Hi, my name is Michelle and I wanted to share our Charleston wedding vendor experience with you. First off, I should mention that we were an out of town couple. We met at the College of Charleston several years ago and now live in CA. Planning a wedding from so far away was tricky, we only spent one week in Charleston prior to the wedding to plan, but all of our vendors were amazing and I would highly recommend every single one! I hope these reviews help you plan your dream wedding!
Rehearsal Lunch/Dinner: James Island County Park, Wappoo Shelter, A+
We made a day of it and had a cookout lunch midday after the rehearsal, decorated the shelter and completed last minute preparations for the wedding in the afternoon, and ended the day with an oyster roast (I can get the oyster roast guy's info if anyone is interested). We basically told our guests who were in town to stop by, which was a great way to see everyone before the wedding (90% of our guests traveled for our event) and there were lots of helpful hands ready to get to work.
Venue: James Island County Park, Wappoo Shelter, A+
We really wanted an outdoor wedding in Charleston and JICP really showcased the beauty of the Lowcountry. We had the ceremony in the meadow next to the Wappoo Shelter, with the reception immediately following at the shelter. We decorated the pavilion was white string lights and smilax greenery. It was gorgeous, especially at night. The park staff were amazing! They kept the bathrooms clean and they came by periodically to pick-up trash (they were so discrete and attentive, I was extremely impressed). We had the entire meadow to ourselves during the ceremony (we could hear children laughing and playing at a nearby playground, but it wasn't distractive at all; in fact it was really sweet). At night you could hear the frogs in the Wappoo pond. Guests enjoyed walking on the trails near the shelter. It was perfect! I highly, highly recommend it!
Accomodations: James Island County Park Cottages, A+
My family and I reserved three cottages at the park to stay in during the week of the wedding, and I can't say enough praise for them! They are completely furnished, very comfortable, in a perfect location (especially if your event is at the park), and each one had a marsh view! It was great on the day of the wedding b/c my girls and I were able to get dressed there and hang out in comfort before driving over for the ceremony. And the price is amazing ($160/night or $130/night if you're a Charleston Co. resident for a cabin that sleeps 8 people)! It was also really great b/c the spacious cabins were perfect for the pre-wedding preparations. And there was free WiFi! I highly recommend them!
Day of Coordinator: Lyn Small of Palmetto Event Services, A+
I love planning things and I definitely wanted to plan our wedding, but my fiance and I both agreed that we needed someone to be in charge the day of the wedding. Lyn is the absolute perfect DOC out there! From the moment I spoke with her on the phone, I knew she was the DOC for us. She understood exactly what we wanted for our wedding and offered up some excellent suggestions. When we were town to plan the wedding, we met her at the Wappoo Shelter and went through every little detail. She was extremely professional and warm, and was truly excited about working with us. Lyn was also a great reference throughout the planning process. She suggested the hair salon that I used and loved, and when I couldn't find a smilax vendor that was within our budget, she found one! The week before the wedding she started taking over; contacting all our vendors and organizing the schedule. She was there for our rehearsal and her husband even went with my Dad to pick up the smilax! There was only one tiny hitch on the wedding day, but Lyn was on top of it and everything turned out perfectly. Lyn has a lot of experience as a wedding planner in Charleston, and is a very fun, pleasant person to work with. I highly, highly recommend her!
Photographer: Jennifer Bearden Photography, A+
Jennifer and her assistant, Emily, were amazing! We met Jennifer during our visit to Charleston in early '09 and I was really impressed with her portfolio and her professionalism. She agreed to first meet me at the cabins on the day of the wedding to get shots of me getting ready, then we traveled with my bridesmaids to downtown Charleston where Kevin and I did a "first glance". After getting shots downtown with our attendants, we traveled back to JICP for the wedding. We took family pictures after the ceremony. She was so much fun to work with! She has a beautiful eye for photography, and was also open to try poses we suggested. I loved that she took candid pictures rather than posed ones. She really captured the spirit of the wedding! She sent us a sneak peak of 10-15 pictures the very next day! All the photos were on the website in about a week and a half after the wedding, and we had the DVD digitals in hand about two and half weeks after the wedding! Amazing turnaround! The pictures look incredible! Her package includes the rights to the photos, which is a huge plus. I highly, highly recommend Jennifer!
