Inspiration | Gillian Ellis of Coastal Bride


Revered for time-honored traditions, stunning backdrops of historic churches and monogrammed everything, Southern weddings are a favourite of more and more couples looking to get hitched. At a Southern wedding, you can expect guests’ attire to be bright and whimsical while the bride wears lace, pearls or a combination of both. There is a good chance there will be lemonade and mint juleps on tap and we can bet there will be at least one dish with shrimp, biscuits, bbq or grits. A rain plan is a must in the South, but with any luck the skies will be blue and the sun shining on the big day…

For all the rest, expert Southern wedding blogger Gillian Ellis prepares couples with invaluable insight and over a decade of experience in the industry. Her five year-old blog, Coastal Bride is the preeminent source of bridal inspiration in the Southeast United States, brimming with inspiration on wedding decor, bridal style, DIYs and vendors in the Southeast. Coastal Bride’s aesthetic is light and appropriately coastal, highlighting gorgeous real weddings and engagements. It functions as half submission-based, half produced by Ellis, meaning that she takes about half of the photography she features and the rest is by other top photographers. In this way, Ellis is able to blend her passion for photography with her eye for design and content creation. Based in Charleston, South Carolina, Ellis travels around the Southeast for unique venues, wedding ideas and stories that make the heart melt.

Born in New Delhi, Ellis spent her childhood traveling abroad in China, Russia and England as her father, a news photographer followed assignments. With a love for culture instilled early in her life, she was drawn to art and beautiful destinations, which has influenced her work today. She majored in Art and worked for a large gallery in New York where she curated shows and worked with top artists. While Ellis loved the art world, she soon realised that she preferred to work on the creative side rather than in management. She eventually moved to Charleston where she took an internship with a wedding photographer before starting her own wedding photography business with her father. She believes Charleston to be the perfect place for weddings saying, “Charleston and other coastal cities in the South offer incredible guest experiences. We have beaches, the historic downtown and plantations, cobblestone streets and incredible restaurants. Charleston offers a lot for the wedding weekend, not just for the day.” According to Ellis, 90% of weddings in Charleston are destination with many people traveling down south for a sunny extravaganza.

Like many in the blogging biz, Ellis’ brainchild began as a side project. She worked for eight years in her wedding photography business before deciding it was time to share weddings as a form of inspiration for others. “I wanted couples to be influenced by really great work,” she explained. “Brides and grooms are first time buyers and there is nothing worse than getting your photos back and having them not look the way you want them to.” For this reason, Ellis advocates doing your research before selecting your photographer, which involves not only looking at others’ weddings, but also meeting your potential photographer in person. “Your wedding photographer will be with you more than anyone else on your wedding. When you look at their portfolio, pay close attention to their family photos and speeches because it’s very important that they are able to capture your emotions.”

Coastal Bride is now a full-time, successful business recently nominated for a prestigious H+M Bloglovin’ Award in New York City. Over the years, it has collaborated with large companies from Lindt Chocolate to Plum Pretty Sugar, Progressive Insurance, World Market and Oriental Trading. Ellis’ work has appeared on The Weather Channel in the United States, Popsugar and Brit + Co. She is a founding member of Aisle Society, a website that features 30+ of the world’s top wedding blogs, amassing a readership of over 10 million. In her spare time, Ellis has also founded Charleston Blog Society, a group of lifestyle bloggers in Charleston who meet monthly to discuss the blogging industry, visit new businesses and take an Instagram-worthy photo (or five). She also does Family Photography (think all-white outfits on the beach at sunset).

For inspiration of her own, Ellis’ looks to other bloggers as well as Pinterest, a favourite of many brides looking to save their ideas into organised categories. Wedding blogs Ellis frequents include Grey Likes Weddings, Bespoke Bride and Something Turquoise. For lifestyle advice and trends, she reads The Style Scribe and The Stripe. Some of her favourite trends this year include ceremony decor. “People are recently really into round flower arches at their ceremonies, which adds a nice frame to the couple when they stand in front of it,” she said. “I’ve also seen a lot of acrylic at weddings: on place-cards, chairs, signage, vases, etc.” When asked about wedding dress style, Ellis expressed that she thinks Meghan Markle is the big influencer of the year. “Whereas there has been more lace in previous years, I think boatneck and simple gowns will come into fashion thanks to Meghan Markle.”

Another trend she has seen are fun, bespoke themes for hen do’s. Ellis recently planned a mermaid-themed hen party in collaboration with Oriental Trading… “Mermaids are really popular this year,” she explained. There were Message in a Bottle party favors and handmade sea glass centerpieces with shells to add a beautiful and creative touch to the party. According to Ellis, one fun DIY that brides should consider are unique gifts to ask their friends to be bridesmaids. Coastal Bride’s most popular DIY ever was a handmade heart piñata that when opened, said, “Will you be my Bridesmaid?” These small, clever gifts show you really care and will be remembered always!

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