Mary Anne, a special education teacher, and Ethan, a budget analyst for the city of Charlotte, met each other at Matthews United Methodist youth group while volunteering with a group of middle and high school students. Ethan knew he was interested right away, and Mary Anne quickly moved from being curious about this new man in her life to the realization that there was something here she wanted to explore. After a proposal in 1st Ward park with a ring featuring a stone once worn by Mary Anne’s grandmother and great-grandmother, the wedding planning got underway.
Since it was the church in which she had attended preschool and been baptized, Mary Anne and Ethan decided on Myers Park Presbyterian Church for their ceremony. I also happen to adore that venue, so I was pleased to hear the news. The reception took place at Byron’s South End, where the newly renovated interior features high ceilings, exposed brick walls, and fantastic light for photography, so I couldn’t have been more pleased.
Before the big day even got started, there was an adjustment. Theresa, the maid-of-honor and one of Mary Anne’s very best friends, couldn’t attend because she was pregnant and too close to full term to travel. One of the sweetest things about the day was that Theresa was constantly keeping up with things on Facetime. Mary Anne chatted with her while she was having her hair done and at numerous other points during the day. It was very much like she was there. At one point during the live stream of the wedding, Theresa sent Mary Anne a photo of herself, at home in her living room, watching the ceremony in her bridesmaid’s dress. So sweet!
The groom and groomsmen got ready at The Catalyst, a newer structure overlooking Romare-Bearden Park. You might notice that I have chosen to include more photos than I normally would of the boys getting ready, but it was absolutely adorable watching them study videos of how to properly fold a pocket square, or how to pin a boutonniere. The guys had their pre-ceremony shots taken in the park before heading to the church.
For her part, Mary Anne waited to get into her dress until she reached the church, and then she and her bridesmaids were photographed there. Mary Anne and Ethan also had their First Look in the same walkway where they would exit from the sanctuary as husband and wife. I loved the circularity of that. A really cute moment here, too. When Mary Anne caught sight of Ethan, she remarked almost immediately on how much she liked his haircut. For some time, cutting his hair had been her province, but he’d gone in for a special do for the big day. During the ceremony itself, one of the sweetest moments was when Ethan’s grandmother presented Ethan with the ring his grandfather had once worn up until he passed. She had it around her neck on a chain, but at that moment, it became the symbol of Ethan’s union to his soon-to-be wife.
After the ceremony, everyone made their way over to Byron’s South End. If you haven’t seen Byron’s since its remodel, make it a point. It’s a photographer’s dream. Light toned wood against beautiful brick. Bright, but not overwhelming light. I hadn’t been there in some time, and I was knocked out. There were gorgeous flowers by Ashley of Bookout Blooms. I hadn’t seen her work before, and the flowers were truly stunning. The band was The Diamond River Band, out of Asheville. They killed it. The lead singer’s voice reminded me so much of Joe Cocker. When it came time for the last dance, the band broke into an acoustic version of Hallelujah. it gave me goosebumps.
All in all, a perfect day for these two lovely souls. For their honeymoon, they jetted off to Bar Harbor, Maine, where they whiled away their time eating lobster, riding horses, exploring Acadia National Park, and just generally relaxing.
Ceremony: Myers Park Presbyterian Church
Planner: Gathered Events and Design
Hair: Lia Watson
Makeup: Julie Metzger
Floral Design: Bookout Blooms
Reception: Byron’s South End
Catering: Best Impressions Caterers
Cake: Celestial Cakery
Band: East Coast Entertainment Diamond River Band
Wedding Dress: Poffie Girls (Ella Grace)
Bridesmaids Dresses: Brideside
Tuxes: Jos A. Bank
Thank you to my second photographer, Laura, for her lovely images!
You can swoon over images from Mary Anne and Ethan’s engagement session in 1st Ward Park here.
