Monthly Archives:: July 2015
Southern Bride & Groom works with some of the best wedding photographers in the Raleigh-Durham area and all across North Carolina. We’re thrilled to feature a North Carolina wedding photographer spotlight series so that you can get to know each of them a little better! Today, we’re sharing classic and fun wedding photography by Southern Love Studios.
2015 marks Southern Love Studios 10th year as a full-time wedding photographer! From backyard weddings to celebrity weddings, Southern Love Studios has captured beautiful memories for couples from the west coast to the east coast; they now residing in Raleigh, NC.
While not having a formal education in the craft, Brandon was lucky to have an amazing mentor, Michael Brannigan who took him under his wing and whom he shadowed for many years. Brannigan told him, “I can’t teach passion, but I can teach you how to use the camera”…and that he did.
Exciting changes are now happening with Southern Love – they recently opened a studio in Wake Forest and welcomed Beth Jarvah to the team as a lead shooter!
Learn more about Southern Love Studios’ style and wedding experience in the Q&A below.Where do you draw your artistic inspiration?
When I look through a magazine, I’m not looking at the clothes or the model, I’m looking at how that picture was photographed: what lens did they use, what lighting techniques did they use, so for me, a lot of inspiration and ideas come from these high end magazines.
How would you describe your style?
I’m classic, traditional first, then fun second. A classic and fun picture will never go out of style!What sets you apart from other photographers?
My job as a wedding photographer is to get what my clients want, but what makes me different as a “professional” wedding photographer is knowing what my clients will want and need 30 years from now.
Being a part of over 350 weddings, I feel I have a great understanding of them. This comes into play when a bride is 30 minutes late and I have to make up that time somewhere else. That doesn’t fall on anyone else’s shoulders other than the photographer or the coordinators and it’s our job to keep calm and get what is needed. This is where that experience comes in the play.
Taking pretty pictures is only 30% of the job; I would say 70% is how you get along and collaborate with clients. I show up to the bridal suite and give my bride a hug as opposed to saying, “Hi, nice to meet you.”What is your favorite moment to shoot at a wedding?
The favorite thing for me at a wedding is not a specific moment for me to photograph…it’s when I tell the couple to “take two minutes and take in all of this.” The look on their face as they look out and do that is so special.Photos by Southern Love Studios
It’s Wedding Feature Wednesday at Southern Bride & Groom! Today we’re excited to share Spencer and Kenny’s classy and elegant Carolina Country Club wedding in Raleigh NC this spring.
Spencer and Kenny met during a chance encounter at a bar during a night out with friends. When Kenny asked for her number, Spencer wasn’t sure he’d actually follow through, but sure enough, the next day, he was on the phone to set up their first real date.
When Kenny planned to propose, he chose a place that had deep significance for Spencer. Her parents have a rental home in Salter Path, NC, and she grew up going there, so it holds a special place in her heart. Kenny took Spencer to Beaufort, NC for lunch she instantly picked up on his nerves. When they got back to the house, he suddenly wanted to go for a walk. Once they reached a quiet spot, he got down on one knee; Spencer started crying tears of joy and felt like the happiest girl in the world! Kenny saved a shell and wrote the date on it, so they will always have a piece of their engagement location.
Spencer’s great-great-great grandparents were charter members of First United Methodist Church in Cary, NC, so that was an easy choice for their ceremony location. Generations of her family have been married and christened there. The couple also knew they wanted a reception at the Carolina Country Club in Raleigh, overlooking the scenic view of the golf course.
As for the style, they kept it classy and simple with black bridesmaids dresses, classic black tuxedos, and white flowers with a hint of blush. The black and gold linens paired with gold chiavari chairs added a touch of glam.
Family heirlooms played a large part personalizing the details of the wedding, including bridal jewelry worn by Spencer and toasting flutes given to them by her 86- and 89-year-old grandparents and engraved cake cutters. Cinda’s Creative Cakes recreated the design from Spencer’s bridal belt onto one of the layers of the cake with exquisite sugar flowers.
Spencer’s favorite moment was when the photographers took her and Kenny out on the golf course at sunset for stunning portraits – their first as husband and wife. With the Carolina Country Club backlit against the sun and the chance to enjoy the company of each other alone for the first time that evening, it was a magical.
