Cynthia Viola Photography

North Carolina

Love for my LGBTQ Friends

Portraits, Wedding PhotographyCynthia ViolaComment
Creativity is born of risk and refined from failure... This is the courage of the artisan - to know ourselves and be true to that knowledge. The artisan rejects all that makes us false and takes the huge risk of being true... There is no riskier way of life than the artisan way. Anything less is just existing
— Erwin McManus
Lesbian Wedding with flower girl

At the beginning of the year, as I was moving to Florida, I posted a blog about things I'd learned living in North Carolina. One of those things was the beauty of the LGBTQ community.

They'd taught me so much through the years and I'd wanted to give back. I vowed to give away a portrait session, or $500 off a booked wedding to one couple every month in 2018. I've posted several of them here already and some I'm sorry to say I was unable to post due to job constraints and some still having to live in fear of persecution. That said, I thought it would be fun to recap as best I could in a final post, to show the love that flows through us all equally. I'm so incredibly grateful for so many new friends. 

And yes I realize there are more than 12 couples here, so sue me ;)

In January, I met up with Joshua and Daniel on a trip back to NC, they met me downtown in the brightest colors I've ever seen and we had an absolute blast. 

Gay Couple Shoot in Downtown Raleigh

In February I attended a Rainbow Wedding Expo in St. Augustine where I was able to meet several new couples, fueling the following months, but I headed back to NC again in the cold and rain to capture Becca and Katie at their home with little Vivi. They made me breakfast and we talked for hours. I adore them. 

Photo shoot with Lesbian couple and daughter

As a bonus, I got to spend some time with them again in the fall after they moved to their new home in Charlotte!

LGBTQ Family of 3

Two different March couples fell through multiple times, so I planned to catch back up with them later in the year. April involved a couple I love and have known for years, we'll call them Steve and Dave; they came to St. Augustine to visit and stayed with us for a night, taking us to dinner and everything, it was so great to catch up. Unfortunately, Steve's job is yet unaware of his orientation and he would likely be let go. Ergo I won't be posting them here. Suffice it to say, that they are both incredible human beings who have done immense good in the world. 

May's shoot actually fell through as well, as Florida went through several torrential downpours, one actually resulting in massive hail damage and a neighbor's house catching fire from a lightening strike! So the May one will show up shortly as well. May did consist of Tiffany and Carlie's 5 year anniversary, that was not actually a part of the giveaway, but you should definitely go see all their cuteness anyway.  

June introduced me to Sam and Jess, who met up with me at the St. Augustine Pier, then afterwards took me to breakfast where we discussed relationships and faith and change. It was beautiful. 

LGBTQ Engagement Session

In June I was also able to make up for one of the earlier reschedules in one of the most fun photo shoots of my life. I had shot Anse and Allie's proposal, engagement and wedding last year and for their anniversary they thought it would be fun to go camping and capture all the fun in that setting. I was SO excited! We met up at a Roan Mountain State Park campsite, and I just captured everything from building the fire to roasting s'mores to snuggling in a hammock. It was glorious. 

Camping photo shoot

In July I drove up to Myrtle Beach, SC to capture the birthday party of an old friend and while there had the pleasure of capturing Sherry and Becky again! I'd shot their courthouse wedding three years ago and it was just a couple weeks shy of their anniversary! 

As and added bonus at the birthday weekend, I got to meet so many new friends and capture their beautiful relationships as well. :) This is Lisa and Jeannie, Tomi and Angie, who were all about adventuring with me on the beach for some portraits.

In August, while I was in Asheville to race the Spartan Super, I met up with Cindy and Marianne, who run the Rainbow Wedding Expo. We were able to get some fun anniversary and family photos in the Botanical Gardens. 

Asheville Botanical Gardens LGBTQ photo shoot

Fun fact: they both planned a secret proposal to each other years earlier on the same day! They knew it was meant to be when they both showed up with a ring! They were on a bridge together and wanted to recreate the moment at the shoot. So fun!

 In September I was busy moving back to NC and Hiking the Appalachian Trail, but I more than made up for it in the fall.

