Consider this classic Hollywood movie moment: boy spots girl across the dance floor just as girl spots boy — and the sparks fly. Could it ever happen in real life? Just ask Mary Rogers McMaster and Sam Herskovitz, who married in March 2019, after meeting while dancing in 2016.
Mary Rogers, daughter of Gov. Henry and Peggy McMaster, had moved from New York to California to continue pursuing her acting career. “I’d gone out with friends in Santa Monica,” she says. “I was on the dance floor when suddenly Sam was dancing with me. I’d never met him, but I somehow knew from the very beginning that one day he’d be important in my life.”
Mary Rogers enjoyed her brief time with Sam but chose not to stick around too long. “My dad always told me to leave on a high note, so that’s what I did,” she says. “I knew I’d see him again.”
Sam also vividly remembers that first meeting. “There was such an immediate spark that I found myself wondering, ‘Who is this person?’” he recalls. “I was captivated.”
Over the next few months, after discovering they had a mutual friend, Mary Rogers and Sam were in touch by phone, but the pair did not see each other again until later in the summer. “By the time we actually had a date in July, I felt like we had become great friends,” says Mary Rogers. “We talked about everything. I felt a total freedom talking with him that I’d never experienced before.”
By that fall, Mary Rogers and Sam were officially dating, and before Thanksgiving they had started to discuss marriage. “It didn’t take very long before I knew I wanted to marry her,” says Sam. “Our love developed from a beautiful friendship.”
The McMasters took note of the depth of the couple’s relationship the first time they met Sam. “I don’t remember her ever being so smitten,” says Peggy. “Usually the boys were smitten with her!”
Gov. McMaster agrees. “Sam fits just right with Mary Rogers,” he says. “It’s delightful to see them play off each other.”
It turns out that the McMasters were not the only ones who saw a change in their child. “Mary Rogers brings out Sam’s musical and adventurous sides like no other person we’ve known,” says Steve Herskovitz, Sam’s father.
Although Mary Rogers and Sam talked about getting married, they did not become engaged until New Year’s Eve of 2017. The couple had planned to spend New Year’s Eve at the beach but discovered that the house where they wanted to stay was full. “We ended up in Charleston, and I sensed he was feeling stressed about creating some kind of perfect engagement moment,” says Mary Rogers. “I told him that the perfect moment for me was the moment he was born, and I thought that was the end of the discussion.”
It wasn’t. Within a few moments, Mary Rogers discovered Sam on his knee, ring in hand, asking her to marry him. After she accepted, she asked him to remain on his knee. “I didn’t want the moment to end,” she says. “It was that perfect.”
Finding themselves alone in Charleston, the newly engaged couple spent the day celebrating together. “We wanted to keep it a secret for just a few hours before we called our families,” explains Mary Rogers. “The moment turned into one of the best days ever.”
Since Mary Rogers’ brother, Henry, had recently become engaged to the former Virginia Roach, Mary Rogers and Sam knew they either had to marry quickly before Virginia and Henry or commit to a long engagement and wait until afterward.
“Our first instinct was to throw a wedding together and just do it, but I realized that it would be a disservice to our love,” explains Mary Rogers. “I called my mom and told her that we were thinking about waiting, and she told me I was making a very mature decision. When she said that, I knew I was on the right track.”
In the end, the couple chose to wed in March 2019. “It was important to me that every element of my wedding and reception take place outside,” says Mary Rogers. “March 16 was the earliest day that I thought we could manage that.”
To coordinate the affair, the family worked with wedding planner and floral designer Jimmilib Harrison of Garden Tapestry. Mary Rogers and Jimmilib worked closely together, largely sharing in all responsibilities such as guest transport, staff management, lighting, decor, and scheduling. Jimmilib also worked closely with the S.C. Law Enforcement Division to make sure that each guest, vendor, and worker was vetted for admittance onto the Governor’s Mansion grounds.
Mary Rogers coordinated with Martha Morris, one of her mother’s close friends, on the invitations and other printed pieces. “She was a grounding force for me when things got stressful,” says Mary Rogers. “Plus, her taste is impeccable.” Clean and elegant, the oversized flat invitations were engraved in Champagne-colored ink, which was lustrous but not glittery.
“It has so much glow to it, like Mary Rogers,” says Martha. “It was traditional, but with a bit of a flair.”
After months of searching, Mary Rogers found her dress at KWH Bridal in New York. “By the time I found KWH, I was tired of looking at dresses,” says Mary Rogers. “I tried it on and immediately knew it was the one because I didn’t want to take it off.”
The wedding weekend actually began on the Thursday before the nuptials, with a dinner for the soon-to-be-combined families. “It was one of the high points of the weekend,” says Mary Rogers. “Something magical happened, and everyone had something to talk about with whomever they were seated beside. It was incredible to have all of our people together and so happy.”
