My Outer Banks Wedding Story – Introduction

shesaidyes-150x150_1Hello, everybody.  I wanted to (under co-worker suggestion) start a new blog series chronicling my Outer Banks Wedding story that is currently underway. I know that many people love the Outer Banks and decide to get engaged here, married here, or even live here, and I think I will be able to add lots of good advice if you find yourself in any of these categories.  My story, in fact, involves all three of these!  For those of you not familiar with my background, I promise to be brief.

bobby-beach-200x300_1I am a Pennsylvania native who has been vacationing to the Outer Banks with my family for as long as I have been alive.  My father started coming here in his early teens and it has turned into a second home for my family.  Typically, my family vacations for one week, twice a year (Summer and Fall).  I really pride myself on having a diversified view of the Outer Banks, as I have been all over the beach here; north and south.  My parents have also made sure to educate myself, my brother, and sister about the area’s history, culture, and people.  Through my many years of visiting here, I have made many family friends in local businesses and industries, and feel privileged to have made these connections. As someone who has been so entwined in the Outer Banks for so long, it was only natural that I would hold it very close to my heart.  I started dating my beautiful girlfriend in 2008 and through strong coercion, negotiated the ability to start bringing her on our family vacations (I tended to emotionally “zone out” on family vacations being 500 miles away from where my mind was at).

Anywho, after several vacations with us, my fiance started to see the charm and beauty that is the Outer Banks, much like my family and I have known for years.  I realized then, that it was only appropriate to ask the love of my life to marry me at the most beautiful place on earth. It was a cold morning on November 21, 2011, and my family and sweetheart were on our Thanksgiving vacation in Salvo, NC.  It was only one day into our week’s vacation, but I knew the week would be better spent celebrating the growth of our family versus me being a nervous wreck all week, waiting for the perfect time to pop the question.  Unbeknownst to my girlfriend, I had spent a lot of time finalizing in my mind the way I would propose to her.  I had the idea to pull off a “message in a bottle” proposal to her while we walked on the beach.  For the bottle, I scoured several antique stores back in PA and eventually had my “ah ha!” moment when I came across a vintage ship ballast bottle.  It was a beautiful green hue and would work perfectly for me to it dress up!  I spent many hours with an old fishnet, hemp, and several add-ons to craft an authentic looking maritime bottle.  The last step in my prep was to write an awesome mushy-gushy love letter to her on parchment and snazzy it up with some burnt edges.  Dang, I’m good!

message-in-a-bottle-romantic-proposals-150x300_1The day of reckoning came, and I decided to ask her to go for a morning walk with me while my family was still getting ready for the day.  It honestly had to be around 7:30am in the morning, but the sun was out and the shells were calling!  I had to be very careful to dress appropriately as I considered how she was to discover my bottle I had made.  I ruled out the idea of having any third party involvement, so I needed to bring the bottle AND the ring with me undetected.  All I can say is thank goodness for cargo shorts and hoodie pockets! We started our walk together, hand in hand, and perusing for shells in the wash.  We were certainly isolated and alone (especially in Salvo in November), but I had a mental blackout on how to pull it off perfectly.  I decided I had to act rather fast as we would not be walking much longer after we turned around.  Well, we did turn around and start heading towards the house again, and that’s when I decided to improvise and create temporary separation from the lover’s handholding taking place prior.  I told her that I wanted to take a look in some of the small sand dunes on the beach to see if any good shells had washed up to there.  She seemed alright with the idea so I had to act fast, yet casual to plant the bottle. When I noticed her bending down to pick up a shell of her own, I struck.  It was a well-placed bottle-toss that nestled my love-inspired creation neatly by some sea oats and grass/sand.  The next step was getting her to the vicinity and playing off like nothing happened.  I shouted and informed her that there were some nice shells up where I was walking and that she should come help me find more!  I started to head backward as to make her walk in my direction; the direction of the bottle.

