The first time I visited Charleston was for Callie and Jamie’s wedding–Dave and I made a weekend of it and loved spending a little bit of time exploring the beautiful city. That trip was all too short, but thankfully, working at Southern Weddings has given me the opportunity to learn so much more about the amazing places throughout the South. Charleston is absolutely overflowing with history and tradition, and Keli and Ben drew from it all while planning their Lowndes Grove Plantation wedding. Along with the charms of Charleston, they were deeply inspired by their own home during their wedding planning. As a result, they brought furniture and decor from their house to their venue–both new pieces they had collected and refinished as a couple, and precious heirlooms that had been passed down to them. Meredith of Sweetgrass Social used all of these pieces and more to create the Southern garden dinner party reception Keli and Ben had dreamed of, and I’m sure you’ll agree, the result was magical!
Thank you so much to Olivia Griffin for sharing this very special day with us for V7!
The Haint blue porches have always been one of my favorite accents on historic Southern homes. We wanted to incorporate this feature throughout our wedding, especially because both the Unitarian Church and Lowndes Grove Plantation featured this concept on the ceilings. We continued the theme with the canopies on the structures on the oyster tabby, as well as in the table linens, stationery, and even down to my shoes.
Did you have a something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue? My something new was a bracelet Ben gave to me as a wedding gift. Rice was known as Charleston’s cash crop in the past, so he thought the rice pearls were appropriate to remind me of our wedding day in Charleston. I wore two items for my something old. One was my great-grandmother’s diamond ring that my mom also used as her wedding ring. The other was my mother-in-law’s veil from her wedding. My something borrowed was a vintage brooch I wore in my hair. I borrowed it from my sister, who also wore it in her wedding. My something blue was my shoes! They were just the right shade of blue and had an eyelet cutout design. They were the perfect touch and I can’t wait to wear them again!
The bridesmaids wore black dupioni silk dresses from LulaKate. When choosing a color, I wanted something classic that wouldn’t compete with the colors of the church. What girl doesn’t need a little black dress? I let the girls choose the styles and cuts that were best for them and let them accessorize as they pleased. The flower girls wore simple Swiss dot dresses that were adorable. I had them custom-made by Moss Rose Cottage Dress in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. I also gave each of them pearl necklaces to wear.
Our wedding was held on April 13, 2014 in Charleston, South Carolina. We wanted a destination wedding that was close enough so that our family and friends would be able to attend. Ben lived in Charleston for several years and I have always loved the old Southern charm of the town. We chose a spring wedding since the flowers would be in bloom and the weather would not be too hot. We both knew we wanted a church ceremony, and had visited the Unitarian Church of Charleston for a friend’s wedding. We were amazed by the detailed fan vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows. It had all the rich history and character we were looking for. For the reception venue, I wanted a historic site with architectural elements, and Ben wanted the scenery of the Lowcountry marsh. Lowndes Grove was the perfect combination of both! We fell in love with the house; it was elegant and grand, but felt homey, and the waterfront landscape was like a painting.
Tell us a bit about the wedding ceremony. What part was most special to you? Did you include any special readings? We chose to have a traditional ceremony. It was important to Ben to have his father involved in the ceremony, so our pastor from Ben’s home church conducted the service, and Ben’s father performed the vows and ring ceremony for us. In honor of my parents, my mother’s sister lit the unity candle and my father’s brother walked me down the aisle. Ben’s mother lit the unity candle for his family.
Our wedding was Southern because the tea was sweet, the people were sweeter, and Charleston in April is the most beautiful Southern city on God’s green earth. The smell of the salt marsh in the distance laid out a canvas for the senses and harmonized with the aroma of shrimp and grits, Palmetto pale ale, and fried green tomatoes. Sitting along the banks of the Ashley River underneath Haint blue canopies, we watched a Southern sunset that made the ancient oak trees burn with a deep orange hue. The flowers danced on the Swiss dot linens beneath crystal chandeliers, as we danced on the oyster tabby under a palmetto moon.
What was the design inspiration for your reception? I knew I was going to be a handful for Meredith of Sweetgrass Social when I showed up with my sketches, floor plans, and fabric swatches when we first met–we couldn’t have pulled our wedding off without the help of her and the Sweetgrass Social team. They were amazing! Ben and I put great thought into each element of the décor and design. We wanted each component to tell a story about us and where we came from. Since both my parents and grandparents are deceased, incorporating items that were passed down to us was a way to have them there in spirit. It also allowed us to have pieces that were sentimental and reflected us as a couple.
Outside, I wanted it to feel like there were “rooms,” even though we were outdoors. I was trying to achieve a designated area for dining for our guests with chandeliers hanging above, like you would see in a dining room. We wanted our guests to feel like they were sipping sweet tea on the verandah beneath the Haint blue ceilings of Charleston, so Technical Event Company created these amazing whitewashed structures draped with light blue fabric and finished with crystal chandeliers. By having these structures scattered among the oyster tabby, it gave the illusion of separate rooms. During the afternoon, it felt like you were sitting on a Charleston verandah overlooking the river, and after sunset, it transformed into the elegant dining room we had envisioned. We also brought pieces from our own home. For example, tucked away in a nook of the reception, we staged my writing desk and the wingback chair I use at home with custom-made stationery that Ben designed, so that guests could write us letters.
