When preparing for this elopement, I was inspired by two styles:
1. Romantic, older grainy film photos of elopements and
2. Modern zero-fcks-given-let’s-go-to-Vegas-and-get-married-by-Elvis vibes.
We had a worldwide pandemic, a local ice storm and a last minute courthouse closure up against us but these 2 were getting married, no matter what! The date was set, the flowers were ordered and that's how Miranda and Alex got married at the Buncombe County Jail in February 2021. Miranda’s brother later described it as very rock ‘n’ roll when he found out the next option for them was to get married at the jail by the magistrate. I agreed and it was.
The day was fun, relaxed and super romantic. But let's back up first!
As locals, you have the option to get ready at home for the big day or rent a place to feel a little removed for your daily life. Miranda found the coolest cabin where they brought their pup, Rose, and enjoyed a week together as a mini honeymoon! Planning in the time of COVID creates a lot of barriers but you can always find a way to make an occasions special. I met up with them at the cabin in the afternoon before heading downtown.
Jewelry by The East Western
Flowers by Flora
Boots by FRYE
Crown by DECCOANGEL
Ring is vintage
Private vow exchange at the cabin.
After a whirlwind of an afternoon, Miranda and Alex wanted to have a private moment at their cabin to exchange vows. The air was getting chilly, the sun was setting quickly so a cozy fire kept them warm (and set the vibe).
During these moments, my goal is to disappear into the background so they can focus on each other. This means I skipped a flash and only used the fading sunlight. The vows were heartwarming and they had as much time as needed to share and be present.
May your elopement be uniquely you, unabashedly full of love and documented to revisit often.
Small Business Photography
Personal Branding Photography
What do you like to call it?
I work with a lot of individuals offering killer services online and in need of photos to market on their website, emails and in social media. I love learning about their individual styles to determine a location that fits. Tiarra runs Groundbreaking Financial in Asheville in addition to being a mom, going to school and working another job! It's inspiring to see people working so hard to fulfill their dreams. We met up in downtown Asheville one morning this spring to capture the spirit of her and her services. We fit in 2 outfits and roamed the Wall St area to create some magic.
Dunia and Evan traveled to the mountains of Asheville to elope with their nearest and dearest. Surrounded by their immediate families during a tumultuous year, they exchanged vows at The Swag, seemingly on top of the world.
Personal touches include rosemary pinned to everyone's lapel (including mine!) from Dunia's Croatian parents and the Breaking of the Glass representing Evan's Jewish heritage. Personal touches to show who you are as individuals and as a couple are must - such beautiful + meaningful moments to look back on.
There were mementos from loved ones on Dunia's wrist and above her veil. They wished to have friends with them for the celebration but 2020 had different plans. They adjusted beautifully for an intimate outdoor celebration instead. I hope the photos will help loved ones feel close to the day.
For cocktail hour, the group of 7 danced to a local bluegrass band and toasted champagne with the sun fading behind the mountains in the background.
This post was originally created in January of 2020 and has been revised throughout the year to be reposted on January 4, 2021.
Air B&B weddings are popping up all over in Asheville and since I've photographed quite a few, I'm familiar with some great spots!
Below I list + link wedding-worthy homes for you to browse but, first, let's talk about what you should look for when choosing a rental home for your Asheville wedding!
Part 1 - Is a rental home right for my wedding?
Now's the time to look for things that a traditional event venue may offer and decide if those are necessary for you. These decisions may be based on your guest list - is it just you 2 eloping to the mountains? Just immediate families with no special needs? Grab your guest list to reference then go through the list below.
A traditional wedding/event venue will offer these things and a rental home likely won't:
Still loving the rental home option?! Now that you're ready to nail down a sweet lil rental for your big day, what should you be looking for?
What to look for in the rental home to ensure a smooth wedding:
If you have to move this party indoors... It's likely you're planning part of the event to be outside but what if you need to move the whole event indoors? Every rental home is different but 2 things the can make a world of difference to capturing beautiful images indoors: window light and a nice style.
Part 2 - Where are the best rental houses in the Asheville area?
On to the good stuff! Below are a few of my favorite Asheville area rental proprieties for your wedding or elopement!
ModCabins - A set of 3 stylish and modern cabins in the woods. They even have beautiful covered porches for a rainy day back-up!
