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.

ADVICE FROM A WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER

I have been wanting to write something like this ever since I became serious about photography. Now, most people might be thinking, why would I care what my photographer thinks? Isn’t it my day? And yes, 100% yes, it is, but as a photographer, it is always so interesting for me to see possible clients love my work, and then want to get married in a hotel with no windows and musty carpet. I am curious of thought process from that aesthetic to my photographs. Because as a natural light photographer, that is not where I shine. Don’t get me wrong, I do agree that your day should be a decision between you and your future spouse, whatever that might be, but I hope you would think of me as a visual consultant too. Any talented photographer can make any space/venue work, but given the right foundation, they can blow your freakin mind. I want to share with you the 5 things I LOVE in a wedding as a photographer in hopes to help you understand what elements can really help enhance the photos you will receive from your wedding day.

 

1. ALLOW YOUR VENUE TO BE THE PERFECT PHOTO BACKDROP 

I know this probably sounds like a duh thing to say, but it is 100% true. Andrew and I fell in love with our venue for various reasons, but one big reason was we probably could have done absolutely nothing to it and it would have been just as beautiful. That is HUGE!  When looking at your venue, don’t only look at the space where people will eat dinner, but look at the grounds around it. 80% of pictures of the bride and groom normally don’t take place in the reception hall. So when you are looking at venues and your response is, well we could always just stay inside, then move on to the next one. There is a better one out there. This applies to any style of wedding, or couple, but just know your venue will become the backdrop for all your photos and it is important to think outside the box/building and look at the potential a venue has from all angles.

 

2. THE LESS "VENUES" YOU HAVE THE BETTER

Now, I feel like this might be the point where people disagree with me the most, but I am a full supporter of one venue weddings. Whenever a wedding is in one area, it not only makes things simpler for everyone involved but trust me when I say you will have more time to enjoy your day. Just think about it. Now, I grew up in the south and understand this might not always be the case, but my biggest advice for you if are having a second location for your ceremony or reception is to plan out a timeline with your photographer. Make sure you talk about it beforehand, build time into your timeline to travel, get settled, and take photos. Set up expectations ahead of time and discuss the possible location of photos opportunity with your photographer so you can both remain on the same page. Overall though my biggest piece of advice is to avoid getting ready some place different than your ceremony and/or reception. Adding a third place usually adds more travel, and most likely won’t fit into the aesthetics of the rest of your day. Keep things like transportation simpler on the day of so it will be more about your spouse and less about complicated transitions.

 

3. GOOD LIGHTING WILL ALWAYS BE IMPORTANT 

Lighting will forever be important in my line of work because different types of lighting affect how your photos will look, feel and represent your day. I don’t believe you should know everything about lighting, that should absolutely be your photographer's job, but there are few basic rules you should know, to help you make a wiser decision while choosing your wedding space.

  • Know what time the sun sets on the day you having your wedding. This will be essential in planning your day out.

  • Consult a photographer if you have questions about what time is the best time to have your ceremony based on the season. When the sun sets at 9 PM in the summer, is very different from when it sets at 5 PM in the winter.

  • If you are getting married outside prepare to have a later ceremony time, or have your ceremony space covered with some amount of shade.

  • If you are getting married inside, try to book a venue with large windows. Fun fact: Window light is still considered natural light.

  • Turn off the overhead light where you are getting ready ( once you are ready for pictures). You won’t need it! Trust me.

  • If your venue doesn’t have good lighting ( yellow florescence, spot lights, or anything that make it look like a department store) , make time to go outside and take pictures, or pick a place nearby to capture some memories in the natural light goodness.

  • Cloud coverage can provide excellent even lighting options, so don’t get down if the weather looks a little cloudy.

  • Golden hour is a lovely time for photos, but so is twilight (the time the sun has just gone down).

  • Don’t have a completely dark reception. Even with external flashes, it is really hard for a camera to focus in dark lighting. Dance with the lights slightly on, or have the DJ provide extra lighting for the dance floor.

  • Don’t exit at night with something that does not illuminate you. If there is no external lighting on your venue get creative, but bubbles are never a good idea at night. They just aren’t.

 

4.DETAILS MATTER

Personal touches on wedding days will always be special! No matter your budget, make your days yours. It will help tell your love story and show your guest and the world more about you as newly weds. This doesn’t mean you have to buy all the flowers or have the fanciest dress, or table layouts that would be in a magazine. Just make sure every decision is intentional and reflects who you guys are as a couple. If that breaks a “tradition”, then it breaks a “tradition”. Be inspired by how things have been done, and change it up a little. This way, your photo album, and memories will be special and unique.

5. THINK LESS ABOUT THE POSING AND MORE ABOUT THE MOMENTS

More than anything as a photographer I want to capture every feeling that happens on the wedding day. This is not saying "looking at the camera" pictures are bad, or family pictures are bad, but as an artist, I rather produce photos where you will look back and feel the feels rather than simply staring at posed smiling faces. Kill the shot list the wedding industry has told you to create and start thinking of it in a new way. My best advice is to tell your photographer the people and other traditions that are special to you. Have conversations about the sentimental things and focus on the love, happiness, and gratitude you are feeling on your wedding. Then go spend as much time as you can with your spouse, take advantage of any alone time and know that time will be worth it. Try to get your brain out of the Pinterest world and BE with your best friend. Enjoy every moment with family and friends, talk, laugh, and cry, and don’t feel bad about any of it for a second. Those are the moments you will want to remember 20 years from now. I promise. 

I will give you a personal example from Andrew and my wedding. We agree that after our first look we were going to read our vows to each other. We wanted to do this privately, with just our photographer and videographer because we wanted it to be intimate. I didn’t want to be afraid of stumbling on words in front of a crowd at the altar. I wanted time alone with my best friend, so I could speak from the heart. This was my favorite part of our day by far. We both cried, and said words that became beautiful promises and those pictures/video moments I will cherish forever.

So rather than stalking Pinterest for the poses, think of the essence of the day, and feel the joy and love there! This is literally the best ingredient to a great photo.

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I hope these tips were helpful! When planning your wedding, or on the journey to pick a photographer remember all these things so you can capture all the beautiful moments that your special day will hold and memories to hold to for the a lifetime.