Melissa and Stuart met in their sophomore year of college at CU Boulder in October of 2012. Melissa’s best friend (and Maid of Honor) went to elementary school with Stu. When she invited them to a weekend in Aspen with friends, they hit it off and started dating shortly after. On a family trip to the Bahamas on New Year’s Eve, Stu told Melissa their New York apartment was flooded and he needed to talk with her privately. Once he pulled her aside, he told her the apartment was fine and began a sentimental speech leading up to a proposal. “It was the perfect night because we got to celebrate with the family after and dance the night away!” Melissa says.
The couple decided to tie the knot at Kiawah River in Johns Island, South Carolina. “I always wanted to have an outdoor wedding for the ceremony and the combination of the angel oak trees with Spanish moss and being along the water made it instantly feel like it was right for us,” Melissa says. Their vision was an easy-going wedding with white florals and fresh greenery for a California vibe.
Melissa and Stu hired Tara Guérard Soirée to help them plan their May 1st, 2021 wedding with a whopping 300 guests. “I fully trusted Tara and her team to pull it all off and was surprised that I didn’t experience all the stress that is usually associated with wedding planning,” Melissa says. The couple had a lush floral-filled outdoor ceremony followed by dinner and dancing in a clear tent underneath live oak trees. Ahead, see all the details photographed by Corbin Gurkin.
Melissa and Stuart worked with Lettered Olive to create their invitation suite and paper products. The wedding invitation featured formal calligraphy, while the invitations to the rehearsal dinner and welcome party were more colorful, showcasing watercolor illustrations and a custom map of the area.
Melissa and her bridal party sipped Champagne in matching pajama sets as they got ready for the wedding. Melissa wore a lace Lee Petra Grebenau mermaid gown with a sweetheart neckline. “My mom was with me when I tried it on for the first time and we both fell in love with it,” she says, “It was a dress I had saved on my phone for a while to use as inspiration and ended up loving it in person too!”
She wore a Lee Petra Grebenau veil and borrowed jewelry from a family friend. For her beauty look, Melissa aimed to highlight her natural features with classic makeup and a loose wavy hair look with some front pieces pinned up. “I wanted something that felt like me,” she says. She finished her look with a light pink manicure, Lake & Skye 11 11 fragrance, and a bouquet of peonies wrapped in a vintage ribbon.
Stu wore a blue suit with a bow tie and a white button up shirt from Jos. A. Bank. The night before the wedding, Stu’s brother’s girlfriend insisted he wear a face mask with her to prepare for the big day. “Even though they were one pair of socks short, one bow tie missing, and only one out of 16 men knew how to tie a bowtie, the groomsmen prep was swift and executed perfectly,” Melissa says.
Melissa’s bridesmaids wore off-white floor-length dresses in their favorite style from Show Me Your Mumu. “I chose this because I wanted the bridesmaids to mesh with the style of the whole wedding,” she says, “The color went well with the groomsmen’s blue suits and I loved that they could each choose their own style.”
The couple’s ceremony took place under a canopy of oak trees, where a white aisle runner set the stage for local white delphiniums lining the aisle. A garden trellis embellished in greenery and white peonies served as the ceremony arch.
Melissa and her mother walked down the aisle to a quartet version of “Can’t Help Falling In Love With You” as Stu watched on. “She has always been my rock and I was so happy I made the choice for her to be by my side,” the bride says, “My mom knew exactly what to say before we walked out and down the aisle and it was very special.” Melissa admits she was anxious before walking out, but her nerves calmed as she saw her groom. “Once I got closer to Stu, I realized that he and all of his groomsmen (there were a lot of them) were in tears,” she says, “To see everyone’s love for us was extremely powerful.”
After an aunt and uncle shared readings, the couple exchanged personal vows they wrote for each other. “We have been together for eight years so lots of little stories and inside jokes were included that made it feel like it was just us up there,” Melissa says, “After the wedding, we heard from so many people that our vows were their favorite part.”
After their officiant pronounced them husband and wife, Melissa and Stu recessed down the aisle to DJ Komori’s remix of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” “We wanted something classic so everyone knew the words but also something that would get everyone up and out of their seats,” Melissa says. Immediately following the ceremony, the couple stepped away with photographer Corbin Gurkin for portraits at the waterfront.
The cocktail hour took place outside, where guests grabbed moscow mule and strawberry margarita signature cocktails from the bar. Escort cards featured guest’s names in white calligraphy on textured paper, displayed on a large wooden structure underneath an oak tree.
A clear-top tent with white wood flooring was set up for the reception, where guests had waterfront views. Over a hundred rattan lanterns hung overhead along with greenery garlands. Square tables were paired with light wood Winston chairs to seat eight per table. All-white centerpiece arrangements were placed in a variety of different vases at each.
Rattan placemats and white plates with scalloped edges were paired with cutlery with wooden handles. Custom printed menus and luggage tag place cards completed each place setting.
There were a few lounge areas under the tent with comfortable seating and tables. A neon sign featuring the couple’s last name decorated the bar. To honor the lives of their grandparents who passed away, the couple added some special touches. For example, they included a British flag in Melissa’s granddad’s favorite drink, and they had a cigar bar to honor Stu’s grandpa, complete with a life size cutout of him with a cigar in hand. “All those little touches were so special to help us include those important family members,” the couple shares.
The couple’s four-tiered white wedding cake included floral designs to mimic the bride’s bouquet. They chose cookies and cream, lemon, raspberry, and vanilla flavors. The cake was displayed in a vintage greenhouse.
The dinner menu started with a spinach salad with fresh berries, followed by pan-seared local white fish and praline-crusted sage chicken entrees. “Our favorite items were some from the late night menu which were velvet adult milkshakes and mini pizzas with our wedding ‘branding’ on the box,” Melissa says. A highlight of the couple’s wedding day was when Rachel, the bride’s sister, and Jack, the groom’s brother, shared speeches. “I have never laughed harder and during those moments it felt like our families officially had come together as one,” Melissa says.
As soon as the speeches were finished, the band, Simply Irresistible, paraded through the room playing horns. “It brought the energy up even more!” Melissa says. The couple shared their first dance to “Just The Two Of Us” by Grover Washington Jr. and Bill Withers. Then, Stu danced with Melissa’s mom and Melissa danced with Stu’s dad to “Don’t Blink” by Kenny Chesney. “It was a really special moment for the four of us,” the bride says.
Melissa and Stu cut and served their wedding cake before changing into their second outfits for a more comfortable vibe. They decided to wear Hawaiian leis during their send off at the end of the night to honor Melissa’s grandmother, who lived in Hawaii. When the couple got back to their hotel room at the end of the night, they were thrilled to see their planner had stocked the fridge with the food items from their wedding so they could be sure to taste everything. “One of my favorite personal touches my planner did that ended the night perfectly,” Melissa says.
Melissa and Stu remind couples who are planning their wedding to break the rules. When Stu had more groomsmen than Melissa had in her bridal party, they didn’t worry that the wedding party wouldn’t be even. “When the day came I realized I didn’t even notice that there were so many more guys up there and loved that they all could be up there with us,” Melissa says, “Don’t worry about things you think you are supposed to do for a wedding—do you and it will feel right!