Frances “Hunter” Floyd and Benjamin “Gately” Williams knew each other for quite awhile before they began dating, because they ran in the same industry circle: she’s a former event planner (now a designer) and he’s a wedding photographer. “A year or so after we first met, Gately was doing a job for a magazine I was working for at the time and took a nice photo he shared with me,” Hunter recalls. “I joked that I hope this will help me get a date!”
But, they actually dated each other’s friends before they dated each other. “We had a joint birthday party thrown by my boyfriend at the time—his best friend—and his girlfriend, for the two of us,” Hunter shares. “We are 30 hours apart in age, which is fun for us.” Eventually, the stars aligned.
One night in November 2019, the couple was hanging out in their kitchen getting ready to go out for the evening. “Gately presented me with a wrapped painting of a sailboat I had pointed out when perusing an antique shop together,” Hunter remembers. “I unwrapped my lil’ ship to flip it over and read: ‘Presented to Frances Hunter from Benjamin Gately, November 7, 2019, will you marry me?’ I turned to see his trembling hand holding up a beautiful ring, presented down on one knee, of course.” It wasn’t just any ring. It was—surprisingly—Hunter’s dream ring. “A best girlfriend [and jeweler] Ann Ladson handmade my engagement ring based on a cocktail napkin design I drew and didn’t know she had seen.”
Speaking of sparklers, “I have an affinity for bright shiny things,” Hunter admits. “The world of glitter, sequins, and plexiglass is where I reside. The transfer of light and the playfulness of color has always mesmerized me. I knew if there was ever a time I could push the boundaries and really go for it, my own wedding would be the place.”
Then, the vision was further cemented. “I knew I wanted plexi but I just hadn’t settled on the color or finish—until my mom sent me an image of a winter editorial spread of a nymph in a gold sequin gown standing outside in the elements,” Hunter remembers. “Mom said, ‘You could pull this off.’ Trusting the insane compliment and the urge to really flip the script on the whole white dress vision, I did some research and the dress—from Marc Jacobs runway—arrived within 24 hours. So, gold dress led to gold and yellow-mirrored plexiglass.”
Once the vision was set, Hunter tapped Gregory Blake Sams Events and a team of talented friends to bring it all to life. “I was fortunate to have my talented events community of friends that were my ‘vendors,’” Hunter says. “The hardworking team—floral designer, lighting designer, and planner—are all my dear friends who ran to the hotel to change after setting up for three days to then come and celebrate with us.” The bride adds, “Not enough could be said about my mom, Susan,” Hunter says. “Her schooling on how to throw a party is the reason our wedding was such a success.”
A year to the day after getting engaged, the duo said “I do” on November 7, 2021 in Hunter’s parents’ backyard in Spartanburg, South Carolina. See all the pretty gilded details of their big day, planned by Gregory Blake Sams Events and photographed by Brian D. Smith Photography.
“We had insane save the dates printed to really set the tone for the event out of the gate: a muddy ivory exterior color and a shiny gold interior that was letterpressed,” Hunter shares. “The formal invites were a rich ivory in color with brown ink calligraphy.” Unfortunately, midway through planning they had to pivot, cutting the guest list from 210 to 80 due to COVID. “We sent a dreaded ‘sorry but you aren’t invited anymore’ letter to more than half of the original lot; it was in our same tonal paper family and was beautifully written.”
One of Hunter’s favorite memories of the day is getting ready with her closest friends. “[I was with] my friends Sara, the flower designer; Ann, the ring designer; Lindsay, the officiant’s wife; and my sister, sipping Champagne upstairs in my childhood room looking out the window watching guests arrive.”
As for big-day beauty, “the dress was the statement,” Hunter says. “Makeup was to be classic and minimal, fresh, and natural. My daily ’do is always down, big, curly, and wild. I wanted to switch it up and really let the dress sing, so Kelli Hoff and I worked on a somewhat messy low braided tucked ponytail—natural feeling and somewhat whimsical.”
Hunter was never planning to dress shop with friends. “I don’t particularly love the spotlight; I’m more of a behind-the-scenes type,” she says. Instead, she browsed magazines. “I called Marc Jacobs in New York City the day I saw the dress in a fashion editorial,” she remembers. “A gal name Daniella found the dress for me—one of two ever made—overnighted it to me, and I kept it. It was funky, it was unconventional and uncommon, and it fit like a glove.” She finished the look with a monochromatic bouquet of pale mustard butterfly ranunculus.
Hunter had an ulterior motive in wanting a black-tie wedding. “I knew Gately would look smokin’ hot in a tux,” she laughs. Indeed he did, donning a tailored black J.Crew look and patent leather shoes. “He was loaned the cufflinks by one of my very best friends, Ann Ladson Stafford, who also made our wedding bands and my engagement ring,” Hunter says. “She had made them for her husband on their wedding day. John passed away two years ago, and this was a way to have him there with us.”
