You’re planning your wedding and you couldn’t be more excited. But you’ve seen so many great reception ideas on Pinterest, the guest list is getting longer, you still need to find The Dress and, OMG, the budget is bursting at the seams. It’s time to call in the experts!
Choosing the Ring
The wedding rings signify your commitment to the world. Most brides receive an engagement ring, according to Jason Harn of Loy Harn Jewelers, a tradition that began in 1477 when Archduke Maximilian of Austria proposed to Mary of Burgundy. Today the rule of thumb or, to be more precise, the ring finger, is to budget about 10 percent of the bridegroom’s annual salary.
The classic scenario involves a bridegroom kneeling for the proposal and presenting a ring to seal the deal, but many modern couples opt to shop together for the ring. Often the bridegroom will pre-select three or four possible rings in advance, then let the bride choose the perfect ring from among these options.
Loy Harn Jewelers suggests: Purchase your rings from a reputable jeweler, remember to clean your fine jewelry often, have your ring inspected regularly to make sure the prongs that hold your diamonds remain secure and make sure to keep your appraisals up to date.
Say Yes to Jean’s Bridal
Your wedding dress should fit like a glove and reflect your personality. But how do you choose from the hundreds of options that are available to today’s brides?
According to Michelle Wellmon Waterbury, a stylist at Jean’s Bridal, research is the key.
“The best way to start is with online research. It’s easy now with Pinterest boards,” Michelle explained. “Brides should visit the shop at least six months in advance of the big day – nine months is better. The minimum is four months to order the dress and allow for alterations. The same is true for the bridesmaids’ dresses.”
Today’s brides are asking for more coverage, such as sleeves or high backs, and the trend is toward more classic styles such as ball gowns. Michelle said the mothers of the bride and bridegroom should also take the time to find the perfect dress.
“We have a large selection of dresses for the mothers,” she said. “They want to look great, too.”
Michelle’s best advice: Have fun and relax and enjoy the process of finding the perfect dress.
It’s All About the Garden at Ashley Point
“It all started in a garden,” said Nancy Goding, “and we think that’s why so many brides want to get married in a garden setting.”
The beauty of the Lowcountry is the star attraction at The Garden at Ashley Point. Designed by landscape architect Tom Goding to delight the eye, the garden is filled with the flowers of the South, the cool blue of old-fashioned hydrangeas and red camellias that brighten our winters. A Juliet balcony overlooks the dock and the marsh. Two secret gardens provide excellent settings for “first-look” photos.
Nestled in this garden is the carriage house, with a spacious ground floor for receptions and a romantic honeymoon suite on the second floor for the newly married couple to spend the night.
At night, the garden is alight with spotlights on the trees and the lighted fountain in the lake.
Nancy’s most important tip: “The bride should see the location in advance at the time the ceremony is planned. If the wedding is in the evening, it’s important to see the venue in the evening.”
The Complete Package
Ellen Harrington, wedding specialist for the Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina, directed her first wedding at age 18. Her attention to detail helps take the stress out of planning the perfect wedding for brides, who tend to book up to a year ahead. She said about “75 percent are destination weddings,” adding that the trend has been toward smaller affairs of about 100 people. Since most of the venues are outdoors, Ellen said, “it adds an extra layer of planning and I always have a plan B.”
Shannon Hartmann, director of sales, said that “weddings are one of life’s biggest expenses,” but the focus should be on the commitment of the couple.
Ellen’s tip is to leave the details to the planner so the couple can “enjoy every moment. Happiness is contagious.”
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
The professionals at Holy City Hospitality can hardly catch their breath during wedding season, which is now nearly all year.
“We do about two or three weddings a weekend,” said Jenna DeSavino, venue and catering sales manager for the group, which includes several downtown restaurants as well as one of Charleston’s best venues, the Historic Rice Mill in the Charleston City Marina. “We’ll have a wedding here (at the Rice Mill) and we’ll have two at other locations throughout the area.”
