Cynthia Viola Photography

Downtown St. Augustine Engagement Session | Gabby + Baron

Engagement PortraitsCynthia ViolaComment
Ximendez-Fatio House Engagement Session

Oh my goodness, I love that these two met while they were serving as missionaries together. Due to Gabrielle's hint of shyness and the general nature of the trip it took them some time to really get acquainted, but once they did they were hooked. Now here they are planning their future together (with their lovable pets) and building dreams of more trips and owning a home together. 

They took me to their gorgeous wedding venue, Ximendez-Fatio House for photos and we had the added bonus of the sunrise over the water just down the adorable cobblestone street. St. Augustine has a plethora of hidden gems around every corner making it an incredible place to shoot. 

I'm having such a hard time choosing these images you guys! Can't wait for you to see the full gallery! 

Downtown St Augustine Engagement Session
Ximendez-Fatio House Engagement Session
Downtown St Augustine Engagement Session
Ximendez-Fatio House Engagement Session
Ximendez-Fatio House Engagement Session
Ximendez-Fatio House Engagement Session
Downtown St Augustine Engagement Photos
Ximendez-Fatio House Engagement Session

Vilano Beach Engagement Session | Heather + Kyle

Engagement PortraitsCynthia ViolaComment
Love has nothing to do with what you’re expecting to get – only what you’re expecting to give – which is everything
— Katharine Hepburn
Vilano Beach Engagement Session

I'm so excited I finally got to meet these two cuties who won the giveaway last month! Heather said she had never won anything so it's super fun they were able to squeeze in an engagement session just nineteen days before their big day! 

When Hurricane Irma took out a good chunk of Vilano Beach and the homes lining it's shores, we weren't sure we were going to be able to meet there for our session (or that they would be able to hold their wedding ceremony there) but Irma cut us some slack and left just enough of the beach around its famous rocks and we were able to have a beautiful session. 

I couldn't be more excited for you guys!! Congratulations again!

 

Vilano Beach Engagement Session
Vilano Beach Engagement Session
Vilano Beach Engagement Session
Vilano Beach Engagement Session
Vilano Beach Engagement Session
Vilano Beach Engagement Session
Vilano Beach Engagement Session
Vilano Beach Engagement Session
Vilano Beach Engagement Session

Joyner Park Cake Smash | Hazel Grace

Family PortraitsCynthia Viola2 Comments
Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime full of adventures
— Lewis Carroll
First birthday Cake Smash

As we were walking through Joyner Park we were astounded that it was somehow already September, I swear just a month ago little Hazel was gracing us with her presence at Rex, and not more than a week ago she was reading her favorite book at Pullen

Amber and Eric have been such incredible parents to this little heart in her first year, they love her independence and encourage it. They want her to have all the adventures and are excited to experience them with her. I'm so excited I get to watch her grow up with you guys! She's perfect! Happy Birthday little one!

First birthday Cake Smash
joyner park family portraits
First birthday Cake Smash
First birthday Cake Smash
First birthday Cake Smash
First birthday Cake Smash
First birthday Cake Smash
First birthday Cake Smash

Jordan's Bar Mitzvah at Traine

Bar/Bat MitzvahCynthia ViolaComment
The ship is safest in the port. But that’s not what ships were made for.
— Paulo Coelho
Raleigh Bar Mitzvah

More and more, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs are becoming my favorite events to shoot, and it's because of incredible young adults like Jordan. I met him a couple months ago when we began the planning stages of his big party and thought he was incredibly polite and had a sweet 12 year old excitement in him, (he's a huge baseball fan). Similarly when I met up with him a few weeks ago for his baseball portraits I thought he was adorable and super fun. 

The transformation that happens in the last few weeks of Bar and Bat Mitzvah training, however, never ceases to amaze me. The stress of memorizing so much Hebrew, the pressure to fully understand a passage of scripture and make it relatable to your family and peers and to actually stand up in front of them with confidence that all the hard work put in made a difference - it changes them. 

Raleigh Bar Mitzvah

They're only thirteen of course, so they still have a liveliness about them and ability to play and enjoy the world, but they're also somehow much wiser than they were at twelve. Listening to Jordan practice his Torah Portion during the rehearsal I almost choked up. He made it relevant to his love of baseball, and connected the dangers of favoritism in a simple school sport with the greater dangers facing world today in a growing racially divided world. His maturity both on and off stage this weekend was awesome. 

Additionally, you will not find a more awesome family. Their love for each other pours out in everything they do, Jeff and Jodi have set such an incredible example of what it means to love each other fiercely and make life an epic party. Their extended family attests to that as well, they poured in from all over the country to celebrate this weekend. And I've said it before but nothing makes me happier than a great sibling relationship; Rachel and Jordan are the very best of friends, they pick on each other relentlessly and always have time for a huge bear hug. Love them. 

I'm so glad I got to participate in your huge day Jordan! SO proud of you!

