September 15, 2018
I wanted to start this series with Margaret Cheatham and Frank’s wedding in Charlotte, North Carolina. We photographed this wedding the weekend of Hurricane Florence and while a hurricane isn’t quite like a pandemic I thought there were some parallel lessons to be learned.
MC’s biggest piece of advice:
Feel all the feels! ESPECIALLY now, in the wake of Covid, I think weddings are a tremendously special time for all of us. It can be extremely frustrating and sad to watch your perfectly planned details fall to the wayside, but know that it OK to “grieve” the loss of your expectations.
My mom and I both gave ourselves an hour or two to be very upset. I think we each pitched our separate mini fits, took a deep breath, and moved on. Growing up, my mom always said, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” which felt very fitting for our weekend.
In the end, Frank and I knew how incredibly fortunate we were – to have met, to have incredible families, and to have a wedding with all of the people we loved. You are totally allowed to feel your feelings, but know that there are many people who love you, and everyone will be around to celebrate your love when the world heals a bit!
MY SINGLE BIGGEST PIECE OF ADVICE – Would be to slow down, take deep breaths, look around, be extremely thankful, express your gratitude profusely to every single person who touches your day, and know that the wedding is merely the beginning.
What can couples look forward to most on their wedding day?
This is an exceptionally tricky question. I think, as a couple, we were most looking forward to sharing our experience with our closest friends and family – in the manner that we had very intentionally planned. Frank was most excited about seeing me in the church, and the big reveal of the reception (as I had done most of the decision making around the party.) I was sleepless for months because I was so excited – we opted not to do a first look, so walking down the aisle with my dad toward Frank had to be it for me!
Tell me about one of the most memorable moments of your wedding weekend.
ONE! HA. Our weekend was incredibly unpredictable and quite unexpected. There were too many memorable moments to count, but I think what stands out most for me would have to be a split second where Frank and I snuck to the edge of the stage, and turned around to face the dancefloor. It was fleeting, but we were able to take in our guests and share their experience for a minute, and it was pretty special!
We also invited my grandmother to cut the cake with us – It was such a tremendous honor to share her anniversary with my grandfather, who died many years ago. They had a marriage for the ages, one that I respect enormously and will do my best to emulate, forever!
ALSO, our band, in some freak fluke, played every single one of our first dance songs wrong. As they started the tune for my dance with Frank, I stopped and did a cut motion across my throat and yelled wrong song… They thought I was just excited and kept going. For my Dad, they played ALL FIVE minutes of “I Want to Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston. We were sort of stuck. My Dad and I don’t have incredible rhythm (no surprise to any of our friends), and ended up employing every move we knew. I think I “raised the roof” at one point… I was dripping sweat, and pretty immediately had to take the blouse off my dress (I also threw the partially detached boob cup onto the dance floor, but meh) I think the MOST memorable parts of our reception, other than the cake cutting, were my Dad’s toast, Frank’s subsequent toast (which was the first time he had told me when he fell in love with me/ when he “knew”) and pronounced Houston St. wrong (the place we said goodbye every weekend when he came to visit NYC.
My brothers played instruments in middle school, and both dusted them off to play September, a family favorite, on stage with the band. My little brother John C. practiced for months, and kept up with the trombone! Eleanor sang, and Frank’s twin sister and her husband hopped on stage to join. It was amazing and I’ll never forget it.
On the rehearsal dinner: By the time we had reached Friday night, and I realized we would, in fact, be getting married on Saturday (despite the storm craziness)…. I was well into the wine. We had a beautiful communion service with just family, which was a much needed moment of quiet, before we stepped into a VERY detailed rehearsal. Our minister, Chip Edens, was one of my very MOST favorite details and players of the entire marriage process, but man does he run a tight ship. I changed into a new dress when I arrived at the club and sat down for the most special dinner.
I am a huge fan of the wedding toast – I appreciate that they can drone on, and might not be the most entertaining for all – but it was always something I had looked forward to the most. Our friends and family truly did us in. They were funny, poignant, and mostly hilarious. I am a dramatic person with a lot of material to poke fun at, and my bridesmaids in particular, succeeded. I also gave a “toast” or a long winded monologue. Brides, you do you!
Since I produce video, I wanted to share a bit of our lives with our guests. I had all of our family home video transcoded, and edited a piece from our childhoods, to the day we met. I am sure it was long, and a bit difficult to hear, but it meant the world to me to see the photos of our friends faces while they watched. It was something very unique to me that I was able to offer, which I loved! Our last dance of that night (before I got dragged home and Frank went to the bar) was to John Prine’s (RIP) “In Spite of Ourselves” – It was always the refrain to our long distance relationship, and ourselves, which we don’t take too seriously.
What was one of your most meaningful wedding details?
