by Melissa Bigner, Posted May 7th 2010 1:00PM
Filed Under: Destination WeddingsTaylor Stewart Photography1. Locations, Locations, Locations!
No matter what flavor ceremony and reception venue you're craving, Charleston's got it. Antebellum manor house? Sure! Plantation? You bet! Verdant courtyard garden? Not a problem. Dune-fringed beach? Coming right up. Fairy-tale church? They don't call it the Holy City for nothing -- Charleston claims more than 300 churches and temples, many of which date back to the late 1600s and 1700s. There's a reason movies like The Notebook are filmed here and why catalogs and magazines shoot here round-the-clock -- everywhere you go, you've got a stunning backdrop, be it naturally or historically so. For couples, that means getting married in Charleston equals a textbook wedding fantasy (and it means you don't have to dish out dollars to create or overdress your location).
2. Tasty Times
For a relatively small town, Charleston boasts more than its share of local foodie celebs, from James Beard Award - winning chefs (and restaurants) to nationally renowned tastemakers. That means rehearsal dinners, reception menus, day-after brunches and sweet treats all along the way are crafted by the best of the best. But don't think it's all old-school Southern fried. These days, mama's specials (like she-crab soup and shrimp and grits) have new twists and boast straight-from-the-low-country-farm and boat ingredients. So whether you're in the mood for an oyster roast, tapas sampler or formal multicourse meal, Charleston delivers.
3. Sweet Treat
The South has long been know for its sweet tooth -- pralines and pecan pie, anyone? -- but Charleston's bakers and cake designers have raised the bar sky-high. From Peninsula Grill's nationally known 12-layer coconut cake to James Beard Award - winner Lauren Mitterer's confections to Jim Smeal's intricate, oft-published cakes and the dessert buffets from Baked, we know how to sate a sugar lover.
4. Turnkey or Do It Yourself?
Charleston vendors have their feet on the ground. It's one of the best things about living here -- that we all know snootiness equals bad manners. So whether you hire a wedding designer and planner to oversee every last detail of your wedding or you elect to DIY and simply need a day-of coordinator and a few pros to pitch in, the wedding folk in this neck of the woods get it and treat you princess-style no matter your budget. And as for their work? Sure, their weddings, florals, images and more grace the pages of all the national wedding mags and litter the pages of "It" wedding books near and far, but even more importantly, their client feedback is pure gold.
5. Play Station
While those in the bridal party typically have full slates on wedding weekends, guests tend to have a fair bit of downtime. That's why hosting a wedding in an easy-to-navigate vacation town like Charleston -- with world-class attractions, golf, spas, beaches, shops, restaurants, history and more -- is a gift to everyone involved in your big day.
6. Romance Rules
Time and again Charleston is voted the most romantic city in the country. Because strolling is THE way to go here (the city's historic neighborhoods, cobblestone streets, pristine beaches, and public gardens are hand-holding central); horse-drawn carriages and couples rickshaws are ubiquitous; and little boys offer handmade palmetto roses to most every passing lady, the accolade comes as no surprise to locals. If you're looking for a wedding spot that's synonymous with romance, we're it, as even the most reluctant romantic gets the love bug in Charleston.
7. Fair Weather, Friend
There really is no wedding season in Charleston. That's because the weather here is wedding-rific year-round. Sure it gets cool enough to know it's winter (think 60s), and yes, the summers can get steamy (July mostly), but that's where a wrap or AC comes in, respectively. And as for sunny skies? We average 209 a year. The wet days? They tend to have only those fleeting, afternoon Southern showers. About snow -- what's that?
Have you heard of these? It's the idea that your wedding location is so keen that you're loathe to head out of town and honeymoon elsewhere. Charleston's aforementioned amenities, plus its mix of spoil-me resorts, boutique hotels, B&Bs, beach cottage and town-house rentals and other getaway pads make it a top spot for weddingmoons. If saving on your bottom line while splurging on your honeymoon is a priority, think about staying in the city after you say your I do's; the travel expenses you can pocket and the packages available at many accommodations will do you right and then some.
9. Fashion, Baby!
Maybe you've noticed how Charleston designers keep landing on Project Runway.Charleston Fashion Week each March, as well as its offshoot, the Bridal Couture Runway Show, presented by Charleston Weddings
Why, you ask. Well, it used to be that local fashionistas would have to head to the big cities for top labels and of-the-minute looks, but no more. Thanks to bustling King Street with its scores of chains (from Saks and Brooks Brothers to Urban Outfitters and Cynthia Rowley) and boutiques (like Hampden Clothing, Bob Ellis, LulaKate, M. Dumas & Sons and Billy Reid), Charleston is a style maven's dream town. That means brides, bridal parties, grooms, and mothers and fathers of the couple can find just what they need for wedding attire. Couture gowns, off-the-rack numbers, handmade creations, plus vintage, mod, or custom jewels, and men's attire: It's all here, as preppy, classic, or contemporary as you could wish for. Want to see it on the runway? Check out magazine.
10. Please and Thank You
Charleston was actually honorably retired (with a lifetime-achievement award for good graces) from the Most Mannerly City in America contest because we kept winning first place year after year after year. Tough problem to have. We just can't help opening doors, giving directions, helping strangers with this and that and inviting everyone in, whether in to town, to our gardens, inside for a house tour or who knows what. Really. If you want to surround yourself with quintessential Southern hospitality -- and what better way to kick off a marriage than in play-nice central? -- head this way.
Melissa Bigner is the Editor of Charleston Weddings magazine.