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June 2007

Open-Air Affairs
Written By: 
Holly Burns
Photography By: 
Peter Frank Edwards

A pair of local designers take on our wedding challenge: Create two distinctly different receptions that make the most of the Lowcountry’s outdoors

Waterside Wonder: let The laid-back luxe life rule

Number of guests: 90
Estimated cost: $120,000
Event Designer: Kristin Newman

Tasked with creating an upscale event along the Ashley River, designer Kristin Newman started with a palette based on Lowcountry elements like pluff mud, cobblestones, and the marsh. Then, using only the best of the best and a host of natural textures, she crafted a stunner of a riverside reception at Lowndes Grove Plantation.

invitations & Favors

“If you have a friend with great penmanship, consider asking him or her to write your invitations,” advises Kristin, who put her own stellar handwriting to use on the printed materials. “Guests feel like they’ve received a personal letter, rather than a ho-hum invitation, and they’ll also anticipate a more relaxed event.”

Kristin reasoned that silver boxes monogrammed with guests’ initials would make terrific favors: women could use them for jewelry and men for cufflinks. If this were a real-life reception, Kristin would advise hosts to place a hand-written note inside.

setting & dÉcor

“I am obsessed with the color khaki,” laughs Kristin. “I use it as other people would use ivory—it’s subtle, but it gives a little more depth.” Khaki tablecloths, combined with delicate linen slipcovers, a sea of reflective surfaces, and liberal splashes of white, made a medley of “light, air, and space,” says Kristin. “The glass and silver have the same qualities as the water, and also mirrors things, doubling them.”

Conversely, with nine tables placed cozily together in a grove of oak trees that overlooks the marsh, the reception was designed to embrace and celebrate close relationships—both literally and figuratively. “When you keep a reception fairly small,” says Kristin, “you don’t have a zillion tables spread out all over. With a tight-knit group, you can spend your whole evening alongside the people who mean the most.”


If guests have come all the way to Charleston to see you tie the knot, you want to give them a real taste of Lowcountry cookin’ done right—yet you don’t want to overwhelm them. Kristin’s solution? A sit-down tasting menu of five small courses, which allows guests to sample all the Southern delicacies that won your heart (and tummy) the first time around. For this reception, a coastal-themed menu seemed obvious, but you can tailor your own depending on tastes and season.


When planning a marsh-side event, be sure to check the tide—there’s nothing.

Victorian Charmer: Try tea time in the Country

Number of guests: 125
Estimated cost: $30,000
Event Designer: Melissa Barton

The challenge of designing a reception centered on “a country tea luncheon” fazed event planner Melissa Barton a little at first. “I have to admit, shabby chic is really not my style,” she laughs. “I like everything sleek, matched, and polished.” Never one to shy away from a challenge, however, she imagined the tastes of a mythical bride—“she’d be the kind of girl who shops at vintage stores and antique malls”—and threw herself into planning an early afternoon reception with a heavy dose of Victoriana.

Invitations & FAvors

Melissa envisioned a Sunday morning ceremony and an afternoon reception—quite a departure from the traditional Saturday night to-dos of most modern weddings. And since invitations give guests their first taste of an event, from the start Melissa wanted to show that this wouldn’t be a standard get-together. Thus invites were fashioned into labels, affixed to bottles of loose Charleston tea, daintily boxed, and mailed. As for favors, Melissa rounded up vintage handkerchiefs for the gentlemen and fans printed with love poems for the ladies.

setting & dÉcor

“Pink, pink, pink!” laughs Melissa about the reception’s dominant color. “We wanted the look to be feminine, but not so much so that male guests wouldn’t feel comfortable.” She decided on a dusky rose rather than bubblegum pink, and alternated straight shots of the color with delicate florals and plain white to avoid verging into saccharin territory. “Plus, that jumbled, mismatched look is what I was going for,” says Melissa. “This is a feminine, Victorian-style wedding—I envisioned the women in gloves—but it avoids a costume-party parody; I
didn’t want to overdo things because too much of a theme is just hokey.”

food & drink

Opt for an early afternoon ceremony and you save amply on catering and libations; guests typically expect a lighter meal, and an open bar is not de rigueur. On this afternoon, delicate bites like mini croissants filled with tarragon roasted chicken salad precede other light fare like honeydew melon coolers topped with a dollop of cotton candy. And because this fictional reception takes place in the early afternoon—and on a Sunday, to boot—Melissa set up a tea bar with a host of warm and chilled herbal and fruit teas.


“In the Victorian era, morning weddings with a light afternoon lunch were pretty typical,” says Melissa. “And the bonus for brides on a budget is that such events are far less expensive than most weddings today. Luncheons don’t last as long, the menu is lighter, you pay for less alcohol, and you don’t have to factor in a pricy band or DJ—hiring a jazz duo or trio would be perfect. And of course, there’s that great early afternoon light.”
Even better? Choose a Sunday for the big event. “You can generally get cheaper rates from suppliers and locations on Sundays—sometimes even half the price,” says Melissa.

If you have a favorite collection of linens or china, don’t feel you have to rent fancy matching ones—just go through your own closets and drawers. Or borrow from generous moms and aunts and in-laws to amass one big sentimental collection for your reception. “Using heirlooms makes you feel at home,” says Melissa. “Plus, what’s more important than incorporating family on your big day?”


Location: Lowndes Grove Plantation
Florals: Heather Barrie-Ahern of Gathering Floral + Event Design
Cake: Elaine’s Events, Cakes of Distinction
Food: Callie White of Callie’s Charleston Biscuits
Chandelier: Dwelling
China, furniture, linens, and stationery:
Kristin Newman

Location: McLeod Plantation
Florals: Twigs & Ivy
Cake: Elizabeth Hanckel
Food: Good Food Catering
Stationery: Studio R Design
China, Flatware, Chairs: Snyder Event Rentals

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