When Worlds Collide

When Worlds Collide | A globe-trotting couple lands in the Lowcountry for nuptials with a multicultural twist

Bonnie Wong & Neal Shah
May 3, 2015 
Lowndes Grove Plantation


When you know, you know. Case in point: just two months after Bonnie Wong first spotted Los Angeles native Neal Shah on campus at the University of Southern California, he was on a plane heading to her home in Hong Kong for a summertime visit. Fast-forward seven years and the couple hasn’t lost an affinity for ocean hopping­—they’ve visited 35 cities across 18 countries together thus far. “They say traveling is the biggest test to a relationship,” says Bonnie. “And I think the fact that we can handle being nomads in unknown places and still feel grounded in each other is a great indication of our ability to get through this beautiful life together.”

On one such trip­—this time to the Philippines—Neal planned to propose on an open-air boat tour of the Puerto Princesa Underground River. After a fellow passenger caught him looking at the ring, news spread in a flash from bow to stern. “I held my finger to my lips to let everyone know that it was a secret,” says Neal. And while most of those surrounding the couple kept quiet, by the time Neal popped the question, every passing boat in the narrow waterway was onto him and cheered. “It was incredibly loud from all the echoes,” laughs Neal. “It seriously felt like a movie.”

After enthusiastically agreeing to his proposal, Bonnie wasted no time and hopped online that very day to start planning. Having had Charleston in mind for her wedding since she visited as a teenager (her mother is from South Carolina), she landed on the Lowndes Grove Plantation website. In short order, armed with mounds of inspiration by way of Pinterest and a favorite sari palette of powder blue, yellow, and gold, she engaged the team at Loluma to pull everything together stateside while she remained at home in Hong Kong with Neal.

Months later, the couple welcomed friends and family to the Lowcountry with a lineup of parties that included a Chinese tea ceremony to honor her heritage and an Indian garden party to celebrate his. And on the actual wedding day, Neal encountered one last cultural adventure: a traditional Chinese wedding game in which the groom answers a litany of relationship questions to earn the right to be presented to his bride. (Bonnie’s bridesmaids had posted the questions on cards, then tied them to a cord that wended through the parlor rooms in Lowndes Grove. Bonnie held the far end, listening and laughing as Neal answered his way to her). Once the test was passed and the couple reunited, they headed outside where they were wed under the oaks on the banks of the Ashley River. And after that? They jetted off, of course, this time to Tulum, Mexico, for their honeymoon. 

Vendor List:

Wedding design, florals, signage, love sign, map seating chart: Loluma, www.Loluma.com

Photography: Hyer Images, www.HyerImages.com

Venue, wine and bar service, catering: Patrick Properties Hospitality Group, www.PPHGCharleston.com

Cake: Jessica Grossman, Patrick Properties Hospitality Group Pastry Chef, www.PPHGCharleston.com

Rentals: Snyder Event Rentals, www.SnyderEvents.com

Bed swing: Ooh! Events, www.TheArtOfCreating.com/OohEvents

Edison bulb lighting: Technical Event Company, www.TechnicalEventCompany.com

Linens: BBJ Linen, www.BBJLinen.com

Stationery: Wedding Paper Divas, www.WeddingPaperDivas.com

Paper goods, signage: Lauhaus.co

Bride’s attire: Marchesa, www.facebook.com/MarchesaFashion (gown); Vera Wang, www.VeraWang.com (bolero, veil); Doloris Petunia, www.DolorisPetunia.com (hair accessory)

Bride’s reception attire: Custom-made

Beauty: Bellelina, www.Bellelina.com (makeup); Gibson Hair + Makeup, www.CharlestonHairAndMakeup.com (hair)

Bridesmaids’ attire: Custom-made

Groom and groomsmen’s attire: Custom-made