One of the real blessings of my job is having the unique opportunity to live alongside my clients as they grow, find love, get married, have kids, etc… I love capturing these moments in the lives of my fellow humans, but it would all feel just a little…empty if not for the relationships I get to form with those people along the way. If there’s something that sets me apart as a portrait and wedding photographer, I’d like to think that my genuine affection for people, for walking alongside them through the years, is that thing. Certainly, this is why I have so cherished the time I have spent with Mary and Melodee these last couple of years.
I first became acquainted with Mary and Melodee just before their first anniversary as a dating couple. When I met the two of them in person, I was immediately struck by how in love they were. Between the two of them, there was such an obviously powerful connection, one that I thought was uncommonly deep for a couple who had been together for just under a year. As they have both said to me at separate moments in the time since then, they were just meant to be.
The next time I had the pleasure of photographing them was at Melodee’s surprise proposal to Mary in the Urban Garden of the BOA building uptown. I’ve written about this before so I won’t go into too much detail, but there was a flash mob, some initial confusion on Mary’s part, a ring, and then lots and lots of happiness. And so began the wedding planning.
Mary and Melodee were engaged in February and soon began making plans for a May wedding 15 months out. Venues were chosen, deposits made, etc. And then, a year later, just months before the wedding, COVID hit and the world went on extended hiatus. Needless to say, things had to change, and Mary and Melodee rolled with it. Luckily, so did Langtree Plantation, the wedding and reception venue they had chosen.
Langtree Plantation has a history that dates back before the Civil War. For years it stayed within the same family, and then, in the 1900s, it was added onto significantly. Just before the turn of the millennium, it was sold to a local developer named Rick Howard. Mr. Howard was swamped with calls from people interested in holding their weddings at the house, so he turned Langree into a wedding venue, refurbished it for the purpose, and now has on his hands one of the finest venues in the Charlotte area. And, I should add, one of the most accommodating.
Even with all of the COVID-related restrictions and suggestions in place this summer, Langtree Plantation came through beautifully. I had never worked there before this wedding, so I was suitably impressed not just by the beauty of the place—and it IS gorgeous—but also by how attractive a layout they were able to achieve while keeping people safe and distanced. There was seating inside and outside, meals were pre-boxed for individual selection instead of being served, and there was a free and open flow of movement so that nobody felt crowded. I commend Langtree Plantation’s sense of responsibility and courtesy to Mary and Melodee and all of their guests.
This was a lovely event celebrating two of the kindest people I’ve ever met. Mary and Melodee truly are meant for one another, and I look forward to seeing where life takes them. All of my love to these two remarkable women.
Wedding and Reception Location: Langtree Plantation Planner: Stunning and Brilliant Events Floral Design: Willow Branch Flowers and Design Wedding Videography: Love Shutter Cake Artist: Kathy Allen Ceremony Musicians: Carolina Chamber Players Hair & Makeup: Elbert Reed, Kaitlyn Kiser, and Adrian Howe Alterations: John Emily Officiant: Rev. Julia Watkins DJ: All the Right Grooves Rentals: Cooke Rentals Catering: Roots Bar: Side Bar Dancers: NC Dance District Live Painting: Gina Strumpf
Mary and Melodee have been an inspiration to me since I met them, and over the past few months, as their wedding plans have changed, and then changed again, my respect and admiration for them has only grown.
Mary met Melodee on June 3rd of 2017 at the Charlotte Femme Fest. For Mary, the meeting had been a stealth set-up. For Melody…not so much. She knew what was coming, and since the two of them had been thoroughly vetted for one another by their friends, odds were that they would get along at the very least. And, of course, they did. Two weeks later, they got together again, this time at a Celtic concert. Not long later, they were hanging out at a lake together and making fish tacos. In very short order, they simply had one another.
Melodee found herself captivated by Mary’s genuineness and beauty, and Mary fell hard for Melody’s presence, kindness, good looks, and gentle nature. Having gotten to know them over these last couple of years, I can say that all of the above is true, and that Mary and Melody are the most perfect compliments to one another. They just fit, and they know it; both Mary and Melodee say that they were simply meant to be together. What a thing to be able to say.
Melodee originally contacted me to plan a portrait session to honor their first year together as a dating couple. We began on the grounds of Covenant Presbyterian Church and made our way over to Camp North End for a more casual finish.
