From the moment it began, the marriage ceremony of Georgia Gibbes and Bryant Dyess, which was held on April 12 at the family’s St. Matthews farm, seemed to be going perfectly. The only tears shed were for happiness. The weather was gorgeous. The bride looked stunning. But about halfway through the ceremony, a few uninvited guests — five to be exact — arrived, panting and curious. “I don’t know what happened, but somehow, our five dogs got out, and came looking for their family,” laughs Georgia’s mother, Ethel Gibbes. “Along the way, they made about 400 new best friends.” While some families would have let a little canine love ruin their day, the Gibbes family took it in stride. “Our goal was to be relaxed, so it really was okay,” says Ethel. For Georgia and Bryant, who had one of their dogs in the wedding, it was a reminder of their first date — to a dog park with Bryant’s Great Dane, Izzy. “I couldn’t marry someone who doesn’t love dogs,” says Georgia.
Although Georgia and Bryant bonded over dogs, it was a napkin that actually brought them together for the first time. “I was out with friends one Tuesday night to see the piano act by Tim Tyler while I was still in college, and I spotted Bryant from across the room,” recalls Georgia. “A friend dared me to send him a note on a napkin, so I did. When he didn’t reply, I went home.” When the two ran into each other a few nights later and actually introduced themselves, Georgia was so embarrassed about the note that when Bryant asked if she was the girl who had sent it, she denied it, coming clean the next day during a marathon phone conversation that led to the couple’s first date. Two years later, on a weekend visit to Charleston, Bryant took Georgia to one of the fountains in the city, where he’d set up candles. When Georgia asked Bryant if he’d planned a picnic for them he replied by handing her a candle of her own and a small linen napkin. “He’d had it embroidered with a lovely sentiment, and after I read it, he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him,” says Georgia. “He’d already told my parents, so along with my aunt and uncle, they surprised us, and we had a celebratory dinner.”
Choosing the wedding date turned out to be the easiest part of planning the wedding. “We knew we wanted a spring wedding, but spring 2013 was too soon,” explains Georgia. “We looked at various weekends in 2014 and thought April 12 looked good. When we realized that it was the reverse of the date we’d gotten engaged, Dec. 4, we knew we had our date.”
The couple enlisted the help of Beth Huggins, a Summerville-area wedding planner and owner of Elizabeth Huggins and Company, to pull together the event on the family horse farm. “Georgia and Bryant knew exactly what they wanted, which always makes it easier,” says Beth. “They’re casual, but elegant, and the wedding needed to reflect that. We used a lot of burlap, which Georgia loves, as well as greenery, candles and lanterns.”
To set the mood from the beginning, Georgia chose letterpress invitations over more formal engraved invitations, backing them with burlap. The ceremony site was set with old plantation benches instead of chairs and an arbor, which Bryant crafted himself, that was covered in magnolia leaves and stood at the end of the aisle. The burlap also found its way into unexpected places, such as table runners, the altar cloth and pew markers embroidered with the couple’s monogram to add a chic, rustic touch.
One of the biggest challenges was the logistics of moving 400 people from the driveway, where the buses would drop them off, through the Gibbes’ home and out to the ceremony site, then to the tent for the reception. The family handled it with style. Candle-filled lanterns led to a bar with a jazz band set up outside before the ceremony to welcome guests while at the same time encouraging them to head in the direction of the pond. After the ceremony, cocktails were served on the outdoor patio while the wedding party had their photographs taken. “I’ve been to so many weddings where you’re standing around the reception waiting for the wedding party to arrive,” says Ethel. “We didn’t want that, so we created a space where guests could watch the photography. We also had a gospel choir. They started with ‘Oh Happy Day,’ and when it was time to move to the tent, they sang, ‘When the Saints Go Marching In.’”
The tent itself was clear, offering a view of the full moon and stars that dappled the dark sky; tapestries hung from the sides, which replicated walls but allowed the breeze to float through. Instead of numerous bars inside the tent, Huggins planned one massive bar and decorated it by suspending sets of windows complete with flower-filled window boxes, over the entire setup. Throughout the room, white and cream orchids, hydrangeas and Bells of Ireland were combined with greenery, moss and twisty sticks in dramatic, loosely arranged bouquets.
Georgia admits she never had one big “wow” moment with her dress. “In the movies, the girl walks out in the right dress and everyone bursts into tears. It wasn’t that way for me.” After narrowing her choice down to three, Georgia took the advice of her sales person and thought about the dresses for a couple of days. “Lindsey said I’d keep coming back to one, and that’s exactly what happened,” says Georgia. The strapless Vera Wang dress, which was highlighted by a sash in a slightly darker shade of ivory, turned out to be perfect. “It was simple, with no lace, but it was exactly what I had been looking for … I would get so excited for my dates with ‘Harper,’ the name/style of my dress, that the drive to Maddison Row in Charleston was totally worth it,” Georgia says. “I’ve become so attached to it that I told Bryant that if he comes home one day and I’m wearing it to vacuum he’ll have to act like what I’m doing is completely normal,” laughs Georgia. The bridesmaids wore matching dresses in muted jewel tones of mustard, jade, raspberry and cobalt blue.
As Georgia, Beth and Ethel were creating the décor, menu, timeline and other wedding details, Bryant was busy as well, crafting not only high top tables made of salvaged doors for the wedding reception, but the wedding arbor and altar table as well. “I wanted something I made to be a part of our wedding,” Bryant says. Bryant owns Encore Architectual Salvage Company in St. Matthews, which is where he found all of the rustic accents used on their special night. He incorporated a clawfoot tub for wedding gifts, spools for the cake and guest book and railroad ties that were mounted on wooden barrels for flavored waters being served. “Bryant is really into using rustic, reclaimed wood for his pieces, which goes perfectly with our style,” says Georgia. “He continued the theme by using the old barrels, doors, pieces of heart pine and the railroad ties to accent the tables and they were beautiful.” Atop the altar stood an antique Scottish cross, courtesy of Beth, who discovered it in an antique shop. Throughout the night, candles atop the altar on either side of the cross continued to burn. “From the tent, looking toward the pond, all you could see was the altar, with the candles and the cross,” says Beth. “It was a gorgeous reminder that a wedding had taken place.”
When Bryant had the handkerchief embroidered for Georgia, he hadn’t stopped at one. He’d also had two others made, one for each of Georgia’s parents. “He presented them to us before the ceremony,” says Ethel. “The words, and the sentiment, were incredibly sweet and loving. I never had boys, but I feel like now I have a son.”