Whether it’s the whole family flying in to celebrate or just the 2 of you, my doors are open for 2020 weddings and I’m now welcoming weddings of all sizes!
For the first years of CLP, I focused on small weddings and elopements. These inmate ceremonies will always hold a special place in my heart, I eloped after all! Yet, it’s time to expand and open up my world to new couples.
A little about my wedding photography approach:
I capture artful wedding images for the laid back couple planning a fun day. My couples are doing their own thing, skipping trends that don’t suit them and, instead, creating a tailored wedding based on their personalities.
My couples aren’t looking for photos that look like a filter was slapped on or cheesy posing - they want natural images that show the beauty found in unexpected places.
Email me any time to chat more!
I've been hitched for over 5 years now but I still reflect on our wedding experience (elopement) and our wedding photography often because I'm always trying to put myself in my client's shoes. Honestly, it's hard! Social media + culture + technology + wedding options have changed quite a bit in the last 5 years so decisions my couples are facing today can be both wildly different and surprisingly similar to what we navigated.
Considering the questions that I get asked as a wedding photographer, my own perspective and modern times, I've gathered 3 questions I'd ask if meeting with my potential wedding photographer today.
1. Consider what is VERY important to you when it comes to your wedding photography and chat with your photographer about those things. Don't dismiss this because it seems obvious, check out the examples below to explore what you relate to before that consultation!
Appearance. And be honest with yourself, none of us want to be vain but in today's society, most care about how we look in photos. Maybe you want to invest in a photographer who will use every trick in the book, including Photoshop, to make you look A+. Maybe you're getting hair and makeup done so you want some glamour shots of how hawt you are on the big day. There are so many types of photographers these days and some offer 0 Photoshopping and don't care about flattering angles, they care about candid laughter even if that includes a double chin. There's no right or wrong, it's just a topic to bring up to understand their approach.
Emotion. Speaking of belly laughs that can lead to double chins, maybe those moments are what's precious to you. You're not in it for a glamour shoot, you want to enjoy the day and have memories to look back on that make you cry and laugh all over again. Most photographers are looking for great emotion too so you're likely guaranteed that. But you could be investing in a pricey photog who captures emotion AND spends a lot of TIME on the wedding day posing you juuuust right so the angle is flattering and who charges you more because of the amount of Photoshopping they do - if spending more time on posing and paying for the photog's time to edit out double chins doesn't sound good to you then maybe it's not a match!
Timeline. Speaking of spending time posing for the "perfect" angle, many couples have a strong opinion on the timeline of the wedding day. Do you want to build in an hour to get epic photos of you 2 on a mountain alone or would you rather spend the majority of time with your guests? Do you want to spend an hour on family formals bc that's what everyone loves to print or do you prefer more time devoted to candids? Again, no right or wrong but definitely something to chat about with your photog.
There are many other examples, start jotting down a list of what's (specifically) important to you, and bring it up in the consultation to learn their approach!
2. What do you love most about the photographer's work. This isn't a suggestion to be complimentary (although, how nice!), it's about hearing the photographer describe their work in real life scenarios.
Maybe you love how colorful and cheerful their work is, they may tell you some of the best venues for that style or how they'll need space for flash in order to create that vibe in an Air BnB.
Maybe you love their dreamy couple portraits, they may tell you that to catch that kind of lighting, you need to schedule in 1 hour at sunset for couple photos or you won't get the same result.
Maybe you love how they setup family formals bc they never look stuffy, they may tell you that they'll need to scout the location the day before and to have access to furniture for those photos.
Speak up about what you love in their work so you can all make it happen logistically. Happy accidents are few and far between, most photographers know what preparation goes into getting the shot.
3. And lastly, how does the photographer communicate on the wedding day? Mother-in-laws, family formals, divorced parents, timeline delays, rain preventing any outdoor photos... I could go on and on! You want to know how your photog will handle the slight chaos of a wedding day while getting every shot you hired them for.
I always tell my clients that I like to be a fly on the wall most of the day but I'm comfortable directing family formals to get them done efficiently. I can handle mother-in-laws of all types and I'm ready for all the personalities - it doesn't bother me or stress me out because I used to work in hospitality and as a wedding coordinator. I can offer direction as needed throughout the day or I can let your wedding planner take the lead. I'm flexible yet prepared.
That's my approach and my guess is every photographer has their own. Chat about it!
You are lucky!
If you're eloping with a simple ceremony, you have a LOT less to think about than the couple planning + packing for a traditional wedding.
But, there is still some thought to be put into this. After all, you want to create special memories just as the same, right? Right!
This is unlikely your first hike so any other items you deem important to take on your other adventures, bring these along for your elopement too, at least in the car! “Follow your heart but bring your brain with you.”
Is your pup joining? Check out this list to prepare for them too!
Pre-wedding + pre-hike thoughts: sunscreen and bug spray aren't your usual wedding day accessories but they're important, consider adding them into your getting ready plans.
