HTML>Tips for Charleston Weddings
Destination Weddings In Charleston, SC
Congratulations on making Charleston your choice for a destination wedding!
Welcome, from a fellow Charleston fan! My husband Mark and I got married in Charleston on December, 6th, 1997, and it was the perfect place to do it. We had a wonderful small wedding (30 guests) at the John Rutledge House Inn, followed by a dinner at Anson. It was more than just a one-day event--we all had a superb weekend exploring the city. I don't live in Charleston and I am not a wedding planner. However, in planning my wedding I gathered some information which I think is worth sharing. Charleston is a beautiful, charming, and historic place. You and your guests will find lots to do, and I am sure your wedding will be memorable. Whether you wish to get married in a historic church, a chapel, an inn or bed & breakfast, or outdoors in a lovely courtyard, garden, or in a park... well, there are lots of neat options. I hope this page, incomplete though it is, will be of some help. PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS INFORMATION WAS PUT TOGETHER SOME TIME AGO. PHONE NUMBERS AND WEB ADDRESSES MAY HAVE CHANGED!
General Info on Charleston
My main intent is to share WEDDING-related information and links, but you're apt to want some more general information about the city, as well. Here are a few websites to start you out:
And don't forget these folks:
Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau: 800/868-8118. They will send a useful booklet on the greater Charleston area, plus they have a "Charleston Wedding Packet" available for a cost (was $20, not sure if it still is). A bride's mom who planned most details herself said it was worth it!
Wedding Planning Information
Most people planning a destination wedding face several challenges. First there's the distance; Second, they don't know the local area.
Well, to get your thoughts organized, let me outline several of the ways you can approach getting those nuptials planned: Using a Charleston Wedding Planner
Because Charleston is such a popular wedding spot, there are a number of planners who specialize in helping out-of-town couples plan their wedding there, and the numbers have probably doubled since I got married six years ago. Hiring a planner offers several advantages: he or she knows the local area, has relationships with wedding vendors, and has experience in event planning. Furthermore, having someone else do it takes a lot of pressure off!
Hiring a planner is not just for those with money to burn. They recognize that you do not have limitless money which you need help spending, but that you need someone to do the local legwork. Most can arrange everything for you, if that's what you prefer--you just show up, and everything from flowers to cake is taken care of. But they will also work with you if you just need them for some of the wedding elements.
Here are several:
To explore any of these firms, request an information packet from them. From what I've seen, most are flexible about locations and types of weddings. Some will do a wedding for less than $100, or something much more elaborate. They can do weddings however you want them, as classy, personal, and customized as you want. Ask for references and follow up on them--this is important, not just to make sure that a firm is as good as it sounds, but also to make sure you don't pass judgment too quickly. Frankly, I almost ruled out Margo at A Creative Charleston Wedding because I thought, based on her brochure and answering machine message, that her wedding "style" was more romanticized than we wanted. But when I followed up, I discovered that her tastes were classy and elegant, just as I wanted. She did a fine job for us.
- Margo Carley runs A Creative Charleston Wedding at 1-843-767-8315. Margo was formerly the director of the Marriage Bureau. She is a JP and can perform the wedding herself, or arrange for a local minister. She uses numerous locales (parks, inns, churches, etc.), and has several packages available. She will also plan weddings on an "a la carte" basis if you don't want a set package. I chose Margo based on several recommendations and would recommend her.
- There is fantastic service called Mobile Marriage at 843-881-8973. They are a JP/minister service. They will perform the wedding, wherever you prefer, but they don't do the rest of the planning. However, due to their experience, they have penty of good leads to share, and I've heard wonderful things about them. Their webpage is fun to visit, because they've got many pictures of popular wedding locales!
- Mobile Marriages--whom I consider to be very credible--say they highly recommend Pam Paciaroni of Southern Hospitality. They say she's never dropped the ball, always done a great job.
- A Wonderful Wedding is a firm which I haven't had contact with personally, but their webpage has a lot of useful information, including some referrals.
- "Celebrations by Appointment" was recommended to me by a bride who has had some good conversations with Marianne Small there (843-723-3006).
- A Charleston Bride I don't know much about this firm.
- Custom Wedding & Event Design Another planner I haven't had feedback on yet.
- Jubilation This firm was founded several years after I got married, so no feedback yet.
- Dr. Guy Smythe is a JP/Minister who does informal weddings via "An Absolutely Wonderful Wedding." His number is 1-800-844-6492.