“The main focal point [of the ceremony] was a 1960s Paul Evans Cityscape dining table that was silver and gold mirrored metal,” Hunter describes. “[Planner] Blake saw it at an antique shop and said I had to have it—he was correct. Asymmetrically adorning the table were ivory candles anchored by a Michael Aram candelabra and tons of wax from nearly 200 ivory taper and pillar candles. There was one large trailing arrangement of ivory carnations and some greens sourced from the my parent’s yard. The table is now our dining table at home.” Chairs were set in a semicircle arrangement, a request from the groom.
Hunter’s father escorted her down the aisle. “We had a trio of cello, violin, and keyboard that sat off of the semi-circle of guests,” Hunter says. “They played the ‘Perpetuum Mobile’ by Penguin Café Orchestra as we walked down the aisle. We timed it exactly—all about the drama!”
“We weren’t exactly by-the-book or very traditional,” the bride shares of their ceremony. “There were bits of familiarity and we kept it open to include many denominations.” The couple’s dear friend Blake officiated (and also played drums with his musical partner).
After “I do,” guests moved inside for cocktail hour. “Cocktail hour was held in my parents beautiful home where we had to do very little, but got the opportunity to play with funky floral installations intentionally peppered throughout the house,” the bride describes. “There was a bar set up in my dad’s office, a Champagne station in my parent’s bedroom that mom made a custom green velvet table linen for, and a caviar station on the 72-inch round dining table that later flipped into a cake display.” But, that was only the beginning. “We then walked through the home to the back patio, where there was a tent clad in mirrored plexiglass,” Hunter says.
The tent was erected in the open courtyard of the U-shaped home, with five sets of wide French doors leading out to it. “I’m not a big fan of tent fabric, and a major fan of minimalist clean lines—so I decided we had to clad the tent poles in mirrored yellow and gold plexiglass to bring attention to what many would draw the eyes away from,” Hunter says. “We suspended a cluster of gold oversized spheres over the main two rows of seated tables to really focus the gold and add more interest to the tent. The tables each had custom-cut mirrored-gold plexiglass toppers.”
Tamarind velvet linens carried the color scheme to the ground. “I had the flooring wrapped in mirrored gold vinyl to tie in with all the gold-mirrored surfaces around,” Hunter continues. “We made sure to max out the candlelight on the tabletops.” Florals by the bride’s friend Sara Grimshaw of SYG Designs abounded in pale lavender, blush, and bubblegum pink, muted mustards, and one varietal of bright coral roses. “I really wanted to make sure that everywhere you looked you had an experience,” Hunter says.
“The napkins were ivory linen hemstitched with a W monogram my mom and her friend embroidered; they also embroidered some 300 linen cocktail napkins for the bars and passed appetizers,” Hunter says. “The charger was an organically shaped painted gold base, and we had gold-rimmed ivory plates for the four-course dinner service.” Flatware was gold, of course, and each place setting had a menu card with the guest’s named calligraphed across the top. “I like a one-and-done menu card and place card,” Hunter says. “There is far less clutter on the table, and it is a keepsake of sorts.”
Their gluten-free menu kicked off with octopus and caviar, and was accompanied all evening long with “perfectly chilled, extra bubbling delicious Ruinart Blanc de Blanc Champagne,” Hunter says.
Just all the people I love in one place—happy.
“I remember sitting for dinner and it had all settled a bit. I was able to look right down the long table and see our buddy Todd (he is a lighting/AV/plexi-cladding guru) and simply smile and wink,” Hunter says. “Then, I look left and my other friend Sara and my dad are sitting side by side and are overwhelmed in laughter. Just all the people I love in one place—happy.”
Their simple gluten-free cake was yellow with buttercream icing—but it got the Midas touch at the last minute, too. “My sister arranged some edible gold leaf sheets on it as we were waiting for the ceremony to start,” Hunter recalls.
There was no official dance floor, but “we cleared a few dinner tables to make way for a makeshift dance floor where our friends Zac, Blake, Eric, and Ian played our first dance,” Hunter says. They performed “Baby” by Donnie and Joe Emerson. “I cried like a baby,” shares the bride. “Zac has such an amazing voice; it was by far one of the highlights of the night.” After, festivities kicked up a notch. “We all just boogied to some ’70s classics. As you can tell, I love a disco ball.”
Hunter and Gately made their grand exit in a sleek vintage car, and headed to Miami for a three-night minimoon. “Simply trust your gut,” they advise other couples during wedding planning. “Do what you want, what you see. No one can take this day away from you.”