Now…the fun part: the proposal story. This was one of the most insane and wonderful events I have ever witnessed. Well in advance of the proposal, Melodee got in touch to tell me she needed me to capture images of her popping the question to Mary with the aid of a flash mob comprised of friends and family, led by the uber-talented Ana Ogbueze and the outstanding dancers from NC Dance District. Absofreakinlutely. For weeks and weeks, arrangements were made and dances were practiced, all without Mary ever knowing a thing about it. Finally, the day arrived.
It all worked perfectly. Melodee invited Mary to a work cocktail party at the Bank of America Urban Garden. Once Mary arrived, Melodee slipped away by pretending she had a work situation to deal with. This is when Melodee changed clothes and got ready for her entrance during the middle of the flash mob. After Melodee’s departure, the responsibility of getting Mary into position on the stairs fell on their mutual friend Shane. Tune into the video below (captured by Alan Daly of Crown Alley Films) to see how things played out from there. Pretty magical.
These two just tied the knot on Sunday in an outdoor ceremony at Langtree Plantation in Mooresville. There was love everywhere, which isn’t surprising since Mary and Melodee have surrounded themselves with the best group of friends and family. I am over the moon that I got to be a part of their journey. I cannot possibly overstate the feeling of joy and fulfillment I get from having the opportunity to watch loving relationships grow and develop; that’s what I’ve had the honor of doing with Mary and Melodee. I first met them while they were dating, photographed the extraordinary proposal, and then captured their lovely wedding day. My respect and affection for these two ladies is gigantic, and can’t thank them enough for letting me be a part of their lives.
Another blog post detailing the nuptials will be coming soon…Congrats, ladies. All my love.
Wedding and Reception Location: Langtree Plantation Planner: Stunning and Brilliant Events Floral Design: Willow Branch Flowers and Design Wedding Videography: Love Shutter Cake Artist: Kathy Allen Ceremony Musicians: Carolina Chamber Players Alterations: John Emily Hair & Makeup: Elbert Reed, Kaitlyn Kiser and Adrian Howe Alterations: John Emily Officiant: Rev. Julia Watkins DJ: All the Right Grooves Rentals: Cooke Rentals Catering: Roots Bar: Side Bar Dancers: NC Dance District Live Painting: Gina Strumpf
Crandall and Brenton met in 2006 while both were students at the University of South Carolina. Although they were attracted to one another, it took a bit for things to get off the ground, and it was only in 2018 that their love story, now 12 years in the making, really got underway, thanks in part to the matchmaking efforts of Bo, Brenton’s college roommate, who knew well how strong Brenton’s feelings for Crandall really were. You can read more about how that first date came together here. Its quite an adorable story. Anywho…to make a long story short, Brenton proposed on Memorial Day in 2019, and they decided to make it official in March of 2020.
Now, we all live in the same world, so I won’t go much into what was happening all over the planet in mid-March of 2020, but it should be sufficient to remind everyone that things in the US were about to undergo a major change. Like tomorrow. And although the looming lockdown (pretty much everyone at the party knew it was coming our way) was discouraging and at least a little bit frightening, it also lent a unique energy to Brenton and Crandall’s wedding. Here were hundreds of people, gathered together as a group for what they knew would be the last time for a long while. As you can imagine, the sense of love and togetherness was certain that day.
The ceremony took place at Matthews United Methodist Church, the church Crandall and her family had attended while she was growing up. It’s a lovely church, all brick and green grass with a traditional white spire. One of the things I enjoyed most about the church was the wrap-around balcony that spanned the entire sanctuary. The freedom to tiptoe around the upper level of the sanctuary allowed for angles I am not generally afforded.
For the reception, we all made our way down to Providence Country Club, which Crandall and Brenton loved for the gold and navy tones in the ballroom. The hues went perfectly with the wedding colors, and the rest of the club is, of course, just dazzling in its own right, especially during the Spring months, when everything looks so fresh and new.
