I’ve known Todd and Jessica for 12 years, since the days when all three of us were loosely affiliated with the same event-planning company. Over the years, these beautiful people have made themselves a special home in my heart. We might not see each other as often as I’d like, but when we get together, I find myself feeling the same love and admiration for them that I’ve always felt. But that’s not quite right. I admire them more now than I ever have. The amazing relationships Todd and Jess have not only with one another, but also with their children, inspires me. My own two kids are the great blessing of my life, but man, sometimes they just kill me. From time to time, I think of families with three or four kids, and my gut reaction is basically, “There but for the grace of God go I.” But not with Todd and Jess. This is a family that makes it work. They respect and treasure one another at a level I know is exceptional.
When I show up at Todd and Jess’s place for this shoot, my car door is hardly open before the four kids-Hayden, Caroline, Joelle, and Cameron—are rushing toward me, their arms outstretched for hugs. And not just one each. A whole bunch of hugs. It’s about the sweetest welcome a girl could ask for.
We do the whole shoot at the house, which is perfect for this family. For as long as I’ve known them, Todd and Jess lived in the same house, but in March, seeking more space, they moved into this new one. As Todd is wont to do, he had already customized the place, including the addition of a new woodshop, all constructed by Todd himself. Since Todd has worked on my own house any number of times, I’m well aware of the fine work this man can do, and I make it a point to use the new shop as a backdrop during our shoot. For pretty much the entire session, we just chase the light around the back yard and driveway. Toward the end of the shoot, I take Todd and Jess across the street for some romantics in the last of the evening light. Otherwise, it’s just this family in the place they love most.
These kids are special, and I’m not just saying that because I’ve known all of them since they were babies. Hayden, 13, is gigantic now—close to six feet tall—but he remains the considerate and empathetic kid he’s always been. This past summer, he took his first mission trip, to Nashville, and helped build handicap ramps for two retirees. Caroline and Joelle are sugar sweet, leading me by the hand around their yard, showering me with affection. Seeing such openness from these two girls gives me hope for my own daughters—if my own my kids develop such a willingness to care unabashedly for others, I’ll consider myself the luckiest mom in town. And Cameron…he’s just a pistol. Some of my favorite shots are of Cameron in his hat. They pretty much sum up his spunk and spirit.
I was so happy to have the chance to reconnect with Jess and Todd and their happy quartet. They’ve given so much to me and to my family, and I think often of how, when Todd and Jess came to my wedding in Nantucket, Jess was—unbeknownst to her—pregnant with Joelle. As usual, they were there to support us—Jess to plan, and Todd to DJ—and that’s essentially what I think is the heart of this family: loving another and caring for others. I’m lucky to have them in my life.
When they first met at the Selwyn Pub a few years ago, neither Caroline nor Eric were really looking to make a connection. Eric was there for a few beers after a round of golf, and Caroline was just out for a drink with a girlfriend. But when Caroline’s friend introduced Eric out of the gaggle of people who had gathered together to talk, things took on a life of their own, and before long, it was just the two of them, getting to know one another. When Eric texted the next week to ask her out, Caroline said yes. They started the night at Heist in NoDa, then grabbed frozen yogurt at Menchie’s, which was interesting since Eric really doesn’t like frozen yogurt. But he put on his best face and convinced Caroline that he was a fan. Anything for the cause.
Eric’s proposal actually happened sooner than he had expected. At first, his plan was to propose during a scheduled trip to Sea Island, Georgia, but when he received the ring much earlier than he’d expected, Eric knew holding onto it for too long would drive him nuts, so he improvised. He contacted Caroline’s sister to ask for advice on where to propose, and they settled on the City Club. Once that was decided, Eric called his parents and Caroline’s sister and family to ask then to be there for the big moment.
Eric had planned the whole thing out. The ring box would be brought out in a basket of freshly baked bread, and when Caroline unfolded the napkin to grab a piece, she’d see the box and, voila, magic. Only Caroline was really hungry and focused on the bread, so she didn’t even notice that the ring box was there. She says she thought it was a covered butter dish. But after processing for a bit, she realized what she was looking at and opened the box. Inside, where the ring should have been, was a slip of paper. She unfolded it and read, “I will let Eric have a Slip n’ Slide at our wedding.” There were two boxes, marked YES and NO. “Are you serious?” she said, and he told her she had to answer the question. She marked YES, so he got down on one knee and proposed, but I’m pretty sure he’d have proposed if she’d said NO, too. They finished their night, as Eric had planned, in a private dining room with their families.
