Feb 24-15


Jamie and I get asked often if we decided to do a first look or not. We knew from the beginning that we did not want to see each other before our ceremony, but we did want to pray together. Right before our ceremony, we shared one of the most special moments of our wedding day together, holding hands around a door. It put me at ease to be able to hear his voice and pray together without him seeing me. If you ask me, I think this was the perfect middle between a first look and walking down the aisle!

First Look or Not?
The greatest piece of advice I can give a bride about the answer to this questions is do what feels right for you! One choice isn't better than the other - they both create meaningful and beautiful moments. Do what you know will be most comfortable for your personality and timeline of your wedding day.

If you are thinking these thoughts, I would recommend doing a first look:
- "I feel like I would be anxious not being able to see my groom before the ceremony."
- "I want to get a majority of my formal portraits done before the ceremony, so we can enjoy the cocktail hour with our guests."
- "I want a private moment when my groom sees me for the first time."
- "It will be dark outside by the time my ceremony is over, and I want beautiful portraits of the two of us."


Jamie and I decided to host our ceremony outdoors in beautiful, natural light. With the perfectly shaded light and lovely backdrop, I knew this would make for the perfect ceremony space for us. While deciding on your ceremony location, it's helpful to think through these thoughts:

For Church Ceremonies:
- Does the church allow photography?
- Does the church have any strict rules or parameters for your photographer?
- How is the lighting? Is it dark? Are there any windows that would provide natural light?
- What does the light look like at the specific time of your ceremony?

We recommend churches or chapels that have as much window light as possible!

For Outdoor Ceremonies:
- How is the lighting? Is in under shady tress? Or in the direct sunlight?
- What does the light look like at the specific time of your ceremony?
- Is there surrounding space where your photographer can freely move around to get different shots?

Planning your Ceremony Time
Be sure to check the full "Planning your Wedding Timeline" blogpost for a more comprehensive answer to this question!

We highly recommend that you plan your ceremony around the time of your sunset! You can look up the exact time of your sunset using this calendar. It is best to allow for one hour of photos after your ceremony, if you do not do a first look. Completing all family and bridal party portraits 30 minutes prior to sunset is ideal. For example, if the sun sets at 7:30pm, your timeline might look like this if your ceremony will for 30-45 minutes :

5:15 Ceremony
6:00 Family, Bridal Party, and Bride and Groom portraits
7:00 Done with Photos / Reception begins
7:30 Sunset

From the opinion of a photographer, outdoor natural light will always produce more beautiful images, but it is more important to choose your ceremony location based on what is most important to you. If you have chosen to get married in a church that is meaningful to you, then get married in that church! A good photographer will be able to capture your wedding, no matter what the lighting looks like. If beautiful images are most important to you, then plan for an outdoor wedding ceremony! Just remember to prioritize what's most important to both of you, as a couple. Nothing can replace the meaning and precious moments that can come from a hosting your ceremony in a special location that you both agree on together.

Click here to read more about how we planned the timeline of our wedding day!

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Feb 23-15


Hannah and Kyle braved a cold winter morning for their engagement photos at Carroll Joyner Park, and I am so grateful they did! We had the most beautiful light and the park was completely empty. I am always impressed with couples - especially the guy - who wakes up early for photos and does so without complaining. When I learned that Kyle only had a few hours of sleep the night before because he worked a late shift as a security guard, I was even more impressed! Hannah and Kyle both were happy and so grateful to be together, the circumstances of little sleep and chilly air didn't even bother them. If this is any indication of who they are as a couple, which of course it is, I can already tell they are in for a really good life together. They both looked at the bright side and focused on the fact they were simply together, and that's all that mattered. I really love couples like Hannah and Kyle.

Hannah is beautiful and gracious. She has a joy about her that radiates from her big smile. She's the kind of person that is so down to earth, you feel like you've known her forever. It was like spending time with an old friend, rather then someone I barely knew. And Kyle... he's a man's man for sure! He's been in the military, he works as a security guard, there's no fluff or frill to him. What I love about Kyle is that, while he is a man's man, he loves Hannah completely. I love watching them interact, because they make each other laugh and have fun so easily. Yep, these two are going to be so great together for the rest of their lives.

Hannah and Kyle, I cannot wait to capture your wedding day!

Film Processing: Indie Film Lab













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Feb 20-15


I can't think of a more cozy room that I would rather be in on a chilly February evening, enjoying a mug of tea and a delicious meal. Don't you just love those rich and inviting colors? Kelly Perry and Kaitlin Holland created this lovely tabletop inspired by the month of February!

A few thoughts from Kaitlin Holland:
We created a balanced contrasted look with white and dark grey plates, garden chairs, black floral containers, light table linen, white runners, and white plates. This mimicked the warm nature of the arrangement that Kelly so beautifully created!

Click here to see the lovely feature! And while you are there, be sure to get familiar with The School of Styling - it's a wonderful resource for wedding vendors!