Spencer’s advice for brides-to-be is to have fun, regardless of the little things that go wrong. On the way to pick her up at the church, her dad backed out of the garage with the trunk door up and smashed the window! Even in moments like this, you have to be able to see the big picture so you can enjoy the rest of the day. The show will go on and everyone is guaranteed to have a blast if you do!
SB&G PREFERRED VENDOR TESTIMONIALS
LUNCHEON & REHERSAL DINNER
“The Club Room at The Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill was a gorgeous setting for my bridesmaids’ luncheon,” says Spencer. “And for the rehearsal dinner, Angus Barn was fabulous, as always. Our rehearsal dinner location was very special, as it was the setting of my parents’ rehearsal dinner 39 years ago!”
“The Renaissance Raleigh North Hills was amazing, as we had to add on rooms to the block multiple times and they were very accommodating,” Spencer notes.
CEREMONY VENUE First United Methodist Church in Cary | RECEPTION & CATERING Carolina Country Club | PHOTOGRAPHER Aesthetic Images Photography | FLORIST Kelly Odom | MINISTER Reverend H. William Green | REHERSAL DINNER Angus Barn | BRIDESMAID LUNCHEON The Carolina Inn | GOWN Romona Keveza/Traditions by Anna Bridal Boutique | SHOES Nina Bridal Shoes | RINGS Bailey’s Fine Jewelry | BRIDESMAIDS DRESSES Jenny Yoo | MOTHER OF THE BRIDE Monique Lhuillier | MEN’S FORMALWEAR VIP Formal Wear | HAIR Blown Away Blow Dry Bar | MAKEUP Fiquet Bailey | CAKE Cinda’s Creative Cakes | INVITATIONS Reaves Engraving | CEREMONY MUSIC Florian Music | RECEPTION Liquid Pleasure | PARTY RENTAL CE Rental | GUEST ACCOMODATIONS Renaissance Raleigh North Hills; Hampton Inn at Crabtree | FAVORS Personalized sunglasses & koozies | TRANSPORTATION EcoStyle
Some folks call the cake the centerpiece of their reception, which is why we reserve a special spotlight in our magazine each year to show off these edible masterpieces! Southern Bride & Groom’s 2015 cake shoot took place at American Tobacco Campus (ATC), a hub of happening in the heart of downtown Durham.Edible Art Bakery captured our hearts with its ornate lock and key cake combined with lovely stencil and ruffled artwork (pictured in the in the photo top left). Brides may choose one layer of spice and Kahlua pecan to match the cake’s golden details from Edible Art’s extensive menu of fresh, scratch-made cake flavors.The second cake is a matching hand-painted watercolor wedding cake with gorgeous gold details. The frilly pink wash mixed with the glitter of a Moroccan interlocking pattern is an eclectic and joyous color combination, finished with a gold-brushed sugar flower topper. The real roses placed in the center are from The English Garden, and perfectly compliment the pink and blush color tones of the two cakes.Brian Mullins Photography captured these decadent shots in the boiler room of American Tobacco’s power plant, of all places! The contrast of the concrete industrial backdrop and these soft and feminine cakes makes for a stunning display. The area is actually one of the most popular cocktail and rehearsal party venues at ATC. The building also houses the Full Frame Theater and the Gallery, each available for private events.
The right lighting has the ability to completely transform and improve a space; it helps set the mood and tone of your wedding ceremony and reception. It’s important to choose lighting the suites your taste and your style, but that also works well within the venue you’ve chosen.
Lighting specialists, such as Get Lit Special Event Lighting, work with area brides and grooms to rent the lighting they require, or in many cases, create handmade custom works that are inspired by their vision.
We asked Get Lit about the latest trends and how to use event lighting and chandeliers to enhance modern Southern weddings. They also gave some tips on the most important factors to consider when planning your lighting needs. Get Lit handmade and designed the beautiful chandeliers pictured below.