October is wedding month and as such, I was able to shoot Christy and Tina's big day as well as Jeff and Jeff’s. They had a fun-filled days surrounded by so many of their beautiful friends (who I’ve also included, because I can) ;)

LGBTQ farm wedding
LGBTQ wedding
LGBTQ couples

Additionally, while shooting Jessica and Jeff’s wedding this summer, I met and fell in love with the adorable relationship between Ryan and Henry. I loved they way they danced and generally interacted with each other and everyone around them. We caught up on Facebook afterward and I asked if they’d be interested in a shoot. Their 5 year anniversary was coming up so they were all for it. They even took me out for tacos and tequila after! So much fun!

LGBTQ couple downtown raleigh

In November Sandra and Caitlin married in Saint Augustine and I was able to capture them afterwards at Washington Oaks Garden with their little Mari who stole my heart instantly. She loved them both so much and loved helping me find the best spots to pose them.

LGBTQ wedding at washington oaks garden

When April, one of my former students contacted me to say she was interested in a shoot, I was of course, all about it, but when she said she needed to clarify and make sure it was ok that it was an engagement shoot…with another woman, I was simply heartbroken. That she had to clarify with me tells me I have a lot of work to do still, and that she had to clarify at all means we all have a lot of work to do. If people are not free to be themselves 100% of the time the rest of us suffer because of it. The world needs people who think outside the box as well as those comfortable inside it. We need every race, every gender, every background, every experience, every story.

April and Reese were supposed to meet up with me in Asheville this weekend but it didn’t work out, so I’ll have to share their story next year, in the meantime, here’s a few other couples along the way at family gatherings and paid shoots and weddings who I can’t help but thrown into the mix, if for no other reason than to show just how many unique and beautiful people there are in the world and that love knows no bounds.

LGBTQ couple portraits

I received a bit of push back from my own family and former clients who did not approve of this endeavor in the beginning. I lost a few relationships, and a few clients but what I've gained is immeasurable love and acceptance from a community I adore with my whole heart. I wouldn't change the decision for anything in the world. I hope that this small offering can help others take off blinders and see only love.

I am grateful to everyone who has been patient with my own journey through the years and who has helped formed my current world view. May we all continue to grow in love and welcome people different from ourselves into our lives. Allowing our hearts to love bigger, deeper, stronger and wider will never shrink who we are or pull us into darkness. It will serve instead to propel us forward into the light where we all see our mutual flaws and idiosyncrasies and stand united on common ground.

To dare - is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare - is to lose oneself
— Soren Kierkegaard

Seed Mill Barn Wedding | Christy and Tina

Wedding PhotographyCynthia ViolaComment
Love her but leave her wild.
— Atticus
LGBTQ Wedding in North Carolina

I met these two lovelies when I captured Anse and Allie's wedding last year. Christy was in the wedding party and we became instant friends, she was just so helpful with every aspect of their day. Then we relived it all over again as Allie and Anse and dozens of their other friends jumped in to provide support both in the form of laugher and hugs as well as manual labor and borrowed details. From private conversations with the wedding party in the bridal suites to the grand toasts during the reception, their friends and family showered them with praises for their kindness and and adoration for their love.

Christy and Tina said they ran in the same circles for a couple of years before they started dating, they got along great especially since both have more than one motorcycle each. For our pre-meet we met in a biker bar in Charlotte, which was so fun to see that side of their personality shine. They both have played many sports together like kickball and dodgeball and Christy has done a Spartan Race before, so of course we were practically besties by the end of our conversation. We all realized right off the bat also that none of us are fond of the most traditional aspects of weddings and I couldn't wait to see how they would make this day their own. 

LGBTQ Wedding in North Carolina

They chose to do a first look, but wanted to make sure they didn’t see each other before that moment. This presented a slight challenge as their suites were right next door to each other, but everyone chipped in to watch out for them and I thought it was adorable that even though they couldn’t see each other, they simply spoke loudly through the doors so that they could still talk with each other, excitement growing with each passing conversation.

LGBTQ Wedding in North Carolina

When Christy couldn’t find the exact jewelry she was looking for, her friend Brandis made it for her. (In addition to the box that held it all) They have so many different talented friends, it was awesome seeing it all come together.

