Though Elizabeth Haddad, 27, a blogger, and Christopher Schwartz, 28, a resident, both grew up in West Virginia, the two didn't meet until 2005. "We met at a Coldplay concert in Pittsburgh," says Elizabeth. "My friends and I were looking for a taxi after the show, and Chris and his friends had arranged for one to pick them up. Thankfully I knew one of his friends from high school tennis matches, so they let us squeeze in. 11 people in one cab!" Thanks to Facebook, Chris was able to get in touch with Elizabeth after the show. "It was brand new at the time, so I was a little freaked out at first," she says. "But we started messaging, and became friends that way." Three years later, Chris took Elizabeth on their first official date, and the rest is history!
A proposal over pancakes in May of 2012 kicked off the planning for the couple's June 29th, 2013 wedding at The Cloister at Sea Island, where Elizabeth and Chris invited 125 guests to join them for a late morning ceremony, a garden-inspired luncheon, and a late-night dance party. Shawn Connell of Christian Oth Studio was there to photograph every stunning southern detail.
Hand-engraved invitations featured raw edges, lending a soft feel to the formal event.
Elizabeth kept her accessories sweet and simple, choosing blush Dior sandals and a classic Lily of the Valley bouquet. "It was my maternal grandmother's favorite flower," says Elizabeth.
The bride and groom fell in love with The Cloister's Spanish-style architecture and elegant yet relaxed vibe. "I've always felt drawn to the slowness of the South," says Elizabeth. "We live in New York, and while a New York wedding would be beautiful, I was worried it would be swallowed by the city. Going to Georgia gave us the opportunity to really take our time and enjoy every moment."
The ceremony took place in the oldest room at the hotel, the Spanish Lounge. "The wooden vaulted ceiling and stained glass windows made it feel like a church," says Elizabeth. Two crepe myrtle trees flanked the altar, and the aisle was edged with greenery. Elizabeth, in a breathtaking Elie Saab gown, walked down the aisle alone. "My father passed away five years ago," she says, "and I felt like no one could take his place. I symbolically left that space open. I know he was with us in spirit."
The bride first spotted her wedding gown while she was watching a video of the Elie Saab runway show. "It just floated down the catwalk," she says. The only downside? The only samples were at the boutique in Paris! "I took a trip to France to try on the dress, and fell in love," says Elizabeth. "I loved the illusion neckline and the leather bow belt." Chris wore a Martin Greenfield tuxedo and Elizabeth's grandfather's cufflinks.
A bagpiper led guests from the ceremony to the luncheon. "Bagpipers play on the golf course at Sea Island every day at 5pm," explains Elizabeth. "They were a great way to round up our guests and lead them through the property!"
Guests headed to the Black Banks Terrace for a lunch with river views that combined southern-inspired dishes with elegant service. A mix of long and square tables were topped with natural linens and lace runners. Centerpieces featured white roses and lisianthus, as well as topiaries and herb plants. "We created a garden feel with a suspended pergola of lemon leaves," says Elizabeth. "It really transformed the space into a manicured English garden."
After lunch, the couple and their wedding party boarded the Cloister Belle, a vintage yacht, and took an hour-long sail through the marshes. "It was so special to have that time to share with our closest friends," says the bride.
Elizabeth's eight bridesmaids, including her sister and friends she's collected throughout her life, wore pale pink capsleeve dresses by Joanna August and carried soft bouquets of garden roses.
After an afternoon nap and a costume change, Elizabeth and Chris rejoined their guests for an 8 p.m. celebration in the Cloister Ballroom. "We reused a lot of the greenery and arrangements from the luncheon to create an old Hollywood feel," says Elizabeth. A shrimp-and-grits bar and peaches and cream wedding cake (topped with sugar flowers inspired by Elizabeth's dress) fueled the party. Elizabeth donned a custom metallic lace dress by Jes Wade, a friend of the bride's. "I wanted a dress that was bridal, but that I could wear again," says Elizabeth. "I loved that the shape and the neckline were similar to my wedding dress."
The night ended with a fireworks send-off, then the newlyweds spent a month savoring being married before heading to their honeymoon in Rome, Caserta, and Ravello. "We needed a rest after our whirlwind weekend," says Elizabeth.
Ceremony & Reception Venue: The Cloister at Sea Island
Wedding Planner: Maren White and Melissa Ippensen of The Cloister at Sea Island
Bridesmaids' Dresses: Joanna August
Groom's Attire: Stevie Fellig for Martin Greenfield
Engagement Ring & Wedding Bands: McTeigue & McClelland
Florist: The Vine Garden Market
Invitations & Paper Goods: The Printery
Catering & Cake: Sea Island Resports
Rentals: Beachview Event Rentals & Design
Photography: Shawn Connell for Christian Oth Studio