An Elegant, Intimate Vow Renewal Full of Southern Charm
For Francesca and Justin—who were married on October 18, 2008—their ten-year anniversary marked a decade of change. "We tested the 'in sickness' and 'in health' part of our vows a little too soon," says Francesca of the early days of their relationship (part of which involved Justin, a U.S. Marine, being deployed to Iraq). "It was about time we celebrate 'in health' and 'in good times,' not just for our love of each other but our accomplishments as a couple."
Exactly ten years after their wedding, which took place in the couple's hometown of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, the couple decided to renew their vows in a private ceremony on the grounds of Wingate Plantation in Johns Island, South Carolina. The ceremony was followed by cocktails and dinner outdoors for 40 of their closest family members and friends. The "bohemian glam" event clearly benefitted from the couple's professional lives—they co-own event furniture rental company 428 Main and Francesca works as a wedding planner for Pure Luxe Bride. The affair incorporated rich, jewel-toned flowers, crystal chandeliers hung from decades-old oak trees, and gold accents.
While the couple kept some of the same elements they chose for their wedding, they also introduced new details that modernized the feel of the event. The party also gave them the chance to celebrate with friends both old and new. "We got married so young and both have grown so much in the ten years we've been together," said Francesca. "To us, it was more than just a party—it was renewing the vows that brought us so close together and it was celebrating with our closest friends and family, some who didn't even know us ten years ago." Justin agrees: "It was our way of sharing our love story with those that have grown with us over the last ten years and reconfirming our love for one another."
A Dreamy Dress
"The dress was hands down the most difficult part for me!" says Francesca. After buying and returning nearly a dozen gowns from different retailers, she found her off-the-shoulder Monique Lhuillier dress, made with tiers of ivory crocheted lace, on BHLDN with just two weeks to spare. "I loved that the dress was bohemian but understated so I could wear some statement jewelry and a bold lip to pull it all together." (Her lip color of choice: Bobbi Brown Crushed Plum.)
Francesca's lush bouquet from Petaloso incorporated all the colors in the couple's palette—a nostalgic nod to their first wedding. "I took the deep hues from our original wedding colors 10 years before but added in a wider variety of colors and a few pops of mauve so it wasn't too dark," she says. "My bouquet was full of all my favorite flowers, including orchids which were a part of my original wedding bouquet."
Francesca wore the same rings Justin gave her for their engagement and wedding, both of which had sentimental meaning already. In 2004, while Justin was deployed to Iraq, he created the engagement ring with
Blair Brothers Goldsmith
, a jeweler in the couple's Pennsylvania hometown. "It was created in front of my eyes while I worked in their store over the holidays and I didn't even know it was mine!" says Francesca. While planning their first wedding, Justin had a ring Francesca had given him during the deployment melted down to make her wedding band. "Francesca's band was all about the diamonds," he says. "I wanted them front and center with a little metal showing." For the vow renewal, she added a morganite and diamond cocktail ring from Sandler's and heirloom earrings.
Sourcing Justin's attire (the shade had to be just right!) took Francesca weeks of searching—and resulted in more than a few returns. "Finding a burgundy suit was the most difficult purchase (other than my dress!) because the colors were all so off," she says. "Thank God for online shopping where I ordered a few different suits and finally found the perfect color."
The Knotty Tie
that Francesca customized based on the event's color palette. His blue-gray knitted socks honored the couple's three dogs, and the American Issued Field Watch from Weiss Watch Company was a gift from Francesca. "Francesca pays very close attention to my affection for automatic watches, particularly brands with unique stories," he says. "It was number 0027 in their series—the number 27 has significant meaning in our life, so it was only fitting."
At First Sight
Since they skipped a first look reveal during their wedding, the couple made sure to include it at the vow renewal. "One of the only regrets I had from our wedding day was that we didn't do one," says Francesca. "I wasn't nervous, just excited! As soon as we saw each other, it was all laughs and smiles." The first glimpse was just as thrilling for Justin. "Seeing her in her white bohemian dress was amazing. It was a beautiful moment for me."
