La Dolce Vita Meets Southern Charm at This Charleston Wedding

Anna Mack and her now-husband Ben Pardee’s love story began on the cobblestone streets of Florence, Italy–the same exact place where her parents had met almost 40 years before. In a plot twist most wouldn’t believe if Hollywood had scripted it, Anna’s mother was destined to meet her Ben while studying abroad, and so was she.

“It was September, and after we’d been in Florence for a couple days, my friend Eleni told me about this guy that she went to high school with and how she thought we were going to hit it off,” Anna, who is now a producer for the Broadway production company behind Chicago, Waitress, and Finding Neverland, recalls. “Not looking for a relationship at the time and coming off my previous semester abroad in London, meeting someone was not top of mind when I arrived in Italy!”

But Ben, who is a product manager for Condé Nast Traveler, captured Anna’s attention from the very beginning. “When we met, we shook hands, and he smiled, flashed those gorgeous baby blues, and it was right then and there that I was very intrigued,” she recalls. The two started seeing each other in Italy, and when it came time to return to their respective schools at the end of the semester, they stayed in touch and continued to date long distance throughout their senior years in college.

Ultimately, they both moved to New York, and after a seven-year courtship, Ben proposed in September of 2020 over a surprise picnic dinner on the roof of their Brooklyn apartment. “It felt like we were the only two people in the world overlooking the city that we love and that had been through so much pain during the previous six months of the pandemic,” Anna remembers. “We soaked it all up as the sun drifted down below the Hudson River and spent the rest of the evening FaceTiming family and friends.”

After much debate about the ideal time to get married—taking the ongoing pandemic into account—the two set a date of April 23, 2022. From the start, Anna knew she wanted to marry in her hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, and her goal was to show her guests an authentic experience. “It meant a lot to us to stick with local vendors who my family has worked with for years,” she explains. “The venue was also practically pre-decided as my mother has worked at the Gibbes Museum of Art for over 30 years, eventually rising to the position of curator of collections and then executive director.”

An “al fresco, Italianate garden party with Southern flair” is what Anna imagined as the wedding aesthetic, and she turned to Augusta Cole, who has offices in New York and Charleston, to help her execute on this vision. “Lush greens, yellows, and blues were the colors that I focused on, so that the natural beauty of spring in Charleston could shine through,” Anna says. “I wanted the uniqueness of the locations of our wedding to speak for themselves—from the church I’ve always attended, to the museum where my has worked for most of her life. When it came to our after-party, there was really only one place to turn. Edward Crouse and Marie Stitt are family friends and the owners’ of baba’s — they went above and beyond and created the intimate, European feel that we wanted to keep the party going into the wee hours of the morning.” 

As for wardrobe, the bride’s starting point for her wedding day look was the veil. “It’s an heirloom piece that was passed down to me—a long cathedral length veil with the lace of my mother’s wedding dress sewn onto it and cascading down the back,” she says. “My sister wore it to her wedding, and then it was my privilege to wear it to mine. I can’t wait for my sister and I to share it with my nieces and possibly a daughter of my own one day.” She wore the veil with a sleeveless high-neck Vera Wang gown with a structured drop-waist and lace overlay. 

On the day of the wedding, guests gathered at 5:30 p.m. at St. Stephen’s Church on Anson Street. “The ceremony was what I was looking forward to the most out of the whole weekend,” Anna recalls. “It was this super sacred time where we merged traditions from my Episcopalian and Ben’s Jewish upbringing and said vows to one another celebrating our two faiths. We were both squeezing each other’s hands during the whole thing, and it was truly overwhelming. Looking out at everyone’s beaming faces in the congregation and feeling all of their love was pure magic. From the deep breaths my dad and I took together when the doors at the back of the church were still closed, to the breaking of the glass and my nieces jumping for joy at the end of the ceremony—it was everything I could have hoped for and a moment in time I will never forget.”

After the ceremony, guests were transported via trolley to the museum. Once there, the festivities kicked off with cocktails in the upstairs rotunda while the newlyweds took portraits. Eventually, everyone moved into the garden for dinner, where they took their seats at long tables situated in a fan formation around the fountain. Colorful Carolina Irving plates anchored the table alongside menus by Thistle and Briar Studio and vibrant florals by Sara York Grimshaw of SYG Designs.

Once dinner and speeches had concluded, the dance floor was open. “Charleston has such a fun and eclectic music scene, and it was lucky for us that we discovered Emerald Empire Band—an amazing new concept for a wedding band that gathers local musicians that might not normally play together to form a group for wedding gigs—and they absolutely knocked it out of the park!” Anna and Ben were specific with their music notes, asking for ’70s and ’80s tunes, very funky, always upbeat, and no “Shout,” or other typical wedding music. “The band got it right song after song,” Anna says. “No one left the dance floor, and we ended the night with ‘Purple Rain’ as the final song. Guests formed a circle with Ben and I in the middle, and everyone started to wave their arms back and forth, and it was then that I fully left my body and transcended space and time…while sobbing my eyes out!”

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