Goodbye to the 2015 wedding season, but before I do there is one more wedding of note, and probably my best wedding that ended the season – with a bang…! Over 13 plus years ago I was privileged and honored to capture a charming Lowcountry wedding at Lowndes Grove Plantation for Karen’s sister, Sarah and her husband Matt. They and their family loved the artistic wedding photography that I created for them and were very thankful. My wedding photography business is built on a foundation of trust, honor, respect and exceeding each and every client’s expectations. Therefore the referral business comes naturally for me; the fact that it was family in this situation made it even more special. Sarah’s youngest sister Karen, was not yet married, but I knew when her day came that I would be the first person she would call. Now fast forward 13 years and I got that phone call from Karen who was so excited and now given me the honor to capture her and Matt’s fabulous 2015 New Year’s Eve Wedding celebration. Karen, a Physician Assistant at MUSC and Matt, a Real Estate Broker and owner of MA Properties reside in downtown Charleston, and we quickly set up a meeting along with her wedding coordinator, Emily Harkins from Southern Protocol. Emily and Karen envisioned a glamorous Lowcountry Black Tie Affair in this Holy City of Charleston, South Carolina, complete with it’s world renowned historical charm. After much planning to coordinate an amazing evening wedding Karen and I had the fortune of two bridal portrait sessions together- one for a billboard advertisement, and then her actual bridal portrait. Both sessions resulted in amazing bridal images. Her wedding dress was a stunning gown by Jim Hjelm by Hayley Paige, a peach silk faced organza, with crystal detail to go along with her New Year’s theme. As you will see below, she is so easy with the camera, has a real model style, with a spectacular glow. When the glamorous wedding day came on 12/31/2015, it was quite the same. I arrived at The Mills House early to capture Karen with her bridesmaids and family getting ready, then proceeded to Matt & the groomsmen. We had so much fun as you can see in the photos, all family members and friends ready to celebrate the day with Karen & Matt. We then had the first look at Washington Square Park across the street from the Mills House. As you can see the emotion between the couple echoes their connection and true love. With rain in the forecast it came in very handy that we managed to have a Limo Bus from Carolina’s Executive Limo Line which was simply gorgeous, take us to the Charleston’s famous Battery Park at the harbor for our second location shoot where I captured even more spectacular photos. I executed the shoot managing my lighting correctly to make it look like it was the perfect sunset, when in all actuality it started sprinkling. The ceremony at Unitarian Church was a true testament of why they call this the Holy City, and then we proceeded to the Mills House for the New Year’s Eve celebration.
My 2015 wedding season has been incredible. Thank you to all of my fantastic clients. Ending with this wedding was icing on the cake. The images should convey to anyone that from the moment I start with a wedding, my eyes and heart want to do my very best. That is exactly what we did plus some. It was well worth it. Karen and Matt are and will always be true dedicated friends, but perhaps more like family now. Thank you Karen and Matt for letting me capture such an amazing wedding and soirée.
From the bride and groom:
Matt and I met on a chilly Monday evening December 17, 2012 at The Speakeasy on East Bay Street in Charleston (most unfortunately no longer in operation due to a building fire). We shared a bit about ourselves over a bourbon cocktail and quickly realized we had a lot in common… we both have a sense of adventure and love of travel, sports and the outdoors, and enjoy Charleston’s amazing food scene. And when you first meet someone there is always that question of “do you think they like me?” My question was quickly answered a few moments later when he asked if he could sit next to me. From that day forward he called me every day… no texting, actual old fashioned telephone conversations! I knew he was different, and I was intrigued. Most importantly I knew he was the kindest man I’d ever met.
