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02/03/2017

A Secret Garden-Inspired Wedding in the Heart of Downtown Charleston

 

Caroline Irvin, an interior designer at Kemble Interiors, and Brody Davis were set up on a blind date by a mutual friend that ended up being a whirlwind of a Sunday. “We were supposed to have a quick brunch at The East Pole, a restaurant near my apartment, but it turned into a 10-hour affair,” remembers Caroline. “We went from brunch, to an outdoor courtyard for a cocktail, to the rooftop party of a mutual friend in Brooklyn, and then to the roof of Brody’s apartment for a moonlit sushi dinner.”

A couple of days after their first meeting, Brody was scheduled to leave for Europe for two weeks. “I knew I had to see Caroline again beforehand,” remembers Brody. “I asked her if she was free on Wednesday, and thankfully she agreed. Later, I discovered she had to cancel another date to see me!”

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Even though it felt like things were meant to be, Brody was actually in the midst of moving to Los Angeles right around the same time they had connected. “He was too far along to turn back after four dates,” says Caroline. “However, we both knew what we had found was too special to risk, so he moved back to New York for the love of his life after a few short, painful months of long distance.”

A year and a half after their first date, Brody proposed. “We spent the second half of 2015 building a house in East Hampton,” says Caroline. “Brody knew that he wanted to ask me to marry him the first weekend we were in our house, as it had become the most meaningful place in our lives.”

When Caroline woke up on Saturday morning and walked downstairs, Brody was waiting in the living room. He had lit the fire, lined the room with white hydrangeas, and cued up Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic”—Caroline’s favorite song—to provide ambiance. “After a few sentiments about how he had never known happiness until he knew me, he got on one knee,” says Caroline. “The next day, we drove into the city, and he surprised me with a brunch back at The East Pole. Both of our families were there waiting for us. After we finished eating, he opened a curtain to reveal that he had invited all our closest friends to join us for a celebration with live guitarists and a specialty cocktail that we shared there on our first date.”

Originally, the couple booked an October weekend at Playa Grande Beach Club in the Dominican Republic for their wedding. “My boss designed Playa Grande, and I helped install the project before it opened,” explains Caroline. “I knew I wanted to get married there from the moment I saw it—even though I spent most of my time schlepping vintage wicker rocking chairs through a muddy jungle.” It was also the first place the couple had vacationed together.

“Unfortunately, we had to cancel our Caribbean plans because a lot of our guests were concerned about Zika,” says Caroline. “Luckily, we had already signed on with Teissia Treynet and her team at Firefly Events, and though she ended up having to plan a very different wedding, she was there for us through our many changes of plans. We considered New York, Los Angeles, and everywhere in between, but finally decided on Charleston, South Carolina, where I grew up.”

Charleston is one of the most popular wedding destinations in the United States, so by the time Caroline and Brody landed on this location, there was only one weekend available before 2018 at the bride’s first-choice venue. “We booked it immediately,” she says, laughing. Located in the center of the downtown historic district, the Governor Thomas Bennett House was built around 1825 and immaculately restored. “As an added measure of specialness, the Thomas Bennett House is also the same venue where my mom married my stepfather,” explains Caroline.

Festivities started on Friday with a “sexy dinner party,” while Saturday was designed to be an elegant affair turned wild celebration. Caroline had a pretty clear idea of the look she was going for—“secret garden meets old Charleston.” “We wanted the gardens and the grounds to shine, so we used a lot of greenery in our florals accented with pale pinks, soft blues, and deep pinks,” she says. “It was a black-tie wedding, so we wanted it to feel elegant, but also seasonally appropriate. It was 90 degrees on our wedding day, and our ceremony was at 4:00 p.m., so the pops of color felt exactly right.” Forgoing Pinterest in favor of finding inspiration in books and on Instagram, Caroline relied heavily on her florist, Amy Osaba, to help her make sense of her vision. “Even though I was extremely involved in the process, I was truly blown away by our flowers all weekend,” says the bride.

Caroline found her Oscar de la Renta cocktail dresses at Mark Ingram Atelier. “The first time I tried on wedding dresses, I had my heart set on a beautiful, off-the-shoulder Oscar dress,” says Caroline. “But, I also had a few other favorites that I saved for my next trip with my mom. When my mom and I returned to Mark Ingram together, I first tried on a strapless lace dress, also by Oscar, and this is the one I ended up wearing. My mom immediately burst into tears and said that she couldn’t imagine any dress being more beautiful! I felt the same way. It was also comfortable, cool, and felt perfect for a Charleston garden wedding.”

Caroline sent the embroidery detail of the original off-the-shoulder dress to the artist who made her invitation suite. She incorporated the design into the couple’s save the dates and invitations. “Nobody would know that detail but me, but I liked having even just the smallest piece of that other dress that I’d fallen in love with be a part of the day,” says Caroline.

Upon arrival in the garden at the Governor Thomas Bennett House, guests were ushered under the shade of a giant oak tree covered in Spanish moss. They were then handed a glass of Champagne—“anything to distract them from the heat!” says Caroline—before taking their seats. “The officiant—a close friend of Brody’s family—had a deep, booming voice and a distinct Southern drawl—perfect for communicating his powerful words, and the ceremony was short and sweet,” says Caroline. “We cried and sweated the whole way through.”

Afterward, guests gathered for cocktail hour on the front porch of the house overlooking the garden. A pianist played in the foyer, filling the porch and garden with classical music as the newlyweds took photos with family and friends. Everyone then moved into a big Sperry Tent in the backyard for dinner. There, a Southern-style meal of Low Country shrimp salad and a choice of either blue cheese–crusted New York strip or local grouper over succotash were served. The couple kicked off the dancing to John Legend’s “Open Your Eyes.” “The band then really took it up a notch with ‘Shut Up and Dance,’ ” says Caroline. “The song felt like it lasted 20 minutes, and it provided the electric energy level we had hoped for.” The bride ended up changing into her after-party cheap cocktail dresses much sooner than expected, and the dance floor was full all night.

After the reception, the new Mr. and Mrs. Davis exited under a tunnel of rose petals and cheers to a horse-drawn carriage that took them straight to a late-night party. Charleston-style trollies shuttled guests to the restaurant/bar they’d rented out, and everyone was waiting for them when they arrived. “We’re grateful the photographer did not follow us there,” jokes Caroline. “We danced with our friends until the wee hours of the morning!”

 

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