A North Carolina Backyard Wedding: Jennifer + Brad

Today’s wedding is one of the most emotional weddings I think I’ve seen (and I look at hundreds of weddings each week!). Captured by Caroline Ghetes, Jennifer + Brad were inspired by their home on Lake Norman in North Carolina (and I can see why – it’s gorgeous!!). They always wanted a backyard wedding and when they were lucky enough to buy their dream home (or dream lot) exactly 7 months before their wedding date, they knew it was the place. And then they spent the next 7 months tearing it down and building it into their real dream home – definitely not ideal circumstances under which to be planning a wedding, but they made it work! From Jennifer, “Since our wedding was at our home, everything about it took on an intimate and personal meaning. Brad and I are both creative and hands-on people, and it was important to us to put our stamp on several details. Our choices and the elements of the day kind of built on each other along the way, and in the end it all naturally came together and felt like…‘us’.

Their wedding day was bittersweet. Brad’s mother had been battling a brain tumor for several months and she passed away on the morning of their wedding (I’m actually tearing up as I write this because I can’t even imagine all the emotions they went through that day). They never imagined it would happen that day, but it did. Jennifer told me it was a blessing that her mother-in-law could finally be at peace, and be in a place where she could actually be with them on that day. They are both very close to their families so it was a very emotional day for everyone as I can only imagine. Jennifer + Brad, thanks for sharing your beautiful wedding day with us + we wish you so much happiness as husband + wife.

backyard wedding wood sign

blue glass jars wedding decor

From Jennifer, “Right after we were engaged, Brad’s Mom found boxes of vintage mason jars that had been Brad’s grandparents. They really helped set the tone for the ‘unfussy elegant’ vibe we wanted our wedding to have. I also loved the muted blue of several of them, which started our color ‘scheme’, if you could call it that. We used the jars on all of the tables for flower arrangements, and some as lanterns throughout the backyard.”

blue glass jars wedding decor

wedding first look photos

Most memorable moment of your wedding day? The most memorable moment of the day for us was our ‘first look’ before the ceremony. Such a serene calm finally came over our house then, after there had been so much frenzy. And in that calm we could really feel all the happiness, and even the sadness of our day. It’s hard to describe how we could be so happy and so sad at the same time, but it was all very true, and kept us very much in the present.

wedding first look photos

backyard wedding

We painted the wedding signs on wood salvaged from a historic Charleston home renovation.

backyard wedding by a lake

What song did you walk down the aisle to? My Father walked me down the aisle to an acoustic version of Train’s “Soul Sister”. Brad and I made our recessional to “I’m Yours”, and our first dance was to “You are the Best Thing.” We so wish we had a recording of each of those performances by our band!!

backyard wedding by a lake


backyard wedding by a lake

Brad built our wedding altar, which will forever have a special place in our backyard. Brad and I exchanged wedding rings that had been our grandparents’. Brad has his Grandfather’s, which Brad’s Mom had kept for him for many years, hoping he would wear it. I have my Grandmother’s, which still bears the inscription from their wedding day over sixty years ago, and was given to me after my Grandfather passed away a few short months ago.

backyard wedding by a lake

backyard wedding by a lake

bride and groom on a boat

bride and groom on a boat

backyard-wedding-reception tables

rustic wedding flowers

rustic wedding flowers

Brad’s Mom and I found a beautiful floral fabric with muted blues and greens and purples that my mom sewed into runners for all of our tables. Brad and I like to moonlight as a homebrewer and letterpress printer (respectively) in our ‘spare’ time. Brad and I designed our save the dates and invitations, and I hand-mixed the ink and printed them on my antique letterpress. Brad brewed kegs of his favorite homebrew beers for the reception.

bride and groom

backyard wedding

wedding dancing

backyard wedding dancing under the stars

bride and groom on a pier at night

Any advice for those planning now? Don’t be afraid to change your mind! Seriously. We were lining up vendors and making plans to have our wedding in Charleston (where we were engaged, kind of a second home for us) when the real estate gods intervened and helped us quickly sell our old house and find the home of our dreams. We knew right away we wanted to have our wedding at our new home, and pulled the brakes on the Charleston plans. We definitely created a lot of work and some aggravation for ourselves in doing that, but it was completely worth it.

