In November of 2014, Jillian Stubbmann was just about ready to give up on online dating—but resolved to go on one last date before calling it quits. Meanwhile, Matthew MacDonald had just signed up for Tinder. The timing was perfect: They both swiped right, and after a first date in midtown Manhattan, they both deleted their profiles for good.
Matt knew almost immediately that he wanted to marry Jillian, and enlisted her best friend to help find the perfect ring. “Jillian works in fashion, and even the tiniest detail is noticed, so finding the ring was a challenge,” Matt says. Jillian and a friend headed to Charleston on an “impromptu” girls’ trip (planned by Matt, of course), and she not only found her dream ring, but unexpectedly found their dream wedding venue too! On Christmas Eve of 2015, Matt handed Jillian a letter explaining that the bag he’d purchased as her gift was delayed in shipping, but that if it had arrived, it would have had a tiny box inside—and he presented her ring.
“My twin daughters, who were six at the time, heard Jillian crying from upstairs, and came down to see if Jillian had gotten her gift. They were in on the plan, and wanted make sure they were happy tears!” Matt remembers.
Though Matt is from Illinois and Jillian is from Long Island, the pair fell in love with Charleston the first time they visited, and the history and culture (and food!) made it the perfect place for their wedding. On September 17, 2016, they returned to Charleston with 80 guests in tow, making the most of their sprawling venue, Middleton Place. From a ceremony under a 300-year-old oak tree to cocktails beneath Spanish moss to dinner in the property's pavilion, the evening became a beautiful, rich experience for the couple and their guests.
“I have always known I wanted to wear Marchesa for my wedding,” says Jillian. “The quality and attention to detail is unparalleled!” A close friend of the bride is the brand’s design director, so Jillian headed straight to the atelier to choose her gown. “I was torn between two, so I admittedly showed Matt images of each (on models, not myself!). One made him totally speechless, and that was all I needed to make a decision.” The white silk tulle gown had a beautifully vintage vibe, with silver metallic Chantilly lace and pearl hand-embroidery.
Jillian paired the gown with a Juliet veil, Manolo Blahnik shoes, and a bouquet of white garden roses, astilbe, anemones, and Spanish moss.
The bride is the director of product development for the women’s collection at Ralph Lauren, so of course the groom wore the brand’s Purple Label shawl collar tuxedo for the event.
Instead of groomsmen, Matt’s two daughters served as groomsgirls, wearing white dresses finished with embroidered Marchesa sash belts to match Jillian’s gown. “Right before the girls walked down the aisle, they turned to Jillian and gave her a thumbs up and told her ‘You got this!' ” says Matt. Adds Jillian, “That moment truly solidified my already rock-solid decision to become their stepmother.”
The bride and groom wrote the entire ceremony themselves, bucking tradition and instead modeling it after an episode of This American Life. “It was full of anecdotes and interjections from friends and family,” Jillian describes. “We also wrote our own vows, and asked our guests to recite vows with us, as well.”
Guests tossed lavender after the couple’s first kiss, then followed a New Orleans–style second line parade through the gardens to cocktail hour. “It was raining almost the entire day, but cleared up just long enough for the ceremony,” Jillian remembers. “As we rounded the hedge and headed toward the pond to cocktail hour, all of our guests were greeted with an incredible double rainbow!”
After sipping Jillian’s signature combination of bourbon and San Pellegrino limonata, and tasting fried green tomatoes and grilled-peach-and-collard green wontons, guests headed into the pavilion for dinner. Inspired by the Spanish moss in the trees, the space was draped with moss, white delphinium, and astilbe flowers. Inside, long tables were topped in natural linens and white gauze runners. A delicate arrangement of pillar and taper candles, surrounded by bud vases, lit the spectacular hanging displays of white delphiniums and Edison bulbs overhead.
“We wanted the reception to feel like an intimate dinner with friends, so we kept the tables close together to keep everything cozy and warm,” says Jillian. For dinner, guests were served Cornish hen and fork-only Beef Wellingtons. “We like to think it made our vegan guests question their life decisions,” the bride says, laughing.
After dancing to “That’s My Baby,” guests joined Jillian and Matt on the dance floor while the River City Dixieland Jazz Band played. “It completely fit with the timeless spirit of the night,” says Matt.
“We kept saying that we weren’t throwing a wedding,” says Jillian. “Instead, we were having an unforgettable dinner party for our closest family and friends, celebrating both our personal relationship and the people who made it possible. Every decision flowed from that point, from our vows to the band. This wedding was about all of us, not just the two of us.”
Wedding Planner & Rentals: Megan Chandler of Ooh! Events || Venue: Middleton Place || Bride's Dress: Marchesa || Bride's Veil: The Veiled Beauty || Bride's Shoes: Manolo Blahnik || Hair: Patrick Navarro || Makeup: Lauren Smelley || Bridesmaids' Dresses: Joanna August || Groom's Attire: Ralph Lauren Purple Label || Flower Girls’ Attire: Bella Bridesmaids, Marchesa || Engagement Ring: Croghan’s Jewelry Box || Wedding Bands: Catbird, Tacori || Floral Design: Out of the Garden || Paper Products: Cotton Paperie Letterpress, Letterpress by Janet Henderson Brown, Will Holmes || Catering: Cru Catering || Dessert: Sweet Lulu’s Bakery || Ceremony Music: Charleston Virtuosi String Quartet || Reception Music: River City Dixieland Jazz Band || Transportation: Low Country Valet || Photography: Sean Money + Elizabeth Fay