LGBTQ Wedding in North Carolina
LGBTQ wedding in North Carolina
LGBTQ wedding in North Carolina
LGBTQ wedding in North Carolina
LGBTQ wedding in North Carolina
LGBTQ wedding in North Carolina
LGBTQ wedding in North Carolina
LGBTQ wedding in North Carolina
LGBTQ wedding in North Carolina
LGBTQ wedding in North Carolina
LGBTQ wedding in North Carolina

Tina proposed inside a castle in Ireland while they were on a vacation and they will be going to Hawaii for the honeymoon; a lifetime of adventures has already begun. I’m so excited for you both!

 

The vendors who made the day possible:

Photography: Cynthia Viola with Brittany Sloan

Venue: Seed Mill Barn

Wedding Party Attire: The Tuxedo Shoppe

 Hair Stylist: Kate Duffy

Florist: Flower Diva 

Officiant: Darrell Materi

DJ: Brian Smith

Catering: City BBQ

If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy this 5 year Anniversary or this Barn of Chapel Hill Wedding

 

The Oaks at Salem Wedding | Ann and Stephen

Wedding PhotographyCynthia ViolaComment
When you’re a kid, you assume your parents are soulmates. My kids are gonna be right about that.
— Pam - The Office
Oaks at Salem Fall Wedding

When I met Ann and Stephen I knew I’d found a couple that was meant to be together. Just the way they glance at each other and laugh at each other jokes and flirt is truly endearing. Then I really got to see their love shine as we explored the UNC campus for their Engagement session in February.

You know you’re loved when people will come from all over the country to celebrate with you. Almost everyone there, including the bride and groom were from somewhere else: DC, New York, Michigan, Denver, Seattle, and it’s easy to see why, these two are very lovable from the moment you meet them, both individually and as a couple. Everyone just wants to see them succeed and I loved being a part of it.

So lovable in fact, they rival Jim and Pam from “The Office.” You see, just before Ann put her dress on she noticed a tear in the fabric right on the very front of the dress, it wasn’t super noticeable, but still pretty devastating. She immediately sent Stephen a message telling him the news and, sensing how upset she was, said, “It’s just like Pam, you want me to cut my tie like Jim?” Cue ALLLLLL the tears from all of us! Oh my goodness he could not have said a more perfect thing. In their vows later she mentioned how he always knew how to say exactly the right thing at the right time to make her laugh. They are truly perfect for each other.

Oaks at Salem Fall Wedding
Oaks at Salem Fall Wedding
Oaks at Salem Fall Wedding
Oaks at Salem Fall Wedding Ceremony
Oaks at Salem Fall Wedding
Oaks at Salem navy and burgandy Wedding
Oaks at Salem navy and burgandy Wedding
Oaks at Salem Fall Wedding
Oaks at Salem Fall Wedding
Oaks at Salem Fall Wedding
Oaks at Salem Fall Wedding Reception
Oaks at Salem Fall Wedding Reception
Oaks at Salem Fall Wedding Reception
Oaks at Salem Fall Wedding Reception

Thank you so much for letting us participate in your most perfect day you guys!!

The Vendors who Made the Day Possible:

Photographers: Cynthia Viola with Brittany Sloan

Venue: The Oaks at Salem

Coordinator: Becky Chapman with Lily Rose Events

Bride's Dress: Global Bridal Gallery

Bridesmaids' Dresses: The Dessy Group

Groom and Groomsmens' Attire: Men's Warehouse

The Rings: Custom designed with family heirlooms at Ascot Diamonds

Hair and Make Up: Tiffany Mentrak

Florist: Petals on the Go

Officiant: Libby Mayock

DJ: Damien Maass

Caterer: Rocky Top Catering

Cake Baker: Cinda's Creative Cakes

Linen Services: CE Rental

Shuttle Bus: Ecostyle

Invitations: Minted

Rehearsal Dinner: Lake Johnson Waterfront Center


If you liked these, you might also like this Oaks at Salem Wedding, or this one.

