My sister got married!

My sister is my tall, beautiful hero. She's an awesome mom, a very motivated medical professional, hilarious and on top of all this, is my favorite photo model. Being her older sister, thankfully I got to be her maid of honor, and holding her bouquet and seeing the tears in her now husband's eyes before she even came down the aisle was for once much nicer than taking photos of the moments. At the same time, I did want to give my own little gift to her of taking pictures every moment I could, so while all the bridesmaids and I were getting ready in a cloud of hairspray and bobby pins, I took a few photos of her. After the ceremony, we had a tiny portrait session on the playground behind the church where they got married - after, I will point out, letting their official photographer, Alison East, take all the group shots! It was admittedly surreal not being THE photographer, but being able to really experience the day as a sister was wonderful, and I appreciate Alison making that possible, too.

My lovely niece, Kayley :) This was a special moment. Pastor John Woods, in this photo saying a prayer for Megan before the ceremony, has known Megan and RJ for years now, notably as RJ's basketball coach when RJ and Megan were home schooled. He met them when my sister was pregnant with their daughter, Kayley, and gave a wonderfully personal service for their wedding.

After taking this picture, I dashed upstairs and got in line with the other bridesmaids and groomsmen to actually be a part of the wedding. Following the ceremony and group photos, I snagged Megan and RJ for a couple more shots on the playground.

During the reception, I just danced like a fool and gave a speech, as part of my responsibilities as maid of honor. I'm including it below, because everyone should see just how freaking wonderful my sister is.

"Megan, Mina, Meg, Megs:

The earliest possible place to start is your birth, which was kind of a fitting way to describe my view of you early in life: unnecessarily dramatic and lots of screaming. Yes, like most sisters, at first there was conflict born of your aspiration to be me and your desire to be around me at all times, which I failed to see as flattering and considered more in terms of, "How far can I kick you off the bed without causing major injuries?" Barney, The Lion King, Homeward Bound viewed so many times that Travis eventually buried it in the bottom of his football toy chest, but the movies and shows of your childhood are the soundtrack to mine, too - I still know every word to "I Just Can't Wait to be King" thanks to your insistence on the sing along tape. I could have done without hearing "I love you, you love me, we're a happy family," for the millionth time, but it's a fine sentiment for today.

It has actually always been music that has been a common denominator for us in spite of any differences we had over time. When we moved to Winston, the Spice Girls told us all about girl power, which you fully embraced even in kindergarten: you used your "girl power" to get your first kiss at naptime, I'm pretty sure even before I managed to go on my first date. As we got older, where you were sassy, I was nerdy. Where you were popular, I was wearing braces and glasses, and avoiding direct sunlight. Where you were a model, I was eventually a photographer and lucky enough to sometimes photograph you.

By the time I moved away to college, I had accepted that we were different people, and of course I loved you in spite of your perfection, but I was so delighted that on each trip home, I could see signs of your inner nerd breaking through. I always knew you were smart and funny, but I was proud to see you really embracing your intelligence and wit. It was around this time that you started dating this really tall guy with an incredibly deep voice who, while conducting himself like a bit of a gangsta, clearly also had a big heart and his own geek streak. Everyone here knows how much you guys have been through together, and how far you've come, and I cannot tell you guys often enough how much I admire you both. When Kayley was born, you both immediately became the dedicated and loving adults that we see here all dressed up today. You grew up, much faster than most people, but you are two of the most motivated and accomplished people I have ever met, and Kayley is the coolest daughter ever, so clearly the genetic situation also worked out really well.

RJ, I love you, you are insanely lucky but also very deserving of marrying my sister. Megan, I know age-wise you're supposed to look up to me, but I look up to you. Literally because I'm shorter, and figuratively. You are so beautiful, intelligent, focused, hilarious, talented, responsible and kind, and I hope one day to be as wonderful of a mom and as gorgeous of a bride as you are. You are both wonderful, I'm proud to now be officially related to RJ, and you are my favorite sister. I love you, and congratulations!"

My dad took this photo of Megan and RJ, my brother Travis and his girlfriend Renee, and my fiancee Elger and I outside the reception site, the Lexington Civic Center. It was a day that Megan and RJ deserved to have their relationship and love honored by friends and family, and I was so happy to get to be there as her sister.