Here’s what I’ll bring:
Hiking on the wedding day is nothing to fear or get nervous about, it adds to the fun and romance of your day! Throw everything you need in the car or in a backpack (depends on how long the hike is) and let's go!
Your wedding suite is the first impression of your wedding day that you're sending to your guests, let's give them an idea of what to expect!
Will the ceremony be short and sweet? A full day party with all the wedding traditions? A quiet elopement with only family? A backyard gathering on a Sunday morning? Outdoors in nature highlighting your favorite season? No matter the vision, there's an invitation to match that vibe. I've stumbled upon the prettiest wedding stationery online and rounded up my favorites, I hope you can find a suite that represents you 2 as a couple below!
First up we have the Venamour and Paperless Post collaboration. These are so sweet, simple and modern. I love the color combos and know anyone who received one of these via email would be impressed! Can you believe how cool digital options have become?! Email invites are modern, very 'green', easy for RSVPs and also easy to sync to a busy guest's calendar!
Bonus: Venamour also has the best e-flyers that are perfect e-vites for a save the date, rehearsal dinner or after-wedding brunch! They're festive and full of personality (AKA add in your fave GIF).
Next up we have Artifact Uprising!
Given Artifact Uprising is a well-known and well-loved online print shop for your photo memories, these invitations are photo-centric. These are perfect for the couples who want to show off their engagement pics or those cute family photos from when you 2 were kiddos! The style is chic and clean, the focus is on the feeling. I'm loving the fonts on these too. If you like the style but don't want images on your invites, still check out their options because a few are photo-free!
Bonus: Venamour also did a collaboration with Artifact Uprising and they created the sweetest floral invitation suite - perfect for a spring or summer ceremony!
If you're looking for something more exclusive, head to Ephermora for their limited edition invitations. These invites offer up charm and a certification by the Rainforest Alliance.
I love how unique these wedding invitation suites are (below are only 2 examples!). Ephermora makes the process clear and easy - order a bundle that represents your personalities! Their blog is also handy to walk you through the how-to's.
And I especially love spending my money with a responsible company who gives back.
And here we have Bojack Studios. They offer customizable wedding invite suites! You can pick your favorite collection (floral, graphic, monogram, abstract) then customize the rest. Mix and match your way to save-the-dates and RSVP cards that feel just like you want the wedding to feel.
Honestly, it'd be hard to narrow down your decision, everything is beautiful. Take your time and play around with combos until you've got the best fit.
These invitation makers are also friendly to all couples, an important aspect of any vendor I would recommend to you. Remember, your wedding save the date or invite is the first impression your guests have of your wedding day, make it a good one!
I recently got photos taken with my husband for our 5 year wedding anniversary. We had a wonderful experience, our photographer is a good friend and it was worth every penny. That being said, I'm still a human, still a female in 2019 who thinks about how she looks in photos. And I realized a few things based on how I viewed the photo gallery.
I had a first reaction, a second reaction, a third reaction and I assume I’ll have a fresh point of view years from now when we look back on these. Spoiler alert, I'm very excited to keep looking back on these!
1. First look at the gallery: I did a precursory of the collection to find a few faves and I was simultaneously very aware of how I looked in a few non-fave photos ("my nose looks big there, my chin is 2 chins there, is that how I look when I laugh?"). And these thoughts are coming from me, a photographer!
2. Upon a second look, I loosened up a little and started looking at the entire photo. I enjoyed seeing Philip and I make each other laugh and play. I liked thinking about my sweet friend Amelia taking the photos and giving us fun directions. I remember being so happy I asked her to photograph us because the experience was laid back and fun, something I hope to provide to all of my clients.
3. And on my third look I loosened up even more and saw the beauty in every image. I saw why my talented photographer grabbed this image and how each of them stood alone as a special memory. Those memories are worth so much more than how I look in the photo. I envisioned myself in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years looking back on these and I smiled thinking I'll say "damn, I was a babe".
I'd like to wrap this up with a quick tip on picking your photographer.
Understand your photographer's approach. Some photographers aim for a natural and organic feel so they won't be photoshopping away every little thing (this is my approach and same for Amelia, who took these images of us) and some photographers specialize in a beauty transformation with hair, makeup, special lighting and a bit more retouching (a glam portrait session). Consider which is better for your use of the photos and what's important to you!
And then trust your photographer. You may not LOVE every single image delivered but if you trust them and their perspective, you'll see there's more to that image than what first appears.
Still hesitant? I've got some tips on the ol "but I'm so awkward" battle cry in this blog post!
“I want to look good in my wedding/engagement/professional pics but I’m so awkward!!”
Or "We’ve never had our photos professionally taken."
Or "We don't like having our photos taken but we want to make the most of the experience."
This is what I hear before almost every single shoot. You're in good company!
1. Take comfort in the fact that I swiftly delete any photos where I think either of you don’t look great. I don't require you to look like a supermodel but I also never want you to cringe looking at an image of yourself! My goal is to shoot and edit in a flattering manner, always.