Jenna estimated that about 85 percent of their business is destination weddings.
“Brides plan ahead. They let their family and friends know well in advance so they can plan for time off to vacation in Charleston for a week. There is so much to do, and they attend the wedding while they are here,” she said, adding that many weddings take place during the week rather than on Saturdays.
Jenna’s tip for brides: Take a close look at the details. Many brides choose a lowercost venue, only to discover that literally everything else – tables, chairs, plates, silverware, tablecloths – is an additional expense. A higher priced venue may include the extras.
Marriage Country Style
For the bride who would like to get away from the downtown crowds, the Pavilion at Pepper Plantation could be the perfect choice. Just inside Pepper Plantation off Highway 17 North, the Pavilion is a modern barn style with exposed beams, large porches and doors that bring the outside in.
Site Manager Rachel Kuhl said that the space “is designed to be open air, allowing the breeze to flow through. In colder months, the large inside/outside fireplace is a big draw, as is the fire pit just outside on the patio.”
Adirondack chairs invite guests to relax and enjoy the lake view, and the lawn is often the site for games such as bocce or cornhole. The dock and gazebo are both excellent spots for a smaller ceremony. A separate cottage is on the property and is available for a small additional fee. The Pavilion does feature a prep area for caterers, but everything else – tables, chairs, decorations – must be arranged separately.
Rachel’s tip: Relax! If you don’t have a wedding planner, hire a day-of coordinator or ask a non-family member to oversee things.
Rent Anything! Anything At All!
Whatever you want to make your wedding memorable is available to rent. Ooh! Events is a magical place and a must-see for brides seeking the special, the unique and the most wonderful decorations, accessories and props.
Located in a large warehouse, Ooh! Events offers an amazing selection of dinnerware, lighting fixtures, furnishings and florals – anything you can imagine in a style that fits your personality, whether your tastes are modern, vintage or somewhere in between. In addition to this treasure trove of lovely things, retail shops in Mount Pleasant’s Old Village include Out of the Garden, for beautiful bridal floral arrangements and bouquets.
Ooh! Events is owned by Lisa Thomas, who is a pro at creating dream weddings. Each wedding has a coordinator and team leader on site to make sure everything is properly set up and to attend to every detail.
Events coordinator Megan Chandler’s tip: The bride needs a planner, someone lobbying for her. Brides sometimes think that’s an unnecessary expense, but it’s really more cost-effective.
Savor the Reception
Anja Stief loves to see people enjoy themselves at the reception and, as owner of Dish and Design, she makes it happen at venues all around town.
Alhambra Hall is a favorite – it is well-equipped where others are more challenging – but Dish and Design is familiar with just about every local venue. Anja advised booking the caterer as early as possible to discuss the options. For brides who are trying to keep to a budget, Anja suggested that “plated dinners can be more affordable.” Choosing a midweek day (venues often cost much more on Saturdays) or brunch reception can also cut costs while maintaining high quality. For outdoor weddings, be sure to have a backup plan.
Anja’s advice: Good communication. We need to know the venue, the time the cake will be cut, the person who is in charge – all the details.
Cutting the Cake!
The wedding cake is the centerpiece of the reception, and it’s important to choose the baker carefully. Gail Holdcraft and John Olson are professionals who have been using quality ingredients to bake wedding cakes and other delectable treats for more than 20 years. Plan to meet with the bakers well in advance to discuss the details of your cake. Gail advised bringing pictures of cakes you like, adding that Pinterest boards offer almost limitless ideas.
Gail’s tip: Choose a universally liked flavor such as vanilla for the main cake layer to be served to the guests. Use the bride and bridegroom’s favorite flavors, such as chocolate or peanut butter, for the top layer.
Your wedding will be one of the biggest days of your life, and it is important to enjoy the moment instead of obsessing about every detail.
Put on that gorgeous dress. And relax!
By Barbara Millen Patrick
Photography by Jenn Cady Design Photography