Authentic Southern charm, organic details and a dash of carefree romance set the stage for the spring wedding of Caroline Mayberry and Wyatt Stephens at Montage Palmetto Bluff. The destination, an effortless choice for weddings thanks to its distinctive architecture and natural beauty, attracted the college sweethearts at first sight. They knew the secluded Lowcountry setting along the May River promised privacy, convenience and a weekend of fun and memories for their regional friends and family.
Their story began at Clemson University where this Greenville, South Carolina-based couple met in an American Sign Language 101 class. “We did not verbally communicate for the first six months. I kid you not,” Caroline recalls of those initial months of kismet when their teacher, who is deaf, paired them up as sign language partners. Silence was golden for these two lovebirds. “We weren’t allowed to speak in the classroom, so we didn’t even talk to each other until second semester,” Caroline explains. Over the course of their time in school, the two became close friends and eventually started dating. Wyatt even orchestrated a clever proposal that involved a reunion with the pair’s first mutual friend: their beloved sign language professor.
For the big day, all signs pointed to Montage Palmetto Bluff. “I heard through a friend that it felt separate and special and that we wouldn’t have to add too much to it,” Caroline says. The bride had originally wanted to wed close to Kiawah Island, where her parents own a home. But the locale reminded her too much of her father, who passed away before she graduated from college. “At the Montage, I immediately fell in love with how welcoming it made you feel and its natural beauty. … The chapel was the selling point, along with Moreland,” she says of the pavilion set on May River.
In honing the look and feel of the affair, they asked Tara Guérard of Tara Guérard Soirée for a scheme that was pretty, yet organic. Caroline also requested that she infuse the color purple, a symbolic color in her family that reminds them of her father. Guérard’s whimsical design blended the Southern comfort of lush greenery with whites, purple and romantic roses by the hundreds.
“I also asked for fun,” Caroline adds. “It wasn’t so much about Wyatt and me but about throwing the best party everybody had ever enjoyed. It was all about creating a welcome, happy, natural vibe for our guests.”
And enjoy they did. The fun began with a welcome party on Friday night at Moreland. Guests hopped on the trolley to reach a magical riverside dinner. Casual Southern cuisine hit the spot, set to the tune of a folk and bluegrass band.
On Saturday, guests could lounge around the pool, take time to be pampered at Spa Montage, or ride bikes and explore the charming grounds. Later, Caroline and Wyatt were married in a black tie-optional ceremony inside May River Chapel. The floral arch over the cross in the chapel was dedicated to Caroline’s father, an emotional element that helped bring him close to everyone gathered there.
The ceremony was followed by alfresco cock- tails under the ancient oak trees of the adjacent May River lawn, then guests strolled to the Village Green. Rustic chandeliers laced with vines hung from the ceiling of the tent where dinner was served at long, family-style tables. Strands of twinkling lights glittered overhead as the sun went down and candlelight made the tent glow. The party flowed into the Oak Ballroom with its wraparound veranda for cake, dancing and the powerful voices of the Gullah gospel choir that soon had guests singing right along with them. For their playful escape, Caroline and Wyatt pedaled off into the night on a tandem bike, surrounded by tearful guests waving sparklers and wishing them well.
Before the couple jetted off to St. Barts on their honeymoon, they hosted a farewell Sunday brunch at the resort’s Canoe Club.
Caroline says Montage Palmetto Bluff proved to be the perfect place for an elegant wedding that managed to feel low-maintenance. Guérard’s talents made the process easy on the couple while incorporating personal touches and meaningful details. “We even brought in the sign language theme,” Caroline says. “The groom’s cake had the sign for ‘I love you’ on top and our cocktail napkins had ‘I love you’ on them in sign language.” She says they plan to teach it to their daughter, Charlie, who turns 1 in May.
The newlyweds returned to Montage Palmetto Bluff for a quick babymoon before their daughter was born, then again to celebrate Christmas. “It’s becoming a thing!” Caroline laughs. Their wed- ding was their first introduction to the property; now it’s a tradition. “I hope my sister will get married there. I hope my brother will get married there. It’s becoming something new for us, a special place in our lives.”
Loved ones who first visited for the wedding have called it “one of the best weekends they ever had,” Caroline notes, crediting Palmetto Bluff for their sentiment. “I believe our guests will always remember it because they had a good time and they felt loved—and that was our hope.”
By Lisa Marie Hart
Photos By Perry Vaile