Martha & Neil’s Simply Elegant and Homey Wedding

I gush at weddings studded with loads of handmade details just like any girl but there’s also something very special about weddings where the couple chooses to focus completely on their love for one another, like those I’ve featured before and the one I’m about to show you.

Martha and Neil chose to go for simple, understated elegance at their wedding. Photographer Charo Donohue — who’s responsible for all the gorgeous photos you see on this page — shares with us that Neil is a music-lover and former DJ so he did all the music for the reception, while Martha coordinated the lovely — and bridal trend-free  —  little details that reflected the two of them 100%. The moment I saw the photos I immediately felt the love these two have for each other!

More from Charo (who recently got engaged too!):

Mike (my second shooter and fiance) and I knew from meeting them at their engagement session that Martha and Neil were AWESOME.  They were funny.  Relaxed.  Brilliant.  And head over heels in love with each other.  Every so often (more often than not), you’ll notice Neil kissing Martha’s hand… almost absent-mindedly, like a punctuation mark to his thoughts.  For me, this was enough to let me know that Martha and Neil have The Real Thing.
It wasn’t until the rehearsal dinner that we got to see how much Neil and Martha love EVERYONE ELSE in their lives.  It isn’t just Martha and Neil against the world, you know?  It’s Martha, Neil, their families, their best friends, their… well, I think everyone in their lives is family or a best friend, honestly.  The whole weekend was full of stories and inside jokes and hugs and toasts… teary recollections of years of joyous and intimate histories, group hugs and happy tears, and almost nonstop toasts.  Seriously, these people are expert toasters.
I can’t really put into words why this wedding is so memorable and so special to me.  The setting was lovely, the newlyweds are (obviously) very photogenic, the party had wild amounts of energy and joy… but I can say that about a ton of weddings I’ve photographed.  This one was different.  This one had an underlying feel of togetherness, of acceptance and commitment.  To one another as husband and wife… to their families, to their friends.  Not one guest was there for any reason other than love.  Not one guest went the whole weekend without shedding at least one happy tear.  Not one guest left the reception without being hugged, being toasted, being *part of it all*.  Martha and Neil, maybe more than anyone I’ve ever met, have that amazing, enviable ability to bring people together, and to make everyone feel as though they belong.  As though they have always belonged.
I hope when Mike and I throw our wedding in 2013… that we are able to create an energy even part of the way toward what we saw in Richmond last April.  To me, that’s what makes a wedding – not so much the details, the flowers, the amount of money spent… but the relationships.

Our radiant bride Martha was also generous enough to candidly tell us more about what was going on in her head while planning their wedding:
I didn’t have a theme. Actually, the idea of a theme became totally overwhelming and I pictured myself with a David Tutera-esque over the top carnival… not my style. I really thrive off of simplistic elegance. Thats my style. I wanted the wedding to feel small and intimate with rustic touches that made it feel like a homey experience, but still elegant enough to predicate a formal event. Hence I had a bluegrass duo who played folk music, and the natural stone mill setting, daisies and daffodils. I also kept the colors fresh, simple, and outfits with a classic look.

At the same time I really needed to keep everything on a budget so sticking with less actually made everything easier on the eyes and more easily digestible. I feel like so many weddings are littered with crazy stuff nowadays — its nice to sit back and let the focus be on the most important thing: the fact that everyone is there to celebrate love between two people. To me, it wasn’t about the fancy table cloths or centerpieces, or how much money we can put into the favors… it was about me declaring my love to Neil in front of the people that mattered most to me. Therefore, I didnt actually buy any wedding magazines once I realized how much shit is thrown at brides… I mean, grooms cakes? Really? But I guess it is a massive money making industry… dont hate the player, right?! Ha ha. I just used the timeline in the wedding planning book I bought at the beginning and that was all I needed.
So in terms of theme: staying true to myself and Neil, and not deviating from the central purpose of the event itself. Simple, yet elegant.

We did our dresses and suits through Macys. This opened up the bridal party outfits to be less weddingy and more nice cocktail party look. These are bridesmaid dresses that the girls can actually wear again! Plus it was less than 100 bucks, where do you find bridesmaids dresses at that price anymore!?
Neil was certain he did not want a tux, nor did he want his guys to rent anything… they bought their suits and it really paid off looks-wise.

