Charleston Yacht Club Wedding Photos
Stephanie & Stephen
April 3rd, 2021
If you're like me, you're starting to slowly see the light at the end of the long, dark tunnel that is the coronavirus pandemic. With COVID restrictions being removed every day and the weather getting warmer, it's starting to feel a LOT like we might be through the worst of this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.
The thing is, as a wedding photographer, I'll be dealing with the ramifications of coronavirus LONG after the pandemic ends. That's just what happens when most weddings last year were delayed to 2021 or 2022.
But no matter how many of couples I work with this year, few wedding days will feel as personal to me as Stephanie and Stephen's did last month in Charleston, South Carolina.
Stephanie and Stephen were married on a breathtaking spring day at the Charleston Yacht Club and their wedding represented a LOT of firsts for me. Not only was it my first wedding in South Carolina, it was my first wedding of 2021 and my first wedding in what feels like a nearly post-COVID world.
Most importantly, however, because I've known the bride for years, Stephanie and Stephen's wedding represented so much more than a typical work day for me. It was a chance to get back to normal, see a friend have one of the happiest days of her life and document it for her to treasure forever.
And I have no doubt that she will because it was a day worth remembering.
I knew exactly what Stephanie and Stephen had in store for me for their wedding day from the moment I walked into the bridal prep area a few hours before the pair would have their first look and saw Stephanie and her bridesmaids hanging out in a crowded room cracking jokes and having next to no stress about the day's activities.
As this was my first wedding in South Carolina, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect in terms of the differences down south vs. the go-go-go pace of New England but if these girls were feeling rushed, they sure didn't show it.
I loved getting to catch up with Steph, who I hadn't seen in person in a few years since we last worked together at a local newspaper in Southern Rhode Island, and it was awesome to see the girls she had by her side, many of whom she met in the last few years in her new state.
Those girls were FUN and kept the bride smiling as she finished her hair and makeup and I'm grateful they did as the entire start of the day had a laidback vibe that just makes shooting wedding prep so much easier.
I adored the flowers Stephanie chose for her hair and the way they complimented her beautiful dress, especially when I had a few minutes to bring it by the ceremony area and photograph it with the arch they set up.
What I loved even more was how excited the bride was as we headed out to The Pineapple Fountain at Charleston Waterfront Park, a beautiful local landmark that, as expected was full of tourists on this lovely spring day.
Thankfully, the site of Stephen in his tux, Stephanie in her dress and the loud photographer who was able to politely ask everyone to step away for a few minutes from this lovely tourist attraction paid off as we set up one of my favorite first looks in a VERY long time.
I wasn't sure what to expect from Stephen during this first look — truth is I only met him the day before his wedding — but I couldn't have asked for a better reaction from him when he turned and saw his bride. It truly made my heart melt and was the PERFECT moment to start this pair's wedding day with.
With their first look out of the way, I asked Stephanie and Stephen to take some time for themselves before we began their formal photos. I won't lie, part of the reason was to give them a moment for just the two of them to spend time alone before the craziness of the day kicked in. But part of the reason was also seeing how they interacted and bringing that spirit into their bride and groom portraits.
I'm glad we did because I believe it made for much more authentic photos representative of "them" than I would've had otherwise but I thoroughly enjoyed photographing all of their formal photos. Stephanie and Stephen had a great wedding part and their family was super sweet and followed my instructions easily. It made for a very quick and organized session, which is every wedding photographer's dream.
As much fun as working with Stephanie and Stephen was, I was looking most forward to their wedding ceremony and with good reason. I'm a sucker for a good love story and I knew just from Stephen's reaction to seeing his bride for the first time that we were likely going to have a super sweet and romantic ceremony full of touching but funny moments.
And that's exactly what we got.
Stephanie and Stephen were married on the outside deck of the Charleston Yacht Club, inside of a tented area and with a guest list of roughly 50-60 people in attendance, it felt both large and intimate at the same time.
Without question, my favorite part of this ceremony was looking at the endless smiles on both the bride and groom's faces as neither were particularly good at hiding their emotions and did a great job showing how happy they were to be standing across from each other in a moment they'd never forget.
Stephanie and Stephen's ceremony was full of touching moments where they told their love story and laugh out loud moments, like when their dogs barked right on the officiant's cue. It was a heartwarming exchange of vows and one even I had to wipe a tear from my eye during.
Following the official "I do" portion of Stephanie and Stephen's day, it was time to jump-start their reception. While I was able to grab a couple of minutes with the bride and groom on the pier behind the Yacht Club, and it led to some of my favorite photos of the day, I couldn't wait to see what these two had in store for me for the party portion of their evening.
In particular, I loved the simple decorations and theme the pair used for their wedding. It looked great inside the ballroom area of the Yacht Club and get the day a rustic yet fun feel.
I knew from the minute Stephanie and Stephen walked into the Charleston Yacht Club that I was going to love their reception. By far, the saddest part of my 2020 wedding photography season was seeing all the various ways couples had to throw their big plans out and make due for a minimalist reception to fit within current guidelines.
As this was South Carolina, and as a ton of Stephanie and Stephen's guests were already vaccinated and good to go in terms of COVID precautions, this wedding reception was going to be the first I've had in a long time that felt normal yet still safe at the same time.
And that meant we were here to party.
Starting the night off were the bride and groom with a beautiful first dance, made even lovelier thanks to the awesome string lights on the Yacht Club, a touch I can never get enough of.
I loved Stephanie and Stephen's first dance, and not just because the bride was adorably shy and leaned into her husband's arms the entire time.
I loved it because it set the tone for the evening and felt every bit like the celebration it was.
I can say the same for Stephen as he had not one but two mother-son dances, the first with his mother and the second with his stepmother, both of whom he is extremely close with and both of whom looked honored to share the floor with him.
The one worry I had about Stephanie and Stephen's wedding was how the bride would feel with her parents not able to attend in person. Thankfully, because Stephanie has an amazing support system of fantastic girls behind her, the moment where she would have had her father-daughter dance was not one full of sadness but one full of joy as the girls took her to the floor themselves and celebrated this milestone moment with her.
It was a touching display of thoughtfulness, one I have no doubt the bride will appreciate forever.
Thankfully, while Stephanie's parents couldn't be in attendance in person, they did make an appearance virtually and spoke at the wedding, a moment I know the bride appreciated.
In fact, they were one of several people to grab the mic and take about how great the bride and groom were in a variety of speeches — some planned and some not — that served as the perfect way to get all emotional and thankful right before dinner.
Oh, and did I mention I was finally able to get a pretty sunset on a wedding day? Because I did and, honestly, it was only fitting because I can think of no better or more appropriate sign of how perfect this day was for this bride and groom than nature taking a bow before the party began.
And, speaking of parties, Stephanie and Stephen's was one to remember.
As my first wedding reception of the year, I wasn't sure what kind of vibe to expect from Stephen and Stephanie's friends and family but they brought their dancing shoes and never let up from the moment the DJ played his first party song until the end of the evening.
I'm so thankful they did because, of all the things I missed in the COVID wedding world, jam packed dance floors were and are at the top of the list.
Even the bride and groom managed to spend some time on the dance floor cutting loose, something I wasn't sure I would see given how much fun they seemed to be having going table to table and spending time with everyone in attendance.
But the two surprised me and really let go on the dance floor and I'm so glad they did because it made for a lot of fun candid photos.
The later the evening got for Stephanie and Stephen's wedding guests, the more they let loose on the dance floor, with group dance numbers like the Cupid Shuffle a big hit. Still, my favorite moment was toward the end of the night as the party lights turned off and the DJ slowed things down.
There, the bride and groom stood on the dance floor in each other's arms and I was reminded what this day was really about: their love.
And once the music stopped, there was simply no better way to say goodbye than a good ol' fashioned bubble exit. It was, indeed, the perfect send off.
While it took me a couple of days to recover from traveling from Rhode Island to South Carolina and back — and I had to quarantine for almost a week after coming back — I can confidently say there was no place I'd rather have been to start off my 2021 wedding season.
I am confident this year will be the most exciting and most rewarding of my professional career. If nothing else, it will be a year where I appreciate how lucky I am to capture the best and brightest moments of my couple's biggest days like never before.
Stephanie and Stephen's wedding day was an amazing reminder of why I love what I do and why I don't want to do anything else and I couldn't have asked for a better bride and groom than these two to get the ball rolling on a year like no other.
So, thank you Stephanie and Stephen for bringing me all the way down to Charleston and inviting me along for the ride on one of the most magical days of your life. I hope this is just the start of the beautiful life you two have planned and hope you never forget how special it was the day, and night, you officially became husband and wife.