MPPC, Byron’s South End, Mary Anne & Ethan

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.

Love Conquers All, Mary Stanton & Matthew

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.

Uptown Charlotte Engagement, Mary Anne & Ethan

Mary Anne, a special education teacher, and Ethan, a budget coordinator for the city of Charlotte, met at Matthews United Methodist Youth Group while volunteering with middle and high school students.  In retrospect, it’s so poetic that these two met while volunteering their time and love since doing so is a key part of both of their hearts. Almost immediately, Ethan felt a spark of attraction, and Mary Anne quickly found herself feeling likewise.  Ethan was the first to make a move, asking Mary Anne out to dinner at Mama Ricotta’s.  

As their relationship deepened, Mary Anne found herself falling in love not only with Ethan’s good looks but also with his remarkable thoughtfulness.  For his part, Ethan fell quickly and irretrievably in love with Mary Anne’s sweet smile and with her innocent but hilarious sense of humor. They also learned what they loved to do together; for Mary Anne, it’s exploring new places and eating good food, and for Ethan, the emphasis is on exploring local craft brews.  Not a bad combination, and one that bodes well for many great years of traveling, eating, and drinking in style.

Ethan and Mary Anne got engaged on August 11th, 2018 during a memorable date night in uptown Charlotte.  The evening got started at Rooster’s with a charcuterie board–one of Mary Anne’s favorite things–and a couple of drinks.  As they waited for their dinner reservation, they wandered through uptown looking for some quiet and found it in 1st Ward Park.  Sitting there, watching the sunset, Ethan and Mary Anne vowed to commit their lives to one another. The ring features a gem that was worn by both Mary Anne’s grandmother and great grandmother.  Ethan and Mary Anne went to the Custom Shop in NoDa and designed the ring together.

We got together for our engagement session at 1st Ward Park, where Mary Anne and Ethan had gotten engaged.  For a while, we’d gone back and forth about locations, and I’d offered several options, but seeing as it was December and colorful landscaping was at a seasonal ebb, 1st Ward seemed like a good bet.  When I learned during one of our conversations that this was precisely where Ethan had proposed, it was settled.

It had snowed the day before, and there were still patches of snow on the ground when we started shooting, but one of the great things about 1st Ward park is that it holds its color no matter the season.  I love the various textured surfaces there and the soft tones of the Uptown skyline at sunset. To finish up the portrait session, we headed to the confetti hearts wall in South End for one more major punch of color. The mural had just been completed, and I felt it would make the most perfect backdrop for the final few images of Mary Anne and Ethan.

These two were a dream to photograph. They were incredibly tender and kind to one another, and I found myself touched by the depth of their commitment.  I can’t wait to see these two at the end of the aisle today. They’re made for each other, and I count myself so lucky to be a part of their big day.

Hair: Blo Blow Dry Bar

Makeup: Woo Skincare and Cosmetics

Confetti Hearts Wall: Evelyn Henson

Covenant Wedding, Terrace at Cedar Hill Reception, Emily & Brett

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

Band: Attraction

Bride’s dress: Antonio Gual

Bridesmaid’s Dresses: The Bride Room

Groom’s Tux: Brooks Brothers

Transportation: Kannapolis Charter and Tours and Rose Transportation

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.

Duke Mansion Engagement, Emily + Brett

Emily and Brett were living in Nashville when they met in 2014.  They were both out at a downtown restaurant called Jackson’s when their paths crossed, but each thought the other was already involved in a relationship, so things didn’t go anywhere that night.  It wasn’t too long, however, until Brett was calling Emily to set up their first date. This time, things went better. They grabbed dinner at a Nashville restaurant called Sambuca, sat in a corner booth, listened to some great live music, and ended up holding hands.  So sweet.

Casual and low-key when they aren’t at work, these two were a natural match.  Emily found herself attracted to Brett’s blue eyes and to the fact that he genuinely seemed to want to spend as much time with her as she wanted to spend with him.  On his end, Brett loved how Emily could light up a whole room, even if she were only meeting people for the first time.
When Brett made up his mind to propose, he decided to roll the event into another Emily had been requesting for several weeks–Saturday morning pancakes.  The catch? Brett had no idea how to make pancakes. So he did what most of us do in the modern age and surfed over to Youtube for a few tutorials. On the day of the proposal, Brett and Emily took a walk about the neighborhood and a nearby park.  Afterward, Brett told her he was going to make pancakes. When their delicious meal was over, Brett asked Emily if she would grab a new light bulb, saying there was one in the kitchen that needed replacing. And this is where it gets funny because unbeknownst to Emily, Brett had tucked the ring inside the lightbulb cabinet in a place where she was sure to see it when she went looking.

Only she didn’t go looking.  At first, she said she didn’t want to deal with that kind of stuff today; Brett could just handle it another time.  Scrambling now, Brett asked if Emily had seen any floodlights lying around. “No,” she confidently replied. “I know we don’t have any of those.”  Finally, Brett was reduced to saying, “Can you just check to see what kind of bulbs we have in there?” Emily gave in. She yanked open the door, and Brett could just see the ring sitting there.  But Emily only grabbed a lightbulb and handed it to Brett. “See anything else in there?” he asked. So, a little exasperated, Emily pulls open the door again and grabs a DIFFERENT bulb, still not seeing the ring.  At this point, Brett grabbed the ring himself, dropped to one knee, and proposed. The ring was one that he and Emily had discussed, but that Brett tracked down himself.  It’s simple and traditional, with a single round-cut diamond.

For the engagement shoot, we met at Duke Mansion  It was in early January, but the temperature was relatively mild, so shooting outside was quite pleasant.  It’s also a testament to how carefully the gardens around the mansion have been cultivated that even in the middle of winter, there was so much lush foliage to use as backdrops.  For Emily and Brett’s shoot, we started out in the East Garden, wrapped around the back of the mansion through the McGuire Lawn, got some beautiful shots on the steps in the Nisbet Garden, and then finished–with the sun setting–on the Dargen Spring Meadow.

Emily had her hair styled at Blo and did her own makeup, and she looked lovely.  Despite the fact that Emily and Brett had never had professional portraits taken, they were a complete delight to shoot.  There was zero awkwardness, just a sweet and comfortable feeling of affection.

Can’t wait to see these two later today when they make it official.

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