Flowers, Lights, and French Lace

Old wedding traditions with a modern twist

Lucas Brown, Kickstand Studio

Sometimes blind dates do work. Just ask Katherine and Henry Strickland. This was not a conventional blind date — more like an arrangement. On a whim, Katherine’s mother, Kathy Fant, called Margaret Strickland, Henry’s mother, and asked if her son would be Katherine’s date for an upcoming debutante ball. Henry’s family had helped sponsor Katherine for the ball, and since the escort had to be 21 years old, Kathy thought Henry would be the ideal companion for her daughter. 

“I knew they didn’t know each other, but I told Katherine it was just one night and no big deal, so to go and enjoy themselves,” says Kathy. “Katherine thought it was weird, but she agreed.” That was in 2012.

Apparently mother knows best, as the date went quite well. Katherine and Henry continued to stay in touch while she was in Charleston attending nursing school at the Medical University of South Carolina, and Henry was living in Columbia. After about six months, the two made it official and began dating. Henry moved back to Charleston, and the couple dated for three years before becoming engaged.

As a nursing school student, Katherine often worked the nightshift. Such was the case on Christmas Eve in 2015. For the first time in her life, Katherine would not be spending Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with her family. Instead, on Christmas morning after finishing her shift, she went to Henry’s parents’ home, where she planned to spend the morning before returning to Columbia for time with her family. When she arrived at the Stricklands’ home, Henry’s mother told Katherine she had a stocking for her. There was a jewelry box at the bottom of the stocking. “Henry’s mom told me she had gotten me a piece of jewelry from Skatell’s,” says Katherine. “I opened the box and was confused and flabbergasted. Inside was a gorgeous ring. Henry then proposed.”

Kathy was also confused when her cell phone started ringing in her home in Columbia early that morning. Since Katherine was not going to be home until later, Kathy told her other children not to worry about waking up very early; instead, they were all going to sleep in. Finally, Kathy answered her FaceTime call, where Katherine was holding up her hand. Simpson, Katherine’s father, knew, as did Henry’s parents, but he had not told Kathy. “I asked Katherine if she knew, and she said, ‘I was in scrubs, dirty, with no make-up, and Henry was freshly showered. Do you think if I had known I would have looked like that?’” Kathy says with a laugh. 

Soon after the engagement, Katherine began planning her wedding. With plans to marry in Columbia while living in Charleston, the logistics were often challenging. Having her parents in Columbia certainly helped, and her sister, Hunter, also stepped in to assist. “With Katherine being in nursing school, working, as well as a being a bit of a procrastinator, it was nice to have Hunter helping to coordinate and plan,” says Kathy. 

The first step for Katherine was contacting the wedding coordinator, Cricket Newman. “Of course, everyone said she was fabulous, which she was, but she was also very patient with us,” says Kathy. Katherine knew what she wanted, and it was very important to her that she be heavily involved in the process. “During our first meeting, Cricket asked me what three words described what I wanted for our wedding. I said, ‘Flowers, lights, and more flowers.’ And she delivered,” says Katherine. “When I didn’t know how to put what I had seen or what I thought I wanted into words, she would know exactly what I wanted. When she showed me pictures based on what she heard from me, it was exactly what I had envisioned.” 

The wedding ceremony was held at the family’s church — Eastminster Presbyterian. The minister, Brad Smith, made it very special for the two, pulling in references to Henry’s love of hunting and ensuring it was a very personal ceremony. Henry and his 16 groomsmen were clad in traditional tuxedos, while Katherine was stunning in a strapless ball gown with an empire waist. The pure white dress was made of Thai silk with the bodice covered in French lace. “The process at first didn’t feel all that different from finding a debutante dress, but I tried on a few and wasn’t falling in love with anything,” says Katherine. “My mom, Hunter, and I went to Charlotte, where I tried on a few more dresses. I knew I had found ‘the one’ when my mom started crying, and Hunter loved it. I wanted something simple and classic. I didn’t want strapless, and I thought I wanted something fitted. I ended up with a strapless ball gown! And I loved it.”