Raleigh Bar Mitzvah
Raleigh Bar Mitzvah
Raleigh Bar Mitzvah
Raleigh Bar Mitzvah
Raleigh Bar Mitzvah
Raleigh Bar Mitzvah

(The three of us *might* have agreed not to tell mom that he jumped off a train before entering the party lol. I mean, who am I to deny a teen two of my favorite things: risk and adventure) :)

Raleigh Bar Mitzvah
Raleigh Bar Mitzvah
Raleigh Bar Mitzvah
Raleigh Bar Mitzvah
Raleigh Bar Mitzvah

 

The Vendors who made the weekend possible:

Photographer: Cynthia Viola Photography

Synagogue: Beth Meyer

Rabbi: Eric Solomon

Tutor: Cathy Kaplan

Reception Venue: Traine

Flowers: Fallon's Flowers

Catering: Catering Works

DJ: Damien Maass

Photobooth: ZimZoom

 

Amy and Owen Engaged at NCMA

Engagement PortraitsCynthia Viola2 Comments
We loved with a love that was more than love
— Edgar Allan Poe
NC Museum of Art Engagement Session

Amy and Owen were a dream to work with. Not every couple is excited about the idea of making out in the bushes of a public park; it can take some time to get warmed up to the idea even if you are madly in love, but these two were naturals right away. They were so in sync, most of the time I felt like I was working with just one person. From their excellent verbal communication to body language and subtle looks, they knew just how to blend right into each other. 

The NC Art Museum was a perfect backdrop not just for it's beauty but for it's connection to their story. Long walks here in their early days was a seed for their love to grow and I love that they included it in their engagement session. 

NC Museum of Art Engagement Session
NC Museum of Art Engagement Session
NC Museum of Art Engagement Session
NC Museum of Art Engagement Session
NC Museum of Art Engagement Session
NC Museum of Art Engagement Session
NC Museum of Art Engagement Session

For their save the dates they used a selfie taken in front of the famous rings on the museum grounds; It was a special moment for them because it was the first time they declared their love for each other. They wanted to recreate the image on this session which I thought was super powerful, because an engagement is nothing if not a declaration to the world that you love this one the most. 

NC Museum of Art Engagement Session
NC Museum of Art Engagement Session
NC Museum of Art Engagement Session
NC Museum of Art Engagement Session
NC Museum of Art Engagement Session

Toward the end of the session we were quite literally chasing daylight. The Art Museum's grounds are quite large and walking from one area to the next can take a surprising amount of time. We kept having so much fun in one spot we'd forget we needed to move on in order to fit it all in! Oops! No worries though, these two were beautiful in front of every backdrop, and I cannot wait to explore Downtown Raleigh with them on the big day! 

NC Museum of Art Engagement Session

I had so much fun you guys!! Thank you for everything!

Arianna - Senior at Heritage High

Senior PortraitsCynthia Viola2 Comments
Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars and change the world
— Harriet Tubman
Heritage High Senior Portraits

Arianna is the type of person you like right away. She's easy going and friendly, she takes interest in your life and always has a smile on her face. (She also brought her three super sweet pups on the shoot, so you know she's awesome) :) She's had a lot of great memories over the past few years and is excited to make some new lasting one in this final senior year at Heritage High. She loves the idea of traveling and is looking forward to the possibility of Appalachian State in her future. We had a blast today!

What she didn't know what that her parents had me show up secretly to one of her lacrosse games (as disguised as I could be with purple hair and tattoo sleeves) to catch her in action. The cover was blown half way through the game when she recognized me (I shot her sister Haylee's wedding) BUT she still didn't know WHY I was there until today. So Arianna, I hope you enjoy a few of these favs from your portraits and your big game. You're so very talented, I know you're going to accomplish great things! 

Heritage High Senior Portraits
Heritage High Senior Portraits
Women's Lacrosse Heritage High
Heritage High Senior Portraits
Heritage High Senior Portraits
Heritage High Senior Portraits
Heritage High Senior Portraits

The Nardi Family at Moses Cone Park

Family PortraitsCynthia ViolaComment
Clouds come floating into life, not to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to the sunset sky
— Rabindranath Tagore
Family Portraits at Moses Cone

It has been quite a while since I've been able to spend time with these cuties, though not without effort. Every trip to Boone where I have a free slot we attempt to make a photo session work out and it seems every thing from schedules to the weather to sick kiddos has prevented it. This time, however, I had a last minute cancellation from another family and on a whim sent Lindsey a text to see if they could pull it off and it worked! 

My kind of people are the ones who tend to thrive on chaos like myself. Life just seems too boring when every detail is planned. As usual with kiddos, I let Bentley and Parker guide most of the session, leading us to the parts of the park they thought were the coolest while I found the best light in each spot. Lindsey and Brandon are, of course, always super laid back and we spent the time chasing the kiddos catching up on the past year. Gonna miss these guys in Florida, but can't wait to come back and visit! Love you guys!

