In this paragraph, I’m going to sound like a MAJOR stalker. There really is no way around this I have followed Ashley and Matt to two separate states in the U.S. They live in Philly, I do not. They had their wedding at Juniper in Downtown Greenville. I also do not [live there]. But sometimes, in the age of the internet, stalking leads to beautiful friendships. Let me explain. I didn’t STALK them… There was a bridal group on Facebook that I was apart of. It is no longer active. I wanted to know what brides were thinking: What were their fears? Who were their dream vendors? What vendors did they need help looking for? How could I make my future couple’s lives easier?
So that’s where this all started. And then, “Looking for a photographer for an engagement session in Philly.” Ashley asks her fellow brides. Comments flood in with recommendation after recommendation. How do I throw my hat in without looking like a spy? Not easily or smooth. “Hey girl, I am actually a wedding photographer. I would love to do it for you, let’s chat!” I am telling you, when the universe wants you to meet people, it will overlook all plot holes to make sure it happens. Somehow, Ashley overlooked my pathetic attempt to pretend I was a fellow bride who seconded as a wedding photographer. She answered me. Then, she booked me.
The date was set for December 2019. I drove to Philly from NYC to meet Ashley, Matt, and their precious pup, Bailey. We started at their house. Just outside of the city center, I photographed them playing with their dog in the backyard, snuggling on the kitchen counter, squeezing Bailey on the couch. These were the photos they’d cherish. Then to their second location. As Ashley walked down the steps in her deep blue long dress, I stared at her and said, “wow you look beautiful.” Her response: “It’s like a party for limousine drivers.” That’s where I fell in love. A slipped-in office quote will sweep anyone off their feet.
I felt like I was on a first date with them. Vibing hard but couldn’t get a read. I’m really bad at playing games so I asked, “Can I do your wedding?” They hadn’t asked because it was in Greenville, South Carolina and they assumed I wouldn’t travel. I do not play things cool. I immediately insisted I would. And that friends, is how I basically threw myself onto Ashley and Matt.
Maybe there is something to the playing hard-to-get game, but I find it difficult to hold back when I meet a couple who make me feel good about what I do. That was Ashley and Matt. They were sweet, generous, talkative, and so in love. I couldn’t help but to want more. I’m sure that’s how they make the people around them feel: good, energetic, and inspired. The way they moved together, uber-conscious of one another but also so effortless. Matt was a gentleman to his Southern Belle fiancé with the sweetest subtle accent. Matt has amazing eyes and this gorgeous salt and pepper hair that he embraced. Honestly, it looked hot (I mean this completely objective).
We waited nearly 2 years before we reunited. I arrived at the AC hotel on Friday night and settled into what I now discovered is heaven, a gorgeous hotel room to myself, with wine and unlimited uber eats. On Saturday after a night of pure indulgence, I was ready to work.
You know when you worry that the feelings are gone and you might have overestimated your connection with someone? Just me? Well, I was. I wanted to show how excited I was to see them but I didn’t want to overdo it in case I was off base. And then comes Matt. I see him in the lobby and his face immediately centers in with a smile and a head tilt. I mirrored. Ah, it’s you. I hugged him, asked how he was feeling, and directed our next move. Then I left to find Ashley with the most reassurance. God, I loved these two.
Ashley was still in hair and makeup. Her mother welcomed me, I began prepping until it was time to get dressed. Ashley looked beautiful. Her hair longer and blonder than it had been. Sharon, her mom cried and did a terrible job of holding it in while she zipped up her dress. The train was stunning and the dress was made for Ashley.
The word of the day was peace. There was just such an essence of peace. It was their day and nothing was going to get in the way. It was a particularly chilly day in Greenville. Did it stop us? Not necessarily, but it would have been nice if the wind wasn’t so strong.
I have a theory: you know how they say rain on your wedding day is good luck? I think that couples who have soft energy about them, have unicorn weather. What’s unicorn weather? Glad you asked. Unicorn weather is when the beginning of the day is a little gray, [not necessarily raining] and at some special point during the day, the clouds break. That’s unicorn weather. Because all the details of the day affect how we feel.
Sunny days are happy ones and the sound of a violin will make us cry. That’s why we add details to our day. The song we choose to enter too, the flowers we pick, the dress, the suit, the invitations, even the season; it is all intentional. The one you cannot control is the weather. I think that’s the universe giving its little touch. I’ve only had 3 unicorn wedding days in my career. The first was when I was just starting my career, this day deserves a story of its own; the second was for friends who got married in city hall; and this day.
How do I segway to the meat of this story? Unnaturally of course!
Here are some things that made their day spectacular and how you can incorporate that into your own:
Juniper at AC hotel in Downtown Greenville was one of the most anticipated restaurants in the area while construction was going on. I typically don’t love hotel weddings but I’m glad I trusted Ashley and Matt because this was an exception.
Hotels typically have awful lighting, I don’t really know why but it’s almost like they all called each other and made a pact to destroy the hopes and dreams of natural light photographers.
IF you are thinking about a wedding in a hotel here are some location scouting tips:
Obviously. You should aim to find a hotel in a beautiful surrounding area. For example, if you are getting married in N.Y. You’d want to pick somewhere close to attractions. AKA: Don’t book a hotel in FiDi if you’re looking for portraits in Central Park. If this isn’t an option, make sure you are choosing a hotel that has beautiful backdrops on the property. This hotel had a gorgeous rooftop right outside of the BEAUTIFUL Juniper restaurant. It made the perfect indoor life-saver since it was a little chilly outside.
1a. Indoor locations! Getting ready is a really amazing opportunity for some intimate photos with your friends. I personally love a good dress photo so if I can, I will do my best to make that beautiful. Choosing a hotel with large windows, a room with east-facing views, and cooler-toned wallpaper will really set you up for success for this part of the day.
Ashley and Matt aimed for an intimate wedding. Because of this, there was definitely more room to add elevated details. Their invitation suite was the first. It must have had 7 different parts to it. The invitation itself was printed on a thick acrylic plate. The envelopes were lined with gorgeous detail and they had wax stamps, RSVP cards, and a silk ribbon to hold it all together. It was one of the most beautiful suites I had ever seen. Typically something this ornate would cost $100 per invitation, but that isn’t so devastating if you’re only inviting 25 people to your wedding.
Two things stuck out to me: 1. The voice message guest book. There is no alternative, THIS IS the peak of guest books. Basically, when you plan your wedding the essence of time should always be in mind. We don’t have that much of it, so preserving our loved ones is always a gift to our future selves. How many people do we miss now that we wished we could hear their voice one more time. Do this, it isn’t a difficult choice. 2. Ashley and Matt had the famous Philly LOVE sign recreated in a flower arrangement. I thought this was the most beautiful nod to their home. Tasteful, appropriate, perfect. These two had me eating my heart out.
Therefore these are the 3 tips I’ll give you in this story. But when you’re planning your own day just remember intentions. Don’t let the overwhelming parts of the planning process force you into swift decisions that came from a place of panic. Be you.
I hope you enjoyed the photos.
Your fabulous vendors:
Venue + Catering: AC Hotel
Photographer: Stories by Victoria
Florist: Natures Poetry Floral Design
Dress: Martina Liana Bridal
Cake: Couture Cakes of Greenville
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