Banner Elk, North Carolina Wedding | Becca and Clay

Wedding PhotographyCynthia ViolaComment
Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses
— Ann Landers
Mountain Wedding

Wow, I have so many things to say. I feel like I helped raise Becca (and her sister Hannah) in a way. Really, we grew up together. I spent a few hours every week with them at their home discussing life, faith, movies and future dreams. Their incredible mother Robin made a huge dinner every time, entirely from scratch and almost entirely from their massive garden. Little did she know that she inspired the gardener in me; when I moved to Raleigh it was because of her I started my own little back porch box garden and now have quite a collection of vegetables in our back yard now. They lived the type of life that stops to have a good conversation and works long hard hours because that's what makes you feel good at the end of the day. 

The girls expanded my appreciation for literature and classic movies and challenged my beliefs every time we met. I felt truly like a sister, and a part of the family. Now seeing Becca married this weekend brought me back to those wonderful, slower days and made me grateful for the journey of life and all the different places it can take you.

Clay came into Becca's life about 10 years ago and I remember him being a part of our conversations off and on and now here they are, a decade of friendship behind them and a lifetime of love and laughter in front of them. They were truly meant to be.

The entire county was flooded with torrential downpours the week leading up to the wedding; several landslides made the roads questionable and all our nerves were on a rollercoaster ride as we watched the radar. It held off just long enough to capture every single pre-ceremony portrait they wanted, however, poured during the ceremony again, and lifted one last time after the ceremony to allow for family portraits outdoors. The bright greens that came after the storm only made the photos that much more beautiful. Quite the silver lining. Always grateful for unexpected beauty .

Banner Elk Christian Fellowship Wedding
Banner Elk Christian Fellowship Wedding

Becca decided to wear her mother's incredibly gorgeous veil and I was super excited about it. There's just something so classic about a long veil, and it adds so many more portrait options. 

Bridal Portraits
Banner Elk Christian Fellowship Wedding
Banner Elk Christian Fellowship Wedding
Banner Elk Christian Fellowship Wedding
Banner Elk Christian Fellowship Wedding

Becca and her girls got together the night before and created all their bouquets as well as the ceremony and reception arrangements. DIY bouquets have never looked more beautiful. 

Banner Elk Christian Fellowship Wedding
Banner Elk Christian Fellowship Wedding
Banner Elk Christian Fellowship Wedding
Banner Elk Christian Fellowship Wedding
Banner Elk Christian Fellowship Wedding
Banner Elk Christian Fellowship Wedding
Banner Elk Christian Fellowship Wedding
Banner Elk Christian Fellowship Wedding

Clay knew the right things to say every single time to make his bride light up with smiles and laughter. I absolutely love it when couples know how to tease each other well and have a good time. 

Mountain Wedding
Mountain Wedding

You guys I couldn't be happier for you! Thank you for including me in your big day, I wish you all the happiness in the world!

 

 

The vendors who made the day possible:

Photography: Cynthia Viola

Venue: Banner Elk Christian Fellowship

Bride's Gown: David's Bridal

Groom's Attire: Men's Warehouse

Perfume: Clinique Happy Heart

Bride's Rings: Skattles Jewelers & Zales

Groom's Ring: Stonebrook Jewelers

Hair Stylist: Hannah McCormick

Officiant: Carl Clawson

Cake Baker: Stick Boy Bread Co.

Invitations: Jaime Johnson Photography

 

 

 

Ocean Isle Beach Wedding | Alexa and Landon

Wedding PhotographyCynthia Viola6 Comments
Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
— Howard Thurman
Trash the Dress photography

These two have been on quite the adventure from the moment they met. With a love of traveling and jobs that encourage it, they have lived and traveled all across the country and beyond. When they told me the wedding was going to be on Cinco de Mayo, I knew an epic party was about to happen. 

They rented a house in Ocean Isle and invited their closest family and friends to stay the weekend, celebrate life, love and new adventures. We've never had so much fun! From the second we arrived on Thursday we threw our stuff in our rooms and made our way to the beach to share stories and take in the moment. Everyone adores Landon and Alexa so much it was effortless to come together to celebrate them. 

