ADVICE FROM A GROOM / ANDREW

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Hello there everyone, let me quickly introduce myself. My name is Andrew and my beautiful wife Chelsea is really the reason why you are all here. I am a teacher, a proud dog parent, an avid reader, a novice movie critic, a video game player, and overall huge nerd. Chelsea asked me to write a blog post about the wedding planning process from my perspective. At first I thought she was crazy because I still feel like I know nothing about wedding planning. But she assured me that many people are like me, unaware of the majority of wedding traditions and protocols, and might enjoy my viewpoint. Chelsea is in the industry and has been steeped in Southern wedding culture her entire life, while I was pretty clueless. So here goes…

One of the things that annoyed me the most during the planning process was when people would say things like: “well the wedding day is all about the Bride” or “now that you’ve gotten her to say yes, you don’t have to do anything else for the wedding” or “just let the Bride do whatever she wants, it’s more important for her”. All of these types of comments really got under my skin because a) it should be about both of us and b) I want my opinions to be listened to and valued. The big problem is that.I have no idea how colors work. Like no idea what colors match or combine to craft a welcoming “warm” space vs a “cold” space. My big idea for our wedding was to take all of the things I loved, which includes: video games, books, maps, etc. and all of the things Chelsea loved, which includes: pixar, succulents, the color gold and put all of those items in the room. Bam! That would create a space that is both myself and Chelsea and boom we are done. If that statement made you hurt just reading it you understand how Chelsea felt. Chelsea is wonderful at taking the concepts and “feelings” and somehow translating that into a consistent theme, I blame her creative side for that. Both Chelsea and I were approaching this planning process from radically different viewpoints with very different priorities. As you can guess this led to a lot of frustration and quite a few fights. The thing that confused me so much was WHY Chelsea would care so much about *fill in the blank*, or why *fill in the blank* wouldn’t work for our day. It was maddening!

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What eventually helped us make a major breakthrough in our wedding planning process was actually pretty simple. We sat down, and talked about our priorities and took turns explaining why things were important to us. It helped me understand Chelsea’s vision and it gave her the opportunity to explain her rationale for many of the wedding planning choices she was making. It also helped me do the same for my own vision and rationale. This simple act really turned our wedding planning process into a fun thing that I actually looked forward to. Both of us were able to be on the same page and to really understand what aspects of the day really mattered to each of us. Chelsea has taken this idea and created a “Priorities Checklist” that she shares with all of her clients and you can find it here

After doing this together we found that there were really 3 things that I cared about for our big day. 1) Food 2) Drinks and 3) lodging for my family and friends. The first two are pretty obvious but the third needs a little bit of explanation. I moved around a lot growing up and my family is pretty spread out. I also went to college up in Massachusetts so many of my friends, including groomsmen, are also spread out. This meant that I wanted a venue that could be both our ceremony and reception area or that the two were in walking distance that way people didn’t have to be so worried about driving around a new location or worry about parking. When it came to selecting a venue Chelsea really only cared that it would allow us to take beautiful photos. Now that we both knew what we valued in a venue it made the selection process easy and was why the Vineyards at Betty’s Creek was such a great fit! This priorities talk also helped me not only care but actually be useful in aspects in the wedding other than my big three. Because even if I didn’t care a lot about the flowers or the plates, not only did I know Chelsea cared I knew WHY she cared. This was so important for me to be able to give good opinions and to fit into the overall vision for the day.

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Figuring out your own priorities as a person and as a couple is so important and surprisingly hard to do because the entire wedding industry is telling you what is “important” to have on your big day. I would advise you to avoid websites like “The Knot”, pinterest, and major wedding magazines when trying to figure out your priorities. Websites like these typically tell you the “10 things every wedding needs” and other such articles that will make you think that certain things are “essential” for your wedding day. Not only do you have the entire wedding industry trying to tell you what you “must” have but you will most likely have family and friends telling you other things you “must” have. Try to block out a lot of this noise until you can sit with your partner and figure out your own priorities first. This made me a better partner because even though I still didn’t know too much about the way weddings are “supposed” to happen I knew how we wanted our day to happen. After that we could safely go to family, friends, and the internet to find ways to make our vision a reality rather than being dictated by outside forces.

I know I’ve been harping on the priorities talk a lot and this isn’t to say that after our one talk everything about wedding planning was easy. There were still plenty of frustrations and teary eyed planning session; but this discussion put us on the same team with the same goals, and a list we could come back to and tweak as needed.

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Well that’s all for my article, hopefully you enjoyed my perspective on things and thanks for being part of the CMP family. My wife pours her heart and soul into this business and is so thankful for all of you who have supported her and let her be part of your stories. Thank you for all you do to make my wife’s passion a reality!

