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 with your life partner is perfectly curated with floral arrangements and personal accents. Everyone you love has gathered to celebrate your milestone. This moment is joyful, warm and intentional.
...and unfortunately, the professional photographer you’ve hired to artfully capture this moment is dodging Aunt Marla’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.
Another bonus: you will be in charge of telling your wedding’s story on social media. Instead of finding yourself bombarded with 1,000 photo tags as your wedding happens in real-time, you’ll be the master unveiler of your beautiful day!
Making Your Unplugged Wedding a Reality!
So, now that we’ve unpacked the logic of asking your guests to power down their devices, let’s talk about how you prepare your guests for your policy.
Most people understand that the photographer was hired to complete a job, and it’s never anyone’s intention to hinder that. It’s always best to make special arrangements like this before the wedding ceremony begins, never during! With a little advanced prep, everyone wins.
This post was originally published on 8/22/2018 and updated on 5/15/2020.
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 special kind of wonderment 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!
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 real community event and enlist your nearest and dearest to help get it all done.
-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.
-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! Isn't it better to live in the moment and just enjoy?
-Leave snacks, supplements, essential oils, headache meds and water in your getting ready room so that you have the space and provisions to restore your blood sugar and take a breather, as needed. You could even have your maid of honor, BFF, sister, or mom (or all of them?) hold a little bag for you to sneak away with for some alone time to recharge for a few minutes.
In Front of the Camera
Some of us are squeamish 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 in these highly emotional moments.
Here are some tips for keeping the vibes calm and cool as I capture the day:
-Stay hydrated. You’ll look and feel better. Trust me.
-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, and to delegate tasks while you focus on your partner and how amazing your love is.
Check out this post for more tips!
Choosing to Bask in the Glow (my fave tip!)
Yes, things can (and usually to a small extent, do) 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 and your beloved. 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.
The post was originally published on 6/1/2018 and updated on 5/10/2020.
Many engaged couples choose their wedding package based on pricing + their day-of timeline. Hopefully both, not one or the other!
I've got another reason to consider, what moments do you need your photographer to NOT miss?
Is Grandpa secretly a cryer? Do you have a group ready to dance their asses off at the reception? Or maybe it's definitely NOT a dancing group so you know late night won't be necessary. Envision the day and how you see it unfolding to really know what you want photographed!
Let's start with the most common wedding day photo ops:
Getting ready photos
The dress/suit before it's put on
Hanging out with friends + family during the day (I hear mimosa glasses clinking in anticipation)
Details of invitation suite, rings, shoes, florals, etc.
Photos of the venue decor + setting before guests arrive (ceremony + reception)
Wedding party portraits
First dance / Father & daughter / Mother & son / Any version of these
Candid moments of guests enjoying themselves
Let's look at how they each play out based on my experience with small weddings + elopements (for which I offer an hourly rate).
Covers the basics. For my 2 hour couples, we generally fit in a few getting ready or scenic photos + the ceremony + family photos + couples portraits. Boom. Done. If you only need the basics and have a small group in attendance, this may cover your needs. Or maybe it feels too limited...
Covers the basics plus you get time for candids. For my 4 hour couples, we fit in a few getting ready + scenic/venue photos + the ceremony + family photos + couples portraits + candid moments.
Honestly, I'm trying to capture candid moments even if we're together for a 1 hour session. But during a wedding day, things can get hectic. If we're trying to make it all flow smoothly, find the best lighting and are slightly rushed then I won't have the freedom for candids. Candids require some breathing room for the photographer to walk around and find unexpected moments.
For my 6 hour couples, we fit in getting ready + scenic/venue photos + the ceremony + family photos + couples portraits + a touch of reception fun + plenty of candid moments.
This is a great option for a multiple location wedding too! If we're having a ceremony on a mountain top and a reception downtown, it's likely you'll need to add in driving time to the timeline. I consider the 4 and 6 hour options my most popular packages for small weddings.
For my 8 hour couples, we fit in getting ready pics of both partners + scenic/venue photos + the ceremony + family photos + couples portraits + ROARIN' reception fun + plenty of candid moments.
If you're booking me for 8 hours, you likely have a larger wedding and/or you have a full timeline with multiple locations and activities that can't be missed!
I offer packages from 4 hour to 10 hours of photo coverage but I'm happy to customize. I'll always ask for the most important-can't-miss-photos you are dying for + I ask for enough time to get couples portraits + I photograph the sweet details of the day. Those are non negotiable ;)
I'm always available to take a look at your timeline too, happy to throw in my 2 cents.
Before the current season of Stay at Home orders and quarantine, I was working closely with Pillar Rooftop Bar for updated photos on a regularly basis for their social media.