Family Portraits at Moses Cone
Family Portraits at Moses Cone
Nursing mother at Moses Cone

Sometimes it's hard to make all the kiddos happy at the same time, I loved that Lindsey was able to take little Parker off for a few quiet moments to calm him while Brandon and Bentley played. Beautiful moments can be captured when you're focused on having a good time with your family rather than trying to get the perfect shot. 

Family Portraits at Moses Cone
Family Portraits at Moses Cone
Child playing at Moses Cone
Family Portraits at Moses Cone
Family Portraits at Moses Cone

Amber and Tony Trash the Dress at Vilano Beach, FL

Wedding PhotographyCynthia Viola2 Comments
You’ll learn, as you get older, that rules are made to be broken. Be bold enough to live life on your terms, and never, ever apologize for it.
— Mandy Hale
Trash the Dress Florida

Oh my goodness! I must say I was a *little* nervous about the move to Florida and what I presumed would be a ton of beach photography, but this first session was FAR from ordinary! St. Augustine is amazing!

When Amber said she wanted to do a Trash the Dress session I was, of course, ecstatic, it's always been one of my favorite sessions to offer. I figured we'd finish on Vilano Beach with the sunset, but I was curious what else St. Augustine had to offer. Amber decided to include the Fort and St. George Street and now I'm totally hooked. This place is a photographer's dream! I cannot wait to get more couples and families out here to play! 

Of course, I could not have asked the universe for a more perfect couple for the inaugural session, Tony and Amber have been dancing in front of my lens from the moment they got engaged. This 1.5 year anniversary session was perfectly suited to their fun-loving character and style. A Trash the Dress session tends to pull the adventure out of people and the sheer audacity of it makes you feel wild and free for a day. Capturing all that wild emotion and love of life is what makes this job a dream come true. Thank you Amber and Tony for trusting me on rocky cliffs and in a wildly high tide. Your carefree spirits are everything. Love you both! 

Trash the Dress Florida
Trash the Dress Florida
Trash the Dress Florida
Trash the Dress Florida
Trash the Dress Florida
Trash the Dress Florida
Groom Florida
Trash the Dress Florida
Trash the Dress Florida
Trash the Dress Florida
Trash the Dress Florida
Trash the Dress Florida
Trash the Dress Florida
Trash the Dress Florida

The Kovach Family at Pullen Park

Family Portraits, Maternity PortraitsCynthia ViolaComment
Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!’
— Hunter S. Thompson
Pullen Park Family Session

Leslie and Caleb are a couple I will forever adore. They have always known how to get the most out of life and find laughter in all the small things. I think my favorite thing about them though, is how they're teaching their girls to look at life the same way. To not fret the small stuff, to climb on things just to see if you can, to apologize when you screw up, and to dance your way down every street. Since they were one of our very first weddings I feel like we've grown up together a bit. Nearly ten years later they've got two gorgeous girls who are just as playful and adventurous as their parents and a little man on the way who's sure to be the same. 

Pullen Park was so gorgeous last night and these two beauties reminded me to let go. To run through the field with arms outstretched ready to catch any beautiful thing that falls into them...or myself if I hit the ground instead. ;) They are fearless like their parents and everything I hope to be when I grow up. I am SO glad we were able to squeeze in a session before we head to Florida tomorrow. I feel like I have new wind in my sails and am ready to tackle this next adventure head on. Love you guys!!

Pullen Park Family Session
Pullen Park Family Session
Pullen Park Family Session
Pullen Park Family Session
Pullen Park Family Session
Pullen Park Family Session

Luca's First Birthday!

Family PortraitsCynthia Viola2 Comments
Families are the compass that guide us. They are the inspiration to reach great heights, and our comfort when we occasionally falter
— Brad Henry
First Birthday Photo Shoot

I am pretty sure you've never met a more adorable and beautiful family than the Beldens. Not only are they gorgeous but they are such amazing assets in the community, loved by everyone they meet and doing everything they can to make a positive impact in our city. 

It's just an added bonus that Lyla and Luca are the most adorable Gerber models out there. I just died when they pulled Luca out of the car shirtless and barefooted and started putting on his suspenders! He has the very best personality already and just loves to explore all the things. 

Something that doesn't always come across in family portraits are the images in between the good ones. Poor Lyla was not excited about having her photo taken and decided to pout in the corner while we took photos of Luca...but then, she didn't want to be left out. She couldn't make up her mind between participating in what the family was doing (which she didn't want to do) and being alone. Such good life lessons. 

First Birthday Photo Shoot

Eventually we were able to promise her that if she'd participate, and be happy about it, I would come back to her house after to eat ice cream (for breakfast) and play with her favorite toys. Did I mention I have the best job on the planet? SUCH a great day! Thank you guys for allowing me to capture this special day! 

First Birthday Photo Shoot
First Birthday Photo Shoot

(this is a flash back from Lyla's one year session a couple years ago... notice any similarities) :) 

First Birthday Photo Shoot
First Birthday Photo Shoot
First Birthday Photo Shoot

Welcome to the World Baby JJ!