Hart House - Beautiful side yard for a private wedding ceremony + sweet little covered porch for cocktail hour. Southern manor feel on the outside. The photos on this blog post are from Hart House!
Pine Hollow - Multiple outdoor location options for a ceremony and reception! There's gorgeous trees, a lush yard and even little pond.
Cabin Heaven - Cute cabin and some of the best mountain views I've seen from the sprawling lawn!
River's Ridge Lodge - Spacious yet cozy cabin creekside with a killer deck and gazebo. And wedding-hosting experience too!
Stecoah House - An incredible modern rental home for a stylish couple wanting the cabin vibes.
Laughing Waters - Plenty of mountain views in WNC but we have a few spots for the water lovers too, like this one!
Laurel Falls - Multiple cabins, rustic yet modern. Mountain views and plenty of photo spots!
The Gables - Newly built home with room to sleep 20 and all the amenities needed for a fun family getaway.
SKI Quaint Farm Barn Loft - This is such a cute option for an elopement for 2 - a modern charmer!
Big Butte Retreat - Multiple cabins, very rustic, perfect for a giant sleepover with your closest family and friends in the mountains. Mountain views, a small pond and plenty of photo op spots!
Weaver House - More of an event venue than an Air B&B but it is a house-like setting and since it's new - a hidden gem in WNC!
Continue your search on VRBO, Air B&B or HomeAway - these have been helpful for my past clients.
Don't forget to check out local Inns and Bed & Breakfasts in the area too. The owners are often excited to help coordinate the event with you and they provide great insight. And some have stunning settings, check out the gorgeous tree at Mountain Magnolia Inn for your ceremony backdrop or the stately setting at Albemarle Inn!
Part 3 - Found the place! Now what?
You've chosen your rental home and you're ready to plan this party!
Can you do a walk-through? Ask your vendors if you need to scout anything for them - such as...
More planning tips:
I've shot many Air B&B weddings and they always turn out wonderful. I've never been to the same rental house twice for a wedding and I've experienced rained out weddings and all kinds of hiccups - it always turns out awesome. You've got this, happy planning!
The last wedding I got to photograph in 2020 landed on a sunny day in December! Sarah and Troy gathered their closest family members to get married on their original wedding date with a larger event planned for December 2021 which will include extended family and friends.
The ceremony was held on the rooftop of Highland Brewing, one of my favorite venues! All of their incredible vendors are below, I recommend everyone listed!
Venue: Highland Brewing (rooftop for ceremony and Barrel Room for brunch after)
Planner: Plain with Sprinkles
Florals: The Freckled Petal
Hair / Makeup: Pop of Color
Dessert table: Hole Doughnuts
I just loved how the Barrel Room at Highland was setup for this small wedding! The early afternoon sunlight was shining through the skylights onto the hanging planters which are a staple of the space. It's a spacious room so you could set it up in a number of ways to suit your style.
As we all know, the worldwide pandemic derailed many many wedding plans. Some postponed, some cancelled, some pivoted. Lauren and Nathan decided to reduce the guest list, keep everything outdoors and offer all the precautions (space to distance, masks, sanitizer, safe vendors) to continue with their wedding day in May of 2020.
The rain showed up for part of the day but luckily we had the covered pavilion at Olivette to shield us during the ceremony. Olivette is a beautiful newer community right on the French Broad River in Asheville. We all met after at Reverie Events in downtown Asheville to finish the evening with a delicious dinner and cake the bride's mom made!
Below are my favorite moments from a very joyful afternoon in Asheville.
Ceremony Venue: Olivette
Officiant: Elope Asheville
Reception Venue: Reverie Events
Catering: 67 Biltmore
Cake: Mother of the Bride
Because, you know, COVID.
Share this lovely day with your far away loved ones! This is a quick post, here my photographer-perspective tips:
-Test test test! Make sure you get internet connection easily at the ceremony spot. Test the exact way you plan to connect to prevent freak-outs on the day-of.
-Invite your virtual guests, make them feel special and welcome. Emotions are running wild this year, let's make people feel loved a missed! On the invite, include all login details, make sure they login 5-10 minutes before the ceremony begins and include your time zone in your invite.