OIB wedding photography
OIB wedding photography
Beach wedding details
Beach wedding details
Beach wedding details
OIB wedding photography
father daughter first look
beach groom details

While they were getting ready they couldn't resist telling everyone how excited they were and as everything built toward the first look they were practically dancing with anticipation. You'd never know there were hundreds of people on the beach watching them, they only had eyes for each other. 

pier first look
pier first look
pier first look
pier first look
pier first look

Have you ever seen a more joyful bride?!? You just can't resist loving Alexa from the very first moment you meet her and Landon is, of course full of his own charms. 

pier first look

All Alexa wanted for her ceremony was to be surrounded by as much color as possible. Their guests did not disappoint. 

beach wedding ceremony
beach wedding ceremony
beach wedding

If you've followed me for any length of time, you know Trash the Dress sessions are my favorite... I usually tend to shoot them on anniversaries or some time down the road from the wedding day, but Alexa had another dress ready to go for the reception and couldn't wait to jump in the ocean! A true mermaid.

beach trash the dress
beach wedding reception food truck
beach wedding reception
beach wedding reception
beach wedding cake cutting
beach wedding reception
beach wedding reception
beach trash the dress
beach trash the dress

You guys I could not be happier for you! I loved every single minute of this weekend and cannot wait to come visit in Cali soon!! Love you!!

 

The Vendors who made the Day Possible:

Photographer: Cynthia Viola

Videographer: Jerry Moore Luminous Event Films

Venue: Southern Comfort

Bridal Gown: Maggie Sottero from Dar Lynns Bridal

Groom's Attire: Men's Warehouse

Bride's Ring: Simon G Engagement

Perfume: Lancome la Vie est Belle

Cologne: Gucci Guilty

Hair Stylist: Brandi from Coral Tree Salon

Make Up Artist: Sabrina from Coral Tree Salon

Florist: Dave Bryant Designer

Officiant: Terrence Richards

Catering: Catch the Food Truck and Art Catering

Cake Baker: Cakes by the Sea

Linen/Chair/Tent Services: Art Catering

Light and Sound- Michael Pirozzolo Event Excellence

 

If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy Jenelle and Billy's Trash the Dress Session or Heather and Kyle's Beach Engagement

Mooresville, North Carolina Wedding | Susan and Ron

Wedding PhotographyCynthia Viola1 Comment
Because of your smile, you make life more beautiful.
— Thich Nhat Hanh
Lake Norman Wedding

When you get to watch a relationship bloom from the very first date until they say, "I Do," it gives you a whole new appreciation for love. Through the life transitions, disagreements, home repairs and wedding planning Susie and Ron have only grown more and more in love. I feel like we just did their engagement session yesterday and here we are a house brimming to the top with friends and family and every one of us ready to celebrate. 

I adore meeting and spending time with all the extended family members of my couples, but these guys hold and extra special place in my heart. My brothers, of course, at the center, but also half-step brothers, adopted cousins and feisty grandmas, neighbors who've become friends and the very best celebration anyone could ask for. Guests traveled from all over the country to celebrate with Susie and Ron (and of course for Betsy's 95th birthday). 

Everyone had so many wonderful things to say about them both, as they are one of the most welcoming, gracious hosts you could ask for. I heard story after story of how individually and as a couple they've been there to support their loved ones; they take care of so many people and live life to the fullest every day. It has been such an honor and a blessing to become a small part of this huge and incredible group of people. 

Lake Norman Wedding
Lake Norman Wedding
Lake Norman Wedding
Lake Norman Wedding
Lake Norman Wedding
Lake Norman Wedding
Lake Norman Wedding
Lake Norman Wedding
Lake Norman Wedding

I asked Susie what Ron has to do to make up if he makes her mad, "He just has to make me laugh," she said. (and he promptly whispered something to her causing a huge belly laugh) ;) Susie loves to laugh and no one is better at it than Ron. 

Lake Norman Wedding
Lake Norman Wedding
Lake Norman Wedding
Lake Norman Wedding
Lake Norman Wedding
Lake Norman Wedding
Lake Norman Wedding
Lake Norman Wedding
And all along I believed I would find you
Time has brought your heart to me
I have loved you for a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more
— Christina Perri
Lake Norman Wedding
Lake Norman Wedding
Lake Norman Wedding

I love all of you SO MUCH! Thank you for an incredible weekend, an incredible life. 

