I photographed Garrett and Zach’s Carolina Inn wedding back in 2013, so when I got an email from them inquiring about a newborn session with their twins, I did a cartwheel in the parking lot of The Mothership where I work. The concept was simple: shoot some cute baby photos, but also recreate some of their favorite moments from their wedding photos around UNC Chapel Hill’s campus. So that’s what we did. We made some images Garrett’s dad’s house, and then we wandered the inn and campus, and ended where they got engaged — The Pit. It was fun to work with everyone again, and to meet Elizabeth Jean and Clark, and your baby nurse, Alma!

Enjoy the then/now mashup photos woven through this blog post!

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Jessie and Justin had a low-key wedding at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in downtown Durham. And they had a lot to say about the planning process in this interview, so take it away J and J! Thanks Allie Mullin for the great assisting!

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

For us, it was all about the people. Our number one priority was to design an event that allowed us to spend as much time with our guests as possible. Never again in our lives will we have all of our favorites in one place, so we wanted to make sure that we were present and really able to soak it all in. Also, we wanted good food and drink. That was important, too.

2. What did you learn about yourself and your relationship in the process of planning the wedding?

We make a pretty damn good team. I am a planner, and the hubs is really good at getting stuff done in the most efficient way possible.

Also, wedding-planning made us practice that whole “stay true to yourself” adage. There’s a lot of outside noise and pressure surrounding weddings these days, so we worked really hard to  keep the wedding process (and one another) in check.

3. What was the biggest challenge?

Balancing priorities: mine, his, and our families’.

4. What advice do you have for other couples out there?

Relationship advice? Be kind. Wedding advice? No one’s going to remember the color of the corsages or what brand of Pinot you decided to serve. So don’t sweat the small stuff. Seriously. All the things just don’t matter in the long run.

5. What was your favorite moment from the day?

Me: There were so many amazing moments. The actual getting married part is definitely up there. Also I loved watching the hubs’s face during the surprise toast from his BFF.

Him: “Marrying her.”

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

We wanted to choose someone local so we could support a fellow Durhamite. I was drawn to Justin because of his social justice work in the area.

7. From booking to delivery of images and seeing the results, what in your mind made it the right choice for us to collaborate? Did anything surprise you?

After we had an intro meeting, it was very clear that we would have fun working with Justin. That was really important to us. Justin was competent, responsive, helpful, and friendly throughout the process. I was also confident that Justin had an eye for the types of images that we really wanted.

We wanted photos that make you feel something when you look at them…that capture the little something extra going on. I liked how Justin documents activity and facial expressions in his photos- he captures feelings in an image.

I had no idea how wonderful our photos would be. I was sure they would be great, but Justin did a phenomenal job of highlighting the most important moments (and not necessarily the “big” moments). I was (and still am) blown away, and am so grateful that he decided to work with us.

8. What’s next for you as a couple?

Settling back into normal. 🙂

Natalie and Graham got married at the Cookery in Durham. I could go on and on about how fun it was, but anything I say will take away from this funny interview. I’ll leave it at this: Thanks, you two for the fun day. And thanks, Alex, for the great second shooting!

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

G: I really just wanted a big-ass party. If we could’ve had the ceremony consist of a couple of nods, I would’ve been okay with it. [N:Nods and a high five. C’mon, man] Yeah, not really into the formalities. Really just a declaration of our love… party. As for why split the festivities across two days, convenience of scheduling. With the exception of a handful of friends and family, everyone was from forever away.

N: Agreed. We wanted a love-party vibe, not a formal or traditional vibe. Also open bar. We chose Durham since, as Graham noted, most of our guest list was form out of town, so we chose a city near to us with fairly easy access to the airport and lots to do downtown. We also wanted a venue close to the hotels/downtown, which could accommodate both ceremony and reception.

2. What did you learn about yourself and your relationship in the process of planning the wedding?

G: Oh, jeez. Now I’m on the spot to answer this right before Natalie…  I learned that all the fun and stress of planning a wedding should be focused on the things you and your partner find important, not what may or may not offend/affect others. Once the ceremony is over (hopefully) it’s just you and your friends sharing in the best day of your life. So who cares if the napkins weren’t blue enough. As for myself, I learned nothing. I have been told numerous times that I know it all.

