This is exactly what I was afraid of.
I had a feeling I would get to Charleston, fall deeply in love and start begging my husband to move (again).
Well, it happened friends. I loved it, adored it, and am already thinking about going back in March! Does it replace my beloved Hawaii? NEVER! 🙂 But it’s darn close! I see why people love it – geniunely friendly people, amazing food, easy, walkable city, close to the beach with great weather most of the year…except for two of the days we were there when winter decided to appear! The only thing missing is an airport that really has international flights (CHS is considered “international” because of the Air Force base).
This trip was purely business, but the best part of my job is that what’s business and what’s just vacation can be hard to determine. 🙂 The purpose though was for Wanderlust Wedding Co. – my joint company with D.C. based wedding planner, Sarah Pete Rizzi – to scout wedding and event venues for upcoming 2017 and 2018 (and beyond!) couples. Kir Tuben, photographer at kir2ben, came along with us so we wouldn’t have to worry about snapping our own photos. Do you know the coolest part of having a photographer with you? Thanks to the internet, she can send us photos within five minutes! Social media addicts REJOICE!
So I think we did a great job of seeing the highlights plus some in just four days!
Day 1: We arrived mid-afternoon. While it would’ve been nice to come in earlier, none of us wanted to get up at 6AM, and since there were three nonstop flights, we took the one in the middle. Here’s my big #travelagentfail moment…are you ready for it? (I believe in admitting when you’re wrong – can only go up from there, right?!) I rented our car through Thrifty/Dollar, mainly because they were in the average price zone and offered a nice agent rate. I’ve rented through them many times before and get mileage for United via my rental. Except in this case, I missed one key part…they were off-terminal. Typically it’s very clear, the wording is “on terminal” or “off terminal”…and I’m betting I just totally missed it. They do offer a shuttle and it’s only about 10 minutes away, but it’s still an annoyance when the airport is small and you’re staring at the other rental car desks and cars just outside of the exit doors.
Thankfully my companions didn’t make me feel any worse than I did about this! Ah well, one rental car later and we were off to The Dewberry, our home for the next two nights. The Dewberry is directly across from Marion Square and is a repurposed federal building so you Washingtonians will feel right at home. 😉 The attention to detail is incredible! It’s like walking into the nicest Mad Men set ever. We all just loved how genuine the staff was in making us feel comfortable and remembering us – we felt like celebrities!
After meeting my sales contact, Brea, who showed us around the property and gave us the behind-the-scenes details (my favorite!), we promptly inhaled the sweet cheese plate she sent up for us and were off to dinner at Chucktown’s hottest restaurant, Fig.
Except it wasn’t hot, at all…in fact, it was barely lukewarm. The waiter didn’t want anything to do with conversation so what was supposed to be dinner, quickly became just drinks and appetizers! The menu was a bit too creative for our liking – well, for Kir and my liking – Sarah was up for some serious foodie food. A quick text to Brea to confirm what our next stop should be and we were out the door walking to Upper King Street area. We put our name in at Little Jack’s, and they encouraged us to go next door to their brother company, Leons, for a drink while we waited.
Now let’s talk about personal service and southern hospitality for a minute. The general manager, Marc, typed in Sarah’s phone number incorrectly so he walked over to find us! We then proceeded to have the best time chatting with all the employees, eating amazing food (get the fries, and the baked egg and the burger – yum!), trying drinks…even the Irish Coffee that Marc insisted we’d love and all three of us said we wouldn’t. Hint, hint – it was amazing! So was the sticky toffee pudding! We took a rest in the Living Room lounge at the Dewberry before going to bed before our (very long) day of site inspections.
Day 2: We were up and at ’em by 9AM for our first meeting with Kathleen at The Gadsden House, a restored home with enough space for your imagination to go wild in styling it for your wedding! We really loved the big wrap-around porch and courtyard space, along with ample parking for your guests. It doesn’t have the most appealing city view (thanks Rite Aid) but if you look past that, you get a gorgeous view of the water! This is a venue that allows you a bit of flexibility and choosing from several off site vendors versus requiring you to use their catering. We gladly took advantage of the natural light in the bridal suite to take some head shots.
Fortunately we had enough time between our first and second appointment to stop at world famous Callie’s Hot Biscuits! FRIENDS! It’s legit. I could care less about biscuits overall, except these were amazing! I went with a bacon, egg and cheese and Sarah got a mini biscuit sampler…do yourself a favor and get the raspberry! We stopped by around 10AM so no line for us…but we hear it gets pretty crazy early in the day!
We continued the Holy City whirlwind trip by taking a walking tour with Tommy Dew , who was extremely knowledgable on all things CHS! We went a bit slower than I would have preferred but had a good size group – probably just under 20 of us, so we had to part ways a little earlier to make it to our next appointment. Fortunately, we had my friend and colleague Jim Augerinos (a.k.a. Mr. Honeymoon) with us to give us a quick peek at Philadelphia Ave, stop in Maris Dehart to buy the perfect hat for Sarah and more pineapple must-haves for me! We also were able to take a quick walk down by the Battery and have photos taken in front of the infamous pineapple fountain. On our way back to the car, Jim made a quick call to get us in to see the recently named #1 hotel in the U.S., the Spectator! We were able to see the lounge and a few rooms. So, you wanna know what makes it number one? BUTLER SERVICE FOR EVERYONE! Also, locally sourced continental breakfast delivered to your room every morning and only 41 rooms. That, my friends, means exquisite service…and it’s all about customer service (this sound familiar to you?).
