It Was Flower Central at This Couple's Open-Air Venue in Greenville, South Carolina
When Natalie Polk and Brady Ebel met as college freshmen in 2012, they weren't surprised that they clicked: Their shared friends had already pegged them as a perfect match. "Despite growing up a couple miles away from each other in Baltimore, Maryland, and having countless mutual friends, we didn't meet until we got to Clemson, South Carolina, for college orientation," says Natalie. "Before we got to Clemson, we had a lot of friends say things like, 'You're going to Clemson? Brady Ebel is going there, too. You need to meet him, you'll love him!' They were right."
In November 2019, Brady proposed on a Thanksgiving-weekend trip to Blowing Rock, North Carolina, presenting Natalie with an engagement ring that featured his great-grandmother's diamond. The couple's original plans—an indoor wedding for 250 guests on April 17, 2021—came together quickly, but they delayed sending their save-the-dates while they waited to see how COVID-19 might force a change in plans. "In November, near the peak of coronavirus in Greenville, we decided to cancel our venue and plan a small outdoor wedding instead," says Natalie. "Making this call immediately alleviated an incredible amount of stress. Trying to plan a wedding with so many unknowns about how things would look in a couple months was beyond difficult, so making the call to have a small outdoor wedding was such a great decision."
Natalie and Brady trimmed their guest list to 70 friends and family, and chose Wyche Pavilion in Greenville, South Carolina, for their safety-conscious event. "It is open and airy, but is also covered in case it rains," says Natalie. "It also is a historic Greenville landmark located in the heart of downtown. It overlooks the Reedy River and is in the middle of beautiful buildings that light up at night. It was perfect."
With help from Natalie's mother, Ingrid, and planner Farrah Redmon, the couple created a flower-heavy aesthetic comprised of vibrant spring colors, trading traditional pastels for eye-popping brights. They focused on a seamless flow for their event, getting married under a clear tent adjacent to the reception space, and included personal touches—first looks for Natalie with her bridesmaids and with her father; heirloom cuff links for Brady; first dance choreography inspired by the couple's love of swing dancing; and personalized Polaroid escort cards. "While there are a lot of people we truly wish could have been there to celebrate our day with us, being forced to keep the guest count to 70 made everything feel so intimate," says Natalie. "We were not overwhelmed trying to make sure we talked to everyone, and we felt so comfortable the entire weekend. I truly hope that the small weddings we have seen during the pandemic will remove the pressure people often feel to have a huge celebration."
Gingerly Design Co. created traditional letterpress invitations with pale blue script that matched coordinating envelopes. A custom crest with the couple's new shared last initial sat atop the ceremony details, while the guests' envelopes were hand-addressed by the bride's grandmother. "The light grays and blues tied into the overall theme of the wedding-day décor," says Natalie.
Natalie's mother zipped her into the elegant Kate McDonald wedding dress she had chosen for her original ceremony. "I knew I wanted a gown that was simple and timeless," says Natalie. "I also knew I wanted it to be a dress that you can only get away with wearing on your wedding day. This dress fit both of those criteria." Though the venue and guest list changed, Natalie didn't waver on her ensemble. "I was so excited to wear my dress and never even considered getting a new one for the more intimate wedding," says Natalie. "A smaller celebration doesn't mean you need to have a smaller dress!" She added a cathedral-length Toni Federici veil for the ceremony, and earrings from Olive and Piper.
Bright and Beautiful
Her bouquet from Kara Nash Designs set the tone for the rest of the day's color palette. "It was difficult to decide on flower colors. We knew we wanted to bring color into the ceremony and reception spaces through springy flowers, but had a hard time finding examples of flowers that were bright without feeling busy or reminding me of Easter," says Natalie. "I finally found a bouquet with the colors that I loved. We gave that one picture of a bouquet to our floral designer, said to use that as inspiration and gave her creative freedom for the rest. I could not be happier with what she came up with." A piece of lace—carefully removed from Natalie's mother's wedding gown—wrapped the collection of poppies, ranunculus, tulips, snapdragons, and aster.
Moment with Dad
After getting ready, Natalie shared a sweet first look with her father.
Maids to Order
Natalie asked her bridesmaids to choose their own gowns in shades ranging from light blue to light gray. "To me, it was more important for each of them to feel beautiful in their dress than to have the consistency of everyone wearing the same one," she says. "I also loved the mismatched look!"
Her attendants held smaller iterations of her own bouquet, which were bursting in color.
Men in Black
Brady chose a black notch lapel tuxedo from Thomas and Sons Tuxedos, adding a classic pleated white shirt, white studs, a black bow tie, and heirloom accessories from Natalie's late grandfather. "I was very close to my grandfather who died of ALS in 2015, so it was really meaningful to me for Brady to be wearing his cuff links," says the bride. The groomsmen each chose their own black suit and wore matching ties, pocket squares, and socks from Show Me Your Mumu.
