Years ago, well-dressed women of Columbia flocked to The Barbara Rouquie Shop on Saluda Avenue for exclusive ready-to-wear women’s apparel, fine lingerie, and debutante dresses. Barbara was a former print and runway model, known for her outgoing personality and her love of “fashion with flair.” It is no wonder that her daughter, Emily Rouquie Ragsdale, inherited Barbara’s attention to detail, eye for beauty, and penchant for doing things in a big way. Emily, now a resident of Debordieu Colony in Georgetown, put her mother’s influence to good use in planning a wedding for her own daughter, Emmy.
It all started for Emmy and Davis Kirby of Charlotte in the very first week of college at the University of South Carolina. The two met through mutual friends — Charlotte natives who attended Episcopal High School with Emmy in Alexandria, Virginia. Emmy and Davis quickly discovered they had many mutual friends. Later, Emmy invited Davis to a Kappa Delta sorority function. “We hung out together a lot and both realized pretty quickly that we liked each other,” says Davis. Emmy agrees, saying, “He had such a fun and positive personality. I just loved being with him.” After graduation, they both moved to Charlotte, along with many of their college friends. Emmy and Davis enjoyed another four years together trying new restaurants, cooking, going to Carolina Panther games, and attending concerts.
Davis’ thoughts turned to marriage in summer 2019. He knew he would propose at the beach where Emmy’s family lived because he knew that was important to her. “Emmy’s mom was visiting Charlotte early that summer, and I talked to her about choosing the best time,” he says. He could not have sought advice from a better person. Emily helped Davis plan his big moment for Labor Day weekend, when the University of South Carolina football team was playing the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Charlotte. As her mother knew she would, Emmy opted out of the game to spend the holiday at her parents’ creekside Debordieu home.
“I always go home for Labor Day,” says Emmy. “I thought Davis would just stay in Charlotte for the weekend.” Emily and Charles, Emmy’s father, planned a party for Sunday. Emmy’s sister, Schall, and her now husband, Leigh Colyer, were there, as were Mollie and Kirkland Darby, Emmy’s brother and sister-in-law. The Ragsdales invited Jacquie and Robby, Davis’ parents, and Kathryn and Adger Rice, Davis’ sister and brother-in-law, as well as a few close friends. “It was nerve-racking, getting everyone into the house without her knowing,” says Emily.
Sunday morning, Davis rode down to Debordieu with his parents, who dropped him off a few homes away. There he boarded a boat captained by Leigh. “I was by the pool in a cover-up when I saw Leigh come up to the house on the boat and then Davis popped out from behind him. That’s when I knew,” says Emmy. The family watched from the windows as Emmy said yes, then everyone celebrated together.
Emmy and Davis’ engagement was followed at Thanksgiving by Schall and Leigh’s. Both couples planned weddings for 2020. “I told them they’d have to spread the weddings out,” says Emily of her daughters. Emmy and Davis settled on April 25, 2020, while Schall and Leigh chose Nov. 14, 2020. It was a workable plan. For both girls, venues were already settled, with wedding ceremonies at Prince George Winyah Church in Georgetown and outdoor receptions at the family’s country property, Exchange Plantation, on the banks of the Great Pee Dee River. The family enjoys fishing and hunting and spending holidays there. “It was always Charles’ dream for his daughters to have their wedding receptions at Exchange,” says Emily.
Emily enlisted artist Susan Albright to design a toile inspired by the property. With expert assistance from Traci Green Designs of Pawley’s Island, Emily incorporated the toile into Emmy’s wedding stationery suite. “I was particular about the invitations, the weight of the paper,” Emily says. “I wanted it done right. Traci was so knowledgeable, and they turned out beautifully.” Emily also had the toile made into fabric by Springs Creative in Fort Mill, S.C., for throw pillows, tablecloths, napkins, matches, the band’s backdrop curtains, bow ties for servers, and even her own rehearsal dinner dress. “My family teased me about it, saying I was getting on their nerves with ‘toile, toile, toile,’ but in the end they loved it.”