Every wedding I capture is special to me. The genuine pleasure I take from the opportunity to be part of a couple’s union is one of the reasons that I do what I do. When I was approached by The Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel about donating my photography services to an incredibly deserving couple as part of the Kimpton’s “Love Conquers All” Wedding Giveaway contest…there was never a question about whether I wanted in. The wedding day of Mary Stanton and Matthew will truly be like nothing I have ever experienced. Theirs is such an unimaginable, and inspiring, story. I’m so delighted that I’ll be there to document this next step in their journey together. Let me give you a little background so you’ll understand why I’m so honored and thrilled to see these two tie the knot.
Mary Stanton and Matthew have known one another since high school in Greensboro, NC. Even before that, they each knew who the other was, but it was only once they started to hang out in high school that they realized there might be a spark there. Matthew initiated the first date, asking Mary Stanton to dinner at the local Mexican joint. Mary Stanton’s one regret from the date was that she barely touched her food because she was so nervous. As time passed and the two continued to spend time together, their bond intensified. Mary Stanton fell in love with Matthew’s sense of humor, and Matthew, for his part, found himself bewitched by Mary Stanton’s eyes. So, among other things, this is the story of high school sweethearts. But there’s so much more.
Mary Stanton was diagnosed in March of 2017 with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and as part of her treatment, she went through 12 rounds of chemotherapy. They hoped for the best, but later that year Mary Stanton was rescanned and the results showed that the cancer had returned. Her best shot for recovery as this point was a stem cell transplant, so she underwent that procedure, new chemotherapy treatments, and a three-week stint in the hospital’s isolation wing. In February of 2019–a year after her stem cell transplant–her scans showed no cancerous activity, indicating that she is now in remission.
Now let me rewind a bit–When the cancer came back in late 2017, Mary Stanton and Matthew were both affected profoundly by the news, but watching the woman he loved go through so much with such strength, Matthew decided that NOW was the time to propose. He made the event a whole-day affair, starting off with breakfast as Sunflour Bakery (well-chosen, sir). Starting in the morning and continuing throughout the day, he passed Mary Stanton little handwritten notes with questions about their relationship and its evolution over the years. They laughed about how some of their answers were the same, some different. Afterward, they drove to a nature preserve and spent some time strolling around a lake. The walk began in rain but ended in snow. They stopped by home and got ready for dinner at Foxcroft Wine Bar, one of Mary Stanton’s favorite spots. After dinner, he blindfolded Mary Stanton so she wouldn’t know where they were going and drove them to McAdenville, where they’d been before to look at the houses decked out for the holidays. This time, he said he wanted to walk the town instead of driving, so Mary Stanton began to suspect something was afoot. They stopped at a private area near the lake and after giving her one last handwritten note, Matthew popped the question. Soon after, Mary Stanton’s mom and some of her best friends showed up with champagne to celebrate. It all sounds magical.
So they were engaged! But what to do about the wedding? Well, not long after the engagement, Mary Stanton’s sister passed on the word about Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel’s “Love Conquers All” Wedding Giveaway contest. In April of 2018, the couple–much to their surprise–discovered that they had won an all-expense paid 100 person wedding at the lovely boutique hotel in uptown Charlotte. I’ve been fortunate enough to shoot at the Kimpton numerous times since it opened, and I know well the crazy level of service the hotel provides. In fact, it was The Kimpton that put me in touch with Matthew and Mary Stanton. They knew my work and thought we’d be a good fit for one another.
For our engagement shoot, we met up at the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens. Mary Stanton and Matthew brought along their 10-month-old Golden Retriever, Knox. He’s their baby, and man is he cute. Watching Mary Stanton and Matthew interact with one another during the shoot, it hit me that they were like a very new couple and a very old couple all rolled into one relationship. On one hand, there was an excitement and a vital intimacy in the way they treated one another that struck me as so young and fresh; on the other hand, it was impossible to miss that these are two young people who have already been through the wars together. That they have come out the other side is a testament to their strength and bravery. I can’t say how honored I am to have the chance to capture their big day.
The wedding will take place at Christ Episcopal Church in Charlotte; the reception, of course, will take place at the Kimpton. This is going to be a good one!
I’m so looking forward to today. What a life and love-affirming moment for these two, and for all of us who get take this next step of the journey with them.