- "TAC Services" is a travel/tour/catering/you-name-it organization. When I spoke to them way back in 1997, they were willing and eager to assist in wedding planning, but it was clear that was not what they usually did. Their website is here
- Unfortunately, I have heard a negative recommendation about several Charleston wedding planners. They are not listed here (nor will they ever be). If you have questions about a firm not listed here, I guess the best thing to do is email me. I'm not going to pass along gossip for the heck of it, but if you are considering one of the people on my "iffy" list I'll tell you so.
Another Option: A Wedding Chapel
A wedding chapel is already set up for nuptials, with music, officiant, decorations, and so on already planned for and provided. It is the simplest, lowest-fuss way to have a wedding. However, the downside is that commercial chapels may not be flexible about your options (for example, hiring your own photographer), and your wedding is apt to be just one of several held there that day. Generally you may only arrive a short time before the wedding, and have to hustle out after the service.
The Charleston Chapel for Weddings can hold up to 60 guests. They will mail you information upon your request. Packages range from $150 to $1200. Contact them at 800-416-2779, or write them at 221 Ashley Avenue, Chas, SC 29403
In addition, some of the wedding planners mentioned above can schedule your wedding in some smaller chapels, or maintain their own wedding chapels. Finally: Do it Yourself
It is certainly possible to do all or most of the wedding planning yourself. How easy this is may depend on how far you are from Charleston, how many times you are willing to travel there beforehand to take care of details, or your willingness to rely on phone and fax to hire vendors. If you're ambitious and/or have connections in Charleston, you may be able to tackle this with ease. If so, you ought to be the one writing this section! But since it's me who's authoring this page, I'll just pass on what I know...
One helpful step is to try to make some local connections, if you don't have them already. Find out if anyone you know has a friend or relative in Charleston. Check with your college's alumni office. Ask the people you do contact (bakers, concierges, etc) for suggestions and recommendations for other types of vendors.
You might find it very helpful to buy Alan & Denise Fields' book Far & Away Weddings - I hear it's out of print which is a shame. Try your local library. Also, see some general info on planning Destination weddings on my other wedding pages, such as my Tips for Destination Weddings page
Helpful Info From People Who Have Planned a Wedding in Charleston
There are some elements of wedding planning you might want more info about, such as where to have guests stay, places to hold the ceremony, recommended vendors, etc. For this, I've relied on the help of other brides to round out my own knowledge!
No matter who marries you, you will need a marriage license. Application must be made in person (by both of you!). In 1997, all we needed was a driver's license, and the application was simple. However, there was a 24-hour waiting period. You have to go back a day later to get it. If you hire a wedding planner, often they will arrange pick-up for you, which saves you the 2nd trip to get it. However, you must sign a release form with the clerk indicating it is okay for that person to pick it up for you.
NOTE: The office may NOT be open on Saturdays. If you are getting married over the weekend, you may have to make application by THURSDAY so that you may pick it up on Friday. PLAN ACCORDINGLY!
Places to get married (& have receptions):
I confess that I know little about ceremony locations. A planner or local contact person is the best person to talk to about this, but here are a few ideas:
Churches: They don't call it the Holy City for nothing, folks. LOTS of churches. However, I've heard that it can be difficult, as an outsider, to get one of the sanctuaries reserved for your ceremony. Two places that come recommended: St Luke's Chapel at the Medical University of South Carolina (843-792-6775), and the Summerall Chapel at The Citadel (843-953-5049). Sometimes chapels affiliated with colleges and universities have better availability. Here's a website that has a pretty comprehensive listing of local churches, if you'd like to try contacting some.
Public Parks: You can have a gazebo wedding in a Charleston park; all you need is a permit. There are over 200 weddings a year at the gazebo in White Point Gardens (right on the battery). There are several other popular park locales, including Washington Square Park, Waterfront Park, and Hampton Park. Permit fees are reasonable. At White Point Gardens, you are allowed to have no more than 25 people in attendance. Restrictions may be less at the other parks (the Hampton Park gazebo is said to be large). I am not sure who to get more information from, but I expect the Charleston Recreation Department is a place to start.
Inns: A number of the inns in Charleston have lovely libraries and parlors and other common areas that would be ideal for holding a small wedding. Here is a partial list:
- The Anchorage Inn Another bride I know arranged a wedding here, in their library.