 

 

The Vendors who made this day Possible:

Photography: Cynthia Viola

Venue and Catering: Hilton Gardens Inn, Mooresville

Bridal Gown: David's Bridal

Groomsmen Attire: JC Penny

Rings: Brownlee Jewelers

Hair Stylist: Leanna VanWasssenhove

Florist: Lowe's Foods

Officiant: Gino Cassano

Cake: CynTucci's Bakery

DJ: Roland Tate

Dance Floor: Jump Start Events

Invitations: Ann's Bridal

 

If you enjoyed these photos, you might also enjoy this Mooresville Family session or this

Rose Garden Wedding.

 

Becca, Katie and Vivi | Wilkesboro Family Photography

Family PortraitsCynthia ViolaComment
Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.
— Lao Tzu
one year old with two mommies

You have never met a more amazing couple until you've met Becca and Katie; from the moment we met I knew we would be fast friends. They invited me over to their home in Wilkesboro, NC for our photo session and before we started, insisted that we share breakfast together first. How sweet is that!?! They made sure I was completely comfortable and we shared stories like old friends all morning while we watched the dogs run around and Vivi explore the dining room. 

There home is set deep in the woods in the mountains and reminded me of my home growing up. The roads were great for exploring and Vivi loved finding new rocks to taste ;) We had so much fun letting her guide the way and decide what we would do next, she loves to laugh and that put a smile on all our faces. I hope you guys love these images from the morning!

one year old with two mommies
one year old with two mommies
one year old with two mommies
one year old with two mommies
one year old with two mommies

Five Lessons from North Carolina

PersonalCynthia Viola8 Comments
Nobody who ever accomplished anything big or new or worth raising a celebratory fist in the air did it from their comfort zone. They risked ridicule and failure and sometimes even death.
— Jen Sincero
Blue Ridge Mountains

Wow. It would seem that today is my last official day in this great state. It has been quite the journey. Raised in Boone, College in Banner Elk, and the past 10 years living and learning in Raleigh with a great deal of impressionable time spent in Charlotte. 

Childhood planted in me deep roots of loving people well and working hard while my time in Raleigh and Charlotte made me more knowledgeable, aware, free and untamable. I'm grateful for the powerhouse women, men and transgendered folks who have helped form my perception of the world, and grateful for the series of mistakes, triumphs, blunders and outright failures that shaped my grit, persistence and courage. 

1: In the words of the Genie from Aladdin, "Just beeeee yourself"

I would have to say my greatest life lesson in these 33 years has been first: to be myself and NEVER apologize for being such. We are all unique individuals who often start off with big dreams and huge hearts ready to take on the world and give everything we are to her. Though, somehow it's easy to lose track of that in the busyness and people-pleasing and we can lose our way. I lost and found myself multiple times over the years between college, marriage, art, forgiveness and discovering my other family as an adult. I'm sure I will continue to do so in the years to come as A.J. and I  learn to love our new St. Augustine home and family. 

Learning to fully embrace my inner ENFP and all of the beauty and complications that come with it has made a huge difference.  Apparently freedom is the most important thing in the world to me. I don’t like being confined by stereotypes or holidays or gender roles or even one job. I usually rail against anything I am "supposed to" or "expected to" do, but when you know who you are, then you know who you don't have to be. 

An ENFP is: the body of a woman, soul of a child, mind of the free and heart of the wild
— Ashley Lemaine

2: Kindness wins every time

To this day I still get notes and comments from people that I knew only once or for a season in high school who say that my kindness helped them through a tough time. In most cases I don't even remember what they're talking about. This has to come from my father. Always a servant, never asking for anything, always going above and beyond to make sure people are taken care of. He provided the best possible example.

There's no need to get heated at someone who cuts you off in traffic, it'll only ruin your day, not theirs. Allowing someone to go first in the grocery line will only hold you back by 1-2 minutes but it will drastically improve the rest of their day. Holding open doors, putting karts back in the parking lot, picking up trash that isn't yours, and just offering a smile to a stranger are all acts that have a ripple effect. Occasionally people at A.J.'s coffee bar would pre-purchase coffee for the next person, and it never ended there; five to ten customers later people would still be buying for the next person. Kindness always ripples, use it well and often. 