These vendors are also donating their services for Mary Stanton & Matthew’s wedding day. Can’t wait to share the day with all of them.
Wedding Coordinator: J. Leigh Events
Reception Location: Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel
Cake: Celestial Cakery
Hair & Makeup: Lovely by Lindsey
Florals and Rentals: Carolina’s Luxury Event Rentals
Stationery: Viri Lovely Designs
Check out Sara Caitlyn and Andrew’s Kimpton Hotel reception here.
Emily and Brett met in Nashville in 2014. They were immediately interested in one another, and by the end of their first date, they were nestled in a corner booth, listening to live music and holding hands. Fast forward a few years and Brett is hiding an engagement ring in the closet for Emily to find when she goes looking for a new lightbulb. With that part taken care of, the two brunched with family at a local Nashville eatery and then turned their attention to planning their nuptials.
We started our day at the home of Emily’s mother, Catherine. Her condo is located in a gorgeous spot in historic Myers Park, right near Queens University. Because Emily and Brett wanted to have their first look in a scenic and intimate spot, Catherine’s home made perfect sense as the getting ready location for both bride and groom. Before my second photographer and I parted ways to shoot the guys and girls, we took Emily and Brett for their first look—always one of my favorite moments to document—on the central lawn in front of Catherine’s condo. The long, trailing ribbons from Emily’s bouquet (created by Lily Greenthumbs) were so lovely moving softly in the breeze as Brett approached. As all couples seem to do in this perfectly unscripted moment of a wedding day, Emily and Brett nailed their first look. There was the perfect amount of oooh’s and ahhh’s over each other’s appearance with a few tender kisses for good measure.
Once we completed our pre-ceremony portraits, the bridal party hopped on a trolley and made their way to the ceremony site, Covenant Presbyterian Church. If you’re not familiar with the church, I’ll just tell you that it’s one of the prettiest churches in Charlotte. The exterior doors alone are a backdrop against which I could shoot all day, and then there’s the sanctuary, where the wooden arches and stained glass windows are a thing to behold. Perhaps my favorite part of the ceremony was when the officiant asked Emily and Brett to face their gathered friends and family and spent five minutes or more describing how the couple met and why they worked so well together. It was a sweet and funny interlude, and it lent the ceremony a huge amount of heart and warmth from the get-go.
From there, it was on to another fantastic venue for the reception: The Terrace at Cedar Hill. The guests enjoyed a cocktail hour on the side patio, complete with fabulous views of Charlotte’s skyline, and then made their way into the reception area for the bride and groom’s first dances. There was a break for dinner, and then dancing, dancing, dancing. The band was Attraction, and it was the first time I’d ever worked with them. The music was seriously awesome, and I remember being totally blown away by the lead singer, who just killed it. I hope I get to work with them again sometime soon.
As the night drew to a close, Emily changed out of her wedding gown and into a blue floral dress for the exit. She and Brett hopped into a limo and were off to their honeymoon at the Old Edwards Inn in Highlands, NC. Emily has always loved the hotel, and it’s where she had her bachelorette party. This is a mini-moon, a three-night trip full of hiking and good eating, and it will be followed by a longer honeymoon trip for their one-year anniversary.
I’m so happy I got to spend this extraordinary day and night with Emily, Brett, and their delightful crew of family and friends. It was a celebration full of love and humor, and it was an honor to be a part of it.
Wedding Coordinator: Sasha Thumann of Jackie Fogartie Events
Wedding Venue: Covenant Presbyterian Church
Reception Venue: The Terrace at Cedar Hill
Hair and Makeup: Megan Clouse of Blushing Hair and Makeup
Floral Design: Lily Greenthumbs
Cake Artist: Suarez Bakery
Catering: Best Impressions
Bride’s dress: Antonio Gual
Bridesmaid’s Dresses: The Bride Room
Groom’s Tux: Brooks Brothers
Thanks to Emily of Emily Renee Photography for contributing her beautiful images.
Be sure to check out Emily and Brett’s engagement session at the Duke Mansion in Charlotte, NC HERE.
