French Blues and Cuban Influences Made This Church Wedding and Reception at Home Stand Out
Although they had never met him before a chance meeting at a Charleston bar, Sofia's friends were instrumental in getting her together with Charlton. "My girlfriends from Southern Methodist University had come to visit for the weekend," says Sofia, who left work late on a Friday. "We walked into a new bar on King Street while Charlton and a friend were walking out. He stopped us and asked my friend Georgia if he could buy us drinks. The girls gladly accepted the frozen palomas, introduced me as their recently single friend, and fled to the other side of the bar. We laughed about the fact we were clearly ditched and spoke until the lights came on. Before leaving he asked for my number. He texted me Sunday before the girls left, and asked to get drinks on Tuesday. They stole my phone, coordinated the date, and picked out my outfit before leaving for the airport."
Despite the fact that they were both Charleston residents, Sofia and Charlton's wedding was destined to be held in Miami, Florida, where the bride grew up. "I was raised in a big Cuban Catholic family," shares Sofia, who knew the ceremony and reception venues were non-negotiable. "My sister and I went to Epiphany Catholic Church for elementary school along with my mother and all our cousins. It is the church we were baptized in, attended weekly mass at, and where my sister was married five years prior—a cornerstone of our lives." And her parents' backyard was her only choice for the reception. "They live surrounded by all of our family members on a bit of a compound," she explains. "Both sets of my grandparents fled Cuba in the 1960s. Shortly after arriving, my paternal grandmother's family bought 10 acres or so of land in what was then a very rural area. They each built homes anchored around a shared communal space—there are no gates separating any of the properties or homes. I knew that was exactly where I wanted to [celebrate my marriage to] Charlton. My parents, sister, and several of my aunts, uncles, and cousins were also married in 'The Acres' or 'Los Acres.'"
Although Sofia and her mother had long dreamed of her wedding day, it was Sofia's sister Cristy—who happens to be an event planner and owner of MCL Coordination—who was the creative mastermind behind the event. "We wanted the party to feel like a natural extension of our home," says Sofia. "Like having friends over for dinner al fresco, but for 500 people. My sister pushed us to maximize the space and use as much of the property as possible." They aimed to move the event through different spaces as the night went on to keep things exciting and dynamic. "What started off as a sun-filled cocktail hour in the garden became dinner and dancing under a peaked tent, which eventually transitioned into a late-night pool after-party under the stars," says the bride. "Events by Elle guided us through the whole process! She and her team had their work cut out for them. They brought together our nontraditional vision and were charged with finding vendors for absolutely everything since the party was brought to the backyard. They were instrumental in keeping track of vendors and keeping us on track throughout the year of planning and on the special day. We had monthly conference calls for an entire year to hash out all the details."
Sofia will always cherish the layout of the wedding and that the reception was held at the family home: "That was hands down my favorite part of my wedding. It was so special to celebrate the big occasion in a place that is so central to my family and has brought us so much joy. It was magical. It was so personal. I felt like I was blending my upbringing with this next part of the chapter of my life."
Cohesive Wedding Stationery
From the start, Sofia wanted a stationery suite that was custom and unified. "Caitlin, the owner of Say It With Paper, worked with us to create a wedding suite that threaded everything together, from the save-the-date to the rehearsal dinner, welcome party, and, of course, the formal wedding invitation," she says. A Cuban tile motif (created by Reformette) in navy, French blue, and white was used throughout the suite and day-of paper products, while the invitation itself was classic, clean, and letterpressed with a beveled edge.
Welcome to Miami
Sofia's sister put together beautiful welcome boxes for their guests. Inside each was a water bottle branded with the tile motif; a small glass bottle of Coke with rum and lime to make Cuba Libres; and snacks that are quintessentially Miami. "There were Mariquitas (plantain chips) and Merenguitos (meringue snacks)—both of which were childhood favorites—and a mandarin orange for the Sunshine State," says the bride. "Each box also included a trusty first-aid and hangover kit."
