With more than 100 ceremonies in his pocket, Evan from Married by Evan shares his advice on all things officiant!
Who and what is Married By Evan? How did you get started and why?
Married by Evan is a business providing wedding officiant services for couples across Hampton Roads. I started this business in 2019 because after years of officiating a few weddings a year, I had really fallen in love with everything “wedding”. I also realized how many couples, especially ones that were unable to afford hiring a professional planner/coordinator, were intimidated by the thought of their wedding day. I wanted to be able to partner with couples to really help provide guidance, support and encouragement as they began their lives together.
How long have you been an officiant?
A little over 10 year
Couples sometimes have a hard time when it comes to creating their own wedding vows, what advice can you give them?
One of my favorite part of ceremonies that include personalized vows is the “you go first … I should have gone first” dialogue. I love it so much because almost every couple feels like their vows for their mate will fall short and then always knock it out of the park. The bottom line here is just be you. It sounds super cliché, but your fiancé just wants to hear how much they mean to you. My biggest recommendation (probably against a lot of professional advice) would be to not look around at other people’s vows. While I think this works if you are just looking for some traditional vows or other basic elements, it is so easy to look around and find so many different versions of personalized vows that it can just make things even more difficult. No one else is you … he/she fell in love with YOU so just be you. A great tip for many people is to just start a voice recording on your phone and just start talking. Once you have that, you have a great starting point to start putting them on paper!
Also, put it on paper. It is such a romantic notion to go into it with the vows memorized, but there is so much going on during your big day that even a seasoned pro can get flustered and then it just turns to ad lib. This is a good case where being a planner can be more romantic than flying by the seat of your pants.
Candle and sand ceremonies have always been fun additions but what are some other ideas you have seen couples do to represent two people coming together as one?
I’ve seen some really cool ideas. A big one that is gaining popularity is handfasting. In this traditionally Celtic ceremony, couples grab hands (similar to handshake style) and have 3 separate ropes draped over their wrists. These can be draped by the officiant or by individual family members (the more traditional style). The ropes are then loosely tied in a traditional knot fashion by the officiant. The couple then slips their hands out while simultaneously grabbing the individual ends of the ropes and pulling them into a tight knot. This is a really beautiful ceremony and creates a really cool keepsake for the couple.
Other fun examples are finding creative ways to incorporate your venue/surroundings into the ceremony. A great example of this was a couple whose ceremony was in a brewery and they shared a toast mid ceremony from the same stein (glass).
These can also spill over into the couple’s reception. I had one couple who were big sci-fi fans that used an authentic sword to cut their cake together. This may sound strange or too eccentric for some, but it was special and fun to them and THAT is what really matters at the end of the day.
When it comes to finding an officiant what advice can you give couples who are still looking? What are some questions they should be asking?
Based on the questions I have heard from so many couples, I would say to be confident in what you want and don’t be afraid to find someone you can connect with. It is important that your officiant has a good balance of experience and suggestions while making sure to put your wishes and desires first.
At the same time, every couple is different so don’t assume your officiant knows exactly what you need. If you know what you want, be confident to let him/her know. If you aren’t sure, be open and let them know. The more communication the better in my opinion.
Also consider things you may want your officiant to be a part of and be sure they are OK or available with them. These may include rehearsals, blessings for food or other portions of the day, etc.
Another thing to consider, especially given the past couple of months, is what is their policy on something happening with your ceremony day/time. No one ever wants plans to change, but many couples have been sent reeling this year because of the pandemic so be sure to consider their policies on cancellations/postponements so you won’t be surprised should something happen that is outside of your control.
A big thing I try to work with couple on, especially those without a planner/coordinator is their other vendors. Being an officiant allows us to work with some great people in the industry and to know many of them individually so we have some great insight into ones that may works great for them as a couple. Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations if you are having a hard time finding someone for a specific need. This is also a big reason why I try to encourage couples to NOT select your officiant last in your list. I can’t tell you how many couples I have met with who at some point in the conversation say “I wish we had met earlier, this could have saved me a lot of time/money”.
What services does Married by Evan offer and how often should couples meet with their officiant for each one?
I currently offer (3) unique services for day-of as well as pre-marriage planning.
The first of the three services available is a Quick Sign Service. This is very similar to a justice of the peace or courthouse style wedding, but I will meet the couple at the location of their choice. Some couples choose to just meet me in my office and others choose a place that has a special significance for them. For this service, the only real time I meet with them is on their wedding day. I have a short list of questions I send them to help make sure the day is special, even though it is just a quick, casual service.