Family PortraitsCynthia ViolaComment
Sometimes the smallest things take up the most space in your heart
— Winnie the Pooh
Newborn Home Session

Oh my goodness, yesterday I got to meet the sweetest little babe!! Jacey Jo (JJ) graced us with her presence a little early to the delight of everyone around her! 

When one of her soon-to-be-favorite grandmas, Laura, greeted me at the door we couldn't help but talk about all incredible new lives introduced to the family in the last couple years, it's been so amazing to be a part of it all. 

There is always something so special about adding a new life to a family; everyone was in awe as they gazed at her, and there *might* have been a few happy tears as well. Deanna and Dalton were almost speechless. JJ is their first little one and they are just so excited. Dalton said he hopes JJ has her mother's sweetness and Deanna said she hopes she has Dalton's sense of humor. No matter what, she is sure to be covered in all the love she could ever hope for. 

I'm so happy for your guys! Thank for you letting me capture this sweet moment!

Nostalgia

Wedding PhotographyCynthia ViolaComment
We like to pretend it is hard to follow our heart’s dreams. The truth is, it is difficult to avoid walking through the many doors that will open.
— Julia Cameron
Blowing Rock Wedding

These gems are from one of our first weddings ever, nearly ten years & eight cameras ago. Jennifer and Jason. We were shooting with Canon Rebels and did so for our first 10 weddings. This was actually our ninth wedding and the first one I still have images for. (Hadn't quite nailed down my backup process yet) ;) I had taken one film photography class for fun with no intention of ever shooting anything "for real." It was honestly other people who kept telling me I should do this that kept pushing me forward.

Maybe the move to FL has me feeling all nostalgic since it'll be the second time we've physically moved the business and had to rebuild with new clients - but I am feeling so grateful for the people in my life who pushed me toward a dream when I wasn't sure it was my dream and definitely didn't think it was a possibility. 

The very first "real" photo shoot I ever did was a wedding. I mean go big or go home right? Literally up until the weekend of the wedding I'd been shooting film and bought the dslr the day before the wedding with every intention of figuring it out as I went. And that is exactly what I did. Shocked at the end of the day that the photos weren't terrible and amazed at how much fun I had, I still didn't intend to shoot another one ever... Until one of the bride's friends saw the photos and asked me to shoot her wedding. What?!? Really? 

Eseeola Wedding

This was our 20th wedding: Nicole and Derek. (A.J. joined me after that first wedding, because that sounded like more fun and it was!) We had also upgraded to a Canon 50D.

We were still shooting with the background in mind and didn't know a thing about light. What this meant was that sometimes we got lucky, (like when the clouds came out here), but our images were super inconsistent. We didn't know why some of them were awesome and some of them were not so awesome. 

Crestwood Wedding

Lisa and Matt were our 30th wedding and around where we learned a little more about posing. Though shots like this were still only lucky when we placed them in the correct light (as opposed to a great background), we just didn't know that yet. This was still a side hustle and only a sliver of a dream, we still assumed we'd be doing other things full time. 

Downtown Raleigh Wedding

Mugé and Farris were the 40th. We'd switched to Nikon at this point (d300s) for better glass and A.J. and I could read each other's minds at this point and know exactly when and where to be and how to patiently wait for the perfect moment (which is usually *just* after the prompt or "pose"). The realization that "golden light" is amazing hit us, but it would still be a long time before we would insist upon it...not wanting to step on toes or be complicated. What we didn't realize was we were actually doing our clients a disservice to have this knowledge and not explain to them how important it was. 

Aspen Wedding
Maroon Bells Wedding

Natalie and Tripp were our first realization that this could be a real thing. 50 weddings in and someone was willing to not only hire us, but pay for two plane tickets and lodging to Aspen for their destination wedding. We were amazed but also realizing that people just liked us. Our photography was fine, but others were way better (and still are). People just felt comfortable around us and wanted us to be a part of the family. This fact alone makes this a true dream come true. I adore people with my whole heart and just really want to make a positive impact. If I can make art while doing that then I'll never work another day in my life.

Apple barn wedding

60 weddings in we were really starting to feel like a part of the family with soooo many clients. Jamie here is Jennifer's younger sister, and being with their whole family again was like shooting my own sister's wedding. This keeps happening over and over, and then when you add puppies and kiddos to the mix, the realization that I'll be a part of all the happiest moments of their lives is so unbelievably humbling. 

Eseeola Wedding Ceremony

At 75 weddings Maggie and Richard overwhelmed us with the possibilities of an incredible venue and vendor team. (Even got to work alongside one of our first brides!) Since this was still somehow a side hustle and not a full time gig though, our turnover was still insane. In off season it would take about 10 weeks to deliver a wedding, 12-15 midseason. The fact that it's only 1-2 weeks now blows my mind. You know they say Rome wasn't built in a day. It's taken us 10 years to get where some photographers got in two, but you can't let a slow pace discourage you. As long as you're moving and not standing still, you'll see your dreams fulfilled eventually. 

