In the many facets of wedding planning, there are bound to be things that just simply were not planned on. And as this lovely bride learned, sometimes a family member’s health dwindles the week before your affair. But with the bride’s new mantra to “embrace the chaos,” this family held each other closer than ever. With a dad’s speedy recovery and his speech that left not a dry eye in the house, Virgil Bunao was there to capture every second of these two souls who promised to have and to hold not only each other, but their new families as well. To see more of this beautiful unity, jump over to the gallery.

From the Bride… Mike and I have very special ties to Charleston, and our entire love story is about getting back to our roots. We met in the South, at the University of Virginia in 1999, and it took over a decade to rekindle. While I was getting my Master’s in Switzerland and he was working in Chicago, we connected on Facebook (thank you, proprietary algorithm), and over the course of 7 months wrote 1,000 pages of emails (yes, we printed them) under the guise of our “international book club”, punctuated with Mike’s fantastical digital collages.

Our first official date (which happened to be the same day as our 10-year UVa class reunion) was in Switzerland, our second was in Panama, and yet Charleston is still the most romantic and significant place in the world to us. Charleston is my birthplace and the place my parents met, fell in love, and had their first home. Mike, a modern Renaissance man, is a Civil War buff, and his grandmother resides in Mount Pleasant. With family and friends traveling from around the world (South Africa, Switzerland, India, Panama, and Pakistan), Charleston was truly the perfect place for guests to explore, and noone left without having fallen in love or reaffirming their love for this tiny jewel of a city. We thus tried to capture the multiple dimensions of Charleston’s gravitational force: history, tradition, gastronomy and nature. Our rehearsal dinner at the Creek Club at I’on had an open atmosphere and sultry sunset over the backwater. Our wedding at the tiny French Huguenot Church was sacred, traditional and intimate. And our formal reception at the William Aiken House was unforgettably beautiful, with courtyard libations, a seated dinner, and dancing outdoors.

No detail of the experience was arbitrary. The uniquely Charlestonian feel infused every touch and gesture, from the Charleston Tea Plantation sachets in the welcome bags to the details of my bouquet – verbena from Faulkner The Unvanquished, with a scent “stronger than courage” and a cameo that my father had custom-made for my mother – to classic letterpress invitations with open-form reply cards that allowed guests to share their unique well-wishes. Mike drew the original Charleston map by hand, which was then letterpressed. His artistry extended to designing distinct versions of our stamps to match the William Aiken House and Facebook styles. Other flourishes, such as his cotton boule boutonniere, the motif of the live oak with Spanish moss, and the monogrammed seersucker clutches given as bridesmaid gifts were also inspired by the South. To weave in our storyline, Mike and I also scrutinized dusty shelves of the many used book stores in Chicago for rare and first edition classic books by Southern authors, and these became the table centerpieces.

With such meticulous planning and Charleston’s very best partners, my mantra before the wedding was to “embrace chaos”. This mindset was very important, because just 4 days before my wedding, my father had a brain tumor removed. One short week before, he had marked problems with memories and words, which flooded back to him in the days preceding the wedding. This was very emotional to behold and intensified the already profound nature of the wedding. Through a series of miracles – all made possible by love and compassion – my father made the journey to Charleston, walked me down the aisle, gave me away, and made an incredibly eloquent toast that touched each listener to the core and truly made our wedding a celebration of life.

We were so fortunate to that the talented Virgil Bunao immemorialized these special days. Having seen Virgil’s work in many print publications and blogs, I did not expect him to be available or within reach. Imagine my surprise when he called back and really got to know my story over the phone. Mike and I were instantly in agreement when we saw Virgil’s portfolio and could not have been more comfortable with a photographer. Virgil was able to seamlessly transition from giving art direction when needed and organically capturing the mise-en-scène. We are so glad we trusted him to tell our story through photographs.

Wedding Photography: Virgil Bunao Fine Art Weddings / Ceremony Venue: French Huguenot Church in Charleston, South Carolina / Reception Venue: The William Aiken House in Charleston, South Carolina / Wedding Planning: Rory Metz of Jubilations / Floral Design + Decor: Ooh! Events / Wedding Catering + Cake: Fish Restaurant / Wedding Invitations: Jen Pramenko of With Grace / Rehearsal Dinner: The Creek Club at Ion / Rehearsal Dinner Catering: Jacob’s Ladder / Band: The Coppertones / Transportation: Trolleys via Absolutely Charleston / Wedding Dress: Romona Keveza via Hannelore’s of Olde Town / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Ralph Lauren / Bridesmaids’ Gifts: Southern Beaus / Hair: Charlotte Belk of Elysium Salon / Makeup: Margaret Gierhart

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