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.

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. 

PRIORITY EXERCISE

So... you are engaged!?!?!?! Ahhhh! Yay! How exciting! Congrats!! Woooo! I AM SOOO HAPPY FOR YOU! Sorry if that is a little strong from a perfect stranger, but I truly believe that marriage is one of the greatest gifts you can enjoy. Finding your person and being able to go through life together is one of the most amazing experiences ever! You get to marry your best friend and you get to merge two lives into one, which is as great and as messy as it sounds! I am sure that there are a lot of thoughts and emotions running through you right now in this time and I am sure your phones and social media pages are blowing up with congratulations already.

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 If you haven’t been asked already be ready to be asked “when is the date?” and “what are you doing for blank?”. Those “blanks” are going to start piling up, trust me. Chances are you have no idea how to plan a wedding, for many of you reading this, this is your first time planning one of these things after all. The wedding industry is HUGE and the rabbit hole (or pinterest hole) is endless. As soon as people hear that you are engaged they will give you all of the things that a wedding “must have”, both sides of the family are going to give you their thoughts, and the internet if full of billions of websites to “help” guide you through the process. All of these voices, visions, and thoughts can quickly become impossible to manage.

 I don’t mean to sound all doom and gloom, I am so excited for you and I hope that I can help! I want to help relieve some of that stress and to make sure that your big day is one that you will absolutely love. So, how can I help? As a wedding photographer I have seen my fair share of weddings, and I have been a bride myself so I have first hand experience. Yet even for someone like me that is in the industry and thought she had the whole wedding day idea figured out this process was a not always easy! It turns out that in all of my planning and dreams I had forgotten one key element: my future husband. A couple days after we got engaged, I was ready to jump right into planning; my fiance, Andrew, was not. My creative mind was moving a mile per minute. And from my point of view, Andrew and I had talked casually about our day, so we were going to be on the exact same page once the planning started. But let me be honest here, that was pretty far from the truth. What we discovered was that both Andrew and I had different expectations when it came to putting together a wedding. First piece of advice, Andrew and I both strongly believe that a wedding day should be created by the couple. It isn’t just the bride, and it isn’t just the groom’s responsibility. It’s a celebration about the couple & God’s wonderful union of marriage, and therefore, the couple should have a huge influence on what the day looks like, feels like, and how it is celebrated. Now of course there are always hiccups and snags, with rules that are in place by vendors, or expectations of family members, but we are here to encourage you to tailor your day to you as couple. If you love the normal traditions ( I grew up in the South, so I mean southern traditions) then great! If you don’t, don’t be afraid to try something new, or say no to something that doesn’t work for you. How cool would it be if you thought of a new unique way to celebrate your love on your wedding day, and it became a tradition of your very own.  Both you and your significant other are going to have hopes, dreams, and obligations for the wedding day that may be unknown to the other and these need to be brought up early in the process to avoid as many headaches and stress as possible.

 In order to do this, I recommend doing the Priority Exercise. What is the Priority Exercise? Well before you start talking about your wedding day with others, go get coffee, drinks, or be comfy at home with your new fiancé and do this little exercise. Be warned, this might spark some long conversations, so be prepared to talk. Also, if you don’t get it all figured out right away, don’t worry. Just recognize the areas where you need to talk before anything is reserved with a deposit.

Now that you are both comfy: first, write down these 10 categories on a piece of paper, then sit opposite your future spouse so you cannot see their paper. Now, write a number 1 through 10 next to each category based on what you personally think is the most important on your wedding day when it comes to solely planning party details. 1 being the most important, 10 being the least. When I say “most important” I want you to ask yourself these three questions to answer your priorities.

  • How much happiness will it bring you?
  • How much money are you willing to be spent on it?
  • How much of your time will it take to plan/find this category?

 Try your best to give a number to each category, and understand in wedding planning, things and priorities will change, and that's ok. You just need to understand where you are now. Are you ready? Ok, ready, set, go….

When you are done, scoot closer to each other and reveal your papers to each other. Go through the list, and see where the other person put their 1 through 10. Does it surprise you? Is it what you expected?

 Now don’t panic, if your numbers don’t align! It actually would be weird if you were perfect across the board. When we started out, Andrew and my list would have probably looked completely different.  But let this be the place where the conversation begins. Star your top two, and explain to your partner why those things are important to you and why you see them as a priority. If you could make a new list right now, could your top two, and your fiancé top two be the biggest priorities on your day? If not, you just might need to talk a little more. If so, you are well on your way! The goal is to be able to create one priority list that you both agree on, and feel good about as you march into wedding planning. Hold your heads high, you got this!

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Now a huge thing for you guys to understand, this list might not correlate to the timeline of when you should book things for your wedding. It will just help you know if your venue is number 7 on your list, then it shouldn’t be the most expensive thing you purchase. I would consult other sources for when to book, or hire a wedding planner.   

 Also, my biggest hope is that this list will become a powerful tool in other conversations as well. If parents, family members, or friends are going to be heavily involved in your day, then make them do this activity with you and your spouse-to-be. You and your fiance can have your established list, and once again see where expectations match up, and where they fall flat. Getting everything out on the table early on will help set expectations correctly, and make the whole planning process much smoother for everybody.

Overall I am so excited for the both of you, I know this is going to be a season, but you can do it and CONGRATS again! 

Hold your heads high, you got this!