This NOLA-Inspired Micro Wedding in South Carolina Was Planned in Just Three Weeks
Love blossomed online for Gabrielle Easley and Christopher Manhertz, who found each other on Instagram in February of 2017. "I made the first move!" says Gabby. "I saw an Instagram story of the National African American Museum on my explore page, which was linked to Chris' page. I clicked on it and commented." Chris responded in record time, and the two flirted before finally exchanging phone numbers. "In my final response, I promised to show him around Washington, D.C., the next time he visited," says Gabby—and sure enough, the Carolina Panthers tight end came back to D.C. for an NFLPA meeting the following month. "We ended up having our first date at a local Irish pub near Union Station—and the rest is history," says Gabby.
Interestingly enough, the two were actually leaning towards an intimate wedding for their June 2020 nuptials; they initially considered a destination wedding in either Mexico or the Caribbean. However, with the Carolinas being an ideal mutual meeting point for family, the pair opted to have a larger wedding in the United States that took a year-and-a-half to plan. "Unfortunately, two months into 2020, it was a landslide of disappointment as COVID erupted around the world," says Gabby. "In March, the bridal shower was canceled; by April, we canceled our bachelor and bachelorette parties; and in May, we started looking into cancelation policies for our wedding, since South Carolina was still in Phase 2."
Luckily, Gabby and Chris were working with Melanie Murphy of By Invitation Only Event Planning and Design, who was vigilant about the restrictions and provided the pair with alternative plans in the event they couldn't move forward with their original one. "When we got the green light to move forward with a smaller wedding, our planner put the design and run-of-show together in three weeks," says Gabby. The concept was a southern New Orleans-style wedding with modern flair, including delicate white flowers, mixed metals, candles, and natural greenery. "We made sure to keep the same elegant and classic aesthetics of our original design for our micro wedding, just on a smaller scale," says Gabby. "It was important that we didn't deviate from our vision." With a guest list of just 18, the pair exchanged vows out of doors at the beautiful Lace House in Columbia, South Carolina. "Our family and loved ones joined a Zoom call before the ceremony for a prayer circle and a dress reveal," Gabby shares. "We wanted to keep the day intimate so we decided not to have the ceremony or reception available on Zoom."
When faced with changing plans, Gabby recommends that other couples stay in close communication with their planners and never feel pressured to do anything that will compromise their health or the health of others. "The biggest piece of wisdom is to not lose sight of your 'why,' and try your best to not get caught up in the process when things don't go as planned," she says. As for their own experience, the micro-wedding turned out to be perfect for the pair. "It was everything I ever dreamed of," says the bride.
Gabby wore her original wedding dress, a simple but stunning fit-and-flare gown from Allure Bridals that featured off-the-shoulder cap sleeves and organza drapes. "It fit like a glove and hugged me in all the right places," she says, adding that her shopping experience was a positive one. "I felt confident standing on the platform—with and without a veil—and an overwhelming feeling of joy took over. As cliché as it sounds, when you know, you know."
Carolina Blossoms wrapped the bride's grandmother's rosary around the stems of her bouquet, which was composed of pristine white sweet peas, stocks, tulips, garden roses, ranunculus blossoms, and peonies.
Shimmer and Shine
The bride's glittery ankle-strap Sophia Webster heels were an icy shade. They represented her something blue.
A Father-Daughter First Look
Gabby shared a sweet first look with her father, a retired NFL player and Hall of Famer, himself. "I got very emotional when I saw my dad at the end of the steps," says the bride. "He is my first love and I'm such a daddy's girl, so seeing him on the day I had dreamed about since I was little was very special."
Chris' bespoke navy-blue tuxedo by Mohan's Custom Tailors featured a herringbone jacket with black lapels; he also wore a white tuxedo shirt with his initials embroidered on the right cuff.
At First Glance
"I couldn't wait to see Gabby," says Chis of the couple's first look. "I wasn't really nervous the entire day, I was more so excited to see her. She looked beautiful—just how I imagined." As for Gabby, the first look brought on an innate sense of calm. "He looked so handsome and his reaction was classic," she says. "I couldn't hear or see anything but him in that moment, despite all the cameras."
An acrylic sign adorned with roses and greenery greeted guests upon their arrival at the ceremony space.
The ceremony site, beautiful all on its own, didn't need much adornment, but a few picturesque touches made for an elegant scene. A stark white aisle runner was lined with creamy rose petals on either side, while a metal arch draped with snowy linens and vanilla flowers ornamented the altar. Raffia fans were placed on each cane-backed chair, which were appropriately spaced in accordance with social distancing guidelines.
Down the Aisle
Gabby's father escorted her down the aisle to "No Woman, No Cry," covered by Sheku Kanneh-Mason.
Chris and Gabby exchanged vows they wrote themselves during the intimate ceremony, officiated by Reverend Tyrone Armstrong.
A Joyful Jump
The newlyweds joyfully jumped the broom at the conclusion of the service.
A Winning Wedding Party
A Stunning Stairway
Candles lined the steps leading up to the reception table at The Lace House.
Dinner Done Right
A single king's table was styled for the reception with creamy linens, lush white flowers, and two types of candles: floating and pillar.
Charming Place Settings
Clear chargers with ruffled gold rims were topped with acrylic menus and fresh eucalyptus leaves.
Sweet Flower Arrangements
Small vessels were filled with delicate stems of sweet peas, tulips, garden roses, ranunculus blossoms, and peonies.
The father of the bride gave a speech that the couple found heartfelt and truly beautiful. "I grew up competing in pageants but never won—I always placed first runner up," Gabby says. "As my dad spoke about my final pageant, he went on to say that on 'this very day [June 28, 2020], my sweet daughter Gabby won, and I'm so happy and proud of you, baby.'" Chris' youngest brother and best man gave a toast that focused on the two growing up, and spoke about how the groom inspired him to go to college and secure a full scholarship. "At one point the healthy sibling rivalry was apparent, which brought some humor to the speech and was a classic moment," says Chris.
A tall, single tier of lemon cake iced in white buttercream and accented in gold leaf was topped with white peonies for a timeless look.
Planned to Perfection
The couple's first dance to "All of Me" by John Legend was a big-day highlight. "In the weeks leading up to the wedding, we practiced our first dance just to make sure we didn't have two left feet!" says Gabby. "When the moment came for us to perform, it was absolutely perfect, and we were whispering jokes back and forth in a serious moment, which is so us!"
A Beautiful Back-Up
Gabby had planned a second look, but her original dress didn't make it in time. Instead, she wore a spectacular gold satin slip gown from ASOS.
Photography, Jessica Hunt Photography
Venue, The Lace House
Wedding Planning and Event Design, Melanie Murphy for By Invitation Only
Videography, Morgan Scoot Films
Flowers, Carolina Blossoms
Invitations, Invitations by Dawn
Welcome Sign and Menus, ByFarr
Officiant, Rev. Tyrone Armstrong
Bride's Gown, Allure Bridals
Reception dress, ASOS
Veil, New York Bride & Groom
Jewelry, Ellee Couture
Shoes, Sophia Webster
Hair, Renea Church-Cuffee
Makeup, Mua Drea
Bridesmaids' Dresses, Kleinfeld Bridal Party
Groom's Attire, Mohan's Custom Tailors
Groomsmen's Attire, Men's Wearhouse
Engagement Ring, Robbins Brothers
Wedding Bands, Diamonds Direct
Music, OMTBH Weddings
Catering, SouthernWay Catering
Cake, Bonnie Brunt Cakes
Rentals, Crisp Rental; Party Reflections