South Carolina has emerged as a top wedding destination for beach-minded couples, and it’s easy to see why. Beyond wide beaches and gorgeous weather, you’ll find easy access by air and roadway, fantastic food with a local flair, and venue options to suit every style and pocketbook, both on and off the sand. We’ve rounded up 10 of South Carolina’s most beloved coastal wedding spots. Some are on the beach, others a few miles away. But all of them will create a unique and memorable wedding day.
Like a turn-of-the-century seaside mansion, The Sanctuary Hotel stands grandly on a long stretch of beach about 26 miles from Charleston, within the gated Kiawah Island Golf Resort. The hotel’s magnificent ocean-facing great lawn is a favorite of couples who want to say their vows near the ocean, but without sand in their shoes. Convenience is key: guests can stay at the hotel or in a nearby rental villa. In addition to sun and surf, there’s a posh spa on site and miles of bike paths that lead to tennis, golf, kayaking and other pursuits.
The Inn at Palmetto Bluff, A Montage Resort
Tucked into a curve of the May River, 18 miles from Hilton Head, the Inn at Palmetto Bluff is a luxurious retreat set in the heart of the lowcountry where you and your guests can kayak with dolphins; ride horseback; hike; and indulge in massages and facials in a spa overlooking a quiet lagoon. Dreamy settings for weddings — inside an old-fashioned clapboard chapel, on a formal lawn with plantation ruins as your backdrop, under a canopy of moss-draped oaks — set an unabashedly romantic vibe that’s only matched by a stunning landscape of ancient maritime forests and tidal creeks.Lowndes Grove Plantation
Built in 1786, this plantation house on the west side of Charleston Proper sits on 14 acres of gardens on the Ashley River. “This site really lends itself to a Charleston experience,” says Guerard. “You start with cocktails on the porch of an authentic plantation house that’s filled with antiques, marry in front of the river, and move into a tent for dinner and dancing.” Not surprisingly, Lowndes Grove is a popular venue, so if you want to marry sooner rather than later, consider a Sunday or mid-week wedding.
If Boone Hall’s majestic brick plantation house looks familiar, there’s a good reason: it was the site of Blake Lively’s 2012 wedding to Ryan Reynolds and has been featured in movies and on television programs. Boone Hall is also home to one of the region’s most spectacular sights: the driveway is lined with dozens of live oak trees so large that they’ve formed a dramatic allee that stretches for nearly a mile. Most couples hold their ceremony on the riverfront cotton dock, which Guerard says dresses up beautifully with chandeliers and antique rugs.
Situated just outside Charleston on the Isle of Palms, Wild Dunes is a sprawling beachfront resort loaded with fun activities like tennis, golf, fishing and biking. It’s also got a built-in Plan B for couples who dream of marrying to the sound of the ocean, but worry that a rainy day could land them in a ballroom. Set on a deck with views of the ocean, the resort’s pretty white wedding gazebo can keep up to 100 guests out of the rain under its peaked roof. Weddings can also be held on the croquet lawn, the beach or several indoor venues.
Charleston Harbor Resort offers remarkable views of Charleston from its Patriots Point location in Mount Pleasant. In addition to a hotel, there’s a full-service, deep-water marina on site, making it easy to plan a pre-wedding sunset cruise. Say your vows on the sandy beach studded with palm trees, or on the wedding pier — with sailboats, water and the city skyline directly behind you. Although you could hold your reception on-site, consider renting a water taxi to take your guests across the harbor into Charleston — it’s just a 10-minute ride.
Seabrook Island doesn’t garner as much attention as next-door neighbor Kiawah, but the island’s fans wouldn’t have it any other way. The island’s easy charm, endless beaches, pristine golf courses and championship tennis center have attracted generations of families. Although there’s no hotel on the island, most rental homes come with a temporary membership to the club, where a new beachfront clubhouse hosts weddings on a terrace that’s just steps from the sea or on a breezy verandah with views up and down the beach.
In South Carolina, golf and the beach often go hand-in-hand, and few do it more famously than Sea Pines, where the Ocean Course features a surfside hole and the Harbour Town Golf Links finishes at the resort’s much-photographed candy-cane-striped lighthouse. Couples who marry here can take advantage of it all: celebrations can take place at the Sea Pines Beach Club, on the 18th green of Harbor Town or even under the lighthouse. The 60-room Inn at Sea Pines is in the center of it all, and is perfectly sized for a buyout.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more natural setting for a beach wedding than Pawleys Island, where South Carolinians vacation in historic 19th-century beach houses set under even older live-oak trees alive with colorful birds, such as painted buntings and red-wing blackbirds. Hold a post-wedding shrimp boil at one of the many rental homes available on the island, at one of the many restaurants located across a short causeway on the mainland or, during spring and fall, at the Sea View Inn — a rustic but sweet 20-room inn on the beach.
By Katie McElveen