WOW. Jess and I had our first Labor Day Weekend here in Wilmington and we entertained his folks, his brother and brother's girlfriend and it was the best time spending it with family. There must've been something in the air though because I got several wedding photography inquiries on Sunday and Monday for folks that got engaged on Friday or Saturday. Patriotism must bring out the romance! So when newly engaged couples approach me for wedding photography packages, they ask me about prices and then almost all of them asked me who I hired for my wedding.
Photographers are one of the first wedding vendors that couples tend to reach out to so for me, a lot of thought goes into the best custom palette of wedding professionals for each and every couple. I tell each and every one of them to take their time and get to know these professionals because they are the people that bring your wedding together. They are the ones that you spend most of your time communicating with during your engagement and if you love them, you will love being engaged because you will see how easy it's supposed to be despite contrary belief.
After Jess proposed back in November 2017, I told myself one thing: that I want it to be about the sanctity of our marriage... not about koozies, flowers, dresses, bridesmaid gifts, or any of that tangible mess. I made myself promise to never bring any stress on my family, on my fiance and his family because stress meant that it was forcing something that wasn't supposed to happen.
I know you won't believe me when I say this, the tangible things I spent about three seconds on, the wedding vendors however, I spent forever on. Here is the dream team that helped Jess and I make our day so special and why we chose them. Keep in mind that every one has different taste, different priorities, and different sentimental reasons for making decisions. Keep in mind I was the last of my family to get married and I'm a wedding photographer for a living so naturally, I just wanted to marry my sweetheart and be done with it. Don't feel like you're making the wrong decision just because I wrote a blog post about it.
The wedding ceremony venue: St. James Parrish
Not trying to fool anyone here... we aren't the greatest Christian couples out there—we barely make it to church whenever we're home but Jess and I made it clear from the beginning that God is always first and that's why we wanted a spiritual wedding. We didn't want to forget what it was all about in all the glamor that weddings can create. We went to St. James Parrish before we were engaged and felt like it was a church we could connect with so it made absolute sense for us to get married there. Another drive to get married there was for sentimental reasons. My aunt and uncle got married there over 25 years ago and are still happily married and greatly involved with St. James.
Reception Venue: The Surf Club
Okay, like I said, last one to get married so we had to go all out and let everyone be able to invite everyone so we needed the space to accommodate that! The Surf Club fit the bill after looking at all the venues that Wilmington had to offer. We also loved that it was by the ocean which made perfect sense for us since Jess grew up fishing on the Atlantic and I grew up a beach girl from the OBX.
photographer: matt mcgraw
Jess basically put me in charge of this for obvious reasons (that he was about to have a photographer for a wife) but I promise I kept asking him what he wanted and he seemed to be completely nonchalant about it. So let me tell you, this was the hardest decision to make probably in the whole wedding experience because I loved everyone I talked to. Everyone had their own personality, their own style and their own way of approaching me, a potential client. The problem was that I had to pick one.
I narrowed it down to picking a Wilmington photographer because of three reasons: 1. I wanted to get to know other photographers in the area as Jess and I had just moved here 2. I wanted to support the local Wilmington economy 3. It was my gut instinct to hire someone within a 30-mile radius (I know super silly but go with it).
When I met Matt, he supported me with open arms since day 1 before I was even engaged. He welcomed me into a photographer's industry and not only encouraged me to network more and more, but he also referred me to business he couldn't take care of personally. That little bit of compassion went a long way on making a first impression on me.
Videographer: luke brown of light cannon films
Let me preface this paragraph by saying that videographers are not required for a wedding—at all. I am just a highly sentimental person and know how fast weddings go by so I wanted a way to literally pause on all of it after it was all over and see everything I missed. There are also some moving memories you cannot capture in photography—as much as I hate to say it as a photographer. It's true.
I ended up finding out about Luke Brown through my wedding planner (I'll get to her after this) and feel so fortunate to have found out about his name. His artistic but romantic style was everything I wanted. You'll see why when you watch the highlight video yourself.
weekend-of Wedding coordinator: Amy mcgraw of Do me a Favor Weddings
Amy happens to be the wife of Matt McGraw, our wedding photographer, but I met her separately through a networking meeting before Jess and I got engaged. We hit it off right away because she was so easy to talk to and just like Matt, as welcoming as anyone can be.
