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May 1, 2023

A Tale of Modern Romance: Online Dating App leads to Lowcountry Dream Wedding

Cheryl Ricer

Photography By

About seven years ago, Hayley Edwards, who was born and raised on Hilton Head Island, was working at a law firm in Columbia, S.C. Stephen Pournaras was a third-year medical student at the University of South Carolina, Columbia. Because the two of them were focused on advancing their careers, neither had much time to meet […]

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About seven years ago, Hayley Edwards, who was born and raised on Hilton Head Island, was working at a law firm in Columbia, S.C. Stephen Pournaras was a third-year medical student at the University of South Carolina, Columbia. Because the two of them were focused on advancing their careers, neither had much time to meet potential dates in the traditional way.

“It was also difficult because we were living in a college town,” Edwards said, “and meeting people who were interested in an actual relationship was hard.”

Hayley walks down the aisle with her father, George Edwards.

So, as many singles do, they turned to an online dating app. In Tinder, users “swipe right” to like or “swipe left” to dislike other users’ profiles, which include their photos, a short bio, and a list of their interests. The app uses a “double opt-in” system whereby both users must like each other before they can exchange messages. 

Once the couple matched on Tinder, they talked on the phone for more than a month before their first date at a sushi restaurant in Columbia. “He called me right before I arrived at the restaurant to tell me he hadn’t made a reservation, so there was a very long wait. And to this day, he still doesn’t like to make reservations,” Edwards laughed.

The couple took things slowly until Pournaras’ fourth year of med school when they began to date more regularly. “We waited almost one year to officially call ourselves boyfriend and girlfriend because we didn’t want to jinx our relationship by moving too fast,” Edwards said. “We knew we wanted to work towards a forever love, a healthy relationship, and really get to know one another.”

However, Pournaras’ rotations during that year, then a general surgery residency in Wake Forest once he graduated, followed by his taking a job at New York Presbyterian in Lower Manhattan meant a long-distance relationship for them. “We think that being long distance for two years helped us grow in our relationship since we were constantly communicating,” Pournaras said.

The real test, though, came in the form of their respective canines, Edwards’ German Shepherd rescue, Stella, and Pournaras’ Husky, Rocky.

“I was really glad our dogs got along because if they hadn’t, I knew it would’ve been Stella over me,” Pournaras said.

After two years of Edwards traveling back and forth to New York, she decided to move to Brooklyn to be with Pournaras where they currently live.

The proposal

In March of 2022, Edwards and Pournaras were on vacation in Long Boat Key, Florida. They met up with some friends for dinner at Shore. After dinner, they walked to the dock for photos, and before Edwards knew what was happening, Pournaras was down on one knee holding out the engagement ring. A two-carat brilliant cut solitaire with diamonds around the band, it is the ring Edwards picked out after they’d been dating for two years. 

“I actually picked out the ring with both of our moms,” she said. “I went separately with each of them trying on all different things, and I kept coming back to the same ring—just a round stone, very simple and classic. It’s beautiful and I love it.”

Having their good friends at the proposal made the event extra special. “Them being there to take photos and videos of the whole thing was great,” Pournaras said. “Then seeing Hayley’s face once I proposed, seeing the tears, her saying yes, and having all of that recorded is priceless for me.”

The men take a few minutes to relax before showtime.

The wedding 

“Hayley and Stephen chose to have their wedding at the most breathtaking venue in the Lowcountry, the Belfair Country Club,” said Christine Clancy from Beth Baldwin Weddings. “I worked with Hayley and Stephen from the very beginning—from the venue tour, food tastings, meeting with the DJ, creating the floor plan, timeline, and logistics of the day, even down to the napkin fold and perfect placement of the chocolates.”

Beth Baldwin Weddings has worked with many local vendors throughout the years, and because of these great relationships, communication is seamless. “Throughout the planning process, the timeline is my lifeline, with all the key information I need to take the stress off the couple,” Clancy said, “whether it is the make-up schedule to the grand sparkler exit, with all the details and logistics in between.”

Interestingly, Edwards booked Belfair as the wedding venue two weeks prior to Pournaras’ proposal. She admits that she knew the proposal was coming, just not exactly when. Because she knew she wanted to get married in the Hilton Head area, and knowing how far in advance everything fills up, she was smart to plan ahead.