3: Adaptability is the best stress-relief

I have never met a group of people more chaotic than my new Charlotte family. There is literally no point whatsoever in having a plan for your day if it involves them, because it will absolutely change at least 17 times, and always at the last second. I've always been naturally adaptable (that's the P in ENFP), but never so much as I am now. They have taught me that as long as we are together and no one is getting hurt, the other details are irrelevant. Stressing out over a change in dinner plans will only ruin your night, it's much easier to just go with it and enjoy the ride. 

4: Love every single person you meet

This began with growing up an only child, alone and lonely, desperate for friends or neighbors or even adults to keep me company. In school I was always drawn to outcasts, and in the years I directed and organized community service projects for a church, I met an endless supply of folks who were without a home, refugees unable to speak english, children who couldn't read, mothers who didn't know what to do with unwanted children, convicted pedophiles who couldn't get a job, and my best friend: a man wrongly convicted of a crime (I believe due to his sexual orientation) with an unspeakable life sentence. 

The stories of heartbreak and love, failure and triumph, racism and violence followed by heart change and forgiveness have opened me up to an understanding that we are all the same. We are all messy and beautiful. All capable of inconceivable hate AND fierce love simultaneously. At different times we all make mistakes, say things we regret, take the easy way out, look the other way and judge someone based on their appearance. Just because we're not doing those things right now, doesn't mean that we haven't before or won't tomorrow and it definitely doesn't mean we have a right to judge someone else's story. 

5: The LGBTQ community has become my greatest passion and ally.

I must apologize here first. For over 20 years I allowed the village of well intended teachers, family, books, friends, co-workers and preachers to form my beliefs completely about this community without question. I've always been one to easily believe anything I hear until an opposing viewpoint is introduced. I didn't hear an opposing viewpoint about this beautiful community from someone I respect until a few years into Raleigh. This is quite possibly the greatest community of individuals I have ever known. Brave, kind, patient, forgiving, resilient...everything I want to be and more.

I am humiliated when I look back at the feelings I had toward this community early on, the things I would say "on God's behalf" regarding their eternity. To go through life without questioning anything you are taught is a very dangerous road, and it's a mistake I don't intend to make again. With grace and patience they have loved me anyway and I couldn't be more grateful for my own heart change.  

It is in honor of all these beautiful human beings, especially Christopher, who have reshaped me in the past few years that I am happy to announce, I will be giving away one free couple or family session to the LGBTQ community every month in 2018. This can also include $500 off of any wedding package. I know $6,000 is not much in the grand scheme of things, but I want the world to begin seeing this community for who they really are: fiercely loving, loyal, generous and compassionate. You can find the details and technicalities of the giveaways at the bottom of the post. 

Raleigh, North Carolina

I have written and rewritten this blog wondering who I am going to offend and how it’s going to affect different relationships... then I realized that goes against lesson number one: just be yourself and don’t apologize. Thank you North Carolina friends and family for shaping me into who I am today. Thank you for enduring my growing pains and for loving me as I am. You will be my home forever. 

“Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”
— Ernest Hemingway

Giveaway Details:

One free couple or family session per month in 2018 for the LGBTQia+ Community. This can include $500 off of a wedding. 

To enter, tag your partner on this blog or on my original Facebook/Instagram/Twitter Post. (not a shared version, because I might not see it) 

I will draw the first 3 couples/families Jan 1st, and again quarterly throughout the year.

You will need to be able to come to St. Augustine, FL or Raleigh, NC at the same time I am.

Good luck!

Alaria and Drew - The Oaks at Salem Wedding, Apex, NC

Wedding PhotographyCynthia Viola6 Comments
After all this time? ~ Always.
— Dumbledore to Severus
The Oaks at Salem Wedding

Oh my goodness, I knew I loved these two before I even met them just by hearing the tiniest snippet of their story which can be summed up pretty well with in their adorable hashtag #agypsyandasoldierwedding 

They met in 5th grade, were friends all through high school, fell in love in college and the rest is history. Most of their bridal party were even friends from all the school years together. They chose to be married at my favorite wedding venue in the Raleigh area, The Oaks at Salem. A gorgeous white house surrounded by 11 acres of land, trees and a beautiful lake. Veni is an amazingly organized coordinator and I adore working with her. Their team is just the best! 

