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The Bride Wore a Custom Gown Inspired by Princess Diana’s Jacques Azagury Dresses to Her Wedding in Charlotte

By Cathleen Freedman | Photography by 

Maggie Braucher

|Planning by 

Rogers and Gala Creative Partners, Inc.

Every year, Woodberry Forest boarding school hosts a study abroad program to Scotland and selects a few girls from Saint Mary’s boarding school to attend. The summer before their senior year of high school, Gates Killian and Robert Spilman III met in the U.K. They continued dating even when the season ended, and they eventually enrolled in different universities. The relationship endured; however, thanks to many planes, trains, and automobiles. They even created a “mid-way date” point between Athens, Georgia, and Sewanee, Tennessee, to see each other in college.

Despite their best efforts, their careers after graduation led them to different cities once more. It wasn’t until the pandemic that Gates was able to spend more time in North Carolina with Robert and her family. After twelve years of dating, Robert proposed to Gates on a rainy summer evening in her neighborhood park in Atlanta. He held the Liz Legg engagement ring in one hand and their dog Coco’s leash in the other.

By the end of 2020, Gates moved back to her hometown of Charlotte and begin wedding planning. “It was important to Robert and me to incorporate a lot of ourselves and the story of our relationship in the venues and activities that we planned for the weekend,” she explains. “The month of November is important to both of us as our parents were both married in November of 1984, just days apart.” She and Robert enlisted Angela Gala of Rogers and Gala Creative Partners, Inc. to help bring their vision to life and Maggie Braucher to photograph the day.

Gates’s matrons of honor threw her a royal-themed bachelorette soiree in honor of the bride-to-be. When it was time for Gates to look into wedding dresses, she found herself drawn to Princess Diana’s traditional yet sophisticated silhouettes and timeless details—in particular, Princess Di’s Jacques Azagury dresses she wore in the late ’90s. She turned to Britt Wood to design a square-neck, a-line gown with sparkling bow detail on the train and shoulders. Every few months or so, Gates and her mother would visit Atlanta for the meetings and fittings of this dress. “It ended up being a highlight of the wedding planning process for us both!” Gates shares. She paired the bespoke gown with a short veil by Ladies of Lineage. During the reception, she exchanged her veil for pearls, which were tucked into her hair. Her final accessory was her Elizabeth Bruns earrings, a present from her parents. Her bridesmaids stood beside her in Amsale Pewter Blue gowns, and Who’s The Fairest applied the bride’s glowing makeup.

Robert collaborated with John Simon of Paul Simon Co., a local Charlotte men’s clothier, to customize his tuxedo. “We wanted to find a subtle tartan pattern for his jacket as an ode to our Scottish heritage and where we first met,” Gates illuminates about the groom’s design process. He accessorized with the same cufflinks Gates gave him to wear at her debutante ball in 2014. Before the ceremony, Gates and Robert swiftly exchanged wearable gifts they would each don for the wedding. He gave her a bracelet, and she gifted him a watch.

The weekend to remember began with a bridesmaids tennis social with Gates’s tennis pro from childhood clinics. Meanwhile, the boys played a groomsmen golf tournament. Afterward, everyone reconvened for a luncheon. Later that night, the Spilman family hosted a dinner at the Duke Mansion, complete with Virginian cheese straws and Texan quail to complement Robert’s family’s origins. “The Duke Mansion has been the setting for many important family gatherings over the years, from my grandparent’s 70th wedding anniversary to my brother’s proposal and my parents’ involvement in the preservation of its history,” Gates notes. “It’s truly a crown jewel of The Queen City!” The evening continued with speeches, bluegrass, and dancing underneath a starry night sky and golden ginkgo tree canopy.

The bride and groom hold tradition in high regard, so their ceremony venue of Myers Park Presbyterian Church was the centerpiece of the weekend. On November 13, 2021, Gates walked down the same aisle her mother walked down 37 years earlier. This is also the church where her grandparents are buried and where she was baptized and confirmed. The Blossom Shop adorned the space with flowers. Gates’s father accompanied her to the altar as a bagpiper and organist played “Highland Cathedral.” Gates’s childhood minister and friend of the Spilmans married the bride and groom. Smiling ear to ear, Gates and Robert exchanged rings and two I dos

Cocktail hour followed with the couple’s favorite appetizers like tomato canapés from Linville Golf Club. The newlyweds sliced into their Kathy Allen Fine Cakes confection, and Gates’s father delivered a toast to welcome everyone to the reception at the Charlotte Country Club. The dining room was set with magnolia motifs, emulating Charlotte’s stately southern magnolia trees and candlelight. This was also the same venue as Gates’s societal debut in 2014, where Robert served as her Marshall.

The reception commenced inside of a disco paradise. “As we were planning the wedding and designing each room and experience, John Lupton and I wanted to choose elements for the dance floor that we had never seen before,” Gates shares. Inspired by Studio 54, they transformed the ceiling into a menagerie of disco balls. Everybody glittered underneath while dancing to the Atlanta Showstoppers and sipping espresso martinis in illuminated disco glassware.

To close the party, the newlyweds rode away in Robert’s late grandfather’s 1946 Station Wagon that made the trip down from Richmond, Virginia, for the special occasion. They joined a small group of family and friends at The Duke Mansion for a few bites of leftover wedding cake and one last glass of champagne to toast the evening. Gates reminisces, “It was the perfect ending to an extraordinary weekend and an exciting start to our marriage!”