That being said, how I see you will be different than how you see you, how your mom sees you or how your new spouse sees you. We all have different points of view and I think that’s such a gift.
If I see a profesh image of myself (I walk you through my actual reactions to my anniversary pics here) and I’m not thrilled with it but I know my photog would never have sent me an image where he or she thinks I look bad, it means that they see something positive where I see something negative. It means that there is beauty in flaws. It means that if I walk out of my house with a bad hair day, I’m likely the only one to notice. It means that when I feel a lil frumpy, others don’t care. We are our own worst critics, wouldn’t it be nice if we gave ourselves more grace and ignored the flyaway or the extra 5lbs of Thanksgiving weight? Wouldn’t it be nice if we looked at a photo of ourselves and saw the joy our the smile instead of the size of our arm?
2. Part of my job is to guide you as needed (when the light is bad, we switch angles / when my angle is unflattering, I adjust my viewpoint). I will guide you! Listen to the guidance because there are likely at least 3-5 reasons the photographer is giving that instruction.
3. What about when guidance isn’t an option? I'll also capture candid moments and special details where guidance would ruin the magic. So I still shoot shoot shoot and if I find later the shot isn’t salvageable, I’ll delete it. If the photo needs tweaking then I manage that in my editing process. I cannot treat a wedding day like a photo shoot, it just doesn't work that way! And that's why we get so many beautiful candid images. So guidance is great but realness is too - I'll adjust accordingly!
4. I have yet to meet a couple who hasn’t claimed to be awkward, uncomfortable, nervous or downright unexcited about getting their pics taken. Seriously, none! So if you like the images you see that I share on my website, please know that they all felt the same way you do. You’re in good company because I’ve worked with some really fun, sweet and often introverted couples who feel nervous and we always make it work.
5. I’m shooting for you! I'm not taking photos to fill a quota, to improve my Instagram or to practice my skills. I'm taking photos to fulfill your photo needs and I’m thinking of you the entire time. So share how you’re feeling, tell me what could help and let me know if you only want photos of your left side 😉
We got this, don't stress.
Thinking of including your dog in your wedding?
Full disclosure: dogs are my fave. I love 'em all. Troublemakers, seniors, small, huge, furry, cuddly, mutts, pure-breds, you name it. So, I'm all for it! A little prep work and consideration is required but you can handle it.
Here are my tips!
Best part of bringing your dog along for the day? They'll be so sleepy by the time it's over!
Fall is Asheville’s quintessential season, and there’s nothing quite as romantic as a wedding in the autumn air right here in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The leaves are vibrant, the air is chilly, and there’s a palpable energy.
Are you dreaming of an intimate fall wedding? I’ve had the pleasure of capturing gorgeous nuptials in this season, and would like to offer some of the area’s most enchanting local spots to tie the knot…
1. An airbnb of your choosing / that allows small gatherings. Look for a rental with an attractive interior in case of rain and everything needs to be shifted inside. You’ll also want to find a spot with ample parking... or consider a shuttle option! Think through the timeline and make sure you'll have what you need on-site, as most rental homes aren't event-ready as-is and will require some planning.
2. The Swag is perfect for very small gatherings. They're new to hosting weddings and have limited availability. The striking mountain views make for an exceptional outdoor venue, and they offer a great dining experience for small groups. If you’re looking for high-end mountain getaway and traditional cabin vibes, look no further!
3. Highland Brewery offers an industrial chic feeling and rooftop views- perfect for peeping the treetops during peak leaf season! Things are likely to run very smooth at Highland. The staff here are absolute pros at setup and provide seamless event management.
4. Vineyard at Betty's Creek in Sylva is a luxurious venue on stunning grounds with impressive views, vineyards and wildlife. This spot might just be my personal fave, because it features several unique elements: a gorgeously designed open-air reception space, and the outdoor chimney near one of the ceremony spots. It’s one of the more exceptional fall venues in the WNC mountains.
5. A mountain top elopement! I highly suggest picking your favorite hiking destination or mountain vista, such as Max Patch or Black Balsam, for an elopement. Be sure to check the Blue Ridge Parkway website for rules. Also consider if your guests can easily hike to location. You’ll want to have Plan B ready in the event of rainy fall weather, and you’ll also want to scheme up a fun dinner party location to celebrate after your dreamy mountain top ceremony.
Asheville and the surrounding towns of Western North Carolina are unquestionably the perfect destination for intimate fall weddings. You’re likely to score dramatic views-- the perfect backdrop for photos-- and really enjoy yourself in this beautiful, fleeting season. If you have any questions about designing your perfect autumn wedding, please be in touch- let’s plan something magical!
You’re in the gown or suit that took months of research and shopping to discover. Your hair is the most on point it has ever been. You’ve actually never felt more elegant in your life. 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 profound. It’s 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 saunter up to the altar.
Power Down Tech to Turn Up the Moment
This scenario has inspired the fairly recent trend of unplugged weddings, nuptials in which the happy couple requests no photo or video documentation of the day’s events.
