Category Archives: For Bride’s Friday

For Bride’s Friday: My Favorite Charlotte Wedding Venues

So you’re engaged!  What’s the first thought that pops into your head?  The dress?  Okay… we’ll get to that later… but you HAVE to get a date first!  When is this big event going to take place?  Well… that’s all dependent upon what SEASON you want to get married in, and what dates your venue has available in that season.  So you start looking online, but really… there are so many choices and options.  You’re only inviting your closest 50 family members and friends, well there are some venues that will swallow that number of guests and leave you with more open space than you want to fill.  You’re have a 200 person guest list and want to get married at a historical house?  Well, unless you want people on top of each other you need to find the RIGHT house… and with all the options in Charlotte, I wanted to lay out my favorites.  Disclaimer: This list is not all inclusive!  There are so many amazing venues and people that I haven’t had the opportunity to work with… YET.  But I do know that every venue on this list treats their couples with a high priority, and are some of the BEST people in the business.  So here we go…

1.  The Duke Mansion

Okay, really… is there anything more Southern than a perfect garden wedding at this amazing historical home?  I think not.  From the iconic black and white checked floor, to the pristine gardens and lawn this place is the place you need to check out if you want to host a medium sized wedding with elegant food and the perfect garden ambiance.  However, the Duke only takes 25 weddings a year and they book up quickly, so if this is the kind of atmosphere you’re wanting to create you will need to book with them like yesterday.  They handle all of their own catering (you WILL NOT be disappointed) and liquor.  The bonus is that if you choose to have your wedding or reception take place at the Duke Mansion, you can have your bridal session there without a location fee (a $250 value).  This location can provide enough room for a ceremony, cocktail hour, rehearsal dinner and reception… as well as enough rooms to host your immediate family and bridal party during the weekend.

2. The Mint Museum Uptown

The Mint Museum is probably my favorite location in Charlotte to shoot at.  The Mint is close to The Westin, numerous restaurants and churches and makes for one of the most convenient places to have your ceremony, reception and cocktail hour.  At night your are accosted by views of Uptown Charlotte, and have access to their balconies to create a one of a kind experience for your guests.  Many couples have chosen to make the balconies a dance floor, lounge area or place where the guys can play a couple games of cornhole while enjoying a cigar.  The Mint can host 2 weddings a day, depending on what rooms and space is available for your particular day.  The Mint is perfect in hosting a small to medium sized wedding, and is very accommodating in their referrals and vendor choices.  While you are limited in the caterers on the 1st floor, the 5th floor has a list of 10 you can choose from – which is honestly more than enough!  As a couple who has chosen the Mint as your wedding location you can wander into the galleries after hours to have your photos taken near some of the best works of art the city has to offer, as well as have your bridal and/or engagement session taken on the grounds – an exclusive perk to having your wedding at the Mint.

3. The Ballantyne Hotel

This hotel is so much more than just a hotel.  If it speaks to the level of their quality of service, let’s just say that the President stayed there during the DNC… so, yeah… they know what they’re doing.  The Ballantyne Hotel is perfect to accommodate any size wedding you have.  Whether it be 50 people or 500 people they can make sure your guests are well taken care of.  Like the Duke, they also provide all of their own catering as well as enough locations to hold everything in house – ceremony, reception, cocktail hour and rehearsal dinner.  This location can hold up to 4 weddings on one day, so the risk that they will not have your date available is very low.  The great thing about the Ballantyne is that when you book your wedding with them they will also provide you with a list of vendors to ensure your day goes smoothly. While you’re not required to use their vendors it is highly recommended, as those are the vendors that frequent the location and will ensure your day goes smoothly.  The Ballantyne Hotel also provides a full service spa (a perfect place to get your gals dolled up as well as grab a couple’s massage), and enough rooms to house your guests to keep them safe after a night of celebration.

4. Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens (DSBG)

I have to say that DSBG is probably one of my favorite locations on this list.  The staff there takes great pride in the maintenance of the garden, and with an abundance of beauty you really can’t take a bad picture.  Daniel Stowe is the perfect location for a medium sized wedding of around 125 guests.  Normally brides will host their wedding in one of the gardens and have their reception on the back lawn or inside the ballroom.  Now, I will preface this by saying that DSBG is NOT located directly in Charlotte, but is within 20 miles.  DSBG also has a preferred vendors list, and while some of the vendors are required, they do allow leniency is areas like photographers and cake designers.  In booking your wedding at DSBG you are also allowed access to the grounds for an engagement & bridal shoot free of charge ($250+ value).  DSBG is also another all inclusive site that can house your ceremony, reception and cocktail hour.

5. The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte

As soon as The Ritz was completed it instantly became one of the premiere locations in Charlotte to get married.  Their extensive ballrooms and Urban Garden made it one of the best wedding venues in the city if you wanted an upscale, uptown event.  The Ritz can host up to 3 weddings on one day, depending on the size and availability of the rooms reserved; and can host as large as an event as you can possibly dream of.  They handle all of their own catering and cakes, which can be a relief as it’s one less thing on your list that you have to worry about.  As with DSBG and The Duke, in booking your wedding at The Ritz you are also allowed access to the grounds for your engagement and bridal shoot; a definite perk, as you cannot have an engagement session or bridal session at this location without a wedding being booked here.  They also have enough rooms to provide you with an elegant space to get ready, accommodations for your guests and family.

