An Elegant Burlington Weddings and Events Wedding | Virginia Wedding Photographer | Belle Eve Photography

Burlington Weddings and Events Venue

Burlington Weddings and Events is located in Charles City, Virginia, just eleven miles west of Williamsburg.  It proudly sits on several hundred acres and delivers an incredible view and luxurious experience for couples who plan to have large or small romantic weddings with an historic farm vibe.  This Virginia wedding venue has a rich history which adds to the historic farm estate ambience.  The Main House was built in 1818 by Edwin and Sara Major.  Eventually, John Mumford Gregory, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates and Governor of Virginia purchased the estate. 

Amenities

Some of the original structures, such as the Smokehouse (circa 1700’s), a Guest House, the Icehouse and the Main House, still stand today.  The original buildings have been restored and remodeled to preserve their historic appearance.  A Cape Cod styled Bridal Cottage was recently constructed and has a modern kitchen and bathroom in addition to a light and airy beauty salon for the bride and bridesmaids to get hair and makeup done.  Last, the Event Stables is an incredible facility which can hold up to 300 guests for an indoor wedding ceremony and / or a wedding reception.  The Event Stables houses a Groom’s Den upstairs near the Main Bar, and a spacious, elegant Reception Hall with beautiful wood floors, a Grand Ballroom with a Grand Staircase, and crystal chandelier.

A Burlington Wedding

I had the pleasure of second shooting alongside Elizabeth Henson Photography on a hot July day at Burlington Wedding and Events.  The heat, though, did not distract from Lauren and Burke’s beautiful wedding.  The day started with the ladies getting ready in the Bridal Cottage while the gentlemen getting ready in the Groom’s Den.  As Lauren finished getting ready, her father made his way to the Bridal Cottage which served as the backdrop for an endearing first look between father and daughter.  It was a precious moment filled with a father’s love for his lovely daughter. 

Wedding Ceremony

The ceremony was accompanied by a string quartet that sweetly ushered in the couple’s families, guests, groomsmen, bridesmaids, and finally the beautiful bride into the ceremony.  Near the end of the ceremony, the bride and groom lit a unity candle to symbolize the joining of their families.  Following the ceremony, the guests enjoyed a lovely cocktail hour as we photographed the family and bridal party.

Wedding Reception

The reception took place in the Event Stables and began with an introduction of the bridal party and the newlyweds, followed by the bride and groom’s first dance.  Additionally, the bride shared a dance with her father followed by the groom with his mother.   Deep Run Roadhouse catered an amazing meal that guests enjoyed.  Sweet Justice, a cover band from Richmond, Virginia rocked out as friends and family danced the night away. 

Sunset Bridal Portraits

At sunset, I went with Elizabeth Henson of Elizabeth Henson Photography and the bride and groom and we were able to capture a variety of romantic portraits during golden hour.  As the temperatures cooled, we captured the stunning bride and groom. The golden light combined with pristine historic buildings, immaculate landscaping, and a small vineyard which helped to create a beautiful backdrop for Lauren and Burke.

Sparkler Exit

The night ended with a sparkler exit, illuminating the end to a wonderful wedding day at Burlington Weddings and Events.

Wedding Vendors

Venue: Burlington Weddings and Events

Wedding Planner: Burlington Weddings and Events

Primary Wedding Photographer: Elizabeth Henson Photography

Second Wedding Photographer: Belle Eve Photography

Bridal Gown: Here and Now Bridal

Bride’s Shoes: Bella Belle

Hair and Makeup: Kara Waggoner

Groom’s Tux: Men’s Wearhouse

Florist: Over the Top Flower Shop

Caterer: Deep Run Roadhouse

Cake: The Mixing Bowl Bakery

Band: Sweet Justice

String Quartet: Ulysses Kirksey with Petersburg Symphony

Five Tips for Planning the Perfect Proposal

Engagement Season

It is Engagement season! The evergreens, scent of pine, cinnamon and cloves combined with twinkling Christmas lights usher in all the romance feels.  Here in Virginia, our Decembers are pretty mild for the most part, even with a little chill in the air.  Planning outings outdoors with the love of your life, such as taking a stroll in Colonial Williamsburg, is fairly easy, convenient, and offers a variety of options….especially when you are planning to propose to your significant other.  Making an intentional plan will help you to pull off the perfect proposal that you will both remember for the rest of your lives. 

Let’s get started.

