Elisabeth Knier was unaware that she was the subject of a set up, but thanks to a friend's sly matchmaking skills, she and Brian Burns began dating soon after they met at a party.
When it was time to propose, Brian made a gentlemanly gesture by asking Elisabeth's parents for their permission, which they were thrilled to grant. It was early December, and after a romantic dinner with Elisabeth, Brian gave her a gift. It was a Christmas tree ornament - a tradition between them - and on it was inscribed: "Will you marry me?" "Brian got down one knee, pulled the ring from his pocket, and the rest is kind of a blur!" admits Elisabeth.
But just as soon as the ring was on her finger, the bride snapped to and with the help of her enthusiastic mother and talented wedding planner, began designing her dream wedding. Elisabeth and Brian both wanted the celebration to be more than just a one-day affair; they imagined a whole destination weekend of festivities taking place somewhere that was convenient for everyone - their family and friends driving from North Carolina and those flying in from further away. They discovered the Daufuskie Island Resort and Breathe Spa nestled between Savannah, Georgia, and Hilton Head Island; with its homey take on luxury, the resort appeared to have it all. "It was very important to us to make our guests feel very special while attending our wedding," says the bride. And with well-stocked welcome bags waiting in each guest room, personalized turn-down service (a bag of chocolate sea shells left on each pillow read: "Sweet dreams! See you tomorrow for the big day!"), and several outings planned for the weekend - including a bonfire, a charity golf tournament, and a beach party - everybody on their list was treated like they, too, were the guests of honor.
Elisabeth had always wanted a tented reception because it would allow her to "start from scratch" and create a look without compromise. She never realized, however, just how challenging it would be to throw such a detailed affair on an island until the planning process was in full swing. "The fact that Daufuskie Island is only accessible by passenger ferry made it very difficult to bring things over for the wedding," says the bride. Just about everything had to be imported by boat - even the guests were ferried in chartered vessels to Hilton Head Island (and then taken in trolley cars) to the ceremony. Elisabeth, her parents, and her bridesmaids made the memorable trip over in her family's boat.
As a surprise to her daughter, the bride's mother wrapped the stems of Elisabeth's bouquet in lace from her own veil, as well as the rosary beads and Christian medal of her late grandfathers. A bagpiper in honor of Brian's Irish heritage welcomed guests as they entered the church. Balls of tightly packed chartreuse mums hung from pews along the aisle, matching the vibrant color of the bridesmaids' bouquets. Elisabeth's aunt Lynn sang beautifully throughout the Catholic mass, and the couple took in the very personalized sermon ("Father Hayden spoke to us like we were the only ones there," remembers Elisabeth) before exchanging vows in front of their 200 guests.
Back on Daufuskie Island, the reception was decorated in a vivid palette of chartreuse, iridescent brown, fuchsia, and white. An "EB" monogram was seen everywhere - from the menus to the dance floor - unifying all phases of the party. At long, square, and round tables adorned with varying arrangements of spider mums, orchids, roses, dahlias, and hydrangea, guests dined on a five-course meal that included a salad of Wisconsin saga blue cheese in honor of Elisabeth's birthplace.
From a stack of postcards arranged on a table - signifying important places to the newlyweds - guests were asked to pen notes to the couple and slip them into an old fashioned mailbox. (After the wedding, Elisabeth and Brian's wedding planner mailed them to their house. "Our mailbox was overflowing with postcards when we returned home from our honeymoon," says the bride.)
The couple took full advantage of the white dance floor, which was bordered in black and placed beneath swags of draped fabric that originated from a crystal chandelier. But they took breaks in the revelry to relish the emotional speeches made by family and friends. "My dad gave a truly memorable toast that had everyone wiping their eyes," remembers Elisabeth. "And my twin sister Jackie also gave a tear jerker."
And just as everyone thought the celebration might be winding down, Elisabeth's parents surprised the entire group - newlyweds included - with a spectacular fireworks show, kicking off an after party that was set up in an adjacent tent. It was outfitted with custom-made lounge furniture, lighted acrylic tables, and an elaborate candy bar that beckoned the group to continue the party. "Our guests never stopped dancing all night, from the first song to the last!" gushes Elisabeth. "That is just what Brian and I wanted."