The magic of food and wine and its transformative power to bring people together is at the heart of Marie Stitt and Edward Crouse’s love story.

Marie, a sales manager for Grassroots Wine in Charleston, SC, comes by her passion for food and wine honestly. Her experience in the culinary world runs much deeper than your average epicure. Her father is Chef Frank Stitt, whose Birmingham, AL, restaurant Highlands Bar & Grill won this year’s James Beard Award for Most Outstanding Restaurant in America, the culinary equivalent of the Oscar for Best Picture. So, Marie’s childhood was filled with behind-the-scenes culinary excitement and pure epicurean wonderment. “What I remember about growing up in the restaurants is the fun moments like chasing the cooks around the kitchen with live soft-shell crabs, convincing Wayne ‘The Pain’ at the bar to sneak me some olives, raiding the walk-in (and now wine cellar) on the weekends with my dad and the prandial magic of watching the thrill of service happening all around you,” says Marie. “Growing up in the restaurants and with parents who had such reverence for food, farmers and communing at the table is certainly what set me on my career path in wine.”

Edward and Marie make for such a beautiful pair.

Horses on Marie’s family farm graze among the trees.

It was while studying for her master’s in Food Culture and Communication in Northern Italy that Marie first ran into Sarasota, FL, native Edward — literally. “We had a pretty funny run-in when we were both biking to class one day and remained friends while our time in Italy overlapped,” says Marie. But it wasn’t until a year later in the states that the two reconnected — again through a mutual love of food and dining. Edward, who owns a small wild truffle distribution company, was passing through Charleston and looked on Facebook to see if he knew anyone in town with whom he could grab a bite. Marie popped up.

“He reached out to me, and we ended up having a blast dining around town and talking nonstop the whole night,” says Marie. “A week later when he was going to be driving through Charleston again, he reached out and I told him I wasn’t in Charleston, but for him to come to Pawleys Island where I was that weekend — not explicitly mentioning that it was my annual family reunion. So he came and immediately charmed my whole family. By the end of the night he was drinking whiskey with my uncle and dancing with my grandmother, Big Amy.”

The two started dating long distance, and a year and a half later, Edward moved to Charleston.

This laid-back bride chose her dress with comfort in mind. She headed to bridal shop, White on Daniel Island, where she knew they carried Jenny Packham gowns. “Jenny Packham’s gowns are so gorgeous with unbelievable detail, but wearing them feels like you’ve just tossed on a luxurious silk slip — very important for dancing into the night,” says Marie with a smile. “My mom and mother-in-law were both with me, which was very sweet. We all immediately knew when I put on ‘the one.’”

Marie couldn’t say enough about her talented floral artist, Holly Carlisle of Rosegolden. “Holly was amazing to work with. The floral design was a huge part of the ceremony and reception,” she says.

Dapper groom Edward’s original proposal plan in Colorado was slightly thwarted by a snafu during a rental car swap the day before, when he accidentally left his backpack, which contained the ring, in the wrong car. Luckily, the car had been rented by two ladies antiquing in Southern Colorado, who were kind enough to ship the backpack to the couple. “So Edward proposed without a ring, but it didn’t matter,” says Marie, who is still absolutely smitten.

In the summer of 2016, while on vacation in Colorado and surrounded by breathtaking mountains, Edward proposed. “It was perfect. I was completely surprised, and the proposal was followed by a stunning hike and then several more days of vacation,” says Marie, adding, “We were over the moon!”

When it came to planning the wedding, this wine aficionada and bride-to-be’s first order of business was pre-ordering two Nebuchadnezzar (15-liter bottles) of grower champagne. The second priority for this fun-loving couple was to book the band. “My family loves to dance, and we knew a knock-out band with a horn section would be such a blast for them,” says Marie, who knew her ideal venues since girlhood. “I’ve pretty much always known if I ever got married, I wanted it to be in Alabama and for the party to be at Bottega, a restaurant my dad and stepmother Pardis have owned and operated in Birmingham since 1988,” she says. “My young mind was dazzled after seeing both Dad and Pardis’ and Pardis’ sister Roxanna’s reception there years ago. The building is so grand and romantic, but also I grew up having pizza parties there as a child, and so it felt glamorous but also like home.”

The couple chose another very meaningful spot for the ceremony. “Dad and Pardis’ farm just outside of Birmingham is one of the most peaceful, calming places I know. The sound of the wind through the trees there always centers me. We thought this quiet place was the perfect spot for our friends and family to gather around us as we were married.”

Marie says she couldn’t have done it without the guidance of her wedding planner, Christopher Confero. “He was a blast to work with and had so many great ideas about the design and flow of the time at the farm and at the reception, the guest experience at the ceremony, small ‘moments’ throughout the evening,” she says.

Holly Carlisle of Rosegolden created this magnificent floral arbor to frame the couple during the ceremony.

The floral design was central to the ceremony and reception decor. Marie turned to Holly Carlisle, the artistic genius behind Rosegolden. “We wanted the look to be organic and a little wild with flowering branches and hints of blush and gold, which were subtle colors in my dress,” says Marie. For the “aisle” at the farm, they cut a path through the tall grass, and Holly lined the aisle with tall branches adorned with ribbons. “Every breeze gently lifted the ribbons, and it created this magical, fairytale atmosphere,” says Marie.

But for all the stunning visual beauty of the wedding, Marie notes that, after working with pastor Gates Shaw, her focus shifted to the unseen beauty of the special day. “Having our loved ones there with us for our vows, the readings and the marriage ceremony was really what mattered most.”

