I have been equally excited and nervous to write this post. Excited because the energy, the people and the circumstances led to this being my most complete wedding photographically. Meaning that I was ecstatic about almost every frame we captured, each one making me more excited than the last. Just the story alone was enough to encourage Southern Bride and Groom to share their own beautiful post about this hurricane wedding a couple of weeks ago. But I was also nervous because so much of this wedding had to do with witnessing what happened there, and how could I accurately depict that in this post so that you, the reader, felt what we felt. All I know is that I am certainly going to try my best, because this was one to remember.
Since I met Alex and James for the first time over beers at Trophy Brewing in Raleigh, I knew we were going to get on wonderfully. In our meeting, Alex let me know just how important photography was to her. Not just from a box checked mentality, but the actual art of photography and how that correlated with photos that would remind of her and James of that day for the rest of their lives was of supreme importance. I knew then that this was my couple. And then of course there was their beautiful engagement session which you can see and read all about here.
Some of you may recall that October 8th was an interesting day along the eastern seaboard as Hurricane Matthew made it's way through North Carolina. I was driving to the wedding thinking to myself that I have heard of shotgun weddings, destination weddings, underwater weddings and even skydiving weddings, but a hurricane wedding was a new one by me. I wasn't sure what to expect when I arrived to make photos of Alex getting ready. I had seen plenty of brides come to tears over a rainy wedding day, let alone a hurricane. But in true form, Alex was calm and even laughing as she showed me her beautiful wedding dress, her flowered headband she had just purchased while traveling in Paris with her mom and her grandmother's green slip (which she wore on her wedding day!) that Alex would wear as a dress during the reception.
The ceremony of their hurricane wedding at Chatham Mills went off without a hitch, and the couple shared in a beautiful eucharist service during which Alex and James offered all of their family and guests to join them in this very intimate moment. Once their vows were shared and they had their first kiss, Alex and James setup for one of the most amazing receiving lines I have ever witnessed. Most receiving lines I have seen usually have the couple shaking hands or politely nodding to guests as folks move to the cocktail hour or reception, and often a lot of the guests forego this and move straight to the bar. But not here. Every single guests came through the line and Alex and James took the time to share a moment, a few words and hug with each passing guest. Just another testament to the idea of our circles which I have talked about before, and these two clearly have created a beautiful and supportive circle around them.
As we came back into the reception space for first dances we had a few flickers of the lights and a few new drips of rain coming in from the ceiling (which the staff at Chatham Mills was on top of from the beginning of the day until the moment we said goodnight). James and his mother danced, then just as Alex and her father were to start to dance the lights didn't just flicker, Hurricane Matthew took them and the music out completely. The room fell dark and quiet. I heard Alex laugh. Then something happened. The entire room, all the guests and family, took out their phones, turned on their lights and began singing. There was nothing that was going to stop this wedding from being everything that Alex and James had planned on it being. The phone lights and the singing didn't end with just Alex and her dad, they continued for James and Alex's first dance as well. Even when the couple tried to stop and thank everyone for those few moments, the guests urged them to keep dancing and so they did and it was unreal!
Toasts were held in complete darkness. No music could be played. So a groomsmen ran out to his car and brought back a large bluetooth speaker, shoved it in a garbage can, tilted it towards the dance floor and kept the party going. While the guests mingled, enjoyed a few craft brews and danced, we took Alex and James to one of the empty halls to make some portraits of the two of them. We were there for almost an hour, shooting through old looms, wrapping them in lights and generally playing in the dark. All of which Alex and James were up for, giving over their trust that we would create something beautiful and memorable for them. Then all of a sudden, now two and a half hours later, the lights came back on. The DJ, who had not left during this whole time, then turned out one of the best sets I have ever heard and Alex and James and theirs friends and family danced the night away.
All night I walked around with goosebumps. This was a wedding where things happened that I had never seen before. It was a wedding where people came together in such a way that you couldn't help but be amazed and emotionally uplifted. And I can't think of two people I have ever met in my life that could surround themselves with people who were so selfless and went into action when they needed them most. I am certain that we would have all slept there and had amazing bed times stories to share had Hurricane Matthew made it impossible for us to leave. It was that kind of wedding.
Thank you to everyone who made this possible (including one of the best wedding parties I have ever had the pleasure to meet): Venue | Chatham Mills \\ Rehearsal Dinner Venue | The Oakleaf \\ Bride's Dress | BHLDN \\ Groom's Suit | Hart Schafner Marx \\ Music/DJ | DJ Gonzo \\ Officiant | Chris Breslin of Oak Church \\ Second Photographer/Rockstar | Traci Arney Photography