I’ve been going to Bald Head Island pretty regularly for the last decade… but Memorial Day weekend 2011 was my first trip over there for pleasure. Ellie, Mike and I spent a day on the island as tourists, soaking in the sun, buying silly souvenirs, and enjoying this incredible place that, until that day, I’d only experienced behind the lens.
I always knew the island was pretty. It’s a resort, but it’s not overdone at all. Much of the island – hell, MOST of the island is still in its most natural state, and even the modern conveniences are perfectly nestled along with the island’s shrubbery, flora, and fauna. Everyone knows that there are no gas powered vehicles allowed on the island (it was the island they were escaping to in Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive movie – how cool is that?!), and the little electric golf carts and bicycles move at such a relaxed pace, it forces you to slow down. The island encourages you to just BE. Even when you’re frantically running from location to location, getting every shot on the list and keeping track of all your gear and fighting off mosquitoes and sand fleas and heat exhaustion… you’re still a couple paces slower than you would be on the mainland. There aren’t a whole lot of places like that in America, you know? Maui, my home, is one. Daufuskie Island, off the SC coast near Hilton Head, is another. And I’d put Corolla NC (in the northern Outer Banks) on that list as well.
I’ve photographed quite a few weddings and portrait sessions on Bald Head Island, and over the years I’ve gotten to know the island pretty well. The coordination team (which is *incredible* and highly recommended), the best places to eat and grab a cool drink or a coffee, the laid back folks that rent me my golf carts, the ferry staff who amaze me with their speed and strength, the roads, the shortcuts, the best spots for pictures… but I always forget how it feels to be ON the island. That calm that surrounds you, as though every clock is moving at half speed. It’s an absolutely wonderful place to bring your family and friends for a wedding, and after that trip a few weeks ago I decided I just HAD to share a bunch of photos and stories from the island.
Let’s start with one of my first BHI weddings: Stephanie and Stephen.
I can’t remember anymore if I met Stephanie and Stephen before their wedding, or if we met for the first time on their wedding day. It’s been just about 8 years now – they were married in late July of 2003. I do remember very well that this was a 100% destination wedding for them. They were from Pennsylvania, but they were beachy, Jimmy Buffet loving types who wanted a small, relaxed, calm and beautiful wedding with only their very closest friends and family. I think they maybe had 40 people there – and that might be stretching it.
My friend Kim, who I’ve shot many weddings with over the years, traveled down from Milwaukee to shoot this one with me. She’d never shot a beach or island wedding before, and she was completely enchanted by the idea of this idyllic, barely accessible place where people go to get married. I think in her head she was thinking it would be a breezy day in the mid-80′s, with a low in the upper 60′s for the (outdoor) reception. Heh. I maybe conveniently forgot to tell her that shooting an outdoor wedding in Southeastern NC in late July is a lot like sitting in a rice cooker. Hot, swampy, sticky, and a little stifling. Oh, and also bugs.
Poor Kim. Not only was she in for heat like she hadn’t experienced since she lived in Florida years earlier… but I was pregnant with Miss Bean at the time, and a really dull date when we went out for drinks the night after the wedding. Oh, and I also forgot to tell her that we were in for an “unlimited” coverage that day… which started in the wee hours of the morning and didn’t end until the last ferry left the island that night. You know what? Kim is a REALLY GOOD FRIEND.
Fortunately, Bald Head Island is a visual feast, so Kim delighted in the scenery and photo opportunities while I apologized for the heat and humidity.
Our first stop on the island, after grabbing our golf cart and a quick bite to eat, was the golf course. Now, I don’t know much about golf (but Mike is steadily teaching me more than I ever figured I’d learn), so I’m not sure if there’s just one course on the island, or if the course they were on was named anything special… I just know they were doing golf things, and it was hot.
After about an hour or so of the golf outing, Kim and I headed to the beach house Steph and Stephen rented for the week. Their ceremony was on the beach, just a short walk from the rental house, and it was the most ridiculously beautiful setting. I remember being so happy that we arrived early – there was so much to shoot just in the details and scenery.
Their ceremony was intimate and natural, and even though it only lasted probably ten minutes, Kim and I managed to shoot *hundreds* of frames. I mean, it was gorgeous out there.
We had lots of time to spend with Steph and Stephen after the ceremony, and we took full advantage of it… not only because wow it was pretty, but also, we just really liked hanging out with those two.
We slowly made our way to the beautiful Bald Head Island Club, where they had a tented reception on the Palms Terrace outside.
They danced ALL NIGHT LONG. There was a conga line for I think forty five minutes. The only downside to the reception, and it’s really just a matter of personal taste… the bride and groom are huge Jimmy Buffet fans. Like, big time all about that man. So they asked the DJ (Tommy Robbins of Shoresound Productions) to play nothing but the Buffet. Hey, everyone has their thing. It just so happens that Kim and I are the opposite of Buffet fans. So, in the midst of all that happiness and joy and drunken dancing – were Kim and me, cringing and trying like crazy to keep Margaritaville from playing over and over in our heads.
Great. Now Margaritaville is playing over and over in my head.
So, there you go – part one of a three-part excursion through some of my favorite Bald Head Island weddings. Stay tuned for part two, which if I’m swift and steady will be up sometime later today!