Real Wedding: Abby McDougall & Ryan Olson

Love at First Sight

In the summer of 2007, which many of their close friends and family call “The Summer of Love,” Ryan Olson and Abby McDougall met at a fish fry at the McDougall home. Olson's brother, Erik, had just moved in across the street and he was visiting for the summer. To this day, Olson claims there was a light shining specifically on McDougall’s head when he first saw her. It’s his version of love at first sight.


It was the summer before McDougall’s first year at Clemson University, where Olson was conveniently heading into his junior year. It was not until the next summer of 2008 that they started exclusively dating. After five years of growing as a couple and enjoying life together, Olson popped the question on McDougall’s parent's dock in September 2013. It was the perfect location for an engagement, as they have spent many days enjoying the special place.

As the couple had been dating for quite some time, they did not find reason to have a long engagement. They found their venue — The River Club at Oldfield Plantation — and signed up for the next available date. Eight months after their engagement, McDougall walked down the aisle to exchange vows with Olson.

We asked her more about her beautiful wedding, her design inspiration, her favorite moments and more.

What kind of wedding did you envision? We both love the classic beauty of the Lowcountry, where we have made many great memories. It was only natural for our wedding day to reflect our laid-back love for the river and outdoors. In our hunt for wedding venues, this is what drew us to The River Club at Oldfield. Here, we exchanged vows under a driftwood arbor overlooking the beautiful Okatie River. A neutral palette guided our decor, incorporating natural foliage and local oyster shells.

The bridesmaids wore long, gray flowing gowns, while the groomsmen opted for classic black tuxes.

It was also important to us that our wedding be a celebration, where all guest are able to enjoy the evening with us. With this in mind, a live band was a must, along with a mingling reception accompanied by food stations and an open bar.

What was your biggest wedding splurge? The restoration of Ryan's 1967 Firebird. The Firebird was Ryan's first car in high school just over 10 years ago, and he always intended on restoring it with his father. The wedding date provided the timeframe needed to complete the project, with each of Ryan's family members joining in on the action. We decided to surprise our wedding guest by arriving to the reception in the car rather than following the rest of the wedding party down the River Club back stairs. It was a unique (and loud) entrance with the car announcing our arrival after Ryan and his brother made last-minute "adjustments" to the exhaust. The lighting design ensured the car was illuminated the entire evening and it was the perfect getaway car for us at the end of the celebration.

What were your favorite details? 

I had a few favorite details, with the first being Ryan’s blue suede tux jacket. When we were having his tux pants fitted, we came across the gem at a local men’s store. The spontaneous buy was just the right touch to have Ryan stand out from his groomsmen. I also treasured wearing my mom’s wedding veil. It was my something “old” and my favorite accessory. Lastly, we used my late grandmother’s silver candelabras to adorn the bridal party and family reception tables. They were the perfect vintage touch, and I know my grandmother would have been thrilled to see them used on our special day.

What were your favorite moments of the day? There were so many great moments and far too many to mention. Of course, the best part of the day was saying “I do” to my lifelong partner. Other highlights include overlooking the cocktail hour on the front steps of The River Club, taking in the once-in-a-lifetime experience; surprising our guests by arriving to the reception in the Firebird; listening to the fantastic speeches; and dancing in the rain until the night’s end.

Vendor Information
Bride’s Gown: Martina Liana from Gown Boutique of Charleston
Bridesmaid’s Attire: Donna Morgan from Gown Boutique of Charleston
Ceremony and Reception Location: The River Club at Oldfield Plantation
Officiant: Ellen Malphrus
Cake: Ali Roger with Pour Richard’s
Catering: Oldfield Plantation
Flowers and Driftwood Ceremony Arbor: Nancy Heird and Angela Mandigo with Gardenias on Hilton Head Island and Circle of Life
Ceremony Music: Lavon Stevens with The Jazz Corner
Reception Band: Crystal Clear Band via Sam Hill Entertainment 
Photographer: Leigh Hayward and assistant with Leigh Hayward Photography
Videographer: Vitor Lindo and assistant with Vitor Lindo Photography
Linens and Rentals: Roy's Place Cafe and Catering and The Tent Factory
Hair: Jessica Israel with Aqua Med Spa and Salon
Makeup: Lydia Ballesteros with Glam Artistry Productions
Wedding Design and Coordination: Abby Olson (bride), Diana McDougall (mother of the bride) and Fran McKinney 
Save the Dates: Photo by Becky Prescott and design by Jane Olson (mother of the groom)
Wedding Invitations: Gene Arrington with Pretty Papers and Gifts
Stationery: Budget Print