An Elegant Italian Courtyard Wedding at the Bride's Family Home
Though Kimbrell Hughes and Bruce Blackwood began their relationship as friends when they met as freshmen at Southern Methodist University in 2009, they quickly became a couple. "Our love has had a magnetic pull over us since we met—no matter where in the world we were or what we were doing, we both knew deep in our hearts that we had already found our pairing soul," says Kimbrell. "Over the next 10 years, life kept taking us different directions, but we found our way back to each other." A decade after they met, Bruce surprised Kimbrell with a proposal at her parents' home in Greenville, South Carolina, followed by a party with their siblings, parents, and nieces. "We had a big lunch at our house together and looked through old wedding albums from both of our families and talked about how we could plan our own wedding in this very spot."
That's exactly what they did, opting to host their 320-person wedding reception on October 19, 2019, at Kimbrell's parents' home after a ceremony at a nearby church. "My family lived in Florence, Italy, for two years when I was growing up, and the beauty and love for Italy has remained with us ever since," says Kimbrell. "When we moved back, my father's fascination with the architecture of the country inspired him to build a home emulating its beauty. It's so unique and special to us, and we felt lucky to have such an exceptional place to celebrate our marriage."
The couple chose a formal Italian courtyard theme with a color palette of cream, white, and shades of green, and worked with Tara Guérard Soiree for event planning and floral design. "We envisioned guests entering the backyard through a triumphant arch, surrounded by greenery and flowers; the sounds of an orchestra; everything lit by candles; and string lights guiding your way from cocktail hour to seated dinner to dancing to an after-party; finally wrapping with fireworks and sparklers and happy memories," says Kimbrell. "I was worried an eight or nine month engagement wouldn't be sufficient time to plan, but Tara assured me she's made magic with far less time, and she could not have been more right. I couldn't imagine waiting any longer to be married!"
Offering an Olive Branch
A custom paper set from Lettered Olive set the tone for the wedding's theme with a pairing of script and block text, Italian handmade papers, a metallic crest, and an olive sprig attached with a gold wax seal. "The invitation suite was filled with all things native Italian, like olive branches, marbleized paper, and gilded details," says Kimbrell. The couple's unique crest included nods to their favorite locations, elements pulled from Bruce's family crest, and a cross shape to represent their shared faith. "The crest was extremely special to us," says Kimbrell, "and customized to a tee."
Field of Flowers
Kimbrell found her Mira Zwillinger A-line silk tulle wedding dress with hand-appliquéd flowers on a shopping trip with her parents and sister in New York. "My dad was basically working from his phone on a sofa lounge in the store the whole time, but when he looked up at the dress that I ended up choosing and gave his teary-eyed approval, I knew I had found the one," she says. "I knew Bruce would love how I looked in it as much as I loved how I felt in it." Bruce's sister gave Kimbrell a brooch that belonged to the groom's late mother, which the bride had sewn into her gown.
The bride asked her two sisters and two of her closest friends to stand up with her as her bridesmaids in satin v-neck dresses from Alfred Sung. "They were so beautiful," says Kimbrell. "My matron of honor was six months pregnant and still looked incredible in it!" She invited eight other friends—who wore navy Amsale dresses—to join the festivities as "Ladies in Waiting." Says Kimbrell, "They were basically bridesmaids and participated in the bachelorette party, rehearsal dinner, and getting ready—except that we couldn't all fit together standing at the altar of the church."
Flower girls donned white lace dresses and miniature flower crowns, and they scattered rose petals from woven baskets during the ceremony. The bride's hand-tied white, cream, and blush bouquet included roses, dahlias, thistle, and lamb's ear—all wrapped with a vintage ribbon.
Simple and Chic
Going to the Chapel
Kimbrell and Bruce chose Christ Church Episcopal in Greenville for their ceremony—both for its stunning interior and its connection to Bruce's family history. "Bruce's mother and father have both passed, but they were married in the Episcopal Church and his whole family has been buried at the Episcopal Church," says Kimbrell. "Not only was getting married in a church important to both of us and our relationship, but being married at Christ Church was a special way of including his parents and grandparents in our wedding. We certainly felt their love and presence with us on that special evening."
Put a Ring on It
The couple chose not to see each other before the wedding, saving their first look for the ceremony. "The feeling that overwhelms you when you're saying your vows to the love of your life is unlike anything I've ever experienced," says Kimbrell. "I wish I could put such a special moment into words."
Under My Umbrella
After the ceremony, the couple posed for portraits at Kimbrell's childhood home. "Remember the reason you're celebrating!" says Kimbrell. "You've found the love of your life and celebrating the start of the best adventure you'll ever have. That is reason enough to forget all the worries!"