The wedding took place at beautiful Myers Park Presbyterian Church, which was Caroline’s childhood church. She loved it there, and thought the sanctuary was so beautiful. The reception site was Myers Park Country Club, where Caroline’s parents are members. Caroline and Eric had spent a lot of time there, so it also felt special to both of them. The main goal for the reception was fun, so Eric and Caroline brought in a band to play dance and beach music, and since Caroline loves cake she prioritized getting Kathy Allen for the wedding.
For their honeymoon, Eric and Caroline went to Italy and spent time in Florence, Cinque Terre, Milan, and Venice. When they got back, they started the real fun and work of marriage—building a life together with their sweet lab-terrier mix, Lily.
Happy anniversary, you two. I hope this past year has been as beautiful as the story that got you to the altar. All of my best wishes.
Ceremony Location: Myers Park Presbyterian Church
Reception Location: Myers Park Country Club
Hair Stylist: Rebekah McCann
Make-up Artist: Leann Kiger
Floral Design: In Bloom
Cake Artist: Kathy Allen Cakes
Band: Right to Party
Reception Lighting: Wink Lighting
Thank you to my second photographer, Nathan, for helping to craft such a lovely collection of images for Caroline and Eric.
Mary Liz and Rajit both work in the jewelry design field; they actually met while they were both students at the Gemological Institute of America in Carlsbad, California. Mary Liz remembers that they sat next to one another on the first day of class and found him intriguing, so she asked him to hang out with her and another classmate; when he asked her out for drinks and dinner on Superbowl Sunday, the ball really started to roll.
Rajit proposed while he and Mary Liz—along with their families—were in India to visit and explore. One day, Rajit came to Mary Liz’s room and told her to pack a bag. They drive a couple hours outside New Delhi to Neemrana Fort-Palace, which has been converted into a hotel, and they spent the day enjoying the food, drink, pool, and dancers. When they finally returned to their room at the end of the night, the balcony was covered in rose petals and tea lights. Rajit got down on one knee—checking with Mary Liz to make sure he was doing everything correctly (so sweet)—and popped the question. Mary Liz says she can’t remember much of what was said after that, and from my experience, that’s how true joy works—the particulars just get overwhelmed by the emotion.
I’d met Mary Liz before, at our consult, but I hadn’t met Rajit until the day of our engagement shoot. He’d just flown in from India to spend the last few weeks before the wedding with Mary Liz, and it was so nice to get a little time with them as a couple. Having the chance to learn about a couple before their wedding, and to watch them interact with one another, is such a luxury for me; that small dash of additional knowledge helps me immeasurably on the wedding day.
Because both Rajit and Mary Liz are inspired by art and architecture in their jewelry design, we decided to meet downtown and to use the city as a backdrop. We started at the Convention Center and slowly made our way past The Mint and The Bechtler, then finally ended up at Romare Bearden Park. One of the really nice bonuses to the shoot was that Rajit got to do a little exploring in a city that Mary Liz loves so much.
I can’t wait for their wedding in just a few short weeks. Loved getting to spend a little time with these two before their big day.
It’s always such a boost to spend an afternoon with a loving family, especially when the main subject is as adorable and energetic as little Anthony. It had been two years since the last time I saw him, and I loved seeing the enormous developmental leaps he’d made since then. Anthony is a little sweetheart. He’s generous with his hugs, he kisses boo-boos, and he always makes sure to ask if you’re okay. He loves reading his books, playing outside (soccer especially), swinging on anything, and goofing around with his dinosaur toys. I got the chance to see pretty much all of that during our shoot. Anthony definitely delivered.
Because it’s where Shanel, Jared, and Anthony spend so much quality time, we decided to use their lovely backyard as our main setting. Anthony and his dad kicked a soccer ball around, Anthony trotted out the aforementioned dinosaurs for a little play session, and Woody, the 4 year-old Havanese who’s essentially a full family member, made an energetic appearance.
As the sun began to set on the front of the house, we made a move to the front porch, and as we were passing through the house, Jared and Anthony decided to take a book break. Shanel says that Anthony tries to carry all of his books around the house wherever he goes, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. The dynamic between all three of them was so comfortable and genuine—I got the feeling that what I was seeing was pretty much how it was all the time.
