Iconic Lowcountry locations to tie the knot
by Barry Waldman
4300 Ashley River Rd., Charleston
The iconic, sweeping grounds of Middleton Place, with its massive live oaks draped in Spanish moss envelope visitors in the sense of old Charleston like a scene from The Patriot, parts of which were filmed on the property.
If you can’t live happily ever after a Middleton Place wedding, you can’t live happily ever after.
A National Historic Landmark, Middleton Place boasts the nation’s oldest landscaped gardens. Planning your special day at Middleton Place steeps your marriage in centuries of American history, while providing magnificent 360-degree views during the ceremony and reception.
With your back to the Ashley River, you can say your vows just above the sculpted terraces that tumble down to the placid Butterfly Lakes, while your guests enjoy an unobstructed one-mile view of the river, now protected in perpetuity. Or choose from several equally stunning ceremony sites elsewhere on the property.
Landscaped gardens shimmering with color are all around you, arranged in geometric styles inspired by the designer of the gardens at the Palace of Versailles. Nearby is the House Museum, built in 1755 as gentleman’s guest quarters, a stately brick structure with a gabled roof and unique curvilinear gable ends.
Middleton Place is a cornucopia of gorgeous, a working rice plantation in the 18th and 19th centuries that was powered by the involuntary labor of enslaved Africans. Today’s Middleton Place tells that unvarnished story as part of its mission to educate and interpret history. Your very presence honors those who made this immense beauty possible.
With 65 acres of formal gardens, Middleton Place is always exploding with color. Over 100,000 azaleas and nearly 10,000 camellias explode with color in their blooming season, while beds of tulips, pansies and more are laid out in eye-pleasing formations year-round. At every turn in the gardens you’ll find the perfect stage for photo memories that will last a lifetime.
Your reception takes place at the newly expanded and renovated Pavilion, a modern building with the antique feel of reclaimed wood. High ceilings and windows offer a one-of-a-kind view of the expansive lawn and majestic live oaks, while a freedman’s residence nearby remains open for guests with a desire to learn more about the people who built and maintained the plantation.
Couples and their guests can stay in the architecturally significant Inn at Middleton Place, ride horses at the Middleton Place Equestrian Center and kayak the Ashley River with sightings of alligators, herons, birds of prey and more of nature’s gifts. With so many ways to steep yourself in history and beauty at Middleton Place, the word you will repeatedly come back to is: special.
The Historic Rice Mill
7 Lockwood Dr #101, Charleston
The views from the Historic Rice Mill excite the senses. Peering out from a restored 1861 rice mill across the Ashley River marina downtown affords magnificent sunset views that splay a crayon box of pastels before your eyes. Gaze out during your nuptials at ships coming in—including the multi-million-dollar yachts moored in the marina.
As for dining options, the Rice Mill offers the very best this culinary epicenter has to offer. The Historic Rice Mill is operated by Holy City Hospitality, one of the city’s treasured restauranteurs.
Enjoy the cuisine of quintessential Charleston eateries like Coast, 39 Rue de Jean and Virginia’s on King. Your guests’ palates will thank you and you will eat like the prince and princess you are on this day.
Inside the rice mill, drift back to antebellum days, when Scarlet O’Hara knew where to go and what to do.
Original exposed brick, wide plank floors and a tin ceiling meet at one of the region’s largest mahogany and marble bars, long enough to accommodate all the thirst-quenching your guests will require. And that’s not all: bartenders dispense their brews from antique bar taps whose provenance dates to General P.G.T. Beauregard’s unfortunate stay in Charleston.
Your dream wedding harkens to the romance of bygone days in a versatile space for as many as 300 guests for a cocktail reception.
But those sunsets, they’re the money picture from the Rice Mill. Many wedding parties time their ceremonies according to the setting sun—earlier in the winter and later in the summer—to conclude before its final descent. Enjoy the awe of the assembled as they gaze out towards the James Island Connector, witnessing the fiery orange ball take its ultimate bow for the day.
The Rice Mill affords views from the indoors as well as the outdoors, so inclement weather need not ruin the ceremony, reception or view out the large, arched double windows. But on those days the sunset has been cancelled by downpour, the sweep of history surrounding you on the building’s inside will divert your attention.
All this comes with one-stop shopping thanks to the in-house catering and wedding planning. Even the mother of the bride will find she doesn’t have to lift a finger or shout an order, which is just as well, because her jaw may be hanging down much of the night anyway.
Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina
20 Patriots Point Rd, Mt. Pleasant
In a seaside town like Charleston, all the best views involve water. There’s no better water view than the Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina.
While gazing out upon the surrounding rivers and the ocean from downtown Charleston precludes a view of the historic city itself, the view from Charleston Harbor Resort spans the Cooper River right into downtown.
Imagine saying your vows with the churches that married some of the South’s most famous couples ablaze in the gloaming before you.
Being perched practically adjacent to Patriot’s Point in Mt. Pleasant provides Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina with some notable advantages. Beyond the frolicking dolphins, dive-bombing seagulls and passing sailboats, the view widens to the massive Yorktown aircraft carrier, the regal Cooper River Bridge, historic Fort Sumter and the Charleston peninsula itself, with all its details shimmering below the horizon.
Pick out Waterfront Park on the city’s east side, the French Quarter and the historic Battery, where Citadel students sat and cheered from their front row seats at the Civil War’s commencement.
And of course, the sunsets, which transform even the most spectacular wedding experience into a lifelong memory, with colors you won’t have words to describe (unless you’re familiar with razzmatazz, a resplendent pink on a direct line between magenta and red.)
You can see all that from the only riverside “beach” in the Charleston area, a popular wedding ceremony venue that holds up to 350, or from the attached hotels at Charleston Harbor Resort.
That’s another advantage of being on the Mt. Pleasant side – you and your guests can stay on the site of your betrothal. With a majority of rooms facing the ocean, the views from the top floors beg retelling. On a clear day, the entire historic downtown is yours to visually behold.
From the Wedding Pier beyond the sandy “beach,” marrying couples can arrive by boat or make a water getaway. For a more intimate affair of up to 130 that hugs the water, you can nearly reach out and touch the historic downtown.
Or perhaps you prefer a more sedate view of the marina and the passing parade of sailboats. That’s available from the lawn, which holds 180 and serves as a third option. That’s part of the beauty of Charleston Harbor Resort, you can select from a trio of ceremony venues and a trio of reception areas for the setting that’s perfect for your wedding. Whichever combo you choose, prepare to hear the word “gorgeous” uttered repeatedly.
235 Long Point Rd, Mt Pleasant
Your guests’ introduction to Boone Hall is 4,000-feet of natural wonder – the winding three-quarter mile gauntlet of moss-laden live oak trees that comprise Avenue of Oaks.
There will be no need for ushers: your guests will be greeted as they arrive by silent roadside sentinels, limbs outstretched high above to guide and protect visitors.
Even before they take their place in your wedding, guests will find themselves in an Instagram moment, enveloped by this array of giants, one after the other, beckoning them in. For those in the market for memory-making, this one kicks off with some of Mother Nature’s greatest hits.
Three centuries of history unfold at Boone Hall, whose guests have included presidents and celebrities of all stripes. The corridor of flora greeting them were mere seedlings when John Boone planted them in 1743.
Through revolutions, prosperity and ruin, technological advancement and the emergence of the Charleston area as America’s favorite tourist city, these magnificent behemoths have persevered, eventually growing across the expanse to clasp hands.
A breathtaking outdoor wedding before this quintessential Southern backdrop quivers with the romance of history. Photographs are not to be missed on the steps of the plantation house, an awe-inspiring 10,000-square-foot Georgian mansion, buttressed by four stately white columns and topped by a sextet of stolid brick chimneys. Even the gateway to the house inspires awe.
It’s no surprise that scenes from recent times’ most romantic movie, The Notebook, were filmed at Boone Hall, or that America’s sexiest man, Ryan Reynolds, married his gorgeous co-star, Blake Lively, on the plantation.
The plethora of options for the ceremony include the front lawn, on the walkway to the Plantation House; the back lawn, under the web of Spanish moss; and creek side, where guests can enjoy the marsh breeze.
A reception at the iconic Cotton Dock harkens to the plantation’s early days – and the Republic’s. A huge rustic cabin with antique hardwood walls and a working fireplace, the so-called “Belle of the Hall” offers views of the surrounding Wamponcheeoone Creek.
Creating the perfect place for that perfect moment is what Boone Hall offers for brides and grooms. As you explore the various venue options at Boone Hall, you will discover the variety of spectacular locations where the world seems to stand still, storied locations that will make a lasting impression for you and your guests on your special day.