Lara Alexander and Drew Courtney's relationship started purely as a friendship — the pair met as undergrads at the University of Virginia, where both played varsity tennis. Once Lara graduated and was living in New York, she returned to their college campus to celebrate Drew's birthday with him. "I guess you can say the rest is history," she says. In January of 2015, Drew decided to take their relationship to the next level by visiting Lara's family with her in London. "He proposed right on the doorstep of my family home. We spent the whole day together in London on a perfect bright, crispy day."
The duo decided on an indoor-outdoor ceremony and reception at Cannon Green in Charleston, South Carolina, on September 26, 2015, giving themselves eight months to plan the simple but elegant celebration they had in mind. With the help of Megan Chandler at Ooh! Events, this couple pulled off the wedding of their dreams — even when the bride had an ocean between her and her venue. "The hardest part was having to plan partly from overseas," Lara says. "In the early stages of planning I was in the UK and Drew and Megan were in the states, but from start to finish Megan and the whole Ooh! Events team were extremely thorough, professional, and beyond helpful."
Read on to see how their day came together, as photographed by Amy Arrington Photography.
Lara and Drew were the very first couple to get married at Cannon Green, one of Charleston's newest wedding venues. In addition to loving the idea of being the first bride and groom to exchange vows in the space, the couple also fell hard for everything the property offered. "It was exactly what we were looking for décor wise, and the courtyard we used for the ceremony and Trolley room we picked for the reception both felt very inviting and intimate," says the bride.
They decided on a black tie celebration in the late afternoon, with their ceremony kicking off at 4:30 pm. It was important to Lara and Drew that their day feel both simple and elegant, meaning they skipped over-the-top decorations and unnecessary décor in favor of elements that really spoke to their style. Says Lara, "We wanted people to be blow away in a subtle but understated way. Although our wedding was black tie, we didn't want the evening to feel stuffy."
Just like she was the first bride to wed at her venue, Lara was also the first (and only!) lucky lady to don this Mira Zwillinger wedding dress. "I got a custom design which made it very special and unique," the bride says. "I chose the front of one dress and the back of another. In my mind I had a vision of what I wanted and once I tried it on, I just felt like it was made for me."
The top half of her delicate A-line style was made of white and ivory lace flowers that were assembled on sheer silk tulle and finished with hand-beaded sequin details. The hand-pleated chiffon skirt offered a breezy balance to the more ornate bodice.
Lara accessorized with a pair of pearl and diamond earrings and a sapphire and diamond bracelet borrowed from her mother. "I didn't want my jewelry to take away from the beading of the dress," she says.
For her bouquet, the bride asked for deeper fall shades, resulting in a mix of garden roses, antique hydrangea, anemones, garden roses, eucalyptus, Queen Anne's lace, dahlias, lisianthus, and ranunculus in shades of white and purple with touches of pink.
Drew was every bit the dapper groom in his notch lapel Ike Behar tuxedo, which was paired with an ivory ranunculus and rosemary boutonniere.
Since the bride and groom planned a celebration with a largely neutral color palette, Lara decided to go bold when it came to her bridesmaids' dresses. The winner was a flowy fuchsia chiffon style from Amsale, which popped against the décor and also helped to tie in the pink hues in the flowers.
Each 'maid carried a bouquet that was slightly different, but all containing a mix of garden roses, hydrangea, scabiosa, ranunculus, cotton, wax flower, and tallow berry in shades of white and blush.
Drew's groomsmen wore their own tuxedos but coordinated in matching Brooks Brothers shirts.
Lara and Drew loved the idea of exchanging vows in Cannon Green's walled courtyard. "It's flanked by two reflecting pools and palmetto trees, so it feels very Charleston," the bride says. "A few highlights of the space were the lush greenery, green wall, and the arbor." The pair decidsed they'd exchange their vows beneath the arbor that already existed on the property, adding just greenery and a few protea and hydrangeas to really make the structure pop.
Once Lara's father walked her down the aisle, she and Drew exchanged short yet meaningful vows. After the newlyweds shared their first kiss, a string duo performed "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles.
During the outdoor cocktail hour, guests could lounge on comfortable — and chic! — furniture while sipping on tasty cocktails and enjoying bruschetta, fried green tomatoes, a full raw bar, tacos, sliders, and grilled summer squash. "The food at Cannon Green is top notch," says the self-proclaimed foodie bride. "It was important to us that we had really good food; we wanted recognizable food that people wanted to eat."
In between sips and snacks, guests had the opportunity to leave a message in the couple's unique guest book: A copy of the book Very Charleston.
The couple's reception was held in Cannon's Greens Trolley Room, which the couple loved for it's vaulted ceilings, original exposed trusses, hardwood floors, and glass doors overlooking the courtyard. "It gave the space a rustic, clean, simple feel," Lara says. Tall fluted glass cylinders were filled with hydrangeas, garden roses, spray roses, dahlias, ranunculus, wax flower, and eucalyptus for a lush look that complemented the high ceilings.
On other tables, low glass compotes held mixes of similar blooms with berries for extra texture. "One of the coolest aspects of our lighting for the reception were three hanging glass boards that held candles in large hurricanes," the bride says.
More lounge furniture ensured everyone would be comfortable throughout the party.
After dinner, the couple cut into their three-tier caramel, chocolate chip, and coconut wedding cake. The sweets didn't end there, though: Lara and Drew also served his-and-hers ice cream flavors. The groom picked bourbon caramel while his bride selected peanut butter.
The couple and their guests had a blast during the reception, but Lara and Drew's favorite memory was being pulled up on stage by their band, Rivertown. "We had no idea this was going to happen!" Lara says. "They gave us the option of performing two songs or designating two guests to do it, but Drew said, 'We're doing it.' So we proceeded to stay up on stage and sang Journey's 'Don't Stop Believing' and Bon Jovi's 'Living on a Prayer.' All I can say is I felt like a rock star up there."
The newlyweds, who honeymooned in Turks and Caicos, left the reception in a black London taxi, a nod to the bride's British roots. "Don't sweat the small stuff," Lara reminds future brides. "This aspect of the planning process was hard for me to come to grips with because I'm a perfectionist, but once I put everything in perspective, it all fell into place and was unforgettable."
Venue & Catering: Cannon Green || Wedding Planner: Megan Chandler of Ooh! Events || Bride's Wedding Dress: Mira Zwillinger; Carine's Bridal Atelier || Hair: Allure Salon || Makeup: Ooh! Beautiful || Bridesmaids' Dresses: Amsale || Groom's Attire: Ike Behar || Engagement Ring & Wedding Bands: Tiny Jewel Box || Flowers: Out of the Garden || Invitations: Fancy Creative || Save-the-Dates: Rifle Paper Co. || Music: Classical Charleston; Rivertown Band || Cake: Jim Smeal || Photographer: Amy Arrington Photography
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