Thirty minutes later, we were arriving at Magnolia Plantation for a site inspection. Magnolia Plantation is huge. They have three separate venues, but only operate two events per day. Each is very unique, and the greenery all around the property was so lush and beautiful! I was expecting something completely different for the plantation house but the beauty is that there are so many other options throughout the Charleston area! The highlight was getting to pet the animals they rescue in their mini petting zoo…Kir and Sarah made a special little friend, a deer. Deer are in my front yard everyday so this country girl wasn’t too excited. 😉
We were feeling the length of the day by this point, but we rallied for one last site inspection, Belmond Charleston Place. At first we were thinking it was a much more traditional ballroom option, but then we saw the rooftop! Brand new loungers, a great bar, pretty city view, and it connects to the pool and hot tub that’s in a clock tower (Kir’s favorite part!). Perfect place to host a rehearsal dinner, brunch, or after-party (well minus that pesky noise ordinance in Charleston).
We walked back to the Dewberry (with a stop by the cat cafe…yes a cat cafe!) to freshen up and head to our last venue inspection for the day, Cannon Green. What a fantastic space this is – probably my favorite! It had the largest courtyard in Charleston proper with a modernized trolley room to hold your dinner and dancing. We decided to have drinks and appetizers again before moving on to the next place. We tried to get into Xiao Bao Biscuit, but the wait was over an hour and Mrs. Honeymoon is expecting their first baby (yayyyy) so we decided to try Warehouse – a fabulous decision. Also the local celeb hot spot, any Southern Charmed watchers out there? Or Top Chef fans? Both present and accounted for at Warehouse…which by the way, the line gets crazy around 9:30PM! We were shocked that we got in without a wait around 8. The beer cauliflower is a must! After saying goodnight, we decided to settle in the Living Room for a nightcap and of course something sweet…fortunately the pastry chef was helping out in the lounge that evening and could rattle the menu off to us in two minutes! Chocolate chip cookies (warm) and an apple crepe cake it was! Divine. Off to bed before another big day!
Day 3: Winter followed us south and we woke up to occasional showers, wind and cold! We were fortunate to not have our first appointment until 11AM at The Beach Club at Charleston Harbor. After saying good bye to our sweet friends at the Dewberry (Hi Brea!), we made the quick 10-15 minute drive to this new property! We met Jamie (hey girl!) for a tour of the relaxed, nautical themed hotel that just opened at the end of September.
You guys. If you have kids, this is perfect. PERFECT for being close to downtown, but not in downtown, space for the kids to play, convenient amenities, a beach, pools, (really amazing) hot chocolate as you check in — although I’m sure it’s probably lemonade in warmer weather, large rooms with ample bathroom space (and all the ladies said PRAISE THE LORD!).
I desperately want to get my own girls there because they would love it and I would feel comfortable with the layout – which is so key when traveling with toddlers. After dreaming about the weddings we could design here and how much fun guests would have, we were treated to lunch at their new restaurant, Fish House. We decided to try just about everything on the menu since the catering kitchen is also sometimes the restaurant kitchen. No worries, my friends, you’ll be in good hands dining at a wedding there! The she crab soup was amazing. I hadn’t even planned on trying it but they brought me a small bowl and it was gone before I even gave it a second thought. Delish!
Next,we decided to go over to Boone Hall Plantation since we were so graciously gifted VIP passes of the city and able to get in using our pass. Tickets are $24 per person and well worth it! Especially if you’re a Notebook fan! The tour was interesting and the property really, really beautiful! The Avenue of Oaks (aka the impressive driveway) is a photographer’s dream (and a tourist’s at that). We got to peek in on a wedding happening at the Cotton Gin – fun fact: same place Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds had their reception.
Post Boone Hall we swung by the Angel Oak, which apparently has hours (#fail) and a large fence! The tree is only open until 5PM and 1-5PM on Sundays! We got to see it through the fence – it’s wildly large.
Our final destination was The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island, our last and final stop on the whirlwind scouting trip. We checked in after 5PM and decided that a business meeting and an easy dinner were all we wanted, so we curled up by a fireplace in an empty living room (and by living room I mean grand living room…five times the size of mine), the bar served us a nice light dinner and we chatted all things business (#myfavorite)! After finding Youtube videos highlighting all the Charleston scenes of the Notebook for Sarah who hasn’t seen the movie (gasp!), we let Kir set her alarm for o’dark thirty to go out on a session at the Old Sheldon Church. Sarah and I chose to skip the sunrise photo session and had brunch with our sales rep, Natalie, her friend, Jim, and his wife Meghan, before exploring all the wedding venues on site. Did you know Kiawah Island Resort has five golf courses? They are also going to be home to the 2021 PGA Championship – the Ryder Cup bar is a must for it’s spectacular views! By this point we were rushing to drop off our car and get back to the airport, but wanted to get in another branding photoshoot for Wanderlust Wedding Co. We decided that the airport would be the perfect backdrop for our destination planning company! It was the most fun I’ve ever had waiting for a flight, minus wearing heels though! 😉
Ending on this mushy note, entrepreneurship can be extremely lonely, as is working from home. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a gift too – I can walk out my office and hug and kiss my kiddos anytime I want, but having a few days to chat business, ideas, creativity, work flow, networking, etc., was invigorating and essential to my ‘business health’.
Sarah and Kir, I adore you both – for the women you are professionally and personally. Thank you for believing in my dreams, ideas and in me so that we can create together! We all know we aren’t curing cancer or doing anything extraordinary like that, but we hope our chosen professions spread joy, happiness, and equality. <3
I would also be remiss if I didn’t thank those who hosted us during our weekend – thank you!
If you’re ready for me to plan your Low Country stay, send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org or if it’s time to get your epic destination wedding weekend together, send us an email Hello@wanderlustwedco.com – we can’t wait!
All photos by the extremely talented, Kir Tuben of Kir2Ben.