My most lasting memory from the reception, which was a total blast, was of Crandall just going all out on the dance floor the entire night. I mean, this girl never took a break. I think a lot of the partygoers felt similarly; they knew this might be the last chance they would have to cut a rug for a while, and so they gave it everything they had. I always enjoy capturing dance floor candids during the reception, but this night was exceptional. There was just so much positivity and loving energy in the room. At the end of the celebration, there was a sparkler exit into a white Rolls Royce, complete with a romantic dip and a smooch. Well done, Brenton.
For their honeymoon, Crandall and Brenton slipped away to St. Lucia. They spent their days having mud baths, hiking, checking out waterfalls, horseback riding, and lounging on the beach. Pretty sweet way to kick off quarantine. These two had plenty to keep them busy when they arrived back in their now shared hometown of Greenville, SC. They closed on a new home just before the wedding day. Now it was time to agree on paint colors.
Getting Ready Location: Ballantyne Resort
Ceremony Location: Matthews United Methodists Church
Reception Location: Providence Country Club
Hair and Makeup: Beauty Asylum
Floral Design: Kelilabee Flower Company
Cake Artist: Sweet It Is!
Band: Loose Chain Band
Car Rental: Carolina Classic Rentals
Thank you to my second photographer Alisha Rudd for her lovely images!
Crandall, a sales executive, and Brenton, a political consultant, met in 2006 while they were college at the University of South Carolina. During Crandall’s freshman year, a friend of hers starting dating Brenton’s college roommate; the four of them would frequently hang out, and there was an immediate and undeniable attraction between Brenton and Crandall, but the timing never seemed to be quite right. Over the years, they would move in and out of other relationships, and Brenton always referred to Crandall as “the one who got away,” so Bo, Brenton’s college roommate, never gave up on trying to get them together.
Fast forward 12 years to 2018. Crandall is hanging out with Bo and his now-wife Katie at the lake, and Brenton mentions that he’s headed to the beach with Brenton in a couple of weeks. By one of those strange turns of circumstance that make the world go round, it just so happened that Crandall was headed to the same beach and precisely the same time with her own family. Brenton called Crandall and they went on a date, and they’ve been together ever since. Theirs is one of those meant-to-be stories. Only adding to the happy hilarity of their first date was the fact that a huge thunderstorm stalked them the entire night, knocking out the power in the first three restaurants they tried to visit. By the end of their umbrella-less evening, they were both drenched and laughing.
As the months went by, they only fell more and more in love. Crandall loved Brenton’s baby-blue eyes, and Brenton adored Crandall’s magnetic personality and beautiful blond hair. Before long, Brenton decided to propose, and on Memorial Day of 2019, he popped the question. The two of them spent all day lounging by the pool in his hometown of Greenville, SC. Brenton told Crandall they had dinner reservations that night. She was surprised but didn’t think much of it. They took an Uber to Larkin’s on the Water, and since they were early, Brenton asked Crandall to take a walk with him in Falls Park which runs along the Reedy River. She was shocked when Brenton suddenly dropped to one knee and asked her to spend the rest of her life with him. Onlookers crowding on a nearby suspension bridge cheered, and Brenton and Crandall were happily surprised when a couple who had been taking photos of the goings-on approached them to say they had taken 40+ pictures of the entire production. It’s something they both swear they’ll pay forward if they ever see a proposal developing in front of them.
After the proposal, Crandall’s first instinct was to call her mom, but Brenton urged her to wait so they could just take it all in for a few minutes. They meandered along the river to the restaurant, and when they arrived, both of their families were waiting there for them with flowers and champagne. Nicely planned, sir. The ring, it should be said, features a diamond from Crandall’s great-grandmother. Brenton reached out to Crandall’s mom for advice, and she helped steer him toward a gold ring with an eternity band. It was just what Crandall wanted.
