Willow Trees Draped Around This Couple During Their Intimate Ceremony in Downtown Charleston
Rachel and Michael can't pinpoint the exact date they met, but spent years developing their friendship. The two began to build a bond by simply confiding in one another over the simplest things—something even the bride's close friends took notice of. "I remember some of the girls I worked with saying that we were made for each other and that one day we would get married," she explains.
The couple took the step towards romance after Hurricane Sandy forced Michael and his family to relocate to Manhattan—bringing the two closer in distance and giving them the chance to connect on a deeper level in the midst of the trying event. Rachel notes that after the natural disaster, she couldn't picture life without him by her side. Michael got down on one knee shortly after on May 28, 2018, during a trip to Amsterdam. "Michael proposed to me on a quiet street along a flower-lined canal," Rachel shares. "The trip was so magical and will always hold a special place in our hearts."
To open their new chapter as husband and wife, the duo opted for a small affair with loved ones at a scenic outdoor venue. "All that I knew was that I wanted to be surrounded by trees and nature in an intimate setting for our ceremony, and that we wanted to have a lovely dinner with our guests in downtown Charleston," Rachel shares. Their vision came to life with the help of Willow & Oak Events, who orchestrated all of the details. "They put together the most intricate, beautiful, inspirational, and detailed plan," the bride adds. "Willow & Oak had everything planned and handled perfectly so we could wake up that morning and not have to worry about a thing!" The moment finally came on February 2, 2020, at Charles Towne Landing, and culminated in an unforgettable celebration for the couple and their 20 guests.
Dominique Alba blended sage, emerald, limestone, terra-cotta, and peach hues to create the couple's big-day invitation suite. "They featured a perfect balance of calligraphy and minimalist typeface, and Dominique created the most darling art card with a hand-drawn botanical sprig—the cherry on top!" says the team at Willow & Oak Events.
A Memorable Welcome
Ahead of the event, Rachel and Michael hand-wrote thank-you cards—and then wrapped them in lace and tucked them into their guests' welcome bags, which also included refreshing drinks and local treats.
Elegant Big-Day Style
Ethereal, feminine, and comfortable are the three words Rachel used to describe her Victoria Kyriakides wedding dress. "The dress I chose really was perfect for me—especially thinking back at my initial reaction when I put it on," she says. The bride selected the frock while visiting the designer's private studio in Greece, and its intricate silk, lace, and beading made it stand out from the bunch. "I loved that the top half had gorgeous detail and shape, and that the back was so different and eye-catching."
Diamond earrings from Rachel's great aunt and her maternal grandmother's gold wedding band topped off her accessories. She kept family in mind for her big-day shoes, too. To pay homage to her paternal grandma, she wore a pair of white leather mules with a gold heel; they resembled a pair she used to wear. "Another plus is that I can continue to wear these beyond the wedding day," the bride adds.
All Decked Out
Time Is Ticking
The groom also held onto a pocket watch that dates back to the early 1900s—a gift from the bride's father.
A Loving Reveal
While the couple got ready around each other, Rachel notes that Michael left the room while she got dressed so they could do a formal first look on the porch at The Inns Charleston. "I was very calm and relaxed throughout all parts of our first look. I already knew he looked very handsome and I was just excited for him to see me all done up," she says. "I never wear makeup or have my hair done fancy, so I loved his reaction of seeing me as his bride." As for Michael's reaction to the moment? "My heart leaped for joy!" he adds.
Love All Around
The bride and groom's big day came together beautifully—and there are two pieces of advice they would give other newlyweds-to-be as they plan their own nuptials. "You want to work with people that you like and that communicate well with you. Working with Willow & Oak Events to plan and style our wedding is something that completely changed everything for us in the most spectacular way," Rachel notes. She also mentions that due to her positive experience with their photographer, Kylee Yee, she recommends finding one you click with, as well: "Kylee was so awesome; she was a ray of light. Your photographer will be with you for practically the entire day, you want to feel really comfortable with them."
Here Comes the Bride
Rachel notes that having her father walk her down the aisle felt surreal. "One sees this done so many times at other people's weddings or in movies," she says. "To actually be the person in that moment was very moving. My dad was so happy and proud to be at my side."
