Winter has unleashed her cold fury on us but that doesn't mean we're not already dreaming of the outdoors and warm weather. While a snow-capped wedding is undoubtedly romantic on all accounts, we're exploring a slightly more green option today. First things first, this wedding is special for a few reasons: first, the bride, Joni, is one of my absolute best friends from my college days (yes, you will see me in the bridal party); second, Anni Graham is one of our favorite photographers and correspondents (remember this engagement shoot?); and lastly, Lonesome Valley is, you guessed it, one of our favorite venues here at The Venue Report.
We caught up with both Anni, who shot Joni and Brian's engagement pictures in Iceland as well as their wedding weekend, and Joni about everything that went into this stunning event, the venue, and working with your photographer. We're also looking into their classic, elegant and boho wedding style as well as getting both Anni's and Joni's tips for designing your dream wedding.
From photographer, Anni Graham:
Why do you recommend traveling with your clients, from engagement shoots to the wedding?
I think traveling with your couples from engagement photos to the wedding make such a huge difference in the photos for a number of reasons. The first is intuitive, the more you know your couples, the better you can capture them in camera. When you build a relationship with them that isn’t just a string of emails, phone calls, or text messages but actual in person interaction, you get to know who they are, they feel comfortable with you, and you can create an authentic representation of who they are on their wedding day. Weddings can easily become a production shoot where the photographer is following a timeline and has a list of all the photos they need to take, but authenticity can’t be directed, you need to know what’s important to them, and more importantly who is important to them, and everything you capture will reflect your knowledge on that.
The second reason why I love traveling with my couples is that it’s getting to know them in a different way - it’s more than a casual drink or dinner date, you have an experience together. By the time I arrived in North Carolina, Joni + Brian embraced me as a friend and I went on their day before the wedding hike with the whole wedding party. It was amazing! Wedding photography is my job, but I want to remember to connect to everyone as a real couple, and when you get to know them it’s stops feeling like a job and becomes something more. And when you are capturing a significant moment in a couple’s or family’s life, how much better is it if your photographer doesn’t feel like they are at work, but are a part of the family, investing and giving back instead of fulfilling a contract.
What was your favorite part of shooting with Joni + Brian at Lonesome Valley?
My favorite part of shooting at Lonesome Valley was the incredible location this venue is in. You are up in the mountains in-between these quaint little towns and rustic hotels, and the venue itself was such a large piece of stunning property that we didn’t need to go anywhere else for photos. I came the day before to scout the area and couldn’t believe how many different features Lonesome Valley had. It’s an all in one kind of venue that feels like you are in a remote area in the mountains, but is a short drive from major North Carolina cities. I think my favorite part was the Mountain View that lit up at sunset.
What is your best piece of advice for couples looking for a wedding photographer?
My best piece of advice for someone who is looking for a wedding photographer is to find someone that has value. It’s easy to choose a photographer based on price alone, but it’s so much more than that. There is a whole list of things to consider - who they are as a person, they photography and editing style, how much they are going to invest in you, how long they have been doing photography. You need to completely trust your photographer and to do that you need to get to know them a little bit. I know that price will always have something to do with it, but I have heard so many stories of couples who went with someone cheaper and then write to me later saying they absolutely hate their wedding photos and are so sad every time they look at them. Don’t be cheap with your photographer or you will get what you paid for.
From bride, Joni:
Tell us about your wedding!
We wanted a classic, elegant, boho style outdoor wedding in the mountains. We kept everything pretty simple and just wanted the main focus to be the people and the insanely beautiful venue. In terms of vendors, after we picked our venue, the most important thing was the photographer. I wanted someone who fit the vibe I was going for. Opposite of your traditional wedding photographer. I randomly came across Anni's profile as I was scrolling through Instagram one day. I felt she was the perfect fit, and I reached out to her right away. Could not have been happier with this decision, she is absolutely amazing in every way!
Why did you choose Lonesome Valley?
Brian planned a surprise getaway to Highlands, NC for the day after we got engaged. We stayed at the Old Edwards Inn, one of our favorite hotels in the world, and the town became instantly special to us. We started looking at venues in Hudson Valley, Georgia, even Italy and nothing really felt right. When he brought up the idea of getting married in Highlands, we both just looked at each other and just knew it was meant to be. We took a weekend trip back to Highlands to look at venues. On Sunday afternoon, the day we were leaving and as we were almost about to sign a contract with another venue, one of Brian’s best friends saw that we were in Highlands and told us that we had to go look at Lonesome Valley. Brian and I had no idea what to expect and when we drove into the apple orchard lined driveway and saw the backdrop for the first time, we both thought it was one of the most magical places we had ever been. At that moment it became a no brainer.
Our of everything, could you pick one special moment that really sticks out to you?
First look, hands down. Highly recommend this to brides who are debating whether or not to do a private first look or have the first look be as you are walking down the aisle. This time alone together before all of the craziness was so incredibly special and something I will cherish for the rest of my life.
What is one piece of advice you would give to a newly engaged bride-to-be planning her wedding?
There are going to be people pulling you in all different directions telling you how weddings are supposed to be done, etc. but go with your gut, and do what feels right and is special for the two of you!
Book your next event at Lonesome Valley →
Photography: Anni Graham | Venue: Lonesome Valley | Wedding Planner: Whitney Wood and Mary Lynne Thompson of Monarch Event Management | Make Up and Hair: Hope Ferguson | Flowers: Floressence Flowers | Cake: Cream and Flutter | Decor: Beth Lacefield
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