The day had finally arrived and after months of planning for our daughter Caroline’s wedding, we were ready to take a deep breath and live every moment to it’s fullest! But when you plan an outdoor wedding, anything can happen—especially when the venue is a botanical garden, the largest outdoor figurative sculpture collection in the country, not to mention a wildlife preserve!
We chose Brookgreen Gardens, not only for its natural beauty, but also because this timeless Southern plantation is where Anna and Archer Huntington, the founders opened the doors in 1932 to display Anna’s and her sister Harriet Randolph Hyatt Mayor’s amazing sculptures. With nearly 10,000 acres of pristine natural and cultivated landscape, as well a a haven for native Low Country animals, it is truly a gift for all who visit.
The ceremony location could not have been more desirable, with ancient oak trees draped with Spanish moss arching over the setting, forming a perfect canopy of leaves, which provided much welcome shade. This sultry, almost-summer afternoon on June 2nd would indeed be a warm one. The wooden chairs placed in perfect rows blended in with the native landscape, and the backdrop where they bride and groom would marry was nothing less than magical.
A pair of ornamental wrought iron and bronze gates (ca. 1909) anchored by stately walls, topped with a pair of Great Danes, guarded a pristine lake where one of the oldest sculptures, Youth Taming the Wild, proudly stood in the center of the island. While soft music provided by the string duet played, our special guests took their seats and delighted in the occasional warm breezes and beautiful scent of the flowering magnolia trees and sweet Camellia blooms.
The excitement was building when it was my turn to be seated, as we knew the bridal party was about to make their way down the aisle to the waiting groom and his groomsman.
The maid of honor, Caroline’s sister, Alexandra, and the bridesmaids, dressed in beautiful soft pastel flowing gowns, and our darling flower girls with perfect white dresses and crowns of flowers brought smiles to all, as they set the stage for the much-anticipated bride to walk down the aisle with her proud—and emotional—daddy. And then it happened.
All I can remember was a huge shadow overhead and the thumping sound of beating wings as a large bird flew overhead. A spectacular red-tailed hawk made a low swoop under the canopy and over the guests, and then down the aisle as if he had wanted to make his entrance known, being a little more than fashionably late for the wedding.
The gasps and whispers from the guests were quieted only when the heart-tugging wedding music began (Canon in D by Pachelbel) and the signal from the minister let us know that it was time to stand. The wedding ceremony filled our hearts with happiness as the beautiful bride and handsome groom made their vows before God’s amazing creation.
After the traditional wedding photos were taken and we could finally mingle with our guests, I was excited with all the great sentiment about the special guest, our red-tailed hawk! Just weeks ago, one of our guests lost her husband unexpectedly, and she was very certain it was her beloved sending her a message that all was good with him. She glowed as she spoke and I, too, had the immediate thought that my parents, who had passed during the last decade, were sending the same message that though they were gone, they still had a presence in my life. I knew right then that this would be a wedding to remember.
A lot has been written about hawk symbolism. The hawk is revered for its greatest gift, its keen vision, and circling high above, hawks can see everything, giving them a larger perspective. The spirit of the hawk teaches us to take a close look around, and see the bigger picture. It is so easy to get lost in the small details that life throws at us every day and to forget the larger picture of what life is all about. This amazing spirit animal can teach us to see things that others miss. Hawks are also sometimes spiritual messengers and let us know that we are destined to soar higher and take on a leadership role. Without a doubt, this was a beautiful sentiment to this young couple beginning their lifelong journey as one and to everyone who was present.
No one knows for certain what message the silent flight of the hawk meant, but I do know that it was a spiritual blessing for all to receive. This lovely gift brought us all in tune with nature, and being a conservationist and a hunter, I was very happy and thankful for this wonderful but unplanned guest to take part in our celebration.
As this beautiful day drew to an end under the peaceful skies, we were so happy that even with all the details that needed to be taken care of in order to make this very special event happen, we did not get so lost in the planning that we lost the true meaning of the day. We are sure that the bigger picture is the pairing of a wonderful couple, Caroline and Austin Thomas, and the love they have for each other!”
As Written for Waccamaw Outdoor Magazine, July Issue 2018