Category Archives: weddings
Here’s a ceremony photo from a wedding I shot in 2003.
Hmmm… something seems off. Help me out, what’s missing from this shot?
Let’s see one from the past year…
THERE WE GO. Much better. Guests should be so preoccupied with getting The Shot that they miss out on The Ceremony! Yay technology! </sarcasm>
Look, I don’t like the idea of telling guests to leave their cell phones in their cars, or that they’re not allowed to take pictures of an event that they are just as much a part of as anyone else. Guests have every right to bring cameras and take photos of the wedding they’ve been invited to – it’s their party too.
But DAMN, I wish guests would forget about their phones and cameras for the (average) eight minutes that an outdoor ceremony lasts.
Eight minutes. That’s all.
If you’ll be a guest at a wedding anytime soon, please bring your camera, and please use it liberally at the reception and cocktail hour, and before and after the ceremony. Please capture fun memories that are meaningful to you. Hey, sneak it out once during the ceremony to get a sweet shot of them at the altar.
But please, put it away and Be Present for them as they say their vows. They invited you because you are important enough to them to witness this monumental, life changing event. There’s a hired photographer there who’s been paid to record the event from start to finish and from every conceivable angle, so you don’t have to do that job! Your job is to be a witness for the couple that you love so much you traveled to be there for them. Do your job. Witness.
Relax, and breathe in everything that’s happening around you. Commit all of it to memory, where it will last decades longer than the snapshot will live on your phone.
Mike and I just love downtown Wilmington weddings. Well, we’re a little biased anyway. We met downtown. All of our first dates were downtown. We even got married downtown. If Mike hadn’t been so impatient, we would have gotten engaged downtown, but the reservations we had for dinner at Aubriana’s were like two days later than the day my ring arrived, and he couldn’t wait. YES THAT IS ADORABLE!!!
Amanda and David planned the perfect downtown Wilmington wedding at the Balcony on Dock. If you know where Yosake and The Husk are (on Front and Dock), Balcony is on the third floor of that building, making it an absolutely ideal spot for a wedding. The Husk is a great bar on the first floor – excellent spot for your wedding party to wind down before the ceremony! And you’re in prime barhopping territory there, so when the reception’s over, you can walk a half block in any direction and find a great bar!
After the ceremony, we did a little barhopping ourselves with the newlyweds. Well, we didn’t drink on our excursion, but we did hit up Duck & Dive on Dock Street, and Blue Post down near Water – both old Wilmington staples. We even got Amanda and David to play a little air hockey for us at Blue Post!
I love receptions like this. Tons of energy on a dance floor that is actually sized right for the crowd (a rarity!), lots of laughter and sexiness…
And couples like Amanda and David. No pretense, no bullshit. Just two people in love, spending a great day with the people who love them the most. Exactly what a wedding ought to be.
Congratulations, you two! I hope one day soon we’re able to get together for a beer and maybe a re-creation of that balcony shot!
Ceremony and Reception: Balcony on Dock
Catering: Balcony on Dock
Entertainment: Active Entertainment
Cupcakes and Cake: Winde Jackson
Back when I was trying – in vain – to make myself a home on Twitter, I found a retweet that was so insanely hilarious, I had to follow the original tweeter. Tweetist. Whatever. That guy’s name was Doug. Over the several years that followed, Doug and I kept in infrequent contact, by Facebook and Twitter and I think maybe even briefly on Myspace(? It was a long time ago). He was living only a few miles from Wilmington at the time, but we never did meet up for a bourbon the way we’d always planned; instead, we sent each other hilarious emails and direct messages, making fun of our own dire dating lives and the world in general.
We don’t really catch up anymore; in fact, it’s probably been three years now. But his name came up in the strangest of ways, when an email came through our inquiry form saying that he had referred us for a Raleigh wedding. Well, that really isn’t all that strange; the strange part is that Nicole, the bride who Doug sent our way, knew him pretty much the same way I did – in the social media way. We surmised that Doug may not even be a real person, as we settled the details of her wedding photography.
So here goes a quick list of the reasons I quickly fell in love with Nicole, Sal, and their wedding plans. (1) Nicole is Portuguese. I’m Portuguese! OK, so I’m like second-generation Azorean-American through my dad’s side, and Nicole’s mom is actually FROM the Azores, and my style of Portuguese is the Hawaiian kind, which is, shall we say, a bit less sophisticated and romantic… but still. Portuguese! (2) Sal. Come on. How many guys do you know named Sal? Don’t you imagine that every guy named Sal is gonna have the best laugh in the world? His name, alone, made me want to know him. (3) Sal’s Filipino. I’m not Filipino, but I grew up in Central Maui, parts of which we lovingly referred to as Little Manila. I knew I’d feel very “at-home” with his family, having spent so much of my life deciphering the Filipino accent. And eating lumpia. (4) I thought there would be Filipino and maybe even Portuguese food at the wedding. Lumpia. Linguica. Pancit. I was wrong, but whatever – the food at their wedding was AMAZING. (It still would have been nice to get one single lumpia).