-Which program to use? I'm not a tech-person so I don't know much but I do know the free version of Zoom is limited. Consider FaceTime, Skype, Zoom or any other program you've been using this year. Make sure there are no ads, time limits or other distractions that would interrupt. Bonus feature is if you can mute your virtual guests so you aren't distracted by their noise as you exchange vows.
-Try to use an iPad, laptop or a propped up phone instead of someone being in charge of holding the phone/iPad. If one of your in-person guests is holding a device then I'll be less likely to capture candids of them enjoying the ceremony because they'll be looking at + fiddling with it throughout. I highly recommend unplugged weddings to encourage all who are present to be in the moment while I handle the photo-taking!
-Place the iPad, laptop or phone as out of sight as possible during the ceremony. Don't block anyone's view who is there in person! Don't worry if we see a bit of laptop in your wedding photos, that' part of the story of your wedding day!
I just love the sunrise. I'm a morning person who rarely gets to do my main work in the morning! I'm often chasing sunsets with couples or models. Sunsets are golden and wonderful but the sunrise is an unsung hero ;)
I drove out to Lenoir, NC to meet Jennifer and Hans for their private elopement. It was just the officiant, myself and my husband, who took the drive with me and was their 2nd witness.
Hans setup the fire before the sun was out as it's an important part of the ceremony. He and Jennifer would be circling that fire as a beautiful ritual. After exchanging vows, they shared cake and champagne, it's never too early for those things! We roamed around the rental home property for couple portraits then I left by 9am to drive home while they enjoyed the rest of their day.
Oooo weeee I'm just so happy about this shoot. I worked with Hannah and Patrice to create a magically moody jewelry shoot in the heart of the woods.
We shot this in late summer, all outdoors and spaced out because of COVID. We walked a narrow trail with photo gear, a pet snake and trays of jewelry. We stopped in expected spots and found hidden corners. The woods guided us. The weather was beautiful with rotating clouds that ended up covering the sky when we left at dusk.
These women are so talented and inspired me greatly as I prepared for, shot and edited this session. Hannah brought her pet snake TūTū to really add some fun. Have you ever tried to take photos of a model in the woods without a mirrors, lighting or fancy things while trying to get her, a snake and dangling jewelry all showing their best angle? It's no joke! Thank you Hannah and Patrice!
Jewelry Artist and Photo Shoot Stylist: Hannah of Trollbinde
Model, Hair and Makeup Stylist: Patrice
Clothing: Vintage Moon
Special Guest: TūTū the snake
There was so much joy in this small ceremony by the lake!
Rebecca and Max's family got together this summer to celebrate with a smaller wedding before their larger wedding next year. There's been a tradition in the family where all of Rebecca's sisters married on labor day weekend and they wanted to keep that tradition! I love that sentiment and I love LOVE a lakeside wedding. The colors are so gorgeous and a lake represents summertime fun and a serene calmness.
Sweet words from the couple:
"Chelsea could not have been more wonderful as our wedding photographer!! When our original plans were scrapped, we reached out to her 6 weeks out, and she was responsive, helpful, and kind throughout the planning process. We really appreciated working with someone who respected and advocated for a safe environment for everyone involved. Then, the photos... they are truly stunning!! We got a sneak peek two days after the wedding and our collection two weeks after our date. Beyond all of the big moments captured so beautifully, there are so many wonderful candid photos that display the pure joy and real happiness of the day. The little details she shared with us just put such smiles on our faces. We couldn't be happier with our experience and couldn't recommend Chelsea enough!"
Eloping has always been special to me but it's extra special in the times of COVID!
We're all adjusting our old goals and dreams to fit into our new reality, at least for now. Eloping to the mountains is the picture-perfect way to still get married and keep it safe.
We covered what to pack for your outdoor elopement, now what about if you're planning a picnic for two, too?
What to Pack for your Elopement Picnic:
-Food, choose your favorites and remember some food are messier than others
-Drinks, especially water
-Blanket, bring 2 if one side isn't water resistant in case there's mud or buy a cheap drop cloth
-Cooler with ice packs, even if that's just for the car because you have a cute basket for photos!
-Plates, cups, cutlery, napkins, serverware
-Corkscrew/bottle opener + cork for unfinished bottles
-Wet wipes for sticky things
-Trash bag, always leave no trace
-Pre-slice items like the fruit, baguette, cheeses or focus on finger foods.
