A South Carolina Wedding Inspired by Nature
Danielle Buckhiester was late for her first day of American Government class at Furman University. The only desk left available was in the back right corner—right in front of Jackson Holt. Several weeks later, they had their first "study date" where they didn't get any studying done at all; instead, they spent hours in conversation about their families, their favorites, and yes, even politics. The romance blossomed and a couple of years later Jackson went great lengths to make sure his proposal was everything Dani had ever dreamed of, despite her unknowingly sabotaging many of his early attempts. He recreated their first kiss, captured it on camera, and she said "yes."
Two years after that, on July 15, 2017, the couple (who live in Greenville, South Carolina) tied the knot at her family's home in Pickens, South Carolina. They were joined by 100 guests joined for the formal affair, which they planned in an organic and natural aesthetic. Since they love the outdoors and spend a great deal of time hiking and adventuring, they wanted to capture that essence. Colors were kept neutral with hints of metallic, and the detail-oriented duo did everything they could to make the event entirely their own.
When asked to sum up their big day in just one line, Jackson says, "A deep comfort intertwined with elation from being surrounded by all of those you love while sharing a much deeper love with your favorite person in the world." And you can't get much better than that!
The couple chose Dani's family's property where she grew up in Pickens, South Carolina. "This location not only provided a background view of the mountain where Dani's parents were married, but it was just so beautiful and natural that it was an accurate reflection of how we made each other feel," says Jackson.
"Although Jackson's family is from Florida, and a large portion of mine lives overseas, our wedding felt less like a destination and more like coming home," says Dani.
The First Look
Table Rock State Park was the setting for the first look and the portraits that followed, and the weather at this time was one of the more unique and serendipitous elements of the day. A light rain started to fall just as Dani put on her wedding dress before the first look. "Even though it was a very fine mist, it still felt as though nature was coming together to make our wedding day as magical as possible," she says. "Just after finishing our first look, a torrential downpour began." Thankfully, it ended up being a beautiful, cloudless afternoon and everything went off as planned.
Jackson sported a classic shawl-collar Calvin Klein tuxedo, Louis Vuitton shoes, and a bow tie that Dani gave him—a Brackish one made from Eastern turkey feathers. "It was another element of integrating the design of our wedding with things natural to the area," she explains. "It's also a nod to the first time Jackson came to visit my parents. The field where we were married was filled with turkeys!"
Dani didn't have a vision of what her wedding dress would look like when she set out to find it. But she did know she wanted to look elegant but also exactly like herself. She tried on several designers and then met Lazaro at one of his trunk shows. "After trying on almost his entire collection with no perfect match, he customized one of his designs to help me achieve the feeling I had been searching for," Dani says. Her favorite parts of the gown were the subtle references created in the beading of the bodice—cherry blossom appliques for the couple's first weekend trip together to see the trees blooming in Washington, D.C.; pearls for Jackson's childhood on the coast and his love for the ocean; floral patterns to represent the duo's love of nature and the outdoors; and a subtle fade into a constellation effect near the neckline for her and Jackson's love of the stars and astronomy. "My final dress felt like an exact representation of not only me, but Jackson and I as a couple," she says.
Dani completed her hairstyle with a pearl-and-Swarovski-crystal headpiece by Toni Federici (who also made her veil), bringing the floral and astral elements also seen on her dress into the rest of her look. Her necklace served as her "something old" as it was the first Christmas gift Jackson ever gave her. And her pearl earrings were a gift from her family and something she hopes will be passed down as a "something old" for future generations.
Jackson designed the engagement ring with Summit Diamond. "It captured both the simplicity and everyday wearability I loved while also creating a timeless heirloom for our family," Dani says of the piece. Their wedding bands were also both from Summit Diamond, which they designed for each other.
Dani's four closest friends stood by her on the big day, wearing convertible Jenny Yoo dresses in a watercolor floral print in a warm gray.
