Virgil Bunao Photography has a way with the lens that totally makes your heart flutter. Perfect example? This crazy beautiful southern wedding in Charleston that’s all sorts of incredible. From the indoor church ceremony to the intimate reception, we’ve got it all waiting for you (including the Bride’s gorgeous Heidi Elnora gown and the bridesmaids’ blush beauties by Joanna August) in The Vault!
From the Bride…Most girls dream of their wedding their whole lives. While I did have my fair share of wedding dress daydreams and church bell fantasies, I more frequently dreamt of my husband – what he would be like, what qualities he would embody, and what we would accomplish together. It was no surprise to me that I knew I was going to marry Taylor the first time I met him. He profoundly embodied every quality and more that I had dreamt of all those years. It was truly love at first sight. Charleston was a mainstay throughout our relationship, as we frequently vacationed there while dating. We moved to Atlanta after Taylor graduated from Law school and me from graduate school at University of Tennessee. Shortly after, we got engaged on the Battery. Since Charleston had played such an important role in our courtship, it was a very natural decision for us to marry there.
In the early stages of wedding planning we decided that we wanted our wedding to embody our deep love and commitment for each other, honor our families and unique history with personal touches, and represent our classic and southern styles. We found the perfect ceremony venue at the French Huguenot Church. It was beautiful, classic, had a storied history, was uniquely Charleston, and ultimately was representative our old-world love story. The William Aiken house was the ideal reception venue as we wanted a reception with both indoor and outdoor elements while remaining intimate and romantic. In choosing Charleston and these particular venues, we found exactly what we were searching for – the ideal blend of tradition with progress, beauty with simplicity, and elegance with calm.
The color palette was made up of soft blushes and peach with accents of metallic gold and emerald green. Gina Langford painted an unbelievably gorgeous custom wedding crest for us which served as both our wedding palate color inspiration and floral inspiration. The wedding crest included Juliet garden roses, magnolias, peaches (a nod to our “together-home state” of Georgia), confederate jasmine and honeybees to pay homage to my childhood growing up on a farm with honeybees. The crest foremost set a theme: Whimsical, romantic, us. My stationer carried elements from the crest through all of our paper goods from invitations to signage, favor tags, and our ceremony program. The floral arrangements inspired by our crest included peach garden roses, blush peonies, jasmine, emerald magnolia leaves, and real Georgia peaches that Taylor and I brought to Charleston from Atlanta. The bridesmaids wore soft pink, floor length Joanna August bridesmaids dresses and carried peach garden rose bouquets with greenery that perfectly tied the color palette together.
There were so many lovely, unique touches to our wedding that meant so much to us, and we are fortunate that our incredible wedding photographer, Virgil Bunao (whom we found via the Style Me Pretty blog), was able to capture every bit of nuanced elegance. My bouquet was wrapped with lace from my mother’s wedding gown and included a century-old family crest ring that my husband inherited and gifted to me upon our engagement, and a gold locket with my new initials from Charleston jeweler, Croghan’s Jewel Box. I surprised Taylor with a vintage watch that was part of my “something blue” as the dial was a sapphire, and custom gold bumble bee cufflinks, both as a nod to both my childhood honey farm and to our nickname “bee” for each other. At the ceremony, my high school mentor and teacher sang Jesu Joy of Mans Desiring for the Mothers processional. My grandparent’s vintage wedding cake topper adorned our incredible four-tier almond, red velvet, chocolate, and carrot wedding cake. We displayed wedding photos of each of our parents and grandparents on the fireplace mantel at the William Aiken House as a way to acknowledge the love and legacy that had guided both of us to each other. Our guests were treated to two very special custom wedding favors. Taylor and I spent the weeks before the wedding bottling mini honey jars with raw honey from my childhood farm. It was truly a labor of love. To pay tribute to a tradition my parents had incorporated in their wedding, we sent our guests home with mini red velvet wedding cakes perfectly iced with cream cheese frosting.
Taylor and I were sure to “bury the bourbon” at our reception site – a southern tradition that is said to ward off rain on your wedding day. However, in the days leading up to our wedding, Tropical Storm Bonnie began to make its way towards Charleston’s coast, and brought with it torrential downpours and strong winds. Concerns were high as we monitored the flights of incoming guests and scrambled to formulate weather plans. After some last minute rearrangements of our reception layouts, an unintended tent rental, and a lot of reassuring from our wedding planner, we were as prepared as we would ever be for the tropical storm.
Well, the rain gods must have liked the type of bourbon we buried! When I looked out the window on the morning of the wedding, I could see in the distance that the rain was breaking up and blue sky was emerging. When it was time to walk to the church for the ceremony, the sky was blue, and the sun had emerged. As I was walking with my bridesmaids, I was so unbelievably calm and happy – I will never forget it. The church bells were ringing, the bag piper was playing, the sun was shining, the air had a sweet aroma of southern jasmine, and tourists and locals alike were gathered on Church Street, taking pictures and cheering. I felt like I was in a movie. I told myself I would never forget that moment, and I have thought about it every day since May 29, 2016. I was so happy and excited to get married to the man of my dreams surrounded by all my favorite people. It was truly the best!
My favorite part of the day was the ceremony. I processed down the aisle with my father to an A Capella version of “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You”. The acoustics of the church were incredible; it was such a magical moment. During the ceremony, it felt like Taylor and I were in our own little perfect world filled with giggles and tears of joy. In fact, despite the 120 guests looking on, Taylor “snuck” a kiss in the middle of the ceremony while the officiant turned away to procure the wedding rings. It was an unrehearsed, sincere, and unforgettable moment. I felt so thankful that this man I had envisioned and prayed for all those years was now becoming my husband.
Our wedding day was truly filled with so much love. At the end of the night, as I looked around, we were surrounded by all our loved ones there to support us through this next phase of life. The lanterns in the century old magnolia tree, the twinkle lights, and the incredible live band all created an unbelievable ambiance. The whole day truly felt like a dream. There are two distinct sensory elements that will forever remind me of our magical day- the mint juleps and gardenias. The taste of our signature cocktail, “mint to be” mint julep, danced on my taste buds. Throughout the night I kept getting wafts of Taylor’s gardenia boutonniere. That scent will forever take me back to that night. After we finished dancing to our final song of the evening, we were sent off by a chorus of cheering friends and family brandishing sparklers. As Taylor and I nestled into the back of our chauffeured classic DeSoto to head to Wentworth Mansion, the clouds opened back up and the finest mist of rain began to fall from the sky.
Photography: Virgil Bunao Photography | Event Planning: A Charleston Bride | Floral Design: Palmetto Bloom | Wedding Dress: Heidi Elnora Atelier | Cake: Patrick Properties Hospitality Group | Invitations: Sweet Magnolia Paper | Ceremony Venue: French Protestant Huguenot Church | Reception Venue: Patrick Properties Hospitality Group | Bridesmaids' Dresses: Joanna August | Catering: Patrick Properties Hospitality Group | Hair + Makeup: Charleston Events Hair & Make-up | Lighting: Innovative Event Services | Band: The Charleston Wedding Band | Groom's Attire: Jos. A. Bank | Groomsmen's Attire: Jos. A. Bank | Officiant: Reverend Vance Polly | Ceremony Music: Heath Webber | Transportation: ACW Limo | Transportation: Absolutely Charleston | Bagpiper: Carolina Bagpiper | Beverage Services: Patrick Properties Hospitality Group | Bridal Veil: IHeartBride | Equipment Rental: Snyder | Equipment Rental: Ooh! Events | Equipment Rental: Nuage Designs | Getaway Car: Lowcountry Valet