Our closest friend Laura was the minister of ceremonies. She is an amazing spiritual woman with so much love and I could not have been happier to have a best friend next to us rather than someone we barely know… that, and having her do the ceremony meant the parts that she read, etc, would all be tailored to us and our spirituality.

We had cupcakes which reflected our tastes: chocolate and snicker doodles. Mmmmm Neil and I could eat those flavors all day every day!

To make sure the dancing was fun and uninterrupted, we did the parent dances before dinner officially began and made the cake-cutting part something intimate… no announcements were made. People getting drinks, dancing, or at the photo booth didnt know we were doing it… just passerbys, Charo, and us. It helped us keep true to that ritual anyway… no smashing of the cake in our party.  We just wanted the party to keep on going with out stopping. If we did, that would stop the mojo, and we didnt want to do that.

The first real purchase I made for the wedding were for the favors: a photobooth. I know they are really becoming popular, and for good reason!! These are candid and fun photos that document how drunk everyone is getting in a way that people will enjoy (and its a great way to get variance from the photographer’s bounty of photos). Everyone loved the photo booth photos as their favors  especially since we upped the ante with mustaches on sticks. We had 4 different types of mustaches, two top hats and two monocles that people could use in the booth. Hilarity ensued. Apparently during the speeches everyone thought I said I had mustaches and dicks… not “on sticks”. Oh well. Hahahah!

But I think the number one way we personalized the night was with our music. No dj. No way. Shudder. And no band (too expensive).  Neil and I have a strong affinity to European house music (that jazzy/disco dance music, not the techno crap that plays in clubs in the States). Yes. We are music snobs ha ha ah. So Neil went onto Itunes and pulled off all the songs he and I love (I strongly suggest you check out the Freemasons, they are AWESOME to dance to) and strung it together on a program he has on his laptop to make our own playlists. We had standards for dinner, and then classics like MJackson, Stevie wonder, and other oldie favorites to get the party started, into Rhianna, Madonna, Beyonce, Boyz II Men, and then into the house music chunk, ending the night with the favorites from the 80s. It was perfect in my opinion… and 100% us.

Neil and I only left the dance floor twice. Once to pee, and once for the photo booth. As he said, our baller status was on high. Ha ha ha!

Anyway, I think that is about everything without me going into soapbox chatter or overbearing details. Ha ha. We kept the official total budget at 21 Gs. A crap ton of money, but in wedding world– not too bad. He he.  Charo and our location were by far the best choices we made. Charo was an amazing woman to work with –  the kind of photographer who doesnt get all posey.. instead she offers a more photo-journalistic “in the moment” look which makes a world of difference… she was aaawwweeesome!!

Thank you Martha for giving us a peek into your beautiful wedding (and I agree with you that Charo is awesome —  I love her artistic and cinematic shots too! I think she perfectly captured the essence of your special day.) Here’s wishing you and Neil a wonderful life together 🙂

Photographer: Charo Photo
Reception Venue: The Mill at Fine Creek

Images submitted via Two Bright Lights

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  1. I am one of the most awkward people you’ll meet, and most especially when I’ve been complimented… so getting past the awkward and finding the eloquence is proving to be pretty damn hard right now.

    Wow. What an AWESOME story. This wedding was absolutely one of my all-time favorites to shoot, and Martha and Neil remain one of my favorite couples EVAR. And I am so, so, so pleased to see their beautiful wedding given the praise it deserves!

    BTW – isn’t Martha the SHIT? God I love her. I forgot about the mustaches and dicks thing – hahaha, there were LOTS of moments like that at the wedding ;). So much fun.

    Thank you, Cynthia, for showcasing this amazing wedding… and thank YOU, Mar, for being the fabulous woman you are! I am so much in love with everything today… <3

  2. Oh please don’t mention it Charo. Your photos are beautiful and Martha & Neil’s celebration was personal, heart-warming and inspiring so sharing it with everyone was my pleasure! 🙂


  1. catching up » Wedding Photography in Wilmington NC | Charo Photo - [...] and Neil were featured on Poptastic Bride on January 4, [...]

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