This is the kind of couple who, from the outside looking in (via Facebook and Instagram and such), you’d imagine would throw a wedding full of crafty details, personal touches, just overflowing with *stuff* to show off how clever and brilliantly earthy they are (they are, by the way. clever and brilliantly earthy). But instead, they actually relied on their personalities and the bigness (yes, I said bigness) of their friendships to “decorate” their wedding.
You have to admire that. It’s what I set out to do when Mike and I planned our own wedding, but in the end I lost all my self-confidence, and bulked it up with lots of decor and interesting things to fill up the space. When our personalities, and the 60 people there to celebrate us, were more than enough to fill the room.
Lessons. I always learn them too late, but hopefully someone out there is reading this and takes a few notes. You can fill an empty space with laughter, love, music, and dance way cheaper and more easily than you can with painted doilies, twinkle lights, mason jars, and chair covers. All the extra stuff doesn’t matter. Just make sure your guestlist is right.
Ceremony: The Stone Chapel
Reception and Catering: Caffe Luna
Coordination and Flowers: C & D Events
DJ: Anything Music
Video: Rick Badger
Photo Booth: Kelly Ewards Photography
Hair: Alter Ego (Jennifer)
Dress: Bellissima of Salisbury
There’s a certain type of couple, and these are rare, whose personalities combine to create this quiet, warm, and peaceful calm… and everything they do, everyone they touch, is affected by it.
Even when there’s chaos (the threat of rain at an outdoor ceremony, forcing the barely-even-considered “Plan B” into place, for instance), that pervasive calm takes over, makes the unplanned feel like The Plan. Not even a set of too-loud speakers on the dance floor could wipe away the serenity that Sherri and Silas carry around with them.
Individually, these are wonderful people. Sherri: sweet and natural; Silas: charming and welcoming. Together, they’re magic. They both light up like Christmas trees when the other is around. One of my favorite parts of capturing their wedding day was exactly this – watching their faces, their bodies, their eyes and smiles and postures – transform, instantly, the moment the other was in view.
Their peaceful approach to life carried through their entire wedding day with simple attire and decor, a no-frills approach to every part of their wedding, the emphasis solidly on the Marriage, on Family, on Love and Friendship. Their priorities were so evident in every part of their wedding day. These are the weddings that should happen more often.
Ceremony and Reception: Sarah P. Duke Gardens
Coordination: Sally Oakley
Catering: Durham Catering
Flowers: Tre Bella Florist
DJ: Dave Mueller
I might have mentioned this before, in the post about their engagement session, or maybe the one about Jenny’s bridal portrait session… but Jenny and Kevin live in Hawaii. They’re from North Carolina originally, and may even be moving back out here in the next year or two, but for the last few years they’ve lived in the Aloha State (which explains the lei exchange in their reception photos a little further down the post)
You saw this car in the post about Jenny’s bridal portrait. And here’s the part where you’ll hate me if you’re into cars: I don’t remember what it was. It’s a Galaxie, I know that, but what year? I totally forget. I do know that it was restored beautifully by Kevin’s dad, and that it has the turning radius of a freight barge. Otherwise, I’m a bit on the clueless side.
So something you may not know about the Lebanon Chapel at Airlie Gardens is, it’s what we call a “one-shot church”. Technically, the Chapel allows more than one shot of the ceremony, but they’re pretty strict about it – Mike and I weren’t allowed to shoot from the time Jenny’s dad gave her away, to the time they were announced husband and wife. This is pretty common for Episcopalian churches and chapels, so we’ve definitely run across these rules before – and really, the Lebanon Chapel was a LOT more lenient than many others we’ve shot at.
So, we were stuck standing pretty far away from the chapel during the service… but fortunately for me, this beautiful little girl had to hang out far away too because I guess she was too loud to be inside…
….and she was more than happy to stand in for me as I faked out a quick portrait session that was actually focused on Kevin and Jenny inside the chapel…
There is nothing like late fall/early winter light.
I love this shot. It’s become one of my personal favorites. I think I might have it printed large for display someday. Maybe in the kitchen or the dining room. Cool old car, gorgeous wintry light, Oleander and Greenville Loop Road, and typical Wilmington traffic? It’s perfect.