Family

Having a conversation with your soon – to – be Fiancé’s  family is very important, especially if you want to have a positive relationship with them after you pop the question.  Family is important and it will mean a lot to them to include them, if possible.   There is something to say for marrying into a family.  You may not live with them, but building a positive, healthy relationship (which includes inviting them into knowing your intentions and plans) will have ripple effects for your future and your children’s future.   They may also have some great and meaningful ideas to offer as well which could really help to make it memorable and unique. 

Budget

Decide on a ring budget.  Researching the cost of rings that your future fiancé would like will help you as you decide on what to purchase for the love of your life.  I highly recommend doing your homework on this.  In addition to researching pricing, it is also valuable to search for reliable jewelers, and have a good idea of what your future fiancé likes. If you are not exactly sure what she might like, enlist the help of her family and friends.   In order to pull off a great surprise, it will be helpful to know her ring size as well.  Go here to learn about ways to get her ring size without her knowing.

It also is important to decide on a budget for your proposal.  Will you hire a photographer?  Will you buy her dinner at a 5 star restaurant?  Or will you pop the question at a favorite location and then celebrate with family afterwards? 

Location and Season

Choose how and where you will propose.  Your proposal should be unique to your relationship.  There are so many “viral” ideas out there that may sound amazing.  However, if the idea does not connect to who you are as a couple, it may fall a little flat.  Consider meaningful locations, such as where you met, a favorite location where you like to bike or walk together, or the place where you first said “I am in love with you.”  Consider the time of year as well.  

Christmas is a time when families often gather together.  If Christmas season is a time that is meaningful for you as a couple, it could be a great opportunity to pop the question knowing that family from out of town could be there to celebrate afterwards.   Or perhaps you want to propose when it is warmer outside when walking on a beach or at a park, for example, would be a little more comfortable. 

Time of Day

Time of day is really important, too, especially if you plan to hire a wedding photographer like myself to capture this beautiful moment.  As a photographer I can consult with you about the best window of time for natural lighting.  I will also be able to coach you on exactly where to stand and what direction to face so that I can capture the moment without obstruction of view.  After you propose, I offer a post proposal session to clients.   Couples can opt to use these images for their engagement announcements as well as printing on canvas, metal, or a coffee table book.   

A little advice from your cheerful wedding photographer:    Make sure that you provide an excuse for your special someone to dress up.  Everyone is different with this.  Some ladies do not mind having images taken when they haven’t put on make-up.  That is perfectly fine!  If your girlfriend is more selective about her appearance for photos, the experience will be more pleasant for her if you provide a believable excuse for her to get dolled up.

Choose What You Will Say

While what you say will be really important, don’t make this too complicated.  Do you need to write and rehearse a 3 page speech about your undying love?  I am all for romantic accolades. (Hallmark channel junkie here!)   Perfectly crafted poetic words are lovely, but keep the message authentic.  Your words should convey a beautiful message of love in a genuine way.   The big thing here is to be yourself; be creative in how it fits your relationship while being you.  Then, pop the question! 

Now it is time to celebrate!

Wedding Trends | Intimate Micro Weddings | Virginia Wedding Photographer

2020-2021 Wedding Trend

One of the biggest Wedding Trends, as we finish out 2020 and move toward 2021, is to have a smaller, more intimate wedding ceremony. Obviously, a contributing factor to this trend is the coronavirus pandemic.  Whether you prefer a formal or informal micro wedding, there are definitely many ways to still make it traditional or modern, with the elegance of larger weddings.  You may be able to make your wedding experience even more elegant since the total guest count for a micro wedding runs approximately 40-50 people at the most. 

Wedding Planner

I had the pleasure of chatting with Tammy Mills of Simply Grand Events , an incredible Newport News, Virginia based wedding and event planner who specializes in smaller weddings, about Micro Weddings.  A Micro Wedding, which is a more intimate gathering that lasts 2-4 hours and ranges from 10 to 50 guests, is a way to celebrate the beginning of your lives together on a smaller scale without sacrificing all of the  elements that you really want.   Most things about a micro wedding are the same, for the most part, as a larger wedding.  The biggest difference is in the guest count.   The budget is another difference, depending on the elements you choose to include.  Your budget can impact your guest list when you take into consideration that on average you will spend about $100 per guest.  And in turn, the guest list drives a lot of other things about your wedding: quantity of food, venue space, quantity of tables and chairs needed, florals, guest gifts, and so on. 