-Be sure to use the restroom before your picnic, only some trails offer facilities.
-Alcohol isn't allowed in most popular park spots, check for permitting before you pack your basket.
-Rain is always a risk. Do you have a back-up location like your front porch? Could you open up the back of an SUV in a pinch for your picnic?
Most of these set-ups are quite elaborate but there's no harm in some inspiration! Check out these gorgeous settings!
Prefer someone else create the picnic of your dreams so you don't have to worry about it? I hear ya!
I love a great reason to outsource and I can't imagine a better day to outsource than your wedding. These companies can handle the details and get you setup for a simple pick-up.
I highly recommend:
The Rhu - some of my favorite pastries and salads in town!
Asheville Picnic Company - locally sourced goodies from everyone's favorite Asheville makers!
Tick Tock Concierge - Asheville's top concierge service who can manage any request you have!
Natasha, of Highest Light Healing, and I got together this summer for new headshots for her healing work and her podcast! It's incredible how far headshots have come! Within 30 minutes, we captured summertime portraits in 2 outfits in her own backyard - no backdrop, pantsuit or cheesy pose necessary!
I offer these mini sessions with a finite amount of images delivered (8-10) but sometimes I can't help myself and end up sending more including environmental shots to set the scene.
Although I have my own photography style, when I work with brands I aim for what's best for their aesthetic. 1900 Inn on Montford wanted photos that showed off their guest rooms that weren't too dark, a problem they've had in the past. I love a moody image but I agree that we want the the rooms in the B&B to feel light, comfortable and welcoming. I made sure to keep the look as natural as possible while brightening up the space even if though was rainy on the shoot day - sometimes you have to fake the beautiful sunlight!
Another request was to make the colors robust. I was happy to make the colors pop for their liking! The greenery outdoors was beautiful in June when we shot and I definitely wanted to highlight that. Check out their gorgeous garden below!
The first image from this post is possibly my favorite of the collection, just a simple shot of their swinging bench on the front porch.
It epitomizes how I see a Bed & Breakfast and gives me all the feelings of booking a summer getaway in the mountains. Comfort, nature and sweet details like the wind chimes and planter. What draws you in to the B&B experience?
A sweet note from the happy couple:
"I'm sorry this reply is so late, but all of your pictures were/are AMAZING!! I can't stop staring at them, thank you so much. Everyone I show them to are instantly blown away. The USB and Asheville print made it here safe and sound, and the thought you put into the package was so sweet...
Thank you so much for capturing all of the little moments on our big day!"
Natasha and Jake had a big wedding planned for 2020 but, like many engaged couples, COVID derailed 2020 wedding plans. So they accommodated for the new norm and rescheduled for 2021. In the meantime, they wanted to be married!
Honoring their original wedding date, they brought 13 of their closest loved ones to the mountains for a small wedding in June of 2020. I kept my mask on and plenty of space between myself and the guests while capturing this sweet wedding at the Indigo Retreat in Old Fort, NC.
I asked Natasha to turn away from the camera for a moment to capture her veil and hair details. In looking toward the hydrangeas with a calm posture, she looks like a piece of artwork and created one of my favorite images!
The creek by Indigo Retreat is so beautiful and the perfect spot for couple photos in the woods. We had just enough morning light streaming through the trees to highlight Natasha and Jake on the bridge.
The morning event ended with a family brunch on the porch. The sun was shining and everyone chatted about hiking, napping or both that afternoon. The perfect family getaway to Western North Carolina for a very special reason.
I have openings this fall for small weddings (micro weddings?) and elopements that allow for social distancing. Stay safe out there!
Black Lives Matter.
A disruption is needed.
I respect the protests. I value them and see them as necessary.
The most patriotic thing I can do is to continue to help improve this country.
For my clients, my community and myself:
-I will learn, receive information and dig deep before speaking or posting. I move slower than the average social media user, in many ways. I will not be silent but I will remain intentional.
-I’ll lean into my discomfort to discover the root cause. When I judge someone else, it says something about how I judge myself. I will look inward before speaking out. I remain open to changing my opinions and evolving; I encourage others to do the same. Don't we all want to look back and see how much we've grown? Let's normalize growing up, changing opinions and having open dialogue.