Bridal session at Moses Cone

With over 100 weddings to date, we still have SOOO much to learn. Only since I went full time two years ago did we start dabbling with off camera flash (of which we still have a LOT to learn), an actual workflow, of course new camera upgrades (d750s), a reflector for portraits, Lightroom, Indesign and an interactive style of posing. I can only image what the new terrain of Florida beaches will teach us but I'm excited for something new and so so so incredibly grateful for everyone who made this dream a reality. Love you all. 

Raleigh Rose Garden Wedding

We're Moving to St. Augustine, FLORIDA!

PersonalCynthia Viola8 Comments
Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing
— Helen Keller
Cynthia and A.J. Viola

If you've been hanging around us recently or following our stories on Instagram or Facebook, you might have noticed we've been a little cryptic about some big adventures and life changes in the not-too-distant future. I'm not sure how exactly to say this, but, we're moving! To Florida! 

Woah. I know. So many questions.

Why Florida?

If you followed our family through the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, you know that he dealt a devastating blow to the family restaurant, Viola's Pasta and Seafood in St. Augustine. In the months that followed the whole family and surrounding community came together to get her back on her feet, but that plus the 20 years of general restauranting took it's toll on A.J.'s parents. The restaurant is their baby and they're not ready to give it up, but they need to take a step back, and A.J. volunteered to help them run Viola's to make sure the family business stays afloat and his parents can get the rest they deserve after years of building. 

What does that mean for BREW Coffee Bar?

You probably already know that A.J. co-owns BREW with Mike. They built it from scratch 3 years ago and have seen it become a thriving space in our community. A.J. will be leaving BREW, Mike and his wife Cindy will take it over entirely and they will run BREW with the help of its capable and awesome managers and employees. We're super sad to let it go, but don't see how A.J. can continue to run it while in Florida. It's been a grand adventure, but we both thrive in newness and change so we're glad to leave her in good hands and excited for the next new thing. 

We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.
— Joseph Campbell
NC Wedding Photography

What does this mean for Art and Photography?

Well, lots of things! Because my entire family is in North Carolina, I will be flying back to NC once every six weeks to visit.

It means the schedule will be a little crazy and I'll have to keep my clients informed anytime I plan to be here, but I thrive in chaos and honestly don't think it'll be that much different from how often I travel now. If you'd like to keep up with when I'll be in the area, you can follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook and turn on your notifications. 

If you'd like an email or text notification as well, let me know and I'll add you to a list. When I fly in, it will be to Charlotte and from there I will either drive to Raleigh, Boone or Lumberton as needed to visit and accept photo shoots. 

Just like it works now, if you're able to book me while I'm already here, there will be no travel fee. If you need me to travel on a specific date when I'm not already planning to be here, I'm more than willing, the travel will just now include a plane ticket (or two, if it's a wedding).

What about already booked portrait sessions and weddings?

I will honor every session already booked for the rest of the year by staying in Raleigh through December. There are just too many already on the schedule for it to make sense for me to move before then. A.J. will move at the end of July but he will fly back for the weddings he is already booked to shoot with me. We will both also fly back for the weddings we already have scheduled for 2018. 

What about your paintings?

I will be trying to sell all of my current paintings before I leave. They will be half price as I'd like to not have to transport them. If you're interested just let me know and you can come see what's available.  And as always you can get prints of any of the pieces and some photography at Society 6. 

How long will we be in Florida?

That is yet to be determined. Life is ever changing and we're willing to go where the winds blow us. It may be five or twenty, either way we'll keep you updated along the way.

I suppose this will begin the next chapter of the Book. Can't wait to see what the next page's story has to say! 

Cynthia and A.J. Viola
To dare - is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare - is to lose oneself
— Soren Kierkegaard

Pullen Park Engagement | Anna and Anthony

Engagement PortraitsCynthia Viola2 Comments
Once in awhile, right in the middle of an ordinary life, love gives us a fairy tale
— Anonymous
Engagement session Raleigh NC

You guys I am so in love with these two cuties! Oh my goodness. Anna and Anthony are two of the SWEETEST people you will ever meet! They met at NC State while studying accounting and are generally a little quiet I would say, but you get them talking about how much they love each other and their dreams for the future together - they light right up. Would you just look at these smiles! 

Engagement session Raleigh NC

Seriously though...

When you've found the one your heart loves it really doesn't matter what you do, so long as you're together. These two totally rocked their engagement session and I am ecstatic about their River Ridge wedding this October! We had to postpone a couple times due to rain but Pullen Park was just perfect this time, and we're hoping all that previous rain was to ensure it won't be raining in October ;)

Thank you Anna and Anthony! I had so much fun adventuring with you, totally worth the wait!! 

Rose Garden Wedding | Amy and Jay

Wedding PhotographyCynthia ViolaComment
When all the work is done, by the light of a setting sun;
We see what we’ve become — two of the lucky ones.
— The Droge & Summers Blend
Raleigh Little Theatre Rose Garden Wedding

When Amy and Jay told me their reception was going to be held at Big Boss Brewing company, I knew we were going to be a great fit. These two are so comfortable to be around and were easy going about all the details, they were a dream to work with. 