We began dating and immediately introduced each other to our friends, as they are great judges of character. I liked his friends right away, and I think he felt the same. I was in PA school and quite busy at the beginning of our relationship, so we only saw each other when time permitted. Matt was understanding yet persistent when asking me out for dates. We then took a ski trip that winter, a beach trip in the spring, and things started becoming more serious. We met each other’s families and became a couple. Our lives continued with traveling and adventure – New York, California, Italy, even Africa. As our relationship became even more serious, I kept thinking, “it will happen on this trip!” but it never did…
Then on Christmas of 2014, Matt pulled off an incredible hoax. We spent Christmas with my family, and he asked me to spend New Year’s with his family – keeping things fair and all. However, on Christmas Day as we opened presents, our plans were set to change. Matt surprised me with a beautiful snow globe of the New York City skyline and handed me a card asking me to spend New Year’s in New York City! The gift was quite interesting and everyone had a laugh as I coincidentally also gave him a surprise trip to NYC (see, we were definitely meant to be!). On the second day of our trip he told me to be ready for dinner at 7pm. We walked downstairs and he asked if I’d like to walk. Being from Charleston, which is such a walkable city, the answer was absolutely yes, even though it was below 20*. He mentioned cutting through Central Park would be a quicker way to the restaurant and after about 10 minutes I thought for sure he was lost. We came up upon the Writer’s Walk with it’s iconic park benches and lamps lining the avenue – and there were only two other unfortunate souls as silly as we were braving the winter weather! He then turned my attention to a statue of one Robert Burns, who I had never heard of (a famous Scottish poet famous for his love sonnets!). As he did, one of the two people down the avenue walked up towards us and began playing the guitar and singing a James Taylor ballad – his good friend Shane who was in on the surprise; the other was a hired photographer set to capture the big moment. He sweetly asked as he bent down to one knee “I want to ask you to dance, but before I do I have one more question to ask you…” and then asked me to marry him. It was so incredibly romantic! We danced a bit in the freezing cold to Shane’s beautiful voice, and then were quickly whisked away to a nearby speakeasy, where we laughed and celebrated over bourbon cocktails. He then took me to dinner at my favorite restaurant, Le Bernardin, where the entire staff was privy to the surprise and had celebratory drinks and treats awaiting us. One of my sweet friends is a local radio dee-jay and we recorded our proposal story on air; listen to it here (6:45) https://soundcloud.com/itsbrookeryan/119-i-love-this-buzz
Our wedding: We met in December 2012, engaged December 2014, therefore only thought it natural to keep all of our most important dates in December. We settled on New Year’s Eve, because after all, who doesn’t like a party?! After that decision was made we knew we wanted a Black Tie Affair. Being in Charleston and on New Year’s Eve we politely asked for our local and out of town guests alike, “we strongly encourage you to leave your keys at home or in the hotel room and instead choose your own two feet to get you to the ceremony and reception. Charleston is a walking city, and our wedding festivities are designed to encourage it. So put on your best fur (if it’s chilly) and skip on over!”
The ceremony was held at Unitarian Church which is located two blocks from The Mills House Hotel. The Unitarian Church in Charleston is the first Unitarian Church in the South. It was originally built from 1772 – 1776, but wasn’t formally used for worship until 1787. Instead, the church became barracks for American Militia troops during the Revolutionary War. Most visitors likely remember two things about the church- it’s architecture and the stunning grounds. The English Perpendicular Gothic Revival style building was designed by Francis D. Lee, a Charleston architect and church member, reminiscent of the Chapel of Henry VII at Westminster Abbey and St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. It is designated a National Historic Landmark. The cemetery and garden were originally designed by Mrs. Caroline Gillman in the 1800’s. The aesthetic of the space lends to a truly tranquil and natural feel. The gardens boast an impressive array of native South Carolina plants and flowers. It is definitely worth a stroll anytime you find yourself wondering down King Street on a warm and sunny spring afternoon. Likewise, it is still breathtaking in the winter and this made a perfect avenue for our guests to be able to walk from the wedding to the reception. We wanted our wedding to be romantic, fun yet classic and so chose to begin the event at a later hour, 7pm. We chose to heavily incorporate our family and close friends into the wedding. Matt’s father played the bagpipes for the bridal processional and recessional, his uncle and cousin played the saxophone & piano, my sister-in-law provided a reading, along with a close friend reading a Bible passage, our friends Shane & Jenna sang a beautiful duet, my brooch bouquet included special pieces of jewelry gifted to me from family friends – and even my late grandmother’s collection, his aunt graciously helped with flower arrangements, a sweet friend and college sorority sister did my hair & makeup, and our friend and notary declared us husband and wife at the stroke of midnight. We wanted our family & friends to feel the love we share for one another as easy and as natural as we do, and to feel as special on our big day as they are in our lives.
The reception: We chose the Mills House Hotel as our reception site to host our classy event after perusing a few other local venues. The Mills House Hotel is a majestic hotel with history and glamour; it quickly stole our hearts. It is located at the corner of Meeting and Queen Streets, originally built in 1853, named for it’s owner grain merchant Otis Mills, and designed by architect John E. Earle. The building was completely torn down and renovated in 1970 with the help of Curtis and Davis Architects of New York, as well as local historical preservationists. Our black tie affair would occupy the first floor of the hotel to include the Barbados Room and the tented courtyard. We lined up an amazing band, The Fantastic Voyage Band to help us party the night away and ring in the New Year! As this was to be a later evening wedding, we planned events throughout the night to ensure our guests would last well past midnight! Beautiful details were incorporated, including a stunning sparkling bar and signature cocktails- Matt’s favorite is a Manhattan, but along with the beverage manager of the Mills House, we tweaked the recipe a bit and coined it the “Matt-Hattan.” Instead of a traditional New Year’s Eve count down, we had an idea to receive our pronouncement of marriage, the official “Mr. & Mrs. Anderson” declaration at the stroke of midnight, which the band helped us count down. Our gracious friend and notary made the declaration and everyone raised their glass of champagne to toast to us and to the New Year!
