I served as matron of honor in my sister-in-law’s wedding this weekend, and seeing Brianna and Neal’s sweet day brings me right back to Saturday. There is nothing quite like the community and love at a Southern wedding, and it’s evident in these lovely photos by Virgil Bunao that Brianna and Neal experienced that same glorious love on their big day that I witnessed this weekend! While we were not quite as lucky in the weather department, Brianna and Neal were able to celebrate under the stars sans tent, and feel completely at home while watching the sunset over the Wando River at RiverOaks. Along with the bagpiper procession (be sure to read about that below!), I bet this was a wedding guests won’t ever forget!
Tell us about finding your wedding dress. I searched through countless blogs and Pinterest posts looking for inspiration for a dress and found the “Madame Butterfly” dress by Claire Pettibone. I instantly knew it was my dress, but after doing some research, I found out that the dress was discontinued. After an unsuccessful attempt to shop for a more practical dress option at one of the local bridal stores with my stepmother, I just couldn’t see myself in any other dress but the Claire Pettibone I loved. Luckily, I found a bridal shop in London that had a sample, and we purchased it. Everyone was so nervous, but I just knew it was the one!
Describe your wedding flowers. We used ivy, maidenhair fern, white and pink English roses from the RiverOaks rose garden, light pink astilbe, black and white anemones, and coral and white peonies. The stems of my bouquet were wrapped in ribbon fastened with pins that signified my father’s rank in the Marine Corps during the year I was born. Having my father explain this to me instantly brought me to tears–the pins served as a symbol of how close we have become as a family over the years while overcoming challenges military families face.
My favorite detail was the bagpiper and the memory that created. While staying downtown with my family, I saw a wedding procession walk through the streets of Charleston from the church to the reception, led by a bagpiper. Remembering how excited I had been about that as a child, my parents surprised me with a bagpiper. The RiverOaks team coordinated the bagpiper to lead our wedding guests down the path that led to the ceremony seating area while I watched from an upstairs window. I don’t think there was a dry eye in that bridal suite!
For the most part, our vows were traditional, but we added a hand fasting ceremony and a ring blessing. The rings were fastened around ribbon and rope, and passed to our family and friends at the ceremony so that each person could impart their well wishes on our marriage. I still look at my ring from time to time and think of all our loved ones who held our rings and gave us their blessings at the ceremony.
What made you choose your ceremony and reception venues? Did they have any special significance to you? My dad is from Charleston, and we often visited the city to see extended family. When I was younger, we sometimes stayed in a condo on Church Street across from two churches. Almost every time we visited, we witnessed a wedding or two held at one of those churches, so I had always dreamed of having a wedding in Charleston. Wedding venues downtown are beautiful, but felt a little too formal for us. I wanted a more laid back, intimate feeling, like an outdoor oyster roast with close family and friends, and RiverOaks provided that feeling. The Spanish moss hanging from live oaks above us and a view of the sunset on the Wando River made us feel incredibly blessed and at home.
What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? Our food was hearty and Southern! Harvest Catering uses all local, seasonal ingredients and created an amazing, fresh menu for us, even though our choices were on the heavy side. We stuck with Charleston staples like shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, and pimento cheese fritters with pepper jelly. We also had oysters Rockefeller, a dish Neal and I can’t ever resist ordering at a restaurant when it’s on the menu!
After our initial (four hour!) meeting with Marianne and the ladies at RiverOaks, we felt at ease and trusted their process. They showed us some of Virgil Bunao’s work from a wedding he photographed at RiverOaks, and I fell in love with it. We were so happy and grateful that he was available for our wedding day. The RiverOaks crew handled every stressful situation with grace, and added in some very meaningful surprises to the event. Since we didn’t have an engagement photo session (looking back now, I wish we had), I was nervous about being in front of the camera! Virgil did a great job of removing any nervous energy by cracking jokes and making us laugh throughout the day.
How did y’all meet? Tell us your love story. Neal and I met through mutual friends when I was in nursing school. My friend was dating one of his good friends, and they acted as matchmakers for us. After a few get-togethers with those mutual friends, Neal and I started dating.
Tell us all about the proposal! We went to visit some of my family in Charleston for a weekend in May. After a seven-hour drive from Virginia, I wanted to get dinner downtown with my brother and the rest of the family as soon as we arrived. Neal suggested we start heading toward the restaurant, so I texted everyone to invite them out, but everyone declined. Everyone knew Neal’s plan except me, and I remember being upset that no one wanted to join us! Neal and I had such a great time having dinner at a fun place off East Bay Street that I forgot about being upset. We walked across the street to Waterfront Park and stopped in front of the pineapple fountain. I was telling Neal about how I used to wade in the water when I was a little girl, and then I turned around to see him on one knee! It was great to be able to celebrate with family that weekend!
When did y’all get married? April 26, 2014
How many friends, family members, and loved ones attended your wedding? 90
Did you decide to do a “first look”? Why or why not? We decided to do a first look to help calm our nerves that day. I didn’t want to be an emotional, crying mess the moment I saw him. The moment we first saw each other at the ceremony was just as meaningful as I had imagined, minus tears and mascara running down my face!
Did you have something borrowed, blue, old, and new? If so, do tell! My something old/borrowed was Marianne Caldwell’s beautiful veil that she wore on her own wedding day. My something blue was the sapphires (Neal’s birthstone) in my engagement ring. My something new was my gold Jack Rogers wedges.
What was one way you saved money or cut costs at your wedding? The RiverOaks crew did a great job shifting certain costs around to get the most bang for our buck. The arrangements on the tables saved on floral costs by having more ivy and greenery than flowers. They were absolutely stunning, and one of my favorite parts of the decor. Thanks to prayers from the RiverOaks staff and family, we were blessed with beautiful weather. That led to us saving money on having to rent a tent! We hired a DJ instead of our original wish to have a band play our reception music–we thought a band would encourage our guests to dance and have a good time, but our DJ had the same effect. Everyone had a great time dancing!
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you most looking forward to about married life? We moved into our new house, and we’re working on making it a home with our dog, Hobie. Having my best friend by my side for whatever happens in our future is a great feeling!
Photographer: Virgil Bunao / Planning, Venue, and Lighting: RiverOaks Charleston / Florist: Deborah Gibson Design / Cake Baker: Charleston Cakes Etc. / Catering: Harvest Catering / Rentals: Polished!, EventWorks, Sperry Tents / Ceremony Musician: Lee Barbour of Charleston Virtuosi / Bagpiper: Cathleen Nixon / DJ: Crescendo Entertainment / Paper Products: The Business Press / Calligraphy and Invitation Design: Lydia Robins Hendrix / Bride’s Gown: “Madame Butterfly” by Claire Pettibone / Hair Stylist and Makeup Artist: Kelli Hoff of Elysium Salon / Bride’s Shoes: Jack Rogers / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: J. Crew / Bridesmaid Jewelry: Kate Spade / Menswear: Jos. A. Bank / Bar Service: Squeeze On Site / Custom Monogram: Allison R. Banks Designs
RiverOaks is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!