There’s something endearing about the love story of a Southern belle moving up to the Big Apple and finding her Yankee prince charming. Elizabeth “Simmons” Haigh, a budding interior design consultant from North Carolina, first met New Jersey native Ryan Scott MacDonald, a managing director at a private equity firm, in Manhattan through mutual friends on a summer Sunday in 2014. “I went to meet one of my childhood friends on the Lower East Side for a few glasses of rosé and she had brought along a few new friends she’d met earlier during brunch,” says Simmons. “Ryan was one of them. He’d just returned from a round of golf, and a few afternoon drinks turned into a few evening drinks, which ended up turning into dinner at Rosemary’s in the West Village.”
Fast forward two years later to when the two got engaged over Labor Day weekend in 2016. After a week-long jaunt to Tuscany, Rome, Vernazza, and other small Italian towns, Simmons knew an engagement was on the horizon but wasn’t expecting it the very second they arrived back home. The pair walked into their Greenwich village abode to find rose petals, a charcuterie board, and a diamond ring. For Simmons, it was the best end to an idyllic vacation.
When it came time to start planning, Simmons knew she wanted a Southern wedding, and Lowndes Grove in South Carolina proved to be the perfect setting. “I have an undeniable love for every white brick house I see, so it was the perfect match,” remarked Simmons. A true jack of all trades, the bride did most of the planning herself, but worked closely with the coordinators at PPHG, the hospitality group that manages the venue, and the florists on the Lowndes Grove staff to coordinate the décor of the outdoor reception area.
Marrying tradition and a modern style was the name of the game when it came to the bride’s wedding day look. “I knew I wanted to have lace on my dress, but I also wanted a long silk skirt. And I wanted the look of buttons going down the back, as if it were a gown, but in reality, it was a two-piece,” she explains. “In truth, I’m very traditional but I wanted a twist that made my dress more fashionable and modern. I’d originally planned on having an off-the-shoulder, long-sleeve lace dress, but it evolved into a V-back lace strapped crop top with distinct scalloping. Then, I paired it with a gorgeous silk A-line skirt with delicate silk buttons down the back,” she adds. For shoes, she chose a simple, comfortable heel, even though she always knew she’d be a barefoot bride at the reception. To fit in with the relaxed vibe, Simmons wore her hair curled in a half-up and half-down look that complemented her drop-down earrings borrowed from a friend.
The ceremony was on the estate’s expansive front lawn, overlooking salty marsh lands at dusk, with a perfect golden serving as a backdrop for a natural aisle outlined by rose petals and rows of rustic chairs. The altar itself was distinguished by a massive old oak tree dating back to the 1700s. Simmons walked down the aisle with her father and a last-minute addition—her niece, Brooks—who after a temper tantrum decided she wanted to be a part of the big day. “At the last minute, she walked toward me and my dad and we asked if she wanted to walk out with us. She nodded her sweet head, so the three of us walked down the aisle,” says Simmons.
The reception itself was Simmons and Ryan’s pride and joy to plan. Both are huge foodies and opt for dancing with friends over stuffy soirees. “I wanted to make sure guests were offered a wide variety of Southern foods and that something new was always being served,” she explains. Immediately after the ceremony, guests were served “transfusions” (Ryan’s favorite golf course drink: a mix of vodka, ginger ale, and grape juice) and champagne on their way to cocktail hour, which took place on the venue’s porch. During cocktails, guests sampled raw oyster bars, an array of fried foods, “make your own” stations that included cheese and regular grits with every topping you can possibly imagine, crab soup shooters, upside down tomato pie, mini Reuben puffs, and potato fried biscuits.
Guests later migrated back out to the lawn where a giant tent with two main dinner stations and a dance floor awaited. The first station offered a whole hog (pig pickin’ style) with fresh pork rinds, southern collard greens, beef tenderloin and a to-die-for pimento macaroni and cheese, while the second station was for Mexican food lovers with a “make your own” taco bar that stayed open extra late. And, in keeping with their traditional with a twist theme, Ryan and Simmons opted for a freshly fried donut hole tower in lieu of cake. “We both dislike cake so we used a recipe I’ve been making with my mother since high school to make our donut holes,” notes Simmons.
For their first dance, the couple decided to infuse a bit of humor. The live band, Big Swing and the Ballroom Blasters, started with the tried and true tune of “Stand By Me” as the couple began a slow waltz. But, they were then interrupted by the band’s leader, who stopped the music and remarked, “I think we can do a little better than this” and then transitioned into a fun and carefree version of “Higher and Higher.” “Ryan and I busted out into our best dance moves and really tried to get the party going,” Simmons says with a chuckle. The party continued into the wee hours of the night, and when it was all said and done, the bride and groom exited the reception via a tunnel of sparklers held by friends and family.