Words can’t describe the butterflies in my stomach during those few minutes.  I don’t think I have ever been so nervous in my life.  Not nervous because I did not know what she would answer, but nervous because I only planned on doing this once in my life and I wanted everything to be absolutely perfect. I can still remember exactly the way she exclaimed when she found the bottle.  I had 1,000 mental pats on my back because when she walked up to it, she was 100% convinced that it was a legitimate message in a bottle that had washed to shore!  Her eyes already told me how excited she was to open it and see the long lost words that lay inside the antique capsule.  She managed to uncork the bottle without issue and unscrolled the paper much faster than I imagined.  I intently watched her and her eyes start to read the words on the parchment.  She leaned over to me and exclaimed: “this is your writing!”  I gently nodded, and she continued reading.  After she made it through the outpouring of my heart’s penmanship, the letter prompted her to let me see her “diamond eyes” (I thought this to be appropriate wording).  By the time she had turned to me, I was already on one knee. The Salvo sun could not have hit that rock any better.  It was like a sunburst hit a disco ball, and my world paused for a glorious eternity.  I remember how I asked her to marry me, but that’s between the two of us. 😉

love-of-my-life1-225x300_1When we returned from our walk, the rest of my family was awake.  Mom and sister were watching a morning movie, and my Dad was out on the deck with the binoculars taking in the natural beauty of the beach.  My fiance walked up into the living room and was asked how our walk together went.  Without a second thought, she coolly extended her hand down to them; what happened next made me fear for every window in the house.  My mother and sister rocketed into the air with enthralled screams as if they had won 100 PowerBall jackpots!  I’ll never forget that either.  I think everybody was in joyful tears that day.  One of the coolest things was hearing my fiance tell the story of my proposal to her.  I’d rather hear that version anytime! The rest of the day and week for that matter were a grand celebration!  The first thing we decided on, was that everybody needed a good breakfast!  The whole crew packed up and headed to Kill Devil Hills to our favorite breakfast joint; The Jolly Roger.  Need I say more?  The owner, Carol Ann honored our day by not only providing us with great service and food but 2 Jolly Roger coffee mugs and a sweet engagement treat at the end of our meal! That week’s vacation will always be one to remember.  I mentioned above that my story involves engagement, marriage, and living here.  I would love to spend more time telling my Outer Banks Wedding Story but you will have to return for more again!  We are still engaged and are to be wed 9/13/13 in the beautiful Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head, NC.  I intend to publish an entry at least once every two weeks so STAY POSTED! Feel free to post ANY questions you may have for someone that: got engaged here, is getting married here, works here, lives here, or anything else!

2012 Wedding Trends

Here’s a really interesting info graphic put together by Invitations by Dawn with useful stats from various wedding experts on wedding trends.  According to The Knot, 18% of all weddings are destination weddings.  This seems to be an increasing trend!  And we already know that the Outer Banks is ranked #3 of those destinations. Some of the top stats includes weddings having a more rustic look and feel.  Tangerine Tango is a very popular color.  Most still prefer the traditional tiered wedding cake as their choice of dessert.  Brides who create a registry have a tendency to invite more people.  The amount spent on a wedding dress has significantly increased. Looking over these wedding trends, how does your wedding line up?  In ways does it not?

Info-graphic used with permission from Invitations by Dawn.
Info-graphic used with permission from Invitations by Dawn.

What To Ask Your Wedding Photographer, Part Two

This list is continued from Part One of “Questions to Ask Your Wedding Photographer”.

Photo by Coleman Shots LLC
Photo by Coleman Shots LLC

Your Artistic Preferences

  • Why are you a photographer?
    You’re looking to hear something about his or her passion and love for their work.
  • Can you help me plan out how much time I need to devote to certain shots during the day?
    Any photographer should be able to walk you through this and it’s important to let your photographer know which shots are most important to you so that the right amount of time is dedicated to those shots.
  • How would you describe your photography style? Do you prefer to pose all of your shots or do you prefer to capture people as they do things naturally?
    Some photographers stage and pose every shot, some photographers make every effort to capture the natural moments, and, many would argue the best photographers are those that do both well. The answer should help you determine whether this is a photographer who blends into the background and shoots what unfolds naturally, or creates a more visible presence by taking charge and choreographing shots. It requires a talented photographer to pose a bride and groom properly and in that same instant capture a real moment of laughter and love between them. Here’s the biggest tip! No matter what the photographer says their style should be consistent and visible in their portfolio. You should be able to tell whether or not they need to pose all of their shots in order to take a good picture.
  • What distinguishes you from other photographers?
    You should hear from the photographer things they take pride in and things they believe they do well. They may not consider themselves better than other professionals, yet can still speak to what makes them unique.
Photo by Coleman Shots LLC
Photo by Coleman Shots LLC

