This Accelerator Visual Branding Session with Raleigh artist and maker Erin Stesch was a total blast! Erin’s revamping her website and wanted some seriously gorgeous photos that shows off her unique hand-painted jewelry to prospective clients.

After meeting together to clarify her vision and branding goals, we came up with a game-plan and started building our creative team for her session. Erin found 2 models and brought along a stylist, and I brought my fab creative assistant Veronica to help the session run smoothly.

We settled on the Haw River Ballroom for our location– between the ample natural light upstairs and the dreamy river nearby we would have a variety of backdrops for the photos. The session lasted several hours and included several outfit + styling + backdrop changes. By the end of the night, we were all happily exhausted and energized from a productive session of creating!

What do you think of the images? Sound off in the comments below! Here’s how you can learn more about Erin and connect with her to snag your own statement necklace before they’re gone:

Are you a creative professional who needs help refining and visually communicating your brand? Learn more about ways we can partner together here.

Creative Assistant: Veronica Arenander

Models: Amber Carroll Santibanez +  Michelle Roman

Location: Haw River Ballroom

Allison + Will tied the knot in a classic ceremony at First Presbyterian Church in Burlington on October 15, followed by a fun, vibrant reception at Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw.

This rad couple planned a celebration that commemorated their Alamance County roots as well as their appreciation for diversity and inclusivity. From their selection of local food vendors to a feminist DJ, their wedding reflected their authentic joy for one another and their community.

Read the Q&A with this intentional couple, featured below, to learn more about their wedding inspiration and photography experience!

1. What are some of your favorite things about your partner? How were these attributes expressed during or leading up to your wedding?

Allison: Will’s sense of humor and present-orientedness helped in some stressful times.

Will: I appreciated Allison’s thoughtfulness for other people, attention to detail, organizational skills, and general event-planning mastery.

Our families mean everything to us and they were so, so generous and supportive throughout the process. We tried our best to balance the vision our parents had for the events with our vision—and it seemed to work out pretty well.

2. What was most important to you in planning your wedding?

Our engagement started with us proposing to each other, and that mutuality and the egalitarian nature of our relationship was reflected in the ceremony and the other traditions we chose to honor, alter, or leave out.

We wanted the ceremony and reception to reflect our values and vision for what we want the world to look like: a just, equitable, welcoming and joyful place where community is strong and everyone can be fully present and fully themselves—with fabulous music, let-loose dancing, and delicious food and drinks of course! We know that having a wedding and a state-recognized marriage is a privilege, and one that couples like us have had longer than others, and it was important for us to acknowledge that, even if in a small way with some text on the bulletin. The ceremony used gender-neutral language, and we didn’t gender our wedding party or their clothes—Will had a posse, I had a posse, and they wore clothes from the same color palette. We spent a lot of time picking out the readings and music for the ceremony and determining how our friends and family would be involved in ways they’d enjoy. We both grew up in the Presbyterian church and it was important in shaping our values and sense of community, so it was special to have the ceremony in the church in which Allison was raised. We’re also both from NC. The Haw River Ballroom reflected both different parts of North Carolina we identify with—the textile mill, the river, the country roads, and the music, arts, microbrew, and proximity to Chapel Hill where we met.

3. Are there any details or moments from your wedding that are particularly special to you? (E.g., you wore your momma’s dress, your partner unexpectedly serenaded you, there was a double rainbow all across the sky…).

  • The passing of the peace (an element we added to the ceremony)
  • Will’s incredibly talented cousin Joseph singing Be Thou My Vision
  • Driving together from the church to the reception, just the two of us
  • A father-daughter dance that included spontaneous clogging, a sweet mother-son dance, a mother-daughter dance to the Gilmore Girls theme song, and a dance solo by Will’s dad
  • When Will’s family and friends took the life-sized cutout of our dog Wally to the dance floor. Wally danced half the night!
  • So many moments with family and friends, many of whom travelled far to celebrate with us, and many of whom contributed in such loving ways

4. Your photography package included a bridal session. What was it like to work with me before the wedding? Do you have a favorite photo or moment from your session?