The Wedding of Your Dreams

Is it possible to have the wedding of your dreams on a smaller scale?  What does that even look like?  Will I still get to have a dress, flowers, reception, a beautiful cake, a D.J. and dancing? Cake cutting? First look? Mom and my besties helping me with my dress?  Pictures? Dancing? Your wedding can still be elegant and have many of the same types of elements as a standard 8 hour long wedding, but on a smaller scale.  For example, if you are having a 2 hour wedding, you may not have time for a full 30 minute first look.  Your prep time will likely be 30 minutes to an hour before your wedding instead of 2-3 hours before your wedding.  This will result in fewer images of you getting ready, but can still include those important moments such as Mom helping you button up your wedding gown, and you in the room where you are waiting to walk down the aisle.

Often, people equate a smaller guest list with a less elegant wedding with only a very simple ceremony, but that does not have to be the case.  If anything, having a smaller guest list may offer you the opportunity to upgrade some or all of your elements, depending on your budget and preferences.  A smaller guest list may make more room in your budget for the perfect venue location for your ceremony and reception, an exquisite catered meal or heavy hor d’oeuvres,  beautifully designed floral arrangements, or your dream dress, for example.  You have a wide range of options!  Ultimately, you will decide what your priorities are for your wedding. 

Wedding vendors (such as florists, planners/designers, photographers, videographers, D.J.s, stationers, event rental specialists, bakers, and caterers) will work hard to make your Micro Wedding a unique event that showcases your love.  Some of these artists may have special packages specifically tailored to couples who wish to have an intimate wedding or elopement.

Wedding Venue

Choosing the perfect venue for your gorgeous Micro Wedding is also similar to considering a venue for a larger wedding.  (Learn more about choosing a wedding venue here).  What is the most important thing to you?   Just like larger weddings you have a variety of venue options for Micro Weddings.   Some venues offer options for using certain parts of their space.  Some offer partial day packages, and others offer only full day only packages.  It is also possible to have a lovely backyard wedding (such as the one featured here), which could help also to place more of your wedding budget on other things. One thing that is important to remember is that even though your guest list is smaller, you still will need a certain amount of space to accommodate your guests comfortably.   For seated guests, you will need a minimum of 14 square feet per person.  If it is cocktail style, you will need a minimum of 9 square feet per person.  With fewer guests there will be fewer people therefore utilizing less space or having more space to move about.  When considering your guests’ needs for your event as you navigate COVID 19 regulations, you need to stay informed about the latest requirements for indoor / outdoor public gatherings and your planner will also be a wonderful resource for you. 

Guest List

How do you even begin to decide which guests will be at your intimate wedding?  If you’re anything like me, you’re probably a little stressed about the idea that you will only be able to invite a limited number of people.  It’s the enneagram 2 in me.  I just don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or cause anyone to feel left out.    But you have to make a decision about who you’ll invite.  Your family.  His family.  Your friends.  His friends.  And what about Great Aunt Lucy and your Grandma’s bestie?    “The guest list will take care of itself”, Tammy explained as we chatted.  If your family is very close, you will likely want them to be there.  You may need to make it an “adults only” event as well, depending on your preferences.  When it comes down to friends, though, Tammy recommends asking yourself “Is this someone I regularly stay in contact with?”  “Do I chat with this friend regularly?” 

Online Guest Options

For guests who are not able to attend, there are other options to consider.   One option you can consider adding so that more people can be included is to hire a D.J. or a videographer (or a friend who is knowledgeable in this area) to do live video streaming of your wedding.  Another option is to hire a videographer to professionally capture your ceremony, then share this with others.  Hiring a professional videographer will ensure that your video quality is clear and the sound is balanced.  A professional videographer will know the important moments to focus on and will provide a polished product to share.

Should You Have an Unplugged Wedding? | Virginia Wedding Photographer | Belle Eve Photography

Cell Phones and Your Wedding Ceremony

If you have been to a wedding in the past few years, you have probably seen it.   The bride begins her graceful stroll down the aisle toward her groom when suddenly, a sea of cell phones and even ipads push their way into the aisle to capture the moment.  Meanwhile, the professional photographers hired are trying to capture the bride as she enters the area, the moment she walks down the aisle, her grooms reaction, the moment she arrives at the end of the aisle near her groom, and the moment her father or other precious family member gives her away.  “Can’t the photographer just move a few steps over to get the shot?”  Well sure, but in the moment that your photographer is in position and anticipating the capture of an important part of the ceremony and a couple of cell phones unexpectedly pop up, this can be unrealistic.  Unfortunately, when this happens the bride and groom end up with the sea of those cell phones and the image results are disappointing because the phone popped up and concealed the couple and important elements of their ceremony.   It is even worse when it is a friend or family member who did it.  Did they mean to invade and possibly ruin your ceremony pictures?  Most likely not.  Living in a plugged in society where our cell phones are always within reach and sharing content on social media is “normal” means that you will likely end up with the scenario above unless you educate your guests prior to your wedding ceremony. 

