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This Backyard Wedding in Charleston Was All About Summer Elegance

Mariana “Mini” Hay, a fourth-generation jeweler at Croghan’s Jewel Box—a treasure trove of a boutique located on King Street in Charleston, South Carolina—and the designer behind the highly popular Goldbug Collection, always knew that if and when she got married, she wanted the wedding to take place in her hometown, at the house where she grew up.

Stephen Walker Avant II, a vice president at South Atlantic Bank, seemed to understand the significance of this house from the start, because he proposed on the steps of the porch—in the exact same spot where he and Mini had met at a Christmas Parade party the year before—in September of 2019. “When I said yes, I heard all this noise,” Mini remembers. “I looked over and our families were all watching and cheering through the windows.”

Their original wedding date was set for May 2, 2020, but COVID-19 had other plans. When the pandemic hit in early spring, it quickly became clear that the couple’s May wedding plans were going to have to be put on hold. “Luckily, the wedding venue did not need to change so that was a relief,” Mini says. “We didn’t want to continue putting off starting our lives together, so we decided around April 19 that we would try to get married with just immediate family as soon as it was possible. We were able to do just that with 46 people, in masks, seating everyone six feet apart. It ended up being such a special day, and I wouldn’t have changed it for the the world.”

Originally the plan was to do a noon service at the bride’s family’s church, St. Mary’s of the Annunciation, followed by a big wedding luncheon with a soft, English cottage vibe. While the guest-list size changed, the aesthetic for the day remained. “Blake of Gregory Blake Sams Events and I landed on one long table with an assortment of silver pieces filled with flowers that remind me so much of my childhood and the natural beauty of Charleston,” Mini says. “Honeysuckle, green blueberries, ferns, I loved it! Since day one, Blake had these amazing striped umbrellas that I’m obsessed with, and he incorporated them the length of the long table. Ever single thing was like a dream.”

Ever the designer, Mini had a vision for her dress. With the help of Jodi at White on Daniel Island, she was able to see it through to fruition. “I tried on a ton of dresses in the beginning and nothing really felt like me,” she says. “I wanted a bit of color, so I told Jodi my ideas, and she looked at me like I was crazy, but she sat with me, and we worked through it and came up with my dream dress. It was a bunch of layers over a fern, greenery printed fabric, so it was kind of muted and not so green. I just had a weird feeling that it was going to be perfect. My mom and sister, who are much more organized and literal than me, were so nervous that I was going with a dress I’d never even seen much less tried on, but sure enough, when it came in, we all loved it.”

Mini’s mother took a trip to San Miguel a few months before the wedding, and she brought back a dried flower headband for the bride. “It ended up matching my dress perfectly, and I wore it instead of a veil,” Mini says. “I wore my mom’s aquamarine ring that was my grandmother’s, as my something blue. My something borrowed was my mom’s pearl bracelet.” Her shoes were Loeffler Randall from Hampden Clothing (something new), and the bride’s parents gave her the antique earrings she wore as a wedding present (her something old).

The day before the wedding, the florist brought over florals and greenery in bulk so the bride and several family members could put create the arrangements in the silver themselves. “It was such a fun activity to do together the day before I got married, and will always remain a happy memory,” Mini says.

On Saturday, June 27, Mini got ready at the house where she grew up while her godmother and god sisters—who happen to live next door—played the Shirelles’ “Going to the Chapel” on the porch. Everyone sang and danced while they prepped and primped. 

After a short but sweet limo ride to the church with her father, Mini walked down the aisle to the church organ, choir, and trumpets at St. Mary’s. “As soon as the doors opened my eyes welled up with the happiest tears,” Mini remembers. “It was so exciting! The whole ceremony Walker and I both just smiled almost in disbelief that it was really happening. Walker’s dad was the best man and whenever I looked over at him on the altar, he had the biggest grin on his face. It was such a happy day!”

Following the service, guests made their way to the family’s backyard garden for lunch—and just as soon as they’d made their way through the wrought iron gate, wedding crashers appeared on the other side. “Two of my mom’s oldest friends showed up on a golf cart in wedding dresses with tissue paper veils and gloves,” Mini remembers. “It was hilarious!”

The Lowhills played jazzy brunch music, while guests sipped on basil lemonade cocktails out of julep cups featuring a new cypher featuring an M and a W stacked on top of each other, engraved at Croghan’s especially for the occasion. 

Meanwhile, the bride went inside to change into her Sachin & Babi embroidered dress for the reception and the groom removed his socks before they were announced for the first time as Mr. and Mrs. Avant. Then, they descended the porch steps to take their seats at the table. 

Caroline Bevon of Caroline’s Market and Catering served up vichyssoise soup with a Greek shrimp salad, beef tenderloin with chimichurri, and local John’s Island tomatoes, followed by wedding cake with homemade peach ice cream. During lunch, the father and mother of the bride gave heartfelt toasts along with Mini’s sister and brother and the groom’s brothers. Toward the end of the meal, friends drove by and toasted the happy couple from their cars. 

Once everything wound down, the newlyweds went back to their new house where Walker had Champagne waiting. “We sat on our porch and relived every moment of the day,” Mini says. “I know it’s such a scary time, but in a weird way, I think this upset in our plans was actually such a blessing. To get married with family and really enjoy everyone’s presence was so nice. I do not like being the center of attention and since we changed to this smaller, family-only list, I was not nervous at all. It’s wonderful to be able to find someone you want to spend your life with—the wedding is like the cherry on top!”


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