She hired Liz Carbone of Fox Events in Charleston to ensure Emmy and Davis’ day was perfect. “Emmy and Emily wanted whites, greens, and a neutral color palette,” says Liz. After conducting a site visit to Exchange, Liz put together a 30-page design board of every detail. After selecting the band, The Maxx, for their reception, Emmy and Davis went through the song list to choose songs they wanted played on their wedding night. “For a venue like Exchange, the catering can be a challenge,” Liz says. “The quality sometimes isn’t there when you don’t cook on-site, but we built an on-site kitchen for Cru Catering that included everything you would find in a commercial catering kitchen. We always love using Cru Catering because their service and food are impeccable.”
Meanwhile, Emmy went wedding dress shopping accompanied by Emily, Jacquie, and Clara Ragsdale, her cousin and junior bridesmaid. The bride found her dream dress at Hayden Olivia Bridal Boutique in Charlotte. Given the April wedding date, Emmy was looking for a long-sleeved lace gown. Instead, she fell in love with a simple strapless, V-neck fit and flare Rivini by Rita Vinieris gown and a cathedral length veil. For her 16 bridesmaids, she selected three Shona Joy gowns in nude and champagne shades, letting each select the one they liked best. Emily found her mint Monique Lhullier gown at the designer’s store in New York City. Jacquie chose a dark blue gown by Chiara Boni.
Everything was falling into place. Then, the pandemic hit.
Emmy and Davis postponed their wedding to Memorial Day weekend, and then to Aug. 8, 2020. The thought of an outdoor reception on a sweltering Lowcountry August evening would give anyone pause; however, Liz was undaunted and reassuring. Both Emmy and Emily credit her for making the day perfect. “She was a rock star,” says Emmy of Liz. “We couldn’t have done it without her.” Emily agrees. “Liz said she’d handle it, and she did.”
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Liz relocated the rehearsal dinner, originally planned for the Debordieu Club, to Emily and Charles’ home. After the wedding party enjoyed cocktails by the pool and took photographs in the yard, party guests enjoyed dinner in an air-conditioned tent in the Ragsdale’s driveway. “You would never have known we were in the driveway,” Emily says, “and no one cared.”
On the day of the wedding, Davis and his groomsmen gathered at the beachfront Debordieu home rented by Davis’ parents. “Getting ready with my best friends was a ton of fun,” Davis says. “Someone picked up lunch from Groucho’s, which was perfect. It was a beautiful day.”
At the Ragsdale home, Emmy, Emily, Jacquie, and Emmy’s attendants had their own fun, enjoying snacks and having their hair and makeup done. Lindsay Merhege, Liz’s colleague, steamed dresses and kept everything on schedule. “She was my wing-woman,” says Emmy. Emily’s favorite moment was when Charles, known to family and friends as “Pookie,” first saw Emmy in her wedding dress. “His knees buckled at the sight of her,” says Emily. “It was a special moment.” Pre-ceremony photography ensued. “It took a lot of time, and she could tell we were getting impatient,” says Emmy of Carmen Ash. “But she told us it would be worth it, and it was.”
While the rest of the wedding party bussed to the church, the bride and her parents traveled in a Bentley, owned by family friend Pete Peterson. “It was so fun when we pulled up and got to see people going in,” Emily says. “It took my nerves down because we sat there and waved to everyone as they went into the church. I wasn’t nervous walking down the aisle. I was just so excited.”
The box pews in Prince George Winyah Church, built in 1755, proved ideal for social distancing. Mindful of the pandemic, Emily assigned seats so guests would feel more comfortable. Likewise, most of the 32 attendants were seated during the brief ceremony. “We don’t know of anyone who contracted COVID-19 at the wedding,” Emmy says. “It was a huge relief.”
Wearing her paternal grandmother’s diamond bracelet along with her mother’s diamond earrings and a sapphire ring, Emmy entered the church with her father, preceded by bagpipers. “I was torn between watching Emmy and looking at Davis, who was fighting tears,” says Emily.
Moments of levity made the ceremony special, such as when the Rev. Gary Beson dropped one of the rings. “It went ‘cling cling cling,’” says Emmy. “He felt so bad, but it was funny.” At the conclusion of the ceremony, Emmy’s parents surprised the couple with a special recessional song. They hired two singers to perform “Oh Happy Day,” the 18th century Phillip Doddridge hymn made famous by the Edwin Hawkins Singers in 1968. Emily had the lyrics printed into the programs so guests could sing along. The song is significant to the Ragsdales because it was also used at Kirkland and Mollie’s wedding a year and a half earlier.