As we soaked in the last bit of sunshine on the stoop, Anthony got to show me his pumpkins, which he was obviously very excited about. Then again, this is a little boy who seems enthusiastic about pretty much everything. We chased the final streaks of sunlight down into the street for a few final family shots. It was the perfect ending to my time with this lovely crew.
It’s always nice to think back about a couple with such an adorable meet-cute, as they say in showbiz. Rachel and Mitchell are both teachers, and it just so happened that their classrooms were connected by a little office where they shared a desk for two years. I’ve written about this before, in their engagement post, but it’s sweet enough to mention again. There’s something so precious about that experience of working with another person on a day-to-day basis for months, seeing who that other person really is, and then ending up together. I just can’t let it go.
I remember officially meeting Rachel and her parents at our consult. I knew that I recognized their faces, and as I took them through a sample album from a previous wedding, I realized why. Not only had Rachel been a bridesmaid in a wedding I’d photographed years before, but she and her parents had been in attendance at the wedding featured in the album they held in their hands, and at more than one of my past weddings. Turns out the world of Charlotte wedding photography is smaller than you’d think.
Rachel and Mitchell were married at First Presbyterian Church in Charlotte on the 15th of October, 2016. Their wedding was beautiful, not only in its details and execution, but also due to the sheer amount of love so evident in the bride and groom and everyone else in attendance. First Presbyterian is one of my favorite wedding venues in town, and I love to shoot there for aesthetic reasons. There are so many little areas to do pre-ceremony portraits, and even after years of doing this job, I’m always finding new ones. First Pres is also Rachel’s family church, and it’s always a sweet thing to see a bride married in a place she holds so close to her heart.
There were so many little details I loved about this wedding. For instance, Mitchell’s wedding-day gift to Rachel was a Frisbee. That’s not a typo. But, as is always the case with these two, the gift was meaningful. The Frisbee was a reference to a work outing on which the two had gone before they had started dating. But even at that point, Mitchell knew that he was going to ask Rachel out, and so for him, that was a sort of beginning. See what I mean about these two? Along with the Frisbee, Mitchell gave Rachel a sweet letter written on roughly-torn notebook paper, the kind a high school boy might pass to his crush in class. I loved getting a few ring shots on the note.
Speaking of the ring, it was a family heirloom passed down from Rachel’s grandmother, to her mother, and then to Mitchell when he declared his intent to propose. Rachel had always loved the ring, and it’s no wonder why—it’s a stunner. I got some images of the ring on the green velvet box in which Rachel’s grandmother used to keep it. I love little details like that, the ones that really reference a family’s history.
The reception took place just a few blocks away, at the Charlotte City Club. Getting the chance to walk with Rachel and Mitchell from the wedding site to the reception site was wonderful. Yes, I was walking backwards most of the time, but the chance to capture images of two people who have just declared their undying love for one another as they walk the short distance to a huge party in their honor…priceless. And it should be said that the City Club, run by Nathan Hoffman, is one of the finest reception venues in town. The man runs a tight ship, but the overall feel is relaxed and easy. I love working there.
One of the things I remember most vividly about the reception was that Rachel and Mitchell decided to forgo a wedding cake in favor of a scrumptious cheesecake dessert bar. YUM! Another clear memory I have is very different in nature. When Rachel and Mitchell made their exit, they climbed into a pedi-cab to head off for the peace and quiet of their hotel room. But before they could get 10 feet, they ran into a bunch of…zombies. Turns out, there was a zombie-themed bar crawl going on (for those interested: Zombie Bar-ocalypse), and for a brief moment, I didn’t know if the bloody crew of zombified drinkers was going to let them through.
They made it, though, and now it’s been a year. I’m so happy to wish these two a happy anniversary. I’ll always remember the sincerity of the love I felt from you, your families, and your friends. Thank you for letting me be a part of the fun.
Ceremony Location: First Presbyterian Church
Reception Location: Charlotte City Club
Make Up Artist: Woo Skincare and Cosmetics
Hair: SH Cuts at Salon & Co
Floral Design: Lily Greenthumbs
Thank you Nathan for helping me to create such a lovely collection of images for Rachel and Mitchell.
You can see Rachel and Mitchell’s engagement session images HERE.