- The Mills House Hotel
- The Jasmine House
- Maison Du Pre
- Meeting Street Inn A couple reported to me that they got married in their lovely courtyard.
- The Planters Inn A bride I know is planning her wedding here. They have a lovely courtyard, a baker and florist available, and a top restaurant. And probably one of the best locations in the heart of Charleston!
- John Rutledge House Inn: We got married in this lovely place. The parquet floors are stunning. It is located a block or so west of the nicest walking area, but it is just a quick jaunt to the market area or the Battery. They have many weddings there, and the staff has many useful recommendations! Ceremonies can be held in the ballroom or in a parlor of a suite. We had 30 guests in the parlor of the suite and there was plenty of room (although it helped that we didn't bring in chairs). Staying there is not cheap, but the setting is very very nice. We got married and spent our wedding night in the same suite. No room for a large party, though (could not have reception for 125 there).
Historic Homes, Halls, and Other Locales: Here is a list of some interesting sites where weddings may be held. The Charleston Visitor's Bureau may also be able to provide you with a list of possible sites at historic homes.
- The Governor Thomas Bennett House: (on Calhoun street) contact Frances Ehni (843-720-1219, fax 843-720-1221) at the Care Alliance Health Foundation (they run the house). Huge rooms with period antiques and high ceilings (dining room, drawing room, and foyer) and beautiful garden full of flowers. Site is "Pure Charleston" and so lovely, few additional flowers or decoration necessary. Perfect for a garden wedding and reception or just the reception." A recent bride paid $2000 for the site for 3 hrs, additional hrs at $100 each.
- The South Carolina Society Hall at 72 Meeting Street comes recommended by a bride who says they're helpful. Ballroom available for $1600
- The Blacklock House Kristie writes: "We walked in without an appointment but never spoke to anyone. I loved the Blacklock House and it would accomodate a wedding reception of 125 very comfortably."
- The Wickcliffe House (on Ashley Avenue.) It is an 18th century home owned by Medical University of South Carolina. Don't know too much more about it.
- Alhambra Hall (in Mt. Pleasant) Nancy writes: "I have been to several weddings at a place called Alhambra Hall in Mount Pleasant. It's a building owned by the city that sits on overlooking the Charleston Harbor. Many people have the wedding outside overlooking the harbor, and then come inside for the reception. The building itself is nothing spectacular, but the view is gorgeous."
There is only one plantation still in existence in the city, and that is Lowndes Grove (and yes, they host weddings). But in the nearby vicinity there are Middleton Place, Magnolia Plantation, and Boone Hall Plantation, all of which have a few weddings a year. Both are large, and cost a pretty penny, but I know one bride who had a simple 4-person wedding at Magnolia for only rhe price of admission.
The Beach I get plenty of requests for information about beach weddings. I can't tell you anything about how to plan one. I do know one of the local JPs thinks they are overrated (blowing sand, etc)!
Other locales Dunes West Golf Club in Mt. Pleasant. "It is elegant and overlooks a marsh and tidal creek. They allow bands, DJ's and also handle all of the catering." The rental fee is $500. This includes all tables, linens, chairs, set up and clean up of the reception. They can handle up to 300 people easily, and there are lovely locations for wedding ceremonies, too. Contact person Daren Easterling The Schooner Pride This 84-foot 3-masted tall ship can host weddings or receptions Old Exchange Building and Provost Dungeon (843-727-2165) That's right, have your reception in a dungeon! *LOL* Just kidding, it's the lovely and historic 2nd floor ballroom (the Great Hall) that is available! It's the space alone--you'd need to hire everything else yourself. Hasell Hall A banquet hall/caterer on Meeting street, very close to everything.
Places to Stay Information on places to stay is on a separate page. PLEASE GO HERE for information for Charleston and the surrounding islands.
Places to Eat--Especially with a Group
There are many great restaurants in Charleston and it would be hard to go wrong eating there. We elected to have a sit-down dinner after our wedding, instead of a reception, so we did a lot of investigation of restaurants. In addition to the place we chose for the wedding supper, we ate several nice family dinners that weekend, so we sampled other places as well. Here's information on the special dinner arrangements at several of the top restaurants in Charleston:
EVERYONE, at every restaurant we visited, was helpful and courteous. I believe most would print up special menus with your event written on it. Prices varied with menu choices. All included a soup or salad course (sometimes both) and dessert, which could be taken off if you are serving wedding cake instead. Almost all of them went overboard to make sure we knew they'd be flexible about changing an entree choice or dessert. I was really impressed with everywhere on that score. I think that many also serve lowcountry cuisine, which was important to me (I wanted my guests to be eating something regional). Thus, many offer she-crab soup, pecan-encrusted chicken, shrimp and grits, etc.