Keeping Your Wedding Unplugged

How do you go about keeping your wedding unplugged?  There are multiple things you can do to ensure that your ceremony is tech free.  The ceremony, being the formal part of your wedding day, and with people seated, it is the easiest for those devices to sneak their way into your images, potentially blocking your photographer.  It is okay to request guests to keep devices put away during this time.  If you “set the ground rules” and communicate your request early, it will save you a lot of headache on your wedding day.  First, you can include verbiage about your tech free ceremony in your wedding invitation.  A brief mention about how you are excited for your guest to be a part of your tech free ceremony will give them the first “heads up”.    It is a good idea to also include signage at your wedding to remind guests of your wishes for your ceremony.  How do you say it without being offensive? 

For your wedding invitations, keep it simple:  “You are invited to our unplugged wedding ceremony,” Or “We request the joyful sight of your smiles, without the distraction of electronic devices.” 

For wedding ceremony signage, I recommend mentioning your guests being fully present or the presence of your wedding photographers so that guests understand that their presence means a lot to you and that the photography is being taken care of.  Below are several great examples of wording for your ceremony signage, courtesy of https://theweddingplaybook.com/ways-to-announce-an-unplugged-wedding/

“We’re so glad you’re here! Please stow away your phones and cameras until the reception. We promise to share the beautiful pictures taken today.”

“Please switch off your devices and stow them away, we’d love to see your smiles aiming our way.”

“Welcome to our unplugged wedding. We invite you to be fully present with us during our ceremony, so please turn off all phones and cameras. Thank you!”

“Welcome family and friends! We’ve hired a photographer to capture how this moment looks with their camera, so you can capture how it feels with your hearts.”

“We’ve asked a professional photographer to capture this special moment so that you can sit back, relax and enjoy it with us. Our beautiful images will be available after the wedding.”

 “As we tie the knot, please be our guest. Our photographer will take care of the rest!”

Check out OAKYdesigns for even more ideas!

Cell Phones at Your Wedding Reception

As for the reception, I recommend allowing guests to have their phones out.  It is reasonable to request phones be stowed away for a 30 minute ceremony.  It is a little less realistic to request this for the reception, unless it is for security reasons.  Often guests will incorporate their phones into the fun.  People naturally love to capture meaningful moments with their cell phones.  So encourage it!  Work with it!  You can choose to provide a hashtag for wedding reception photos at various locations at the reception or just allow guests to post randomly.  When you assign a hashtag, images posted on Instagram, for example, will be easy to find.  You can also utilize “The Guest” app from The Knot, an app that allows guests to upload their cell phone images during the reception.  If you provide the information for guests to sign up prior to the reception, guests will be able to download the app and get signed up within about 5 minutes.  You will need to plan ahead to set up your event and provide guests with the information so that they can access “your event”.  Once they are in, they will be able to get started sharing!  https://www.theknot.com/photo-sharing-app/

The First Look | Virginia Wedding Photographer | Belle Eve Photography

Should You Have a First Look?

If I could go back to my wedding day, I would have had a first look and had some time set aside to pray with my soon to be husband.  Even though I had a wonderful wedding day, that is one thing that I wish I could have done.  A “first look”, the first time a couple sees one another before the ceremony after getting completely ready, can be a beautiful moment for the couple.  If you’re considering a first look but aren’t quite sure if it would work for you, keep reading.  I have had some couples who really love the idea of having a first look on their wedding day, while others prefer to see each other for the first time as the bride walks down the aisle during the ceremony.  Ultimately it is entirely up to the couple.  Each couple is unique and each wedding is unique.  Having a first look is a preference, but as a photographer I must tell you that a first look can be very beneficial and memorable.  In the following paragraphs I will share three reasons that you should consider having a first look on your wedding day.

