I have mentioned before how blessed and honored I am to be able to photograph the weddings of so many people in my church family. This one was no exception. I have known both Courtney and Christopher for years, and when they asked me to photograph their wedding, of course it was a no-brainer. Having just gotten engaged at the end of February, Courtney reached out to me on March 1 to schedule an engagement session… and later that same week, we made it happen! I took their engagement photos at a friend’s farm, one of my favorites spots. (Fun fact: when we showed up, there were brand new baby goats that had just been born that morning!) While we were there, Courtney told me about her vision for an outdoor wedding on her family’s farm in Mississippi, and the rest is history. These two not only managed to plan and pull off a wedding in under three months, but also planned one of the most beautiful weddings of my career, and I am so excited to share it with you!
Here are some of my favorite images and moments from Courtney and Christopher’s sweet, intimate wedding on the bride’s family farm in Rienzi, Mississippi.
You guys know I’m a sucker for details. And one of my favorite parts of a wedding day is simply seeing what all my brides include in their details to be photographed. So naturally, when I saw Courtney’s blue shoes I kind of freaked out! I also loved the engraved wooden ring box she had made just for these photos.
I have a really funny behind-the-scenes picture of Mrs.Dede, the groom’s mom, climbing into this tree to hang up Courney’s dress. I would show it to you, but she would probably kill me! So instead, I’ll just say… wait until you see this dress ON the bride! It’s a showstopper, for real.
I have known Christopher and his family since 2003, when my family began attended Northside, our home church. I have quite literally watched him and Courtney grow up. And what makes this even better is that Christopher is also one of my husband’s fraternity brothers! So we both knew him before we knew each other. The world is crazy small, sometimes. I had a lot of fun getting these shots of Christopher getting ready, and his groomsmen had a lot of fun playing pool and hanging out while they did the same. You’re about to see why they were such a fun group below!
Despite the bright sun and Mississippi heat, these guys were champs. My assistant, Elena, even mentioned that they were her favorite group of groomsmen that we’ve ever worked with! (This is super high praise, coming from her–she’s seen and worked with a LOT of groomsmen over the years!) I did make note that if I hadn’t know every single one of them already, I probably would have been intimidated. There was a ton of personality in this group! And we really did have a great time.
And now I think you probably see what I mean by “personality”! Peep Christopher’s dad’s face, right behind him. Needless to say, we laughed A LOT.
After working with the groomsmen, it was Christopher’s turn for some solo time in the spotlight. I remember asking him if he bought his suit, or if he rented it. He said that he bought it, and I said, “Good. Because you’re going to want to wear it again!” Blue was definitely a good choice. He was so handsome and dapper looking, and I know Courtney was so anxious to see him!
One of Courtney’s gifts to Christopher was these engraved cuff links. They were the perfect touch of detail to add to his suit. She also gifted him with a tie clip, and some boxers that say “Property of Mrs. Michael” on them–but I’m not going to show you those!
Courtney got ready in her aunt’s home, which is located right across the road from the pasture where her ceremony took place. It was special to be on her family’s land, surrounded by her loved ones and embraced by those who would become her family, too. After she was finished getting ready, Mrs. Dede, Christopher’s mom, handed her the bouquet–this is a tradition we don’t see as much nowadays, but I’m all for it happening more often.
And speaking of the bouquet… Will you just LOOK at how beautiful it is?! Courtney had envisioned lots of greenery, and lots of movement in her bouquet, and her floral designer absolutely delivered. It was stunning!
One of the things Courtney really wanted to incorporate was a first look with her father. I’m always a big advocate for this, as a fellow Daddy’s Girl, myself.
Many tears were shed throughout the day, and these were some of the sweetest. I love that Courtney and her dad got to share such a special moment before he walked her down the aisle.
You had better believe that Courtney’s bridal portraits were a HUGE highlight of the day for me! I cannot say enough about how beautiful she looked in such a timeless, classic bridal gown. She was absolutely radiant and I could have stayed in this spot and photographed her all day long.
The gold band on Courtney’s right hand belonged to her great-grandmother. It has been in her family for more than ninety years, and I just thought it was so special that she chose to wear it on her wedding day. I love when my brides include such thoughtful heirlooms, and I love even more when they tell me about them!
I will never not be completely swept away with Courtney and all of her beauty as a bride. I couldn’t help but overshare her bridal portraits.
Christopher’s gift to his bride was so cool. This is the name of the song Courtney would walk down the aisle to, as you might see it on Spotify. It’s even set to the time in the song when she would start walking toward her groom. I definitely want one of these now! he also gave her a precious locket with the tiniest picture of them from their engagement session inside. I think it’s safe to say, he did a VERY good job!
Courtney’s nephew, Timothy, came to see her before we began the bridesmaids’ portraits and he completely stole the show. Look at his sweet smile!
I know I’m a little biased because my favorite color is blue, but how amazing are these mix-matched bridesmaid dresses? I am seriously obsessed with these colors and can’t get over how they complimented each other so well. Add in the green from their flowers and the white from Courtney’s gown and it was 100% MAGIC.
The bride and groom chose not to see each other before the ceremony. Instead, they decided on a “First Touch”, where they stood back to back and read letters from each other. This allowed them the opportunity to share a super special moment while no one else was around, and I’m so glad they did.
I hadn’t seen Courtney or Christopher smile this big ALL day leading up to this moment. Courtney visibly lost all of the stress and anxiety that had been resting on her shoulders as soon as she touched Christopher’s hand, and it was all worth it. After documenting this special time, we let the two of them have a few minutes to themselves with no cameras around, just to be present with each other and soak everything in. Brides and grooms, this is SO important for each of you. Carve out time wherever you can to just “be” on your wedding day. It doesn’t have to be long, but it will make a world of difference and give you a moment to breathe and be together!
Courtney and Christopher’s ceremony took place in the pasture overlooking a pond on the bride’s family farm, just before sunset, when the light was turning golden. The centerpiece for their ceremony was a beautiful wooden octagon, built by Courtney’s father and made especially for their big day. It was one of many pieces that he crafted just for them. How amazing does it look against the water?
Christopher’s face when he saw his gorgeous bride for the first time. Sigh.
Rather than have their entire bridal party stand with them during the ceremony, the bride and groom chose to keep it simple. I loved this. It was romantic and really focused the attention on what was most important between the two of them.
Cue all the tears, laughter and cheering for the newly pronounced Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Michael! What a beautiful ceremony.
In addition to the ceremony arbor, Courtney’s dad also built this gorgeous dock on the side of the pond. It was the perfect place for some “Just Married” photos and was also where the dances would take place. You’ll see those later–but first, here are some of the DREAMIEST bride and groom portraits I have ever seen!
The light was really showing out for Courtney and Christopher’s portraits! I actually don’t think it could have been any more perfect. And having these two in front of the camera again, together, was what I had been waiting for ALL day long!
I love that Courtney kicked off her shoes and added a belt to her dress after the ceremony. She was completely in the moment and doing what she wanted! Brides, there are no rules. If you think there are, then think again. This is your day–do you and celebrate how you want to so you can BE happy!
For their reception, Courtney and Christopher had an amazing set up that included a tent, cornhole and other yard games, rocking chairs and a DONUT bar. (Yes, you read that right, keep scrolling!)
There they are, in all of their delicious glory! The new Mr. and Mrs. Michael are not big fans of cake, so they opted for donuts instead. I am definitely not complaining. I’ve been dying for someone to have a donut bar at the reception for years! I’m glad it finally happened and I even ate one myself at the end of the night. It was TOTALLY worth the carbs!
Yes, those are Fruity Pebbles and Fruit Loops on those donuts! There were also Oreo crumbles, maple bacon donuts, coconut, chocolate glaze, and traditional glaze donuts, too. I will daydream about this table until the day I die.
Courtney and Christopher’s guests enjoyed the yard games, hamburgers and hot dogs, and ice-cold sodas in addition to donuts. A great time was had by all, and it was truly what I would want any true farm wedding to be: full of good food, good friends and good times! It was one of those nights I didn’t want to end, because it was so much fun and the weather was PERFECT!
As the sun was setting, Courtney and her father shared a sweet father-daughter dance on the dock he built for her. Cue the tears.
There were more tears when Christopher shared a dance with his mom. I looked over at where his dad was standing, videoing them with his phone, and he was sniffling, too. It was such a sweet moment.
Everyone deserves to find someone who looks at them like Courtney looks at Christopher. This is hands-down the dreamiest, most romantic first dance location I have ever photographed before and I would come back a thousand times to photograph this moment. It was the perfect ending to such an incredible day.
Before the evening truly ended, it was time to toss the bouquet and the garter. I realized as I was creating this blog post, that I rarely ever share these parts of a wedding, so I am excited to include these! Courtney’s younger sister and Maid of Honor caught the bouquet. Then, her boyfriend caught the garter. Maybe there will be another wedding on the Vanderford farm sometime soon?! (If there is, please call me! I’ll come back in a heartbeat!)
Courtney and Christopher made their grand exit as night was falling, and while their guests popped confetti string around them. I loved this idea for an exit! The confetti string was EVERYWHERE, but it was so fun and made for an exciting exit!
I am so glad I got to be the one to capture this incredible day. Courtney and Christopher, thank you for choosing me as your wedding photographer. I love you both and am praying for you on your new adventure as husband and wife!