Virginia McMaster, Mary Rogers’ sister-in-law and one of her bridesmaids, agrees. “It was a lovely way to kick off the weekend,” she says. “It was so much fun; we all stayed much later than we thought we would.”
The rehearsal dinner was held on the grounds of the Governor’s Mansion, under a tent near the 1830 Caldwell-Boylston House. Dinner included seared sea bass with mushroom ragout and a salad made from artichoke and zucchini ribbons, all prepared by Crawford Pressley and the team at Loosh Culinaire Fine Catering. But the acme came after the speeches, when Mary Rogers and Sam took over the microphone and entertained the crowd by performing three songs they had written together. The final song had special meaning for the couple. “As we were writing it I said to Sam, ‘This is our wedding song; do you feel it?’” said Mary Rogers to the group. “And he said, ‘Yeah, I feel that, too.’ So we put some words to it.”
“The song they wrote and performed expressed their relationship so well,” says Pam Jones, Sam’s mother. “Their love for each other, their comfort in sharing through music, and a hint at the creative side of the partnership they want to develop.”
Although the day of the wedding greeted Mary Rogers and Sam with a good chance of rain, it held off so the couple could marry outside.
Instead of requesting specific flowers, Mary Rogers had asked Jimmilib to fashion a flowerscape for the weekend that would express her vision for the celebration. “Our wedding was all about creating moments for our guests, and we wanted our flowers to be a part of that story,” says Mary Rogers. “Jimmilib really listened. The flowers were gorgeous. I love the color burgundy, and she even found a way to work that in!”
“Mary Rogers’ style is very casual,” adds Jimmilib. “She wanted her bouquets to look like you had gathered them from the garden, so that’s what we did. Mary Rogers carried a hand-tied bouquet of roses, ranunculus, burgundy scabiosa, Veronica, lisianthus, and parrot tulips, with garden greenery.”
Similar sprays hung from chairs on the aisle that led to a flower-covered arch under which the couple would say their vows. Hundreds of votive candles were hung from the mansion’s garden arbor, which is covered in decades-old yellow-blooming Lady Banks (rosa banksiae) climbing roses, which seemingly had come to life early just for the wedding. Reception tables were dramatic with cherry blossoms, antique hydrangeas, and garden roses. Even the tent poles, which were covered in sprays of smilax and dotted with flowers, were transformed into works of art. Native greenery, gathered locally, tied everything together.
While Mary Rogers and Sam left some of the details to professionals, two aspects received their undivided attention: the music and the food. “My three non-negotiable items were to be married outside and to have great food and music,” says Mary Rogers. “Southern Way catered the wedding dinner, and it was fabulous. We wanted to reinvent a few dishes, and they were just so open to our changes. For instance, normal sliders are two bites, but we wanted ours to be one because it’s a lot easier for the guests. It took a few tries in advance, but they were perfect.” The couple served Mexican street tacos and ahi tuna nachos as well, two of their favorite dishes.
Mary Rogers also appreciated that they had a dedicated waiter, who ensured they always had something to sip or who could hold a glass when it was time for a dance.
Throughout the day, the music was deeply personal. “Music is a big part of our lives, both individually and together, so we curated every song, down to what would be played during the band’s breaks,” says Sam. “Mary Rogers understands how music can support the arc of the event. We both wanted the music to represent our love and our story.”
To accomplish that goal, the couple broke the day into sections and assigned each a certain type of music: classical for the ceremony and a jazzy “second line” that started when the couple kissed and led guests from the ceremony site to the cocktail reception, where they switched to soulful old-school classics. “The reception was all over the place,” says Sam. “But timeless. We love to dance and wanted everyone to be able to join us. And we had a no-Journey rule!”
In addition to music from Journey, cell phone cameras were also missing from the weekend. “We really wanted our guests to be present in the moment, so we asked that no one bring phones into the ceremony or reception,” says Mary Rogers.
Although the day went without a snag, the governor says that he almost caused a catastrophe. “Mary Rogers and I were walking from the mansion, waiting to go through the iron gates,” he says. “As the perfect song came on (La Vie en Rose), I started to choke up a bit. Then she readjusted her arm in mine and it was all I could do to persevere and not crumble into a heap of sobs.”
Peggy recalls the light. “It had been a cloudy day, but all of a sudden in the west I saw beautiful colors and a strip of blue,” she says. “It was truly a sign.”
Cake: Christina Hudson (wife of Governor’s Mansion Chef Jared Hudson) M&M Sweets
Dress: KWH Bridal
Bridesmaids: Amsale from Bella Bridesmaids
Music: Mark Rapp Group
Catering: Rehearsal Dinner: Loosh Culinaire Fine Catering
Reception: Southern Way
Transportation: Southern Shuttles
Photography: Corrie and James McGovern, MCG Photography
Video: Artistic Eye Productions