The Ultimate Guide to Getting Married in Charleston
For couples looking to wed in a quintessential Southern city, Charleston is a perfect fit.
The South is known for quaint streets, fabulous hospitality, and gorgeous landscapes, all of which Charleston, South Carolina, exhibits perfectly. "Charleston is a one-in-a-million city and has so much to offer aesthetically," says South Carolina-based wedding and portrait photographer Michelle Huffman of Michelle Huffman Photography. "Not only can you go coastal and beachy, but you can go completely urban in the most beautiful areas of downtown."
With waterside views, a deep history, and colorful buildings, Charleston is a popular wedding spot, both for locals and those seeking a Southern destination to say their vows. If you're considering a Charleston wedding, here is all the information you need to have an unforgettable big day.
Best Times to Get Married in Charleston
Besides the beauty of the city itself, many couples head to Charleston for the gorgeous weather. The temperate climate is a draw for Florida couples who wish to escape the heat and Virginia couples who crave a bit of warmth for their winter wedding. Spring and fall are the most popular seasons to get married due to less extreme weather and the beautiful change of seasons.
Of course, there are no guarantees in predicting the weather. However, summers tend to be hot and humid in Charleston, which is a consideration for couples who wish to have an outdoor ceremony. The hottest month is July, with an average temperature of almost 100 °F. The coldest month is January, with low temperatures that hover in the upper 30s, although the highs average around 60 °F. Also, snow isn't much of a concern in Charleston, as it is scarce even during winter.
For couples having a beach wedding, it's essential to consider the changing tides. Charleston gets two high and two low tides each day. The time varies daily. Therefore, consult a tide chart as your wedding day approaches.
South Carolina is on Eastern Standard Time and observes daylight savings time, so your 6 p.m. June wedding will have the perfect sunset around 8:30 p.m. during your reception. However, a similarly timed event in December means that your guests will arrive around sunset, and your ceremony would take place in the dark.
Not only is the light important when considering the timing of your event, but you may also want to choose a time based on when you and your partner will have your portraits taken. "When shooting in Charleston, especially if you're on the beach, I would always recommend sunrise or the last two hours of daylight," offers Huffman. "This is when you'll find the most dreamy, glowy, and golden daylight. The light just hits Charleston differently, in a beautiful way that you can't find anywhere else."
Types of Wedding Venues in Charleston
Whether you adore the beach, crave quaint downtown areas, or have always pictured a sprawling manor wedding, Charleston is a fabulous place to say "I do." This coastal South Carolina city exquisitely blends urban vibes with picturesque homesteads. The downtown offers various venues, such as historic homes and downtown rooftops, but waterfront parks and beachside respites are also options.
"There is beauty and character exploding from every corner and alleyway," says Huffman. "From the pier at Folly Beach, the tall church steeples reaching for the sky downtown, and the bursts of color on Rainbow Row, there really isn't any place on Earth quite like Charleston."
Venues in Downtown Charleston
There are a plethora of options for couples who want to get married in downtown Charleston. Part art gallery, part hotel accommodations, The Vendue's rooftop is the perfect spot for an event overlooking the historic district in downtown Charleston. Couples can also wed at Poogan's Porch, a former 1891 home turned restaurant in the French Quarter.
The William Aiken House is an urban estate on historic King Street, which has boutique shops and lively nightlife. The American Theater is also on King Street and affords the unique opportunity to wed in an Art Deco cinema.
For an indoor wedding experience, couples can get married at the South Carolina Aquarium along the Cooper River in the heart of downtown Charleston. Located in the Harleston Village neighborhood, The Governor Thomas Bennett House has parking for up to 200 guests, which is unique for a downtown venue.
The Gadsden House is a beautifully restored, 1798 Federal-style manor with indoor and outdoor wedding sites located in Ansonborough, a neighborhood filled with brick homes on the east side of downtown. The area is filled with restaurants and is close to the water. Lowndes Grove is along the shores of the Ashley River in the Wagener Terrace area, which is known for its tranquility and slight hipster vibe.
Just like the neighborhood's name states, South of Broad is below Broad Street at the southern tip of Charleston's downtown area. South Carolina Society Hall is a charming venue, although couples can also have a micro wedding along the coast at The Gazebo at White Point Garden. No matter what type of venue you envision, Charleston has vast choices, all within the downtown area.
Venues Outside of Charleston
From parks to gardens, getting outside of Charleston's urban area affords several opportunities for the couple who enjoys being out in nature. Wed in a gazebo, in the foliage, or on the front lawn at Cypress Gardens in Moncks Corner, north of Charleston. Cypress Hall at Wannamaker County Park is in North Charleston, sits within a 1015-acre park, and borders a lovely grass meadow.
Those who genuinely enjoy the water can choose to set their wedding afloat by getting married during a sunset cruise on a yacht, such as The Carolina Girl, which sits in St. Johns Yacht Harbor to the west of Charleston. To wed on the sands of the Atlantic, head south of Charleston to Tides Folly Beach. Other coastal areas less than 30 minutes outside of Charleston include Isle of Palms and Sullivan's Island.
