Shelby & Alex's Tennessee Engagement in Pouring Rain (From The Notebook)

It was pouring the day I met up with Shelby and Alex - rain coming down in sheets, and then droplets, and then sheets again. It had been raining like this for over two days and I was positive that they would want to reschedule their engagement session, especially since we were meeting on the shoreline of Percy Priest Lake. Just so much water. 

I texted Shelby that Sunday morning and she replied with, "We're up for shooting in the rain if you are!" And I knew I had found my people. YES. 

Our Nashville version of that rainy scene from The Notebook turned out better than I could have imagined. We were soaked to the bone and so dirty by the end - trees were halfway underwater, there was a layer of thick mud over everything - but it was so much fun. I only fell in the mud once and was beyond thankful for my Hunter rainboots (but also realized my raincoat seems to absorb water instead of repel it, so I'm now in the market for a new raincoat, any suggestions?) 

By the end, the light had faded and the rain had slowed and I knew we had made some magic despite how insane we probably seemed to all the fly fishermen who were gathered around the shorelines of the lake in their bright orange ponchos, watching us from the sidelines. 

Thanks for being up for absolutely anything, you guys. It was so worth it.

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The Best Wedding Venues in North Carolina

The first North Carolina wedding I ever photographed is still one of my favorite weddings to this day. It was at Allie and Nick's grandparents' estate in Flat Rock, NC and there were only thirty guests total - almost all family, so intimate and perfect, at her childhood home. Even though it wouldn't stop raining and the humidity kept rising, we danced late into the night and her family welcomed me in with open arms. It was the start of a beautiful thing. 

I've been back to the Asheville area since then for other NC weddings, and each time I get to come back, I love it. I decided to put together a list of a few of my favorite North Carolina wedding venues that will hopefully help you narrow down your search as you find the perfect place for your upcoming wedding in the mountains. With a state as beautiful as this one, you really can't go wrong.

Here we go! 

Lonesome Valley

Image via Lonesome Valley

Tucked away in the mountains of Cashiers, NC, Lonesome Valley really took my breath away. An hour and a half west of Asheville, NC, this beautiful North Carolina wedding venue is secluded enough to feel like you're in mountain wilderness, without making your family and friends travel too far. Perks include meals by incredible chef Adam Hayes inside beautiful Jennings Barn, contrasted by epic canyon views - this place is a hidden gem of a wedding venue. I can't get enough. 

 

Blackberry Farm 

I should start by saying that Blackberry Farm is actually in Tennessee - but it's so amazing that I had to include it in my list for both Tennessee and North Carolina as it's only about two hours east of Asheville. Up against the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains, Blackberry Farm offers stunning views of the mountains while providing a luxury wedding experience and accommodations that are some of the best. Each wedding here is like crafting experience for the people you love most - I'm convinced it's one of the best. 

 

Overlook Barn

best-north-carolina-wedding-venues-overlook-barn

Overlook Barn offers both sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains for ceremony locations as well as indoor receptions inside their beautiful stone barn that can seat up to 250 guests. The ceilings were the first thing I noticed as I walked inside - 30 feet high with exposed wood beams, and texturized stone walls with beautiful getting ready accommodations, right on site. Located in Banner Elk, North Carolina, this is an amazing wedding venue that should hit the top of your list. 

 

The Ridge 

Head west to Marshall, NC and you'll find  The Ridge, a wedding venue with sweeping 360 views of those North Carolina mountain ranges. If you're looking for sweet southern charm with wrap around porches and acres of rolling hills, this is the wedding venue for you. Fill the entire space with greenery, or leave it bare to rustic charm - bring what you want to into this place and it'll be beautiful, regardless of what you decide to do with it. 


One final disclaimer - even though I think all of the above wedding venues are incredible, many of my favorite celebrations happen in backyards or in more untraditional wedding venues. Whether it's an Airbnb with insane mountain views, a cabin, or a home of a friends of friend, your parents or even a distant family member -  I always think this is a great choice if you're willing to go a little off-road as you craft your own wedding experience. Just one more option to consider as you continue your search for the perfect wedding venue, one that is completely unique to you. 

I'm always here to chat or answer any questions you may have (or did I miss a favorite venue of yours?) Email me at nicola@nicolaharger.com - I'd love to hear from you. 

The Best Wedding Venues in Tennessee

I love calling Tennessee home. She's a beauty, with her rolling hills, roaring waterfalls and the Great Smoky Mountains peeking through on the eastern side. Endless songs are written about Nashville and heartbreak and love and finding home - and I'm so happy we get to call this state ours.

That being said, searching for a wedding venue is always overwhelming and many of the couples I work with don't even know where to start the wedding planning process in looking for their place for the wedding. Location is a huge factor in setting the stage for your story, and you want to make sure you're choosing a location that accurately represents who you are and what you love. 

All of that being said, I've put together a list of the best wedding venues in Tennessee (that I've found so far) to act as a guide as you begin the wedding planning journey. I've based my choices on a variety of different things, but the main ones are experience, aesthetic, feel and location.

As you start to craft your wedding experience, take a minute to scroll through these wedding venues all over the state - I promise you won't be disappointed. 

