French-Infused Cotton Dock Southern Plantation Wedding: Melanie & Chris {Nancy Ray Photography}

by jacin on April 6, 2011

Ladies and gents, do you remember the movie version of “The Notebook”? Of course you do - it is in the list of many people’s favorite movies, and today’s wedding took place at the very same location with one of the most genuine couples you’ll ever meet, Melanie and Chris. {And no, they didn’t have to replay the rain kissing scene because they had a sun-filled day without a drop of rain in sight!}  Thanks to the talent of Nancy Ray Photography, we have lots and lots of loveliness to soak up today.  And when I say lots… I mean lots.  This is the longest, most photo heavy post I’ve ever done. And friends… it is so worth the read.

First, let’s start with the sweetest proposal story from our groom, Chris…

From Chris: The “proposal” could have happened the third time we met where I had high hopes of taking Mel hang-gliding or kayaking but that was likely a bit forward of me.  We ended up spending the day doing what we now know is our favorite thing… time laughing, talking, eating well, dancing, exploring, and making sure to stay within a few inches of each other at all times.  I didn’t propose on this third date, but I knew then exactly what I know now, I see the world through a different lens since she’s come into my life and if she’ll have me, I’ll do anything for the opportunity to love her from that day forward.  The next nine months increasingly solidified these desires.

After 9 months, my therapeutic tendencies encouraged me to open this conversation up.  After seeking and thankfully gaining Craige’s approval and seeing millions of rings (if you don’t know, Melanie is indeed very ‘stylishly unique’ in her taste), we found one that made her spirit and face light up like I had never seen before.  If you’ve seen even a slice of her unquenchable spirit, you’re aware of its ability to resonate through you.  She agreed to marry me on a gorgeous summer evening on the back patio of the house she grew up in overlooking the James River; but that was just the first time… honestly, my desire got the best of me and I couldn’t wait till we received the ring she had chosen back from the jeweler.

On our ninth anniversary from that third date, we stood on the deck off “the tower” at “The Neck” and I handed her a gift I’d been holding onto for this day.  After that third date, when I knew what was happening here, I went out and purchased a journal.  Since that time, I’d collected written and tangible memories of all that we had experienced together during this journey (my reflections on times together, my thoughts and feelings toward her, notes we’d shared, big discussions we had, ticket stubs, menus, pictures… a multitude of items and emotions).  I explained it to her, handed it to her, and asked her to flip toward the end.  After a few ‘leading to the excitement’ pages with arrows pointing to turn the page, it said… “I do see God through you and in you and that is the greatest gift I could ever ask for.  Will you marry me?”  She asked if she could think about it for a while… no, she lit up and said yes.

From Jacin: 9 months later, Melanie and Chris were married among the mossy trees at a southern plantation in Charleston, South Carolina, complete with burlap accents, french-infused details, lavender place settings, a gorgeous macaroon cake, and lots and lots of lovely details.  So many in fact, it’s hard to list them all.  But the most important detail of all is the love that these two share, and are sharing with us today.  So sit back, relax, pour yourself a glass of southern sweet tea and prepare to get lost in these images, with some input on the day from Melanie and Chris.

Something Old: lace handkerchief that was my grandmothers.  Something New: an Amsale design dress; I found it online and purchased it without ever even trying it on…kind of like Chris, I loved it at first sight! Given the venue I wanted something unique, nontraditional, flowy and timeless.  Borrowed: 1920’s beaded purse.  Blue: my bustle tie was a blue ribbon we took from a favorite dress I wore as a little girl.

Jessica Simpson Shoes

Once we finally decided upon the Cotton Dock…the theme just seemed just flow… I have always had an affinity for all things European so I knew I wanted it to have a rustic French flair so the burlap, lavender, wrought iron chandeliers and such just seemed to fit the setting perfectly.  Chris and I also love literature quotes and poetry (Rumi being our favorite and a thread throughout the wedding) so we knew we wanted those elements incorporated as well.  My mom is a fabulously talented interior decorator so it was with her help that we pulled together little details that, for me, made the night as unique as it was.