Everyone wants to remember the special moments of your wedding, and while intentions may be pure, there are a few problems in allowing your adoring wedding guests the ability to capture the details with photos and videos.
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, 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 10,000 photo tags as your wedding happens in real-time, you’ll be the master unveiler of your beautiful day!
Laying the Foundation for Your Unplugged Wedding
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 I 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.
We love wedding day hair and makeup. It's that simple.
Choosing a wedding day beauty look can be overwhelming, we understand! We love helping navigate by incorporating the overall vibe and theme of the day! We keep choosing your wedding day beauty looks personal and individual.
We understand how important it is to look in a mirror and see yourself. To love how you look and feel!
We customize each experience and truly get to know our brides and clients. We tote our beauty thrones with our fully professional hair and makeup kits, and when you're in the chairs, your vision matters to us. We listen so we can enhance your natural beauty, your way. We love to be the calming force in the room. Each team member always goes above and beyond with providing service and care when it can feel chaotic before leaving for the big event.
Let's talk about getting wedding day ready.
Get ready for the big day:
1. Drink lots of water! We always recommend upping hydration intake around any special day. It does wonders for your skin, hair, and overall health!
2. Start a gentle cleansing skincare routine and be very consistent with it two times a day! Once in the morning and once at night. It will help keep your skin balanced and prevent stress breakouts around the big day. Please feel free to always reach out if you have a concern before the wedding day. We are here to help!
3. Ask questions! Are you thinking about extensions? Please ask us for recommendations! Are you thinking about buying a specific lip color to keep in your clutch? Let us know. We love beauty products and we love helping our brides find what will work best for them! We love to answer questions and offer a peace of mind.
4. If you see a dreaded break-out, do not pop it! We can help with some gentle skincare advice or make sure any nerves are calmed by letting you know it can be covered easily. We recommend staying away from facials or waxing for at least a week before the wedding, we don't want any skin reactions. However, we have definitely covered up some breakouts for brides and their bridal parties!
5. Book trial runs with us! We love getting to know our brides and their love stories! Trial run appointments are a great way for us to meet and perfect your wedding day hair and makeup. Our hairstylists and makeup artists work together on a regular basis and it's great to be styled before the big day to see the whole look!
We love weddings! We so enjoy walking into a room and helping the bride feel her absolute best before walking down the aisle.
Whether she's surrounded by family and a bridal party, or there by herself for quiet moments before her elopement, AnaRie is committed to providing an excellent experience to help keep the day calm and magical, even before that first glance to her future partner in life. Check out more of our work via links below!
-Ali, Andrea, Erika + the entire AnaRie team
The Knot: www.theknot.com/marketplace/anarie-brevard-nc-1087349
After the party, it’s the after party… and when you’re celebrating a love like yours with an intimate wedding here in Asheville or the surrounding mountains, there are plenty of interesting spots to turn up in the wee hours. After a vibrant and exhilarating nuptials, it’s time to let your hair down and keep the good vibes flowing. Is your crew looking for some late night fun?
Check out this list of my favorite after hours spots:
Ben’s Tune-Up - Open until 2AM, this craft sake brewery embodies South Slope grit and Asheville foodie culture. Enjoy the menu of delicious snacks made with locally-sourced ingredients, and a creative, intentionally curated cocktail, wine, and beer bar. Cozy up in the meandering courtyard or one of the many nooks throughout this venue. The pineapple jalapeno sake comes highly recommended.
Sovereign Remedies - For the dreamiest farm to table late night menu, with perhaps the most ambitious and hyped up craft cocktails in town, make your way to Sovereign Remedies! It’s in the middle of downtown, on a quaint cobblestone road, and offers perhaps the most authentic gourmet Asheville experience!
The Walk - For those looking to get a little wild in West Asheville, there are several places that come to mind, but in order to satisfy hunger pangs AND enjoy some festive dranks, your first late night WAVL joint should probably be The Walk! With a pool table, room to dance, and array of eats, you will definitely keep the party goin’ with a visit to The Walk.
Storm Rhum Bar & Bistro - Another downtown bar and restaurant open until 2AM, Storm is classy, so if you’re after slightly fancy party vibes, Storm is a great fit for you! You could also book Storm for an event, if you’d like your after party to be a private, planned affair!
MG Road Bar & Lounge - Cocktails and Indian food on Wall Street, in the heart of downtown? Need I say more? This may be one of the most festive joints in Asheville, with a year-round glittering display of Christmas lights on the ceiling. The drinks are as delicious as the aesthetic and atmosphere is cozy. This is another rentable establishment, if you’re pre-planning after party shenanigans!
The Double Crown - If you are looking for a funky bar with live music, you must put the Double Crown on your post-wedding reception list. This spot is graffiti-ed up, full of characters, and certainly emits that I don’t give an F, “are we in Brooklyn?” anything goes type feeling. Don’t expect craft cocktails with locally sourced ingredients; this is an unapologetic dive! Come to this spot for an adventurous post-wedding experience!