A Memorable Moment

Do you think you will be nervous on your wedding day?  I know that when I got married, I felt a little nervous.  Mostly I was so excited about this next chapter in my life, but I had so many butterflies in my tummy!  We actually ended up sneaking off to pray together before the ceremony, which helped tremendously.  A first look can definitely give you a chance as a couple to see each other for the first time that day and have a private moment (except for the presence of your photographer) so that you can interact and take in that moment.  Once guests arrive, your day will be like a whirlwind.  I have witnessed joyful first looks, quieter first looks, and energetic first looks!  You have an opportunity as a couple to be yourselves together in this moment, knowing that you’re about to join your lives together.  What if you don’t want to see each other before your wedding?  First, I never pressure couples to see one another for a first look because I truly believe that your wedding day should be about you and what will work best for you as a couple.  After all, I’m not the one getting married!😁 If you truly do not wish to see one another in person prior to your ceremony, you can opt for a moment to pray together or hold hands around a corner or a similar structure so that you can have a “moment”, yet still keep the tradition that you choose.

Cocktail Hour

Second, having a first look can get you to cocktail hour much faster.  Typically at a wedding without a first look I will photograph the bridal party (including the couple) all together and then the family immediately after the ceremony while everyone else moves to cocktail hour.  After I capture those groups and send them to cocktail hour, I work with the bride and groom to capture them for the first time as a married couple.  I prefer to use a 30 minute time slot for my wedding couples to ensure that they can relax, breathe, and enjoy their session instead of feeling stressed and rushed.  With approximately 40 minutes for the bridal party and the family groups and 30 for the couple for their portrait session, that is about an hour that you are away from your guests.  Guests normally understand this, but if you prefer to join cocktail hour sooner than that, a first look may be a great option for you because not only can I capture your first look and do your bride and groom session, we can also allot time to capture the bridal party (and the family groups too) which can save more time after the ceremony.

Photography and Light

Third, it is important to consider the available natural light.  As a wedding photographer, my first priority when capturing your day is to think about the impact of the light at a particular location.  Good lighting is vital to having good images.  If lighting is too bright and harsh, people tend to squint more and the people in the images could possibly lack even lighting on their faces.  If it is too dark, a photographer will need to add a light source to create a well exposed image.  In the summer months there is a lot more time after a late afternoon/early evening ceremony to do natural light portraits.  While it is possible to use off camera flash for portraits, natural light group portraits can go much faster and may be your preference as well for your couple’s session.  During the winter months, the sun sets between 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.  When a winter ceremony starts at 4:00 p.m., for example, that can leave little to no natural outdoor light to work with for those who desire to do all of the portraits at that time.  In that case, I would utilize off camera flash. 

What will you choose? Your wedding is all about you and when you are looking for a wedding photographer, find one who will work with your vision for your special day so that you can have a visual story of your day. For more information about weddings with Belle Eve Photography, go to the link below.

Weddings With Belle Eve Photography

The Freight Shed | Yorktown, Virginia Wedding Venue | Belle Eve Photography

With the arrival of the 4th of July this week, which is a yearly reminder of all of the rich Revolutionary War history here in Yorktown which resulted in our nation’s independence from England, I’d like to introduce you to The Freight Shed at Yorktown.  I have so many memories of this special place from when we first moved to Virginia in 2002.  Often, I would park under the Coleman Bridge, then walk with my very tiny kids at the time down the sidewalk and past the Freight Shed to get to the beach.  Every time we walked by this historic building, which was closed at the time, I always wondered what its story was.  It was evident that it was a very old building.  Several years after Hurricane Isabel hit our area, which did a great deal of damage to the Yorktown Riverfront, the Freight Shed, along with the beautiful Riverwalk, were revitalized and built.  Not long after the renovations were complete, I learned more about what made this building unique. 

The Freight Shed was originally built in 1935 by the National Park service after a tropical storm destroyed a great deal of the waterfront.  It was initially used as a terminal for Baltimore steamships until 1952.  After that, it was remodeled and used as a post office.  Although Hurricane Isabel damaged the waterfront in 2003, the renovation of the Freight Shed and the development of the Riverwalk Landing, completed in 2005, was a project 13 years in the making.

The Freight Shed, a wedding venue that can seat 130 people inside, now hosts many functions in addition to weddings such as parties, business meetings, and concerts to name a few.  It is about 1,950 square feet in size and has a large brick plaza on the river side of the facility.  A tent is available on the plaza to offer an outdoor option for your wedding ceremony or reception (April through October).  The Freight shed also provides use of their tables inside the building, use of the kitchen area (in the building adjacent to the Freight Shed), and you may rent their white chairs for use outside in the tent.

