NC Same-Sex Wedding Photographer, Mary & Melodee

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.

I cry every single time.

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 Hair & Makeup: Elbert ReedKaitlyn Kiser and Adrian Howe 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 

Matthews United Methodist Wedding, Providence Country Club Reception, Crandall & Brenton

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!

Falls Park, Greenville, SC Engagement, Crandall & Brenton

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. 

Christ Church, Mint Museum, Amanda & Phil

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.

Charlotte Backyard Garden Wedding, Clair & Randy

Clair, the founder and owner of her own law firm, and Randy, who is in both wealth management and real estate, met while Clair’s son was touring Arizona State University in Phoenix.  Randy had lived in Arizona for 25 years, and his sister, who lived in Charlotte, arranged for Randy and Clair to share a meal during the campus visit. 

Not long after their first meeting in Arizona, Randy invited Clair to the Charlotte wedding of a fraternity brother’s daughter.  They had an excellent time that evening, especially on the dance floor. I was told during the engagement session that one of the items Clair and Randy acquired from a gift basket at that wedding will feature in their own reception.  The item in question?  A pair of gold Elvis glasses, attached sideburns and all.  At the wedding, effectively Clair and Randy’s first date, Clair wasn’t entirely sure Randy was the fella for her until he donned that pair of Elvis glasses and hit the dance floor, fully unleashing his incredible personality.  There’s a photo of the moment on the family wall that they both cherish. 

Randy proposed during a surprise overnight trip to Blowing Rock.  It was just before Christmas, and he said he wanted to get her out of town before the approaching and sure-to-be hectic family visit, meal prep, and general insanity of the holidays.  They shopped, snuggled, and enjoyed some wine in their room at Chetola, and then had a romantic fireside meal at The Best Cellar at Ragged Garden Inn.  As they were finishing dessert, the restaurant emptied, the waiter disappeared, and Randy was suddenly telling Clair that he spoke to her parents the week before. He said they’d discussed how beautiful, bright and beloved she was but that something was missing. Gently rubbing her left ring finger…. he fell to one knee and opened a ring box that held a beautiful 5 diamond band.  He put the ring on her finger, and by the time they got back to their room, she finally remembered to answer his question.

Planning for the wedding was much simpler once a simple initial choice, to hold both the wedding and the reception at Clair and Randy’s place, was made.  Her folks are no longer ambulatory, so hosting the wedding somewhere with an easily accessible entrance was a must, and their house fit the bill.  Even the rehearsal dinner was at home.  The menu: brick oven pizzas from the outdoor oven. So cozy.

Clair and Randy had recently finished a complete remodel of their place, inside and out.  Everything was flawless, and then the weather decided to toss a wrench into the works.  Upon seeing the forecast, the couple launched into action.  Tents that covered the entire back yard area were erected.  It was truly the most impressive tent complex I’ve ever seen, and I’m not exaggerating.  There were umbrellas provided for everyone present, heaters and faux furs to keep the guests warm, and plenty of light for photos.  I was so knocked out by every little detail.  Such a treat to photograph the incredible work of Nectar, one of my favorite floral designers to recommend.  There was hardly a surface without some kind of superb floral adornment–each one a unique stunner.

The ceremony itself took place in a separate tent in the front yard, and there was a ceremony twist that I absolutely adored.  Before the bride and groom processed in, the guests were treated to a little concert.  After a few songs, Randy and Clair entered, took their seats in the front row beside her parents and children, and enjoyed more spectacular music before their nuptials.  It was all so relaxed and delightful.  At the end of the concert, Clair and Randy exchanged vows and were led out by the same bagpiper who ushered them in.

East Coast Entertainment’s Mr. Potato Head Band utterly killed it. The dance floor didn’t cool off until the band’s final song. Guests wore the same Elvis glasses Randy had donned when tearing up the dance floor the night of their first date. It was an absolute hoot.

This wedding was exceptionally unique.  I relished all the personal touches Clair and Randy incorporated into their special day, especially that the celebration was held in their home. A lifetime of wonderful memories were crafted that night. I’m so happy for these two splendid people, and couldn’t be more thrilled to have played a small role in their big day.

Paper goods: The Blue Elephant Design Company and The Buttercup Floral Design: Nectar Cake: Celestial Cakery Hair: Betty Lou Skinner Makeup: Renee Goodwin Catering: Fran’s Filling Station Lighting: Eye Dialogue Videographer: Hart to Heart Band: Mr. Potato Head Transportation: Rose Tents: Party Time Rentals Drums/Vocals: Greg Lilley Violin: Peter deVries Vocals: Susan Roberts Knowlson Piano: Sean Higgins Guitar: Andre Ferriri Vocals: Ian Campbell Bass: Anna Stadlman Bagpipes: Christian Markle

Thank you to Alisha Rudd Photography for her lovely images! XO!

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