The bridal party poses for a few robe shots before getting into their dresses.

“Belfair was one of the last places that still had a March date available,” Edwards said, “so I jumped on it and locked in the date. It couldn’t have worked out more beautifully. The Avenue of the Oaks is just breathtaking and made for the most amazing photos and such a dramatic entrance.”

Belfair makes a lovely statement as a wedding venue. Upon entering the gates, guests are immediately enchanted with the magnificent half-mile oak-lined drive, dramatic marsh, river views, secluded wetlands and hidden lake. Belfair offers a combination of old Southern tradition with contemporary luxury to make a wedding both unique and memorable.

“Hayley and Stephen’s ceremony and cocktail hour were in the formal garden at Belfair, which is in the back of the property overlooking the river,” said Jessica Lineman, event coordinator at Belfair. “Four lush green quadrants frame a gorgeous fountain. For the reception, they moved into our Oak Dining Room where guests feasted on authentic South Carolina Lowcountry cuisine and a wedding cake from Ronnie’s Bakery, the couple’s favorite sweet shop.”

The couple says “I do” against the gorgeous backdrop of the Belfair Clubhouse.

The Bridgerton-inspired décor theme was embellished with white-, pink-, and cream-colored roses—some as big as baseballs—and simple greenery. The groom’s mom surprised Edwards with extra florals, including an arbor of flowers that made a great spot for photos.

Wedding favors for the guests were from The Island Fudge Shoppe. “I grew up on the same street as the Robinsons who own the shop. It was special to have their chocolates in our wedding, and they were so beautifully made,” Edwards said.

Edwards’ wedding dress was from Pronovias in New York City, and the groom wore a traditional tux.

“Pronovias is actually a specific designer,” Edwards said. “I got interested in Pronovias when I started watching Say Yes to the Dress and fell in love with their designs.”

The bridesmaids also wore designer dresses. The groomsmen wore traditional tuxes, with the groom’s distinction a peak lapel. The wedding party included friends from all over the country and the world, all of whom the couple treated to a welcome reception at the Old Oyster Factory the night before the wedding.

Mrs. Stephen and Christine Pournaras, the groom’s parents.

“Our flower girl and her father—one of my groomsmen, came from Paris with their family,” Pournaras said. “We met and became close friends when they were our next door neighbors in New York City. Our ring bearer’s parents are longtime friends of Hayley’s from Hilton Head. Another groomsman—my medical school roommate—traveled from Switzerland to stand up for me.”

Perhaps the most important member of the wedding party was the couple’s current dog, Callie, a mini Goldendoodle, who was their flower fur girl. This was a dog trick they say they couldn’t have pulled off without the assistance of one of Edwards’ closest friends, local singer Candice Skingley, and their photographer, Anne Caufmann.

“Candice had sourced and assisted in the execution of Callie’s transport to and from the wedding venue,” Edwards said, “and Christine mapped out who would leash the dog during the wedding and who would be responsible for giving her treats to manage her behavior while she was walking down the aisle. Then Anne and her team were wonderful and able to get Callie’s attention for key photos.”

Hayley and Stephen pose with their golden-doodle, Callie.

Aside from capturing perfect images of Callie, Caufmann’s team was well acquainted with the venue and knew exactly where to stage the photos at the exact time of day. She was also able to direct a large wedding party, using her creativity to deliver the exceptional photos the couple expected.

The parents

The bride’s parents are Mr. and Mrs. George and Pamela Edwards, who’ve been married for 35 years. “My mom was on the Beaufort County Board of Education growing up and just retired on March 30, 2022, after working at Carr Legal Group,” Edwards said. “For many years, my dad owned a small contracting business on the island.”

The groom’s parents are Dr. and Mrs. Stephen W. and Christine Pournaras. “My dad is also an orthopedic surgeon, and I am their first-born and his name’s sake who followed in his footsteps,” Pournaras said. “My mom is a nurse practitioner who just started an aesthetics practice.”

Both sets of parents are thrilled about the union and extremely happy that the couple was blessed with so many wonderful friends in attendance at their wedding and the perfect weather that truly was the icing on the cake. 

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