One of my favorite things about The Freight Shed as a Yorktown, Virginia wedding venue is the beautiful couple portrait locations.  The sunsets on the York River are gorgeous, and in combination with the Coleman Bridge, you have so many options for gorgeous and unique wedding imagery.  The brick plaza and sidewalks surrounding this wedding venue offer a colonial feel and lead to other areas along the waterfront with the bridge and without the bridge in the background. Additionally, you can opt to do bridal party and couple portraits along main street in Yorktown where there are multiple locations with green space, historic buildings, brick walls, and gardens.

Ware River Yacht Club | Venue Tour | Gloucester, Virginia | Virginia Wedding Photographer

Located on the beautiful Ware River in Gloucester, Virginia sits the Ware River Yacht Club, a social club with a passion for sailing and a location where you can have your wedding!  I had the opportunity to visit the Ware River Yacht Club several months ago and thoroughly enjoyed the tour of this wedding venue.  Founded in 1971, the yacht club has lifetime members that are still active today.  The marina boasts of a spacious river view that offers gorgeous sunset views and an organic natural feel.  During the warmer summer and fall months, yachts and sailboats gracefully adorn the shore and dock.

There are a variety of ways you can have your wedding ceremony at this venue.  To the left of the the club house, a huge and beautiful tree stands near the shore.  This area adjacent to the tree can be used as a ceremony site on beautiful days.  Couples can also use the green space to the right of the tree near the 300 foot pier for their ceremony as well.    You also have the option of renting a wedding tent to place on the green space for additional cover from the sun or rain, or for more than 193 guests.

The clubhouse, with it’s rich neutral tones, is a versatile space for your reception.  It has a wraparound deck, a full industrial kitchen, a bar, a dance floor, and a screened in porch to serve up to 193 people.  The screened in porch can be used for cocktail hour or for other creative purposes during your wedding reception.  The clubhouse faces the water, allowing romantic sunset views through the windows as you dine and dance with family and friends.   

The 300 foot long pier offers a unique and beautiful location for bridal party and couples’ portraits. And if you time it with the sunset, you can have a colorful sky as the backdrop. I have the honor of shooting a wedding at the Ware River Yacht Club in September and cannot wait to capture my sweet couple along with all of the beauty there!

A Royal Blue and Violet Micro Wedding | Newport News, Virginia | Virginia Wedding Photographer

Odell and Valerie went from a larger wedding to an intimate, micro wedding in about 72 hours flat.  It was an incredibly quick transition, but the love they had for each other overshadowed everything else.  Originally they weren’t planning to have a tiny wedding.  However, because of the quickly shifting changes with the coronavirus pandemic, they adjusted their plans so that they could get married before more restrictions were put in place in Virginia. 

Odell and Valerie met because of their individual journeys when they were both involved in “The One University”.  The One University, also known as TOU, is an online community that helps to guide Christian men and women through the 7 Stages of the Success Path to Marriage.  It is a program that offers classes, courses, mentoring, and opportunities to get to know other singles in the program in the private Facebook group and in-person meetups.  At the time, neither of them were actually searching for “the one” at the time.  However, on their journeys as single adults during a time which they were both learning more and preparing to eventually become a loving spouse in the future, divine destiny happened.  A Facebook post led to conversations, friendship, and a mutual desire to honor God with their lives and their relationship.  They were both involved in TOU, which led to them meeting on Facebook.   Valerie stated, “a Facebook post can lead to happily ever after when Jesus is in your DMs.”

The wedding day was originally planned to take place at a church in Newport News, Virginia when the coronavirus pandemic caused them to have to make several decisions about their wedding day.  They moved the wedding to an alternate location, found out that many of Valerie’s family members would not be able to drive in from out of state because of the pandemic, found a new location for Valerie and her bride tribe to get ready, and found a new location for Odell and his groomsmen to get ready.  They were such troopers, though.  They had the best attitudes, given the situation that was completely out of their control, and stayed focused on what was important: their marriage. 