  • We handmade mini flags “Amour,” “XOXO,” “Hugs” that guests waived as we walked back down the aisle as husband and wife.


Chris and his parents walked in to David Grey’s New Horizons and I walked in to Ben Harper’s Forever and we walked out together to the rest of New Horizons.  We were introduced with the song Sun, Moon and Stars by Mos Def.  Bryan Mahanes of Other Brother Entertainment was our DJ and played a special mix of songs we specifically choose to reflect our personality as well as the night itself.

Mel’s favorite moment: When they dropped the umbrella and I could take in the entire setting and Chris standing there before me.

Chris’s favorite moment: The dropping of the umbrella too!  When I was first able to really see Melanie walking down the aisle toward me, I was overwhelmed.  Her beauty- inside and out- reverberated through me so much so that I almost lost all composure (there are plenty of pictures (close ones!) that have captured this well.

  • Because of our love for travel, Chris made a sign out front charting the distances to places we love, have lived and one that we’d like to visit.

Check out that boutonniere!  So unique.

Chris: We came up with the idea/ desire to have our fingerprints on our wedding bands (mine on Melanie’s and hers on mine) and were able to find someone who did just that (  They are perfect.

Mel: Chris surprised me with the engraving on the inside…it says “unfathomable grace” taken from the Rumi poem we incorporated throughout the wedding and because he says that is how he feels about our relationship…

Let’s take a look at some more of the details, shall we?

Some of Melanie’s description of decor and the meaning behind the lovely little details…

  • French love poetry “his and hers” birds with feather plumed tails topped the macaroon tree [that doubled as the cake].  The boy bird even had a tiny top hat :).  The cake was on a tree stump that a family friend cut and carved for us with our initials and the wooden platters [used during cocktail hour] came from the same tree.

  • Tiny paper butterflies cut from the same French love poetry were scattered up and down the wooden harvest tables, where napkins were tied with twine and lavender and guests names were cut from antiqued paper.

  • Candles everywhere…lanterns suspended from trailing greenery, fireplace blazing.

  • Citronella, lemon balm, tarragon, basil, cilantro, oregano, thyme, rosemary, lavender, parsley, dusty miller, lambs ear dotted the tables in mixed white vases.

  • The flowers were ranunuculus, garden roses, anemones, lisianthus, tulips and quail feather accents.

  • We used several sterling silver trophies that have been in our family for years that my grandparents won back in the 20’s as vases for the head table…Chris and I drank from 2 silver goblets that were also trophies won by my grandmother in a golf tournament in the 30’s!  It felt special to have those heirlooms and the history and people they represented incorporated into evening!

  • All the tables were named after our favorite poets: Rumi, Browning, McKuen, Muir, Tagore etc.

  • My mom and I handmade all the favors which were paper flower pins that all had bits of our favorite Rumi poem and where laid on cotton in little paper boxes tied with twine and little “love” clothes pins.

Thank you Melanie and Chris for sharing your day with us, and all of the amazing background of your story and the meaning behind the details in your special day.  Wishing you all the happiness in the world!


Photographer: Nancy Ray (also check her blog!)
“Week Of” Wedding Coordinator: Carrie Glasscock from A Charleston Bride
Catering: Duvall and fabulous Jean
Cocktail Hour/Pre-Post Ceremony Music: Joe Clark
Reception Music: Bryan Mahanes of Other Brother Entertainment
Hair: Tanesha
Fingerprint Rings: Brent Williams Designs
Bride’s Gown: Amsale
Bride’s Shoes: Jessica Simpson
“Here Comes The Bride” and “Mr.” “Mrs.” Signs: Etsy, Family Attic Shop

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Amma // Beyond Beyond April 6, 2011 at 12:46 AM

Lots of lovely details in this wedding - love the flags and the ‘Here comes the bride’ sign board, really gorgeous wedding :)


Riviera Brides April 6, 2011 at 2:01 AM

Breathtaking isn’t it? And amazing photography. Thanks for sharing


Riviera Brides April 6, 2011 at 2:03 AM

Ditto. Everything is better with ruffles.