At first I felt awkward and nervous to be in this special outfit (still having conflicting feelings about wearing a wedding dress!) with attention focused on me, but Courtney was easy to be with and I trusted her direction and vision. Soon we were laughing and cracking jokes. It was really special for both my parents to be there during the session (and I was really doing it for them). My dad put some music on and seeing their smiling faces made me smile. Also, I snuck in a prop—The Essential Feminist Reader. I had to insert at least a little sass and a nod to feminism and the complex tradition of marriage. One of my favorite moments was looking down at my book and reading about Pauli Murray while Courtney was snapping photos. It was poignant in that moment to have the company of a person who courageously laid claim to so many facets of their identity and way of being in the world. My other favorite moment was my parents photo-bombing the final portrait shots. I’ll probably frame that photo.

5. Now that you’ve tied the knot (and survived!), what advice would you give to other folks planning their wedding?

Trust your instincts, make lists, and recognize the point when it’s time to say “eff that ess” to anything that is negative, overwhelming, or otherwiseunneeded. Schedule some time around the wedding to be with friends and hang out. Those are some treasured hours! Also, it’s just one day. It’s an amazing day of solemn vows and celebration and togetherness, but it’s just one. Every day that you share with your partner is a day that you are making promises and building a life together. Honor that, and enjoy it. That’s what it’s all about.

Allison + Will, thank you for being such thoughtful, inspirational clients! I admired how intentional you were in celebrating your values on your wedding day and including friends and family from all walks of life. Your love for your community was made manifest in every part of your celebration, and I’m so thrilled to have documented that for you. Thank you for inviting me to be your photographer and share in your joy.

A shout-out to all our fab vendors for making this day possible:

Now that Whitney + Brian have tied the knot, I am excited to share these photographs from Whitney’s bridal session from this May.

This session couldn’t have been any more enjoyable. Whitney hails from Western NC and has a natural love of the outdoors and adventure. When I suggested using the Haw River as our portrait setting, Whitney hiked up her dress and dauntlessly bounded from one rock to another over the river.

We chose the Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw, NC for our bridal session spot. This has always been one of my favorite venues to work at, given the proximity of the river and the beautiful natural light inside the ballroom. We made the most of our shoot, trekking from the woods to the river to capture a variety of backdrops.

Whitney, not only are you a stunning bride, but your adventurous spirit made this shoot an absolute pleasure! It’s always a treat when photography feels like play, and I certainly had a blast with you (and your mom!) during this shoot. I can’t wait to finish your wedding photos and share them in just a few weeks! Thanks for being such a breeze to work with!

To view all of the photos from Whitney’s bridal session and order prints, please visit her gallery on my online print shop!

Rhea and Craig tied the knot on May 23, 2015 at the Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw, NC. I have always loved this venue, which is a bit of a hidden gem just outside of Chapel Hill. Between the quaint amphitheater and massive windows illuminated by golden hour light (not to mention the river!), the environment lends itself to a fun wedding celebration and lovely photos.

Craig & Rhea answered some questions for me about their wedding and photography experience. I love the honesty and thoughtfulness they put into these answers. Read the Q&A below to learn more about their day! And to view all of the photos from Rhea + Craig’s wedding and order prints, please visit their wedding gallery on my online print shop!

1. What are some of your favorite things about your partner? How were these attributes expressed during or leading up to your wedding?

Rhea: Craig was really involved in wedding planning and he wanted to make sure we considered our options and thought things through on every detail. Sometimes I just wanted to make the decision quickly and get it done with, but Craig would make me pause and think about it for a bit. At times I would get a bit frustrated wanted to say: “Please can we just decide!” but looking back, I’m so glad he made me slow down. There were several decisions that I know ended up being better ones because we took a step back and thought it through. And that’s what he does for me in life – helps me slow down, think things through, realize it’s all going to be okay, and then end up with a better situation in the end!