Sara Caitlyn and Andrew’s first date was at Thomas Street Tavern in Plaza-Midwood. It’s a spot I know well from my own early days with my husband, and I can picture them there, talking and getting to know one another’s quirks and histories, all of those initial little details that tell you whether this person is just another one, or THE one. Their initial date led to another, and before too long Andrew was dropping to one knee in the kitchen on New Year’s Eve, giving Sara Caitlyn just the proposal she’d always wanted.
First Presbyterian Church is one of my favorite ceremony sites in town, so I was delighted when I heard that Sara Caitlyn and Andrew had chosen it for their wedding day. The tone they wanted to set for the event was simple and classy, and First Presbyterian fills the bill perfectly. Adding to the meaningfulness of the choice was the fact that Sara Caitlyn’s mother works at the church, so it’s been a part of her life for a long time.
Before the ceremony, we had the first look on the patio of the new Merchant and Trade, situated on the rooftop of the Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel. It was the perfect spot for that sweet moment between the bride and groom. Then we headed down to Romare Bearden Park for pre-ceremony shots of the guys and girls. The fall had been dragging on and on, so there was still a touch of color on the trees. From there, we returned to First Presbyterian and knocked out all of the family portraits. It was a fantastic choice for an autumn bride; it gets dark quite early in the late fall, and taking care of all the family shots prior to the ceremony really loosened up the schedule and gave us that exceptional late afternoon light. I am particularly fond of the moments captured between Sara Caitlyn, Andrew, and their grandparents. The bride and groom were so lucky to have some of them by their side on their big day. I haven’t had the blessing of grandparents in my life for some time now so, if a couple is blessed by the presence of theirs on the wedding day, you better believe I am going to make sure to get some unforgettable images of them together.
Just before the ceremony, I spent a final few minutes with Sara Caitlyn and Andrew in the back stairwell of the church as they exchanged letters they’d written for one another. The moment was incredibly sweet, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention that their conversation eventually turned to Taco Bell. Leading up to the wedding, they’d put themselves on a self-imposed Taco Bell diet, and by the time the ceremony rolled around, they were reduced to reciting the menu to each other and giggling. It was perfect. And now I want a Mexican pizza. Anyways…
After a lovely ceremony, I captured some charming shots of Sara Caitlyn and Andrew exiting the oversized wooden front doors of the church and down the candle-lit front steps. There’s an image of them sharing a kiss that is straight out of a storybook. After a handful of additional portraits at the church, the newlyweds climbed into a horse-drawn carriage, enjoyed a lap around the Queen City, and then headed for the reception.
The reception took place at the Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel, one of the newest venues in town. I’ve been working with them since before the hotel opened, and with their absolutely beautiful building and commitment to customer care, it was an ideal choice for Sara Caitlyn and Andrew. When they arrived, the bride and groom headed to a private room to have a bite to eat. Their time together was briefly interrupted when Sara Caitlyn’s grandparents, Fritz and Nancilynn (who have been married for over 50 years!!) presented them with Nancilynn’s “world famous” coconut cake, complete with the lace bell cake topper from their own wedding decades before. It was such a precious moment to witness, and the cake was heavenly.
Once the bride and groom made their grand entrance into the ballroom, the party really got going. Their band, Right to Party, kept things hopping all night. When the festivities eventually drew to a close, Sara Caitlyn and Andrew made a bubble exit—the result of a bubble machine and bubbles of the more traditional mouth-blown variety—down the beautiful glass stairs into the lobby of the hotel and headed off into their new lives.
For their honeymoon, these two lovebirds headed to Antigua, where they had no particular agenda save for maximum relaxation and decompression. So happy for Sara Caitlyn and Andrew–such a well-matched pair. It was an absolutely perfect night, and I feel so fortunate to have been a part of it.
Wedding Coordinator: Anna Pecoraro
Wedding Venue: First Presbyterian Church
Reception Venue: Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel
Hair and Makeup: Lovely by Lindsey
Floral Design: Lily Greenthumbs
Cake Artist: Villani’s Bakery
Catering: Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel
Videographer: Life Stage Films
Band: Right to Party
Bridesmaid’s Dresses: Lily Rose Bridal
Tuxes: The Tuxedo Shoppe
Carriage: Southern Breezes
Thanks to Emily of Emily Renee Photography for her beautiful images. I always LOVE working with you!
