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rebecca+eric: a wedding at the city club in downtown wilmington

downtown wilmington nc newlyweds wedding

Life is funny. Several years back, right around the beginning of the economic collapse, the wedding industry started drying up. It wasn’t DEAD, but it sure felt like it as I went from having chaotic, full years to having only a few weddings scattered throughout the year. They were tough bookings then, too – no one knew what financial calamity was around the bend, so couples were putting their weddings off, or minimizing all of their plans dramatically – big, ornate weddings with 200+ guests became small backyard affairs with a handful of friends and family. The country was downsizing, and weddings were no exception.

Coincidentally, this nationwide downsizing resulted in a never-before-seen influx of new photographers to the industry – so, as we struggled to book half our years, the competition grew by a factor of ten or greater, most offering cut-throat pricing and infectious enthusiasm, making the recession even harder to get through without taking on the dreaded DAY JOB.

It was hard, I won’t lie. I networked and marketed, spent money I didn’t have on advertising and website upgrades, offered discounts and specials, slashed pricing, bartered and negotiated. The business was falling way short of where it needed to be, and after struggling for what seemed like an eternity, I finally cried UNCLE and looked for a job. (There’s a point to this, I swear!)

I managed to fall into an administrative position with a physician recruiting firm. It was a surprisingly great job with really wonderful people. I met hundreds of physicians, learned all about health insurance and hospital hiring practices, and gained a great deal of knowledge in an area I’d never even thought about before. The job got me through some of the hardest times in the recession, and made it possible for me to keep the business alive and running while the market was in the pinch. I left that job when weddings started roaring again and I could no longer balance the two priorities, but I didn’t leave empty handed. One of my co-workers was Eric, who years later would pop up to let me know he and his long-term girlfriend were (finally) planning their wedding, and would I shoot it for them?

custom invitation wilmington nc wedding

You’re damn skippy I will! I’d always liked Eric – he was the three-parts-cool, one-part-geeky guy in the office who always had great music playing and the best comebacks during staff meetings. He was always pleasant and witty, easy to work with, and one of those people you don’t soon forget. My friendship with Eric didn’t extend outside of the office walls when we worked together, but I knew just from the 9-5 times I’d spent around him that his wedding would be very, very cool.

getting ready for the wedding at the city club in wilmington nc bride gets ready at the city club

Rebecca is a graphic artist. An extremely talented, intense, passionate person with this quietly frenetic demeanor that you can’t help but fall in love with every time you’re around her. She designed their wedding stationery herself around the wedding colors and her incredible sense of balance and hip elegance – in fact, she designed every aspect of the wedding, all the decor, the colors, the floral ideas, all of it in like some crazy-making timeframe, like two months or something. We’re in our ninth month of being engaged and I haven’t even begun to figure out the details – it’s beyond me how Rebecca managed everything she did in such a short amount of time.

putting on makeup city club wedding bride watching guests arrive at the city club in downtown wilmington city club wedding father of the bride gives her a big hug before she walks down the aisle succulents and yellow flower bouquets city club

The City Club was a fantastic backdrop for their wedding – gorgeous greenery and florals in the garden, elegant manor for the dinner, it all worked so well with Rebecca and Eric’s subtle country-city vibe.

ceremony at the city club in downtown wilmington nc groom kisses bride

Oh god this ceremony was so great. Most couples try really hard to keep their ceremonies under five minutes, usually out of respect for a tight timeline or for their guests. But there’s something really special about a ceremony that takes its time. Where the officiant gives the event some attention, gives their histories a bit of the spotlight, where the ceremony is a story on its own. I don’t think this ceremony lasted more than ten minutes (which is, in real life, a very long time), but it felt like it flew by, because every second there was another hilarious moment, another tear-jerking reading, another unforgettable expression, and it all needed to be captured. I don’t think Mike and I have ever shot as many frames during a ceremony. There was just too much to see.

ceremony at the city club

There are few things more emotionally satisfying in our job than watching a newlywed bride and groom get almost clobbered by their friends after the ceremony, in a show of elation and love and joy.