At First Sight
After a first look with her father and bridesmaids, Natalie met Brady before the ceremony. "We originally did not plan on having a first look, but decided to do it after realizing that 85 percent of the guests would have to be pulled away for pictures during cocktail hour otherwise," says Natalie. "I was feeling a little anxious the morning of the wedding, but all that anxiety went away as soon as he turned around. The huge smile didn't leave my face for the rest of the day." The couple's photographer chose the background: "She said something like, 'Y'all are going to think this is such a random location but you'll just have to trust me,'" says Natalie. "The spot ended up being a patch of grass with beautiful azaleas on the side of the bridal suite's parking lot—it might have seemed random, but it was so beautiful."
Natalie and Brady set up a clear tent for their ceremony, carving out a little bit of privacy in a public downtown spot.
Matching gray columns topped with dramatic floral arrangements in shades of peach, yellow, ivory, and blue flanked the couple as they said their vows.
Ready to Wed
Natalie's father escorted her down the aisle to "Can't Help Falling in Love with You," performed by guitar and cello duo WireWood, as the couple livestreamed their ceremony for everyone on the original guest list—plus grandparents and other close loved ones who were unable to travel.
Brady's brother, Brett, officiated the service, combining personal elements—including vows the couple wrote themselves—with religious standbys. "My parents wanted a traditional religious ceremony, while Brady and I preferred a nontraditional and very personal wedding ceremony," says Natalie. "We ended up with the perfect mix of both. Brett knows us better than anyone and did an amazing job capturing who we are as a couple during the ceremony."
Making an Entrance
At the reception, abundant floral garlands of hydrangeas, roses, mums, snapdragons, and other blooms and greenery provided a "dramatic, experiential entrance."
Natalie and Brady sourced photos of each of their guests for a personalized Polaroid escort display. "For married couples, we used a photo from their wedding day so they could reminisce; for non-married couples, we used a cute picture of the two of them together; and for single guests, we used a solo picture of them from an event tied to a memory with us," says Natalie. "Every person who attended our wedding means so much to us, and we wanted to showcase that."
Plush seating in one corner—and in other vignettes on the venue's lawn—offered attendees cozy spots to socialize away from the dance floor.
Up in the Air
Inside the pavilion, overhead draping from Berbank Events accented the beamed ceiling and string lights, and coordinated with the light blue table linens. "We were in absolute shock looking around," says Natalie. "The transformed space was absolutely breathtaking. For the most part, we gave our vendors very loose ideas of what we wanted and trusted them to take it and run with it—they absolutely crushed it."
The couple alternated centerpieces in tall, clear vases with smaller versions in lower vessels, while silver chairs matched the accent trim on the place setting's glass chargers. "We strived to make our wedding décor beautiful and timeless," says Natalie. "Trying to find a balance of traditional and nontraditional was not an easy feat, but I think we pulled it off perfectly."
For their first dance, the couple chose one of their favorite songs—James Taylor's "How Sweet It Is"—and added in some of their favorite swing dance choreography. "We have a record player in our house with all of Brady's dad's old vinyls—James Taylor is in heavy rotation," says Natalie. "We figured since we're always dancing around the house to this song, it would be very fitting for it to be our first dance song. We also liked that it is upbeat, so we could throw in some swing-dancing moves. We are known to pull out our swing dancing routine—including a flip—whenever there's a dance floor. We thought about doing the flip during our first dance but decided it wasn't worth the risk of not being able to flip in my huge dress. But at the end of the night, we successfully landed the flip on the dance floor. Twice!"
The Best of Friends
Though Natalie's mother was heavily involved in all the wedding-planning decisions, the bride was able to surprise her with one element. "I decided to dedicate my bouquet to my mom as a way of honoring her and highlighting her a little more during the reception," says Natalie. Instead of tossing the bouquet to her single guests, she invited her mother up and presented it to her. "Gosh—so special," says the mother of the bride. "I had never heard of anyone doing that before! Sweetest daughter ever!"
Natalie and Brady both considered the cake tasting with CakeSmith one of the easiest parts of the planning process—though narrowing down their flavor options presented a challenge. "The cake was just as delicious as it was beautiful," says Natalie. "We had so many favorites from the cake tasting that we could not choose just one."
CakeSmith also provided mini cake shooters, in lemon curd and chocolate truffle, for more variety.
Photography, Jessi Nichols Photography
Venue, Wyche Pavillion
Event Planning, Farrah Redmon Events
Catering, Larkins Catering
Flowers, Kara Nash Designs
Videography, Nate Perry Productions
Stationery, Gingerly Design Co.
Music, Wirewood Music (ceremony); Power 2 Party (reception)
Rentals, Professional Party Rentals
Bride's gown, Kate McDonald
Bride's accessories, Toni Federici ceremony veil; Haberman Fabrics reception veil; Magosisters shoes; Olive and Piper earrings
Hair and makeup, Cotton Rouge and Company
Bridesmaids' dresses, Azazie; The Dessy Group; Lulus; Show Me Your Mumu; Tobi
Groom's tuxedo, Thomas & Sons tuxedos
Menswear, Show Me Your Mumu pocket squares, socks, and ties
Lighting, Berbank Events; Professional Party Rentals
Day-of paper goods, KM Creative
Draping, Berbank Events
Livestreaming, AVL Solutions
Tent and draping, Berbank Events