Weddings in the Lowcountry are always romantic and memorable. That’s why so many brides from all over have their destination celebrations here. Whether the setting is a historic venue downtown, a plantation like Boone Hall with its Cotton Dock and oak allée or Alhambra Hall in the Old Village with its sweeping waterfront view, brides and grooms love to say “I do” amidst the finest Southern hospitality.
While the nuptials share the same customs no matter where you wed, a true Southern wedding is seated in deep tradition — and timing. For locals, the date of the ceremony is ever important, not just for the best weather, but for the most important season of all: football. Years ago, a friend of mine asked his intended’s father for her hand in marriage. While the future father-in-law gave his blessing, he had questions on the actual date, an upcoming Saturday. After looking at his calendar, he shook his head: “Nope, can’t have it then. Clemson plays Carolina that day.” Weddings, it turns out, aren’t big enough to top the biggest football rivalry in the state, and the couple had to come up with another, more acceptable date.
From the Sea Islands to the Hammock Coast, Carolinians are all about tradition. The bride often wears pearls, a vintage lace veil or another heirloom accessory handed down in the family.
For Mount Pleasant resident Paige Crone, each bride in her family wears a little gold wishbone pin with its own backstory. Explained Crone, “Every Wilson bride wears my great-grandmother’s pin adorned with a small turquoise and pearl four-leaf clover. I wore the pin tucked in the bodice of my dress. My cousin pinned it to her bouquet attaching the wedding bands to it. Of course, it’s a unique family tradition but the wishbone and clover also harken good luck, and it covers something borrowed, blue and old.”
Crone is the principal of Charleston Protocol Y’All, a lifestyle brand that offers tips, event planning and gift items to turn a wedding into a Lowcountry-inspired event. She grew up in downtown Charleston and noted that local wedding receptions may be black-tie and kid-glove formal, but are usually standup cocktail parties rather than sit-down dinners. At receptions, although plates and forks are not generally used, personalized cocktail napkins featuring the names of the bride and groom are a nice touch.
The fare is usually finger foods, such as marinated local shrimp, rare beef tenderloin with sliced cream bread, and Meeting Street crab — a chafing dish dip from the iconic Junior League cookbook “Charleston Receipts.” Hamby tea sandwiches and cheese straws on the bar also ease the wait for a cocktail. Soft white cream bread can be found locally at Olde Colony Bakery, the oldest family-operated bakery in greater Charleston. They also bake their own crisp benne (sesame seed) wafers, which placed in little bags are popular wedding favors.
Tips for A Festive Southern Wedding
Although young brides these days are breaking with many of the traditional wedding rules, there are still ways to incorporate items that will create lasting memories and a truly celebratory event. To start, limiting the number of bridesmaids to eight is recommended, and it’s preferable that guests not wear white which may compete with the bride on her day.
For presents, recommended items include julep cups, stirrup cups and silver rice spoons. These long-handled serving spoons are found “on every sideboard in Charleston,” said Crone. Another gift with local flavor is the oyster knife, a fabulous groomsman gift. Lowcountry folks love oyster roasts and many bring their own knife. Crone noted locals always have theirs at the ready and she can even monogram the wooden handle so there are no mix-ups.
Monogrammed linen cocktail napkins also make a special gift. B Picky, off Colman Boulevard, offers both the napkins and personalizing service, which usually takes a week to complete. Also check out Charleston Protocol’s pineapple-motif brass trivet. The pineapple has been a symbol of hospitality since the Colonial Period when sea captains who sailed to tropical regions like the Caribbean would return home with exotic fruits. The story goes that the captain would spear a pineapple on his fence post to let friends know that he was home safely, and they were welcome to visit.
Many of today’s Southern-style millennials are falling for antiques and heirloom pieces in place of the on-trend or “store-bought” items that appealed to the generation before them. According to House Beautiful, these new traditionalists appreciate the timeless design of old-school objects that reveal their personalities. Incorporating antiques and family pieces offers links to the past, which is what the Lowcountry is all about.
By Anne Semmes