It gave me so much joy to serve this incredible couple.  There were so many smiles!  They were truly amazing throughout the day, and met each challenge with a solution.  Their ceremony was delightful and inspiring!  At the beginning of the ceremony, Odell danced as he entered and danced all the way down the aisle. Honestly, it was the best groom’s entry I have ever had the privilege of photographing!  Next, the bridesmaids in their elegant violet and blue gowns and the groomsmen in their dapper purple suit jackets entered.  When it was time for Valerie to enter, Odell’s father escorted her down the aisle.  Because of the pandemic, Valerie’s stepfather and her mother were unable to attend.  The family really stepped up, though, to help make sure Odell and Valerie were both celebrated.  Valerie looked drop dead gorgeous in her lovely white wedding gown and chic birdcage veil.  Her smile as her eyes met her groom’s eyes spoke of the love she has for her groom.  After Valerie entered, Odell, who is a worship and youth minister, sang a song to his beautiful bride and even changed part of the lyrics of the song to describe how the even the coronavirus wasn’t going to ruin their wedding day.   Their ceremony not only reflected their energetic personalities, but also the commitment and love for one another and also their love for God. 

Before the reception, we walked behind the church to a park-like location where the sun was just starting to lower behind the trees.  The light was so perfect and glowy as they snuggled up for their bride and groom portrait session.  The smiles and kisses were abundant, and I had so much fun capturing their love! 

After a delicious buffet style meal was served for dinner at the reception, the newlyweds had their first dance and were gleaming brightly with so much joy! Following their first dance as a married couple, D.J. Lawrence started the party with some favorites that definitely hyped up the party. I am so grateful that I was able to be a party of this beautiful couple’s wedding day!

Empire Colonnade Arch by Hampton Roads Event Rentals

Micro Weddings | Big Love on a Smaller Scale | Virginia Wedding Photographer

Your Dream Wedding

How big do you want your wedding to be?   When I was a little girl, I remember watching Princess Diana get married to Prince Charles.  Everything was opulent, formal, gorgeous…. Her dress was the dress of my dreams (at the time) with a train that went on for forever.  There were so many people packed in the cathedral as well.  Seeing that as a little girl played into my dreams for my own wedding.  I remember dreaming about having a long train on a huge dress with a huge veil.  The hilarious thing is, I’m only a petite 5’ 2” and when I tried on a princess ball gown type of wedding dress with the huge puffy skirt, it practically swallowed me.  Y’all it made me look so much shorter!  I ended up getting a mermaid styled dress with a shorter train which fit my frame much better and made me look taller.  Sometimes the reality of what we can or actually do for our wedding is better than our dreams.   Simply stated, bigger is not always better.  Don’t get me wrong though.  Large weddings are amazing, however sometimes that “large wedding” may not be the best fit at the time due to budget, venue availability, guests who cannot travel, or currently….COVID-19. 

Big Love on a Smaller Scale 

I had the pleasure of chatting with Tammy Mills of Simply Grand Events about Micro Weddings, an incredible wedding and event planner who specializes in this area.   A Micro Wedding, which is a more intimate gathering ranging from 10 to 50 guests, could be a way to celebrate the beginning of your lives together on a smaller scale without sacrificing all of the  elements that you really want.   Most things about a micro wedding are the same, for the most part, as a larger wedding.  The biggest difference is in the guest count.   The budget is another difference, depending on the elements you choose to include.  Your budget can impact your guest list when you take into consideration that on average you will spend about $100 per guest.  And in turn, the guest list drives a lot of other things about your wedding: quantity of food, venue space, quantity of tables and chairs needed, florals, guest gifts, and so on. 

Dream Wedding on a Smaller Scale

Is it possible to have the wedding of your dreams on a smaller scale?  What does that even look like?  Will I still get to have a dress, flowers, reception, a beautiful cake, a D.J. and dancing? Cake cutting? First look? Mom and my besties helping me with my dress?  Pictures? Dancing? Your wedding can still be elegant and have the same types of elements as a standard 8 hour long wedding.  Often, people equate a smaller guest list with a less elegant wedding with only a very simple ceremony, but that does not have to be the case.  If anything, having a smaller guest list may offer you the opportunity to upgrade some or all of your elements, depending on your budget and preferences.  A smaller guest list may make more room in your budget for the perfect venue location for your ceremony and reception, beautifully designed floral arrangements, or your dream dress, for example.  You have a wide range of options!  Ultimately, you have to decide what your priorities are for your wedding.  It is important, though to keep in mind that the growth of your marriage will be even more beautiful as you grow together as a married couple in the years to come.