Trendy Industrial Lighting
You’ve already likely noticed industrial design esthetic finding its way into wedding design. Get Lit fulfills many requests for barn shroud lighting, and the Edison bulb trend continues to be strong. “These items are not readily available in the event rental business, so brides and wedding planners come to specialty lighting businesses like us with an inspiration photo or general description and we create custom fixtures,” shares Terri Watson, co-owner of Get Lit. In addition to fitting traditional chandeliers with Edison bulbs, there is also interest in fixtures that are a combination of wood and metal and Edison bulbs, as brides pull inspiration from popular retailers like Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn.
Get Lit also finds the use of traditional chandeliers in combination with other styles of lighting, such as a twinkle light ceiling lights or draping market lights, a popular trend at the moment.
Photos by Robin Lin Photography
An outdoor garden, a modern museum or a church reception hall can all serve as a wonderful background for specialty light fixtures. Some settings truly benefit, dare we say need, the addition of beautiful hanging chandeliers. “Tents, for example, are often not appealing on their own and some brides see them as a necessary evil. The addition of decor elements help soften the look of all the hardware, and a chandelier can be a big part of the transformation in both creating a visual centerpiece for the space, as well as casting a soft romantic light on everything around it,” Watson shares.Photo by Get Lit
Customize to Fit Your Style
Chandeliers are easily customized to a bride’s/groom’s design preference. Begin by choosing the design of the chandelier itself, such as traditional, rustic or modern, which can be further defined by lighting elements.
Get Lit carries traditional crystal chandeliers with white, black and crystal bodies or European brass and black velvet. Traditional style with a whimsical flare can be achieved with its gold leaf and crystal chandelier, which looks right at home in a garden setting or a country club.
A “rustic” look may mean Get Lit creates handmade votive chandeliers with metal wrought oak leaves and rustic beam chandeliers in impressively sized 5-foot octagons topped with pillar candles, or it may be fisherman’s globe pendants.
The “modern” look can be achieved with hundreds of glass balls suspended with invisible filament or cube chandeliers handmade from extruded box steel, which can be painted in gold or other colors. Get Lit also has custom-painted barn shrouds in turquoise to create a modern industrial pendant hanging light. Art deco is modern again – a simple graduated rectangular design fits well in a variety of settings. Fabric and flowers can also be added to customize a look.
Photos by Get Lit
When planning for your lighting needs, there are a few important factors to take into consideration.
1. What does the event space already provide and how can this be complemented? Or, if you are not in love with the look it has, can it be changed or removed? “Some clients wish to accentuate the existing style of the space, or bring the style of nearby architecture into their reception space,” says Watson. “For example, we were recently asked to add art deco elements to a tent at The Biltmore Estate. In other cases, you can bring elegance into a barn.”
Keep in mind that lighting can completely change a space. If the venue is right for you in terms of location, budget, and availability, but is somewhat lacking in design, the right lighting elements have the ability to transform the space into your dream venue!
2. Size matters. “A fixture should be proportional to a space so it does not become lost or overwhelm the area,” Watson advises. For this reason, Get Lit has made a number of their chandeliers themselves so that they have fixtures large enough for large spaces. “We’ve taken traditional size and style elements and upsized them to be appropriate for different event venues,” she adds. Combining elements can also help visually enhance a venue in proportion appropriate to the space. Lighting elements should also be considered in context with the other decor elements being use.
3. Keep cost in mind. According to Get Lit, pricing for chandelier lighting fixtures ranges from $100 – $300, with additional installation/administration fees that vary based on the location of the venue and venue infrastructure. These fees can add anywhere from $200-$500 for a local job (this is not a per fixture rate as it’s rare they are hired to install only one or two chandeliers). “We typically provide additional lighting elements as well,” says Watson.Photo by Get Lit
It’s Wedding Feature Wednesday at Southern Bride & Groom! Today we’re excited to share Joanna and Shenduo’s stunning North Carolina wedding that marries Duke and UNC – the couple’s alma maters. Joe Payne Photography captured the lovely couple in these two iconic settings.
Shenduo and Joanna met while he was studying at Duke University and she was studying at UNC-Chapel Hill. Their relationship officially began on a starry night in the forest of the Great Smoky Mountains, surrounded by thousands of fireflies – a romantic night Joanna says she will cherish in her memory forever. As two young students in love, they spent a lot of time studying together in almost every library of the two schools.
A year later, Joanna graduated from UNC and moved to New York and their long-distance relationship began. It was on Joanna’s birthday, soon after the move, that Shenduo flew to visit her and showered her with gifts, including two best-seat tickets to one of the most popular Broadway musicals, a lavish dinner at a three-star Michelin restaurant, but the best gift of all was still to come!
After dinner, Shenduo suggested going to Brooklyn Bridge Park to enjoy the night view of the Manhattan skyline. When they arrived at the riverside, he said he had another gift for Joanna – a handmade photo card, on the front of which was a picture taken by him showing the tennis court near his apartment where they used to play tennis together. In the center of the court in the photograph, there were hundreds of tennis balls, which were placed in the shape of “I [heart] Jo.” On the inside of the card was a handwritten love note and some letters in bold red that spelled out, “Marry Me.” It wasn’t until that moment that Joanna realized this night of surprises had all been part of an elaborate proposal! It was the most picturesque scene as Shenduo got down on his knee in front of the sparkling Manhattan skyline.
It’s no surprise these Duke and UNC alumns chose the iconic Duke Chapel in Durham and The Great Room at Top of the Hill restaurant in Chapel Hill as ceremony and reception venues – a tribute to their relationship that bloomed on both campuses. They knew they would be leaving North Carolina after Shenduo graduated, so they wanted to make their last romantic memories there.
Joanna chose pretty pastel colors in shades of pink, worn by her bridesmaids and in the elegant bouquets by Tre Bella Flowers, for her late April wedding. As a nod to Duke and UNC, they chose Duke blue for the groomsmens’ ties and Carolina blue for the reception table linen. Other personal details included a backdrop wall decorated with with gold alphabet letter balloons spelling their names and vintage heart-shape marquee lights. They also ordered a customized cake topper from Etsy and Chinese favor boxes that represented “double happiness,” along with customized M&Ms.
Even though it turned out to be a rainy spring day, photographer Joe Payne captured stunning images, showcasing the tranquility of the day, the closeness of the couple, and the breathtaking beauty of the setting.SB&G PREFERRED VENDOR TESTIMONIALS
“We were very impressed by Joy Payne’s professionalism, efficiency, humor, and most of all, amazing photos! He has the great ability to capture the important moments without letting you realize he exists. On the wedding day, Joe really devoted the whole day to us. He even came earlier than the time we had asked him to, in order to catch every tiny moment. Joe gave all the photos to us in a very timely manner. You can tell he really put a lot of effort into digital editing – editing each photo individually based on the subject, light, atmosphere, etc., while many other photographers only use one or two pre-settings for all the photos. We really had a great time with Joe, and we felt very lucky to have him as our wedding photographer,” says Joanna.
” We feel blessed to have found The Great Room at Top of the Hill as our reception venue. The staff there are very professional, thoughtful, and experienced. What I liked most about them on our wedding day was that they took care of every detail without us having to worry about anything. We were thrilled when we saw the wall decor they did for us – it was even more adorable than what we could imagine! We also got a lot of compliments about the food and drinks. Thanks to their great work, we were able to fully enjoy every moment of that beautiful night with our guests and it left such an unforgettable memory in everyone’s mind,” Joanna shares.
“We chose Tre Bella Flowers because they were quite responsive and gave us a clear price breakdown quickly when we were doing inquiries. Everything about them is professional and efficient and the price is also very reasonable. I couldn’t have love my bridal bouquet more! I really appreciate their work,” Joanna states.
VENUE Duke Chapel | RECEPTION The Great Room at Top of the Hill Restaurant | PHOTOGRAPHER Joe Payne Photography | BRIDAL SHOES Badgley Mischka & Salvatore Ferragamo | FLORIST Tre Bella Flowers | CAKE Guglhupf | INVITATIONS Grapevine Print & Design | GUEST ACCOMODATIONS Arrowhead Inn Bed & Breakfast | TRANSPORTATION Classy Transportation & Smith Luxury Limousines
The shoot took place at a Southern estate – Hutchison Estate at Arrowhead Dairy Farm – and the design incorporated many traditions of the South, including a Bible bouquet, vintage tins which served as flower vases, toile, homemade moon pies, bottled Coca-Cola, cake pulls, lace and silhouettes. Lush with vibrant flowers, this design is perfect for any bride who wants to have a charming southern wedding with a contemporary twist.
Hiring a wedding planner is a big decision. He or she will play a vital role in bringing to life the day you have been dreaming about for years! With that in mind, it’s important you feel comfortable and confident with your planner. To help you get started in the decision process, a few of our recommended wedding planners have offered some helpful suggestions.Photo: Jagg Photography
“Look through the wedding planners portfolio not only to get a sense of the quantity of weddings they do, but also the quality of weddings,” recommends Amanda Scott, owner of A Swanky Affair. “Most importantly, hire a planner you trust and feel you can easily communicate with. You will have a close working relationship with them for months and you want to make sure that you can work well together. Take some time to research their reviews online.”
Before asking anything related to the wedding planning process or the planner his/herself, A Southern Soiree suggests asking if they offer a free initial consultation. “While this may be more time-consuming, we think it’s important to sit down and see how well your personalities mesh. Having trust and compatibility is essential to creating a successful partnership.
12 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Wedding Planner
1. How long have you been in the industry?
2. How many weddings of my size and budget have you planned? How many overall weddings have you planned?
3. What makes you the most passionate about your job?
4. What role will I play in the planning process?
5. How many weddings do you handle each month? How many weddings do you have for the weekend/day of my wedding?
6. Do you have any scheduled vacation time, or work absence already scheduled during my planning period?
7. How many employees do you have? And who will be on-site during my big day?
8. How would you handle a dicey situation? (Such as the wrong color linens?)
9. When are you available to meet or discuss planning details? (Weekdays, nights, weekends, schedule restrictions?)
10. Do you work only with preferred vendors? Does you company have preferred vendor discount connections?
11. Why should I hire you as opposed to other planners or planning alternatives?
12. May I call some of your client and vendor references?
“Remember, your wedding planner should be asking YOU a lot of questions when you first meet,” says Chelsey Morrison, owner of Gather Together. “It’s important that they understand the aesthetic and environment you want to create for your wedding or that they can help you pinpoint these things if you haven’t already.”Photo: Azul Photography
It’s Wedding Feature Wednesday at Southern Bride & Groom! Today, we’re excited to share Maria and Erik’s darling Southern spring wedding at The Merrimon-Wynne House in downtown Raleigh.
Maria and Erik meet during sophomore year at Boston University when they were college “neighbors,” living on the same dorm floor. Maria thought Erik was cute, so she and her roommate took measures into their own hands and created a fake survey all about coffee (Erik worked at Starbucks all through high school). It was the perfect icebreaker- the pair hit it off right away!
While on a trip to Atlantic Beach with their new puppy, Erik proposed to Maria on the beach with a stellar sunset in the background.
Maria knew right away that she wanted a wedding venue conveniently located in downtown Raleigh. As soon as she walked into the beautiful Merrimon-Wynne House, she knew it would be the perfect spot! She was very involved in the wedding planning process and loved the entire experience. “The wedding felt very personal because it was what I always imagined – it felt like me,” says Maria. Viva L’ Event helped her create a beautiful ceremony and day that included all kinds of personal touches. “We received multiple compliments from our guests about how wonderful it was! Kristen from Viva L’ Event was super helpful and did an amazing job,” shares Maria. The bride’s favorite wedding moment was sitting down at the reception before dinner and looking out at all her guests, taking in all the happy and glowing expressions on her family and friends faces.
Light pastels set the tone for an elegant Southern affair with an English garden feel. Cara Galati of F8 Photo Studios captured all the charming details and the romantic feel of this early spring wedding. Old-fashioned elements, such as family jewelry, classic cars and trolleys, lemonade stands, and floral china, mixed perfectly with modern day touches.
VENUE The Merrimon-Wynne House | WEDDING PLANNER Viva L’Event | PHOTOGRAPHER F8 Photo Studios | VIDEOGRAPHER F8 in Motion | FLOWERS Tre Bella Flowers | CATERER Beau Catering | CAKE Sugarland | MINISTER Reverend Randy Ivy | REHERSAL DINNER Café Luna | GOWN Liancarlo from Alexia’s Bridal | SHOES BHLDN | BRIDESMAIDS Amsale from Bella Bridesmaids | HAIR & MAKEUP Ashley Mooney | INVITATIONS Paperbuzz | CEREMONY MUSIC Arioso Strings | DJ Bunn DJ Company | RENTALS Party Reflections | TRANSPORTATION Raleigh Trolley, Classy Transportation, Hampton Inn
Some folks call the cake the centerpiece of their reception, which is why we reserve a special spotlight in our magazine each year to show off these edible masterpieces! Southern Bride & Groom’s 2015 cake shoot took place at American Tobacco Campus, a hub of happening in the heart of downtown Durham.
A buffet of sweets is sure to make a statement at any wedding reception! Today, we’re featuring a delicious wedding dessert table from Sugarland, which has locations in Raleigh and Chapel Hill. Rose impressions were artfully etched into a light blush cake paired with a complimentary white cake draped in pearl icing. Each is filled with all-natural ingredients, such as salted carmel, tangy lemon curd or chocolate peanut butter mousse fillings. Kiwi tarts, macaroons, cheesecake mousse shooters, and chocolate covered strawberries provide a host of tantalizing sweet treats and showcase the variety of cakes and pasteries Sugarland can create for your special day.
Next to the cakes is a romantic bouquet created by talented Raleigh-blased florist, The English Garden. White, green and blush flowers perfectly match the elegance of the pearl icing and flowers on the cakes displayed.
Brian Mullins Photography captured this delicious display inside Bay 7, a restored brick factory building with an open feel and industrial elements, perfect for the modern day bride and groom.Photos by Brian Mullins Photography
Dedication and commitment are fundamental elements of any good marriage. Couples who desire a Duke Chapel wedding in Durham, NC must test these very principles long before getting married as they camp out in tents for days in hopes of holding their ceremony at the historic Duke Chapel.
Duke is no stranger to this sort of fanaticism, after all, this is the school where many students choose to camp out for days, even weeks, at a time to land tickets to the Blue Devils’ basketball games. While there is a different end goal in mind during the Chapel camp-outs, the reasons for coming are the same— these are die-hard fans, not of basketball per se, but of weddings at Duke Chapel. They can’t imagine getting married anywhere else.
Everyone at the camp-out has a different story, background, and reason for being there — ranging from local couples who have always dreamt of having a Duke Chapel wedding, to Duke alum who traveled from out of state, to a father who was filling in for his daughter, to a Duke student who was getting paid $100 a day to hold someone’s spot.
Southern Bride & Groom stopped by the camp on the final evening before sign-ups to meet these eager couples and to learn more about the process and their stories. Talented Durham wedding photographer Riley MacLean took some great shots of this fun and dynamic group, who were all smiles…even through the rain!Going to the Chapel
Of course, not just anyone can get married at this highly sought-after location. In order to schedule a wedding, blessing ceremony, or reaffirmation of wedding vows, the bride, the groom, or one of their parents or grandparents must be a current full-time Duke student, graduate, or a current full-time Duke employee. In 2013, the Chapel also extended wedding eligibility to current members of the Board of Trustees and to faculty and staff emeriti with 15 or more years’ continuous service to the University, and to their children and grandchildren.
On the first of every month, the Chapel accepts wedding reservations for that month the following year. Those who want to be married in July 2016, for instance, must be there to register on July 1, 2015.
Sara Clark is the event and wedding coordinator at Duke University Chapel. Although tenting is not organized by the Chapel itself, for couples with a very specific date in mind, she recommends camping out as the best way to secure a spot. According to one of the campers, three couples showed up Wednesday morning (the day of sign-ups), some with very specific dates and times that they needed and didn’t get because they didn’t camp out. For those who did tent, making arrangements to do so and making it a priority paid off as the majority got their first or second choice for a date.
First Come, First Serve
Reservations are accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis and, on the first day of sign-ups, the Chapel accepts in-person reservations first, hence the tradition of camping out: the couple who arrives at the Chapel first and camps out the longest gets to choose their date/time first and it goes in order of arrival. After in-person sign-ups, the Chapel accepts reservations by phone and email based on the order the messages are received and based on the remaining slots.
“We never give priority based on the status of the bride or groom, or their parents or grandparents, within the University. The whole process is very egalitarian,” Sara notes.
The first wedding in the Chapel was in April 1933 for Marion Noell Lyon, the grand niece of James Buchanan Duke. Now it hosts between 70 and 85 weddings annually: up to three on Saturdays and up to one on Sundays during the summer. (It no longer hosts weddings on Sundays during the academic year due to the addition of a new choral evensong service). “We have hosted many weddings for couples whose parents and even grandparents were married here,” Sara adds.
The number of campers in a given month varies. Obviously, there are more people during the more in-demand months, such as May and June. Even though summer isn’t necessarily a busy time for Southern weddings, this particular July was unique in that it was the first time in a year that the sign-up was back on due to renovations the Chapel was undergoing in 2015. This July, a total of 10 couples camped out, with two more couples arriving very early to sign up on the morning of July 1.
Emma & MattEmma and Matt were the first couple to arrive at the Chapel with a tent in tow, almost a full week ahead of the sign-up date. For Emma, there was no settling for anything less than a Duke Chapel wedding and there was only one date in July they could get married, so being first in line was more than an advantage…it was a must!
The first bride- and groom-to-be get to set the “rules” for the camp-out. Emma’s list was civil and fair, with the main rule being that you had to camp out overnight or risk being moved to the back of the line.Emma grew up in Columbus, OH with a dad and grandfather who were heavily involved in basketball; she grew up watching Duke games. With grandparents living in Raleigh, taking her on regular visits to Duke, her infatuation with all things Duke grew stronger. Ever since she was a little girl, she wanted to be married here. Emma and her fiancé, Matt, were set up by friends to be prom dates in high school; it seems serendipitous now that Matt plays football for Duke and will be playing out this 2015 season.
While they did have to wait a bit to get married while the Chapel was being renovated, all that waiting finally paid off. As first in line, they got dibs on their preferred July wedding date: July 9, 2016 at 6 pm. They already have their reception booked at Bay 7 and will be in the trusted hands of one of SB&G’s Preferred wedding planning companies, A Southern Soiree.
While Emma was somewhat reluctant at first about the idea of camping out because of the time commitment, she admits it turned out to be a really fun experience. Even with crazy summer storms passing through, complete with downpours and thunder, and snide remarks made by some passerby’s, bonding with other tenters and socializing with other Duke visitors made the experience less of a chore and more like a little party.
Every Couple has a Story
Chandler & TomSouthern Bride and Groom has a direct connection to Durham natives Chandler and Tom who went to high school with our co-publisher, Jenna! Chandler and Tom met in middle school and started dating after college.
Chandler always wanted to get married at Duke, though she admits, this was before finding out how complicated it would be. Nonetheless, she and Tom made the decision to camp out a few days prior to the sign-up when they saw other tents starting to pop up on the lawn.
Chandler is in a grad program at Duke until next May, so the timing of the Chapel renovations and her wedding date worked out perfectly. She’s even been able to work from her tent during the day before attending classes at night at which point her fiancé, Tom, takes over. “He has it better — he gets to hang out with the other tenters and drink beer at night. I just work all day,” she says jokingly.
Like Emma, Chandler was reluctant to camp out at first, but found the experience surprisingly pleasant. “The people are really nice. It’s also really funny to see the daily tours come through and the look of confusion on their faces. People start taking random pictures of the tents.”
Unlike some of the other campers, Chandler was waiting to get her ceremony date set before booking other wedding venues or vendors. It will be a relief to move forward with a clear date in mind.
Meghan & ZachMeghan and Zach met their freshman year at Duke. Meghan was a cheerleader and Zach a football player. As students, they remember occasionally seeing couples in tents outside of the Chapel. Since there is a huge camp-out culture at Duke, it never seemed that unusual to them. In fact, Meghan used to joke with Zach that it would be them one day…and she was right!
