A Black-Tie Garden Wedding with Menswear-Inspired Details in Beaufort, South Carolina
Megan Chandler and Parker Lee met several times—over the course of four years—through mutual friends before ever going on their first date, and about year after they began an official relationship, they split up. "Somehow, we just never got our timing right," says Megan. But in 2016—nearly seven years after their first meeting—they decided to try again, despite the two-hour travel time between her home in Houston and his. "Then, after two years of dating long distance, I moved home to be with the love of my life," says Megan.
By December 2018, Megan felt so sure Parker planned to propose that he went out of his way to surprise her, enlisting his mother to ask for Megan's help fixing a water pump on their dock on Christmas Eve. "As I was looking out to the Charleston marshes, I heard my name and I turned around to see Parker on one knee with my dream ring," says Megan. "I yelled, 'Are you serious?' and he told me, 'You're supposed to say yes!'" As the couple began planning their 240-person wedding for November 2, 2019, they knew that Charleston was the obvious location for their big day, since most of their loved ones live there, but something was holding them back. "It would've made so much sense for all of our friends and family, but I couldn't shake the thought of getting ready with my family and best friends in my childhood room in Beaufort," says Megan. "Charleston is an amazing place to get married, but there was something about the remote charm of Beaufort and the homey nature that drew us to it."
After a weekend visit to The Beaufort Inn, they decided to host their reception there. "Something about the garden was perfect," says Megan, who owns floral studio Vero Designs. "It was the intimate wedding for 240—ha!—that we'd always wanted."
Megan and Parker turned to Prairie and Sage paper boutique for an ivory-toned invitation suite that showcased a variety of textures, including natural grasscloth wallpaper. Designer Erin Boyce also sketched "regal portraits" of the couple's two dogs, which appeared on matchbooks at the reception. "If you know us, you know our dogs are part of us," says Megan. "I'm telling you, these matchbooks were a hit."
The bride prepared for her wedding day at home, surrounded by her mother, stepmother, and the rest of the women she loves most in the world.
As soon as Megan started looking at wedding dresses, she knew she wasn't going to wear something plain white; still, Parker let her know his taste trended toward the traditional. At Betty Bridal Atelier in Charleston, the owner pulled a Carolina Herrera gown with embroidered leaves and flowers, and Megan—and the family members and friends she was shopping with—knew it was the one.
"As soon as we all saw that dress, we knew it had me written all over it," she says. But since the list price was nearly double what she planned to spend, she hesitated. "The owner saw in our faces how much we all loved this dress," says the bride, and offered to sell Megan the sample. "It was truly an unbelievable experience—as one vendor in the community to another, it felt so special."
Pretty in Pants
Megan invited eight women to be her bridesmaids and several more to act as "honorary bridesmaids," requesting that they all wear white or shades of cream, so they stood out from the other guests. The bridesmaids chose a white convertible jumpsuit from Two Birds; each woman created their own preferred neckline.
"I wanted my bridesmaids in pants—again, my personal style—and my honorary bridesmaids in mixed dresses of their choosing," she says.
White on White
Megan designed all of the celebration's floral arrangements but left most of the execution up to the team at her company, Vero Designs. "My bouquet had lilac—my favorite flower—hellebore, lily of the valley, and paper whites," she says. "Bridesmaids carried a mix of dried and fresh bouquets and honorary bridesmaids carried all dry bouquets that I'd made the week before. I wanted them to have varying tones of neutrals in their bouquets. They were petite but impactful."
Parker and Megan's niece and five nephews all participated in the wedding, too. "With our nephews ranging in ages from 16 months to six years, we just wanted them to be in dressy, but classic looks," says Megan. "I think little boys in knee socks is the cutest!"
What a View
The bride's father and stepmother looked on as the wedding party assembled below for portraits.
The groom wore a black tuxedo from Gwynn's of Mount Pleasant, which also made dressing the groomsmen a snap. "Most of Parker's friends owned tuxedos from their own weddings or events they'd attended," says Megan. "We made sure they all had the same style of shirt but wanted them to be comfortable in their own fitted tuxes."
A Perfect Pair
Parker accessorized his black tuxedo with a bow tie and green-patterned cummerbund from Brackish. "As a true hunter, those feather-accented pieces are some of his favorites, and he wears them whenever we go to black tie events," says Megan. "Parker chose a special green pair for our wedding—he did this all on his own, knowing nothing about my dress."
Their First Look
After spending the morning apart, Megan and Parker were both ready for their first look. "In contradiction to my normal, high-strung demeanor, I was very calm all day," says Megan. "But in contrary to his normal laid-back demeanor, Parker was nervous. Seeing each other before the vows was hugely relaxing and exciting all at the same time."
Megan and Parker met for their first look at a charming spot two blocks away from their church, which allowed them to have a "walking processional" that acted as an un-posed portrait session. "We chose this spot so we had time to walk back to the wedding venue and just stroll and enjoy the day," says Megan. "Taking the walk back to see our friends after our first look was just fun. We laughed and joked and it just felt like us."