All photos were taking by Emily Chidester Photography at our wedding in September 17, 2016

TOP 10 VENUES IN NORTH CAROLINA

Let's talk wedding venues!! The number of wedding venues that exist is crazy. When I was looking for a wedding venue, I had driven myself so crazy, I started searching by county....Yep. I had a map of NC and was googling county by county what venues were there because some wedding websites you would just drown in recommendations. Now my craziness paid off as we found our venue through this search, but it wasn’t the most efficient way to spend my time. So I have made a list of my top 10 venues across the beautiful NC to hopefully jump start your search. Now, these venues picks are based solely due to my preferred aesthetics and are in no particular order. But as a photographer, through experience and research, I know these venues would be great backdrops to your day like I talked about in my previous blog post you can check out here. Hoping this is a helpful starting point becauseI love these places and know you can’t really go wrong with any of them.

1. MORNING GLORY FARM / MONROE

Another elegant rustic venue with endless options of places to have your wedding ceremony. Plenty of outdoor space, but it definitely has more of an upscale feel. With a lake, gardens and a blueberry cove It makes things feel so peaceful, especially when it's right outside busy Charlotte.

2. ALL SAINTS CHAPEL / RALEIGH

All Saints Chapel is the best place in Raleigh to get married if you still really want to get married in a church. It has beautiful windows that let in so much light, while keeping a simple aesthetic so the focus can be on the bride and groom. It's the perfect option if you want a ceremony one place and your reception in downtown Raleigh. It is so unexpected, but a lovely place to have a wedding.

emily chidester photography | Andrew & My Wedding

emily chidester photography | Andrew & My Wedding

3. THE VINEYARDS AT BETTY'S CREEK / SYLVA

I LOVE THIS VENUE! If you checked out my post two weeks ago, you will see photos of Andrew and I said I do at this very special place. But besides that, it has everything you need. Snuggled in the mountains town of Sylva, this venue has acres of land that will never disappoint. The lodge where you are allowed to get ready is enough to take your breath away, while the new open air pavilion looks over the mountains is the most stunning view. There so many options at the venue for creating a day that matches your need, it is the perfect place if you want a type of destination wedding.

4. THE BRADFORD / CHATHAM COUNTY

The Bradford is such an unexpected gem. I have never had a wedding here myself, but I have been a second shooter for a friend and I was not prepared for its simplicity and lovely elegance. The house itself is a blank slate for you to bring your creative ideas into, but it is really accommodating with outdoor options and indoor reception options. The sun sets directly behind the woods of this house, and some magical light makes this place something truly beautiful.

5. FLETCHER PARK / RALEIGH

This is a well-known park in Raleigh, North Carolina and surprisingly makes a perfect place for a smaller to medium size wedding. The space you are allowed to use inside again is a blank canvas, but I would encourage users to be outside as much as you can as the natural park setting make the perfect back drop. I shot a wedding here, and the couple had their whole reception outside without a tent. It was kind of a risky move, but it paid off as the sunset lighting made for the most spectacular photos.

6. ATRIUM / WILMINGTON

Such a cool approach to a beach town wedding. I have passed this before in downtown Wilmington, and it literally looking into an open garden room. Ivy covers the walls, and the hanging light adds an intimate flair. I love the open airiness to this venue, and how you can also explore the beautiful parts of Wilmington on your special day.

7. HAW RIVER BALLROOM / SAXAPAHAW

This venue has the best industrial feel you could ask for. Huge loft windows and exposed brick leave a very cool retro feel within the space. The light in the space is incredible and if you are looking to escape to some nature, the Haw River is right behind it where you can spend some time taking pictures. Normally this space is music and restaurant venue, but it can quickly be transformed to a very romantic, modern wedding space.

8. CLAXTON FARM / BUNCOMBE COUNTY

Oh, this place is one of my dream places to shoot. The pictures I see from this venue are nothing but stunning. It looks like it's a little establishment in the middle of a mountain range, just completely surrounded by mountains. There are llamas to entertain your guest, and this venue is well known of taking care of your whole wedding event. Such a perfect getaway for your special day.

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9. SAWYER FAMILY FARMSTEAD / GLENVILLE

I think this is the venue that made me fall in love with mountain weddings. A Christmas tree farm, with the most incredible ceremony view I have ever seen. It is so unique and nothing you would ever find in a city. It has so much charm and really can be as elegant or as rustic as you want it to be. It is perfect place for an intimate wedding and has so many grounds to roam and explore

10. OVERLOOK BARN / BANNER ELK

Ok, you guys, this is a new find, and I would love to shoot a wedding there! Apparently, this venue is a newbie, but it looks like it has amazing potential. What a rare thing to find in the mountains. It seems to have to perfect blend of the rustic modern feel with an awesome view. I don’t have many details past that, but from the looks of it, I am in love!

Again, I hope this helped! So many venues out there, but only a few gems! Strive for the gems! If you find a venue you really love, or one you think I should look into please leave in the comments! I would love to hear what you have to say.