When I met with Anne Bowen at Charleston Stems, I knew I was in good hands. I envisioned a soft mixture of cream and white flowers mixed with foliage in shades of green, rich with texture. We used a lot of my own glassware and vases I had collected over the years. In addition, I wanted to incorporate my mom and grandmothers’ pedestal bowls into the centerpieces. We added mercury glass votives in shades of gold and silver to the tablescape to add some warmth. My bouquet was composed of white peonies. I found some vintage French silk ribbon in a light mint color and added some vintage lace around the center to wrap the peonies in. My grandmother’s brooch was attached to finish the look. The bridesmaids’ bouquets were a mixture of white sweet peas and garden roses, and the flower girls carried peony blooms dressed with a mint linen ribbon, monogrammed with their initials. For the boutonnieres, we wanted to give a nod to Charleston and Ben’s love of the city, so we chose sweetgrass roses accented with lily of the valley.
We used a vintage porcelain cake knife and server to cut the cake, and our own fine china for the cake plate we ate from. My sister and brother-in-law gave us a bottle of Moet Champagne as a wedding gift, which we served from Ben’s grandmother’s silver champagne bucket. We toasted with our La Maison crystal champagne flutes.
What was the most memorable or touching moment about your wedding day? The most touching moment was my father-daughter dance. My dad and I always danced to “My Girl” by the Temptations growing up. He was one of eight children, five of which are still living. When it came time for my father-daughter dance, I planned to dance our song with one of my uncles. However, during the song, my four uncles and my aunt surprised me by each taking a turn on the dance floor with me during our song. It was so special. I am truly blessed to have such a caring and loving family. The mother-son dance was also touching–Ben surprised his mom by dancing to a song he wrote and composed while living in Charleston called “Saltwater Symphony.” It is her favorite out of all the songs he has written.
How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. Ben and I met through my sister and my brother-in-law, who grew up with Ben. We were friends for a few years before we actually started dating. We started dating after we ran into each other at my sister’s wedding. Ben was living in Nashville and I was still in Florence, South Carolina, so most of our relationship involved a lot of phone calls and flights back and forth.
Tell us about the proposal! Ben and I love Asheville, North Carolina, and would meet there during our long-distance relationship. We usually take a tour of Biltmore Estate while we are there, since we both appreciate history and architecture. Knowing my love for flowers, Ben planned our trip to the Biltmore during their annual flower festival. The courtyards were filled with blooming tulips, and the grounds were rolling with bright yellow forsythia and pink cherry blossom trees. The greenhouse boasted exotic orchids and hydrangeas. It was my dream garden! I didn’t make it easy for Ben to pop the question–I was too busy snapping pictures and reciting the different types of flowers to him. We finally made it back up the hill to a quiet nook surrounded by forsythia where Ben “had to take a picture of us.” It was there where he fell to one knee and asked me to marry him. It was perfect!
Three adjectives that describe the day are: Sentimental, elegant, personal
How many guests attended your wedding? Around 150
Tell us a bit about your first dance. Our song was by an artist we both love, Ray LaMontagne, and is called “Hold You in My Arms.” The lyrics are meaningful and relate to our relationship. It’s also a song Ben plays to me, which made it very sentimental.
Were there any family traditions you included in the reception? My uncle, Larry Moore, always says the blessing at all of our family gatherings. He gladly accepted when we asked him to do so at our reception.
Tell us about a way or ways you saved money or cut costs while planning. By bringing in our own pieces, we saved on rentals. We also made the Swiss dot tablecloths and runners from curtain panels which a friend sewed for us. By doing projects like these, we not only enjoyed them for our wedding, but can continue to use them in our future. We decided on having multiple smaller cakes in lieu of one larger single cake. I also did a lot of DIY projects, like the invitation envelopes and liners.
What are you most looking forward to about marriage? We are looking forward to growing together and continuing to learn about one another. It is exciting to go through the journey of life with someone I love.
Best advice or most memorable comment someone made to you during the wedding celebration: As I was waiting alone outside the chapel with my Uncle Stoney before we walked down the aisle, he told me that he could still remember the way his wife looked coming down the aisle. He described the moment and how beautiful she looked like it was yesterday. He told me how I would always remember this very moment, and to take in every second. It was a sweet and touching moment we had together.
Photographer: Olivia Griffin Photography / Planner: Meredith Tanton of Sweetgrass Social Event and Design / Ceremony Venue: The Unitarian Church of Charleston / Reception Venue: Lowndes Grove Plantation / Florist: Anne Bowen of Charleston Stems / Caterer: Fish Restaurant / Wedding Cake: DeClare Cakes / Bride’s Gown: “Mimi” by Wtoo Brides / Bridal Salon: J Major’s Bridal Boutique / Bride’s Shoes: Ivanka Trump / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: LulaKate / Flower Girl Dresses: Moss Rose Cottage Dress / Hair Stylists: Meg Workman and Chelsea Poulas / Makeup Artist: Meg Workman / Menwear: Jos. A. Bank / Paper Goods: Minted and Just My Style Invitation and Programs / Rentals: EventWorks, EventHaus Rentals, Polished, and 428 Main Vintage Rentals / Linens: La Tavola Linen / Ceremony Musicians: Classic Charleston / Reception Band: Hot Sauce Party Band / Benne Wafer Favors: Olde Colony Bakery / Transportation: Old City Bus from Absolutely Charleston / Lighting: Technical Event Company