Craig: Rhea is a “bit” of a planner and this attribute was certainly helpful during the wedding planning process.  Also, she is a very compassionate person and made a dedicated effort to include the special people in our lives.  And, believe it or not, it was actually a fun process to plan the wedding.  Rhea is fairly easy-going and her personality helps us get through the stressful times in life!

2. What was most important to you in planning your wedding?

We wanted an authentic experience that represented us as a couple. We wanted it to be meaningful but not too formal, expressive but also fun.

3. Are there any details or moments from your wedding that are particularly special to you? (E.g., you wore your momma’s dress, your partner unexpectedly serenaded you, there was a double rainbow all across the sky…).  

Reciting our vows was a highlight for both of us. We each completed the statement: “I love you because . . .“ Usually we are the couple that expresses our feelings for each other through our actions, so to hear the words was a powerful and meaningful experience.  Also, the weather was warm but not humid – always a gamble in the North Carolina summer – so, it was fairly comfortable for our Northern guests.  Finally, we were tremendously humbled by the generosity of our family and friends, many of whom travelled great distances to be with us on our special day.

4. What factors other than photos went into your decision on a wedding photographer? Why did you pick me?

When we were considering the Haw River Ballroom as a potential venue we googled “Haw River Ballroom weddings” and the second link was to one of your shoots.  And it was exactly the vision we had for our wedding we instantly loved your style. We knew that working with you we would get more than a bunch of pictures of us in fancy clothes – we knew you’d give us “special” photos that we would treasure forever. And when we met with you, it felt really comfortable and like we were talking with a friend. So it was an easy decision!

5. Your photography package included an engagement session with me. During our initial meeting you both expressed a bit of nervousness in front of the camera. Did the engagement session help break the ice before the big day? Do you have a favorite picture from our session?

The engagement session was a great decision. Neither of us had spent a lot of time in front of a camera before our wedding, so it was great to have that experience. The locale was unique and fun – thank you Courtney for hooking us up with a farm in Hillsborough! It’s impossible to be nervous when you have a cat sitting on your feet and donkeys looking on! There were a lot of great photos from that day, but one of our favorites has the two of us leaning our foreheads together – the light is really beautiful and it’s a sweet moment.

6. What is the first thing you want to do with the images? Wallpaper the hallway? Internet fame?

We’re excited to look through each & every photo and re-live our day.  It was a crazy, busy day and honestly it was a bit of a blur.  We will select several to be printed for ourselves and our families … then we’ll spam Facebook like nobody’s business.

7. What is next for you as a couple? Any big plans?

We’re going to Iceland in July for our honeymoon! We’re going to drive the ring road which circumnavigates Iceland, stopping along the way for hiking, waterfalls, whale watching, and whatever else we find. We love to travel and so are excited for this next adventure!

8. Anything else you’d like to add?

Just a final THANK YOU to you for being such a talented artist and also a cool, relatable person. We are so grateful to have found you!

Craig & Rhea, thank you for being such an authentic and fun couple. Your answers above can be said right back at you: thank you for being such cool, relatable people! 🙂 It was a pleasure working with you throughout every step of the photography process, and I am looking forward to seeing you around Durham! Enjoy!

A shout-out to all our fab vendors for making this day possible:

Photography Assistant: Kasha Mammone

Coordinator: Patti Gallivan

Officiant: Brandon Chase

Bride’s Dress: Wtoo

Bridesmaid Dresses: Amsale

Groom’s & Groomsmen’s Clothing: Bernard’s Formalwear

Florist: Victoria Park Florist

Dessert: Whole Foods Durham

Catering: Saxapahaw General Store

Invites & Programs: MagnetStreet

DJ: CWDJ Entertainment

Transportation: First Charter Bus