Catering: Charleston Outdoor Catering, A
We wanted traditional Lowcountry cuisine for our wedding, and our DOC, Lyn, recommended Jamie Westendorf of Charleston Outdoor Catering. She had worked with Jamie on many events in the past and said his food was not only amazing but his presentation of the food was beautiful. We met Jamie during our trip in early '09. He appeared as a no-frills kind of guy, just a hardworking Charleston native who loves Lowcountry cookin'. He showed us the antique wooden bowls he uses for his catering presentation and gave us a sample menu of what he offered. Frogmore Stew for $12/person! Sounded good to us. We were ready to sign a contract then, but Jamie said he doesn't do contracts. We shook hands and he said we had his word that he would cater our wedding. No contract, a little unheard in the bridal business I know, but we trusted him and the recommendations of Lyn and others we talked to who knew of Jamie's work. After we left Charleston I didn't really need to get a hold of Jamie until about a week and a half before the wedding. At that time, we discussed appetizers and finalized the menu options. The day of our wedding Jamie was working a shrimp festival north of Charleston and didn't attend our event personally, but the folks he sent out to cater our event were great. They pulled the grill right up to the pavilion and cooked the Frogmore Stew right there. Like we had heard, the presentation was beautiful and the food was absolutely amazing! One thing we had told him was that we would need vegetarian options for a few of our guests, which he said would not be a problem, but as it turned out there ended up not being a vegetarian entree, only a few side dishes. Luckily we had portobello mushrooms in our cabin, so after a quick trip by my brother to pick them up, the vegetarians were set with grilled mushrooms and the side dishes. Despite that, I would highly recommend Jamie. Just be sure to understand his laid back nature and know that when he gives you his word, it's good.
Dessert: Toby Simmons of The Charleston Pie Man, A-
We wanted pies for dessert in place of a cake, and a quick Google search took me to the Charleston Pie Man. I contacted Toby about ordering a few pies to try before I made a decision about going with his services. When he found out it was for our wedding, he said not to worry about paying, he would send us a few pies to try for free! I was really impressed and even more impressed after I tried his pies! They were to die for! We tried his famous Sweet Potato Pie and the Southern Pecan Pie. Both were great! I placed an order for several dozen mini pies in four different flavors. We made plans for him to meet my Dad at the shelter with the pies the morning of the wedding, but he called and asked if he could come in the afternoon instead. No problem my Dad said, but that afternoon he called and asked if he could bring them by later. As it turned out, he brought the pies while we were having the ceremony and he forgot about a dozen pies at his shop! Luckily Lyn, our DOC, was there to handle the situation and set the pies out when he arrived. He apologized but I never really got a good explanation as to why the pies were late. I know it caused a little stress for my Dad and Lyn, but in the end everything worked out and we had more than enough desserts for everyone (a friend also made red velvet cupcakes for us). Despite the little snafu, I would recommend Toby. He was always courteous in our correspondences and I know he is transitioning his business which may be why he was a little late. One thing I really appreciated was the six mini pecan pies he brought for us to take with us on our wedding night. Yum!
Flowers: Thackeray Farms, A+
We love the beautiful wildflowers Shawn Thackeray sells at the Charleston Market on Saturdays, so we asked them to provide the flowers for our wedding. It worked out great, we bought enough small bouquets for the table settings (we placed them in Mason jars) and a large bouquet for me. The Thursday before the wedding I met his truck driver at a grocery store parking lot, where he opened the truck up and I got to pick the flowers I wanted. The loose flowers were used to make the mother's bouquets, the bouts, and to fill sweetgrass baskets that the bridesmaids carried in place of bouquets. The flowers were perfect! Shawn met my Dad at the pavilion the morning of the wedding and they placed them in the Mason jars. They were a mix of flowers that were growing at the time of our wedding, so they were fresh and vibrant. We received so many compliments on the flowers. I was really pleased with how well they turned out!
Smilax: Rosebank Farms, A
I didn't have any correspondence with RBF, Lyn did, and my Dad and Lyn's husband went to pick up the smilax, so I never met anyone from the farm, but the smilax they provided was great! They were also within our budget which was great. I would recommend them for greenery for sure!
