Explore Charleston’s Director of Media Relations, Mary Barnwell Rhett Waring (Molly), and Merrill Lynch wealth manager Joseph Daniel Caughman (Joe) were practically destined—even if the sparks were a little delayed. “My sister, Joe’s sister, and mutual friends had been trying to set us up for a while,” explains Molly. “After an unsuccessful group date, we re-met a few years later at the Blind Tiger after my best friend’s wedding. Joe proposed one year to the day after our re-meeting.”
Joe’s proposal also involved input from family. “I was working over the weekend at a special event, and we were staying at Charleston Place Hotel,” Molly remembers. “My sister was adamant that I leave my work function to meet she and her husband at Charleston Grill. When I arrived at my hotel room to change clothes, there Joe was—down on one knee. Afterwards, we celebrated with close friends and family at the Blind Tiger, of course!”
The couple quickly started talking wedding venues, and they had a few must-haves: (1) a venue on the water, (2) no noise ordinance, and (3) that it be convenient for their out-of-town guests who would mostly be staying in downtown Charleston. “You can’t beat the location of and the view from the Carolina Yacht Club,” says Molly. “Because we chose to get married on New Year’s Eve, my mom wanted to do something different, and she and her close friend and local interior designer, Carlyn Griffith, came up with the Chinese New Year concept.
Molly incorporated many a family heirloom into her wedding day, starting off with her wedding dress. “My little sister was married in July, and her Monique Lhuillier dress was beautiful,” she says. “I am lucky that she let me wear it for the ceremony. For jewelry, I wore the Waring bridal pin, a diamond crescent pin that belonged to my grandmother and has been worn by brides in the Waring family, including both of my sisters. I also wore my older sister’s pearl, sapphire, and diamond bracelet, given to her by her husband on her wedding day, which complemented my sapphire and diamond engagement ring, and I borrowed my mother’s pearl and diamond earrings.” Molly’s veil belonged to her great-aunt, whose own aunt purchased it in Paris in the early 1900s.
For the reception, Molly knew she had to wear red—the Chinese New Year theme pretty much called for it. “I really wanted a classic silhouette that I wouldn’t regret years later,” explains Molly. “After searching in New York and coming up short, I was casually walking down King Street in Charleston with my mom one day, and we found my Frascara dress.” She carried over the diamond crescent pin and complemented it with diamond and ruby earring that she had initially intended to borrow from Croghan’s Jewel Box for the reception. Joe ended up giving them to Molly on Christmas morning though, which was a big, well-received surprise. She also wore her engagement ring and new wedding band, which was recreated from a ring belonging to Joe’s grandmother. Her hair was down for the ceremony. “I wanted to look like myself,” she says. “But for the 8:00 p.m. reception, I chose to wear it up to add an element of formality.”
The ceremony took place at St. James Church in Goose Creek, S.C., which dates back to the early 1700s. “My family has had ties to the church since its founding,” explains Molly. “It is a very special place to me as I have attended services since I was a child, and my father is currently serving as senior warden. The ceremony was very intimate with only family and close friends. And, we had to deal with some logistical challenges.” The church isn’t equipped with electricity so the ceremony had to take place during the day. “We had no clue what the weather was going to do, and we were nervous,” admits Molly. “Luckily, the rain held off, and it was 78 degrees for the Champagne toast on the grounds following the ceremony.” The only music was a drummer and a bagpiper who stood in the churchyard. They played “Highland Cathedral” as the bride walked down the aisle—“I’m not sure there was a dry eye in the church during the ceremony,” says Molly.
That night, the Yacht Club was completely transformed for the Chinese New Year’s party using red lighting and giant bamboo stalks adorned with red lanterns to anchor the corners of the black and white checked dance floor. The space was decorated with Chinese altar tables (sourced by Carolyn) and oriental-style arrangements conceived by Kit Bennett and Mary Silsby of Lotus Flower. All of the food served was of Asian influence. The bride and the groom’s first dance was to Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon,” and a highlight of the reception came at midnight when the newlyweds shouted the countdown to midnight and everyone sang “Auld Lang Syne.” Then, the Del Baroni band played “When the Saints Come Marching In” as a tribute to Joe’s college days at Tulane in New Orleans
Afterwards, the younger crowd relocated to the bride’s parents’ house on South Battery for an after-party that went late, and the next day, the groom and his family hosted a New Year’s Day party where everyone recovered from the night before. “Because New Year’s Eve fell on a Thursday, and we wanted to be sensitive to our guests who were traveling or had to take off work, we chose to forgo the traditional rehearsal dinner festivities, and instead do a New Year’s Day party,” explains Molly. For this event, guests were bussed outside of Charleston to Rockville’s Sea Island Yacht Club. “We had oysters, cooked and served by Debbie and Oliver Thames of Bull’s Bay OYRO, barbecue, and traditional New Year’s day food like collards and Hoppin’ John prepared by Cru Catering,” says Molly. Not wanting the weekend to end, guests danced to the Bluestone Ramblers until the bitter end!