Choosing Vendors for Your Charleston Wedding
An excellent place to start when planning a wedding—especially if it's a destination event—is to hire a Charleston wedding planner. A qualified planner, such as Hill & Co Creative or Tara Guerard Soiree, can help you set the tone for your big day.
After choosing your planner and venue, be sure to secure a photographer and videographer early to document your wedding. Michelle Huffman has a bright and airy photography style, while Palmetto Wedding Films can capture each moment from getting ready to the last dance. To look your best, choose a gown from Maddison Row South and a suit from Charleston Tuxedo, and schedule Silhouette on Site to take care of your hair and makeup needs.
Tiger Lily Weddings creates gorgeous, custom bouquets and centerpieces while Loluma stages seating areas with their luxury rental services. Salthouse Catering can feed your guests during your entire event, from cocktail hour to dessert, and Flowerchild makes some of the most striking, artful cakes in the city. Finally, if craft cocktails and fabulous bar service are essential, the Chugalug Wagon offers mobile bar service in adorable rolling bars.
The Bluestone Ramblers can provide music as officiant Christy Loftin conducts your ceremony. But, when it comes to keeping your reception lively, East Coast Entertainment will keep your guests dancing into the night. Then, at the end of the evening, be whisked away by a horse-drawn carriage.
Legal Considerations to Get Married in Charleston
Obtaining a marriage license in South Carolina is relatively simple and can be done online. Currently, the cost is $70, and there is a 24-hour waiting period between the application submission and receiving your license. After that, an ordained minister or notary should perform your ceremony, and your signed marriage documents will have to be returned to the Probate Court to ensure everything is legal.
When you are eloping or having a micro wedding, don't take chances with where you say, "I do." If you aren't getting married at a traditional venue, you may have to secure a permit to wed on the beach or in a park.
Incorporating Touches of Charleston Into Your Wedding
Of course, every big day needs flowers, catering, and a fabulous cake, and this South Carolina city is filled with quality wedding professionals. However, Charleston also has several artisan vendors to add a unique aspect to your special day.
Adding a taste of Charleston is a treat for both couples and their guests. If your signature drink calls for vodka, gin, bourbon, or whiskey, use spirits distilled at High Wire Distilling in the heart of Charleston. Another option is to use wine from Deep Water Vineyard to use as a base for a flavorful sangria. Colorful hand-painted chocolate from Christophe Artisan Chocolatier would look lovely at each place setting. For a tasty addition to your cocktail hour charcuteries, include handmade selections from Charleston Artisan Cheesehouse.
From the first welcome to the final sendoff, think about giving gifts made in Charleston. Sweetgrass baskets from the Charleson City Market are perfect for leaving in hotel rooms, along with a welcome note for traveling guests. These coiled baskets are woven using locally harvested marsh grass, and they are made in the 300-year-old Gullah style that originated in Africa.
The Charleston Grits Stick is a creative, handmade wedding favor that can serve various functions in the kitchen. As an added touch, the handle features a pineapple motif to represent Southern hospitality. For your wedding party, give gorgeous ring dishes made out of oyster shells sourced from local restaurants. These jewelry holders can be customized with sayings or names, and part of the proceeds goes towards helping maintain Charleston's oyster reefs.
Beyond including artisan food and gifts, South Carolina is known for its Lowcountry decorating style, which is a beautiful addition to your wedding day. The type consists of striking natural and coastal colors, such as coral, blue, turquoise, and green, against the backdrop of more formal shapes. Incorporating this juxtaposition of elegance with a bold, natural feel is a lovely way to pay homage to all that Charleston has to offer.
Activities for Charleston Wedding Guests
Not only is Charleston perfect for weddings, but folks come from all over to experience the beauty of the city. It's a fabulous location for your guests to plan to stay a few days and enjoy the area. Securing a hotel block downtown ensures that travelers will be close to many of the city's main attractions.
For a good overview of the city, guests can book different experiences, such as a walking, harbor, or bus tour. These excursions cover unique aspects of Charleston's history and architecture and also give guests ideas for other activities to do while they're in town.
Many aren't aware of Charleston's spooky side, and several tours focus on the city's scarier tales. Learn about ghosts, take a haunted carriage ride, or hear stories about former inmates at the Old City Jail.
Art lovers can stroll galleries in the Gibbes Museum. Guests can also visit Middleton Place, a 110-acre estate filled with gardens and depicts life in Charleston in the mid-1700s. Travelers with children will enjoy the Whirlin' Waters Adventure Park and a tour of Fort Sumter, which is only reachable by boat.
The area is also known for gorgeous beaches, perfect for guests and honeymooners who wish to relax for a few days. Folly Beach and Seabrook Island are two favorite areas to spend time with family. No matter what your guests decide to do, Charleston is an ideal place for folks to spend a few extra days surrounding your wedding festivities.
Are you considering getting married in Charleston? With the variety of locations, handmade elements, and gorgeous weather, it's one of the most popular places in the South. "It has a way of drawing you in and making you fall in love with every inch of it," states Huffman. "Mix in the inevitable Southern charm to go along with it, and you've got yourself a little slice of heaven right here in South Carolina." So, for a flawless, beautiful day, Charleston is a fabulous choice for couples who want an authentic taste of what the South has to offer.