Vendors

Wedding vendors (such as florists, planners/designers, photographers, videographers, D.J.s, stationers, event rental specialists, bakers, and caterers) will work hard to make your Micro Wedding a unique event that showcases your love.  Some of these artists may have special packages specifically tailored to couples who wish to have an intimate wedding or elopement.   In addition to chatting with Tammy Mills on a Zoom call about all things micro weddings, we were able to get together for a unique experience, social distancing included!  As a planner, she works closely with couples to design and plan their weddings.  I was so excited that we were able to get together and watch her work her magic!  Her creativity is boundless and she transformed a few simple tables and an old bench into a dreamy boho setting.  Her boho inspired romantic sweetheart table and dinner table design takes you to a warm golden summer afternoon in a beautifully natural setting, such as a back yard or a grassy clearing at a vineyard.  She loves planning and designing Micro Weddings and shared with me that they are similar to plan compared to larger weddings, just on a smaller scale.  Some are more complex and elaborate and some are more minimalistic.  These intimate weddings are generally quicker to plan and can be, on average, a 4 hour event. 

Venue

Choosing the perfect venue for your gorgeous Micro Wedding is also similar to considering a venue for a larger wedding.  (Learn more about choosing a wedding venue here).  What is the most important thing to you?   Just like larger weddings you have a variety of venue options for Micro Weddings.   Some venues offer options for using certain parts of their space, such as the Watermen’s Museum, Mariner’s Museum, The Commanding General”s Residence at Fort Monroe or Colonial Heritage Club, for example.  Some offer partial day packages, and others offer only full day only packages.  One thing that is important to remember is that even though your guest list is smaller, you still will need a certain amount of space to accommodate your guests comfortably.   For seated guests, you will need a minimum of 14 square feet per person.  If it is cocktail style, you will need a minimum of 9 square feet per person.  With fewer guests there will be fewer people therefore utilizing less space or having more space to move about.  When considering your guests’ needs for your event as you navigate COVID 19 regulations, you need to stay informed about the latest requirements for indoor / outdoor public gatherings and your planner will also be a wonderful resource for you. 

Guest List

How do you even begin to decide which guests will be at your intimate wedding?  If you’re anything like me, you’re probably a little stressed about the idea that you will only be able to invite a limited number of people.  It’s the enneagram 2 in me.  I just don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or cause anyone to feel left out.    But you have to make a decision about who you’ll invite.  Your family.  His family.  Your friends.  His friends.  And what about Great Aunt Lucy and your Grandma’s bestie?    “The guest list will take care of itself”, Tammy explained as we chatted.  If your family is very close, you will likely want them to be there.  You may need to make it an “adults only” event as well, depending on your preferences.  When it comes down to friends, though, Tammy recommends asking yourself “Is this someone I regularly stay in contact with?”  “Do I chat with this friend regularly?”  With COVID 19 regulations, you will likely need to include the wedding party, photographer, and wedding officiant as well.  With the ebb and flow of the effects of COVID 19 on limited public gatherings, there are other options to consider.   One option you can consider adding so that more people can be included is to hire a videographer to do live video streaming of your wedding.  Another option is to hire a videographer to professionally capture your ceremony, then share this with others.  Hiring a professional videographer will ensure that your video quality is clear and the sound is balanced.  A professional videographer will know the important moments to focus on and will provide a polished product to share.

Why Should I Hire a Florist for My Wedding Day? | Vendor Feature | Virginia Wedding Photographer

Planning Your Wedding

You just got engaged and your thoughts turn from staring at that sparkly new ring to planning for your big day.  Wedding planning and design can be a lot of fun to dream about, but when it comes to your wedding day, all of those foreseen and unforeseen details can become stressors that can take you from elated and joyful to a heap of tears as you and your loved ones helping you do your best to pull it all together.  Don’t get me wrong.  It is wonderful for family and close friends to be involved with your big day.  It really is.  But if you would like to be able to fully enjoy your day without having to worry about each thing with your loved ones it is better to leave the designing, floral artistry, cake, catering….etc. to the professionals if possible. 

If budget is an issue, ask the vendors for their recommendations to carry out your wedding day dreams in a way that may be more affordable.  Many enjoy educating their clients and often have really helpful suggestions that can make your plans more doable while taking more tasks off of your plate.   Each wedding is unique, but one thing most couples have in common is a desire for their wedding to be stress free and special which is why I recommend for brides and grooms to hire planners, cake artists, caterers, stationery designers…..and florists.