Colors: black & gold
Theme: NYE celebration
Dress: brooches, sequins & sparkles, fur
Candlelit walk through Unitarian Church’s garden after the ceremony
Champagne Bar & sparkling cocktails: The Blushing Bride, The Darling Husband
Signature Bar Drinks: The Matt-Hattan, Moscow Mule
Marriage proclamation at the stroke of midnight by close friend
Midnight champagne toast & formal declaration of marriage
Brooch Bouquet, brooches gifted from close friends & family
Burying the Bourbon, A Southern tradition for good weather, Mills House Courtyard
Surprise song / serenade by close friend at reception
Bride self-made signage for reception
NYE festive hats, tiaras, horns and party favors
Why I chose my wedding vendors:
Planning & Design: Southern Protocol, Emily Harkins:
The moment I chatted with Emily I knew two things: 1) she was going to plan my wedding 2) we were going to be friends. Southern Protocol has an amazing reputation and the women there have the style and zest I was looking for. Emily is an incredible woman with an amazing sense of style, fabulous taste and design aesthetic. After a few conversations she completely envisioned my thoughts into action. She loves candlelight just as much as I do and was able to create the oh-so romantic feel I was going for. She was so supportive throughout the process and streamlined everything to make my decisions easy and stress free.
Photography: Michel Berda, King Street Photo Weddings:
Michel photographed my sister’s wedding 13 years and some months ago at Lowndes Grove and captured beautiful photos full of emotion with the subtle aspects that make a photographer stand out. We kept up over the years and it was natural for me to gravitate towards someone my family and I knew when it was time for me to choose a photographer for my own wedding. I knew that I could trust him with the memories I wanted to create and knew firsthand of his talent. Foremost, he is extremely caring about a bride as well as his work. He is detail oriented and very organized, which made me comfortable and confident throughout the process. I am positive we will work together again!
Videography: Siegel Films, Adam Siegel:
Two of my good friends used Adam Siegel for videography within the year of my engagement for their weddings. The videos and trailers I viewed simply spoke for themselves. He is extremely talented and allows your big day to be forever preserved. Adam is cool, calm, and collected. When we first met he told me I wouldn’t notice him at all during the wedding, and I didn’t!
Hair & Makeup: KS Luxe Artistry, Katie Shayda
Katie is a good friend and sorority sister from college. Over the years I have watched her create a beautiful business. When she offered her services I knew I would be extremely happy having her by my side as a friend, while making sure I looked as wonderful as I felt on my wedding day. She made me feel extremely prepared with meetings and makeup trials before the festivities began.
Cake: Sweet Rhi, Rhiannon Chandler:
Emily, my wedding planner, recommended Sweet Rhi. We met and tasted a variety of her cakes. I brought along photos and ideas for what I wanted and she truly was able to make that into a reality, translating my design into a beautiful and delicious confection.
Florals: Country & Lace Florist, Debbie Mock:
Debbie did flowers for BOTH of my sister’s weddings. Again, I felt it natural to choose her- someone I knew, trusted, and felt confident about. Debbie was extremely willing to take on the task of creating my brooch bouquet although she hadn’t done one before. It turned our amazing and gorgeous! – everyone wanted to see it up close.
Paper: Leo + Lamb, Leigh Lamb:
A good friend of mine told me about Leigh- she had done many paper projects for her including invitations, announcements, and ceremony programs. After emailing her my ideas for our save the dates and seeing a beautiful finished product, I knew she was the one to choose to create my custom wedding invitations. Leigh was so easy to work with and was always willing to re-design, re-create, or alter the design until it was absolutely just right. I had the most gorgeous invitations I’ve ever seen!
Transportation: Justin Bailey, Carolina’s Executive Limo Line:
Every bride hopes and prays for perfect weather for her wedding. To top it off, Matt & I even buried a bottle of bourbon with hopes the Southern wedding tradition would sway the weather gods in our favor. However, the week of the wedding, the forecast showed a potential for evening showers. I immediately called a good friend of ours, Justin Bailey, who owns Carolina’s Executive Limo Line to see if there was any way he could help. Justin went above and beyond to help secure transportation “just in case,” which we ended up using to transport our family after the church portraits were complete. He even had the bus available for us to utilize after our first look earlier in the afternoon so we could quickly get to some other stunning Lowcountry spots perfect for another photo opportunity.
Wedding vendors website links:
Southern Protocol, Planning & Design, Emily Harkins:
King Street Photo Weddings, Photographer, Michel Berda:
Siegel Films, Videographer, Adam Siegel:
Hair & Makeup: KS Luxe Artistry, Katie Shayda:
Cake, Rhiannon Chandler:
Country & Lace Florist, Debbie Mock:
Paper, Leo + Lamb:
Carolina’s Executive Limo, Justin Bailey:
Fantastic Voyage, Band, Ceremony Musicians: Dr William Anderson – bagpipes, Paul Anderson – saxophone, Will Anderson – piano, Shane & Jenna Hagan – guitar & vocals:
The Mills House Wyndham Grand Hotel, Charleston, SC. Reception: Barbados Room Coordinator, Melissa Joseph- management, Tim Judge – beverages,Venue:
Officiant,Church Unitarian Church, Danny R Reed:
Jim Hjelm by Hayley Paige, Gown Boutique of Charleston (Peach silk faced organza fit & flare, strapless asymmetrical draped bodice with crystal detail, cascade skirt with tulle accents, chapel train), Associate, Jenna: