A Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding in Charlottesville, VA: Caroline + Jon

We met on a dating app (OkCupid), and though in our mid-/late 30’s, this is the first marriage for both of us. We took our time finding the right person – I guess we’re late bloomers!

Our first date was at the best pizza place in Arlington. I was skeptical of Jon because his profile was explicit that he "didn't get dogs." Jon was skeptical of dating someone who lived in Virginia, as he had been living in DC for a decade and was only temporarily displaced to the Commonwealth due to a house fire (everyone was fine). There was an immediate spark, though, and by the third date (an afternoon cruise up and down the Potomac) we both knew that this could be special.

Jon really wanted to propose when we were in Hawaii for a cousin's wedding. He knew I would love to share the moment with my family, but that we also could not step on the toes of the couple getting married, which left only one time – the morning after the wedding. After a fairly sleepless night, he woke me up at dawn and proposed in bed – and then proposed a little road trip. The ring, you see, had not been delivered on-time in DC and was awaiting pick-up an hour away. The one used to propose was a dummy, purchased at a local shop in Haleiwa. We took a breathtaking early-morning road trip down the north shore coast to pick up the actual ring, jamming out to a playlist of "our songs" along the way, wiping away tears.

For our wedding, honestly, it was pretty much Highland or bust. We knew we wanted to get out of DC – not a flight, but a long enough drive that all our friends coming from DC would make a weekend of it. We also made our guest list first, which was about 250 people, so we needed a large space. Finally, I was insistent that the venue have outdoor views, and when you combine those factors, Highland was just the obvious choice. We went to visit, looked at one other place the same day, and made a very easy decision.

As a full-figured woman, I knew I might have a challenge in finding a dress, and I felt ambivalent about wearing a traditional dress to begin with. After a lot of back-and-forth and purchase of a simple "back-up dress" from Nordstrom clearance, I settled on a gown from Allure Bridals' plus-size selection, customized and altered by Rosalin's Bridal in Falls Church, Virginia. I had blue shoes, a borrowed hairpin, and an antique handkerchief that belonged to my late grandmother.

Jon wore a custom suit from Blank Label. His ring was made custom for him by his childhood friend Tyler, of the same wood as the giant old tree in the center of Highland. I gave him the tie bar and the cufflinks as wedding gifts, both from Brooks Brothers. The tie is Ferragamo, which he was conflicted about because he has suits that cost less than that tie! [Editors note: Jon, you chose well – you look great! Totally worth it.]

The decor in particular made us feel loved by our community, because they were a community effort. All the flowers were done by the mother of the officiant and a bridesmaid who is a childhood friend of mine. Many were picked on her farm that morning. The centerpieces were made by me and my maid of honor, and all of the calligraphy around the venue was done by another good friend. One funny detail: Jon’s friend, a physicist, made a special cake-cutter at the request of the groom, which turned out to be a hare-brained scheme that did not work in the end, but did provide some drama and entertainment at the reception.

A co-worker of Jon's made a small keg of home-brewed beer to serve guests.

Our ceremony was intensely personal and sincere. My childhood friend officiated, and we sat down with him to talk about the order of events and what we wanted. We wrote our own vows, and created a recitation (the "I do's") using inspiration from other weddings and traditions, giving special attention to our community of friends and family since we are both people with large families and friend groups. We knew we did not want any traditional religious elements or fertility messaging – it was a ceremony built to express our love for each other, what it means to us, and our commitment to each other forever. We had one reading, done by Jon's uncle, that had been important to us as we were getting serious, and we chose procession and recession music that was meaningful to our relationship. We got a lot of people crying (including ourselves), so that's a good sign.

Words by Caroline, the bride, as told to Amber Marlow. Photos by Laura Scheidt of Exclamation Imagery

Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding caroline walking down brick path with bridesmaid holding train
Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding caroline first look in garden
Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding first look in garden with dreamy sunset light
Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding couple and mother in front of hedges
Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding wedding party in front of large tree
Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding kiss in front of house
Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding caroline and jon on brick path
Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding kiss on brick path
Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding caroline on tree-lined brick path wearing fur shawl
Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding jon on brick path
Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding bridesmaid playing foosball with young guests
Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding bouquet on fur shawl
Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding caroline walking down aisle in garden
Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding bride and father walking down aisle
Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding ceremony with guests
Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding caroline during ceremony
Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding guests crying during ceremony
Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding exchanging rings
Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding ceremony kiss
Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding couple walking on park path lined with trees
Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding bride and groom greeting guest
Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding caroline with guest at reception
Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding reception venue with tables and white lights hanging from high rafters
Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding menu written on chalk board
Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding lantern filled with string lights reading “table 1”
Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding caroline and jon entering reception
Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding couple cutting cake with experimental cake cutter
Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding couple getting help with cake cutter from friend and young guest
Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding caroline dancing with her father
Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding bride and guests on dance floor with arms in the air
Romantic, Intimate-Feeling Wedding caroline and jon kiss on dance floor


Photographer | Exclamation Imagery

Venue | James Monroe's Highland

Day-of Coordinator | Karen McGrath of Amore Events

Florals | Family friend

Catering | Dinner at Home

Makeup | Rouge 9

Hair | Tori and KK of Bristles

Rentals | MS Events

Tenting | VA Tent Rental

Bride's ring | Brilliant Earth

Groom's ring | Grown Rings

Groom's cake | Albemarle Baking Co.

Doughnuts | Krispy Kreme

Guest transportation | Easy Riders Bus Co.

Arcade games | Fantasy World Entertainment

Laura Scheidt Exclamation Imagery


Over the past ten years, Laura has photographed all kinds of weddings and events, from intimate elopements to 2-day, 500-guest wedding extravaganzas to burlesque shows. Laura and her team believe that love wins, all bodies are beautiful, and black lives matter — and those principles guide the work we do and the images we create.