Ole Shakey’s Getaway - Sometimes, you just wanna party in an uber-local, kinda secret, been-here-forever kinda spot. Well, this is it. With a rare French Broad River location, Ole Shakey's is a THE place to get a little crazy. With pool, darts, live entertainment, an open mic, live bands, and karaoke, you’ll be entertained and inspired to keep the energy high and the good times rolling...
With small + intimate weddings, it is often the case that the ceremony and reception venues are not booked out for an entire weekend block. Because this type of nuptials in Asheville is my speciality, I know that couples and their besties are often looking for a place to keep making memories, long after the reception venue closes. I hope you’ll be inspired to make your way downtown and enjoy a spontaneous night on the town-- the perfect ending one of the best days of your life!
Don't forget to Uber or Lyft your way home!
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
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.
On the Day
Here are some tips for navigating your big day, all happy and ninja-like:
-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. 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.
-Leave snacks, herbal supplements, essential oil sprays, and water in your bridal suite or another quiet corner 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 your photographer captures all of your candid and posed moments:
-Stay hydrated. You’ll look and feel better. Trust me.
-Loosen up! Wiggle, dance, laugh, get silly. If it’s time to smile and you feel like you’re forcing it, take a mini break to actually invite joy into your mood.
-Limit distractions. I know, easier said than done! It’s more than ok to say no to an audience, and to delegate tasks while you focus on your partner and how amazing your love is.
-Don’t just breath. Breath deeply. It is said that when our exhale is longer than our inhale, the heart rate returns to normal, and we can encourage our physiological state to shift from a stress reaction to calmness. Feeling calm and content and being in the moment will shine through in your photos and produce the best images.
Choosing to Bask in the Glow (my fave tip!)
Yes, you’re the architect of this vibrant day with many moving parts. 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.
Guest Post: Why This Wedding Planner Says ‘Heck yes, and here’s how!’ to Small Weddings with Alex Fisher, Owner/Head Cheerleader of Lucky Penny Creative
Y’all, I’ve gotta be honest, yes...large weddings pay my bills. But if I could share one thing with the world on a universal level it would be this: intimate weddings and elopements are 10,000% allowed and amazing! And if you’re reading this right now, you’re probably in the same boat or looking to get on board.
I get it, giant weddings -- even 100 person weddings -- can be super overwhelming for some folks. Maybe because you’re introverted. Maybe because you’re working on a budget. Maybe because you’re just not a fan of big parties. Whatever the reason, I want you to know, it is completely acceptable to have an intimate wedding or elopement. My only suggestion: know your ‘why’ and know your ‘who’.
I’ve worked with hundreds of couples planning every shade of wedding you can dream up over the last 5 years of running our business and before we ever dive into napkin colors and photographer recommendations I always ask the following two questions:
“What is most important to you on your wedding day?”
“Who do you want to share that with?”
I know it seems funny and like a total no-brainer but the answers are sometimes surprising.
If you were born and raised in the U.S. within the last 50 years, your brain has probably been inundated with a million and one “must-dos” for your big day. The rabbit hole of Pinterest can be totally overwhelming to some. And I’m pretty sure we all have that one well-meaning friend or relative that “knows what they’re talking about” and has ideas for every detail of your wedding and absolutely no issues telling you about them. But let me be the one to reassure you -- none of that shit matters.
What you and your partner want on your wedding day does.
If you’re reading this blog and follow Chelsea’s work then you’re probably already seriously considering a more intimate wedding and my advice to you is the same as any other couple: I encourage you to make a list of ‘Must Haves/Non-Negotiables’ and ‘Would be Nices’ along with a list of things that totally do not matter to you in the slightest. And then I want you to own every single one of those desires while also remaining flexible. Because sometimes, shit just happens.
Once you have those lists, start putting dollar amounts to those Non-Negotiables. Or, at the very least, a percentage of your budget that you want to allot to each item. For example, if you desire the most delicious cuisine with perfect wine pairings and for the day to be beautifully photographed but you could care less about music -- put the majority of your budget into food, drink and photography and hook a spotify playlist up to a speaker system and call it a day!
I know, it’s more involved than that, but approaching your planning with that mindset can truly save you a lot of headaches along the way.
The beautiful thing about intimate weddings and elopements is that your budget has to stretch to far less people so you can really treat those special few to an incredible wedding experience while also staying in tune with your own desires as a couple.
I know what I’m about to say is absolutely easier said than done, especially if some of your budget is being provided by a family member or friend who may have some say in the guest list. BUT the one thing I really desire for every one of our couples is the knowledge that, if you really don’t want someone at your wedding, you don’t have to invite them. Plain and simple.
I am fully aware that this is really tough. Almost every couple we’ve worked with has struggled to make peace with who they’re inviting to the wedding. I completely understand. I was one of those people too. Family dynamics are tough and maneuvering them during wedding planning can be completely overwhelming sometimes. A friend of mine said it best (and so gracefully) when she shared, “I’m gonna have to go to therapy if I don’t invite my mom and I’m gonna have to go to therapy if I do invite my mom.” Either way, it’s going to be a little extra work on your part to attempt to stay sane. But at the end of the day, what matters most, is if you and your partner will be able to be present with each other the day of your wedding.
