Photography by Olivia Rae James.
This couple had the perfect, laid back attitude to wedding planning – they picked a gorgeous venue in the town where they met and fell in love, and let their effortless, intimate wedding come together from there. Some stand out details? Bride Molly’s flowing cream Stone Fox Bride gown, the sweetest flower girls (in baby’s breath floral crowns), and, once the sun set, an elegant, relaxed garden party under twinkle lights, with bowls of pasta and plenty of wine!
What was the best advice you received as a bride? The best advice I received was to do whatever felt right for me and Chase. There is no reason you should have aspects of the day that don’t sound appealing to you. Stick to what feels authentic!
Why did you choose this location for your wedding? Even though we grew up a few miles away from each other outside of Washington DC, we didn’t meet until freshman year of college in Charleston, SC. We started dating and fell in love, and spent a good chunk of our relationship in Charleston before both moving back to DC after school. The location wasn’t even a discussion when planning our wedding – as soon as we got engaged, we were both just like, “Charleston, right?”
What was your ceremony music? A friend of ours plays guitar, and I asked him to play Pachelbel’s Cannon in D for the processional. I always knew I wanted to walk down the aisle to that song, and to have friends be part of the ceremony was pretty special.
What was your favorite thing about your wedding ceremony? Walking what felt like a mile to the aisle with my dad, while he was cracking jokes and trying to keep us both from crying.
Did you include any traditions in your ceremony? My dad walked me down the aisle and we repeated a version of traditional vows. Other than that, no!
Your ceremony in three words. Casual, non-traditional, intimate.
Who officiated your ceremony? How did you choose him/her? Since we’re not traditional and didn’t want to have a religious ceremony, I had the idea that our friend, Stephen, should get officiated and marry us. I’ve known him since I was 16, and once my and Chase’s friend groups started to merge in college, he and Chase became fast friends, too. Stephen is one of the kindest guys I know and knows us both very well. I had a gut instinct that he’d be great at it and it just felt like the right thing to do. I asked him, and luckily he said yes. He got ordained and took the task seriously, writing the most amazing words for our ceremony. We trusted him so much that we let what he planned to say be a surprise, and it was honestly the highlight of our wedding day. He was able to include personal anecdotes since he knows us both so well, and had everyone alternating between laughter and tears.
What were your ceremony readings? We didn’t have any!
What were your vows like? I researched vows online, and made slight tweaks before giving them to our officiant. They were pretty traditional, and short.
If you had it to do over again, is there anything you would do differently? We had some technical issues with the sound system – I would have definitely double-triple-checked things beforehand!
Is there anything else that you’d like to share about your wedding ceremony? It was surreal. The fact that dozens of our family and friends traveled to Charleston to be a part of it was the best feeling, you could really feel the love and authenticity of the day! It felt very personal.
How great do Molly’s bridesmaids look? The only direction she gave them was to wear lace dresses in whatever colors they liked – the mix of pastels and moody, dark shades is so perfect for a fall wedding!
How would you describe your reception? Beautiful, lighthearted and fun!
How did you go about planning your wedding? We’re not super traditional, and knew off the bat we just wanted to plan a really great party with our closest family and friends in a city we love. That was our ‘concept’ haha! The very first thing I did (one week after Chase proposed) was email Olivia Rae James! I knew I wanted her as a photographer. From there, we picked a venue (which required we work with a planner), but we chose every vendor ourselves and tried to keep it as simple as possible – keeping the traditions that felt right for us (a first dance) and skipping the ones that didn’t (cake cutting). I did a lot of research through social media and found almost all of my vendors through the ones I knew I wanted to work with, sort of staying within their networks.
Says Molly: “Chase and I were in Charleston for the weekend with a group of friends. We drove eight hours there from DC and he had done a few things on the way that should have tipped me off, but at the time they didn’t (like taking a phone call out in the rain at a pit stop, when he could have easily taken it in the car!) When we got to Charleston, we met up with a friend who we were staying with and headed down to the water, where we were supposedly meeting Chase’s brother at a nearby bar. Instead of heading to the bar where I was told we were going, we kept walking through Charleston’s Waterfront Park and started approaching what Chase and I call “our spot” – a pier at the end of the park. My friend was trailing behind us and taking photos, but again, I was oblivious. As we walked onto the pier I saw Chase’s brother with a group of people whose backs were turned to us. As we got closer, his brother had the biggest smile on his face and the group of people turned around – about 10 of our closest friends. Chase’s two brothers held up a sign that said “Molly, will you marry me?” (complete with an illustration of the Charleston bridge and our cat, Lyla). I turned to Chase who had gotten down on one knee. To say I was surprised is an understatement – I was in shock and am pretty sure I said “are you serious?” 500 times before saying yes. I had no idea he had not only gotten a ring, but spent the last few weeks orchestrating the proposal with his brothers and our friends. After the proposal, we had a group ready to go have a drink and celebrate with us – it was perfect!”
What inspired you when you were planning your wedding? The venue. William Aiken House is so incredibly beautiful that we had very little to do by way of decoration. We were fortunate enough to have the ceremony and reception outside in the gorgeous courtyard, and between the pergola, reflecting pool, historic grounds and meticulously landscaped gardens and ivy wall, it was kind of a dream.
What was your favorite moment or part of the reception? Seeing literally everyone I love in one place!
Do you have any budget tips for other brides? Don’t spend more than you have :) Pretty simple, but no need to go into debt over your wedding. For us, the venue was a huge chunk of our budget, but luckily the venue was so perfect we really didn’t need much else besides some furniture rentals and string lights! Everything was outside in the gardens, so I didn’t even have a flower vendor besides what I carried as my bouquet. Keep a spreadsheet of vendors, costs, and subtract against your budget as you go so there are no surprises. If you can, have some padding in your budget for unexpected costs. The biggest surprise in planning a wedding was how much actual costs were as compared to estimates – there is always additional tax, management fees, etc. that can run the bill up, specially as you get closer and closer to the wedding. There will always be costs you forgot about that pop up as it all starts to come together. I stayed super organized on the financials so when we did go over (accept it now, it’s going to happen), I knew how much we had to cover it.
What was your wedding menu? We had a raw bar of oysters on the half shell. For the main meal, we gave the caterer family recipes for our menu (one from my family, one from his): Bucatini Carbonara and Zucchini Casserole. They were served at stations with fresh salad.
What was your first dance song? Father/daughter or mother/son dance? Our first dance song was Like You’ll Never See Me Again by Alicia Keys, and our father/daughter dance was to The Way You Look Tonight by Frank Sinatra.
What advice do you have for other couples in the midst of planning a wedding? Unless you have dreamed of a super traditional wedding your whole life (and hey, those are awesome!) just plan a really great party. You don’t have to do something just because you think you’re supposed to do them. It’s so important to feel comfortable at your wedding, and sometimes that means doing things your own way.