Music: Blue Plantation Band, A+
These guys are awesome! They are a bluegrass band in Charleston that I found via a Google search and then Lyn told me that she had used them in the past. They played during our ceremony and during the reception. They were one of our favorite things about our wedding! All of guests were raving about how great the band was and they got everyone on the dance floor. I highly, highly recommend them! They rock!
Rentals: Synder Event Rentals, A
Kelly Kanwischer was our contact from Synder and she was very nice and helpful. She offered up suggestions which I really appreciated and got us all set up with our rentals. The day of the wedding I didn't have much interaction with them. They came early to drop everything off and came late to pick everything up. And we got everything we ordered! I would recommend them for sure.
Hair: Hair du Jour, A
I was nervous about going with a salon I had never been to, but they set me up with a pre-do appointment with Gina two days before the wedding and I was totally happy I went with them. I explained to her what I wanted, what the wedding was going to be like, and what my dress looked like and she totally came up with the most beautiful hair do! She was really nice and great to work with. My bridesmaids looked amazing too! I highly recommend Gina and Hair du Jour!
Bridesmaids Dresses: LulaKate, A+
I highly recommend LulaKate for bridesmiads dresses! We went into the Charleston store on our visit in early '09 and they had exactly what I was looking for: seersucker dresses! Even better was they sell through Bella Bridesmaids, which has stores nation-wide. My bridesmaids coud make an appointment at their nearest BB to try on LK dresses without having to make a trip to Charleston. The consultants at the store were always helpful and pleasant to work with. And the dresses are well made and absolutely beautiful! I even bought one myself!
Groomsmen Suits: Charleston Formal Wear at Berlin's, A
My husband bought a suit (...from J Crew three days before the wedding) but we went with CFW for the groomsmen suits, and they were great! They let the guys pick the suits up two days before the wedding and allowed them to return them the Monday after. They looked great and no one had any problems. Our contact, Steve Silvester, was really nice and helpful leading up to the wedding. I would recommend them!
Veil: Veiled Beauty from Etsy.com, A+
This was an online vendor but I loved her so much I thought I would share her with you. I found VB on etsy.com (a wonderful site for wedding items) and I ordered the 65 inch Loopty Lue veil. It is absolutely gorgeous; I got so many compliments on it! Her prices are amazing especially when compared to the bridal salon veil prices (yikes!). Kathy was very professional and had my veil done in the proposed amount of time. I highly recommend going with her if you're interested in a veil!
Wedding Ties for Groomsmen: Me and Matilda from Etsy.com, B-
With the bridesmaids in seersucker, I wanted my husband and the groomsmen to have seersucker ties. I found Me and Matilda through etsy.com. I was a little nervous about placing an order; I contacted her five weeks before the wedding and her site recommended placing orders 4-6 weeks ahead of time, but after a convo with her, she said she could have it done in four weeks and shipping would only take 2-3 days. So I placed the order and asked her to ship to a friend of mine in Charleston. Well, it ended up taking five weeks to make the ties (I wish that she had been in better communication with me about this) and then she sent them 2-3 day priority mail via USPS (but it ended up taking about a week, grrr USPS!). The ties arrived at my friend's house two days before the wedding! I was really glad it worked out but it was a very close call. If you're looking for custom ties, I would recommend her but be sure to give yourself ample time both for production and shipping.
Gift for Groomsmen: Toybreaker from Etsy.com, A+
We wanted to give the guys in our wedding ties as thank you gifts, and Toybreaker through etsy.com has some really cool ties. The turnaround time was great! I ordered them on a Friday, they were shipped the next week and I think I got them in the mail by UPS the following week. Our guys really loved them too!
Gift for Bridesmaids: Sweetgrass baskets by Joseph Foreman, A+
Joseph is a friend of a friend of mine and she highly recommended him for sweetgrass baskets. I wanted baskets for the girls, not only as a gift, but to use in the wedding in place of bouquets. Joseph did an amazing job! The baskets were flawless and fit perfectly in our wedding. He is a really funny guy and said he felt honored to be a part of our wedding. If you're interested in sweetgrass baskets, you can find him at the Charleston Market near Henry's. I highly recommend him!