The engagement shoot was amazing for a variety of reasons. The first was that I was actually able to attend. The date Brenton and Crandall had requested for the shoot just happened to coincide with my family’s chosen date to celebrate my father’s birthday. I had kept the weekend open on my busy fall calendar so I would be available to travel. Coincidentally, my parents live in Greenville, so I told them I would be delighted to make time for the portrait session while I happened to be in the same town these two sweethearts planned to call home. Crandall drove up from Atlanta to make a weekend out of the occasion. They wanted to shoot at Falls Park, which made perfect sense since that was where Brenton proposed. The plan was coming together flawlessly. Well, almost… I was not aware that our scheduled date was falling on the weekend of the annual Fall for Greenville festival in Falls Park, a three-day event that draws over 150,000 people essentially into the exact location of our planned shoot. I’m skilled at navigating around crowds but this was like nothing I had ever experienced. The place was absolutely jammed. Fortunately for me, Brenton and Crandall were having some trouble finding parking, so I had a few additional minutes to thoroughly scout the area. If I shot from this funky angle and used this glass for reflection, or if I laid on the ground and shot up from here…I just might be able to make 150,000+ people disappear. By some divine magic and a bit of staging ingenuity, we ended up with a beautiful image collection with (and if you look at the images, you’ll see I’m telling the truth) virtually nobody in the background. It turned out to be one my very favorite engagement shoots of all time.
Phil and Amanda met one another at a Habitat for Humanity outing during which the volunteers were playing laser tag. Phil thought Amanda was pretty cute, so he just kept shooting her. Turns out, it worked. For their first date, they met up for dinner and then off to a wine bar. Before long, they were in love, and Phil proposed during a hiking trip to Pinnacle Point on Crowder’s Mountain.
Both Phil and Amada are from Charlotte and have been heavily involved in the community for all of their lives. For that reason, having their wedding take place here was incredibly important to them. They chose to get married at Christ Church, one of my favorite churches in town; I’ll go into why as we go along. For their reception, Phil and Amanda chose the Mint Museum, which features no end of visually interesting spaces.
The day started off with me capturing Amanda and her bridesmaids at Phil and Amanda’s home. Once we wrapped there, we headed to the church, where Amanda got dressed in the lovely bridal suite with her mom and her bridesmaids. After a few portraits in the garden with her bridesmaids, it was on to Amanda’s first look with her mom and dad in front of the church. Amanda has always loved the front doors, and we wanted to make sure to make good use of them as a backdrop. For his part, Phil got ready at his parents’ house with his groomsmen, two of whom were his brothers.
The ceremony was just gorgeous. Not only was the atmosphere one of love and friendship, but I can’t tell you how much I adore the clean and simple design of Christ Church, both inside and out. I just love photographing ceremonies there. In the late afternoon, the front facade of the sanctuary is blanketed with the most heavenly light. It is my favorite place to finish up with a bride and groom before heading to the reception. The breeze never misses its cue to lift the bride’s veil just so, making for super romantic portraits of the newlyweds.
I made sure to arrive at the Mint a few minutes ahead of Phil and Amanda to catch a few fantastic shots of them with their wedding party as they accended the front stairs. With it being a February wedding, the timing was tight as the sun was setting rapidly behind the Uptown skyline. But we made it, and I totally love how those images turned out.
For the reception, Phil and Amanda wanted to show their appreciation for the numerous people who had made the effort to be there, and they wanted the party to be super fun. Score on both counts. After exiting the elevators onto the top floor of the museum, guests stopped off to sign the guest book which shared a table with a beautiful assortment of meaningful family wedding photos. A few Instax cameras and plenty of film were on hand so guests could snap a few of their own memories throughout the night, either to share with the bride and groom or keep for themselves.
The decorative concept Amanda and Phil wanted for the reception was organic and natural. The bandstand was bordered by square hurricane lanterns and carpeted with green turf that also served as a backdrop for the band. The floral arrangements, by Proper Flower, were simply beautiful. J. Leigh Events brought all the elements together perfectly–just white, green, glass, lucite, and mercury glass everywhere you looked. It felt like a true garden party with phenomenal music provided by 5 on Sundays, personal friends of the bride and groom.
For their exit, Phil and Amanda made their way down the uplit stairs of the Mint beneath an enthusiastic arch of waving glow wands. From there, it was on to Anguilla for a honeymoon full of sailing and snorkeling.
Planner: J. Leigh Events
Ceremony: Christ Episcopal Church
Officiant: Joan Killian
Reception: Mint Museum
Floral Design: Proper Flower
Hair and Makeup: Rebekah McCann
Band: 5 On Sundays
Catering: Something Classic
Cake: The Wow Factor Cakes
Rentals: CE Rental Charlotte
Transportation: Silver Fox Limos
A huge thank you to my second photographer Alisha Rudd for her lovely images!
Check out Phil and Amanda’s winter engagement session at the McGill Rose Garden here.