The internet assisted fate when it came to the meeting of Mary Leize Simons Gaillard, a realtor with William Means Real Estate, and Benjamin Longwood Buckley-Green, a general contractor and the president of Buckley-Green Development, Inc. “We came across each other online,” explains Leize. “Right away, we realized that we knew many of the same people, but somehow our paths had never crossed in ‘real life.’”
A love of history and the outdoors strengthened the pair’s connection. “We hit it off instantly and recognized a lot of ourselves in each other,” reflects Leize. “Ben is from Nantucket, and I’m from Charleston, so we both have an immense appreciation for old homes and authentic places. We also love exploring nature—I’ve backpacked the Appalachian Trail, and Ben has had experience as a travel and outdoor-adventure writer.” Additionally, Leize works as a seamstress and Ben a carpenter. “We bonded over an understanding of our curiosity and creative drives,” Leize says.
After two years of dating, the couple knew marriage was in the cards. “We started talking about getting married, but we were both going through career changes, so we postponed until the time was right,” says Leize. Fast forward a year later, and the duo went shopping for a ring (a simple solitaire with an antique diamond on a very thin gold band, to be exact) and quietly booked their venues. “We did this for about four months before the official engagement,” explains Leize. As a natural planner, Leize knew the proposal was coming, but didn’t know exactly when. “Ben surprised me on a Friday when we were relaxing after a good work week. He knew that too much of a grand gesture would be overwhelming for me, so it was a quiet, personal moment in our living room with the dog nearby,” smiles Leize. “It was perfect.”
When it came to the dress, Leize chose an alternative route. “I made my own,” she says. “I’ve been sewing since I was young, and it’s become a more serious hobby over the last five years. Making a wedding dress had always been on my bucket list; however, I thought long and hard about whether or not it was something I seriously wanted to pursue. I’m very aware of my capabilities (and lack thereof), so I knew that creating my own garment would have limitations. I also realized I’d be giving up the ‘say yes to the dress’ moment. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that the experience of making my own version was more important to me than seeking out the ‘perfect’ dress. Like most women, I was looking for a Cinderella experience, but mine ended up more similar to the birds and mice stitching scene!”
Leize turned to Emilia Wickstead and Elie Saab for design inspiration. “The dress is a silk–wool blend with silk charmeuse lining and silk blend underlining,” says Leize. “I sewed every stitch (either by hand or machine) with a mix of ready-to-wear and couture techniques. Thankfully, I had the guidance of my local sewing teacher, and we met throughout the process to work on pattern drafting, fit, and finishing.” After 250 hours of work, the dress was finished two months ahead of the wedding. To complement the homemade dress, Leize splurged on a pair of Jimmy Choo kitten heels and vintage gold earrings.
It was a given that the Charleston-based couple would marry in The Holy City. Honoring the town’s tradition of an evening wedding followed by a black tie cocktail reception, the pair’s goal was to add a relaxed and simple elegance to the night. “We picked two venues with personal and historic significance that are within walking distance of each other and the hotels where our guests were staying,” explains Leize. “We wanted the out-of-towners to be able to explore Charleston by foot and not worry about driving directions or shuttle buses.”
The ceremony was held at the Huguenot Church, a National Historic Landmark where Leize’s grandparents have been members for many years. Classical music set the tone for the traditional Anglican service. “We were lucky enough to have some of the best musicians from the Charleston Symphony Orchestra accompanying the organist,” Leize says. “A favorite memory was when they played a strings only instrumental of ‘Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.’ Aside from sounding beautiful, it was a moment for Ben and me to stop, be still, and take it all in.”
The wedding party was kept intentionally small. Ben had two Best Men and Leize’s sister served as the Matron of Honor. Ben’s sister and Leize’s cousin read short scripture excerpts, and Ben’s niece was the flower girl.
After the ceremony, guests made their way down the street to the Charleston Library Society for the cocktail reception. “It felt like the perfect setting,” says Leize. “We admire what it stands for as a cultural institution, and Ben and I often attend events there, so we feel right at home. Not to mention its beauty—the black and white marble floor was made for dancing, and with stacks of old books flanking the main reading room, there’s very little need for extra decoration. After adding some candles, light greenery, and floral centerpieces, the space was good to go.”
In true Charleston fashion, the focus of the reception included the bar, lively conversation, and dancing. “Music was definitely a highlight of the evening,” says Leize. “Two of Ben’s former coworkers moonlight in a local band that’s been gaining a following in recent years. They agreed to play for us and absolutely rocked it.”
The newlyweds had their first dance to Colin Hay’s “Waiting For My Real Life To Begin.” “Ben introduced me to the song on one of our first dates,” Leize remembers. “It’s always stuck with us as a special and beautiful number. We’re thankful the band learned it for our wedding!”
Right when guests thought the music couldn’t get any better, Ben stole the show by performing “This Must Be the Place” by Talking Heads. “I knew he had this planned,” says Leize, “but I’d never heard him perform, so it was a total surprise.” The crowd went wild, and Leize swears that videos of Ben’s legendary performance are floating around YouTube.
After the reception, the party headed around the corner to The Mills House hotel bar for a nightcap. “It was such a rare opportunity to have all of our favorite people in one place,” says Leize. “We didn’t want the evening to end!”