More Than "I Do"
Another wedding pivot: Instead of reciting the traditional vows, as they had a decade before, Francesca and Justin wrote their own this time around, recommitting to each other and honoring their experiences from the first ten years of their marriage. Then they went a step further, so they wouldn't lose sight of the promises they'd made: "We wanted to have them hand written so they could hang above our bed as a reminder of such a special day."
A Private Ceremony
Francesca and Justin exchanged their new vows privately under the massive oak trees by the pond at Wingate Plantation. "It's one of the most breath-taking places I've ever seen, and I still swoon anytime I step foot on the property," says Francesca. "It's simply magical."
Toasting the Couple
After sharing their promises with each other, the duo joined their guests for a cocktail hour centered around a display of the bride's favorite beverage, Veuve Clicquot. "I'm a huge Champagne drinker so the self-serve 'Veuve is Love' station out of the car was the focal point of our cocktail hour and the start of an amazing evening," says Francesca.
On the Road
Francesca and Justin designed a striking floral display for the Champagne bottles that put Justin's 1965 Dodge Dart 270 convertible on full display. "My grandfather and I had a love of classic cars that brought us close together," says Justin. "When I was a little boy, I mostly handed him tools until I grew up to help with bigger projects on the car. After he died, I inherited the car. He was present at our wedding and so I wanted a way to have his memory be a part of our vow renewal."
Under the Oaks
The reception space was deceptively simple—one long table under stunning oak trees—but it brought to life one of Francesca's must-have elements. "I always dreamed of hanging crystal chandeliers off of a low lying oak tree, which is exactly what we did!" she says. Uncomplicated place settings—clear plates, gold doilies that acted as place cards, and gold-rimmed glasses—added an elegant touch to the table, which was set without tablecloths. Low centerpieces from Petaloso overflowed with jewel-toned roses, dahlias, and orchids. "We didn't want the tabletop to be too over the top because of the natural beauty of the venue, hanging chandeliers, and focal point of the car," says Francesca. Instead of a printed menu, the couple used antique mirrors from their event rental company, 428 Main, to display the buffet meal options from Lewis BBQ.
Guests ate and drank late into the evening as The Charleston Wedding Band provided acoustic background music. In lieu of dancing, the couple and their friends and family enjoyed each other's conversation and company.
Capturing the Moment
Where There's Smoke
Justin, a cigar fan, chose Arturo Fuente Opus X Love Affair cigars—"It's a short smoke which makes sense for an event where most guests take a few puffs and put it out," he says—for a pop-up cigar lounge he created for the party. "A little secret: I find that a cigar bar at weddings is enjoyed more by the women than men," Justin says. "Our vow renewal was no different!'
Gone to the Dogs
The couple decided to surprise guests with a selection of custom waffle pops from Holy City Waffles for dessert, including a version topped with Fruity Pebbles and marshmallow; vanilla glaze with graham crackers, cinnamon sugar, and caramel; and Nutella, pretzels, and sea salt. Each pop was named after one of their pups—a stress-free way to include their pets. "Our dogs are such a huge part of our lives and we wanted them to be a part of our day in some way," says Francesca. "Without having to stress about them being tended to, we decided this was a great, yummy, and unpredictable option.
One Last Surprise
For weeks before the vow renewal, Justin and jeweler Zameer Kassam exchanged calls and emails as they designed a gold and diamond bracelet together, incorporating important dates and relationship milestones into a bespoke piece for Francesca. During the reception, Justin surprised his wife with a video that traced the story behind the bracelet. "The video was my way of presenting the bangle in front of everyone as my anniversary gift," he says. "I think I angered a few of the men in the audience whose anniversaries are coming up!"
Photography, The Happy Bloom
Location, Wingate Plantation
Event planning, Pure Luxe Bride
Catering, Lewis Barbecue
Videography, Dock House Digital
Calligraphy, J. Lily Design
Music, The Charleston Wedding Band
Bride's gown, Monique Lhullier
Bride's accessories, Sandler's ring
Hair and Makeup, Pampered and Pretty
Lighting, Charleston Uplighting
Bar Service, Squeeze
Painter, Wed on Canvas
Waffle Pops, Holy City Waffles
Wedding and Engagement Rings, Blair Brothers Goldsmith