Three years after meeting through mutual friends in Charlotte, North Carolina, Charlie Wheatley had his heart set on a New Year's Eve proposal for his now-wife, Haley Thomas. However, a lack of patience intervened. Turns out, he couldn't wait that long, popping the question just days earlier than that on December 27, 2016. "We had dinner reservations and we were running a little behind because we had been on the beach all day," Haley recalls. "Charlie was rushing me to dinner so we could watch the sunset, so I ran out with wet hair." They made it in time to the restaurant, wet hair and all, where Charlie surprised his bride with champagne and a perfectly timed (albeit impromptu) sunset proposal.
With a classic-meets-modern vibe in mind, the New York–based pair decided on Charleston, South Carolina, to host their wedding on April 14, 2018. However, taking a slight detour from standard southern wedding traditions, Haley wanted the event to maintain a feeling of intimacy. "We kept our guest count relatively low," she says. "In the South, people have large weddings, and Charlie would’ve invited 400 people, but we finally settled on a more manageable guest list." But that's not to say the wedding didn't draw some sort of inspiration from the locale. Pastel colors—a popular Charleston motif—peppered in a pinch of Southern charm, making appearances in the bridesmaid dresses, florals, and even the historic light pink church where Haley and Charlie said "I do."
Keep reading to see a seamless fusion of classic and contemporary in this modern Charleston wedding, as captured by Olivia Rae James.
Haley's affinity for florals was evidenced not only in the decor, but also the couple's invitation suite. "I love flowers and I had a lot of ideas," she says.
After going back-and-forth between two wedding gowns, Haley stood steadfast in her final decision—a Delphine Manivet crepe silk dress with a lace overlay. "I always envisioned something very simple with a lace top, and this was perfect," she says. "It felt modern and romantic."
As the assistant U.S. director for Marie-Hélène de Taillac, she represented the brand well, pairing diamond briolette earrings with her gray spinel engagement ring, both from the jewelry label. Haley's parents also gifted her a diamond ring, made of two jewels from her grandmother's collection, which she sported on her right hand. White suede block heels and a veil rounded out her chic bridal ensemble.
A bouquet of pale pink anthurium and roses, sweet pea, wispy fern, and rice flower contributed to the day's pastel palette.
The bridesmaid dresses adopted similar hues. Haley let her bridal party pick their own frocks, as long as they kept in line with the celebration's overall soft allure. "I wanted the girls to be able to wear a dress that was flattering and a color that suited them," she says.
As for the guys, Charlie and his groomsmen sported their own personal black tuxedos.
Coincidentally, Charlie and Haley's choice of ceremony venue actually revealed an unknown link to the bride's lineage. While attending a service at the church before their wedding, the couple sat beside a plaque dedicated to one of Haley's ancestors. "My grandmother, who passed away in 2012, was very knowledgeable about our family genealogy, and it would’ve made her happy to have this family connection," she says. "Also, it’s a beautiful church and was perfect for our guest count."
Anthuriums adorned the front gate of the church's pink facade, then doubled up with rose arrangements to decorate the altar.
Escorted by her father, who proved to be a great help during the planning process, Haley made her way down the aisle to the organ processional from The Sound of Music, one of her favorite films growing up. "The song was meaningful and still traditional," she says.
"We had the option of adding a unity candle or communion, and we chose to add communion," says Haley of the traditional ceremony. "It was something that felt very natural to us, especially to Charlie, who grew up in an Episcopalian church."
Haley cherishes the one-on-time she shared with Charlie (and their photographer) after the ceremony, deeming it one of her favorite memories from the big day.
Wedding attendees walked to the nearby Gibbes Museum of Art for the reception. Bright anthuriums made a comeback, lining the family-style tables alongside tapered candlesticks. The couple also hung strands of café lights within the sailcloth tent.
Southern fare populated the menu, with light bites such as mini tomato pies, shrimp cocktail, and oysters on the half shell making rounds during cocktail hour. For dinner, Haley and Charlie served shrimp and grits and a roasted pig (with a carving station!).
Decked out with a few extra flowers, the duo's four-tier, vanilla wedding cake featured fresh strawberries and Italian buttercream frosting.
Once the band took over, guests flocked to the dance floor. "It was packed the whole night," recalls the bride.
Looking back, Haley recommends that couples vet their vendors carefully. "Take time and care when choosing your vendors," she advises. "So much of the process depends on them, so find people you trust and have a similar vision to yours."
Ceremony Venue: French Huguenot Church
Reception Venue: Gibbes Art Museum
Wedding Planner: The Burlap Elephant
Bride's Dress: Delphine Manivet
Bride's Veil: The Mews Bridal
Bride's Jewelry, Engagement Ring, & Wedding Bands: Marie-Hélène de Taillac
Bride's Shoes: By Far Shoes
Hair & Makeup: Ash and Co.
Floral Design: Flowershop
Invitations & Paper Products: Betsy Peters Designs
Catering: Cru Catering
Cake: WildFlour Pastry
Getaway Car: Lowcountry Valet
Photographer: Olivia Rae James