It’s okay to be ruthless with your guest list. We wanted our wedding to be about a celebration with our closest family and friends, and we stayed true to that.

And, give yourself a break on DIY mania. We tried to prioritize the projects that were most meaningful to us and would have the biggest impact on our day and our guests.

We wouldn’t have been able to pull it off without the support of family and friends…

Our closest friends, who also gave us places to stay when the renovations on our house made it unlivable, were loyal and stuck it out with us, helping us in the weeks before to get the house and the property ready. My parents and brother were on hand in the days leading up to the wedding making all the last-minute details happen…from ‘ribbon wands’ for the ceremony, to luminaries and landscaping and other projects around the house, they were the glue that kept the wedding preparations together in the last few days!

We were fortunate to have some very talented vendors involved in our ceremony and reception! Food, music, photos and the ceremony were very important to us, and not necessarily in that order…we made those decisions very carefully. Choosing the inimitable Caroline Ghetes to be our photographer was the very first decision we made, before we even knew where the wedding would be. Our band, the Chris Crosby Group, has the best sound we’ve ever come across, and they really made the day for us. The reception was catered by Something Classic, and they worked with us to put together a fabulous menu, complete with key lime pies as our dessert. Our officiant, Reverend Rebecca Nagy, was sensitive and eloquent and funny, and helped us craft a ceremony that was meaningful and non-traditional. And one decision that seemed to make itself was working with Lily Greenthumbs for our flowers – I got a referral from a close friend, met Karen, and that was that. She immediately got the ‘unfussy elegant’ idea, and the flowers were spectacular. Blush Wedding and Events provided day-of-coordination for us, and Irene Reinhard was a savior. She made everything come together and made it look effortless – even though I know she never stopped working!

photography: Caroline Ghetes // day of coordination: Irene Reinhard of Blush Wedding & Events // officiant: Reverend Rebecca Nagy // flowers: Lily Greenthumbs // catering: Something Classic // band: Chris Crosby Trio // wedding dress: Alix & Kelly // groom’s attire: J. Crew suit & Brooks Brothers shirt // hair: Jessica Loy of Thairapy at Salon Sabeli // save the dates + invitations: Vanora Letterpress // venue: Jennifer & Brad’s Lake Norman home

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  1. How absolutely touching and stunning. I can’t imagine the emotion! I love the simple ceremony backdrop as well. Absolutely gorgeous!

  2. perfect wedding and caroline is so great at capturing moments!

  3. What an unbelievable story. Celebrating their love and mourning their loss is a lot to handle in one day, but they pulled it off beautifully.

  4. This is the most perfect wedding ever.

  5. Oooh, that last shot is amazing – but the whole day was beautiful!

  6. Soo sweet and lovely. The last shot is breathtaking. What a gorgeous place to live!!

  7. i love the idea of “unfussy elegance”. i could never put a name to that look, but this is exactly what i want. their wedding is perfect. but gosh, i couldn’t imagine going through the passing of your mother and your wedding in the same day. how emotional. talk about a day that brings your family together.

  8. caroline captured the weddings so amazingly. loving that last shot.

  9. What a breathtaking location. These photos are absolutely amazing.

  10. what a starry starry romantic last photo! love it! :)

  11. Thanks so much for this feature. This was such a special couple to me and their wedding was beautiful and one I will never forget!

  12. Love to know how exactly the groom made that gorgeous arch. Modern and beautiful

  13. Totally in love with this wedding! The photography is absolutely amazing.

  14. Very touching story!, plus everything looks beautiful, yet simple and elegant. I love it.

  15. Have you thought about renting the table runners? They are gourgeous. If so, please email me. Thanks!

  16. It’s fascinating to me that the orange sun orb in one of their ceremony photos is right over the area where Brad’s mom would have traditionally been sitting.

  17. Joyce, you took the words right out of my mouth! There are four beautiful orbs in that photo, but that one made me gasp. Way to go, Brad’s mom!


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