A picturesque setting and a bluegrass band add local flavor

Sarah Steele and Jason Barclay fell in love at first sight—with Charleston, SC. As Sarah explains, "The city has the perfect combination of what interests us both: beautiful architecture and rich history." After just a single visit once they were engaged, the Indianapolis natives started planning their April 2006 destination wedding. With most of their 50 guests traveling from the Midwest, Sarah and Jason wanted to infuse the weekend with all things Southern. A rehearsal dinner at a local oyster bar with a bluegrass band set the tone, while the main event showed guests the meaning of Southern hospitality.

Following the ceremony at a Baptist church, guests traveled by trolley to the Gibbes Museum of Art, where planner Tara Guérard of Charleston-based Soirée had transformed the bare courtyard into the ultimate party scene: a multiroom tent with a nightclub-style bar, checkerboard dance floor and sleek lounge with white sofas. "The tent was so beautiful—full of color and candlelight," says the bride. After Sarah's father welcomed guests (and Jason's Duke buddies told funny stories), everyone feasted on gourmet versions of Southern favorites, such as shrimp and grits served in martini glasses and buttermilk fried chicken. When the last morsel of food was devoured, the crowd danced and took turns contributing to the newlyweds' custom guestbook by posing for Polaroid pictures and writing meaningful notes. "It instantly sparks memories of the day," says Sarah. At the end of the evening, she and Jason were carried off in a white rickshaw. Their first journey together? A ride through downtown Charleston.

Learn From Sarah and Jason
Create an intimate space: Guests were seated at tables for eight. "Under a big tent, the small tables brought people closer together," says Sarah.
Keep guests comfortable: Though the couple's reception was just two blocks from the church, they arranged for a trolley to transport their crowd. (This paid off when rain showers greeted everyone after the ceremony.)
Make a sweet statement: Sarah and Jason encouraged guests to take home the leftovers of their personal mini wedding cake by providing small, decorative paper boxes that read, "Have your cake and eat it, too."
Drink and be merry: Sarah and Jason had their waiters serve a fun cocktail (peach schnapps–infused pink lemonade) as guests entered the reception.

Sarah, in a Vera Wang gown, and Jason, wearing a charcoal-gray suit, shared a kiss.

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