Katherine also found a veil that she loved, but, due to going over budget on the dress, they at first held off on buying it. They returned to Columbia and thought about having a veil made, but Katherine was stuck on the one she had seen in Charlotte. Katherine’s grandmother purchased it as a gift to her, and it will now become the family veil. The family veil Kathy and her sister wore is no longer around, so with Katherine’s veil, a new tradition has begun. Katherine also wore a sapphire and diamond ring, the first ring her father had given her mother, to serve as her “something borrowed” and “something blue.” She carried her paternal grandmother’s handkerchief from her wedding and drank out of the silver chalice that her maternal grandmother used at her reception. The opportunity to infuse family traditions into her wedding was very important to Katherine.

Equally important to Katherine was finding a photographer who would appeal to Henry, who does not enjoy having his photo taken, and make him feel comfortable. She reached out to Lucas Brown with Kickstand Studios, who had a phenomenal way of keeping everyone at ease. Katherine and Henry were adamant about not having a first-look photo, where the bride and groom see each other before the wedding in order to have pictures taken in advance of the ceremony. At the last minute, Lucas convinced them to go ahead with the first-look photo and assured them he would make the occasion very special for the couple. 

Even better, the couple was able to go directly to the reception at Forest Lake Club post haste. Having been to many a wedding at Forest Lake, it was important to Katherine and her family that the reception be different and have its own personality. Kathy also knew — when Katherine said she wanted flowers and more flowers — that it was not going to be an inexpensive evening. “We met and met with Cricket, and Simpson was saying, ‘No, no — what if we have a big tree at the reception? What if we have a big tree with a string of lights?’ Cricket took that idea and ran with it.” The end result was a majestic tree enveloped in lights and glorious orchids — a true statement piece. Flowers were also hung throughout the foyer and on the chandelier. 

“It wasn’t your typical arrangement of flowers in the middle of a food table,” continues Kathy. “It was spectacular in its beauty.” The flowers were traditional and classic in color — whites and pinks with a few blues in the bouquets of the 14 bridesmaids to match their dresses. 

The menu consisted of beef short ribs, grilled pork tenderloin on crostini, mini tomato pies, fried and rock oysters, crab cakes, and shrimp and grits. Since Katherine lived in Mount Pleasant, seafood was a necessary staple. The cake was a traditional white cake with white icing and flowers on top. During the search for the perfect wedding cake, Katherine and Kathy found out what a patient man Henry truly is. 

“Katherine wanted Henry to come to the wedding cake tasting, which was in Gilbert. While we were making the drive to the shop, I was thinking, ‘Why is Katherine lugging Henry all the way from Charleston to Gilbert to taste wedding cake? Certainly he doesn’t care about this!’” Kathy says with a laugh. When they arrived, there was no fanfare, simply small niblets of cake for each to taste. 

“I thought it was going to be some grand affair,” says Katherine. “Henry was a great sport and sat through the hour-long meeting. And the cake was phenomenal.”

Ensuring the guests left with a full stomach was just one of the goals. The other was to make sure they left with a spring in their step after a night of dancing with the band. Katherine had first seen The Max,  of Atlanta, at one of her debutante parties. “I remember saying that night that I wanted that band at my wedding — whenever that may be,” remembers Katherine. “They were a big party band that ventures into the crowd — so much fun!” Katherine made good on that promise to herself and secured The Max soon after becoming engaged.

After seeing everything come to fruition, it was well worth all the efforts of planning. “Before I walked down the aisle, my dad said, ‘Thirteen months of planning, and now it’s six minutes away,’” says Katherine. “It’s hard to believe how fast it goes by.” And as Katherine and Henry pulled away in their red convertible, bound for Hope Town, Bahamas, they knew it was only the beginning and wished that time would stand still.