Into the Church They Go
Megan's father escorted her to the front of the church down an aisle lined with overflowing arrangements of emerald-green foliage.
Wreathed in Love
Magnolia wreaths on the main entrance of the Baptist Church of Beaufort greeted guests with a happy memory. "My maternal grandmother originally hails from Mississippi and called herself a 'Mississippi Magnolia,'" says Megan. "We hung magnolia wreaths on the front doors of the church to honor her and her memory, along with my other grandparents who were unable to make it."
An Unforgettable Gift
A large arrangement on the altar included greens that trailed down the center staircase. "The altar flowers were to be in memory of Parker's dad," who passed away before the wedding, says Megan—but her team didn't quite follow her instructions. "When I walked down the aisle, I saw the altar was twice the size I'd written into the floral design proposal," she says. "My team had decked it out as a gift. When I woke up on Sunday morning and thought back to it, I teared up—it was such an important piece of décor for its meaning, and it rang so incredibly true."
"My mother, stepfather, and stepmother all came forward when it was time to give me away," says Megan. "My stepparents have been in my life since I was two and three years old. They are all my parents, they've all raised me, and I wanted them all beside me."
With This Ring
Chaplain Marshall Huey, who served at Parker's high school and had married several other couples in the family, officiated the religious ceremony. "He is an Anglican minister and infused our ceremony with a true spirit that was important for us to convey as we married in the church I grew up in," says Megan. "He truly had an understanding of us as a couple and our relationship with God. Him going off the cuff to share a story was the best part of our day, because it felt like a real and raw moment in our service that took us out of feeling like 240 pairs of eyes were on us. We were just there as two best friends getting married like we'd always wanted."
Ready to Party
After the ceremony, a second line band led the newlyweds and their guests to The Beaufort Inn. "Parker and I eased right into cocktail hour with all our friends and family," says Megan. "We didn't want to miss a second!" The menu included conch fritters—a nod to Parker's dad, who loved fishing—venison crostini, and zucchini flatbread.
A Touching Tribute
The couple set out letterpressed linen cocktail napkins personalized with their names and wedding date. "Parker also wrote a few words we framed that invited guests to celebrate the value of a good cigar, and to enjoy one with a glass of bourbon in memory of his dad," says Megan. "It was a huge hit!"
True to the locale, the finest Southern bourbon was also on offer, and housed in vintage decanters.
Dinner Al Fresco
Planner Lindsey Boyce of Host and Haven designed an open-top tent for dinner under the stars, incorporating a clear roof that they removed at the last minute as weather permitted. The goal, she says, was "a juxtaposition of a black-tie affair with the comforts of their home," so they added cane and wood headers to mimic crown molding.
Just Like Home
A large central table included a "showstopper floral arrangement" that pulled in the black, ivory, forest green, and rust tones of the color palette.
Vintage books, candles, and rattan basket chandeliers added to the space's "homey vibe," says Boyce.
Black and Bleached
Menswear-inspired ticking stripe linens accented mahogany chairs, while centerpieces of bleached, dried florals softened the masculine tone.
"Lindsey and I decided that the bulk of the arrangements would be dried, so that I could participate in the construction before the week of the event," explains Megan.
Small Plates, Big Flavors
Megan and Parker chose to serve dinner at chef-attended stations and allowed open seating for their guests. The menu from Mosaic Catering included beef tenderloin with parmesan-whipped potatoes; lamb lollipops and crispy Brussels sprouts; shrimp and grits with jalapeño cornbread; and late-night snacks of fried chicken biscuits and banana pudding parfaits. The offerings were printed on linen banners, which were draped across tables.
On the Dance Floor
For Megan and Parker, choosing the perfect first dance song took a little work. "Parker isn't a big dancer, and it was hard for us to pick a song because we don't have 'a song,'" says Megan. "So, one summer afternoon we hopped on the golf cart and cruised around our neighborhood listening to songs we liked." The winner: Sam Cooke's "That's Where It's At." "I'm a HUGE Sam Cooke fan and it was one of his songs I'd never heard," says Megan. "I later engraved that song on [Parker's] wedding band and he engraved it on the antique gold bangle he gifted me for our wedding."
Mr. (and Mrs.) Lee
Megan and Parker asked wedding cake expert Jim Smeal to create what they call a "textured, white-and-ivory masterpiece." "For the cake cutting, we played '50s throwback 'Mr. Lee' by the Bobbettes," says Megan. "My mother heard the song through the course of our planning and just loved it. So that was kind of a surprise for her."
Under the Lights
String lights illuminated the patio—dotted with lounge furniture—just outside the tent.
Megan worked with stylist Lindsay Nowak of The Edit to source a unique reception look: "An all-white tuxedo from Halston Heritage, a button-down from Ralph Lauren, and a coordinating white cummerbund and bow tie." Says the bride, "This was a labor of love on all parts. I am a lover of separates—a big fan of a wide-leg trouser and a fitted shirt—it's a signature look, if you will. I knew I had to change into something that called to my personal style."