November 1, 2018
Oh, hey there friends!!
Today’s wedding is one very near and dear to my heart.
Meet the newly appointed Will and Natalie Jackson.
You may remember their New Orleans engagement portraits from back in the summer. Which, funny enough, is where this wedding really developed.
While I was in New Orleans, Natalie began to talk about their wedding plans and what she had in mind. It was very important to she and Will for this to be an intimate gathering of family and close friends. After all, they knew the very sacred vow they were about to make and wanted to honor that vow with simplicity. They expressed a desire to thoroughly enjoy their time with their loved ones without all the craziness of a big wedding. As we talked throughout the weekend, I revisited the idea of having the wedding back in our hometown, something they had talked of previously. After all, that’s where Will had been born and raised and where their love story first began to take shape many, many years ago. In fact, though she wasn’t born there and truly only resided there four to five years, you’ll often find Natalie calling Thomasville “home.”
And so it was decided. And we began planning.
First and foremost we knew this – Whitney Foreman Norris would be the florist. No other options. And I think it’s easy to tell why. She STUNNED with these designs and was definitely the talk of the night!
So, Natalie had a dress and a florist, and we went from there.
Over the last 4 months, we have texted at all hours of the day and night and shared in multiple 3+ hour conversations on how to make this wedding happen. After all, when we started this, Natalie and Will were living in south Louisiana and planning a wedding four hours away. But even better? In late August, they made the move to Tampa, Florida, where Will has spent the last 10 or so years of his life, so they spent the last two months leading up to the wedding planning from NINE hours away!
But when October 19th came, all of the hard work very much came to fruition.
You see, they chose October 19th, a Friday (which isn’t the norm for a Clarke County, Alabama wedding), because that is the anniversary of Natalie’s grandparents. And not just any anniversary, but as Natalie and Will said “I do” that Friday evening, her grandparents celebrated 72 wonderful years of love together. So, when Natalie chose that date, she chose a date the represented a lifetime commitment to her best friend with expectations to be celebrating that same day together 70+ years from now just like her grandparents.
The day began as most DIY weddings do, with a few scrambles to get last minute tasks accomplished. Natalie made her way to a gracious friend and former teacher, Kelli Davis’s, home to begin the getting ready process with the lovely Tori Crocker from Tuscaloosa. Back at Will’s childhood home – the site of the ceremony and reception – family and friends were busy preparing for the day. Cookie cakes were being made, decorations hung, pews placed, food prepared, and all the other beautiful wedding day chaos.
Reflecting back on my own wedding and all of the chaos that came along with it, I’m so appreciative for all of it. True enough, some of the stress part I could have totally skipped, BUT for every second of stress came a million more of love and support from our family and friends. And I’m certain Natalie and Will would agree. It’s hard to take it all in on that day, but as a bystander, I reveled in the love from each and every person pouring into Natalie and Will that day.
I’ll spare you the details of each of those relationships, but there are a couple I want to highlight simply for the way they touched me.
In discussing a caterer, we talked through several options and how the vision would be accomplished. Will has family who are accustomed to cooking for large groups and there are great options around town, but ultimately their decision came to a close family friend – Ms. Rita Sheffield. You see, Will’s mother passed away several years ago, and Rita was a dear friend of hers. When Will and Natalie asked Rita to help make their dream day happen, she was honored. To the point of tears, even. I think so often we feel like we are burdening those we love by asking for such great feats, but we forget how much our people love us and would do anything to see our dreams made possible. Now, thankfully, Rita is no stranger to the kitchen and has been catering for years, so she knew exactly what she was doing. And let me tell you what, those were some of the best green beans I’ve ever tasted. 😉
Natalie and Will chose to have a first look, which I highly encourage all couples to do. Not only is it a wonderful option to maximize a photographer’s wedding day timeline and the opportunity for portraits, but it’s a special moment for the bride and groom to share. A moment of peacefulness and calm in the midst of everything going on that day. And if you’re anything like Seth and I, a moment of tears and emotional relief. And so, when Will turned around to his lovely bride, his knees buckled a bit. What a vision she was!
The ceremony took place in the front yard of Will’s dad’s home. Surrounded by their people, Natalie and Will were led into the marriage covenant by Will’s long time friend and brother in Christ, Trevor Easterling. As a photographer, my eyes have to be my guide, so when a ceremony brings on the tears, I’m in trouble. During the ceremony, the bride and groom took a moment to honor those who were not of earthly attendance that day. Will delivered a rose to his paternal grandmother in honor of his paternal grandfather, a rose to his maternal grandmother who had just said an earthly goodbye to her beloved husband of 57 years just weeks before, and a rose to his brother in honor of their mother, Shelly. Shelly’s place on the front row was marked with a white bow and during the ceremony as I tried to grab a photo of that bow from behind, I struggled with glare (my nemesis). I moved and adjusted to clearly capture that space, but it hit me. That light was Shelly. She was most certainly that – a constant ray of sunshine and missed dearly by the incredible young men she brought into this world. Tears, y’all. All the tears.
Against a perfectly timed sunset, the dinner was served family style. And while dishes of fried chicken, brussel sprouts, sweet potato casserole and mouth watering green beans were passed among their closest loved ones, Natalie and Will danced their first dance beneath a watercolor sky. I found myself wiping tears away again as I watched these two incredible humans celebrate the beginning of this new life together. You may notice in one of their first dance shots below, a silhouette of Will’s young cousin, Hank. He noticed he was in my way, so he ducked, but what he didn’t know was that my capture was strategic. In that moment, as he watched them so intently, I was reminded how important our actions are. I firmly believe the happiness shared in that moment will leave a lasting impression on a boy soon to enter the world of dating. I have no doubt that moment will be followed by many more as he sees Will love his bride so well in the years to come.
The night wore on, dances were shared, cookie cake was dispersed, and the lights strung overhead gently lit the laughter and love that flowed between those in attendance. And as I mentioned earlier, my other highlight moment happened. Mr. Billy, Will’s dad, with the biggest grin on his face you could possibly imagine, looked at me and said, “You know, I’m the happiest man alive.” I giggled and asked why. He responded saying this was just an incredible day, that he had worked his whole life for the things on that hill and how proud he was to share it and this moment. If you know Billy and the relationship he shares with his sons, you know how special that is. I’ve long admired those three and the love they have for one another. Billy had spoken multiple times during the day about the kids that had spent time at that house over the years and how special it was to have Will marry on those very grounds.
And to me, that summed up Natalie and Will’s wedding day – one full of meaning, thoughtfulness, and heartfelt, genuine love. I dearly hope you see that below.
Engagement Ring – custom by Omar Delgado
Florals – Whitney Norris Floral Designs
Hair and Makeup – Tori Crocker
Vintage Rentals – Brianna Belton Design
Catering – Rita Sheffield