The Raleigh Little Theatre Rose Garden was, of course, a perfect backdrop for their ceremony and all day long, Amy and Jay's friends cheered them on and surrounded them with love. It is very clear that their love for the other people in their lives is deeply reciprocated by their friends.

Julie, their wedding coordinator, was so perfect for this group. She's super focused on details, which is vital, but more importantly, her genuine love of people and easy going nature meant no one felt rushed all day. 

Big Boss was amazing: laid back and well suited for any schnanigans  that would inevitably ensue with this fun bunch. In fact, a few minutes after we were safely tucked inside the reception the skies opened up and a torrential downpour started. It fell so hard and fast that Big Boss started flooding inside and AJ, Julie, Brendan and all the groomsmen promptly started pushing water off the dance floor before it got to our or the DJ's equipment. Before long bridesmaids and guests were dancing in the puddles and the party continued without missing a beat. Nothing was going to stop this crew from having a good time!  

Hope you enjoy a few of these favorites from the day!

Big Boss Brewing Wedding
Big Boss Brewing Wedding
Big Boss Brewing Wedding

 

The Vendors who made the day possible:

Photography: Cynthia & A.J. Viola

Coordinator: Julie Morrissey

Ceremony Venue: The Raleigh Little Theatre Rose Garden

Reception Venue: Big Boss Brewing Co.

Rehearsal Dinner Venue: Centro

Bride's Dress: Revelry

Hair Stylist: Annie at Mark Christopher Salon

Florist: Jeanette Flaherty

Officiant: Lance Olson

DJ: Save the Date Music: DJ Gino

Catering: Clyde Cooper's BBQ

Cake Baker: Marsha Townsend

Doughnuts: Krispy Kreme

Chairs: Dee Jay's Event Rentals

Party Bus: James Ray Transportation

The couple offered save rides through Lyft for all their guests. 

 

 

Hamptyn at The Lavender Garden

Family PortraitsCynthia ViolaComment
Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable
— Mary Oliver
Lavender Garden Photo Shoot

Oh my goodness you guys! I have been trying to book a session at the Lavender Garden for two years now but my schedule never seems to align with their super short one week window of bloom before the harvest, but guess what!?!? The stars aligned on my birthday week! So exciting! I feel like Ms. Rita and I became besties over the past two years every time I called to see if our schedules would align. She is sweet as pie and so welcoming into her beautiful field. 

Little Hamptyn is of course one of my most favorite models, she has the best smile and is SO sweet. I knew she'd be a perfect fit in this gorgeous field. (Her momma couldn't be more beautiful either!)

The reason the blooming week is so short for this particular Lavender Garden is because they harvest early, before they are fully bloomed, in order to extract the most oils from the flowers. Their products are focused on oils, sprays, lotions and candles rather than bouquets. 

Lavender has always been my favorite fragrance so I was in heaven as little Hamptyn danced around the garden. Grateful for today. Here are a few images!

Community Series - Samantha Gratton - Project Manager

Vendors, Wedding PhotographyCynthia ViolaComment
A goal without a plan is just a wish
— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Duke Gardens Wedding

Since I'm not an especially "planned" person (I'm an ENFP, not an ENFJ after all) I tend to attract the same type of couples when it comes to their wedding photography. Adventurous, laid back, go with the flow couples love the fact that I'm willing to travel anywhere and climb any tree to get the shot, not to mention being able to work with the scheduled being changed at the last second. 

That said, like me, many of my couples don't do well with making and sticking to plans. This is where it's super helpful to have a wedding coordinator like Monica at Nouveau Events here in Raleigh or Meris at The Whole Shebang in the mountains. 

Being organized isn't only important on your wedding day though. There are many job, home and event related things that could use a little extra management from someone who understands details well and can make connections quickly. 

Whether you hire a wedding planner or not, there are so many decisions and details that you'll have before your wedding. So, I asked my favorite project manager to share her tips and tricks to help new couples think through what is most important for planning their big day. 

Samantha Gratton Project Manager

Samantha Gratton is a great project manager and has worked with a number of small businesses, everyone from life coaches and public speakers to occasionally freelancers and tech companies. She helped me get my workflow together two years ago when I rebranded and went full-time. She was vital when it came to dealing with things like creating my list of tasks and researching and preparing everything I needed to make it happen. She helped keep it organized and kept my goals on schedule. I loved working with her then and highly recommend her now for other freelancers and small businesses. 

I asked her to write a guest blog post to new couples helping them think through what is most important for planning their big day. Here's what she had to say:

Project Management Tips for the Newly Engaged Couple

The wedding day is a BIG day. A ton of details and people and plans go into that big day, regardless of the size of your event. Pulling from my experience as a project manager, I wanted to share a few key tips for making your wedding day (and the planning process) a success.

Pick your priorities

There seems to be a moment of realization when a couple goes from dreaming of their ideal wedding to planning their actual wedding. Just like any project--time, money, and availability create some limitations for you.

