A Charming Backyard Wedding on an Island Off the Coast of South Carolina
Alex and Sam met in 2013, when she was an apprentice at a Maryland theatre and he was a musician who often played there. While they knew each other in passing, it took some time for their friendship to turn romantic; they officially started dating in 2015. They bonded over their love of musical theatre and eventually built a home together in Washington, D.C.
In August 2019, nearly six years after their first meeting, Alex proposed to Sam. The bride jokes that she "ruined her own engagement," since Alex had planned an intimate proposal in their home that involved their dog, Derby—but Sam ended up working late. Alex ended up bringing the proposal to his bride-to-be; he photographed Derby with an A. Jaffe engagement ring on her nose, wrote a special note, and proposed to an extremely surprised Sam while she was still at her desk in the office. They duo had planned to go to a Washington Nationals game later that night, and they had a clear agenda: They needed to get there early to secure the game giveaway—and a free baseball cap—before inventory ran out. Alex persuaded Sam to hold off on calling her mom until after they were seated, but it had nothing to do with getting there on time. As one final surprise, Sam's parents were waiting for them at the stadium to celebrate the newly-engaged couple. Sam describes it as "an incredible night—baseball, beer, and family!"
Sam and Alex had initially planned a Washington, D.C., wedding weekend for 200 guests—complete with a church ceremony, industrial modern reception, and Sunday brunch—for October 2020, but by May, they came to terms with the fact that this simply wasn't possible due to the pandemic. Sam largely credits Christie Yerks of Grit and Grace for helping execute her new vision. Together, they pivoted to an intimate affair for 30 loved ones at her parent's house in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. The couple kept their original date of October 17, 2020—and held fast to their main goal. "The most important thing was that we were getting married!" Sam says. With the help of Christie, they were able to reimagine the celebration of their dreams, pulling together a garden party with a warm plum-and-burgundy color palette. Ultimately, their nuptials were the true realization of the couple's buzz words—"color, warmth, and light."
Welcome bags, filled with local treats and safety essentials such as personalized face masks and hand sanitizer, were waiting for guests upon their arrival to Kiawah Island.
The bride's sister and mother treated her to a Champagne lunch to calm her nerves before her final wedding-dress appointment—Sam had a difficult time articulating what she was looking for in a gown, she explains, noting that her sister ultimately took the reins and worked with the stylist at Carines Bridal to help her pull garments. But when she first saw her Mira Zwillinger dress, she felt like herself, "but in the most stunning way." The organic gown featured a strapless corset-style bodice and lengthy train, complete with a jacquard floral pattern.
She selected just two pieces of jewelry for the big day—a gold tennis bracelet from Dana Rebecca Designs, a gift from her parents, and small gold hoops from Bony Levy, which were given to her by her godmother. She decided on a pair of simple nude sandals from Schutz, but found out on the day of the wedding that they slipped off when she walked down the stairs! Sam credits Christie and Brittany from Grit and Grace for remedying the slip-on shoe dilemma—minutes before the ceremony, they tied ribbons around the heels.
Pretty in Plum
Flowers in the Fall
Lori from Petaloso created Sam's bouquet within a pink, purple, and cream color story. The loosely gathered posy was tied with a pale pink ribbon and featured blush pink dahlias, white daisies, mauve roses, yellow-tinged strawflowers, and an assortment of greenery. The bridesmaids' arrangements were smaller iterations of the bride's.
The Groom and his Gifts
While Alex's attendants wore charcoal suits from The Black Tux, the groom stood out in a navy blue suit from Bonobos. Alex gifted his groomsmen bow ties from Brackish Bow Ties, all in different patterns and colors. The groom accentuated his own ensemble with a dahlia boutonnière and his grandfather's cuff links.
Looking and Laughing
Sam and Alex's first look took place at the end of her parent's driveway. They had missed each other and felt so excited to reunite, that "we couldn't stop laughing," reflects the bride. Abby Jiu of Abby Jiu Photography captured this sweet, joyful moment prior to a private photo shoot, with the property's gorgeous South Carolina foliage as the backdrop. "It was everything to have that hour, just the two of us," says Sam, who cites it as one of her favorites of the day.
The ceremony décor allowed the natural beauty of Kiawah Island to shine through. Wooden cross back chairs were arranged facing a nature-made palm tree backdrop; Lori crafted the stand-alone floral arrangements that framed the couple during their vow exchange. Smilax vines and fairy lights were artfully strung over the guest seating, creating a warm and inviting ambience.