Be sure to check out Sara Caitlyn and Andrew’s engagement session at one of my favorite hidden gems in Charlotte, the UNCC Botanical Gardens.
Deb and Brett met in the crazy world of online dating. Both of them had recently exited less-than-fantastic relationships and they were just looking to get themselves back out there. For their first date, they met at Duckworth’s Sports Bar and Grill, and the connection was immediate. They were open and honest, and both of them just put it all out there for the other to absorb. During a family trip to Michigan a couple of summers ago, Brett popped the question using a green Ring-Pop. Don’t worry, he had the real deal sitting in his pocket and quickly substituted it for the equally sweet candy version.
In planning the wedding, Deb and Brett knew that what they really wanted to accentuate were the people coming to celebrate their union, and the food and wine. These are two people who really love to experience life as fully as they can, and the culinary arts are near and dear to their hearts. Because of this, Deb and Brett were VERY interested in finding a venue that would allow them to use their own caterer of choice. As it happened, a brand new spot was just opening up in Cornelius, about two miles down the road from where they lived. It was called Sweet Magnolia Estates, and it offered pretty much everything Deb and Brett were looking for, not only for their reception but also for their ceremony.
Sweet Magnolia Estates offers a variety of beautiful spaces for shooting. The getting ready rooms for both the bride and groom were lovely and functional, and the grounds are lush and well cared for. Add to the natural beauty of the surroundings the amazing floral contribution of Just Dandy Designs, and you have a knockout wedding site. Really, it was the flowers by Just Dandy that really set the tone for the day as much as anything else. The flowers were absolutely gorgeous, from the wine cork boutonnieres to the bouquets and centerpieces.
After getting ready, the bride and groom had a charming first look by the entrance to the ceremony site. I absolutely LOVE first looks and these two did not disappoint–so much sweetness! The highlight of the wedding itself (other than the “I dos,” of course) was the wine ceremony during which Deb and Brett mixed a pinot noir with a pinot grigio as a symbol of unity. I’d never seen that before, and it was such a lovely personal moment for the bride and groom.
And after the ceremony? Well, the party of course! Deb and Brett started things off by making a point to take part in their cocktail hour. We handled almost all of their formal photography before the ceremony in order to make this happen. Not enough brides and grooms get to experience that post-wedding moment. I love that they were there. From here, the party really got rolling. The music was provided by Split Second Sound, and the DJ kept things moving all night. The delicious spread was created by Family Catering, and they handled everything from dinner to dessert. One of my favorite details was the gigantic charcuterie display in the reception hall. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much scrumptious meat and cheese in one place. When Deb and Brett had their first dance, it was to a montage from The Greatest Showman. The whole thing was so delightful and romantic.
And I’ll tell you, one the things I really love is how Deb and Brett planned their honeymoon. Pretty genius. They knew they were going to travel through Spain, Italy, and France, so on their wedding registry, they gave guests the opportunity to gift experiences along the way. Tapas in Spain, a wine tasting in Italy, truffle hunting in France… For almost three weeks, these two ate and drank their way through the yummiest parts of Europe. I can barely hide my jealousy.
Deb and Brett, so delighted that I had the chance to be with you two on your wedding day. I hope married life has been amazing so far, and I can’t wait to hear about all the wonderful things coming your way. I’m going to keep stalking you two cuties on social media–I can’t get enough of those adorable pics of your new puppy!
Wedding and Reception Venue: Sweet Magnolia Estates
Wedding Coordinator: A Simple Affair Events
Floral Design: Just Dandy Designs
Cake and Catering: Family Catering Service
Hair and Makeup: Wink Inspired Beauty
Bridesmaid’s Dresses: Azazie
Tuxes: Jos. A. Bank
Transportation: Avenue Chauffeured Transportation
Thanks to Christina of The Shutter Owl for her beautiful images. I loved working with you!