Here’s what I love about referrals: getting to see the folks you worked with before, as old married couples. Here’s Katie and Matt, who got married at Lumina Hall about five or six months before Jenny and Kevin.
This series just makes me happy. Drew, the adorable brunette in the middle, is one of our dear friends, so maybe I’m biased because she looks so cute in each one of these shots, but I really love them very very much.
Jenny and Kevin… thank you. Thank you for letting us be a part of this day. If you do move back to Wilmington in the future, I hope you know we’ll be expecting more beers at Lighthouse. Also, please send manapua.
Ceremony: Lebanon Chapel at Airlie Gardens
Reception: Private Home
Catering: Pine Valley Market
Entertainment: Active Entertainment
Flowers: Island Florals and Eric Ennis (family friend)
Cake: Willy’s Bakery
Hair and Makeup: Blush Salon
Jenny is beautiful. She has those enviable doe eyes, hair that I would die for, a gorgeous body… and she lives in Hawaii.
Yeah, it’s okay to hate her.
Jenny’s portraits were made in her parents’ neighborhood, not far from Airlie Gardens (where Jenny and Kevin had their ceremony) and Wrightsville Beach (where we shot their engagement session). It’s a neighborhood not far off the main road, but when you’re there, you can’t even imagine the hustle and bustle being less than a mile away… it’s so quiet and pristine. Wilmington always has little surprises like that, and I love finding them.
Jenny, you were a beautiful bride. Everything about you – every last detail – was perfect. Mike and I loved working with you, we LOVED your wedding, and we love you guys! Please let us know when you’re back in town so we can grab a beer together and catch up!
Sometimes you get lucky.
Sometimes one of your best friends in the world meets her soulmate, falls in love, and gets engaged. And sometimes, if you’re really really lucky, you are the people she turns to for her wedding photography.
Sometimes, your friend decides she wants a rockabilly wedding on a decommissioned Battleship on the Cape Fear River. Yes, sometimes you’re really that lucky.
Sometimes, that best friend has a little girl who is best friends with your own little girl. And all the bestest friendses get to be together on one of the biggest days in all of their lives.
Joanna and Nathan have three little girls between them – and as of this writing, a little boy to follow! It’s nothing short of amazing to watch people you love dearly expand their hearts and homes and worlds to make a bigger family together. It’s… it’s just awe-inspiring.
You should know that Nathan’s last name is “King”. The crown, well, you know. The ODB on the iPhone? All Mike and the Best Man, Charles.
If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you might recognize Casey from our Fort Fisher portrait session (that was featured on Offbeat Mama) a while back. Casey was one of Joanna’s bridesmaids, and the craftmaster/cake-pop provider of the day. Shameless plug time: Poppinz Gourmet Cake Pops and Truffles is who you want to call for your wedding or event cake pops. Casey is a beautiful spirit who works way too hard and still seems to have enough time for everyone in her life… and I want her to find the greatest success.
So Joanna wanted to do a first-look with Nathan, mostly to calm both of their nerves before the ceremony, and to get some pre-ceremony pictures when we knew we’d still have plenty of time and before the chaos of post-wedding crazy hits.
This is where I almost lost it. I cry at every wedding, I won’t lie. I’m not jaded by the years of shooting, I can still be moved by a simple smile, a special song, a glance… I get to see these moments at every wedding, and I never know which moment, which part of the day, will bring on the waterworks, but they’ll come at some point.
But I can compose myself pretty easily. Usually. But not this time. Oh man, did I cry. I cried when they had their first look. I cried when I saw the light hitting the Battleship in the distance behind them as they talked quietly to each other in the tall grass. I cried when I watch Joanna walk down the aisle, I cried when Nathan’s little Abby ran up to him to give him a kiss at the ceremony. I was NOT strong. How could I be. These two amazing people waited a lifetime to find each other, and parted seas and climbed mountains to be together and make a life together, and here they were, making it legal. Making it official, with their three daughters dressed alike, watching, participating, and loving them. You would have been a blubbering mess, too.
Just… how beautiful is this? You don’t even need to know the backstory to appreciate how much JOY they’re sharing in these moments, you know? You can just feel it. You just know.
These beautiful girls are such a big part of our lives. The spunky middle-heighted child is our Ellie’s BFF. They get along mostly. Sometimes I wonder how they manage, what with all the fights and disagreements. But they’re nine and ten. I forget how moody I was at that age. I like to think I was an angel, but Mom tells me otherwise.
See Abby giving her Daddy a kiss before the ceremony? Is that not the most adorable thing ever? Right?
