An Intimate Waterfront Wedding in a North Carolina Boathouse

Kelsey and Westin transformed Beaufort's Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center into a cozy, classic ceremony and reception space

Updated 12/30/16

Photo by Cassidy Carson

In June of 2015, Westin Brawley surprised his girlfriend, Kelsey Mann, with a getaway to Asheville, North Carolina, to celebrate a recent promotion. Kelsey desperately wanted to take in the views at the top of Black Balsam Knob in the Pisgah National Forest, and when the couple reached the top of the mountain, Westin made the climb even more memorable with a proposal.

The couple set plans into motion for an elegant wedding on April 23, 2016, with 105 guests in Beaufort, North Carolina. Kelsey’s parents both live in Beaufort, and her dad works at the maritime museum which runs the Watercraft Center, an active boat workshop. “The first time we walked in to consider it for our wedding we both knew it was ultimate venue for us. It was rustic, raw, simple, and has so much character. The waterfront views were also a plus!” Kelsey says. With intimacy in mind, Kelsey admits that keeping the guest list to a minimum was the most difficult part of planning her wedding.

“I wanted a small intimate wedding, and was so amazed at how hard it was to keep the guest list down,” the bride says says. The couple enlisted the help of the bride's mother (as well as a day-of-coordinator) to plan a cozy affair with a simple, neutral color palette. See all of the classic details from this waterfront wedding below, captured by photographer Cassidy Carson.

Photo by Cassidy Carson

Photo by Cassidy Carson

Cassidy Carson

Photo by Cassidy Carson

Kelsey’s vintage-inspired Sarah Janks wedding dress was made from crepe de chine and silk charmeuse, and finished with a V-neckline. "I just felt that this was my dress," she says. "You really get a feeling! I tried it on twice and my mom cried." She paired the understated gown with gold heels and a vintage bracelet borrowed from her sister, who wore it on her own wedding day.

The bride finished her look with a few knockout floral details. As the final touch to her layered updo, Kelsey added a fresh sprig of pieris japonica, more commonly known as andromeda. She also carried a loose bouquet of garden roses, poppies, spirea, peonies, mint, oregano, honeysuckle vine, and porcelain vine, all wrapped up in a blue silk ribbon.

Photo by Cassidy Carson

Photo by Cassidy Carson

According to Kelsey, her groom is a minimalist, so it was only fitting that Westin keep his look simple. He wore a navy suit with a cream tie and leather oxford shoes. His boutonniere featured pieris japonica buds and a green helebore.

Photo by Cassidy Carson

Photo by Cassidy Carson

Photo by Cassidy Carson

Photo by Cassidy Carson

Kelsey's bridesmaids wore long chiffon dresses by JoAnna August in a gray-blue tone. Each woman held a bouquet similar to the bride’s, featuring roses, pieris japonica, and eucalyptus in soft blushes, creams, and greens. Westin’s dad, Bruce, was his best man, and wore a navy suit with a blue plaid shirt and light pink bow tie. The couple’s 7-year-old Golden Retriever, Lucy, rounded out their wedding party as a four-legged flower girl.

Photo by Cassidy Carson

Photo by Cassidy Carson

Photo by Cassidy Carson

Photo by Cassidy Carson

Photo by Cassidy Carson

Guests gathered in the Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center for Kelsey and Westin's ceremony. The couple's florist and friend, Betsy Earnest, foraged native greenery from around town to create an ethereal ceremony backdrop that was in keeping with North Carolina's natural landscape. The celebration kicked off as Lucy, in a eucalyptus garland, made her way down the aisle with one of the Kelsey's bridesmaids — greeting guests the whole way down! “Later, she consumed pounds of prime rib from guests, the floor, and all the generous kitchen staff!” Kelsey laughs.

The bride's cousin, a guitarist, performed “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder while the bride and her father walked down the aisle. After a personalized message from Westin’s mentor and exchanging “I do’s,” the elated couple left the ceremony to Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”. “It was magical,” the bride says.

Photo by Cassidy Carson

Photo by Cassidy Carson

During cocktail hour, guests chose between the couple’s two signature cocktails, Painkillers and Moscow Mules. They snacked on candied bacon, mini crabcakes, and a play on Nashville hot chicken as they read the evening's itinerary and dinner menu, both of which were written out on butcher paper. Guests found their seats on a DIY seating chart that the bride’s friend made from pallet boards.

Photo by Cassidy Carson

Photo by Cassidy Carson

Photo by Cassidy Carson

In keeping with the couple's vision of a neutral color palette, long tables were topped with crisp white linens, white plates, gold flatware, and gold chargers. A eucalyptus garland ran down each of the two long tables, with candles and bud vases scattered throughout.

After enjoying a three course meal of ahi tuna napoleon, prime rib, and grilled shrimp, guests enjoyed a variety of desserts. Rather than having a traditional wedding cake, Kelsey and Westin opted for a dessert bar, where everyone dug into chocolate bombs, pecan pie, and a deconstructed strawberry shortcake.

Photo by Cassidy Carson

Photo by Cassidy Carson

At the end of the evening, guests made their way to the venue’s dock to send the newlyweds off in a boat decorated with a “Just Married” sign. “We were able to walk down the dock, see all our friends and family one more time, and get into a small boat that had been decorated and ride off into the water,” Kelsey says. The pair set off on a honeymoon to St. John as husband and wife.

Photo by Cassidy Carson

Kelsey has this sage advice for future brides: “Try not to sweat the small details, it all works out at the end of the day!”

Ceremony & Reception Venue: Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center || Day-of-Coordinator: Heather Willett of Humble Bee || Bride's Wedding Dress: Sarah Janks || Earrings: Kate Spade || Shoes: Sam Edelman || Bridesmaids' Dresses: JoAnna August || Groom's & Groomsmen's Attire: Jos. A. Bank || Engagement Ring: J. Yontef || Wedding Bands: Barker Diamond || Flowers: Betsy Earnest of Elizabeth Earnest Florals || Music: Another Level, of Sam Hill Entertainment || Catering: Beaufort Grocery Co. || Photographer: Cassidy Carson

Related Stories