Instead of stretching yourself and your budget thin, pick your favorites. Do you love music and want to have a live band? Are you a foodie with a particular palate for what is served for dinner? Do you have an eye for design and love the opportunity to throw yourself into the invitations or decor? Have you always dreamed of the dress and this to be a high fashion event? You’ll probably have elements of each of these categories but figuring out where you want to go big and where you can save some time and money helps a lot.

Tip: You’ll want the photographer (hello, Cynthia!) to be one of the main priorities when wedding planning. They are with you all day long and interacting with your bridal party and all of the other vendors making a big impact on the day. Plus, the photos are one of the few things you keep after the wedding is over.

Aspen Wedding

DIY: Delegate It Y’all

Let’s change the name of the game when it comes to DIY. Instead of “do-it-yourself” for your wedding day, think: “Delegate It, Y’all!”  

Sure, you can make all of your centerpieces or have a Pinterest-perfect day, but as crafty as you may be, you can’t actually do it all yourself, especially on the wedding day itself. Release yourself from that burden because people often would love to help!  

Make a list of all of the things you have to do, everything from the list of decisions to the list of the details. Not only will you feel better knowing it isn’t all just floating up there in your head anymore, but you can look at it a bit more objectively.

What are you looking forward to doing on that list? What can easily go to someone else? And what items are you willing to let go of control a bit and trust someone else with?  

Think through all of the categories this could apply to: hair/makeup, decorations, music, photography, organization, wedding planning, floral arrangements, invitations--you name it and there’s probably someone who can help you out with it. In some cases, it means hiring a professional and in other cases it’s asking a friend or relative for help.

High Grove Estate Wedding

Know the goal

In the midst of wedding planning it’s easy to get caught up the in details. It’s always important to step back and look at the big picture. Throughout the process, remind yourself what you’re really working towards.

At the end of the day, you’re marrying your best friend. Then, you’re throwing a party to celebrate alongside friends and family.

That’s it really. So before you get too overwhelmed or stressed out when something doesn’t go quite right or someone else is upset, remind yourself of the primary goal. Keeping focused on the big picture instead of being too bogged down by the little things will make the entire process go so much more smoothly.

Grandfather Mountain Bridal Session

Samantha Gratton is a writer and project manager in Raleigh, NC. She loves hearing life stories and helping people achieve their goals. Lover of lists, Samantha has been known to make multiple spreadsheets just for vacation plans! She knows not everyone works that way, so her goal is to meet people where they're at and find the system and process that fits best for them. If you ever need help getting your workflow organized or a kickstart to your next project, find her at samanthagratton.com 

Raleigh Rose Garden | Elin Turns One!

Family PortraitsCynthia ViolaComment
Remember you’re the one who can fill the world with sunshine
— Snow White
First Birthday Cake Smash

I remember meeting these cuties when Sweet Elin was still in her mommy's tummy. They were so excited to welcome her into the world and she has made quite an impact already! She is full of smiles and loves music and birthday cake! (so does big brother Everett) ;)

The Rose Garden was absolutely perfect last night for Elin's birthday cake debut and she did not disappoint! Her favorite part might have been knocking it over, but had a blast and gave us lots of great smiles as she bathed in icing. Hope you enjoy a few of these favorites from the night!

Vendor Series - The Whole Shebang Events

Vendors, Wedding PhotographyCynthia ViolaComment
Eseeola Lodge Wedding

Meris and I have quite a long history. She and Paul were the third wedding AJ and I ever shot in our first year - a decade ago. Both so young at the time we had no idea what the wedding world had in store for us. She has since become an incredible wedding coordinator with an excellent team and I adore working with her! 

All of the vendors I've highlighted in this series so far have been in the Raleigh area, but since I shoot so many weddings in the High Country as well, I thought it'd be fun to highlight a few favorites up there as well. 

I asked Meris to talk about a few of the pitfalls new couples come across as they are planning for their big day and how she can help:

Why is it important for a couple to work with a planner for their wedding?

First and foremost, a wedding planner can introduce you to the right team of vendors for the your style, personality and budget and tell you the ones to steer clear of. 

Second, if it's in the budget to have more than just a "month of" coordinator, the planner will shoulder some stress during the planning process and help keep the team on the same page, minimizing the constant back and fourth... which can be exhausting.

As far as the wedding day itself goes, even if your wedding day is planned to perfection, there are still 100 different things that you never thought of that will happen on the wedding day. It's important to have someone that knows you well enough to be the point person for all of those situations that come up so that you can breathe easy knowing that everything is being handled according to your wishes.

The Whole Shebang Events

What are some of the biggest hurdles couples come across when planning their big day?

Balancing the guest list can be a really emotional thing for everyone involved. I think also just managing the general stress the month of the wedding is a lot. It's impossible to not feel pulled in a million directions and overwhelmed even if you have a perfect team of vendors and a Full Service planner.