Sam descended the stairs of her parent's house arm-in-arm with her father, who walked her down the aisle, after her bridesmaids' processed in to "Falling Slowly" from the musical Once; this was especially salient, she says, since the couple first connected over a love of musical theatre. For the bride's debut, she chose her favorite tune, "Come Downstairs and Say Hello" by Guster, which was executed by a string ensemble from Charleston Entertainment.
Strength in the Oak Tree
The couple selected Sam's parent's backyard on Kiawah Island as their service site; over the years, the bride was overjoyed to share her love of the locale with Alex, who also developed a strong connection to the place. While Sam was initially nervous about a backyard wedding, her parents embraced it wholeheartedly—and the awe-inspiring, gigantic oak tree just beyond their house served as the ultimate spot for their ceremony. To the bride, it was a symbol of the support she and Alex received throughout the planning process; today, it serves as a forever reminder of the love she has for both her family and her husband.
An Enduring Promise
The duo wrote their own vows, which they exchanged during the ceremony officiated by the bride's sister. Sam was especially thrilled by Alex's promise to adopt a Bernese Mountain dog post-wedding. Although she knew the ceremony would be filled with laughter and happy tears, she was elated by just how magical it turned out to be: "We had everything we needed there in that moment, surrounded by family, love, light, and music," says the bride.
Individual Hors d'oeuvres
During the cocktail hour, the newlyweds and their guests moved up to the pool deck for margaritas and Manhattans. Musicians from Charleston Entertainment serenaded guests with string iterations of modern songs. "It was lighthearted and so much fun," says Sam.
Loved ones were treated to both a chef-attended raw bar and passed hors d'oeuvres. Individual oysters, shrimp cocktail cups, and ceviche were plated and passed around, courtesy of Chef Hamby of Hamby Catering. Other hors d'oeuvres, including she crab soup shooters and succulent duck confit ravioli, were also served in individual containers to ensure guests' safety.
For the reception, Christie and Brittany transformed the backyard, realizing Sam's vision of a cozy dinner party; several wooden farm tables were pushed together to foster a sense of community and togetherness. Suspended vines and string lights provided a textural, illuminated overhang as the sun set.
Pop of Yellow
The tablescape featured both dusty yellow taper candles encased in hurricanes and cream-colored votives. Gold-rimmed chargers grounded floral dinner plates; rose gold leaf napkin rings held creamy linens in place.
Place cards from Minted referenced the couple's invitation suite and featured the plum-and-burgundy florals seen in both the bride's bouquet and the centerpieces, which were arranged in urn planters. Artfully placed bowls of figs and greenery added plenty of texture.
Come dinner, the duo maintained the framework of their original menu, but incorporated several Southern favorites into the mix, including a shrimp and grits. The main course was a choice of duck, grouper, or a savory mille feuille. In lieu of a cake, Sam and Alex opted for a prolific dessert table of crowd-pleasing favorites. Bite-sized treats included lemon squares, an assortment of miniature pies, and minute cheesecakes; shooters of tiramisu, s'mores, and strawberry shortcake were also offered. As an added bonus, a chef-attended dessert station boasted both a made-to-order skillet brownie à la mode and apple cobbler with a chocolate cream topping. For a late-night bite, guests had the option of french fries prepared in duck fat and served with gorgonzola fondue or pimento cheese biscuits with fried chicken.
As for the couple's best advice to other duos currently planning pandemic celebrations? "Breathe. Smile. Laugh. Focus on your partner and follow your gut. Surround yourself with support and love and it will come together better than you could have ever imagined," they say.
Photography, Abby Jiu Photography
Wedding Planning and Event Design, Grit & Grace
Videography, Alex Clayton
Save-the-Dates, The Dandelion Patch
Bridal Gown Atelier, Carine's Bridal Atelier
Bride's Gown, Mira Zwillinger
Bracelet, Dana Rebecca
Earrings, Bony Levy
Hair and Makeup, Lashes & Lace
Bridesmaids' Dresses, Bella Bridesmaids; Jenny Yoo; Saloni
Groom's Suit, Bonobos
Groomsmen's Suits, The Black Tux
Bow Ties, Brackish Bow Ties
Engagement Ring and Bride's Wedding Band, A. Jaffe via Devon Fine Jewelry
Groom's Wedding Band, Crown Ring via Devon Fine Jewelry
String Ensemble (Music), Charleston Entertainment
Catering, Hamby Catering & Events
Rentals, Ooh Events; DC Rental; Snyder Events
Transportation, Charleston Luxury Valet
Lighting, IES Productions
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