I love ongoing photo sessions (instead of 1 big session) because it allows you to continue to evaluate your needs, keep up with seasonal offers and holiday promotions. They're also easier on time management for a busy business. Instead of setting up a full-day shoot, we set-up 1-2 hour shoots one or two times a month. They feel less intrusive on your business hours and employees.
Another big bonus of repeat sessions together? Discount, baby. I'm happy to offer a discount to all clients who book repeat sessions with me because in building that relationship, we grow stronger together!
For Pillar, they wanted to keep the aesthetic clean, bright and colorful to show off their ingredients and welcoming atmosphere. Spring cocktails are the perfect way to display their vivid menu!
I offer some work out of my home studio space but most of my sessions are on location. I supply lighting, props, surfaces/backdrops as needed based. The entire session is tailored to the client and their brand.
The post was originally published 11/15/2017 and updated on 5/5/2020.
Since I last created a list like this, so many new places have popped up. Couples coming to the mountains for their elopement or small wedding have plenty of options for dinner afterwards! Or maybe you need a spot for you family dinner the night before the wedding, these are all great options!
Asheville is known for its food and drink scene, we've got you covered for any style or cuisine.
Buxton Hall BBQ private event space - The Remingtin Room
Smoked whole hog BBQ is quite fitting for a trip to Western NC. Buxton Hall offers up comfort food in a stylish atmosphere. The restaurant itself is beautiful and The Remingtin Room upstairs brings the same vibe in a cozy space. Head here if you love pulled pork, veggies cooked under the pig and southern desserts.
Rhubarb private event space
Rhubarb is known for its dedication to farm-to-table, a very Asheville mindset! We love our local farms and producers and we love supporting them. Rhubarb is all about seasonal dishes with a southern flair. Not long ago they opened up a private event space with all the charm and romance needed for a wedding reception or special event.
Cucina 24 private event space
Although I've never photographed an event in this space, we often go to Cucina 24 for our date night. The Italian food is impeccable with local + seasonal ingredients and an ever-changing menu. We are never disappointed with atmosphere, service or dinner here.
The Montford Rooftop Bar
Full disclosure, my husband runs The Montford so I may seem bias. But! The views of this space speak for themselves, the small team loves interacting with guests and the food + cocktails are killer. I'll say no more since I'm attached to this establishment in some ways but I will say everything on this list is tried and true!
Sovereign is a beautiful cocktail bar in the heart of downtown Avl. The 2 private dining spaces are ready for you and your guests with an eclectic + laid-back feel and local + seasonal dishes. I've been thrilled to take photos for this team a few times and their commitment to quality ingredients is impressive.
Curate is one of the most popular restaurants in Asheville, it's always a booger to get into so make reservations in advance! The chef, Katie Button, is well known for good reason, the authentic Spanish tapas cuisine is unique in this region and on point. They opened up an intimate private dining space with a cozy feel similar to a wine cellar.
Although this list doesn't cover everywhere available to you in Asheville, it certainly covers my favorites, cheers!
Downtown Asheville, early spring and just before the COVID-19 outbreak became severe. This is when Liz and I came together for headshots to support her new business Stay Gold.
Times have evolved since then to a staggering degree. I have this hint of nostalgia for how unaware I was at this time. I was unaware that I'd be looking at months of little to no work. I was unaware that small businesses everywhere would be shuttering and staff losing jobs. I was unaware we'd all be self-isolating and rationing toilet paper. Things have changed.
For all the small businesses out there, I stand with you! This is a difficult time with no easy resolution and definitely no quick answers. Take care of yourselves and loved ones. Seriously, don't forget to take care of yourself with nourishment, exercise, faux socializing and finding hope in the future.
There will be another side to this and I look forward to connecting then. I look forward to a hug, a handshake and taking your photo to support your dreams.
The beauty of a winter elopement in Asheville is that there's few people around. We began at The Foundry hotel with getting ready + anticipation photos. Then the bride and I met her groom at Antidote bar for the ceremony followed by beers at Burial brewery, a local favorite.
One of my favorite bouquets by local florists The Freckled Petal, hair + makeup by Anarie Brides and dress from Wildflower Bridal.
Kind words from the bride:
"Chelsea is a true gem that helped our wedding be the amazing day it was. Our pictures are absolutely incredible. Everyone that has seen them has been in awe at how beautiful she made every moment look. They are timeless and captured every detail and emotion from our day. Chelsea went above and beyond in not only her talents as a photographer, but she was willing to help me out as a mini wedding planner when asked for her suggestions. Our elopement would not have been the same if Chelsea wasn’t there and our day was perfect. I would hire her again and again. Thank you Chelsea for everything you did! These pictures will help us remember our wedding day forever." - Sam
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!
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!
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 mountain views at Wildberry Lodge!
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!
Letting Loose After Your Wedding in Asheville
A rain plan for small weddings
Which Wedding Package to Choose