Love is in the air on Daniel Island!
As Valentine’s Day approaches, love is in the air on Daniel Island! As a matter of fact, the spirit of love is essentially aflutter year ‘round - especially at the Daniel Island Club, one of Charleston’s most elegant and coveted wedding locales.
Erin Dudley, event sales manager at the Daniel Island Club, shared some insights into how she and her staff set the stage for romance and, hopefully, lifelong happiness around every “I do!”
“We host 35 to 40 weddings each year,” says Erin. “Of course, spring and early summer are the most popular seasons, as well the fall month of October. However, we are starting to see more weddings in January and February. While a winter wedding is a better option for budget-minded families, it’s no less a beautiful time to get married…just look at the beautiful weather we’ve had here lately!”
The average wedding party is composed of about 150 people, usually taking place out on the Club’s back lawn with a gorgeous view of the marsh. We have to ask: don’t brides’ heels dig into the grass? Actually, Erin tells us, most brides choose to wear wedges. It’s a modern trend away from the wedding-heels and an oh-so-luxe dash of Daniel Island comfort and casual style.
“Weddings today tend to be bigger, more lavish productions than ever before,” says Erin. Especially at the Daniel Island Club, where the lead time to prep for a wedding is anywhere from 12 - 18 months (the Club encourages couples to make reservations at least one to two years in advance to secure the date. They also must be members of the club or sponsored by family or friends who are members of the Club). By the same token, she points out, wedding themes themselves have become more intimate, more focused on family, heritage, and a sense of inclusivity.
“There’s more of an effort to reflect important family memories, traditions and culture as a whole,” she observes. Rather than fan out at separate tables, the members of a wedding party today will often sit together at one long table. And family style meals, where platters of food are passed around the table, are more frequently taking the place of formal banquet style.
“Family style dining, especially at a wedding, is a great conversation starter,” adds Erin, “and fosters a feeling of inclusivity.”
There’s also more of a focus on family culture and heritage.
“Couples are asking us to prepare menus with traditional foods from the bride and/or groom’s homeland,” she continues. “Dishes based on recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation in the family.”
Erin points to a forthcoming wedding for a bride from Honduras; the menu will include traditional Honduran dishes, such as “Rosa’s Tostadas,” Chimichurri and a beverage called Spiced Horchata. The Club is also working with a Greek bride, recreating her grandmother’s special Spanakopita recipe. Another couple travelled the world and wanted to identify all the tables according to the different countries they had visited.
“Unique approaches to setting up the wedding reception is much more imaginative, fun and interactive for the couple, the families and the guests than simply giving each table a number,” observes Erin. “Certainly, weddings have traditionally been about romance, but more frequently, they’re about expressing love for, and appreciation of, the families and friends who’ve supported the couple in their journey and have come together to make the wedding a memorable day.”
Couples are also focusing more on using local and seasonal ingredients. The Club’s chefs have often found themselves busy shucking local oysters and planning the meals with the bride based on fresh fruit and vegetables from Ambrose Farms and Boone Hall. And elegant packages of Charleston-style pralines are always available, and can be customized for the wedding party.
Erin notes that many of the couples tying the knot are children of residents who first moved to Daniel Island 15 to 20 years ago, when it was a brand new community. “It’s really heart-warming to know that families want their children and grand-children to get married at the Club, as they may have themselves.”
There are couples that choose to tie the knot on the anniversary of the bride’s or groom’s parents’ wedding. Erin recounts the wedding of a couple, childhood sweethearts, who attended the same elementary school in Charleston; they had their wedding guests sign their old yearbook! Another couple met in the U.S. Air Force and since the groom was a pilot, they had the guests sign a propeller made especially for the event.
Of course, the Club sets the stage for plenty of romantic pre and post wedding events, as well. Couples celebrating their first anniversary can enjoy freshly-made tiers, exact replicas of their wedding cake instead of an old frost-bitten slice that’s been sitting at the back of their freezers.
Of all the Club’s uber-romantic events, helping to stage a surprise marriage proposal counts among one of its most unique experiences. Last spring, capital markets analyst Dalton Chester, of Columbia, SC, staged a “pop the question” event for his girlfriend Katherine Anne Ledbetter with the help of his in-laws-to-be and the imagination and expertise of the event professionals at the Club. The couple had met at their alma mater, Clemson University (where Dalton recently added a Master’s in Real Estate Development to his undergraduate degree).
One warm, sunny weekend afternoon last spring, Tom and Sheri Ledbetter, Katherine Anne’s parents, and members of the Daniel Island Club, invited the family to lunch at Harry’s, the Club’s formal dining room, ostensibly to celebrate their son’s new job. When the family arrived, the staff, aware of “the plan,” winked at the senior Ledbetter couple even as they “apologized” for an hour-long delay for a table.
Sheri Ledbetter, the bride-to-be’s mother suggested that, with the beautiful evening at hand, the couple might want to go for a pleasant walk along the Club’s marsh front boardwalk while the parents relaxed over drinks upstairs on the Grill Room’s outdoor patio. Sheri earlier convinced her daughter to change into a cool, comfortable sleeveless white dress she “happened” to buy on a recent trip to Charlotte. Minutes after the couple headed down the boardwalk, the families heard shrieks of joy along with Katherine Anne’s ecstatic response - “Yes! Yes!” - in response to Dalton’s proposal. Family members and friends hiding around the bend came running over to congratulate the newly engaged couple with hugs.
“Dalton and I had dated almost six years so I was very ready to get engaged,” says Katherine Anne. “We walked out on the dock which had a little table with a bouquet...it still didn’t hit me that he was going to propose until he got down on one knee. I was shocked to see all the friends and family that came to congratulate us...even Kelly, a family friend and photographer...It couldn’t have turned out any better. It was a night I will never forget!”