Their officiant is a friend of all of ours, Kris, who bartends at our favorite Downtown Wilmington bar, Cape Fear Wine and Beer. You should stop in and say hi to him sometime. He’s a riot. Also an ordained minister. You’d be surprised at how many people in downtown Wilmington happen to be ordained ministers.
Joy. I’m not sure how I caught any of these shots because my viewfinder was completely blurred by all my tears. Thank you autofocus.
Joanna did an amazing job of creating her look for the wedding day, and I think the photo below shows it off the best. She is positively STUNNING. Just a beautiful, glamorous, rockabilly bride, with the sweetest expressions in the world.
I don’t think there’s anything better than the look of adoration. Nathan’s got it for Jo in abundance. I’d put this picture in Target 5×7 photo frames all over the country if I could – it’s just happy and perfect.
Or maybe it’d be this picture. I mean, c’mon. Look at that family.
Fortuitous graffiti is fortuitous.
I’ve tried to write this blog post at least a dozen times now. I could type words for hours and still not quite describe the honor and the emotion of being such a big part of such an enormous day in the lives of people you love so very much.
To be chosen to document not only the new family with whom you’re so close, but to photograph all the mutual friends, the extended family you’ve grown to know and love over the years, and to be part of every group hug and every inside joke.
To be trusted with such a delicate and important job, by people you respect and admire.
YEAH I cried. If you must know, I’ve got a tear or two running down my cheeks right now. So?
It may be a statistical improbability that EVERY SINGLE COUPLE we work with is amazing, and I’m sure our readers get sick of the adjectives that I can’t stop using in these blog posts (amazing, incredible, fabulous, phenomenal, crazy, fantastic, unbelievable… my internal thesaurus doesn’t go far beyond those), but I have to do it again. SAM AND CHRIS ARE AMAZING.
I met them at a coffee shop in Carolina Beach about a month before their wedding. I wasn’t sure if they’d book; hell, from our email correspondence which was all fairly vague and inconsistent, I wasn’t even sure they’d show up for our consult. But the second Sam walked into the coffee shop, frazzled and all smiles, I knew she was a free spirit who I’d fall in love with.
The entire consult was just a mess of stories and gushing and laughter. When a consult veers from “all business” to “all laughter” I know we’ve found the perfect couple for our work and personalities. I left the coffee shop knowing that the wedding we were about to shoot a few weeks later would be a BLAST. I knew it would be a bit disorganized, heavy on the fun, and light on tradition. I knew that Sam and Chris trusted us completely, and that we would be free to work the way we work best, without being micromanaged or directed throughout the day. It takes a strong personality to let go of a part of your wedding and let the professionals handle it the way they need to; knowing that we gave Sam and Chris such confidence in our abilities thrilled me.
When we arrived at the Kure Beach house to start our coverage, things were mildly chaotic. Chris couldn’t find an ironing board. Bouquets were missing. The door to Sam’s room kept flying open with family members asking VERY IMPORTANT QUESTIONS of Sam (like, “did the yellow candle go in the blue vase, or somewhere else?”). Through it all, Sam kept this incredible calm about her.
I remember watching her as she stood beside the pool, arm in arm with her dad, waiting to walk down the aisle. She was smiling so big I thought her face would crack. I could tell she was jumping up and down on the inside, just wanting to get to that moment where she could see Chris, finally, after spending the last night apart and avoiding him all day. She BEAMED with excitement, she was warmth everywhere.
There’s a way to get amazing first dance shots, and it’s not easy. The couple has to let go. They have to completely immerse in one another and forget that a world exists outside of their dance. For some couples it’s easy; others are too nervous or too busy keeping time. Sam and Chris, though… they fell out of the real world the moment the first note of their song played. They were in their world the entire dance, and I love them for it. These are some of the best first dance pictures of 2012, and it’s all because they let go ofeverything but each other in those 4 minutes.
There was beer pong. That should tell you everything you need to know about how freaking cool these people are.
This shot of Chris’ grandma giving a speech during the toasts may be my favorite shot of 2012. LOOK AT THIS SHOT. It’s perfect. She is so beautiful.
Oh the dancing. This party got crazy, quick. When a few dozen people spend all day in a vacation home together, with a limitless supply of alcohol and dance music, things will get hot in a hurry. Even the kids were partying hard.
So much sexy. I can’t WAIT for their newlywed session when the weather warms up.
Limbo. For real, now, it’s been years since limbo has shown up at a wedding of ours. That’s a good way to revive photographers who are weary from 8 hours of running with their gear – start up the limbo. That shit’s fun to shoot.
Check out Mike all up in the action.
I could post more, but it’s all more of the same – lots of drunk dancing and singing and conga-lining and spilling beer and laughing and spinning and clogging and jumping and hugging. This is the advantage to having your wedding in a huge private home – the party can go on forever, and no one has to drive anywhere afterward.