How do you manage to keep up with so many unique details at a wedding? Especially when you have multiple events in the same month? 

I could geek out on this subject forever but basically we have systems in place that I've put together over the years from how we organize emails and online folders t spreadsheets and forms that we've built. I'd say it's pretty bulletproof at this point through constant trial and error. I've tried different wedding software but none of it seems to fit exactly how I want things laid out. 

How do you work with bad weather?

Weather is a biggie and it's unavoidable. There's just so many big "game day decisions" to be made any time you have to enact a plan B or plan C. It can be really stressful for the couple to make the decision by themselves. Weather can also bring up thousands of dollars in unexpected expenses whether you're having to rent extra indoor space or tent sidewalls and gutters, heaters and flooring. It can also be hard to know when to pull the trigger on these decisions. We do the best we can to go with the couple's wishes while still maintaining a realistic plan regarding all the moving parts. 

What parts of the planning and/or day of to-dos do you do yourself and what do you delegate to your team?

The main thing is making sure that I bring along enough staff so that I can stay focused on the big picture. Typically there are 3 or 4 of us working on a wedding day. I really don't have hard fast rules for what I do vs what my staff does. Some days I'm setting up chairs and covering tables along with everyone else but I do tend to spend more time with the wedding party and leave a lot of the "set up" to everyone else so that I can make sure that things are flowing well.

What is the difference between a day of coordinator and a full-service wedding planner? 

We hear this question quite a bit. We offer Month of, Partial and Full Service packages. The Month of is exactly like the Partial, you just have access to us from the time you book up until the wedding where as with the Month of we step in at 30 days out and pull everything together.

The difference between the Full Service and these two is that the responsibility is on u to make sure everything is done start to finish where with the other two packages, you're driving the car and we're the navigator. The Full Service Package also looks different for different couples. We do our best to work within the expectations of each different client. Some of our Full Service couples want to be involved in all steps of the process and just want us to be there too. Other couples let us know their overall preferences and then give us free reign to choose the vendors and details that we think are best for them. Things that are helpful to some people aren't always helpful to others so it's important to really get to know your clients in the beginning and figure out how to best serve them. 

What is your favorite part of planning a wedding for a couple?

I love love love the early stages of the planning process. Getting to know the couple and their families and then matching them up with the perfect team of vendors is one of my very favorite things. I enjoy joining together all of the intricate details into one seamless event.

Of course there are favorite moments on the wedding day as well. One of my favorites the sweet moment that the bride and her father share right before they walk down the aisle. I tear up every time! I also can't get enough of the stories that the family and friends tell you about loved ones past and present. 

It's an honor just to be a part of the biggest day of someone's life. Other than that, I really just love people and people working together towards a common goal and seeing something beautiful come to life from start to finish. Having a job where the end result of every work day is a lifelong memory is pretty great.

 

Maggie and Richard's wedding is one of mine and A.J.'s favorites to date. It was very large and full of incredible details as well different buildings across Eseeola's huge grounds. It could NOT have been accomplished without Meris' incredible team at The Whole Shebang. So grateful for any chance I get to work with them. If you don't have a coordinator yet, you must give her a call!

Team Josie

Family PortraitsCynthia ViolaComment
Some women are lost in the fire, some women are built from it
— K. Michelle

I'm not sure how to find the words to express what needs to be said to best portray this story. 

I met the Leatherman family while still baking at BREW and Matt and I became fast friends. It was a no brainer when he asked me to shoot a few family portraits for them and their extended families. 

I fell in love with them, however, when they took me to their grandparent's farm that had to be sold for new development in the area. They all spoke so highly of growing up there and the rich history within the walls and out in the pastures. (It reminded me of where I grew up in the mountains).

Several photo shoots later I found out their beloved grandfather had passed and they wanted to use the images for the memorial service; I was grateful then for the chance to have met him once and to see the incredible legacy he had left. I maintain to this day they are the most adorable grandparents I've ever had the pleasure of shooting. 

What we couldn't have anticipated at that same time was Matt and Keisha's second daughter, Josie, to be born pre-maturely placing her on constant watch in the hospital for the past five months. She has been through some seriously life threatening traumas as well as broken bones. To watch helplessly the agony Matt and Keisha had to experience during this time was extremely hard, and I can only imagine one hundred fold for their tight-knit family. 

They asked me to paint one of my dancers for her while she was in the middle of the battle and the process nearly wrecked me. She has inspired so many with her strength, and Matt and Keisha have with their endurance and determination to see her through. They are the strongest family I've ever known. 

When Matt texted me this morning to say she was coming home, I was so overjoyed for them! It's going to be a long year filled with doctor visits, but I know they will persevere. I am so honored to have had the opportunity to capture these first few moments at home. They wanted to surprise little Maya, and they couldn't have asked for a better reaction. She just said over and over, "my sister is at my house!" 

Little Josie you are more loved than you could ever possibly comprehend. The team that surrounds you will see you through anything that lies ahead and I know you will inspire us all along the way. Grateful to be a small part of your big life.