Which brings me to my final point regarding who you involve in your wedding: KNOW. YOUR. VENDORS!
You’re not just ordering cake and music and photos and a timeline -- you’re hiring all the people that makes those things happen. If you’re not jiving, it’s gonna feel funky. If you feel in any way not cozy with someone you’re looking to work with -- I’m talking gut reaction here, not just “oh my god, we’re paying this person a lot of money” not cozy -- it is completely okay to say “We’re going to keep looking.” and move along.
Ultimately, your wedding day should be a celebration of you, your partner and your coupleship. You deserve every bit of grace, joy and connection that a wedding day brings and your wedding crew should reflect that to you. Cheers to you and the process, my friend! And have a look at our Ultimate Intimate Wedding Checklist to get started on your planning!
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 already)
Details of invitation suite, rings, shoes, florals, etc.
Photos of the venue decor + setting before guests arrive (ceremony + reception)
Bridal party portraits
First dance / Father & daughter / Mother & son / Any version of these
Candid moments of guests enjoying themselves
I offer packages from 2 hour to 8 hour coverage for my small weddings because this takes care of all the bases. I'm happy to customize but it's nice to offer what most couples need from the get-go!
So 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 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 (I sneak those in sometimes) and/or you have a full timeline with multiple locations and activities that can't be missed!
Regardless of your best fit, 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 2nd look at your timeline too, happy to throw in my 2 cents.
“Will you Photoshop this out?”
A common phrase we hear often.
Cultural standards on appearance have skyrocketed with social media. We all sit around thinking others look perfect and put-together all the time (no way, not true!). We get down on ourselves for being human and real. This is a problem I have to address and contemplate a lot as a photographer.
I think it’s time to draw boundaries when it comes to how we edit and the impossible standards of Photoshopping + Instagram filters + weird apps that alter your face in a photo (WHAT?!).
Let’s get to it and break down the most common scenarios:
Well I edit out your freckles? No.
Will I edit out that blemish that’ll be gone in a week? Yes.
Will I edit out scars? Not unless you asked me to.
Will I edit out grey hairs? Sometimes! If it's clear you're going for your natural hair color then no and if it's clear that you color your hair to cover up the grey then yes.
Will I edit out wrinkles in clothing? As much as I can without making your clothing appear plastic!
Will I edit out that t-shirt stain that appeared after lunch? Yes.
Will I edit out the flyaway hairs? If they're distracting. If they're showing the wind blowing through beautifully, then no.
Will I edit out that piece of trash or water bottle near your feet? Yes.
Will I edit out that distracting tree branch, bugs flying by, stranger in the background? Yes. I have no problem editing out environmental distractions to an otherwise lovely photo.
Will I "fix" your stomach or arms? Only if it's my fault because I captured an unflattering angle or didn't direct you quick enough. Overall, I never plan to flatten a tummy or remove a bump in the nose in every single image I will deliver though. More below...
I will guide you into flattering poses under beautiful lighting. I will give clothing tips and recommend you only wear something that makes you feel HOT. That being said, not every image gets set up for flattering angles.
If your spouse makes you laugh out loud or if he/she says something so sweet that your cheeks flush, I’m not worried about you looking like a model. I'll make tweaks in editing to create the most flattering final result and I’ll be sending that pic your way because of that special moment.
How do I make those decisions and why does it matter?
1. I would have to charge twice as much to accommodate editing time for extensive and timely Photoshop requests. I'm not interested in offering that service but there are many out there that do!
2. I don’t want to perpetuate impossible beauty standards by making you look like anything other than you. We need to collectively work towards highlighting the beauty of all people, not highlighting the beauty of over-Photoshopped skin or mimicking celeb Insty posts. A light touch-up here and there is as far as I go.
It’s hard to define your role in this as a photographer because it’s my goal that you enjoy your experience and the results.
When you're 80 years old and showing your wedding photos to grandkids, I want you to recognize your beautiful self from so many years ago. I want you to be reminded of exactly how you felt that day. I don't want you to look back on a plastic figure.
Tips for a photo session you'll feel great about:
One final thought: You're great just the way you are, I promise.
One of the hardest parts of photographing couples on their wedding day is if one or both of them gets stressed out.
Stress is an unfortunate part of the wedding day. It's why wedding planners are so awesome!
When you're hosting a small wedding or elopement, a planner may not be in the cards and it's likely you're getting a lot of hands-on help from family and friends. It's wonderful to see family helping you create a beautiful wedding but that alone can cause tension.
Things don't go to plan... rain happens, someone forgot the flowers, the vendor is running late and did I mention rain?
So many of my clients envision an outdoor wedding in the mountains. Rain is most common here in the spring (March-May) and then it's unpredictable the rest of the year.
