I always love photographing weddings at Brookgreen Gardens. However, I’ve never had the opportunity to shoot a wedding during the Night of a Thousand Candles. During these special evenings in December, thousands of lights hang from the trees, and hand-lit candles light the paths and pools around the gardens. It’s a beautiful time to be in Brookgreen. We were fortunate enough to have a private moment after the wedding ceremony to capture some breathtaking photos of Riley and Hunter, the bride and groom, under the lights before the gardens opened to the public.
Getting ready pictures in the Holliday Cottage
Hunter and the groomsmen arrived at the cottage, already dressed. After taking pictures of the bride’s dress and other details, I took the groomsmen out by the lake for some pre-ceremony photos. The little ring-bearer, the bride and groom’s son, was dressed in a suit and bowtie, and I got some adorable shots of him and dad helping each other with their ties and dad putting on the ring security badge.
After taking pictures with the guys, I went back upstairs to capture Riley’s mom, helping her put on the dress and then a first look with the bridesmaids. The light streaming in from the upstairs windows adds a beautiful, soft glow to the images. I also really liked the picture of the bride sitting on the couch in front of the window with her dress flowing out all around her.
Ceremony by the wrought iron gates on the Live Oak Allee
If you continue walking away from the Live Oak Allee towards the Youth Taming the Wild Statue, you will arrive at wrought iron gates connected to an old brick wall. These gates are one of the beautiful wedding ceremony spots in Brookgreen Gardens. Looking back, my first wedding at this location was over 12 years ago! It’s crazy how time flies.
The ring-bearer was so cute walking down the aisle holding a bridesmaid’s hand. He had a little smirk on his face and knew he was looking good with his Ring Security badge on. Erik Hunt, one of my favorite wedding officiants, was hosting the ceremony. I got many beautiful shots of the ceremony and the happy expressions on the bride and groom’s faces as they gave their vows.
Romantic pictures of the bride and groom under the lights hanging from the oak trees
I was getting anxious about the time during the wedding ceremony. It ended at almost 4:45 pm, and the gardens opened at 5 pm! As soon as the crowds arrived, taking pictures under the lights would be practically impossible.
I’ve learned over many years how to get a lot of pictures in a very short time. I quickly set up my off-camera flash and suggested several poses for portraits under the lights. I took almost all the photos with the Nikon Z 85mm lens. It does a great job of making the background soft and dreamy without purple fringing and other issues I used to have with older lenses.
I always make sure to step way back for some full-body shots as well as close-ups. The closer I am to the subject, the more soft and out of focus the background gets. We only had time to shoot in a couple of different locations before the gardens opened, so after the Live Oak Allee, we went to the Diana of the Chase pool for a few more photos. They have many candles floating in the pool and thousands of lights wrapped around the tree branches hanging out over the water. It is such a magical location, and someone commented that it looked like something from a fairy tale.
Family and wedding party pictures back at the cottage
After our time was up in the main gardens, we returned to the Holliday Cottage gates for pictures with the family and wedding party. Even without all the hanging lights, it’s still beautiful down by the lake, with the sunset reflecting in the water and the moss hanging from the trees on the garden path. The bridesmaids even lifted the groom up for a picture, and I got a lot of fun shots with the group. We went out by the “Youth Taming the Wild” statue for a few quick pictures before heading to the reception.
Reception at the South End Bistro
This wedding reception was my first at the South End Bistro. They are a catering business in Pawleys Island and have a physical location to host wedding receptions and other events. Behind the main reception hall, they have a large wooden patio for dancing and a covered area for all the guest’s tables.
I loved the cupcake and cake table. I didn’t notice it at first, but on a closer look, I thought someone had put a finger into the cake. A guest later told me that their dog took a bite out of it! You can see the cake on the little dog figurine’s nose on the cake.
The bride and groom only had me stay for part of the reception time. So after toasts and some dancing, they did a fake exit while everyone blew bubbles. It would be hard to see the bubbles in a dark outdoor area like this. So I set up a second flash behind the couple to light up the bubbles from the background. Please let me know if you plan a wedding at Brookgreen Gardens. I know the area well and would be happy to give you more information.