Inside the cocktail area, a large table covered in green velvet—with a custom linen table runner showing off the couple's monogram—held a massive floral arrangement surrounded by smaller plants. "It was filled with small, individual terra-cotta pots full of fresh herbs and copper plates hand calligraphed with guests names and table numbers," says Kimbrell. "It was an herb garden escort card table!"
At the cocktail hour, guests drank the couple's favorite cocktail—tequila with cucumber, ginger, lime juice, sugar syrup, and club soda—while servers passed lobster rolls, port wine-poached pears, and mini shrimp tacos. An outdoor bar included the couple's crest printed on custom panels, while the inside bar honored Kimbrell's father. "The décor for the bar inside was a surprise for my dad," she says. "A 27-foot bar with a printed replica of 'The Allegory of Good and Bad Government' by Ambrogio Lorenzetti—his favorite Italian fresco painting."
Surrounded by Love
The newlyweds wrapped the cocktail hour in style. "We made our entrance into the reception with a parade of brass instruments and walked through the cocktail party like a second line in New Orleans," says Kimbrell. "I thought this was a cute idea, but the memory of walking through that party with the music playing and everyone cheering us on will be seared into my mind forever. It was magical! It felt like the dream at the very end of Titanic, when she's walking through the crowd and everyone is applauding joyously. The scene was so grand and heartwarming all at once and that's exactly how it felt—it was surreal!"
Rain forced the couple's seated dinner from the outdoor courtyard into a clear tent, where large potted olive trees created a garden atmosphere. Gold light fixtures, string lights, and candles created a warm glow, while a 16-piece orchestra from Charleston Virtuosi subtly put guests in the mood for a party. "Their rendition of 'Toxic' by Britney Spears had everyone ready to wrap up dinner and get to the dance floor!" says Kimbrell.
Fresh and Fancy
Centerpieces included white-and-cream-colored flowers in low terra-cotta pots, mini containers of vibrant green herbs, bowls of bright lemons, and a variety of taper and votive candles.
On a Roll
Silver flatware and textured chargers were an understated backdrop for one of Kimbrell's favorite details: "Each charger [had] a letterpress menu tucked into a green linen napkin's folds, and an individual loaf of Italian bread wrapped in rosemary and vellum paper with each guest's name on it. It was so creative and so beautiful and so us—Bruce's bread and pasta obsession cannot be understated. It was amazing."
The custom bar motifs continued during the reception—the tent's station was paneled in a green-and-white scene of Italy (a nod to both the event's theme and color palette).
So in Love
Kimbrell and Bruce shared their first dance to "Can't Help Falling in Love." "There's not a big story, but it's romantic," says Kimbrell. "We also had a strict 'no slow songs' rule with our band, so this was the moment we chose to slow it down and enjoy each other before breaking it down the rest of the night."
After Kimbrell shared a dance with her father, Bruce joined his sister on the floor for "Dancing in the Moonlight." "Their dance moves were a total hit!" says Kimbrell. "It was fun for me to watch him show off his southern shag dance moves."
A large buttercream wedding cake topped with fresh berries sat on a large table covered in custom white velvet linen. "It was perfectly Italian, but in a dressed-up way," says Kimbrell.
During the reception, Kimbrell changed into a Mira Zwillinger sequined jumpsuit with a jewel neck and fitted bodice. An "ultra plush lounge" in the home's garage included wall-to-wall white carpet, green velvet curtains, a bar serving Italian specialties like bellinis, grappa, and lemoncello, music from East Coast Entertainment, and a gelato cart.
It's Glow Time
The newlyweds embraced under a firework display over the lawn. As for the bride's biggest takeaway from her big day? "Getting to imagine something so unique and special to both of us, watching that come to life while also celebrating the love between us, with the people who love us—it's something we will both cherish forever."
Photography, Corbin Gurkin
Ceremony Venie, Christ Church Episcopal
Event Planning and Floral Design, Tara Guérard Soiree
Catering, Cru Catering
Videography, Siegel Films
Stationery, Lettered Olive
Music, Charleston Virtuosi (ceremony, cocktail hour, dinner); East Coast Entertainment (reception)
Bride's Gown, Mira Zwillinger
Bride's Accessories, Mira Zwillinger veil; Christian Louboutin shoes
Hair and Makeup, Shantel Lowe
Bridesmaids' Dresses, Alfred Sung; Amsale
Groom's suit, Suit Supply
Groom's accessories, Crockett and Jones shoes; Benson and Clegg cuff links
Transportation, Eastside Transportation
Bar Service, Spike by Snyder
Photo Booth, Illuminate by Theo Milo