Arguably, the very most important aspect of our wedding were the tiny details. Not the paper or the favors necessarily (though, If It’s Paper knocked it way out of the park, and the Krispy Kreme donut boxes with Frank’s face on them were pretty amazing) but the elements that were far more sentimental and may not have been immediately apparent to our guests…
I wore a veil that has been in my family on my mother’s side for more than a century, I believe I was the 13th to wear it. My choice to wear it might have altered my decision on a dress, but it was incredibly special. I also chose a bouquet of French Tulips, and had them wrapped in a family handkerchief, adorned with a cross pendant made from my Grandfather in-law’s wedding band.
Speaking of wedding bands… Frank had chosen to give me his grandmother’s engagement ring, which she had given him when she died many years ago. In return, I asked his grandfather where his original wedding band was – It turns out it was in a safe deposit box, and he was happy for us to have it. The engraving was M to F, October 30th 1954. I added “I love you more” with our date.
We also spent a tremendous amount of time writing each of our rehearsal dinner guests a note to serve as their place cards. We had beautiful stationary made for our thank you notes, and it was extremely important to us to welcome and thank each and every person who made the effort to attend, with a note of how they were special to us.
Paul Haddock, a great friend of my family, collects classic cars. He lent us a Buick Wildcat, which we took from the ceremony to the reception, and to the hotel. It was perfect, as my dad (and brothers, now) are in the car business, and run the Buick dealership that was my grandfathers. He is long gone, but it felt like such a special reminder of his legacy of fairness, respect, love for my grandmother, and appreciation for family.
My mom gave me a piece of art by Tony Hernandez while I was getting ready on Saturday. It is an incredibly special choice, as the image is of a large format film camera with a little boy and a crown. At the VERY last minute, it became the centerpiece of our entrance, and the first thing the guests saw, when we had to rearrange the layout for the reception! I can’t wait to have it in our home one day.
What’s was the biggest challenge of your day?
We had a string of challenges leading up to our wedding. I think it was the Friday before, when my mother in law called while I was finishing up work before heading to North Carolina. She asked if I would be OK with moving the welcome party inside… Bless her heart. She was the one who had to tell me there was a massive hurricane barreling toward the Carolina coast and our wedding.
Hurricane Florence was predicted to be a category 5 when it was first forecast, and we waffled on whether or not to call the whole thing off. I will never forget standing on a street corner in New York, under an awning on Monday, being pelted with rain while I talked to our wedding planner, The INCREDIBLE Dina Blazek, about our options. Our family has deep roots in Eastern North Carolina, and we were acutely aware of the dangers that were certain, and the human lives and property damage that were at stake. In fact, my Mom’s entire family (3 brothers) spent Friday tying down boats and boarding homes in Atlantic Beach, before busting it down the highway to our rehearsal dinner. We wanted to be sensitive to the needs of the state, but were also bound and determined to be married.
We spoke with our amazing minister, who assured us that we would be married “Come hell or high water” even if it meant just our family in the candle light.
Frank was able to change his flight, and we flew home together to assess.My mom, dad (patient, patient soul) and I sat in Dina’s office on Wednesday and redesigned the entire floor plan and event, to eliminate the sail cloth tent we had planned for the golf course.
A seated dinner for 300 is no joke regardless, but we were committed to stay the course – We knew that most every bar, restaurant and business in Charlotte was likely to close for the weekend, and we wanted our wedding to be a warm enclave from the storm. We had many, many cancellations, of course, so I spent hours on Saturday morning rearranging tables. (We had spent SO much time on making fun pairings) The incredible staff at Quail and DIna sat on the floor forever, making sure everyone had a place.
All of our vendors went above and beyond to ensure a successful weekend – Dina slept in the locker room of the club on Friday night, and you brought your entire family (two weeks postpartum, infant in tow) to Charlotte early to hunker down.
I will never know how many changes were made, and what magic Dina was able to pull off – But it was truly spectacular to know how many amazing people we had in our corner. All of our wedding party went to extreme lengths to be there on time, and two guests even flew on a virtually empty plane across the country. The amount of love we had packed into one room was phenomenally special, and we will never forget it!
My mom was the real champion (all of our parents, really). She set the tone for how we would handle the weekend, and was the most gracious hostess. I know she was disappointed to have a massive storm alter our plans, but she hardly showed it. The party was beautiful and EVERY SINGLE detail she touched was amazing. My mother is the most thoughtful person I have ever met, and she truly was the light of our wedding weekend. She was meticulous in her welcome to every guest, and made incredible gifts for our family, our wedding party, and every guest. My mother in law, Luci, was brilliant as well, and planned a spectacular southern dinner on Friday, complete with family style fried chicken. They both rolled with the punches and made our weekend tremendously special.
Charlotte Wedding Photographer