Rachel Hawkins and Jeff Filer are Charlotte transplants with Midwest roots, captivated by the South's great cities steeped in tradition. Fittingly, the pair came together during one of the region's biggest social soirees, Carolina Cup. Soon, their shared passions - ranging from travel to sports to outdoor adventure - led Jeff to the realization that he wanted to marry his best friend. And their exuberant Goldendoodle, Izzo, was the perfect cover to pop the question.
Their new pup, a Valentine's Day gift, had never seen the ocean, so Jeff set up a getaway to Kiawah Island with an ulterior motive. "He proposed under the stars, and it was so calm the waves just faded away," Rachel describes. "When we got back to the house, he had champagne and an issue of Carolina Bride waiting for me."
Rachel, a Realtor specializing in home rehabs, and Jeff, a Wells Fargo commercial real estate banker with a love of history, knew that their wedding destination required character. And just like their engagement, the South Carolina Lowcountry held the key. "Our extended family is spread out across the country from Virginia to Colorado. Knowing our guests had to travel, we wanted to pick a memorable city for them to make a vacation out of it," says Jeff.
They decided on a Charleston wedding on Feb. 20, taking advantage of the rich history the city had to offer. The ceremony took place at the First Baptist Church of Charleston, famed for its commanding white façade facing South of Broad's timeless antebellum estates. "I remember the giant doors of the church opening and Rachel appearing. My knees actually wobbled," reveals Jeff. "I had to look up at the balcony for five seconds to compose myself."
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A short and sweet ceremony where Jeff placed a matching pave diamond wedding band from Diamonds Direct on Rachel's finger gave way to the reception at the Historic Rice Mill adjacent to the Charleston City Marina. The antique architectural features were just what Rachel was looking for. A wrap-around balcony overlooking the Ashley River, tin ceilings and exposed brick walls were bathed in candlelight. Indigo Photography caught every moment. "Sometimes you feel like photographers can be a nuisance at weddings, but we wanted Andy there for every frame," says Rachel. "He was incredible."
Tablescapes were dressed in navy and slate, hues that matched the first piece of jewelry Jeff gave Rachel: Tahitian pearls. The bridesmaids were presented their own sets for the occasion to match their floor-length navy dresses. Meanwhile, Rachel was breathtaking in a taffeta gown with a sweetheart neckline and side-swept ruching. Personal touches such as lanterns that Rachel's grandfather whittled himself and simple cylinder centerpieces with floating orchids complemented the venue's robust character. For favors, guests helped themselves to boiled peanuts in tall glass apothecaries with daring Cajun and Old Bay flavors.
Music was especially important to the bride and groom, since they both share a love for unique beats - old-school rap being a favorite. Jeff even surprised Rachel with Jay-Z tickets prior to the ceremony. After the guests savored grazing stations with Lowcountry provisions by Good Food Catering including shrimp and grits, mac 'n' cheese and prime rib, the dance floor was crowded all night long. An unforgettable speech by Jeff's brother and best man - complete with a slideshow - kept the laughs coming.
An old adage inscribed on the wedding cake's top layer expressed Rachel and Jeff's union concisely: "Today I marry my best friend." It also echoed a cherished keepsake from the day, a note that Jeff wrote. "In you, I've found the love of my life ... and the closest, truest friend of my heart. I can't wait to marry you. Hurry on down that aisle."
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Diamonds Direct SouthPark
The Historic Rice Mill Building
Good Food Catering