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On the afternoon of the ceremony, 200 of Marie and Edward’s dearest friends and family members gathered on the gorgeous Alabama family farm, warm breezes blowing through the grass, soft ribbons and wild petals aflutter. Before the ceremony began, the couple had guests pass around their rings, bestowing actual touches of love upon the rings before they exchanged them. “There were so many magical moments, but what left me breathless and makes me teary was our ceremony,” says Marie. Pastor Gates Shaw thoughtfully wove in elements of the couples favorite poetry; sweet tears accompanied heartfelt vows; rings were exchanged; and the loving couple walked back up the grassy aisle, aglow in smiles, as husband and wife.

A sweet flower girl rushes down the aisle.

Marie looks down the grassy aisle toward her groom in complete wonderment.

Marie was escorted down the aisle by her mother and father.

This intimate, pastoral wedding is truly idyllic.

“Pastor Gates Shaw so thoughtfully wove in the messages from our readings — two of my favorite poems, ‘Having a Coke with You’ by Frank O’Hara and ‘On Blossoms’ by Lee Young-Li,” says Marie.

“Gates Shaw made the ceremony and vows so personal and beautiful,” says Marie.

You may kiss the bride!

The happy couple walks back up the aisle under a shower of flower petals.

Marie and Edward make their way, via a gorgeous vintage Mercedes, to the reception at Bottega.

After the ceremony, the guests enjoyed a cocktail hour on the farm, then as dusk settled over Birmingham, everyone headed to Bottega, where they were regaled with fabulous live music and even more exquisite food and drinks. Marie, her father and Edward — a trifecta of culinary masterminds — worked together on the menu, creating an unforgettable evening of epicurean delights, including a seafood bar and caviar station as well as a huge table on the patio filled with incredible food and lovingly dubbed “Big Mama.”

“We had sort of a high-low theme with oysters and caviar, but also fried chicken from Dyron’s,” says Marie. “We had a raw bar with oysters. There was a fish paillard, asparagus, roast pork, charcuterie … And at 10 p.m., we fired up the wood-burning oven and passed around pizzas.”

“I’m inspired by the drive, talent, insatiable curiosity and passion of my dad and [my stepmother] Pardis every day. Food and restaurants have always been a huge part of our lives — my mom helped to open Highland’s and Bottega with my dad, and she is an amazing cook as well,” says Marie.

Holly Carlisle of Rosegolden created this dramatic green and white arrangement at the doorway to the restaurant.

RELATED: Holly Carlisle of Rosegolden: FACES of Birmingham

Cocktail hour included a rosé Champagne, A. Margaine; vermouth spritz cocktails on tap made by friends at The Ordinary in Charleston; and a non-alcoholic cocktail called a “Not Gin and Tonic”; along with caviar, fritto misto and beef carpaccio canapes.

Marie and Edward’s candlelit evening among their most beloved family and friends was simply unforgettable.

The newlyweds grab a moment alone with Marie’s father in a cozy nook in the back, before joining the reception.

Marie and Edward come down the stairs to greet their happy crowd of well-wishers.

Tents covered the patios of Bottega creating a gorgeous, illuminated canopy.

The bride and groom shared their first dance to “Crazy Love” by Van Morrison.

Marie, dancing with father Frank, and Edward did the father-daughter and mother-son dance at the same time to “Harvest Moon” by Neil Young.

Marie’s advice to brides embarking on their own wedding and marriage journeys is simple and humorous. She says, “It’s from my stepdad Rusty who told me, ‘Weddings come and go, but baseball is forever.'”

The couple escapes under a shower of sparklers toward their honeymoon in Tofino, a small surf town on the extreme Pacific Coast of Vancouver Island, where they stayed at the famous Wickaninnish Inn and went whale-watching.

To finish off the lovely couple’s menu, their unconventional “wedding cake” was Marie’s favorite dessert, tiramisu, made by none other than James Beard Award-winning Pastry Chef Dolester Miles, also of Highland’s Bar & Grill. Dolester has known Marie since she was born, watching the once little girl chase the chefs around the kitchen with live soft-shell crabs. Marie’s uniquely beautiful upbringing — woven through the culinary magic of farm fields, chefs’ kitchens, wine cellars and unparalleled family meals — nurtured a passion that led her to discover a new love in Edward.

Thank you for sharing your love story, Marie & Edward; May your delicious culinary adventures be rivaled only by your love-filled life journey together!

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RESOURCES:

Photography: Rylee Hitchner
Event and floral design: Holly Carlisle of Rosegolden
Event coordinator: Christopher Confero of Confero Custom Event Design
Ceremony venue: Stitt Family farm
Reception venue: Bottega Restaurant
Bride’s gown: Jenny Packham gown from White on Daniel Island
Hair: Mark at Forecast Salon
Makeup: Bride did her own makeup
Groom’s formalwear: Tux and custom vest from Sid Mashburn in Atlanta
Invitations, programs, menu cards & other signage: Studio R in Charleston
Gift boxes & other signage: Amberly Shelton Paperie
Cocktail party catering: Shindigs Catering with radishes from the Stitt Family farm and breadsticks from Savage’s Bakery & Deli
Reception catering: Bottega with fried chicken from Dyron’s Low Country, vermouth spritz cocktails on tap by The Ordinary & “wedding tiramisu” by James Beard Award-winning Pastry Chef Dolester Miles of Highland’s Bar & Grill
Music: Evolution Party Band
Morning Yoga in Railroad Park for wedding guests: Christine Caiola
Welcome party hosts: The Crouses
Welcome party venue: Jones Valley Teaching Farm
Welcome party catering: El Barrio Restaurante y Bar
Videographer: Paul Wages of Wages Films

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