When Michael Bruns proposed to Victoria McCauley, there were fireworks — both of the metaphorical and literal sense. He asked Victoria to be his wife during a July 4th celebration, during their two families were present and could join in on the fun. (In fact, the soon-to-be father of the bride filmed the proposal while posing incognito on a neighbor's porch!) "This had to be the most surprising moment of my life," Victoria says.
The couple would later gather their family (plus 200 additional guests) for a September 19, 2015, destination wedding in Charleston, South Carolina, where they often traveled to visit Victoria's brother. He also served as the couple's eyes and ears on the ground of Charleston. In fact, the couple trusted his recommendation of Lowndes Grove so much that they committed to the venue before seeing it in person. Spoiler alert: They weren't disappointed. "Lowndes Grove is the epitome of a Southern home," Victoria says. "I had always dreamed of a beautiful outdoor wedding." With the help of A Charleston Bride, that's exactly what the couple got. Their outdoor fete was gorgeous down to every last Southern detail (just wait until you see the couple's cigar bar). Photographer Virgil Bunao was on hand to capture their late summer celebration, all seen below.
Victoria didn't choose her Kenneth Pool wedding dress for its dramatic, sheer back or hand embroidered-lace details, although those certainly didn't hurt. "I loved this gown because it was comfortable," she says. "This was important to me because I knew both Mike and I loved to have a good time." Plus, with a simple bottom half, the lace on her cathedral-length veil really stood out.
Her white and blush bouquet contained garden roses, hydrangeas, and gilded hypericum berries for a dash of glamour.
Michael went with the most classic wedding look: A black and white tuxedo, complete with a bow tie and pocket square. He also wore a watch Victoria's parents had given him for Christmas.
Victoria's bridesmaids wore a mix of different champagne-hued gowns for the big day. "I wanted them to have options so they could choose what they felt more comfortable in," she explains. Like the bride, each 'maid carried a round bouquet of ivory and pink flowers, but Victoria's arrangement had something special: Her florist tied her grandmother's hanky, which had once been stitched on her bonnet for her baptism, around the handle of her bouquet. "At my bridal shower, my mom gave it to me and the bonnet had been undone to wrap around my flowers for my wedding day," she says.
Mike asked his groomsmen to mimic his traditional attire in black and white tuxedos, and he gifted the men their black bow ties.
The ceremony was held at Trinity United Methodist church. There, their florist decorated pew ends with clusters of white hydrangeas to make the aisle pop and two large floral arrangements that flanked the altar.
Victoria and Michael considered writing their own vows, but ultimately decided on a traditional ceremony. "I guess I had always pictured I would say what I had heard in the movies on my wedding day," the bride says. "There is something special about repeating the same vows that our parents, grandparents, and other generations before have said."
At the reception, the couple set up a suspended cigar bar with vintage Pepsi crates hanging from a tree branch. For guests that preferred to pass on cigars, the bride and groom also arranged a lounge sitting area, complete with a sofa, chairs, and a chandelier. Cocktail tables covered in blush-colored linens gave friends and family another place to relax between trips to the outdoor bar that served up delicious drinks.
The couple's reception tent draped in gold chiffon, and guests found their seats at tables covered in blush-colored linens and centerpieces that included towering trumpet arrangements to small gilded boxes filled with roses, hydrangea, and stock. Five crystal chandeliers hung above the tables, lending a romantic glow to the space.
Everyone noshed on a Southern-inspired menu that included cornbread, shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, crab cakes, and beef filet, plus au gratin potatoes made from the mother of the bride's own recipe.
Victoria and Michael's cake might have been the reception's most interesting décor element: The tiered confection was suspended from the ceiling with crystal cables and nestled in a bed of hydrangea, roses, and stock. It included layers of vanilla cake with raspberry jam and salted caramel buttercream and red velvet cake with cream cheese buttercream.
The party then moved to a separate tent for dancing, where the bride and groom kicked things off with "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" by Frankie Valli. "I have always been a huge fan of oldies, considering that's all my mom let me listen to in the car growing up," Victoria says.
After the party wound down, the newlyweds departed on their honeymoon to France. It was the first time Michael had ever been to Europe. "We left two days after our wedding and arrived in Paris," says Victoria, adding they also visited Cannes, Nice, and Monaco.
Ceremony Venue: Trinity United Methodist || Reception Venue: Lowndes Grove || Wedding Planner & Florist: A Charleston Bride || Bride's Wedding Dress: Kenneth Pool || Veil: Dimitras Bridal || Shoes: Jimmy Choo || Hair & Makeup: Ash & Co. || Bridesmaids' Dresses: Bill Levkoff || Groom's & Groomsmen's Attire: Charleston Tuxedo || Wedding Bands: James and Sons || Music: Charleston Virtuosi; Seth G || Catering & Cake: Patrick Properties Hospitality Group || Rentals: Snyder Rentals; Event Haus; Polished || Transportation: CE Executive || Videographer: Life in Rewind || Photographer: Virgil Bunao
Want more inspiration just like this? Then check out another couple's Charleston wedding in the video below.