Roots. They are often overlooked by those of us who get caught up in the hustle and bustle of surface-level life flying past us. Yet roots are very precious things that hold all the mystery upon which life around us is built. Betsy and Sean are two of those rare people who know and treasure the roots that are the foundation of their lives. Betsy is so thoughtful and happy. It’s so easy spending time with her. And Sean. Well-rounded. Tough and solid but not afraid to let others see how much he loves Betsy.
They had made it clear to me that their First Look was one of the most important part of their day. They wanted to see each other in front of the original chapel of their home church. A place where some of their most important roots were laid. A structure that is more than just a building. It holds sentiment in Betsy’s heart. It was so important to her that she was even willing to go out in the rain just to see Sean there for the First Look.
It had been raining all morning. Leading up to that moment in front of the chapel, I had asked Betsy how she was feeling about the weather. Her answer shouldn’t have surprised me because it was so “Betsy”, but it did because I don’t always get to see brides in that state of mind. She gave me a big smile and said, “I don’t even care about the weather. I’m just so excited to marry Sean.” Her easiness was refreshing, and it’s always exciting to photograph a bride who is grounded in the heart of what a wedding day is actually about...marrying the man of your dreams. Every detail of a wedding day can fall apart, and life will go on. Wedding day details coming together are certainly nice, but it makes no difference in the commitment you are making to love and cherish one another for the rest of your lives. Life won’t always come together the way we want it to. That doesn’t change our hearts for one another. Betsy and Sean carried this revelation deep in their hearts.
Like I said, it had been raining like crazy all morning. Sean waited outside the chapel holding an umbrella, waiting for Betsy. Right when it was time for her to come out, the rain completely stopped! I’m not kidding. It was a total miracle. Betsy walked around the corner, and when Sean turned around, his face melted. They were both all to pieces. It was one of the most powerful First Looks I’ve ever photographed. It was beautiful.
Then we get to the ceremony and as Betsy walked down the aisle, both her mother and Sean had tears streaming down their faces. When the pastor asked Sean if he would always love and cherish Betsy, he looked at her with tears rolling down his face, and with such sincerity, his voice cracked with tears, “I will.” I had held it together really well up to that point. But my tears got the better of me on that one. Their vows were taken seriously and with such devotion. Throughout the ceremony, Betsy and Sean were locked in on each other, and no one else.
The reception was a blast! Betsy’s dad was pretty quiet most of the day. But he really let loose at the reception. Then, he gave a touching speech about how proud he was of his daughter. It was heartfelt and unscripted. It was touching that he was able to so eloquently express his emotions to his daughter. In fact, all day long I was witness to how much the people around Betsy cherish her. I believe that’s because Betsy, and those closest to her, have learned the importance of treasuring your roots.
There are some things in life that are just better together. (I'm stopping myself from using childhood metaphors related to foods...ahem...Peanut butter & Jelly. Cheese & Crackers! Peas & Carrots!!!) Seriously, though. Katie and Ryan are one of those couples that I believe it will always be said of them that they complete each other.
Katie with her vibrancy and waves of laughter. Ryan with his quiet, firm resolve. When you bring them together, you truly get to witness a remarkable picture of compatibility.
Their celebration really began at the rehearsal dinner which was to scale with a full reception. The groom's family held the dinner at Benvenue Country Club in Rocky Mount. The place was decked out in a southern golfing theme which fit the night perfectly. There was a live band from Roanoke, and both families danced the night away. I was able to see how much each family loved life, dancing and just being together at the rehearsal.
They held their wedding and reception at one of my all time favorite venues -- Rose Hill Plantation in Nashville, NC. If you're considering an historic venue in eastern North Carolina, Rose Hill Plantation should be at the top of your list. It dates back to 1762, and the grounds of the plantation, the Manor House and Nathan Hall hold true to their historic roots. When you drive down Rose Hill Lane, it really feels like you are stepping back in time. It's old south charm at its finest.
There were four bridesmaids and four groomsmen. The guys were funny and brought a great sense of ease to the day. All of the bridesmaids teared up when they saw Katie in her dress. They were so happy to be with Katie which is a testament to who she is as a person.
Katie's mom, who is a very quiet, thoughtful mother, gave a touching toast to Katie before the First Look, and all the girls in the room started crying. It was very clear that Katie and her mom are best friends. I could also see that they had a great time planning this wedding together.
Katie chose navy and coral as her theme colors, and it was gorgeous. The floral arrangements were stunning. Katie’s bouquet was mostly white with light coral/pink accent flowers, with a couple of green sprigs. The rest of the flowers were beautiful coral and pink tones all mixed in together. Katie even added some handmade touches of her own to the reception. Everything fit perfectly with the rich, stately feel of the plantation.
This is actually a funny side story, but I have to give some attention to Groom and Mom, too! Ryan spent the night at his parents' house - to his mom's utter delight - and woke up to a ball of nerves. He asked his mom for a Xanax to calm him down, but she thought he said Zantac...to help with indigestion. A little while later, he commented on how the Xanax wasn't helping at all, and it was then that she realized the mistake. He ended up being grateful that she didn't give him Xanax, and we all had a good laugh over it. It will be one of those treasured memories that resurfaces occasionally at family get-togethers to bring back some of the joy this day held.
If I had to choose one favorite moment it would be during the First Look when everything came to a beautiful crescendo once Katie and Ryan saw each other in the Pecan Grove. I could see a calmness come over Ryan once he laid eyes on his bride. Katie was radiant, giggling with laughter, and so sweet to Ryan. It was here at the First Look that she actually said they really are “better together”. They were so happy and relaxed it was easy for me to see how true that is.
Each wedding I photograph gives me an opportunity to see a unique expression of love. In each new couple, I get to watch a love unfold that is unlike any I’ve seen before, because every couple brings with them their individual expressions in their relationships.
Every detail planned into a wedding day (and many that weren’t planned), give us a hint of what is truly important to a couple. Meredith and Bill gave me many of these beautiful little nuggets during their day.
Meredith could probably win an award for most-relaxed-bride-before-her-wedding. Seriously. Her only bridesmaid was her sister, and they spent the entire morning just lounging on the bed watching tv together. When it was time to start the more formal aspects of getting ready, she moved into them with the same ease she had while relaxing with her sister. Not once did Meredith seem anxious or overwhelmed. She took the entire day with grace and laughter.
Bill, on the other hand, seemed more like a ball of nerves while getting ready. But, there was a moment when time seemed to stand still for Bill. Meredith had written him a letter which he read by the stained glass windows in the chapel. He cried as he read her words. After that, it felt like the nerves were completely settled. It was like she had somehow found a way to impart her ease and grace to him.
They held a candlelight ceremony at All Saints Chapel in downtown Raleigh, NC. It’s a beautifully quaint chapel with dark wood ceiling beams and dark wood floors joined by bright, white walls. It was in this chapel that I witnessed one of the most remarkable demonstrations of love I have ever seen. They had given each guest a candle to hold. After Meredith and Bill lit the unity candle, they walked together to light their parents’ candles. Then, each person passed the flame to the next person. Eventually, the whole room was glowing from the flames of Meredith and Bill’s candle. It was a powerful representation of how their love influences the next person, and how contagious and luminous love really is.
Their reception was fun and full of life! They had a live band which always charges the atmosphere. A favorite among wedding guests was the photobooth Meredith and Bill had set up. Meredith’s sister, Mary Elizabeth, gave a touching speech. She choked up in the middle of it, and everyone was able to peer into their sisterly bond.
The entire day was filled with lovely expressions of Meredith and Bill’s special commitment for each other. And, I’m certain everyone in attendance was as blessed by their love as I was.