Virgil Bunao can do no wrong in my book. The second I see his name alongside a wedding, I get more excited than I care to admit. And it’s because of weddings like this one. Weddings that started with the sweetest of love stories, and then topped off with a fête filled with heart all captured so beautifully I could cry. It’s image after image of pure lovely, and it’s all waiting for you right here.
From the Bride… We met on a spring day in 2008 thanks to Duncan, a dog who decided to have an adventure and escape his yard. He went to the park where he found Allie and her dog Bowman. Allie called the number on his tag, Bernard picked up his dog and later that night asked for a date. Not straying far from the theme of adventure, 2 years later Bernard proposed at the summit of Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park.
We share a love for the coast and exploring unique, obscure islands. Allie is a graduate of Clemson and since college she has always wanted an intimate southern wedding. Sapelo, a barrier island in the Emerald Isles, with it’s pristine beaches, towering oak trees, Spanish moss and 19th century R.J. Reynolds mansion was the perfect place to host our wedding. Because our families and friends were coming from all over the U.S, and Bernard’s immediate family from Belgium, we envisioned a place where we could celebrate and be together for an entire weekend. The island proved to have some logistical challenges. It is accessible by ferry only twice a day and is undeveloped with no stores or hotels, however this was a draw for us – we had the place to ourselves! Our families filled the mansion to capacity while the rest of our guests stayed in nearby Hogg Hammock – one of the last remaining Geechee communities in the U.S.
Our wedding took place on April 22nd – Earth Day.
We wanted a DIY wedding that reflected our love for the outdoors, each other and family. Together we crafted almost everything for the big day: summer evenings were spent making blueberry lemon and peach lavender jams, our fingers were stained for days after making welcome bags, hours were spent picking out our font for stationery and even more hours photo-shopping and printing! Props to the groom who even sewed all the table runners and napkins from a piece of linen fabric we liked. Allie’s mom took the role of wedding planner, complete with color-coded folders and her trusty binder. The woman knows how to antique! She tirelessly searched for the gorgeous milk glass and depression glass dishes that decked out our desert bar. Having a DIY wedding made the planning and decision making enjoyable – it was a crash course on a lifetime of compromise and communication.
We wanted the style and feel of our wedding to be simple and natural with a southern twist. The Mansion was the perfect backdrop – the grounds are gorgeous featuring a lagoon pool, old oaks draped with Spanish moss and a patio ornamented with period tiles. The design, architecture and history created the ambiance – all we had to do was add the personalized details. One of the favorites was our take on the “guest book” that Bernard painted using watercolors. We wanted to dress up the mansion’s living room since it was attached to the patio where our reception took place. Three generations of family wedding photos, topiaries and moss-covered monograms added the personal touch we were looking for.
We decided to say our vows in the morning, in front of the pool, under the moss covered oaks and couldn’t have had better luck when it came to avoiding an imminent storm. Guests were seated to an instrumental version of Ella Fitzgerald’s “Dream A Little Dream of Me”. Allie walked down the aisle to her brother singing and playing guitar to Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” for which he had modified the lyrics for the occasion. The intimate ceremony was officiated by Allie’s campus minister and long time friend, Tim Willis. The reception included fried chicken and other traditional southern sides such as green beans, squash casserole and corn bread. Bellini’s were served for the toasts in honor of Georgia’s peaches and the family’s Italian heritage. Sweet tea was sipped from mason jars. The dessert table included cookies and chocolates hand delivered from Belgium by the Bernard’s parents as well as several cakes, candies and peach cobbler. Guests spent the afternoon playing games on the lawn, hiking the nature trail or combing nearby Nanny Goat Beach for sand dollars. The celebration was capped with a birthday hoedown for the bride in the Mansion’s third floor Circus Room, lasting late into the night.
Our inspiration and goal was all about the intent of creating an intimate island escape weekend for everyone. We wanted to keep it unique to us but at the same time create something everyone could enjoy. In an attempt to stay unique and true to us we made a promise to each other that any idea we found, we would put our own spin on it. One of our favorites was the idea of a directional sign. We wanted to recognize how far everyone traveled to be with us on our wedding day so we made a post that had every state guests traveled from, including the distance in miles from Sapelo Island. We got a lot of compliments on how special it was that we made everything ourselves, and even more “thank-you’s” for such a fun, laid back weekend. That was the best gift we could have received!
Looking back on the weekend, it’s hard to choose a favorite moment. For Allie, walking down the aisle was pretty amazing. She remembers the amount of love and happiness she felt walking toward Bernard while seeing everyone who was there to support and celebrate their new life together. We really enjoyed the toasts as well – it was touching to hear how much thought and love went into the wishes that our guests had for us. Finally, our rehearsal dinner was a great time-we invited everyone who was already on the island for the wedding to the Nanny Goat Beach pavilion and had a traditional low country boil under the stars. Upon returning to the mansion we danced, bowled and played pool in the pirate-themed basement.
Wedding Photography: Virgil Bunao | Wedding Venue + Catering: R.J. Reynolds Mansion | Floral Design: Doodle Bugs Florist | Wedding Cakes: Addy B’s Cakes | Wedding Dress: Galina Signature | Brides Shoes: Kate Spade | Hair + Make-up: Eternity Salon and Day Spa | Groom’s Attire: Calvin Klein | Officiant: Tim Willis | Music: Brandon Slavinski