When I think back to this wedding, I just remember Sam’s incredible smile and the way Chris looked at her all night long. The way they migrated toward each other through the dance floor every few songs, just to reconnect for a minute and to share their giddiness – WE’RE MARRIED!!!! How they grabbed us toward the end of the night and told us how much they love us and appreciate us and how thankful they were that we were there for them. How much it meant to us to hear those words. How we spent the entire drive home on a high from an intense shoot with people who were so much more than clients to us. How every last guest could have been one of our closest friends. We gushed the rest of the night and into the early morning about our good fortune, about how amazing it is to connect with people who we would never have met were it not for a series of internet events.
I don’t ever want to stop shooting weddings. Not when there’s a chance of being able to shoot weddings like this, even if they only come once in a blue moon. We love you, Sam and Chris, and we can’t WAIT to spend more time with you soon!!!
What do you get when you take a naturally beautiful woman with an almost otherworldly calming presence about her… add an energetic, silly, romantic, salsa-dancing Ecuadorian-American… throw in about sixty of their friends and family members, and put them on the beach at the Kitty Hawk Pier?
You get something AMAZING, that’s what. Yeah, so I’m short on adjectives lately, sorry. Besides, I don’t know really how better to describe the day that Rita married Leo. It was amazing. We had perfect weather – AMAZING, because it had been raining almost nonstop, and even rained the very next day for Sam and Chris’ wedding in Kure Beach… but Rita and Leo, they got perfect weather. The setting was amazing. The people… amazing. Rita’s dress, originally her mother’s wedding dress, redesigned to fit Rita’s frame and personality… FREAKING AMAZING. Leo’s dance moves, Rita’s sensual self, the simplicity of their day mixed together with the complexity of these absolutely fascinating personalities and the way they interacted and related to one another. Just…. just amazing.
It’s this kind of wedding that makes me stop and take it all in. I usually witness it all through the viewfinder, through one of my favorite lenses, compressed field of view, targeting my subject, finding the light, composing and re-composing, translating the feelings I’m seeing into a frame in such a way so the eventual viewer will feel what was there at that moment. At this wedding, I wanted to experience the personalities without any of my senses impaired by focus or art. For a couple minutes, I pretended to be a guest and just watched them dance. I watched while Mike shot, and I took it all in.
Rita and Leo met salsa dancing in Baltimore. That’s the beginning of their relationship, and has been a core of it since they first met. Salsa was at the center of this reception, and it’s the first time I’ve really been in the middle of a salsa dance party. It’s sexy as hell. It’s beautiful. There’s so much communication happening between the bodies. There’s so much to capture, so much to witness. When I resumed photographer mode, I must have shot two hundred frames of one dance, because there were at least that many messages being conveyed between the two of them.
Mike and I found a late night salsa club in Wilmington. It’s a $5 cover, ladies get in free. We’re SO going there in a few weeks when we have a child-free weekend. I absolutely can’t wait.
Thank you, Rita and Leo, for so much. For letting us into your world. For being vulnerable and honest and welcoming. For being appreciative and warm and so very kind. For giving us complete freedom at your wedding to do what we do best. For trusting us completely, and for being such a gracious and wonderful hostess. Yours is a wedding we will never, ever forget. Congratulations… and thank you <3
Leslie and Gabe are from a small town in West Virginia. They’re teachers there; in fact, they met at the school where they both teach elementary aged kids. Somehow, when they decided to get married, they chose a tiny beach in southeastern North Carolina. If memory serves, neither of them had ever been to Sunset Beach before; they just chose it on a whim. And then they decided to get married on a Wednesday, and invite their closest friends and family to join the celebration. And, fortunately for us, they decided to make sure that their day was captured beautifully, and they hired us to document it all for them.
We left this wedding rejuvenated. This was the perfect midyear kick-in-the-ass wedding to get us motivated for the second half of 2012. There was something so pure and unassuming about this entire day – from Leslie and Gabe and their incredible personalities and presence, to the setting of their wedding, to the lowkey reception and the sweetness of every guest and every child that was there. It was just a sweet day. With people who care so much about everyone around them, they didn’t let us leave without a jar of homemade jam (they picked the berries themselves!), a handwritten note, and a tip! No one tips anymore, it was the most unexpected surprise and so, so appreciated! The entire drive back home that night, Mike and I gushed about this wedding, the darling people we’d met, the new friends we hoped we’d one day see again, and our futures, which looked so much brighter after being around genuinely good people all day.
Eleven years and counting, and I still love this damn job.