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 would 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? Make 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:
So you're good with not having all of the above. You're ready to nail down a sweet lil rental for your big day. Once you start browsing, 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
This quick list will help you find someone with professional experience who is ready to give you the best images no matter the circumstances - my personal definition of a killer wedding photographer.
That being said, just because a photographer can't check off everything on your list doesn't mean they're a bad match. You likely have a gut feeling, go with it! A checklist is guidance, you still know the big picture and can make the best decision for you and your sweetie.
1. Look for people on their website who look like you!
Some photographers work a lot with models for campaigns and commercial work so they may not have experience working with people who aren't as comfortable in front of the camera. It's literally a model's job to pose well for the camera, their job! Non-models can't compete with that unless you happen to be effortlessly confident ;) Find examples you can identify with so you know you're in good hands.
2. Look for photos of venues similar to yours!
If they only have photos of mountain top elopements at golden hour and you're getting married inside a cabin at night, wouldn't you want to see how that setting would be photographed?
Photographers are masters of lighting. Foggy morning light, bright midday sunlight, warm golden hour, cool-toned dusk, flash lighting, lamp lighting, kitchen lighting... I won't go on but I think you can already understand how different every single lighting situation is! Seeing something similar to your setup is a great way to get a glimpse of what your day could look like in images.
3. Not seeing what you want to see on their website or Instagram? Want to see a full wedding gallery? Ask!
Couples have asked for full galleries and I'm happy to send examples to show what I can offer. The more info from the couple the better too, do you want to see family photos? An elopement? Something in a cabin? Something at Craggy? This will help me select a gallery to share!
4. Think about how you want the wedding day to feel when you're in the middle of all the fun.
The best way to get this conversation started is to simply ask "what's your approach and why?". Your photographer will be excited to share this with you!
Weddings often involve some compromise because it's not a day setup just for photography (like a commercial shoot would be). Weddings are setup based on emotion + location + weather + budget + style + family requests and much more. Do you value your experience in the moment or the photos later? Do you prioritize photography and are willing to go off the timeline to get *the shot* of you and your partner? Or do you prefer your photographer let you enjoy time with your family and friends and they can get candids instead?
One more consideration:
As photographers are getting started, they may not have experience in the exact same scenario you're planning and that doesn't mean they can't rock out your wedding! The opportunity to photograph an elopement at a local brewery on a Sunday morning maybe hasn't crossed their path yet! I've had my business open for 5 years and I just photographed my first maternity shoot - it went beautifully and I'm thrilled they trusted me to capture those memories for them!
Happy photog-finding! Wishing you all the best with your wedding day, I hope you enjoy every moment and look back on your photos often.
Rome is a city full of personality.
You should only order espresso in the AM hours, religious notes are mixed in with sex sex sex and the graffiti tangles with creeping vines in the most charming corners. Personality.
It's loud except in the early morning where you don't even notice commuters. Is there a rush hour here? There are people everywhere as the afternoon rolls around and the city is everyone's backyard for gatherings, dog walks and cocktail hour.
I'm visiting with my husband, my bff Alicia and her fiancé Ryan. Rome is Alicia and Ryan's favorite city and they're here to get married!
I've known Alicia for many many years. We became close in college then life + jobs took us in different directions (geographically speaking). We haven't lived near each other in almost 10 years but we remain close friends and it was a joy to watch her marry Ryan in a private ceremony created just for them.
As soon as she told me her plans, I invited myself along because duh.
Alicia picked out flowers at the daily market below our Air B&B. The lady running the shop was kind enough to arrange and bundle them beautifully for her.
The windows are open as Alicia gets her hair and makeup done and Ryan irons his shirt. We can hear everyone below buying fruits, vegetables and juices.
We head to a beautiful park where the officiant awaits. The park is pretty empty and I'm relieved to avoid onlookers.
Did you know Americans can legally get married in Italy? It's not just symbolic unless you want it to be!
We walk the park then into a favorite neighborhood for a mix of settings. There's no bad place to take a photo, my mind is on overdrive narrowing down options for lighting, posing and setting. I offer light direction then let them be as they are, doing what they want. Documentary is my favorite approach.
Watching Ryan guide Alicia, it looks like a movie still. The black and white images from this wedding top my list of favorites.
Are you even a wedding photographer if you don't make your couple get into a flower bush?
When planning your wedding timeline and noting your favorite photo ops, make sure there’s enough time for your photographer to get candids of your guest enjoying themselves!
All these folks dressed up, bought gifts, possibly travelled and are excited to support you, you'll want to look back and remember how much fun they had!
If you have 1 photographer and they’re taking couple portraits with you during cocktail hour, there won't be anyone to snap pics of your guests enjoying themselves after the ceremony. That may or may not be a big deal to you but it’s something to consider as you’re planning out the day!
You have the option to tailor your timeline to your preferences (such as the candids during cocktail hour) or discuss second shooter options with your photographer. Most of us are comfortable covering the day on our own as long as we can find time to bounce around throughout the day to capture everything. If we feel we need to be in 2 places at once, a second shooter could be awesome!
Second shooters shoot with the main photographer on the wedding day. The main photographer (who you hired) will edit all the images together so the collection is still cohesive.
Are candids of your guests important to you? It's one of my most requested type of images for my couples! And it takes the right kind of photographer to capture those fleeting moments before they're gone. It requires patience, discretion and speed!
Your guests are pretty cute, let's include them in the story of your wedding.
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!
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. You’ve actually never felt more amazing 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 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 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.
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 10,000 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.