It won’t take you long to understand why I am completely enamored with this next wedding, set in a gorgeous, historic, South Carolina mansion, stylishly shot by Richard Israel and exquisitely planned by A Charleston Bride. A glowing bride, shimmering chandeliers cascading from trees and a crisp, classic palette all make for a stunning soiree full of Southern charm and worldly elegance. This is only an itty bitty taste of the pretty that is packed into the full gallery!
The hardest decision by far was figuring out where to get married. I grew up primarily between California and Massachusetts, went to school in Colorado and San Francisco, spent a brief year working in Italy, followed by nine years in New York City, which is where I met my husband. He grew up essentially in New Jersey, went to boarding school in Connecticut followed by college in North Carolina, a short stint working in Atlanta, and then on to New York City like me. Our parents currently reside in South Carolina and Florida and our siblings are scattered amongst Illinois, New York, and Connecticut. Our friends are literally spread all over the country, not to mention the ones overseas including my best friend and maid of honor who was living in London at the time. Did I mention that we now live in Los Angeles? There’s not exactly a clear and simple depiction of “home” as you can see. We threw out a million ideas – everything from returning to New York City, to staying in Southern California, to running away for a destination wedding in Mexico. Big or small, city or country or beach – you name it, we thought about it. It wasn’t until we began looking into some places on the island where my parents live in South Carolina that Charleston began to pop out in our minds. When none of the options on the island seemed fitting to us, we shifted our attention to the city and began looking at possibilities there. I stumbled onto the website for The William Aiken House through some random Google search of Charleston’s historical mansions and knew immediately that was where I wanted to be married. It had the historical presence, the southern charm, the elegant and formal setting. The property took up virtually an entire city block with its gardens and carriage house and high brick walls that provided for seclusion and privacy. Yet the moment the wrought iron gates were opened at the end of the night, our guests could spill out into the hustle and bustle of downtown Charleston’s busy nightlife and be in the center of it all – that we loved! It was perfect. We booked it site unseen.
After that, everything else fell into place pretty easily. We found our wedding planner, Melissa Barton at A Charleston Bride, who seemed to understand my vision completely and her confidence in that vision made me trust her right off the bat. She turned me onto a photographer named Richard Israel after I spotted a beautiful, black and white image in her office from a past wedding of hers. Being a professional model for more than ten years and working with some of the best photographers from around the world, I had a very specific idea of what I wanted in a wedding photographer. I wanted the wedding to be documented as it actually was happening… No pose-y portraits, no campy setups, no typical wedding cheese! When I found out that Richard had spent some years working in fashion photography in London and also shot traditional film (in addition to digital) I was sold. We then booked a fantastic band who specialized in Motown tunes and had the full array of brass instruments – an absolute prerequisite for my husband! We secured Jim Smeal for our wedding cake who did not disappoint with a coconut cake that’s to die for! We worked with Fish restaurant on our menu – traditional southern fare with braised short ribs as our entrée and passed hors d’oeuvres that included shrimp n’ grits, baby fried green tomatoes, cheddar cheese biscuits with ham, and oyster shooters.
It being a springtime wedding, I wanted everything to be crisp and fresh and elegant. My chosen colors were green and white, which we carried through on every last detail from the save-the-dates to the thank-you notes. With my flowers being primarily white, we mixed together all different kinds of calla lilies, tulips, roses, hydrangeas, and ranunculus, to create amazing texture in all of the arrangements. We also found green calla lilies for my maid of honor’s bouquet, which I loved. One of my absolute favorite things about The William Aiken House is the arrangement for a seated dinner. Because the old governor’s mansion is restored impeccably to it’s original state, the rooms are all fairly small – even the ballroom – therefore it requires the guests any wedding over a certain size to dine amongst different rooms. Some people might find this to be a bit of an obstacle but I thought it was magnificent. Our 180-some guests wined and dined throughout three different rooms indoors, while my husband and I joined our friends to dine alfresco on the grand, sweeping piazza. Each room was like it’s own intimate dinner party. We did most all of the speeches the night before at the rehearsal dinner, which allowed for a continuous flow and momentum throughout the evening.
All in all, it was spectacular. We even lucked out with those things you can’t control like the weather. Of course we had our minor hiccups, as all weddings do – like my father realizing that he forgot the rings in his pants pocket (back in the hotel room) moments before the ceremony and my poor brother having to run five blocks there and back in his suit to retrieve them – but that’s what makes it memorable! What is most satisfying is seeing your vision and so many months of hard work come together for one big night. When it all does, that’s when you’re able sit back and relax and enjoy what the day is really all about.
Ceremony + Reception Venue: The William Aiken House / Event Coordination, Decor and Floral Design: Melissa Barton of A Charleston Bride / Photographer: Richard Israel / Wedding Cake: Wedding Cakes by Jim Smeal / Save the Dates + Printed Materials: Studio R Design / Entertainment: Voltage Brothers, East Coast Entertainment