Photography by Tec Petaja.
Hollis and John wanted a wedding that represented their love for nature, their families and each other, and with the help one of our favorite Southern planners‘, they definitely pulled it off! The most meaningful elements included marrying in the same church as the groom’s parents and grandparents, followed by a reception on the lawn of the groom’s parents’ home, and filling the day with modern Scottish traditions representing the bride’s family’s heritage. From the gorgeous stationery suite featuring a custom watercolor painting of the wedding site, to the white and green florals on every surface, to the fun palm print bar, and the gold leaf print on the tiered wedding cake, be sure to check out every element of the botanical theme that tied the day together!
Why did you choose this location for your ceremony?
John and I were married at Prince George Winyah Episcopal Church in Georgetown. It was founded in 1721, and is one of the few original church buildings in South Carolina still in use. His grandparents were married there as well as his parents, so that made it very special to us.
Your ceremony in three words. Traditional, Scottish, short!
What were your ceremony readings? John 4:7-12 & Colossians 3:12-17. We had my cousin’s son read these verses, and I just love them. While they of course apply to love and marriage, every guest in the church could take something from them – they’re about love, forgiveness and strength.
Did you include any traditions in your ceremony? My family is Scottish, so I always knew I’d want a nod to that heritage – we did that in various ways, including by having bagpipes and drummers during the ceremony, and using the Johnston family tartan throughout the entire event. I came down the aisle to Highland Cathedral, led by the bagpipes and drummers, and John and I left the church to Scotland the Brave.
What was your favorite thing about your wedding ceremony? I loved the bagpipes and drums during our ceremony. They really brought my mind into the moment, and I was able to appreciate it (rather than be in a haze of nervousness about walking down the aisle in front of so many people!). They really set the tone for the rest of the evening.
The beautiful church unfortunately didn’t allow for photographs to be taken inside, but this shot of the excited newlyweds walking out into the dappled sunshine just about makes up for it!
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your day? From the moment John and I knew we were “the one” for each other, we knew we’d get married at Estherville. It evokes everything that is who we are – coastal, natural, and lovers of the outdoors. Many of John’s family members have gotten married or had their reception there, but no one had held their reception in front of his parent’s house like we did. It has one of our favorite views, overlooking Winyah Bay, and it just an incredible spot.
Did you include any other traditions in your wedding? We used the Johnston tartan throughout the wedding day – I wanted to play off its colors, which include greens and yellows, along with pretty blues. The flower girls wore sashes of the tartan and the ring bearers had bowties and ring pillows in it. That’s where I got the color inspiration for my bridesmaids’ dresses, as well.
How would you describe your reception? I’d say the reception had a coastal, natural theme – not quite rustic, but we definitely wanted to bring nature and the outdoors into the reception in an elegant way. I’d envisioned lots of coastal botanicals, delicate greenery, interesting white blooms – sort of an unstructured, romantic feeling. We wanted to evoke the sense that we set up our tent right under the big oak where John proposed, and then used the natural flora found all over Estherville to build the bouquets and boutonnieres and decorate the tables and tent. We wanted people to feel like they walked in to more than just a wedding reception, and that it was also a homey, welcoming piece of who we are as well. I love that it also brought both my family heritage and John’s together (generations of his family have lived in Georgetown), and that it was able to capture so much of our personalities and passions.
What was the best advice you received as a bride? It might sound cliche, but don’t sweat the small stuff! Instead, go ahead and expect that the entire wedding just cannot go exactly as you have planned or envisioned. Whether it rains, or you spill something on your dress, just be prepared – it’s going to happen, and it is not the end of the world. As long as the two of you get married, and celebrate with those you love most, the rest is just added joy.
What advice do you have for other couples in the midst of planning a wedding? I think it’s important to remain realistic – pick a few things that you know are on your “must have” list, but be flexible try not to [again] sweat the small stuff. Don’t get worked up over the price of a certain type of chair, or if you weren’t able to afford a specific flower for your arrangements. Honestly, so much is going on that day, and you’re so caught up in the moment and emotions, just wanting to remember it all and celebrate with your loved ones, that you won’t even notice that the chairs you wanted so badly weren’t there. PS – No one else did either!
What type of cake or dessert did you serve? The cake was one of my favorite things – I have a major sweet tooth (inherited straight from my dad), so the cake tasting went quite well, to say the least! We couldn’t really narrow down our choices because everything was so good, so we decided to do multiple flavors – almond, chocolate with chocolate ganache, and coconut. I wanted guests to be able to enjoy all the flavors! I also wanted it to blend with the rest of the reception’s feel – that’s where the tone on tone patterns came in. Each layer was decorated differently, and the textures were similar to the greenery and fabrics around the reception.
What was your wedding menu? Our food was based on classic Southern fair, with a twist – collard green wontons, fried quail lollipops with plum wine sauce, “redneck sushi” (pulled pork, rice, & scallions with a chipotle aioli drizzle), a trio of sliders (cheeseburger, crab cake, and fried green tomato with pimento cheese), a bbq station with all of the usual fixings, and some other great small bites being passed around. Our late-night snack was another favorite – chicken & waffle sliders!
What was your favorite moment or part of the reception? It’s hard to narrow down, but our first dance always sticks out in my mind. It was performed by Phillip Lammonds (of the band The Blue Dogs, and writer of songs like Lee Brice’s I Don’t Dance). He’s a good friend of John’s father, and a phenomenal songwriter. We’d originally asked him to play one of The Blue Dogs’ songs for our first dance, but he called John a few weeks later and said he and other writer had just finished a new song that would be the perfect first dance song – no one else had heard it, and he’d love to play it for us. The song is called When You Love Someone Like I Love You, and I didn’t even have to hear the whole thing before I said 100% yes!
What was your father/daughter or mother/son dance song? My dad and I danced to Something Old, Something New by The Fantastics – we knew we wanted something fun and upbeat to shag to for it. John pulled his mom on the dance floor during that song as well.
If you had it to do over again, is there anything you would do differently? I can’t really think of anything I’d do differently! I wish I’d taken my own advice on not sweating the small stuff – there were a few elements in planning, like which vases to use on each table that held the arrangements, that I got myself worked up over – on the day of, it never occurred to me to even look at those. I was much more concerned about seeing all of our friends and family and celebrating with them. Full disclosure – I also probably wouldn’t have put my hair haphazardly in a braid half way through the reception when it got a little warm under the tent – that, coupled with the camo hat, did not let my “bridal hair” last too long!
Do you have any budget tips for other brides? I think one of the most important things to remind brides is that you don’t have to go over-the-top or have an extravagant event for it to be a special, enjoyable, and memorable wedding. My dad knew that the best way to have our guests to enjoy themselves was to provide “good food, good liquor, and great music,” so that’s what we tried to do – it seems his advice worked wonderfully!