 

Cheekwood BOTANICAL GARDENS 

Image via OnceWed

Image via OnceWed

Just south of Nashville, Cheekwood Botanical Gardens speaks reminiscently of gardens found in Padua, Italy. Home to the Cheekwood Museum of Art and endless gardens and hidden pools, I'm convinced you could wander in Cheekwood for days on days and still find hidden treasures in tucked away corners. Ranging from gardens to mansion views, villas to reflecting pools and rolling hills to forests, Cheekwood Botanical Gardens has to be a must-see as you tour through wedding venues in Tennessee. 

 

Bloomsbury Farm

Image via Bloomsbury Farm

Image via Bloomsbury Farm

Bloomsbury Farm is a gem, hidden right outside of Nashville with rolling acres of beauty around every corner. A working farm, Airbnb rental and wedding and event space, it's one of my favorite spots in all of Tennessee. Owner Lauren Palmer started the farm herself by selling her organic vegetables at farmers markets back in 2009 and her family has been farming for generations, so you can just tell there's a lot of heritage wrapped up here. This place is a dream any day, so planning your wedding here would be x100.

 

Cedarwood Weddings

Cedarwood Weddings in Nashville, TN

Cedarwood Weddings hits the top of this Tennessee wedding venue list because there aren't many places like it. An all-inclusive, highly sought after destination wedding venue, Cedarwood is like finding wedding venue gold in Tennessee. Just outside of the Nashville, it feels like you're stumbling upon on oasis when you arrive. Their team does it all - styling, florals, rentals, props, amenities - the works. And it's all done in an incredibly beautiful, timeless kind of way, making all your Southern wedding dreams come true.

 

Blackberry Farm

Blackberry Farm is like a diamond in the rough. Located in Walland, TN on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains, Blackberry Farm offers stunning views of the mountains while providing a luxury wedding experience and accommodations that are some of the best. Take your wedding to the next level by crafting an experience for you and your loved ones that will surpass any expectations you might have - I'm convinced you can't find better than Blackberry Farm. 

 

Arrington Vineyards

Arrington Vineyards Wedding Venue Tennessee

Arrington is a popular weekend getaway for many people who live in Nashville - you really can't get much better than sipping wine on a Sunday afternoon while looking out on rolling hills and green vineyards. Weddings here are lovely - the vineyards glow in the fading sun as the night winds down, and the property is so large that the ceremony and reception options seem to be endless. It's possible you'll spot a few sheep crossing the road at some point, and it's certain that the wine will have you dancing all night long. 

 

CJ's OFf the Square

Best Wedding Venue CJ's Off the Square

I first stumbled upon CJ's Off the Square in Franklin last fall, when I walked into the historic home turned wedding venue right outside of downtown. I walked out the backdoor and couldn't believe the lavish gardens that spread out before me - a garden wedding ceremony venue like this is hard to find, especially close to the city. Perfectly set up for intimate and elegant southern weddings, CJ's Off the Square has quickly become one of my favorite wedding venues to photograph weddings at. It's beautiful, intimate and intensely romantic - everything you want in a garden wedding venue. 

 

The Cordelle

Image via The Cordelle 

Image via The Cordelle 

The Cordelle is one of my favorite wedding venues in the city because it's like a blank canvas - you can do whatever you want inside, or just leave it as is and it's incredibly beautiful. With deep hardwood floors and beautiful white walls, The Cordelle is a space where lovely and minimalist weddings shine. The interior styling in the bridal suite is all done by 12th Table (and we all know their aesthetic is perfect). With both indoor and outdoor ceremony locations, this is a perfect venue to plan your wedding in if you're looking to stay close to Nashville. 

 

Falls Creek Falls (Or choose A Waterfall You Love)

Waterfall Wedding Falls Creek Falls Tennessee Venue

Alright - the last two wedding venues in this list aren't actually wedding venues, but (in my opinion) it can be an intentional and incredible choice to go with a wedding venue that actually isn't technically a wedding venue at all. Falls Creek Falls is a state park just a few hours outside of Nashville and the beauty there is unbelievable. Whether you're looking to elope, have a smaller wedding or renew your vows, pledging your life to the one you love in front of a roaring waterfall is one of the most epic ways to do it (and could save you thousands of dollars in the long run!) It's not for everyone, but for the few that love this idea, get in touch! I love it too. 

 

Your backyard

Backyard Wedding Venue Tennessee

The last venue on my list is pretty self-explanatory. While I will always love photographing weddings at all of the venues on this list, it's the backyard weddings that I love the most. There's something absolutely amazing about gathering your best people together at your home (or your parents' home, or your grandparents' home) and celebrating the start of your marriage. Backyard weddings are a symbol of family to me, the kind of celebration that is intimate and meaningful with so much legacy wrapped up in inviting everyone into your home. If you don't actually have a backyard, maybe you have an uncle or a close family friend that has a piece of beautiful property in Tennessee that's even better. Whatever you decide to do, I know it'll be beautiful - you're putting your heart behind every choice you make as you plan your wedding, and that's what really counts.