Styling: Kaitlin Holland of The School of Styling
Florals: Kelly Perry of Philosophy Flowers
Calligraphy: Alexa Leigh Design
Film Processing: Indie Film Lab











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Feb 19-15


The School Sessions is a one-day event across the globe on Sunday, April 12, 2015 to raise $200,000 to build a school in Haiti. I am one of the many photographers that have signed up online to photograph a portrait session and donate 100% of fees to The School Sessions!

I only have ONE spot available, and it must be scheduled and booked before April 12th since I already have a shoot scheduled that day! (We will work out the date together.) So, first come first serve : If you want a session with me (Nancy), AND you want to help build a school in Haiti, email me ASAP!

What's included:
45 minute session with Nancy
50-70 High Res Digital Negatives & Rights to Print
Custom USB
Online Gallery for viewing and downloading your images


How to Book:
Email me (nancy@nancyrayphotography.com), and let me know you'd like to book a School Session
A portrait session with me is $800, and it includes everything listed above
It can be a couple session (hello, Valentine's Day!), a marriage session, a family session... any session you'd like.
100% of your session will be given directly to the school in Haiti!

I have such a heart for missions, and because I believe my work IS my ministry, I'm so grateful for an easy opportunity to combine all 3: missions, work, and ministry.

This cause is amazing, friends. $200,000 will buy land and build a ten-classroom school for 220 students. The previous building was destroyed by the 2010 earthquake and these children (ages 3 to 16) are in need of a earthquake and hurricane-proof school to learn and grow. By empowering hundreds of photographers across the world with a simple way to give back, together we will meet our goal!

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Feb 18-15


This maternity session goes down as one of my favorites of all time. You'll notice it's a bit unusual, but that's what makes it so beautiful! Just keep reading...

Will and English, one of the most genuine couples I've ever worked with, have the most amazing love story. We photographed their beautiful wedding back in 2012, and at that time I learned how their love story was much deeper and richer than I realized when I first met them. Early in their relationship, English had to have a double lung transplant, and Will stayed by her side in the hospital day and night. Although they were young (they had just graduated high school at the time), their love withstood the test of some seriously heavy challenges. Thankfully, English made a full recovery and is so vibrant and full of life today. Will brings out the joy and goofiness in her, while being her rock at the same time. They married a few years later, and I couldn't imagine a happier, more vibrant couple! Their engagement session and wedding was just plain fun, and their story is so inspiring.

Fast forward a few years, and this sweet couple is now expecting their first baby! While English faced serious health challenges at such a young age, she and Will decided that when the time came to start a family, the safest thing for English and the baby would be to use a Surrogate Mother. Enter Jenna - the most amazing, kindhearted woman. With two kids of her own, she has agreed to carry Will and English's little baby into this world. It was fascinating and beautiful to learn about this process, but my favorite part of this session was watching them interact with one another! Jenna, Will, and English talked about pregnancy and the excitement of expecting your first baby. Will and English cared for Jenna with such intention, making sure she had enough water and that she was comfortable. Jenna was very laid back, and her kids absolutely adore Will and English. I loved how each person involved in this little baby's life was genuinely thankful. Thankful to be together, thankful for the opportunity to turn a health challenge into a miracle, thankful to have a part to play in bringing this life into the world. Baby boy Sall - you are already so loved!

I hope you enjoy this sweet session as much as I did!

Film Processing: Indie Film Lab










Comments: 3

  1. Samantha February 18, 2015 10:15 am

    Nancy, this is so sweet! Such lovely images to capture such an amazingly beautiful time of life. Congratulations to all!

  2. English February 18, 2015 3:07 pm

    Nancy, these are so beautiful and it was such a special, fun day for us. Thank you for capturing it so well!.

  3. Diana February 18, 2015 5:40 pm

    This made me cry and I don’t even know y’all. I was having such a bad day, mostly having a pity party because my health has been so poor and I’ve just been feeling ugly. And God used your beautiful story to give me hope and perspective and contentment. Blessings to all three of you (+ baby!) on your journey.

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Feb 17-15


As you are planning your wedding, the biggest decisions you will make will be in your details. Whether it's the earrings you are going to wear, how you are going to display your guests' escort cards, or the flowers that will fill your reception tables, these details tell a story - your story. It's important to have these precious details photographed as a reminder of your love story and style. Your photographer should carve out time throughout your wedding day to photograph these details.

Prepare in advance. Let you photographer know where your dress and shoes can be found so they can get detail shots of those special pieces. Gather all of your details together in a small bag or box to present to your photographer when they arrive. They will want to take pictures of these details before you put them on, if possible.

In your small bag or box, you should include:
- Paper goods - program, escort card, menu, full invitation suite with extra envelops and any other details like a spool of string or ribbon used to tie your suite together
- Jewelry - earrings, necklace, etc.
- Garter set
- Rings (his and her wedding bands, as well as your engagement ring)
- Any other sentimental details that you might want to include

Cocktail Hour
Communicate with your photographer about any special details that you will have during your cocktail hour - guest book, escort cards, wedding favors, specialty cocktails or food. These details will most likely be photographed during your cocktail hour or before. We like to photograph these details in context! For example, it makes more sense for a guest to be holding a cocktail, or a server holding a lovely tray of hors d'oeuvres.