Erin & René's wedding in Groningen

Falling in love with a place is not so different from falling in love with a person, especially if either that place or that person happen to be thousands of miles away from the place you come from. This place-and-person love is something that Erin and I have more intensely in common than most: Erin, originally from North Carolina (Winston-Salem, even!), chose somewhat randomly to study abroad in Groningen, subsequently fell in love with a nice Dutch guy (René), and is now living here in this special Dutch city running her own business. It's a trajectory I know incredibly well: it is exactly the same origin story for how I came to be living here myself! Erin just happened to do it about 10 years before, so I was following her example without realizing how parallel it was until she introduced herself to me about a year ago. She and I have happily become friends since then, and it's so satisfying to have someone with the exact same background of sweet tea and Southern living with whom you can talk about the charms and weirdness of our new adopted culture. Above all, it is inspirational to see another American and Dutch love story being celebrated in such a beautiful place - congratulatons, Erin and René, and thank you guys so much for letting me be a part of your day.

Erin's mom and several other members of her family flew over from North Carolina to be at the ceremony, which was naturally an emotional event for everyone.

Erin and René very thoughtfully hired a couple of bike taxis to ferry guests from the ceremony at the Martinikerk to the reception at Café Peter Pan.

Having a strong stout beer was one of René's only demands for the reception.

Erin's mom helped to cut the cake, which was delicious and made by one of Erin's friends, and I was really amused to see her intensity in this task.

Tom & Naomi's Wedding in Nant Peris, Wales

This wedding was featured on the Whimsical Wonderland blog on October 3, 2012.

Oh, my goodness. Being friends with fun, adventurous, kind people is something to be grateful for daily, but especially when those friends ask you to be their wedding photographer, AND their ceremony is in the mind-blowingly beautiful Welsh mountains, AND they are willing to climb hills in rain boots in their wedding outfits for portraits. Tom and Naomi are two of my favorite people on earth, and their thoughtfulness and love for each other came through in every lovely detail of their wedding, which felt like the whole village was a part of the party, and not without cause - the 90 residents of Nant Peris, where the groom's parents live, all played some role in the wedding, be it providing flowers for the entrance to the marquee, decorating the cake, and catering locally-sourced food, in addition to serving as the mountain rescue team (whose services in that role were thankfully not needed). Tom is British, and Naomi is Canadian, and they met at their international high school in Groningen when they were teens, and have been together for nearly 10 years already. As a friend, being at the wedding was a beautiful event to witness, but my talented fiancée' Elger (his photos are credited underneath) and I were even luckier to get to spend the most time with the bride and groom as their photographers. Elger spent the day of the ceremony with the groom, groomsmen and groom's family, all of whom performed in the various creative portions of the reception. Tom and Naomi are not only very creative people, but their families and many of our mutual friends are also expressive and generous, and there were musical and theatrical performances throughout the reception. It's almost impossible to describe every wonderful little thing about the wedding, and I am absolutely gushing and biased, but hopefully the photos can help to share the downright magical feeling of being there, with the misty green Welsh mountains in 360 degrees around the glowing marquee, and the love, and the music, and the lanterns, and the happiness! Congratulations, you guys :)

Naomi's bridesmaid, Johanna, gave Naomi a manicure of sorts while her hair was up in curlers.

Naomi's mom, Joyce, went along with her daughter to the salon and got her hair done for the day, too.

Photo by Elger Abbink - this was the point at which Tom, when he was beginning to get dressed, realized that, if the weather got warm enough to justify doffing his jacket (haha - it was pretty unseasonably chilly so that never happened), his shirt was a tad too transparent...

Photo by Elger Abbink - Joe, Tom's brother, and Tom quickly drove to Bangor, about 20 minutes away, to buy an undershirt for the groom.

Photo by Elger Abbink

Photo by Elger Abbink

Photo by Elger Abbink

Photo by Elger Abbink

While Naomi, her bridesmaids and her mom were getting ready at the guest house where Joyce was staying, a hilarious moment of pure Welsh stereotype occured: a flock of a hundred sheep poured down the main road of the village and very briefly into the yard of the guest house. Some wedding guests were actually delayed in getting to the venue on account of the sheep traffic. Only in Wales!

The third photo in this series was featured on the excellent Moment Junkie site on September 13, 2012.

Photo by Elger Abbink

Photo by Elger Abbink

Tom's family's home has a well on the grounds, Ffynnon Peris, named after an early Welsh saint, Saint Peris, where Allan conducted a blessing for the couple to close the ceremony.