So what's the plan?
1. When to check the weather: The weather changes like CRAZY here in the mountains. If possible, wait until 24-36 hours out to make the call.
2. It may only sprinkle or you can't wait any longer to decide: You have the decision of what's more important- peace of mind or being outdoors?
Some couples like to wing it and don't mind a little rain. Some couples can't be bothered with not-knowing. No right or wrong answer here, imagine yourself in each situation and choose the one that makes me you feel most at ease.
3. It's gonna rain: Are you going to let rain ruin this special day? Hell nah.
-Reschedule. Some weddings are small enough that it's possible to reschedule the whole thing to the day before or after. It's uncommon but I've had 2 couples go for this option in the past 2 years and I was able to work with the schedule change. You never know!
-Umbrellas. Maybe the rain is coming but it's not a downpour. Maybe you'll be outside on a patio/not a spot that'll get muddy... Worth investing in cute clear umbrellas for all your guests?
You can buy cheap throwaways or get quality umbrellas and consider them a favor to guests.
-Indoor venue. Can you move the whole thing indoors at the B&B you're staying at? At a local hotel? Air BnB? Friend's house? Studio space?
These options depend on your budget and number of guests so think stover ahead of time to save yourself stress during the week before the big day!
I've gathered up favorite resources that many couples could benefit from when planning a small wedding or elopement!
The internet is, um, big. So rallying resources in one helpful spot saves time!
Visit any of these websites that speak to you for inspiration, tips and insight - don't forget to follow them on social media too for even more goodness.
The larger names like Brides.com, The Knot, Style Me Pretty, 100 Layer Cake, Green Wedding Shoes (I could keep listing but I'll spare you) are easy to find and also have great resources. Don't discount them, give them a visit too! I just gathered the little guys that may not hit your radar.
BEST OVERALL RESOURCE
A Practical Wedding - Website and blog for the laid-back couple. Real advice that's helpful for those of us thinking we don't need to spend $15k on a wedding. The advice & etiquette section is my favorite but the whole site is helpful.
MOST BEAUTIFUL INSPIRATION
The Bridal Theory has been a longtime favorite of mine simply because their style is deep, romantic perfection! For major eye candy, follow them on Instagram for 'real wedding' dreaminess to motivate your own style.
BEST LBGTQ + FEMINIST RESOURCE
Catalyst Wedding Co. - I love this site because it shows the couples that aren't shown enough. Catalyst shines a light where we've needed a light to shine for so long! They have great articles, advice and inspo for everyone.
BEST ETHICAL RESOURCE
Black Sheep Bride - This team collects vendors and products best for those who care deeply about the source. They support companies that give back, have a smaller footprint and have a social conscious mission.
Modern Love for sweet stories from all walks of love life. This podcast is a quick listen - perfect for the car ride or while eating breakfast.
Where Should We Begin? with Esther Perel for advice on hard topics from the ultimate pro. Esther's interviews on other's podcasts were popular enough to encourage her to launch her own. Where Should We Begin? is new so its a great time to catch up and stay subscribed for future shows.
We've got cover songs, original songs and entire albums to suggest for this Valentine's Day. And no genre is off limits but these tunes all blend well together.
Open up Spotify, press shuffle and enjoy!
Adele's cover of Make You Feel My Love (a Bob Dylan song)
Ala.ni - Ol Fashioned Kiss
Alina Baraz - just about any song on the Urban Flora EP but 4 are on this list!
Anthony Hamilton - Can't Let Go
Carla Bruni + Willie Nelson singing his song Crazy
Elle King - Wild Love
Janelle Monae + Miguel - Primetime
John Mayer's cover of Beyonce's XO
Justin Timberlake + Alicia Keys - Morning Light
Léon - Think About You
Muddy Waters - Sugar Sweet
Raphael Saadiq - 100 Yard Dash
The Roots + Erykah Badu - You Got Me
Son Little - Lay Down
702 - I Still Love You (an old school RnB jam from Pharrell's world)
Listen on Spotify now - Happy Valentine's Day!
Downtown Asheville has plenty of beautiful hotels and lofts (both pictured above) to create the perfect getting ready space on your wedding day. You'll want plenty of room for vendors, family and friends to stop in. Maybe this is the only part of the day you'll be downtown or maybe you'd like to hold the ceremony and reception in this area too...
Favorite downtown wedding venues:
Asheville Area Arts Council - minimal + artistic
The Asheville Masonic Temple - historic + cozy
Catawba Brewing - beer city + industrial chic (photos just below)
The Orange Peel - laid-back + fun
Looking for a little bit of urban + nature for your wedding space?
Smokey Park Supper Club's Boat House sits right on the French Broad River and the location is in our River Arts District. The venue is a great mix for an outdoor venue.
Keep in mind that you can get ready in one place then carpool, rent a bus or drive up to the mountains for your ceremony.
You could also meet everyone in a beautiful outdoor spot for the ceremony then host a private dinner reception afterwards downtown! Check out my favorite restaurants with private dining spaces in this post.