N: Sigh. I’ll actually answer this question. I think Graham and I learned a lot about our different styles of planning/organization (I can plan and be organized, Graham cannot) and we learned to communicate more effectively over the months leading up to the Big Day. For instance, we had a giant miscommunication about the basic color palette which affected wardrobe for the wedding party etc, like a month before the date, and I about lost my shit. We sorted it out eventually, but Graham is right, you can’t dwell on details or you’ll go insane. I was so convinced I was going to be a Super Chill Bride but NO ONE can maintain their chill completely so just accept it [G: …I did.]. Wedding planning is for making sure you wanna get married to this chump – so find solutions or get out!

3. What was the biggest challenge?

G: Dealing with the photographer. …kidding. For me the biggest challenge was planning the bachelor party. Turns out that all my friends are aggressively introverted, and only a couple had even met prior to the party. I didn’t want to plan my own party, because, I dunno it’s like planning your own surprise birthday party. It all worked out, but I think it would have been easier to just acknowledge the shortcoming and adjust accordingly. For the record, the party itself was excellent.

N: Trying to not murder certain family members…. But I succeeded!

4. What advice do you have for other couples out there?

N: Graham will say he told me so, but hiring a planner would have helped. [G: <cough>] Alas, I am a penny-pinching control freak, so we didn’t. And I assumed that once all the vendors were paid and had a basic timeline of events, The Day would just run smoothly on its own, but my MoH got somehow designated as the go-to person for the caterers to ask questions, etc, and that shouldn’t have been her job. We should have hired a day-of planner at least. Other than that, we managed to cut a lot of corners, budget-wise, to be able to afford the things that were priorities. We didn’t hire a florist, we didn’t have a cake, we made our own playlist instead of hiring a DJ, we took an Uber from the venue back to the hotel, etc. Also….

<struggle>

G: Elope.

Seriously though, know that even if you are the bestest couple out there, this is a huge undertaking that will strain your hearts and wallets. It’s easy to lose perspective on what’s important as you defend karoke and buffet over live bands and gastro pubs. So make sure that any ground your giving up, or refusing to yield is worth it, and explain why. Make sure you say “I’m still marrying the shit out of you” at least once a day, and make sure you mean it.

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

G+N: We were looking for a “chill vibe”. You’d be surprised (maybe not) how many photographers out there have a distinct “No Gays” or “Jesus guides my camera” vibe on their website/blogs.  We also wanted someone who wouldn’t be annoyed by us. Hope we weren’t too annoying! [Photographer’s note: You were not annoying!]

6. From booking to delivery of images and seeing the results, what in your mind made it the right choice for us to collaborate? Did anything surprise you?

G: We had an awesome time planning with Justin. As things were getting crazier and crazier the closer we got to the day, it was nice to know that we didn’t have to worry about the photographer. It was always clear how things would go down with him. Looking back, Justin being supportive of what we did and did not want for the day, and executing that was phenomenal. He clearly knows what he’s doing, and wasn’t afraid to say things like “maybe take pictures of food”. Never felt like there was a memory missed.

N: Filling out the initial questionnaire was helpful in guiding our plans for how the day’s schedule would go from the photography perspective. We wanted awesome photos, and we wanted to make that process easy for everyone, so the guidance was helpful. Plus, we had so much fun with some of the group shots and fun couple photos. I’ve been in weddings where that process was such a drag, but everyone had a lot of fun.

7. What’s next for you as a couple? 

G: Unfortunately the wedding was the high watermark of our relationship. Now as the days pass, knowing that there is only sweet oblivion to anticipate, we politely smile at each other’s repetitious annoyances, as we slowly fade from time and reason. Or we’ll make a kid, I dunno.

N: Truly, we have peaked and have nothing left to offer one another. We will stare at our wedding photos for hours on end, knowing that was as good as it will ever be. But for real, we will be snuggling every night and probably bickering until we die over things like whether or not to get another dog and what project to do next on the house.

Lately, I’ve been doing more of these shorter portrait sessions in and around Durham, and really enjoy them. Becky used to give mural tours in downtown Durham, so she had a simple vision for her shoot with Dean. She wore her favorite blue dress, and we headed to The American Tobacco Campus where we used the late afternoon light and the Burt’s Bees mural to have a little fun. Congrats, y’all!

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