You are going to love these details:

First of all, Alaria's bouquet was wrapped in a piece of her mother's wedding dress, giving it a timeless feel. For the unity portion of the ceremony Alaria held a vase of water while Drew placed a single rose in it: the rose symbolizing love while the water symbolized everything needed to make the love grow. So beautiful. 

They also chose to have a Ring Warming Ceremony. As every guest entered the space they placed the rings in their hands and wished good tidings and blessings on their marriage. Alaria happens to be a lover of words and reading, so they brought a beautiful typewriter for guests to type out their congratulatory notes on, something they'll be able to read throughout their marriage as they need it. 

Damien of course rocked the party with his amazing DJ skills, and he and his team will have an incredible cinema story up soon, I'll be sure to add the link here as soon as it's ready. Beau blew everyone away with his incredible menu and it was a night to be remembered for all. 

You guys, I was truly overwhelmed with all the beauty. Of course you were gorgeous, but your spirits were beautiful and the love brought by your many friends and family just surrounded the whole day with something special. Thank you for letting me be a part of your day, I hope you enjoy reliving it with a few of my favorite images. 

The Oaks at Salem Wedding
The Oaks at Salem Wedding
The Oaks at Salem Wedding
The Oaks at Salem Wedding
The Oaks at Salem Wedding
The Oaks at Salem Wedding
The Oaks at Salem Wedding

Being huge Harry Potter fans, they had the groomsmen take the personality quiz on Pottermore and had them wear socks representing their house! So cute! (I *might* have also taken the quiz out of curiosity, discovering that I'd be a Gryffindor...in case you were wondering) ;)

The Oaks at Salem Wedding
The Oaks at Salem Wedding
The Oaks at Salem Wedding
The Oaks at Salem Wedding
The Oaks at Salem Wedding
The Oaks at Salem Wedding
The Oaks at Salem Wedding
The Oaks at Salem Wedding
The Oaks at Salem Wedding

Vendors:

Photography: Cynthia Viola

Venue/Coordinator: Veni at The Oaks at Salem

Videographer: Damien Maass

DJ: Damien Maass

Hair and Make-up: Kristi Martinson at WINK

Dress: Bridal Boutique of NC

Groom/Groomsmen attire: Egara by Men's Warehouse

Rings: designed and custom made by Samantha Laddin at Green Lake Jewelry, Seattle

Bride's Shoes: Ophelia by Vince Camuto

Groom's Shoes: Heritage by Joseph Abboud

Groommen's Socks: Harry Potter Hogwarts houses socks :)

Officiant: Darren Granniss 

Perfume: Armani Code for her

Cologne: John Varvatos Vintage

Catering: Beau Catering

Florist: Teacup Floral

Cake and pies: Laura at Confectionate Cakes

Truffles: Chocolate Smiles

Get away car: Dave's Classic Cars

Invitations: Wedding Paper Divas

First Dance: Work Song by Hozier

Wedding Day Moments

Wedding Photography, PersonalCynthia ViolaComment
The moment in between what you once were, and who you are now becoming, is where the dance of life really takes place.
— Barbara de Angelis

Formal portraits and semi-posed smiles are certainly a vital part of any wedding day, but some of my favorites moments are the ones that fall in between. There's life to be found there. 

It's easy to gauge each milestone marker in our lives with the big events: birthdays, weddings, new puppies, births, new jobs, new cities, even concerts and other bucket list items. I like to think of those as the formal portraits and semi-posed smiles that represent each step in our lives. 

But it's the in between moments that are pure gold. The small victories when we choose kindness over impatience. When we stay up late with our spouse because they need comfort more than we need sleep. When a knowing smile is all it takes for two souls to burst into laughter and a gentle touch to bring on the flood gates that wash away the pain. 

Sometimes the camera settings are not perfect and the composition not exactly artistic, but it's the captured moments that arrive for a second and are gone just as fast, the moments that cannot be re-posed that make the day real and move the story forward. 

From epic toasts to subtle adjustments to brothers in the military calling in because they couldn't be there, I live for these moments in my own life and yours.