So I'm not going to lie to you, I didn't really need her to plan anything—I was in the industry so I knew the motions of wedding planning. I just personally needed her to be there to tie it all together when the weekend finally arrived. My family is so selfless that they would have done everything Amy did, but that's exactly why I hired her myself. I wanted everyone to enjoy themselves and leave all the itinerary action items to her. She not only excelled, she exceeded my expectations. She took care of me like I was her family. She is multitalented so she did flowers, venue set-up, tended to bitty crisis items, and everything in between.
Cake: Cakes by Carla
Went with a local lady that does cakes out of her home. Total inside scoop from my aunt who lives here as well. Our priority was not spending thousands of dollars on sugar. This yummy 5-layer bad boy only cost $400 (average is $1,500 for that size).
Hair: Ultimate Hair by Chelsea
Okay, the one vendor I didn't go local on was one of my very good friends from Jamesville, NC who has her own salon called Ultimate Hair by Chelsea. She's one of those people that fits me into her calendar on her day off when I only give her a week notice. That's how sweet she is. I wanted someone I knew well because after all, you hang out with all day when you're getting ready. Of course she's talented too, but I'm already biased there. What's even cooler is that she enlisted some help from another hair stylist I knew. Her name is Fharren, so I felt like we were all friends just chilling on the porch getting pretty.
makeup: flawless makeup by Isla
For anyone that knows me, you would know that I'm just not a makeup person. I splurge on foundation and by splurge it's $50 on something that lasts almost a year. The rest of my makeup is all drug store nonsense. Needless to say, I don't know what I'm doing when it comes to painting on my face. Isla from Flawless Makeup by Isla was a contact through my wedding coordinator, Amy. I had her do a test run with my bridal portraits and absolutely loved how she intertwined both the natural but glamorous look so I knew she was the right fit. I also loved how she went into the wedding day thinking she was only going to work her magic on three or four girls but ended up doing the entire house of girls because everyone loved how talented she was. The even more amazing fact is that she STILL finished on time whilst also making all my sisters, mom, mom-in-law, and aunt feel confident and pretty. Sometimes this isn't always the case with makeup artists because some ladies get traumatized through a makeover that's so intense to the point where they don't even recognize themselves and it actually moves them to tears. That's why I always recommend to my brides to do bridals because it's a test trial with the dress, makeup, hair and you also get to savor feeling like a princess .
Rentals: Party Suppliers and Rentals
We rented the Surf Club intentionally because they included chairs + tables but we wanted to spice up the tables with some pretty linen. I knew one of the owners of the place, Ashley from working at a non-profit event called The Care Project and remembered she worked in the event rental business. She took care of us like we rented out the whole store when in reality, all we got was just a few orders of beige textured linen!
transportation: azalea limousine service
We had a budget but also had about a 23 minute trip from the church to the Surf Club so we could only afford to transport immediate family and bridal party (Didn't make sense for us to order 16 different Ubers to get everywhere and too risky for them to be on-time). Azalea Limousine Service gave us a great deal after we told them what we could really pay. I think it helped that our wedding was in the off-season though! Brides and Grooms, negotiate! Everyone is always trying to make a buck so it usually ends up being a win-win.
Flowers: lydia Hines + close family friends
This was another contact from my aunt who lives here. Lydia doesn't market herself to the public and does word-of-mouth and referral weddings. We feel so grateful to have met her as she had several weddings in one weekend and still made time for us! Her talent coupled with Amy, the coordinator and our close family friends, we were able to put on wedding decor at an affordable cost.
At the end of the day, you are going to get married and that in itself is a treasure to experience. Don't forget to cherish it because after all, it only happens once! (I'm going to be naive and pretend like divorce doesn't exist in this blog post).
See you lovers tomorrow for Day 16.
Ps. Jess, thanks for letting me broadcast our wedding photos all over the internet. Love you husband!