On the morning of the wedding, Sofia and her bridesmaids toasted to the upcoming festivities dressed in corresponding pajama sets.
Sofia's Carolina Herrera wedding dress was voluminous in nature and featured a floral motif on the bodice and dramatic overskirt. A magnificent train swept the floor, making the dress the quintessential formal bridal gown.
The bride slipped into timeless Stuart Weitzman pumps in a lovely shade of French blue for the ceremony.
Charlton donned his own classic ensemble for the occasion—a black Brooks Brothers tuxedo along with silver Cuban coin cuff links that his bride gifted him that morning.
A Furry Friend
The couple's beloved Cavalier King Charles Spaniel spent some time with the ladies while they were preparing for the celebration.
Three adorable flower girls outfitted in white and blue rounded out the female contingent of the wedding party.
A Striking Ceremony Venue
Epiphany Catholic Church's soaring ceilings gave the vast ceremony space an extra dose of splendor.
During the Service
Charlton was adamant about one key big-day detail: He wanted to see his bride for the first time at the ceremony, rather than have a first look. "I was struck by so much emotion when the doors opened," says Sofia of her walk down the aisle with her father. "I couldn't believe I was actually there. I cried before hearing the voice of an older Cuban woman that said, 'Smile, be happy.' After hearing that, I immediately broke out in a big smile."
Sofia and Charlton exchanged happy glances as they knelt during their Catholic ceremony. "During the service my aunts placed a mantilla over our shoulders," says the bride. "It is a tradition that originated in Spain and involves a lace veil that is placed over the couple at the altar to signify God uniting them as one. The same mantilla has been in my family for four generations."
Seats in the Sunlight
The couple's cocktail hour, held back on the family's compound, featured various seating areas where guests could gather in the sun while sipping on drinks from a full bar.
Into the Tent
Tropical Miami grasses, combined with eucalyptus, were arranged into an arch, defining one of the reception tent's entry points.
Luxe Lounge Furniture
Lounge areas were also set up beneath the tent, where the evening meal took place.
Exquisite Reception Tables
The linens on reception tables varied throughout the space to ensure visual interest—here, a white lace overlay set off a French blue tablecloth.
Fanciful Floral Arrangements
A variety of white flowers were gathered with assorted greens and placed in textural vessels for the tabletop décor.
On the Dance Floor
Three greenery-filled cages were hung over the dance floor, differentiating this area from the rest of the space.
A Timeless Cake
The couple's striking wedding cake by Cloud 9 Bakery was composed of four stacked tiers iced in edged buttercream.
A vintage car, adorned with a garland of greenery and a "Just Married" sign, ferried the bride and groom away after the celebration ended in the wee hours of the morning.
Photography, Alisa Ferris
Ceremony Venue, Epiphany Catholic Church
Wedding Planning, Events by Elle
Videography, Merge Social
Flowers, Fiction Events
Invitations, Say it with Paper
Additional Paper Products, For Your Party; Say it with Paper
Stamps, Little Postage House
Tile Motif Design, Reformette
Bride's Gown, Carolina Herrera via Ever After
Veil, Ever After
Shoes, Stuart Weitzman (ceremony); Jimmy Choo (reception)
Hair and Makeup, Daniela Gozlan
Bridesmaids' Dresses, Monique Lhuillier
Groom's attire, Brooks Brothers
Engagement Ring and Wedding Bands, Croghan's Jewel Box
Music, Cristy Arias (ceremony); Evoga Event Productions; Higher Ground from Tropics Entertainment (reception)
Catering, Mena Catering
Cake, Cloud 9 Bakery
Rentals, Alibaba Events; Diamonette Party Rental; Event Source; Fiction Events; Mena Catering; Sperry Tents
Favors, MCL Coordination
Transportation, Meilan Limousines and Classic Cars; Miami White Trolley; Vault Valet Parking
Lighting, Fiction Events
Confetti, Liquid Sky Laser Show
Cigars, Onsite Cigars
Restrooms, Royal Restrooms