I’ve always had a heart for the classics. But this Charleston soiree is classic with an intimate, style-driven twist. With just 40 special guests to share in the magic, Katherine Miller Events designed a cozy Southern dinner party wedding like you’ve never, ever seen. Andrew Cebulka was on hand to document the beauty and the gallery is filled with soooo much more.

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Winter

From the Bride… Shortly after my husband and I got engaged, we were advised to “make sure you take a moment to breathe and look around on your wedding day. You will just feel all this love.” This idea of feeling love meant a lot to me, and it ultimately guided our wedding planning process when we realized that this would be the only time that all of our loved ones would be in the same place with a singular purpose: to celebrate our love. So our first planning decision was to nix any notion of a big, traditional wedding. Instead, we chose to plan an intimate day where our closest friends and family surrounded us. And that’s exactly what we got and more…

Of course, we quickly learned the guest list process can be agonizing. Our initial guest count numbered in the hundreds! But we’ve been to or participated in over twenty large weddings recently and we wanted to avoid the stress and exhaustion leading up to that kind of wedding—not to mention some of the regret afterwards, when the couple realized they hadn’t engaged their guests or had as much fun as they had hoped.

We chose to invite forty people. We let the idea of “those closest to us” guide the decision and were fortunate to have a very patient wedding planner. Our pastor also had a useful perspective on the guest list. He thought that you invite those who you would expect to show up at your funeral. Morbid, yes, but it puts everything into perspective when you’re revising the list over and over!

Our next decisions were to choose the location—Charleston, South Carolina—and wedding team. My husband and I adore the South and Charleston, in particular, because of it’s natural beauty, rich history, beautiful architecture, top-notch cuisine and wonderfully kind people. We had some help building the perfect wedding team from our aforementioned planner, Katherine Miller. She made sure that each part of our day showcased these traits. This was especially important to us, as most of our guests had never been to Charleston before!

Katherine just so happens to be a Charleston native and she quickly introduced us to the best vendors in the city. Our ceremony and reception took place at the historic Old Exchange Building, where the U.S. Constitution was ratified. The second floor is a gorgeous, intimate ballroom with pale blue walls, intricate columns and molding and two marble fireplaces. Once we learned that George Washington had hosted balls in this very room, the setting inspired our own Southern dinner party. That’s when Katherine designed two long banquet tables with black velvet linens, elegant ghost chairs, sparkling silverware, glass china and more candles than you’ve ever seen! She worked with Ooh Events, La Tavola Linen and EventWorks to arrange all these trimmings, and worked with AV Connections to bring in additional ambient lighting.

Katherine made sure that our idea of a Southern dinner party extended far beyond an elegant table. She introduced us to Cru Catering—an award-winning lowcountry catering team—and designed a menu that featured Southern favorites like pimento cheese, buttermilk fried oysters, cornmeal-encrusted grouper and praline chicken. Then, as an extra-special touch, Katherine worked with Dodeline Design to create personalized stationery for each and every guest. The calligraphy-inspired invitations, escort cards and generously sized menus prominently (and politely!) featured each guests’ name, adding deeper levels of formality and intimacy to our day.

Our invitations asked each guest to “pack their best little black dress or suit,” so that our dinner party was even more elegant. At Katherine’s request, my husband even changed out of his black “ceremony” tux jacket into a white “reception” one so that we were the only ones wearing white and stood out at our dinner. The moments that our photographer, Andrew Cebulka, captured that day take our breath away.

Having a small wedding also allowed us to add quaint, unique, memorable and fun decorations. For example, Katherine had the glass hurricanes on the tables etched with table numbers and for our sparkler send-off, the sparklers were labeled “He’s hot for her” and “She’s hot for him.”

Many of our guests told us afterward that they had never seen such a heartfelt wedding, and that our wedding exemplified what the day is really about—love. Their weddings had an average of 250 guests and the overwhelming feedback we received in the weeks and months following our celebration from women and men was that if they could do their wedding all over again they would’ve opted for a small, intimate dinner party in a spectacular destination. So in the end, forty people was perfect! We were able to talk to our friends and family all through cocktail hour and dinner, and everyone felt included in our day.

In all, my favorite moment happened during our ceremony, just before we exchanged rings. Our wedding planner had the idea of passing the rings around to our guests so that they could all bless them and send well wishes. The string duo played Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight” as this happened, and my almost-husband and I watched with tears in our eyes. It was a truly beautiful, touching moment that we will never forget—although it wasn’t quite as fun as when our friends and family showered us with black and white confetti after our first kiss as husband and wife (another of Katherine’s outstanding ideas)!

Photography: Andrew Cebulka | Event Planning: Katherine Miller Events | Stationery: Dodeline Design | Catering: Cru Catering | Lighting: AV Connections | Bridal Hair: Blushing Brides | Bridal Make-up: Pamela Lesch | Linens: La Tavola | Music: Palmetto Strings | Rentals: Out Of Hand | Rentals: Event Works | Wedding Venue: The Old Exchange Building