A White Bridal Bouquet
"We wanted to achieve a very natural, organic look," says Dani of the day's flowers. "For them to look freshly cut from the land." The greenery and flowers used were based on what grew locally—especially the ferns. Many of the arrangements, including the bridal bouquet by Out of the Garden, were supplemented with rhododendron, Queen Anne's lace, and maple leaves that were cut from the property the morning of the wedding.
The Ceremony Spot
The ceremony site was the first thing guests saw as they entered the field. As an alternative to the classic arch, a semi-circle of flowers was arranged on the ground to anchor the space. It was intended to appear as though they had just grown from the land—evoking that ethereal, magical feeling of a fairy circle.
Dani's father escorted her down the aisle as Jackson's father opened the ceremony. After lifting her veil and presenting her as the bride, Dani's dad (a pastor) then took his place as the officiant and conducted the ceremony.
This was also when the couple's favorite moment of the day took place. For Dani, it was laughing during their vows. "I fully expected to be a teary mess, but instead I was so incandescently happy and full of joy," she says. And Jackson's was just minutes earlier. "I was mesmerized by Dani slowly gliding down the aisle to our favorite song," he says of seeing her enter to Bon Iver's "Holocene."
It was important to the couple to have traditional vows and also have a chance to share their love and excitement in their own words—so they exchanged two sets of vows.
Further in the field, tables and scalloped umbrellas were set for cocktail hour. The casual environment was a juxtaposition for the formal reception to follow. And the couple says guests still rave about the crab cakes that were served by Larkin's Catering & Events.
The bars reflected the natural setting—literally. Mirrored panels on the front showed the greenery that was ever-present at the wedding.
Find Your Seat
A mirror was also used for the seating chart, where table assignments were written with chalk pen. A similar sign outlined the dinner menu.
Dinner in the Tent
The seated dinner took place inside the tent, where tables were set right on the grass. Neutral linens, rough-cut florals, and upholstered chairs merged the indoors and outdoors.
Gold-rimmed glass chargers and modern flatware were used at each placesetting, with a fresh fern and calligraphed stone place card topping it off.
A mix of furniture and pillows at the edge of the dance floor gave guests a comfortable place to sit in between songs. Small trees and a major greenery installation brought nature in to the sailcloth tent.
The newlyweds chose "Sparks" by Coldplay as their first dance song because it was playing during their car ride home from their first date. They had been ballroom dancing throughout their engagement and loosely choreographed a routine with some elements of the waltz—though the dip at the end was 100% planned.
Dani then joined her father for a spin to "American Pie" by Don McLean—the first song she remembers them signing together and the same song they still belt out every time they drive anywhere together.
Dani and Jackson say that their cake was hands-down the best thing they've ever eaten. And it looked just as noteworthy! The strawberry cake with lemon curd filling and elderflower buttercream icing was decorated with floral details and botanic reliefs made by hand by Tessa Pinner, who took molds of the actual greenery that grew naturally along the property's riverbank.
A Sparkly Ending
Dani changed into a Nicole Miller beaded dress for the reception, which ended with a last-minute addition that had some major impact: fireworks. After guests held sparklers for the couple to walk amidst, they were treated to a surprise show. No one but the couple, the planner, and the bride's father knew. "Seeing the surprise on everyone's faces was such fun," says Dani.
Photography, Erich McVey
Event planning, Ooh! Events
Catering, Larkin's Catering & Events
Flowers, Out of the Garden
Videography, Life in Rewind
Stationery, Dear Elouise
Calligraphy, Fleur De Letters
Cake, Tessa Pinner
Music, The Downtown Band
Rentals, Ooh! Events
Bride's gown, Lazaro
Engagement ring and wedding bands, Summit Diamond
Hair and Makeup, Stephanie Simpson with Wedding Hair by Charlotte
Bridesmaids' dresses, Jenny Yoo
Groom's tuxedo, Calvin Klein
Lighting and Tenting, Skyline Tent Company