Cheers to doing it your way!
Black and white images have a special place in your wedding collection. They're all the cliche terms: classic, timeless...
They evoke emotion + drama.
I scrolled through and picked out my favorite black & white images from my weddings this year. Memory lane is a beautiful thing.
Each wedding is unique in location, style, lighting and mood. I run with the vibe of the day when editing, including with the black & whites.
Cheers to the new year!
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! Small wedding bonus: I'm highlighting spots with private dining spaces.
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 food that everyone will love 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.
Cucina 24 private event space
Although I've never photographed an event in this space, we often go to Cucina 24 for 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 that could fit into almost any city. We're lucky it's here in Asheville for the upscale feel, the original cocktails and incredible food from chef Graham. The upstairs private dining space is 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 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. For a funkier vibe, check out their other restaurant below...
Although this list doesn't cover everywhere available to you in Asheville, it certainly covers my favorites, cheers!
Don't you love when you run into someone who truly seems to be themselves? They've just grown into who they're meant to be and they embrace it?
I love when my couples give me this vibe. And why would I care about that?
Because creating a wedding brings up so many questions about family, friends, your style, what's important to you. The key to a having a good wedding is to know who you are and what you want for this celebration.
Ann and Kyle had been together for 11 years before tying the knot. And really, what's the rush?
I like to think it gave them all the more time to learn what and who is important to them so they could go through all the wedding options and pick what's a good fit.
With about 40 guests, they relaxed in their backyard on a beautiful September day. They held a sweet ceremony with a DIY backdrop then shared drinks and food with loved ones as the sun set.
Color was king at this wedding. The DIY backdrop was made from old curtain scraps and was as colorful as her on-of-a-kind dress. As she moved int eh dress, colors trailed behind her and everyone kept murmuring they adoration. Guests also noted how "Ann" the dress was, which made me smile.
Ann's brother sang them down the aisle, Ann had a flask in her garter and the toasts made everyone laugh with memories. Their 2 pups ran around with homemade flower necklaces and one even carried a go-pro during the ceremony!
What a great way to say goodbye to summer in Asheville.
Cheers to planning for you two.
If you like variety in your images, you may consider an outfit change during your portrait session. When clients ask me if it's feasible, I generally think it is!
If it's quick, go for it! You'd be surprised what we can fit into one hour, a quick change won't interrupt us.
Things to consider:
Don't stress yourself out about these little details, enjoy the session and trust your photographer to guide you!
Only wear the dress once? Nah.
Megan and I explored Swannanoa together 3 months after her wedding to see what kind of fun we could have with her beautiful bridal gown.
We played in the creek, roamed through the woods and watched the sun set over the field.
We're pretty sure the creek cleaned off all the dirt from dancing at her reception... win-win.
Running in a dress this heavy (7 or so layers) is not so easy but sometimes you gotta give in to your photographer's random requests.
Boy do we know how to stress ourselves out about the "happiest day of our life". We dream and daydream and Pinterest and save and imagine and then stress starts seeping in from the corners. Stress is finding cracks and holes to get through but it's totally up to you to overcome it and still enjoy the process.
A few musings to help you patch those holes, covers those cracks and power through stressful moments so it's not the new theme of your wedding.
My first musing is that this likely won't be the happiest day of your life. Ouch. The expectations alone can through all the wrenches in that ideal.
The happiest moments you'll look back on will (more likely) be when you go dress shopping with your best friend, drink too many bubbles and giggle over how ugly most dresses are. Your happiest moments will be the first time you held your brand new niece in your arms, when you hiked up that mountain in Alaska, when you stood up for yourself at work and it made a difference, when you snuggle your pet on the couch, sharing beers with your spouse because your other plans were rained out.
The little joys of life rally together and represent your happy times. Your wedding will be one of them but don't put so much pressure on your poor wedding to solve the everyman quest for "happiness". If you're on board with me so far then we're on the right track.
Next thought: how do you want your wedding to look and WHY? Write out key elements you want then follow up with why.
Reread your list. Time for cuts and compromises.
Example list of wedding details you're planning and WHY they're a part of the big day:
Signature cocktail - represents our first date
Outdoor venue - can't imagine it indoors
Big wedding party - my mom insists I have a flower girl
Dance party - my fiancee wants to partay
Pink and gold colors - I don't really care but my sister said this is trendy and cute
Cute umbrellas - it could rain, duh
Cute boots for under dress in case it does rain - I really don't want to move it indoors
You can already see there is room for cuts and compromises. I think it's healthy to consider both. No one wants to make mom mad but you can't let her plan the whole thing either. Cuts and compromises, think wholeheartedly about yours and make the call.
Next thought: money. Woooweee weddings are pricey. Even the little ones, even the DIY ones. Spend your money where you won't regret it. Do you care if every person leaves with a favor? Will you remember that years from now? Will they? We all have to make calls based on finances and one great way is to revisit why you're spending money on that particular thing/service/vendor.