- S.N.O.B. (Slightly North of Broad) on East Bay comes highly recommended from everyone. I did not visit it to see what sort of private room one could get. I 've included it because I hear such raves.
- Magnolia's (185 East Bay Street, ZIP 29401) is also on East Bay and is a great place. We ate there for lunch and liked it it, and it's the kind of place that tourists are told to go and yet locals respect it too. It has two upstairs rooms. One is panelled gorgeously, seats 30-35 max. The other is much larger but they use screens to make it the right size for a small party. They do several menus ($28-50 per person) where your guests get a 3-4 course meal and can choose from 3 main dishes and a choice of desserts. (Contact Group Sales Coordinator. 843-937-4012, ext. 241)
- Peninsula Grill This is in the Planter's Inn (a great location) and is a very highly rated restaurant. They also do wedding cakes on the premises. If you elect to try their other desserts--yum! We've never seen such beautifully presented dishes! I think the menu runs from $38-$45. (Contact group sales.... 843-723-0700)
- Poogan's Porch (72 Queen Street, ZIP 29401) Poogan's also has an upstairs area for private dining. My guests raved about the brunch they had there. Its prices for private dinners are much lower--$22 per person (1998). They also offer 6 entree choices--twice as many as the others I am listing here! I felt it was a wee bit less fancy but still nice and very respected around Charleston. Their prices were so much more reasonable than the others, it is worth serious consideration. They were one of the few which tacked on only a 15% service charge. Most restaurants charged 20%. (Contact General Manager. 843-577-2337)
- 82 Queen (82 Queen Street, ZIP 29401). This is a great restaurant and it's very unique--lots of dining rooms throughout the house. 82 Queen was among the most highly recommended! I believe that they too will arrange a special menu (again, no prices in front of me). I really liked some of the rooms they said they could put a private party in. With our small party one night we had a small private room and it was gorgeous. Our waiter was also very nice and gave us a warm first-night-in-Charleston welcome, including answering our ignorant yankee questions. (Contact general manager. 843-722-4428)
- The Library at the Vendue Inn is also an option. The Inn is nice and the restaurant (called The Library) is a charming space. I met the chef, John, who seemed like a super guy. Same arrangement as most others: they'd set up a special menu that guests could make choices from. (Contact person: Peggy Needle. Nice lady, classy, helpful!! 800-845-7639)
- Anson (12 Anson Street) Site of our wedding dinner. It came very highly recommended by a Charleston resident who had been to other group functions there. They have a private room which was taken when we wanted it, so they screened off a portion of the upstairs dining room for us. Their prices are around $30-45 per person. Guest can choose entree from choices you designate. Our guests raved about the food ("best fish I've ever eaten" said one) and we found the service was very nice and was handled very smoothly. (843-577-0551)
- Carolina'sat 10 Exchange Street (843) 937-9300 Gets great reviews, too.
Some Recommendations of Wedding Vendors
Unless you've got a planner taking care of it for you, you might be in the market for some wedding service providers. Here I am starting a limited list of vendor contacts. These were recommended to me.
HELP ME IMPROVE THIS PAGE! I update this page as I have the time (scarce though it is). You can make life easier for future Charleston-bound couples by sending information to me. Please be kind about dead links and outdated information. I get no pay for maintaining this site and have to balance it against some time-consuming responsibilities!
If you are planning a Charleston destination wedding, feel free to contact me! I'd love to hear about your plans. Be patient if you don't hear back right away; I'm swamped with work and family and community stuff. However, if I have the time, I'd be happy to tell you more about my own wedding or pass along anything that hasn't yet made it on the page. I couldn't have survived planning my wedding without the help of others, so I am passing on the help to pay my debt to them. Please don't be offended if you don't hear from me at all. Sometimes I can't get to wedding -related email, and if I don't know the answer to your question I'm less likely to respond.
Reach me here....kzarubaREMOVE@umich.edu
Finally, if you contact these vendors, let them know you heard about them from me, Karen Zaruba. I do not accept advertising or get paid for endorsements, but I do occasionally hear "thanks" from vendors, and I get a kick out of it. Besides, they should hear that their good work for other brides is earning them the repeat business they deserve.
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