Sealing the deal

    • When will I receive a written contract?
      WARNING: Don’t book a photographer, or any vendor, who won’t provide a written contract.
    • Is there anything in the contract that limits me or provides expectations of me?
      Many contracts require you to feed the photographer and give them a break. Many photographers have a “Sole Photographer” clause which I’ve seen in the form of the photographer not being responsible for your guests and family members who act like a professional photographer, getting in the way of the real professional, and using up the valuable time you’ve paid for.
    • Can I provide you list of specifics shots I want?
      Most photographers will make every effort to work with you in making your list of shots happen, but what you really hope to get from a question like this is whether or not the photographer is going to make every effort to capture what is valuable to you. Shots are missed, it happens, and your list of photographs might have missing shots, but will they try.
    • Is there any information I need to provide you before the wedding day?
    • If my wedding lasts longer than expected, will you stay? Is there an additional charge?
      Most photographers have an hourly rate if you decide at the last second you want to keep your photographer around longer.
    • Will you give me the negatives or the digital images, and is there a fee for that?
      Nearly every high end photographer only provides low-resolution proofs from which you can order your prints, but many offer a price for a copy of your high-resolution images. In fact, it’s becoming more common for photographers to offer you a high resolution disk with the price already factored into the package.
  • How many photos will I receive?
    This varies highly between photographers. Some will hand you thousands of photos and some will hand you a couple hundred. Here is a case where more isn’t more. Most of the highest paid photographers only give close to 200 photos for an entire wedding because they did the hard work of sorting through the photos and are giving you the best photos, spending a long, tiring, amount of time on each picture.
  • How long after the wedding will I get the proofs? Will they be viewable online? On a CD?
    Many turnaround times are between 2 to 4 months, which is considered normal. If a quick turnaround is important to you make sure you talk with the photographer about this and see if you can get it shorted.
  • What is the ordering process? How long after I order my photos/album will I get them?
  • What type of album designs do you offer? Do you provide any assistance in creating an album?
  • How much of a deposit do you require and when is it due? Do you offer a payment plan?
    You should expect to pay 50% of your total as a deposit, although some photographers require more.
  • What is your refund/cancellation policy?
    Things happen! And most of the time it is things you can’t plan on. You need to know what your options are.
  • Is gratuity included in the price?
    Yes, photographers should be tipped as well. Many photographers go out of their way, far beyond what should be expected, to make your special day go smoothly. This is a service and level of professionalism that you can’t put a price on.
Photo by Coleman Shots LLC
Photo by Coleman Shots LLC

Questions to Ask Yourself

Sometime you get tired of all the searching and all the effort, and then settle on a photographer instead of it being the one you really want. Ask yourself a few more questions before you make your final decision; it will be worth it in the end.

  • Do I like the photographer as a person? Are our personalities a good match?
    If you can already tell the photographer’s personality is going to clash with yours then that should be a sign to keep searching. When you have a photographer that is going to be following you around on such an important day, and be around you more than your family will be, you want to like the person so you can be yourself around them, because that is what you want to be captured in your images. Also keep in mind that you will have a long term relationship with your photographer, probably expanding to two or more years.
  • Do I love the photographers photos?
    Every photographer is a very unique person with their own unique artistry, and they should be viewed as such. One of the most important things for you to consider is “what do I want my wedding photos to look like”. Nearly every professional out there has a “look” and this “look” comes from both the kind of editing the photographer does and how they approach shooting.

What To Ask Your Wedding Photographer

Photo by Terry & Sarah Photography
Photo by Terry & Sarah Photography

Being that the Outer Banks is among the best wedding destinations in the U.S., we at Southern Shores Realty want to keep you informed as you make difficult planning decisions.  But even if your wedding isn’t an Outer Banks Wedding you should still find these resources helpful. Weddings are complicated to plan and often lead to a lot of stress. Even if you hire a wedding planner there are certain areas of your wedding you still need to be well informed about because you, the bride, will be deciding.  One of those areas is wedding photography. Most couples will spend anywhere from 7% to 15% of their total wedding budget on wedding photography, and for most couples photography is one of the most precious parts of their wedding because it’s the documentation of their special day that they get to keep, display, and share throughout their life. So how do you decide on a wedding photographer?  Even on the Outer Banks, where there are more than 40 photographers listed with the Outer Banks Wedding Association, it can be a challenge to figure out which photographer is best for you. There are many possible questions you can ask a wedding photographer, but this list is not designed to be comprehensive or exhaustive. Rather, this list is designed to get you to ask the fundamental questions to determine whether the photographer is a good match for you.