“The ceremony was awesome,” says Davis. “We were certainly bummed that grandparents and other family couldn’t be there, but luckily we were able to stream the ceremony. We’re glad they were able to at least watch from afar.” Davis credits the videographer, Jason Wheeler, for making this happen.
Following post-ceremony photographs, the wedding party boarded a party bus and sipped champagne during the 20-minute ride to Exchange. “It poured down rain on the way, but we didn’t care. We were having too much fun,” says Emmy. Luckily, the rain bypassed Exchange and the group arrived to a beautiful sunset. Also, thanks to Hurricane Isaias earlier in the week, the weather was unseasonably pleasant.
During cocktail hour, guests enjoyed margaritas served in mini Patron bottles, fried chicken and waffle cones, ahi poke, green tomato bruschetta, and shrimp tacos under live oak branches hung with Spanish moss and string lights. Liz treated Emmy, Davis, and their parents to a preview of the enclosed and air-conditioned event space.
“I got tears in my eyes when I saw it,” says Emily. “It was everything we expected, but better.” An entryway framed by lush greenery and white roses hinted at the oasis inside. Exchange toile throw pillows, greenery, white flowers, and candles accented inviting tan wicker seating areas and cafe tables. Rattan chandeliers hung over a tan and white wood checkerboard dance floor. Sky blue ottomans awaited tired dancers on each side of the floor, and a white, square bar stood in the center of the space, lit by greenery-covered rattan lights. A four-tiered wedding cake featuring layers of caramel, coconut, lemon, and red velvet sat on the cake table, adorned here and there by greenery-wrapped white peonies.
“The cake was a very generous gift from my cousin, Richard Reutter, CEO of Caroline’s Cakes in Spartanburg, along with my cousin Charles and Uncle Chick,” says Emmy. Richard’s mother, the late Caroline Reutter, was Charles’ sister and founder of Caroline’s Cakes.
For their first dance, Emmy and Davis chose James Taylor’s “Your Smiling Face.” Then, Emmy and her father danced to “Isn’t She Lovely,” by Stevie Wonder, followed by Jacquie and Davis shagging to the Spinners’ “I’ll Be Around.” Emmy and Davis cut their cake and shared a toast from a bottle of Veuve Clicquot hand-painted with Exchange toile, a gift to Emmy from her bridesmaids. What followed was one of the couple’s most treasured moments of the night.
“My mother arranged for us to have our own private dinner inside the house,” says Emmy. Emily created an intimate setting by removing the leaves from the family’s dining table and topping it with family china, silver, and crystal, along with a place card with Emmy’s new name. “To have that 20 minutes alone, just the two of us, was really special,” Davis says. Cru Catering servers brought them a selection from the evening’s menu, which included seared beef with chimichurri, crispy brussels sprouts, parmesan whipped potatoes, butternut squash risotto, goat cheese salad, and chicken and shrimp tacos.
Emmy and Davis rejoined their guests, and the party went on for hours. “The Maxx band was amazing,” Emmy says. Guests were offered flip-flops for aching feet, as well as glow stick necklaces, light-up crowns, and lei headbands. Cru Catering served a late-night snack of mini Chicago dogs and fries. After Emmy changed into a sparkling silver Marchesa Notte mini dress, she, Davis, and their guests grabbed custom-made Gamecock spirit towels and twirled them in the air in true Gamecock style while “Sandstorm” played over the loudspeakers.
An hour later, Emmy and Davis left through a tunnel of glow wands and a shower of birdseed. They rode in the Bentley to Georgetown’s 620 Prince bed and breakfast for the night. Although their planned Cayman Island honeymoon was postponed, they spent a few fun nights in Charleston at the Hotel Bennett.
The night’s final, very special moment for Emily was when Emmy said to her, “It was all I ever dreamed of.” Given the schedule changes and the many difficulties caused by COVID-19, the daughter-to-mother comment was especially dear.
Planning a wedding during a pandemic was a challenge but one for which Emily was well prepared. After all, she learned attention to detail, fashion, and flair from the best: her own mother, Barbara Rouquie.