Diana April 6, 2011 at 4:21 AM

I am just full of tears….the love story just brings the photos to life! <3


Steph {bubblerock} April 6, 2011 at 4:24 AM

I want a barn wedding. Can I have a barn wedding? Or just another wedding. Can I have another wedding. Majorly in love with this one… Please Jacin: can I have another wedding! Pretty please?!


Bonnie- Amour Amour April 6, 2011 at 4:34 AM

Every detail is perfection! But more than that, the love of this beautiful couple is so evident. What a stunning and heart-warming wedding.


Maggie April 6, 2011 at 4:35 AM

I agree. . SO many great details. I love the scenery. . the barn in the background (so romantic) I love the pathway the trees create. . fantastic !


HiLLjO April 6, 2011 at 5:40 AM

Her dress is so beautiful and unique! I love the umbrella to shield the first look! So sweet!


Laura *You Stir Me* April 6, 2011 at 6:11 AM

Here are the details I hope never go out of style for weddings (and beyond!) - burlap, lanterns, natural elements like plants and succulents, long white drapery, barn weddings, closepins, chalkboards, white milk glass, signs, and drink stands….this wedding had everything I love. Such a lovely, lovely wedding to feature - bring on the heavy picture posts:)


Laura *You Stir Me* April 6, 2011 at 6:11 AM

Here are the details I hope never go out of style for weddings (and beyond!) - burlap, lanterns, natural elements like plants and succulents, long white drapery, barn weddings, clothespins, chalkboards, white milk glass, signs, and drink stands….this wedding had everything I love. Such a lovely, lovely wedding to feature - bring on the heavy picture posts:)


Diana Mieczan April 6, 2011 at 6:18 AM

What a beautiful couple and the wedding is fantastic. I love the location and all the cute details. Have a lovely day, my dear

Ps: I’m hosting a super fun 3 winners GIVEAWAY today! Hope you’ll join in :)


Lisa April 6, 2011 at 6:20 AM

Wow. What an incredibly beautiful and romantic couple! You can see their love in all these pictures so well!! Not to mention the love they put into this wedding, which is completely stunning. I especially love the signs pointing to places that mean something to them… what a perfect touch for a couple that endured long distance to be together… and the rings with their fingerprints. It’s all just so sweet and touching! Congratulations to the beautiful bride and groom :)


Katherine {flower & honey} April 6, 2011 at 7:15 AM

I love all of this so much! Her veil is stunning :) so many great details (the “amour” sign, the macaroons, the tree stump) LOVELY!


Sara @ Periwinkle Papillon April 6, 2011 at 7:20 AM

What a gorgeous and dreamy wedding. The couple look magical. I can’t believe with all those amazing details that I’m drawn to the Mr. & Mrs. placemats. I’m obsessed with them. I think they would make a super cute shower gift or wedding gift. Can you tell me the source for them? Thanks!


erin * sparkle & hay April 6, 2011 at 7:48 AM

so fresh & pretty rustic chic!!!! i am absolutely positively in love with this wedding!!!


Brit @ Landlocked Bride April 6, 2011 at 8:16 AM



Nicole April 6, 2011 at 8:37 AM

Wow this setting is BEAUTIFUL!


Libby James April 6, 2011 at 9:31 AM

i’m totally in love with the reception venue. such great style! love the details too :)

xx libby


Koru Kate April 6, 2011 at 10:15 AM

I could barely get past the incredibly sweet, lovely journal the Groom kept throughout their relationship & used to propose! How sweet. Gorgeous, beyond gorgeous!, wedding.


Cheryl April 6, 2011 at 10:28 AM

Oh my WORD. There is nothing about this wedding that I don’t love - everything is gorgeous! And such an inspiration to really make our wedding ‘us’. Thank you!


gwen April 6, 2011 at 11:04 AM

this is simply the sweetest thing i’ve ever seen. wow. major romance exists!!! says the married girl ;) ha.