Photo by Terry & Sarah Photography
Photo by Terry & Sarah Photography

Basic Questions to Begin With

  • How far in advance do I need to book with you? Most photographers will warn you to book as soon as possible if you want to lock in your date in with the photographer of your choice, and they are right. You should expect to book a quality, experienced photographer at least 8 months in advance.
  • Can you show me a copy of your business license? So many brides never stop to consider this one, but you really need to make sure your vendors are legit. Just because they own a website that doesn’t mean they are a legal business. One of the awesome things about the Outer Banks Wedding Association is they require all of their vendors to show proof of their right to do business here.
  • Do you have liability insurance? This is as much for your protection as it is for the photographer.
  • Will you be shooting my wedding or will someone else? It is of the utmost importance that you get to meet your wedding photographer so you can gauge his or her experience and walk away knowing if you are comfortable with this person being in charge of the biggest tangible memory of your wedding day because you will be with this person the entire day!
  • May I have a list of references? The photographer should not hesitate to provide this, although many aren’t carrying their references around with them.  What you’re more interested in here is their willingness to share them, not so much their content. I would also encourage you to do some online research to see what people are saying about the photographer.
  • How will you (and your assistants) be dressed? A wedding photographer and his/her staff should look professional and fit in with the style of your event. Most photographers will ask you if you have any special requests for what they should wear.
Photo by Terry & Sarah Photography
Photo by Terry & Sarah Photography

Gauging Your Investment

A more experienced and seasoned wedding photographer will charge more while amateurs,  and less experienced photographers, trying to get into the wedding business usually are the ones charging less, although sometimes there are other reasons of why they are less. Use these questions to gauge their experience so you can determine whether or not you are being asked a reasonable rate for their services.

  • How long have you been in business? Any photographer that has been in the business for more than 5 years should be at the average cost for the area, while a photographer who does not have 5 years yet should be below the average. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have experience under your belt.
  • How many weddings have you shot? Again, this is another question about experience and I would say this question is more important than the previous one.  A photographer that has been in business for 8 years may have only shot 2 weddings.  On the other hand, you may have another photographer that’s only been in business for one year, yet they have shot over 30 weddings.
  • Can I see an entire wedding, not just a small portfolio? Seeing a complete wedding, with all the pictures the photographer gave a past client, can tell you a lot about what you would be receiving. It will also show you whether the photographer can consistently take great photos or if their great photos are hit and miss.
  • What time will you arrive at the site and for how long will you shoot? Some photographers are hired by the number of hours they will be present, but some don’t. Make sure you know the specifics of this.
  • How old is the oldest picture in your portfolio? Your goal here is to see what their recent work looks like. A photographer mostly displaying 3-year-old work as their “best” should concern you whether they can still produce the same quality today.
  • What kind of equipment do you use? This can be a pretty vague question simply because creativity comes in many different forms and that creativity directly impacts what kind of equipment a wedding photographer will carry. But one thing you can take from this is the model and make of the camera and lenses. In today’s world, if the camera body and lenses aren’t valued at $1,000 or more each then they’re not working with the best equipment required to capture a wedding (although there are a few rare exceptions). Equipment can easily end up over $8,000 just for one camera body and one lens combined, but most are in the $3,000 to $4,000 range.
  • Do you provide retouching, color adjustment or other corrective services? Can you show me a before and after example of your editing? You need to see whether or not the photographer knows how to properly remove blemishes, arm flab, and correct colors the camera sometimes incorrectly reads when the shot was taken. This question should have nothing to do with a photographer’s editing style.
  • What do you do if your camera breaks in the middle of the wedding? Do you have backup gear?Equipment malfunctions are a little too common to ignore a big question like this one. A professional should have backup gear that is just as good as the primary gear.
  • Have you ever worked at my wedding site before? If not, do you plan to check it out in advance?Photographers who familiarize themselves with a location ahead of time will be prepared for any lighting issues or restrictions, and will know how best to incorporate the site’s architectural elements into the photos.

Check out Part Two with questions concerning artistic preferences, contracts, and responsibilities, and personal questions to ask yourself before making the decision of whether to hire or not.