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A Beautiful Micro-Wedding on Kiawah Island That Honored The Bride’s Late Mother

By Cathleen Freedman | Photography by 

Olivia Rae James

Now that it’s crystal clear that hosting a big wedding at this time is just not possible due to the spread of COVID-19, we’re sharing the experiences of real couples navigating the re-scheduling, cancellation, and civil and commemorative wedding processes in an attempt to help others make informed decisions and to spread our support to all during this time.

The day Grace Soldatos and Devin Brown were going to send out the invites to their June wedding at the Borgo Santo Pietro in Tuscany, Italy went into lock-down. They quickly decided, under the guidance of their wedding planners, Matthew Robbins and Luis Otoya, to postpone their wedding to May 2021. With their guests’ safety and travel plans in mind, the couple wanted to push their wedding as far back as possible. By the summer, they decided to delay the wedding to September 2021.

In March, Grace’s mother passed away. She had always told Grace that she would love for her and Devin to marry at the family home along the ocean in Kiawah, where Grace had spent her childhood. Grace’s father decided to sell the Kiawah home; and once it was sold, Grace and Devin knew there was no better place to have their micro-wedding. “Given the state of the world, Devin and I really wanted to be married to each other and not have to wait any longer,” Grace adds. “We wanted nothing more than to be husband and wife.”

The couple decided they would have their micro-wedding in Kiawah that following month. Grace planned the entire micro-wedding by herself in one week. She consulted Matthew and Luis, her Italy wedding planners, for their recommendations and asked around to find Charleston and Kiawah vendors. “I regret not asking Matthew and Luis to help me,” Grace mentions in hindsight. “I thought I would be able to handle it all myself, but there is a lot to do.”

It’s easy to underestimate all the labor that a micro-wedding might entail. While Grace liked planning the day on her own, she wished she had more time to relax throughout the weekend. Appreciating her wedding planners more than ever, she adds, “I am very much looking forward to our Italian wedding celebration, as I won’t have to do anything and can hopefully just sit back and drink champagne.”

As someone who works in fashion, the bride’s bridal looks were of utmost importance for her wedding. In February 2020, Grace began working with the Peter Do team for her legal ceremony bridal outfit, complete with a custom suit and shoes. When lock-down happened, they resorted to a few virtual fittings—”which was an interesting experience, to say the least,” Grace laughs. A couple weeks before the wedding, Grace was finally able to go to the Peter Do studio and try on the outfit. “It turned out even better than I thought it would,” she says. She was also Peter Do’s first bride, which was an esteemed honor. She ultimately decided to wear this outfit for the Saturday dinner before the wedding, which was catered by Cru Catering.

Grace also looks forward to the Italian wedding because she will finally be able to reveal her Vivienne Westwood dress, which is currently in production at Vivienne Westwood Couture in London. She wanted to save this gown for the Italian ceremony, so she turned to something that was already in her closet—a beautiful Ralph Lauren tuxedo dress. This dress was even more special than it was stunning, as her mother bought it for her in hopes that Grace could wear it to her bridal shower. The bridal shower unfortunately never happened, but Grace saved the dress. “I hadn’t tried on the dress in over six months, but luckily it fit perfectly,” Grace says.

Grace honored her mother and wore her Harry Winston earrings. She also tucked a swatch of the lace from her mother’s wedding dress. Her mother’s best friend completed her outfit with a blue pin, her “something blue.”

Grace donned a Versace robe and sipped champagne while her beauty prep team got to work. Grace doesn’t wear much makeup normally, so she aimed for a more natural and glowy look. Her original Italian wedding makeup artist was able to come to Kiawah and do Grace’s makeup. “We had never even done a trial, but after one Zoom call, I trusted her completely, which is actually quite unlike me!” Grace remarks. Her friend and stylist Jay Jackson came from New York to arrange her hair in effortless and beachy waves. The couple’s dog, London, got ready with the bride. London loved being there, but Grace knew London was perhaps a little upset she wasn’t the center of attention for once…

While the bride took several hours to prepare for the wedding day, the groom only needed 10 minutes. In all fairness, though, he kept his wedding outfit straightforward, opting for the same Tom Ford suit he planned to wear at the Italian wedding. Devin spent the majority of the time getting ready with his brother and parents, which was even more meaningful considering that this was the first time they were able to be together since COVID restrictions were enforced.

On October 18th, 2020, Grace Soldatos and Devin Brown married on the beach outside Grace’s family’s home. She and her father walked down the boardwalk, serving as the de facto aisle. Up until this point, Grace had been able to keep her heels on, but she had to take them off to cross through the sandy dunes. Devin’s father is a pastor and officiated the most heartfelt and personal ceremony just before sunset.

As soon as Grace joined Devin at the altar, she felt like she was home. “Looking into his eyes as we said our vows was one of the happiest moments of my life,” she reminisces. The already-romantic milieu was sublime because the couple purposefully chose a date where the sunset and low tide were expected to collide.

After the ceremony, the newlyweds spent time with each of their guests on the beach before taking their first walk as husband and wife. “There was a sense of excitement in the air, and we couldn’t stop smiling, holding and kissing each other,” Grace recalls. “We took our shoes off and dipped our toes in the water before eventually making our way back to the house for drinks and dinner.”

For Grace’s third outfit, she wore Vivienne Westwood as an homage to her wedding dress for the future Italy celebration. This dress was actually found only two weeks before the wedding, thanks to her contact at Vivienne Westwood Couture. Grace had tried on a floral sample dress in early 2020 at the New York store and fell in love with the gown afterward. She sent a picture of the dress to her Vivienne Westwood contact. “I honestly didn’t think they would have it, given the dress was an older style and made-to-order, but they were able to source the exact one I tried on in my size, and I knew it was meant to be,” she says. Grace and Devin missed half of the cocktail hour because he was helping her get into the gown’s corset.

Grace arranged the dinner tablescape with an assortment of her mother’s tableware: Tiffany & Co. silver and Hermès china placed atop D. Porthault linens. Additionally, each setting was adorned with a sand dollar. Grace’s mother always liked to collect sand dollars from the shore, so this was a sweet way of incorporating her. The catered dinner by Michael and Courtney Zentner from The Drifter featured Devin and Grace’s favorite food, thus homemade focaccia was a key staple of the evening.

The wedding party regaled the couple with speeches, one of the most notable being from Devin’s mother. “Devin shed a tear, which I wasn’t expecting,” Grace says about the sweet speech. Dinner ended with a spark—there were fireworks exploding in the distance. Grace joked that the fireworks were planned, but in actuality, they were just a wonderful coincidence and an auspicious sign for a beautiful marriage.

“A bride wants nothing more than to have her mom with her on her wedding day, but we all felt her presence that weekend,” Grace says. “Despite 2020 being a difficult year, our wedding brought us so much happiness and taught us to enjoy every moment we have together.” The couple looks forward to their 2021 Italian wedding but are so grateful to have had their micro-wedding celebration on Kiawah Island. “Looking back,” Grace remembers, “it truly was such a perfect weekend.”