An Intimate Exchange
The pair exchanged personal vows during the ceremony—Rachel noted that it was challenging to express all that her groom meant to her in one way. "It was difficult for me to say all the things I wanted to without writing a novel," she says. "There were a few drafts, but with the help of my best girlfriends, I think I did a nice job."
Taking the Next Step
To mark their new journey as husband and wife, both Rachel and Michael stomped on a glass. "Michael's mother is Jewish, and I always thought it would be really fun for both of us to break glass at the end of our ceremony," Rachel shares. "It also took us both two tries to break it, so that also made it really funny."
Two Became One
Rachel and Michael's big day was made complete with a special officiant. "Very early on in our engagement, I knew I wanted one of Michael's best friends to officiate our marriage," she says. "He was the most amazing officiant and we are still so honored that he presided over our nuptials."
Just Like Old Times
The couple played with the traditional wedding timeline and shared a few dances directly after the ceremony. To pay homage to one of her favorite childhood movies and books, Rachel and her father swayed to the main theme song from Jurassic Park.
Cherishing the Moment
Reflecting on their big day, the duo notes that planning as much in advance as possible will go a long way when the moment finally arrives. "As a couple, you should know what you want in terms of location, invite list size, and must-haves for the ceremony and supporting events," Michael shares. "You will learn more about what is possible, what is easy, and what is expensive as you go along in the process." Also remember to relish in every moment, the bride adds: "Try and slow down and cherish even the smallest things on your wedding day. I never knew how much every little object would mean to me until it was over."
Making Their Entrance
To echo the modern, romantic style of the reception venue, the couple and their guests were met with tray-passed Champagne, mellow music, and whimsical lounge vignettes at The Parlour at Parcel 32.
Setting the Mood
"We used sage green linens and eggshell napkins from La Tavola, complete with a romantic gauzy runner, for the family-style table down the center of the room," the team at Willow & Oak Events shares of the reception décor.
Place settings consisted of speckled earthenware and vintage gray toile plates; a miniature naked cake marked each spot.
To match the vintage ambience native to the space, the couple filled the room with rose-tinted votives, eggshell brass tea light holders, and rustic root pillar candles (they added these to piled books to create a faux fireplace).
While the couple didn't opt for a signature cocktail, every drink they served was tasty and made beautifully, Rachel notes. "It was so much fun to walk into our room with our guests and try all of the food and drinks," she says. "We made sure to time it right so that we could take some sunset portraits right before the cocktail hour."
In addition to appetizers passed throughout the cocktail hour—like grilled oysters, BLT deviled eggs, lobster salad bites, and more—the couple treated guests to a three-course menu come the reception.
Gifts for the Guests
"Rachel and Michael wrote stories about each of their guests in handmade pressed flower booklets, tied with gossamer silk ribbon," the team at Willow & Oak Events notes. "It was such a personal touch that guests were surprised and delighted by as they explored the cozy dinner room during the cocktail hour."
In addition to the miniature olive oil and chocolate treats at each setting, Vanilla + The Bean baked a one-tier confection, with butter yellow patina and pressed wildflowers, for Rachel and Michael's cutting cake.
Ultimately, Rachel and Michael were thrilled to share so many meaningful moments with their guests—which is, they say, one of the benefits of couple the guest list small. "Keeping our wedding small was perfect for us," says the bride. "I think being able to spend time with every single person there is something that I will treasure forever."
Photography, Kylee Yee
Ceremony Venue, Charles Towne Landing
Reception Venue and Catering, The Parlour at Parcel 32
Event Planner and Designer, Willow & Oak Events
Florist, Out of the Garden
Invitations, Dominique Alba
Other Paper Products, Penned by Alice
Officiant, Michael Cheskis
Bride's Gown, Victoria Kyriakides
Jewelry, Davie & Chiyo
Hair and Makeup, Contours & Curls
Groom's Attire, Paul Smith, Calvin Klein
Cake, Vanilla + The Bean
Rentals, Snyder Events
Linens, La Tavola
Pre-Wedding Hotel, The Inns Charleston