It’s easy to imagine the start of Dane Evans and Meredith Murphy’s relationship as a montage from a romantic movie. The sequence begins with their first date at a restaurant in New York City. “We went to dinner and talked and talked for hours about everything,” Meredith recalls. “We hit it off right away!” Not wanting to end the night, the pair heads to the Comedy Cellar, each stealing glances at the other as they laugh late into the night. After that night, they become inseparable, and the months quickly unfold with camping adventures, dinners with friends, and countless road trips to the bride’s home state of South Carolina—their German shorthaired pointer, Otis, always along for the ride. The last scene, a proposal, takes place five years later on a clear summer evening on the beach in Nantucket, Massachusetts.
The couple does, in fact, love going to the movies, and when it came time to plan their wedding on October 6, 2018, they found inspiration from filmmaker Nancy Meyers. “We’ve always admired her ability to produce these magical and seemingly effortless dinner party scenes and we wanted our reception to feel similarly warm and unfussy,” says Meredith.
Read on for all the details from Meredith and Dane's elegant garden party at Middleton Place, a historic estate in Charleston, South Carolina, as planned by Fox Events and photographed by Tim Willoughby.
The couple's invitations were classic with a twist: They were enhanced with an illustration of a sabal palmetto, South Carolina’s state tree! Photographer Tim Willoughby snapped the suite alongside colorful Ladurée macarons, which served as favors. “At the end of the night, each of our guests received a box with our two favorite flavors: raspberry and pistachio,” Meredith adds.
Meredith and her bridesmaids wore coordinating pajamas (from Amazon!) and slippers as they had their hair done by Elysium Salon’s Patrick Navarro and makeup by Deidra Outlaw. “Charleston is a wonderful wedding location with all its natural beauty and historic charm, but it’s also amazing because the city is home to some of the country’s top vendors,” says Meredith. To plan their celebration, the couple worked with Liz Cole Carbone of local event planning company Fox Events. “She did an incredible job bringing our vision to life," adds the bride.
The ceremony and reception were held at Middleton Place, home to the oldest landscaped gardens in the U.S. The historic estate’s 110 acres also include stable yards, a restaurant, and a House Museum (pictured) that was built in 1775.
“I wanted a gown that was unique and also timeless,” says Meredith, who wore a Monique Lhuillier dress with a bodice of rose-print lace and a silk shirt.
“My mother arranged for a collection of charms to be handsewn inside my dress," Meredith says. "They included a gold heart, a St. Christopher’s medal, and my mother’s rosary.” She carried a petite lily of the valley bouquet to complete her elegant bridal look.
“I chose off-white for the bridesmaid dresses to create a clean, ethereal look,” says Meredith, who worked with each woman to select a dress that was just right for her. Bridesmaids carried bouquets of blush garden roses to coordinate with their monochromatic look.
The groom wore a tuxedo with a white jacket. "Style comes naturally to Dane. His mother is an interior designer and he inherited her eye," Meredith admits. "It was so nice to have him to help make design decisions, from floral arrangements to tablescapes to shoes. He’s quick, decisive, and always right!”
“We chose not to do a first look but we did personalize our vows,” explains Meredith. “But rather than say them aloud, we exchanged them via handwritten letters before the ceremony. We wanted to keep this little moment to ourselves and it was really special and romantic.”
The couple exchanged vows at Middleton Place’s Octagonal Garden. “Our ceremony took place beneath a magnificent, thousand-year-old oak tree with the winding Ashley River as the backdrop,” says Meredith. The altar was framed with two large arrangements of white roses and green viburnum.
Guests tossed light pink rose petals as the newlyweds recessed to “Hornpipe” from George Frideric Handel’s Water Music, performed by a string trio.
Cocktail hour was held overlooking the estate's Parterre, on sculpted grass terraces that lead down to the Butterfly Lakes. “We actually extended cocktail hour to one-and-a-half hours because the sunset was too pretty to walk away from,” the bride says.
After cocktail hour, guests found their escort cards atop a bed of moss, which was fitting choice given the couple's effortless garden party theme.
“The grounds of Middleton Place are so magical and, in a way, a tented reception would've blocked the beauty, especially of the trees,” says Meredith. “So we decided to host a dinner under the stars, with string lights and paper lanterns illuminating the Spanish moss overhead, while abundant candlelight danced on the tables below.”
Tables were set with green water glasses and single-stem arrangments of pink and white blooms. “The bright pinks, oranges, and reds really gave the dinner that garden party-esque aesthetic,” says the bride. After a dinner of pan-seared halibut, filet mignon, and chickpea tagine, guests enjoyed a four-tiered lemon chiffon cake with lemon curd and vanilla buttercream.
One of the bride’s favorite moments of the night was when she and Dane entered the dance pavilion for the first time. “I have a penchant for Florence + the Machine,” she admits. “Our entrance song was ‘The Dog Days Are Over.’ It was supposed to segue into our first dance, but when we got to the dance floor, we couldn’t contain ourselves and danced ourselves silly, so much so that the band ended up performing the song in its entirety.” The band kept everyone moving until the end of the evening when Meredith (now in an Emilia Wickstead mini!) and Dane made their getaway as guests cheered them on, sparklers in hand. “There was such a beautiful energy surrounding us,” Meredith says. “A real sense of magic in the air.”
Wedding Venue: Middleton Place
Wedding Planner: Fox Events
Officiant: Mac Hammett
Bride’s Dress & Veil: Monique Lhuillier
Bride’s Shoes: Tabitha Simmons
Bride’s After Party Dress: Emilia Wickstead
Groom’s Attire: Ralph Lauren Purple Label
Hair: Patrick Navarro of Elysium Salon
Makeup: Deidra Outlaw
Engagement Ring & Wedding Bands: Harry Winston
Floral Design: Gathering Events
Calligraphy: Belles Lettres Calligraphy
Custom Monogram: Janelle Sing
Paper Products: Dodeline Design
Ceremony Music: Charleston Virtousi
Reception Music: The Social via Elan Artists
Catering: Cru Catering
Cake: Mirabelle Bakery
Linens: La Tavola Linens
Plants & Greenery: Nancy's Exotic Plants
Lighting: Technical Event Company
Transportation: Lowcountry Valet
Photography & Videography: Tim Willoughby