Sidenote: these portraits were all actually taken on the day after the wedding, when we had the whole day to scope out the most beautiful spots around Nant Peris.

I LOVE their boots! Naomi's have pink VW Beetles on them, and Tom, the British groom, has Union Jack wellies. It gets no more British than this, folks :)

Photo by Elger Abbink

Photo by Elger Abbink

Photo by Elger Abbink

Photo by Elger Abbink - Northern Wales is the home of Mt. Snowden and the biggest mountains in the country, so there are tons of hikers around (including in the back yard of the groom's family's property), and Tom and Naomi volunteered to hike a little way along the mountain pass to take advantage of the awesome view, when some hikers naturally came along.

In the Netherlands, The Impossible Project has revived the development of Polaroid film after its production ended in the United States. Tom graciously let me use his Polaroid camera with some color film to add to our photo coverage of the day!

(Yes, despite knowing the frame is square, my SLR instincts still kicked in for this frame.)

As the tent made the transition from ceremony hall to reception hall, guests were treated to bara brith cake and, naturally, tea.

Tom and Naomi are both members of an improv group, Stranger Things Have Happened, and their fellow improvers created a show for them during the reception.

Reichert - de Caluwé Wedding

This wedding was featured on the Dutch wedding blog Wedspiration on March 8, 2012.

Happy New Year! I am very excited to share my first wedding of 2012, Barb and Edwin's ceremony at the Stadhuis in Den Bosch on a gloriously clear day (which in the Netherlands is indeed a miracle!). This  international couple met in Canada, Barb's homeland, while Edwin worked at her company, and they hit it off immediately. It's always nice to meet other international couples, and seeing two people cross borders and oceans to find each other is a beautiful thing. The ceremony was, to use a great Dutch term, gezellig, with just immediate family and closest friends, and the wedding room at the Stadhuis was beautiful. Congratulations and gefeliciteerd!

Ruitje-Dommel Wedding

These two are not only beautiful, super photogenic and totally adventurous, they are also two of my closest friends, so it was so much fun to spend their wedding day with them in Harderwijk. Karin and Jeroen looked like movie stars, and her  glamorous red dress brightened up the cold February day. This was my first Dutch wedding, and I fell so in love with the gezellig atmosphere of the bride and groom's families enjoying coffee together before the ceremony. Adding to the lovefest, my fiancee Elger helped me out immensely by shooting the wedding with me. The whole day was completely relaxed and reflected their personalities to the smallest details. And really, what's not to like about a bride in a red dress?

Blackmon-Friedman Wedding

Bob and Randy! I had the amazing privilege of shooting the Biltmore Estate’s first ever gay commitment ceremony on Saturday, Oct. 17th, along with one of my best friends and photo role models, Lauren Carroll. Bob and Randy are both incredibly sweet guys who are clearly in love, they were both living in New York when they met ten years ago (but they met at Key West, coincidentally), and now live together in North Carolina. They spent the day surrounded by wonderful and supportive friends and family, from a fun rehearsal to an after party with catering from Bojangles. They were a blast to hang out with, especially during their pillow fight! Last year, they adopted a precious little boy, and Sarah Whitmeyer of Whitmeyer Photography did a shoot of their new addition. Congratulations and Mazeltov to Bob and Randy!

Reibold-Shaw Wedding

Jake and Sarah's fall wedding in the mountains was warm and friendly, in spite of the chilly rain throughout the day. Staying indoors was definitely a good idea, and the view of the beautiful Appalachian mountains from the Champion Hills Country Club in Hendersonville made for an etheral backdrop. Jake's father was the officiant for the wedding, making it an even more personal and meaningful ceremony. Thanks again to Sarah Whitmeyer, owner of Whitmeyer Photography, for the opportunity to share this day.

Bathurst-Helms wedding

This is the very first wedding I had the privilege to shoot, in Charlotte in May of 2008, and Jeff and Erin were such a friendly and fun couple to spend the day with. They met at N.C. State University as students, and their personal wedding was such a sweet ceremony - they were so excited to be married, that they actually began walking down the aisle before the ceremony was really finished! And their enthusiasm to head to the reception was totally understandable - they had a FUNFETTI wedding cake, and danced the night away. Now, three years later, they have just had a lovely little girl. I want to thank Sarah Whitmeyer of Whitmeyer Photography in Asheville, North Carolina, for having me as her assistant for this great wedding, and giving me my first experience with the world of wedding photography.