Everyone was thrilled. Everyone basked in the reality that yes, they were finally married after all these years :). Yes, all the hard work had paid off – and the hardest part was over. MARRIED – and now drink and dance and barhop. It’s such a juxtaposition from the moments before a ceremony… all the stress and nervousness washes away the moment the bride and groom walk back down the aisle hand in hand. This delightful transition from subdued reverence to no-holds-barred elation, and it happens at almost every single wedding. Some are more outrageous than others, of course. Some couples surround themselves with people who invest all their emotions into that one day, and that’s when you see the biggest payoff after the ceremony. There’s really nothing quite like it, and every time I see these displays of raw joy, I’m thankful for the career path I chose.

wedding party group shot downtown wilmington brick wall bridesmaids and groomsmen in downtown wilmington wedding

Rebecca and Eric are exactly the same one-on-one as they are in front of their friends, their families, their distant relatives and co-workers. They’re genuine people, no fakery, no BS. Getting them away from their wedding party for the “alone” shots wasn’t much like it is at most other weddings – we probably could have had the whole crew tag along and Rebecca and Eric wouldn’t have been the least bit phased. They didn’t breathe easier when the crowd was dismissed. They didn’t change their demeanors, or become more snuggly or affectionate. They just WERE, and they continued to BE, and that was that. This, by the way, is a unique character trait and if you know people like this you know exactly what I mean. I have the greatest admiration for people who are always true to themselves.

bride and groom in downtown wilmington brick wall

city club at derosset wedding wooden wedding band and engagement ring on flowers and succulents

You should know that Eric made his own wedding band, and that aside from the physician recruiting gig, he’s a solid, talented woodworking craftsman.

Their first dance was to “Sweet Avenue” by Jets to Brazil. A perfect song for them, I think. This was another long moment that I wished would never end. The only way I can describe their first dance… you know that moment when you’re with someone you love, and the world drops away, and there’s nothing there, no one there, but you and your love? That moment when you realize the world has kept moving on without you, but you didn’t miss a thing because you were perfectly content locked in a gaze, in a conversation, in a bout of laughter with that one person who means more to you than anything or anyone else in the world? That was their dance. They were together. With occasional glimpses outside of their bubble to acknowledge their friends on the sidelines, they danced the entire five minute song in complete solitude. Together. It almost felt voyeuristic to photograph them in this moment, because it was, truly, theirs.
first dance at city club in wilmington bride and groom city club wedding
My god I loved that dance.
city club reception
The rest of the evening was a blur of sweaty dancing and drinking, cut short by a barhopping announcement at the end of their time at the Club. They did manage to squeeze about an hour of some good, solid, high-energy dancing into the night, all before the sun went down, and then I think they headed on to Front Street to finish the night out on barstools around our awesome downtown.
city club bride and groom dancing at their wedding reception
I’m not going to pretend that every wedding in the world is perfectly suited to the couple hosting it. I won’t lie to you and say that ALL of our couples throw a party that consistently reveals who they are at every turn. Most weddings are a great combination of personality and expectation, and some couples even manage to blur the line so it isn’t clear where their personalities end and their families’ expectations begin. Some couples say “screw expectation” and just do their own thing (see: Amy and Neal). Some couples have a much harder time finding themselves IN their wedding for all the expectations and traditions they must abide by.
Rebecca and Eric, though – they took a different route. They threw a party that was distinctively THEM, with details that fit perfectly in every way, with a vibe that flowed from their laid back personalities into every guest and every piece of the day. They didn’t go into kitschy land, they didn’t veer off into an “offbeat” world, they weren’t showy, and it was quite clear that they weren’t TRYING to make the day about anything other than their marriage. That’s what made it different. It wasn’t about the succulents or the wooden ring. The mason jars were just a part of things, not the defining feature. They weren’t trying to SAY something with their wedding. Just like they are in real life, their wedding just was.
Ceremony Guitarist: Travis Price
DJ: Kevin Durant (friend)