wanted to keep tradition of the bride and groom not seeing each other until the ceremony. The boys got dressed and waited in the sunroom while the girls got dressed and waited in one of the master bedrooms. It was fun to be with our closest friends right before and really helped maintain the sanctity of the event, rather than forgetting the biblical reasoning behind the ceremony and the representation of the bride, groom, bridesmaids, and groomsmen.
Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? We did not write our own vows, but were married using the traditional Episcopalian order of service, and were married by my uncle, an Anglican minister. Being married by my uncle was such a special addition to the day, and he really did an amazing job of keeping the holiness of the service, even though we were not in a church.
What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? We held the wedding at Laurel Spring Plantation, a home that has been in the my family for a very long time and was historically a rice plantation. We also included cotton, quail feathers, toile, and burlap for décor, a refreshment bar for when people arrived, including sweet tea made by Denita Simmons, the housekeeper and jack of all trades at Laurel Spring, a local, Lowcountry menu (shrimp, crab, duck, grits, candied bacon), and old dug-out canoes for holding the beer and water bottles. The setting included large live oaks draped in moss and a view of the old rice fields that are flooded with water–really beautiful. The ceremony was held under the live oaks with a large wooden altar adorned with a wooden cross made from wood of the Lowcountry.
Describe your wedding cake or dessert: I have quite the sweet tooth, so we had an assortment of about ten different delicious cakes and cupcakes in the following flavors: banana pudding, sour cream pound cake, key lime, red velvet, carrot, coconut, lemon blueberry, strawberry, caramel, and chocolate. We also had a birthday cake because our wedding was on my mother’s birthday. In addition, we had a candy bar and some late night passed sweets (ice cream in waffle bowls and cinnamon sugar pretzel bites).
How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. Joe had just graduated from Hampden Sydney College and I had just finished my junior year at Wofford College. We both headed out West to work on a guest ranch, A Bar A, for the summer. We met soon after arriving and began hanging out with each other, riding horses together, fishing, and just enjoying what Wyoming has to offer. When the fall came close, we decided to continue dating, but to see where life took us. He was considering living out West, and even thought about moving to Australia (thankfully, that did not happen!). I knew I would be at school. Five years later, after going back and forth from Charleston, SC, Spartanburg, SC, and Richmond, VA, we settled on Richmond.
Describe the proposal. In November 2012, Joe had been sitting on the ring for several weeks, though I did not even know he was thinking about proposing! Joe had been hunting all day, but since he thankfully did not kill a deer that day, he came home in time for dinner. He told me to pick a place to eat, so I chose a quaint little sushi restaurant we like, which is casual, but always delicious. We enjoyed a nice supper and went to go to a local wine and beer shoppe afterwards to listen to live music and enjoy some drinks. After staying there for a while, we went to my house so Joe could pick up our dog, Platte. While we were there, Joe pulled Platte into the room with us and started talking about things that were pretty deep for a Saturday night. Well, one thing led to another, and before I knew it, he was down on one knee asking me to marry him. I was so excited that I forgot to say yes! When I finally looked at the ring, I realized it was very similar to my mother’s (which I loved, because I had mentioned long ago in passing how much I loved her ring). We then proceeded to call our families, who were very surprised and excited to hear the good news. Two neat things about this though: Joe had actually asked my dad if he had his blessing way back in August while we were vacationing with them at Pawleys Island, but my dad had not said anything to anyone else, so it was a surprise to my mom and family. Also, our first date was at a sushi restaurant, so it was pretty amazing that we ended up at a sushi place for the night of our engagement.
In what month did you get married? June 8, 2013
Tell us about finding your wedding dress: I have never been the girl to dream about my perfect wedding dress, or even wedding, for that matter. I just figured that when the time came, I would know what I wanted and it would be great. Well, that’s pretty much exactly what happened. My mom had come up to Richmond during my grad school Christmas break and we went to a dress shop in Richmond. At the first shop we went to, I tried on maybe six dresses. One I loved for the top portion and another I loved for the bottom portion and the lace. Fariba, the seamstress, said she could easily add the sweetheart neckline and two straps to the second dress, so we decided to go with that! It worked out perfectly for me to have the features of the first dress translated onto the second dress. It was the most comfortable thing ever, too!
What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? Joe’s cousin read Genesis 2:18-24 and my good friend from college read 1 John 4:7-16. Both were meaningful and powerful verses that we thought applied well to the wedding ceremony.
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding. We had a friend’s bluegrass band play for the ceremony and for a cocktail hour following the wedding. During the ceremony, the band played a beautiful assortment of bluegrass music and hymnals.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding? The distance between Richmond (where we were both living) and South Carolina, where my family, Laurel Spring, and so many of our amazing vendors were, was really hard. It made things a little difficult to manage, being so scattered all over the place, but having Jimmilib and my mother as the ladies in charge really made it so much better! I really wish there had been a way to do more planning in person, but thankfully the internet and phone calls made things easier!
What is the one thing you are most happy you splurged on? We made sure that we hired a band that really delivered–and they did! I do not think anyone left the reception not smiling from the performance that the band put on! Also, I really loved the gifts that I gave to my bridesmaids. They were handmade earrings or necklaces by one of the bridesmaids, Gabe Bratton for Gabrielle Jewelry. They were beautiful and delicate, and had the perfect amount of femininity for an outdoor wedding. I also had an artist friend, Claire Wall, create a print of a hydrangea to be given to all of the hosts/hostesses of parties, bridesmaids, readers, greeters, and helpers, as a symbol of our appreciation for their help and service. They turned out beautifully!
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Enjoy each minute that you are in and don’t rush the process. The engagement, the wedding, and the honeymoon will seem like a blur in hindsight if you do not take the time to enjoy right where you are. Also, a word for the girls, as this was advice given to me by a very dear friend: make sure that everything that you talk about as a couple during the months of your engagement is not just the wedding. Remember that you have dated this person before there was talk of a wedding and it is possible (though it may not feel like it at times) to have conversations that don’t include anything about the wedding. I know from my experience that Joe did not want to talk about napkins, flowers, and serving pieces every night, so we made sure to pay attention to limiting the wedding conversation.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you looking forward to in the future? We are currently living in Richmond, VA and are enjoying getting settled into our new home. I am in graduate school and Joe is working with BB&T Scott & Stringfellow as a financial advisor. While life seems to be a little hectic right now, we are trying to make sure we make time for each other, our precious lab Platte, and being with our family and friends. Life is good!