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Forget About Cake Cutting, This Couple Wanted a Flower Ball Piñata Instead

By Patricia Garcia | Photography by 

Melissa Toms

Jewelry designer Hart Hagerty and Dr. John Wrangle first met on a balmy September evening at a cocktail party in Charleston. John was brand new to town and Hart had just returned home after living in Shanghai for five years. The two hit it off immediately but unfortunately Hart was about to move to New York in a few weeks. “While I lived in NYC for the next two years, he became best friends with my sister and her husband and very close with my entire family,” Hart explains. “While in NYC, my mom constantly updated me on his dating status. She even left me a couple of voicemails: ‘Dr. Wrangle is back on the market!’”

Hart finally moved back to Charleston in 2017 and the two orbited around each other until one night they set up a secret date to talk about their businesses. “We shut the wine bar down,” she says. “Today we both say that that night we knew we were meant to be together.” For the next couple of weeks, they kept their romance hush-hush, mainly because they knew how excited her family would be at the prospect of their relationship. “But we hardly took it slow!” Hart adds. “We came together like magnets.” Six months later, during a trip to Cartagena, they got engaged.

“He proposed during a quiet moment on our hotel balcony. It was incredibly intimate, lots of laughter and tears and just pure love,” she recalls. “We celebrated afterward by eating at a hole-in-the-wall ceviche spot, drinking mojitos, and dancing at the famed Cafe Havana.”

The couple knew from the start they wanted to hold their wedding reception at Hart’s family home; a house built in 1774 in Charleston’s historic South of Broad neighborhood. “When my parents and grandparents grew up in Charleston, the tradition was to have an intimate but boisterous reception at the family’s home,” Hart explains. “I always thought that was so elegant and cool.”

Hart worked with her friend and planner Kristin Doggett of Bellafare to create the personal and out-of-the-box wedding she had always envisioned. For example, they used Hart’s mom’s silver collection for the flower vases and serving trays, decorated the bars with banana leaves from the home’s Alhambra-inspired garden, and laid out oriental carpets and poufs in the lawn to create a Moroccan-like lounge area. “I was inspired by Margherita Missoni’s wedding,” Hart explains. “She did something similar in her family’s garden.”

Even though she works in the fashion industry, the bride admits she wasn’t enraptured by the dream of a wedding dress. “I approached it much more practically,” she says. Her first and only stop was at Magnolia Bridal, a Charleston shop that specializes in selling sample gowns. “Originally I thought I wanted a dress that was lacey and bohemian,” she says, but she later changed her mind and started looking for something silky, simple, and sexy. “Like many brides these days, I loved the look of Carolyn Bessette Kennedy at her wedding.” Once she bought her dress, she took it to local bridal designer, Emily Kotarski, who dramatically lowered the back. Hart finished off her look with a pair of white Fendi pumps with a baby blue sting ray heel that she had found on the Real Real a few years back, and diamond studs she borrowed from her mother’s best friend.

On a late October afternoon, family and friends gathered at the French Huguenot Church for Hart and John’s wedding ceremony. “It was important to me to get married on a full moon weekend, as a nod to my dad’s eccentric, widely original mother, who was known for her obsession with the moon,” the bride says. As for the decor, they let the church shine on its own. “I didn’t want any bells and whistles to distract from the main event: the focus on our love, our vows, our commitment to each other,” Harts says. Once they were married, it was time for their big exit, which was one of the bride’s favorite parts of the day. “I filled miniature Chinese takeout boxes with hand-cut confetti from Etsy,” she explains. “Leaving the church through a cloud of confetti with all of your loved ones cheering you on is highly recommended!”

From there, guests and the newlyweds walked to the bride’s parents’s home just a few blocks away. “The reception was during the magic golden hour at my parent’s house,” Hart says of the ensuing party. Instead of a sit down dinner, traditional Southern food was offered in the formal dining room through various stations that included fried chicken, crab cakes, and shrimp étouffée.

Under the tented driveway, a dance floor was lit up with a giant disco ball, with pops of orange and red flowers decorating the space. “In lieu of the typical Southern wedding band playlist, we hired our friend Tay McNabb (DJ Party Dad) to DJ—he spins vinyl records only,” the bride adds. For their first dance, the couple chose “Night Nurse” by Dean and Britta, one of the first songs John shared on a joint Spotify playlist they created when they were first dating.

Instead of traditional cake-cutting, the newlyweds took turns whacking away at a custom “flower ball” piñata, which was filled with Halloween candy, masks, and little props like vampire teeth. “It was kitschy and silly and everyone was so amped when the piñata broke!” Hart says. “We did this to the soundtrack of Monster Mash and people went nuts.”

The party gradually fizzled into a house gathering, and the couple’s closest friends ending up staying until 3:00 in the morning dancing in the living room and eating leftover cake. A few days later, John and Hart headed off to their honeymoon in the British Virgin Islands, where they bareboated for a week. “No phones. Falling asleep under the stars. Swimming, snorkeling, diving, and piña coladas,” she remembers. “It was absolutely the most perfect blend of adventure and relaxation.”