On Christmas Day, 2014, after dating for six years, Zach proposed in the Dominican Republic and the wedding planning began. “We met at Duke, and we fell in love at Duke; it seemed only fitting to start the next chapter of our lives at the Duke Chapel,” says Meghan.
The couple flew in all the way from Dallas, Texas, to stake out a camping spot and, luckily, even though they weren’t first in line, they ended up with their first choice! After their wedding at the Chapel, the couple will enjoy a reception at new downtown Durham venue, The Rickhouse.
Eliza & MattMatt and Eliza met when he returned home from Duke after his freshman year and began a nursing research internship at UVA, where Eliza also worked that summer. After dating long-distance while attending different schools, the couple moved to Nashville together and Matt proposed to Eliza just one week prior to the camp-out! “We got engaged on Tuesday, took Wednesday to talk it over, drove from Nashville on Thursday, rented a tent from REI and secured our spot as tent #4,” says Matt, who goes on to say that even though he was feeling tired, the whole thing almost felt like a vacation.
As a third generation Duke graduate, getting married at the Chapel has extra special meaning for Matt and his family.
While camping-out and enduring several heavy downpours (resulting in one night sleeping in a half-inch of standing water) added an extra level of stress to the wedding planning process, Matt commends the school for rewarding people who exhibit the effort and commitment to getting married there, versus having to contend with people who have an inside connection.
Even though their engagement is still brand new, Matt and Eliza are off to a good start and have booked A Southern Soiree to assist with their wedding and reception at the Cotton Room in Durham.
Jenna & DrewJenna and Drew, both from Colorado, are grad students at Duke. They met during their second week of classes at Duke while at a Graduate Christian Fellowship dinner in the Chapel basement, so it’s a place that holds extra special meaning for them both. “Along with taking our breath away with its stunning architecture, the Chapel was where our love story began and it will have extra significance being the place where our new lives together begin,” says Jenna.
Construction at the Chapel caused the couple to delay their plans by a few months, they are confident it will be worth the wait. And, even as sixth in line for the sign-up, they were able to snag their first choice for a wedding date – July 2, 2016, to coincide with a family reunion.
Jenna and Drew took turns sleeping in the tent each night since it was pretty small and they only had one sleeping bag. They also brought each other food and supplies as needed to make it more comfortable. “When the Duke Chapel wedding coordinator first told us about the camp-out, we felt pretty daunted about the idea of putting our lives on hold to ‘rough it’ it in a tent for a week, but fortunately, the rules established by the first campers, and the overall experience, was very relaxed. We really enjoyed meeting the other couples and sharing stories every night,” Jenna adds.
While the Jenna and Drew are still in the early stages of planning, they are almost finished with booking their reception at the acclaimed Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club. They are also considering Riley MacLean as a photographer after meeting him during the campout photoshoot!
Ashley & RikkiAshley and Rikki are high school sweethearts who met at The North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem. Ashley attended for ballet and Rikki for music, and both discovered they were from Durham. Seven years later, Rikki proposed surrounded by a panorama of fireworks on Independence Day.
As Durham natives, Duke was always a part of their life, in fact, Rikki’s mom has worked at the University for over 20 years. He also enjoyed playing regular ensembles at the campus during high school. Ashley’s family, too, has an interesting connection—they have a hardwood flooring business and do the floors for Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The Chapel’s 2015 renovations pushed their anticipated wedding date back about a year, but it’s really the only place they imagined getting married. “I think Ashley and most girls in Durham dream of getting married in such a beautiful location. Deep down, I think I always pictured getting married here, too. I grew up several blocks from campus and it just feels like home,” says Rikki. “It also feels good knowing it’s such a prestigious place and that not just anyone can get married here – it makes it that much more special.”
Having grown up around Duke, the couple was familiar with campus campouts and weren’t surprised to learn this may be what was required to secure a date at the Chapel. Rikki ended up setting up their tent in the middle of a hailstorm.
Like Jenna and Drew, this couple will have their reception at The Washington Duke & Golf Club and feel confident in all the services provided there.While every marriage is sure to encounter scenarios that are a test of patience and commitment, these couples are already off to an impressive start. We wish them all the best and look forward to hearing all about their weddings at Duke Chapel next July!
Photos by Riley MacLean Photography