Jon Durham and Kelly were married in the small town of Lewiston Woodville. This is a part of North Carolina where if you blink, you might drive past it. As I was driving into town, I lost cell-coverage, and due to the lack of GPS, I was forced to pay close attention to my surroundings so that I wouldn’t miss any of my turns. This lack of cell coverage heightened my awareness to the history of this small town. As I drove passed crumbling tobacco barns, I could imagine what this town might have been like in its hay-day. Farmers driving their tractors filled with cotton, soy beans, and tobacco; families going to their local church with their covered dish of snap beans to share at the potluck dinner. I could imagine kids being pushed in their tire swings, and families sitting on their front porch swing, drinking sweet tea and watching the sunset. There is a unique history in this town, and though I might not have the facts straight, I was still captivated by the stories that have gone untold in this small town of Lewiston Woodville.
The first location I visited when I arrived in town was the Thompson-Urquhart Historic House. This was where Kelly and the girls were getting ready on the wedding day. As I drove down the dirt path under a canopy of pecan trees, I could feel creativity beckoning me to simply enjoy this rare opportunity to be around so much history and textures. The interior of the house was dark and moody…it reminded me of the Civil War era, and the exterior is where I really came alive. In the “backyard” there were run-down barns with rusted red tin roofs, and multiple hardwoods creating beautiful shade. I truly had a blast photographing Kelly, her family, and all of the bridesmaids in this location.
The wedding ceremony was situated in front of St. Frances Methodist Church, a place now known as The Chapel Between Cotton & Gin. This lovely church was built in 1845, and as I arrived the day before the wedding, I was overwhelmed by its beauty. The steeple stretches high above the cotton fields; the chipped cream paint paired with a dark green door is truly a sight to behold. This church is a gem in North Carolina, and an incredible place to have an outdoor wedding.
When I photograph at a historic location, I try to still myself and imagine who has walked where I was walking. If the land could talk, what would it tell me? This frame of thinking helped me to photograph Kelly and Jon Durham's wedding. They became a part of this church’s story, and one day, generations will look back on these images, As I was exploring the land, I found gravestones dating all the way back to 1860s. I couldn’t help but to be inspired at this church.
However, as much as I was captivated by all the historic locations, none of that compared to the indescribable beauty of Kelly and Jon Durham. They have a warmth that is rare to come by. When Jon Durham rests his hand on your shoulder, and looks deep into your eyes to ask how you are doing, you can tell that he means it. When you are around him, he has a gift of showing his genuine gratitude for you in the steadiness of his gaze. Kelly has the ability to make you feel valued and comfortable all in the matter of a smile. She is confident, stress free, and all around joyful, and when anyone’s around her, their day is instantly better. I couldn’t imagine a better match than Kelly and Jon Durham. Their love for one another, paired with their love for friends and family is what love stories are made of. It was such a treat to be a part of the Morgan’s becoming husband and wife.
Janine and Matt are one of my most treasured friends. Oh, how I thank God that they found me randomly through Google. They have the gift of truly "seeing" their friends, and since knowing them, I feel more loved and valued than ever. Matt is the embodiment of passion. He is from Buffalo and a die-hard Bills fan. Janine is literally one of the kindest souls you'll ever encounter. She is from Miami, and any person who encounters her, is wrecked by her genuine love.
Let me tell you about their wedding day. It was on Sept 14th, an overcast day that perfectly matched the peaceful undertone of their lives. The build up to this day was powerful, and I know everyone who knows Matt, and his undying love for Janine, would say that they were the most looking forward to seeing Matt’s expression when he saw Janine walking down the aisle. And, boy, did he not disappoint. But, wait…I’m not ready to talk about that part yet. Let’s start when I first arrived.
When I first arrived at Highgrove Estate, Janine and all of her lovely bridesmaids embraced Mark and I with hugs and happiness. Janine was the epitome of “calm” as she was bundled up in her terry-clothe monogrammed robe. The first thing she did when I arrived, was lead me to the groom’s getting ready room. She showed me 7 little gift boxes (one for Matt and each groomsman), and inside was a pin with the letter “B” on it. This pin honored the memory of a friend, Bob Becker, who had recently passed away, and who was an important part of Janine and Matt’s story. Janine wanted all the guys to wear the pin close to their hearts. This was the first of four times that I cried throughout their day. There was so much love and honor present during that moment.
Then, Matt and the groomsmen arrived somewhere around 3:30. All of them except Matt were watching the end of the Dolphins vs the Bills game on their smartphones. The contrast between the girls getting ready room, and the boys arrival is humorous. I still can't believe that on their wedding day, the Bills and the Dolphins would play each other. It seemed like providence to me.
Matt showed me the gift he had prepared for Janine…which was part 2 of 4 of my emotional breakdowns. You see, he brought a bundle of balloons, a grape soda pin, and a homemade “Our Adventure Book” inspired from the movie “UP”. Matt had special instructions….that each bridesmaid was supposed to bring her one balloon each, and Gaby (Janine’s sister) was supposed to deliver the Adventure book. As this moment took place, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. I was blown away by Matt's thoughtfulness. It was a moment I will never forget.
Now, let’s talk about the ceremony. As guests were being seated, there was elegant classical music playing. Then, moments before Matt was to walk down the aisle, Mumford and Sons was played. This was very strategic on Matt’s part. He told me that there’s always crescendo before the bride walks down the aisle, and he wanted to have his big moment too. So, right after Mumford and Sons, Ashokan Farewell was played...which is a song written by a guy who didn't want a special weekend to end, and it just so happens to be Matt's dad's favorite song. Matt walked down the aisle behind his parents, and I have to say, it was just as powerful as you are imagining right now.
Then, as the bridesmaids and groomsmen were walking down the aisle, you could feel the emotions building in Matt. He was waiting with baited breath to see his bride, and when she appeared, the swell of emotions was overpowering. It was all I could do to continue shooting through my tears during this moment….which is part 3 of my 4 breakdowns.
The entire ceremony was the perfect reflection of Matt and Janine. Matt was hilarious, emotional, and full of passion. Janine was sweet, tender, and so peaceful. It was an honor to see my friends exchange their vows.
The final time that I broke down was during the first dance. Janine and Matt’s dance was so sweet and memorable. They danced to The Wine We Drink by Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors. Janine kept her head resting on Matt’s shoulder, and Matt was lost in his love for his wife.
The whole rest of the evening was a PARTY! I mean, who knew that when you combine guests from Miami and Buffalo, that you get the most fun party I’ve ever been to? The DJ, Jason Huggins, with Stylus S.E. was one of the best DJ’s I’ve ever encountered. The dance floor was packed the whole night, and I honestly didn’t want the night to end.