We were quite taken with the idea of featuring newly mandated small businesses in the debut issue of Loveliest, being that my editor, Ashley Sapp, and I were pursuing a big project we more or less had no experience with how to operate. In October of last year, I attended a wedding in my hometown run by a former teacher where I went to middle school. I was asked by the bride to bring my camera and take pictures throughout the day, which is what influenced my idea to start this magazine. When I interviewed the owner of Southern Oaks, Pam and her husband, Brett, were running the business out of their home, which is where the below photographs were taken. They have since moved to their new location–a charming 19th century house in Gilbert, SC. You can see pictures of their new wedding and events space on their website and Facebook page.
Story and Photographs
by Wren Holland
WH: What made you want to start an events and wedding business?
PR: We did a wedding for my sister-in-law at her home and I knew I loved teaching, but I didn’t think there would ever be anything I would enjoy as much as I loved teaching, and when I did that wedding it was so much fun. I’m so lucky I found something that I liked to do as much. Some people spend their whole lives and they don’t like their job. I’ve been lucky that I’ve had two. When I did that and I had retired, I knew I didn’t want to stay retired. I had to have something. I did one person, and another person asked me, and another person asked me, and before I knew it I had all these weddings booked.
WH: Was it always the plan to buy a place specifically for the business?
PR: The weddings were consuming my home. We found out that the Sease home [now Southern Oaks] went up for sale, and the whole process of buying it went smoothly. The family owned it for over 200 years. They’re thrilled with what we’re doing with it.
WH: The house has a stately, Victorian style. Did you decorate all of it?
PR: I did decorate all of it. I looked back at pictures of the way it was and tried to reiterate. Of course, we changed the chandeliers, we did some painting, we found antique furniture to match what I found in the photos. I thought it would be nice for bridal shots. Everybody likes rustic for weddings now, but inside it’s still pretty traditional.
WH: What has been the most difficult part about maintaining the business?
PR: I don’t think it’s really been all that difficult. Everything has just kind of fallen into place with what we’ve needed to do. It has gone so smoothly, it’s almost scary. All the way from the contractors coming in right on time. My daughter wants to be an art teacher, but she loves doing this kind of stuff, and it’s something I’ve been hoping we can do together, and my son wants to go to med school, so this is something he can do through college, but this is something my husband and I would like to retire doing and then she can kind of take over. My daughter helps with the photography and all my crafts and all my florals. We do everything with the wedding from start to finish, except for the invitations.
WH: What are some things you do to ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible for your weddings and events?
PR: I start from the time the bride arrives. I have everything on a sheet of paper of what all we’re going to need. We start two days in advance decorating. Decorations I think are where I’m getting the business I’m getting. They show me Pinterest pictures, so I try to recreate what I see from those pictures for the bride. And my husband can build anything they’ll want built. And my goal from that moment on is to keep the bride as calm as possible. We’re always going to try to do the best we can.
WH: What makes an event special for you? Do you have any favorites that you’ve done so far?
PR: I’d have to say my sister’s-in-law was my favorite. Probably because she was my sister-in-law. She really wanted this perfect wedding, and financially they couldn’t do it. I got her daughter to start finding pictures she knew her mom liked. That’s what got me hooked–when she showed up and started bawling and said, “How did you know to do all this?” That just made it all worthwhile. That’s what got me hooked, and that’s been my most memorable one by far.*