-I will ensure that there are black people, POC and people from the LGBTQ+ community on my list of vendors and photographers who I refer regularly to clients. I will continue to improve my list of vendor referrals.
-I will recommend and encourage diversity when working with small business/branding clients. I will continue to learn how to lift up black, POC and LGBTQ+ voices in my community without tokenization.
-I will do my best to budget and spend my money in a way that supports local, small and minority-owned businesses - online and here in Asheville, NC.
-I will hold myself accountable. If there's one thing I've learned as an adult it's that everything takes effort - forever. There is no one-and-done. If we want abs, we must keep working on them - forever. If we want justice, we must keep advocating - forever. If we don't want Trump-like characters in charge, we must research and vote - forever. This is true whether anyone holds you accountable or not, you must choose to hold yourself accountable.
I'm learning from, listening to and recommending:
LAYLA THEE ANCESTRESS
Nedra Glover Tawwab
Color of Change
13th on Netflix
Why Cities are Still so Segregated
How to make your donations count via The Cut
What part of the BLM movement speaks to you? There's a place to donate for that. 135 Ways to Donate in Support of Black Lives and Communities of Color via NY Mag and broken down into categories.
Speak out - a simple way to find out who to email.
Summer in the mountains is one of the best times of year in Asheville. We're a little hippie town that loves shopping local and with intention. I connected with Elder & Co. years ago when the small business was run by a different owner. I love that I worked with Amber and now Ellie to create beautiful images to promote their candle lines.
With this new line, Ellie was inspired by weekly trips to the Farmer's Market. She created a line of candle with scents that take us to a sunny Saturday morning, totes in hand, shopping for fresh produce. Rhubarb, Honeybell, Tarragon (my favorite!) and Tomato scents. Hell yes!
Also inspired by Western North Carolina's farms, she teamed up with The Culinary Gardener to support his work during the COVID-19 crisis. How can we lift each other up? You never know when your own small business has the tools to do just that. I've been offering deep discounts this spring and into summer in hopes that we can stay afloat and eventually bounce back together.
We gathered to create these images a Evan's farm to tell the story of their creation and how Ellie was inspired.
Laid-back, not stiff
These are all branding words used to create the style in which I guided my clients, the session and edited the images. What an honor! I had such a nice time at this beautiful retreat tucked away in the Western North Carolina mountains. Bliss Farm & Retreat provides a nature oasis for groups to escape to - practice your yoga and meditation while surrounded by the beautiful outdoors and a sweet farm with chickens, goats and geese!
Kind words from the client:
"Working with Chelsea was a special treat for our whole team! The photoshoot was fun, communicating with Chelsea prior to the shoot was effortless and she was very thorough and detail oriented in making sure we were on the same page about the vision we had for the photos. The style and feel of the photos was exactly what we were looking for and so on brand. Chelsea is personable and professional both in her communication style and the delivery of photos. Thank you!" -Bliss Farm & Retreat team
Needing lifestyle images for your brand? Let's work together to create a plan and a fun photo session! This summer I'm working with small businesses while following the current county + state + nationwide recommendations to remain safe during COVID-19.
Email me or fill out my contact form to get a custom quote based on your photo ideas and needs!
The blog post was originally published on 11/6/2018 and updated on 5/20/2020.
You’re in the gown or suit that took weeks (months?) of research and shopping to find. Your hair is the most on point it has ever been. The venue you’ve selected is perfectly curated with floral arrangements and personal accents. Everyone you love has gathered to celebrate your milestone. This moment is joyful and intentional.
...and unfortunately, the professional photographer you’ve hired to artfully capture this moment is dodging Aunt Jocelyn's camera flash that keeps going off and side stepping your roomie from college who’s half way in the aisle with his iPhone.
It’s literally impossible to capture the important moments because your guests are hovering in the aisle and snapping photos of you with their iPhones as you head to the altar.
It goes without saying that your photos will be of much higher quality if your designated photographer isn’t dodging friends and family to do her job. The less obvious but super powerful benefit of going the unplugged route is that everyone attending is fully present. They're there to witness and engage with their eyes and hearts, rather than with their technology. Eye contact will replace staring into screens if you’ve asked for full participation, rather than documentation.
Making Your Unplugged Wedding a Reality!