For Bride’s Friday: How to Find a Wedding Photographer

Hello!  And welcome to the first installation of “For Bride’s Friday”!  I’m really excited to give inquiring minds an inside look at the wedding industry and some things you may not know… and quite possibly could need some help with!  Because let’s face it… many of my fellow vendors and I have been in the wedding industry for YEARS and have experience in working with each other… and this is… well, your first wedding… like Phoebe would say, “Aw, you’re brand new!”

Ok… so today we’re going to go over a great topic… how to find a wedding photographer.  Ok seriously, we live in a day and age where people are carrying around camera’s in their pockets everyday.  Nokia now has a phone with “reinvented zoom” and produces a 35 megapixel picture… holy. crap.  We are also living in a day where anyone, literally anyone, can run down to Best Buy and pick up an amateur dslr and open a photography business… just ask your friendly neighborhood photographer with that nice magnet on the side of their car.  So what do you do?  How can you make sure you get someone that catches your vision and won’t drop the ball or lose the essence of your day?

1. determine the STYLE of photography you LOVE
– this is easy… what kind of work are you drawn to?  Do you like dark and moody images?  do you like clean, classic and bright photos? do you absolutely, positively need to see every single part of the person you love in every single frame? how much emotion do you want captured? do you like posed images that evoke emotion? because photography is really more about you than your photographer… these are questions you need to ask yourself.  from there you find the photographers that match the STYLE you like and then…

2. research
– ask your married friends and coworkers who they inquired with and who they hired. were they happy with their decision? would they choose that person if they could do it all over again? how long did it take to get their photos back? was the photographer accommodating, flexible and more importantly… did the photographer ‘get’ them?
– look up photographers in your area… check local wedding magazines, uh… google…
– and keep in mind… STYLE!!

3. inquire
– ok, so I know it’s hard… but narrow down your choices to the TOP THREE and find their contact form!
– fill out the form… (I know, easy right?)… no, but seriously… we want to get to know you!  I can’t tell you how horribly disappointing it is to get an inquiry and all it says is, “Hi, my name is X and I’d like information on your availability and pricing.” … well, duh.  My BEST inquiries LIGHT UP my comments section on my form… they give me details! they tell me what they’re looking for, what they’re excited about and they are not afraid to FILL IN THE PHONE NUMBER line! I promise that any photographer worth their salt is not going to call you at 10pm at night and pressure you into hiring them.  I have a family too, I get it. I will honestly only use the phone number if there’s a problem or if you work at bank of america, and I need to make sure my pricing information got through and wasn’t blocked by their oh-so-powerful firewall.

4. interview
– ok… here’s the fun part! we get to meet! I get to finally put a face with a name (unless I facebook stalked you a little), and we get to feel each other out.  you have questions? ask away! here are some tips to make sure you’re hiring a pro… do they have insurance? do they pay taxes? how many weddings have they photographed (ask to see them)? do they have reviews online? are they good? did they show up to the meeting with samples (if they don’t at least have an album to show you, run… fast).
– if you have a gut feeling… go with it. if anything is my personal mantra, that’s it. even if you have another meeting scheduled with another photographer… nothing can replace a gut feeling.  If you spent most of the meeting talking personal details, laughing and left feeling like you met a new friend… BOOK THEM!  because honestly… you’re going to see your photographer more than your own mother on the day of your wedding, and you need to make sure they “get” you.

5. pick your pony
– so this is a tough one… you have to decide who’s WORK you liked and who’s PERSONALITY you liked… and sometimes they don’t match. here’s the bottom line… if you picked these people because you liked their STYLE, you need to pick the person that you want to do business with for the next year. who got back to your emails? who was more upfront in their communication? who did you laugh with? who did you feel like you connected with better? HIRE THAT ONE. because more than likely… you will be happier with the overall experience rather than just your images.

6. write the other ones back
– so you inquired with more than your TOP THREE? best practice – you need to write them back and tell them you went with someone else. you had lunch with a photographer and didn’t answer their follow up email? not cool. please keep in mind that these people you’re meeting with… are people. we are taking time out of our lives to meet with you… to tell you our stories… to connect with you and hope that in this crazy, camera filled, “anyone can be a photographer” world, that you will pick us. to meet with us and then not answer our email… in the words of stephanie tanner… “how rude!” just jump in our shoes for a second… we’re okay being rejected. you’re not the first bride to do it, but it would be awesome if you could just be honest. you don’t need to tell us WHY you didn’t hire us… just let us off the hook and respond… even if you don’t like confrontation… just respond. because we’re people too.

Hope this was helpful! We’re lining up some super great posts for subsequent Friday’s so stay tuned!