The best scenario for photographing the reception details of your wedding is to hold your cocktail hour in a different location. This will give your photographer the opportunity to have the space to themselves and capture all of the detail pictures without the difficulty of dodging guests and servers! It is helpful to coordinate this time with the wedding planner or coordinator, to make sure everything is completely ready and set (with candles lit), so your photographer can capture it efficiently in the small window of time given on a wedding day. We love to photograph wide shots of the full space, close up individual shots of any special details, your floral arrangements, furniture, table setting, and cake.


A few last tips:

- The more hours of coverage that you have your photographer booked, the more time they will have to style and photograph these details! It takes time to photograph and style details, and the results are always best when your photographer is not rushed, but has the creative flexibility to move things into better light, if needed.

- If there is a detail that is placed in an obscure place that the photographer might not know about, make sure you communicate that ahead of time.

- There is a difference between a Wedding Planner and Designer / Stylist. Most of the time, Wedding Planners offer the practical help of planning your wedding from start to finish, and executing that plan on the wedding day by being the "point person" to call all of the shots. Designers / Stylists will guide you stylistically, offering resources and guidance on the creativity look of your wedding day. If you hire a Stylist, it benefits the photographer because they often also help to "style" the details in a beautiful format, like you see here! Becca Rose styled many of these images while Nancy photographed them, which made things time efficient and beautiful - a win win on a wedding day!


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Feb 16-15


Erin McLean. I seriously love this woman. She is one of the best Event Planners in the Raleigh area, and she is a dear friend of mine as well! Not only does she create beautiful events and have an inspiring team of women that work with her, but she is a wonderful wife and Mama too. I have loved watching her business grow, and I loved capturing this creative afternoon of floral design! Erin and her team are now offering floral design for their brides, and it's absolutely lovely. In addition to her natural gift of floral design, Erin spent time with Jacin of Lovely Little Details, who mentored and inspired Erin as she homed in on her own aesthetic. Take a peek at Erin's lovely work below!

Film Processing: Indie Film Lab









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Feb 13-15


Happy Valentine's Day, friends!

In honor of one of my favorite holidays, here are a ideas that could make your Valentine's Day a little brighter:

Favorite Gift Ideas
Thirty One Days of Prayer for the Dreamer and Doer
A Volcano Candle
This lovely-smelling Hand Soap
Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Almonds from Trader Joe's
Love, Sex, and Happily Ever After by Craig Groeschel

Favorite Traditions
Fresh Flowers
A surprise note left in your loved one's car
Cooking at home instead of going out to eat - this is what Will has done for me the past 3 years, and I love it! I stay completely out of the kitchen and have nothing to do with the menu or food prep. Then he surprises me. I always love to see what he whips up! We still get fancy and dress up a little too!
A weekend away with friends - I'm considering planning this for next year. Will only celebrates Valentine's Day because I love it - he really doesn't care for it that much. I'm inspired by Callie who is going away with her friends for the weekend this V-Day. I think Will would really love a Valentine's weekend away with other couples!

What are your favorite Valentines gifts or traditions? Wishing you and your loved ones the happiest of weekends!

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Feb 12-15


To see this Maternity Session, click here
To see Evelyn's birth, click here

As I walked into Jenn and Ford's beautiful home, I was so excited to meet little Evelyn. I had planned to be there to photograph her birth, but God had some other plans in mind since she decided to arrive just as I was heading out of town for a long-planned family vacation. I was pretty sad I wouldn't be there to help welcome her into the world, but I was immensely thankful for the wonderful job that Elizabeth did capturing those sweet memories! Everything worked out perfectly.

We planned Evelyn's newborn session to take place 1 week after her birthday. Let me first start off by saying, YES, Jenn and Ford are the most beautiful couple, especially after having just had a baby and making it through many sleepless nights. I asked Jenn to share with me all of her secrets... I wish I more to offer you here, but I think some women are just blessed to look amazing, no matter what!

Evelyn was perfect. She went back and forth between being sleepy and awake, but she always was the sleepiest when Mom and Dad were holding her. Her little head full of hair was just precious, and I loved how tiny she was. She was the perfect addition to this sweet family! Spending time with this sweet family made me so excited to meet our little one, arriving in just a few months.

Jenn and Ford, I am so grateful. Thank you for inviting us into your lives at the most precious, important, and meaningful times in your lives. Walking into your home and seeing images from your engagement, bridal and wedding day couldn't have made me any happier! You get it. The importance of legacy, passing on heirlooms, capturing and photographing the most important times in your lives. I am just so grateful, and I can't wait to continue to capture your family as it grows. Congratulations again on the most perfect little girl!

Film Processing: Indie Film Lab

















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Photographer, wife, and worshiper... I am a Southern girl who looks most forward to waking up each morning to drink my coffee, read my Bible, and soak in the beauty that surrounds me. These pages chronicle my work, my life, and the things that I love most. You'll also hear from Callie, Will, and Elizabeth - my amazing team who has so much to offer. Thanks for visiting, I do hope you stay a while!
Nancy Ray
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