Claire April 6, 2011 at 11:14 AM

WEEEEEE!!! So many of my vendors in this post! Ah!! Gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous.


Jill@Teenagebride April 6, 2011 at 11:24 AM

oh my goodness I should not have reasd this while at work. I am wiping tears away. So incredibly beautiful, romantic, and full of love. I adore all of the personal touches.


Becky {Bow Ties + Bliss} April 6, 2011 at 11:57 AM

Wow! What a stunning wedding… I love love love the macaron tree! :)


Colleen @ Soundtrack To I Do April 6, 2011 at 12:08 PM

What a sweet story and lovely wedding!!


Jessica April 6, 2011 at 1:34 PM

I could cry I’m so jealous of this gorgeousness!!


Ariella April 6, 2011 at 2:32 PM

What a romantic wedding. I absolutely love every bit of it, especially using the spices as decor! That’s awesome!


Chandra ~ Oh Lovely Day April 6, 2011 at 2:38 PM

YAY, the “Notebook” wedding :) It is gorgeousness. Love the burlap details!


Lena April 6, 2011 at 4:05 PM

STOP-I can’t stand how lovely it all is! That amazing proposal, the gorgeous venue, the beautiful couple and that stunning reception-this is perfect, Jacin!


Mel {The Oceanside Bride} April 6, 2011 at 4:10 PM

Holy cow! Amazing details!! That cake is soooo awesome! Geez so hard to pick out what details I love most about this wedding! Gorgeous!


Naomi April 6, 2011 at 4:33 PM

Very sweet and yes reminiscent of the Notebook! I love the sign “Here Comes the Bride!”


Jasmine April 6, 2011 at 5:14 PM

this is amazing! i love everything about it, especially the proposal story and that “here comes the bride sign” — so cute!


Lauren @ ELD April 6, 2011 at 6:29 PM

OMG love love love. I’m obsessed. Seriously, I don’t have any other words- this wedding is AWESOME!


Lara / Bella Puzzles April 6, 2011 at 6:39 PM

Weddings like this one make me want to renew my vows. Nancy Ray, will you be my photographer?


Kelly April 6, 2011 at 8:14 PM

This is probably the perfect venue. My mind is totally blown - that patio, the moss, I’m in love.


Aleah + Nick Valley April 6, 2011 at 8:58 PM

First of all, the name Cotton Dock is just so enchanting! I love, love the outdoor lounge area on the dock. Total perfection!


Kathleen@weddingswaterside April 6, 2011 at 9:04 PM

This is a beautiful wedding and a great post! I’m very familiar with this venue, and I am in love with the fact that the bride & groom designed the wedding with a French twist. So often lowcountry weddings at historic locations all look the same, but finally we see a Charleston wedding with personality!! Yay!! Love it!!


Karina April 6, 2011 at 10:30 PM

I had the pleasure of attending Melanies and Chris wedding. It was like no other wedding I have ever been too..Pure magic! They really are a storybook romance come true! I am so blessed to have them as my dear friends!


Melanie - the bride :) April 7, 2011 at 11:21 AM

Ladies- thank you so much for all the amazing comments you’ve posted about our wedding…and of course to Jacin for the lovely post. It was indead a magical day!!! If anyone has other vendor questions, please feel free to ask!! :)


Kristi April 7, 2011 at 11:50 AM

I LOVE everything about this wedding!! No joke ~ everything.single.thing. How amazing that Chris kept a journal and documented their relationship…what a possession to have! And the location ~ amazing!! I want a barn wedding ;-))) Really it is all OVER THE MOON!!!



dancy April 9, 2011 at 10:33 AM

LOOOOOVE those shoes. I almost bought them when they 1st came out but waited for them to go on sale & alas I couldn’t find them in my size. Boo :(


Steph April 9, 2011 at 3:04 PM

Everything about this wedding is so beautifully perfect and perfectly beautiful. Love it.


CDS April 20, 2011 at 5:36 PM

Melanie is definitely the most beautiful part of that whole wedding. Wow, such a natural beauty with an obviously magnificent soul!


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