Let’s talk about how you prepare your guests for going unplugged:
Most people understand that the photographer was hired to complete a job, and it’s never anyone’s intention to hinder that. And there were many years where I said little about the inclusion of phones/iPads/laptops during the ceremony but I now feel like it's my responsibility to speak up. The usage has increased for everyone and I can see the effects.
Remember: your wedding is about you two! Don’t be afraid to create boundaries!
PS - Need help with your verbiage? Check these out for inspo!
This post was originally published on 8/22/2018 and updated in the fall of 2020.
Weddings. Sigh. They’re magical.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen quite a few couples turn into stressed out project managers during their wedding days, instead of fully enjoying the wedding they’ve worked so hard to create and share with their loved ones. Even the small, intimate weddings I love to photograph can sometimes challenge my clients to soak up the love and really live in the moment.
If you are already anticipating that you’re going to need a plan for controlling stress levels or anxiety during your wedding day, let me offer a few thoughts for truly enjoying this time, and avoiding potential freakouts!
Before Your Wedding
-Checklists FTW! Stay ahead of the game by giving yourself ample time to think about and plan each of the major components of your wedding day, and then break each of those components down with details. If you aren’t hiring a wedding planner, start a document that holds critical information such as the the vendors, materials, budget, and extra support people required for your ceremony, music, transportation, catering, flowers, makeup, hair, and photography. Having a central document will ease the burden of trying to recall mental notes and will help you think through the logistics of the day. You can even share it with your vendors and support people prior to the event.
-Know yourself! If you're an introvert like me, being the center of attention and chatting with 70+ people in 1 day can be exhausting. Think through what works for your personalities and keep that in mind when making decisions. You want the day to feel fun, not obligatory.
-Communicate! You're hiring professionals to create your wedding day and they're there to help. When you have a concern that falls under catering, chat with your caterer asap to ease your worry.
-Have a backup plan. If you're holding any part of the wedding outdoors, always always have a backup plan in case it rains.
-Plan your heart out, pin pin pin then let it all go on the wedding day so you can enjoy!
-Ask for or hire help. If you think you'll need a hand packing the car, cleaning up after the rehearsal dinner or just zipping up your wedding dress then you're probably right! Don't be afraid to ask for help or hire a pro
On the Day
-Assign roles to family members or your best friends to oversee each of the major components of your wedding. Aunt Jean can welcome the catering crew and Grandpa Joe will love making sure the band is set up on time - this is especially great for those family members who arrive early. Remember, you’re supposed to enjoy this milestone and you can’t be in 5 places at once, so make this a community event and enlist your nearest and dearest to help get it all done.
-Don't get wrapped up in pre-planned moments. Maybe you want a specific photo of you and your partner kissing at the end of the aisle but you forgot to do it. Don't worry about it!
-Leave snacks, supplements, essential oils, headache meds and water in your getting ready room or to-go bag so that you can restore your blood sugar and take a breather, as needed.
-Have a loved one or professional give you a little massage. Even 5 minutes of gentle touch can significantly calm nerves and shift your perspective.
In Front of the Camera
Some of us are nervous in front of the camera in the best of times. I have total compassion for my clients who deal with the compounded stress of making sure their wedding runs smoothly in addition to being the subject of a photoshoot. I love being a support for my clients and will guide you the entire time, as needed!
Here are some basic tips for keeping the vibes calm and cool as I capture the day:
-Stay hydrated and eat something. You’ll look and feel better.
-Loosen up! Wiggle, dance, laugh, get silly. Take deep breaths, relax your shoulders, release the tension in your mouth.
-Limit distractions. I know, easier said than done! It’s OK to say no to an audience watching while you take portraits.
-And my favorite tip, ignore me! Most of my couples love a natural and candid feel to the images. Best way to make that happen? Forget I'm even there and I'll handle the rest!
Check out this post for more tips!
Choosing to Bask in the Glow
My biggest hope for my couples is that they let their guard down to enjoy the wedding while I capture it honestly. Yes, things can go wrong. But still... this is your wedding day. There is a special kind of wonderment intrinsic to weddings. The glow of the community surrounding you two. The creation of memories. Experiencing a milestone. Celebrating love in all of its forms! Don’t forget to take care of yourself so that you can bask in that magic you’ve created.