While they had met several times before, Martha Alexander and Jeff LeVeen credit the Labor Day rains as the driving force that brought them together. It was a couple of days after their first date–a dinner with Jeff’s family, no less–and Martha accepted a ride from Jeff back to New York City from Westhampton. The downpour was torrential, and in the many hours it took to reach their destination, Martha and Jeff fell for one another. “I was sad to say good-bye,” remembers the bride of that fateful night.
When at last it came time to plan the wedding, there was no question where the couple would marry. While dating, Martha and Jeff spent many a long weekend at Berkeley Hall, a members-only golf community in Bluffton, SC, which Jeff had discovered after visiting the area with his father. Tragically, Jeff LeVeen Sr. died in the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, and in the time that followed, Bluffton had become a second home to his family. “When we did finally get engaged, we barely needed to discuss it,” says Martha. “We just knew.”
In addition to the special place it held in their hearts, Berkeley Hall was a perfect spot for hosting guests for an entire weekend––the church was less than a mile away and many of their loved ones could stay on the property in cottages. The tight-knit nature of the community also proved valuable in introducing the couple to its many talented vendors, allowing the New Yorkers to plan this destination wedding with ease.
Using autumn as their inspiration, Martha and her florist designed arrangements celebrating the glory of the season. Both bride and bridesmaids carried bouquets of orange berries, red amaryllis, yellowish-red Circus roses and cream hellebores––all rich complements to Martha’s stunning red locks and the sage sash on her gown. Under the reception tent, centerpieces alternated between tall glass vases filled to the brim with red and green apples, topped with an abundant display of hydrangea, orchids, roses and daisies, and low bowls filled with a cornucopia of fruit spilling onto the table with a surround of twinkling candles. The coordinating cake was also dressed in fall’s best, its four white layers resting on an assortment of harvest fruits.
The wedding was days away and the details set; all that was left to do was head south …before the effects of Hurricane Wilma struck. Thanks to a Nor’easter barreling down on the New York area, Martha’s flight was cancelled the day she was set to leave, and without hope of making it by air, Jeff acted fast: He rented a car, grabbed what he needed from the apartment and picked up Martha at the airport so the two could make the drive–straight through the driving rain and 50-mile-an-hour winds. Reminiscent of their first adventure by car, Martha and Jeff used the hours alone together wisely. “We wouldn’t have planned it that way,” Martha explains, “but I was so glad to have been able to share that time and experience with Jeff before the wedding.”
After the ceremony, conducted by a priest and friend of the LeVeen family, the newlyweds gathered with their guests for a buffet dinner. The most popular station was the “Taste of Low Country,” which offered buffalo shrimp, pulled pork, mac and cheese, baked beans and she-crab soup. The bride runs a small business designing handmade dog collars, belts and key chains, and she put her skills to wonderful use for the wedding favors/seating cards. Each guest received a key chain with the South Carolina state flag and wedding date on it. Also slipped into each pouch was a “deep thought” from the Saturday Night Live character, Jack Handey–a funny conversation starter as guests looked for their seats.
The group was treated to a slide show of Martha and Jeff through the years before hitting the dance floor to enjoy the band imported all the way from Martha’s Vineyard. A guest also sang a stirring rendition of the Rosemary Clooney song “Turn Around,” whose words describe a young girl who grows up to begin a family of her own.
The most touching moment came when Jeff delivered his speech. Instead of champagne, each guest was given a bottle of Budweiser in honor of his father, and the group joined Jeff in this toast, knowing his dad would have been overjoyed to witness his marriage to Martha. “It was, of course, a sensitive moment, and Jeff executed it wonderfully,” says the bride, proudly.
The festivities lasted well into the early morning, thanks to an after-party held in one of the cottages off the 18th hole. After their dream weekend, Martha and Jeff headed off on their honeymoon to Hawaii for some relaxation and fun (thankfully, of course, in the sun).