The second available service is an Elopement Service. This service is perfect for couples who are just looking to have a small, intimate ceremony with a few friends and family. These ceremonies are generally held at an overall smaller venue like someone’s home, on the oceanfront, in a garden; I’ve even done a few in breweries. There really is no limitation to where you can have this type of service. This service generally involves a phone call or video chat as well as a detailed questionnaire to help provide some detail and insight so I can create a ceremony that fits their style and overall desire.
The last service available is the Full Wedding Service. This service is perfect for couples who are having an all-out celebration. With this service, I try to meet with the couple as soon as possible. This meeting is both a chance for us to meet and get to know each other and for me to hear their love story. This helps me craft a unique and personalized ceremony just for them. This is also a great chance for us to discuss their existing plans and for me to suggest some potential additional elements and options they may not have considered. This is the main reason for trying to meet as soon as we can because if the couple likes a suggestion and wants to implement it, it allows them plenty of time to make it happen.
As a supplement to these service options, I also offer pre-marriage planning (I don’t like calling it counseling as this term generally gives the impression that something is wrong … not the way I want my couples to start). These sessions are available as an a la carte service and can range from a single session up to any number the couple feels they want/need.
For more officiant information & services contact Married By Evan!
Instagram: @Married By Evan
Who better to give advice and share their experience than a real life Daissy Torres and Lesner Inn couple! Not only did Mr & Mrs Wolf say I do at Lesner Inn, but they were also Daissy Torres 100th Wedding couple at the Lesner Inn! Keep reading to find out why they said “I do” to Daissy Torres and the Lesner Inn!
Why did you chose Lesner Inn as your wedding venue?
I went with the Lesner Inn as my venue because it encompassed everything I was looking for – an outdoor(ish) venue for the ceremony but a covered area for the reception. I knew I wanted to get married by the water and the Lesner Inn has the perfect view for just that! It’s nice because unlike if you get married on a beach, it’s private and you won’t have random people crashing your ceremony or in your photos. I also fell completely in love with the wall of windows upstairs making the reception hall look big and beautiful without it seeming like a town hall. That was very important to me! Lindsey (Lesner Inn Day of Coordinator) was great to work with as well! Like Daissy, she didn’t make me feel pressured to commit and gave me some time to think about my decision before actually making it. Lindsey was also very accommodating about all the little extra details I wanted to add in or bring with me to make my day as special as possible!
What advice would you give couples who are still looking for their wedding venue?
My advice for couples still looking for a venue is to check out the Lesner Inn! Not only is it breathtaking, but I loved that it took a lot of stress off of me for finding the little extra (and some big) things. They do their own catering and ABC license (super convenient) and they have several ‘add ons’ that you can rent for your day of. The only outside services I really needed to find was my photographer, florist, and DJ! They literally have just about everything else for you to rent or use! Lindsey, our Day of Coordinator, is super sweet and was great at responding to all of my crazy email questions as well. They even let my husband build something and bring in for us to use to make the projector screen more accessible. I highly encourage any couple looking for their venue to check out the Lesner Inn!
When looking for your wedding photographer what were some of the qualities you were looking for?
I was looking for someone that knew my venue inside and out! I also wanted someone that could handle my crazy husband and I and our ridiculous crew. I wanted someone who would not be afraid to tell me if an idea I had would not look right.
What made you choose Daissy Torres Photography?
I did my research and looked at Daissy’s portfolio before asking her to meet with me. I loved her photos and how she had so much experience with outdoor photos. I knew I wanted photographs outside and of course I wanted them to be perfect. When I met with Daissy she was EXTREMELY informative and absolutely knew her stuff. She sat and talked with me and my mom for about an hour/hour and a half during our first meetup. I asked her questions and she was able to answer every single one of them. She also did not pressure me into choosing her. She informed me that the more fun my crew was, the more pictures we were likely to get and I was sold!
How was it like working with Daissy Torres? What were some memorable moments?
Daissy makes you feel incredibly comfortable whether you are used to the camera or not. She understands poses and actions that will give you the absolute best photos. I have several favorite moments with Daissy, as she did our engagement shoot as well. She had asked us to walk towards her and pull each other close, well we definitely misinterpreted her and started this wrestling/pulling match. She laughed the entire time and we got some pretty funny photos out of it!
Also, during my wedding, I was trying to handle a couple of little mishaps and she pulled a few of my bridesmaids aside and said, “Leave Jessica alone, you guys need to figure this out for her.” I loved that she had NO PROBLEM taking charge to make sure my day was as stress free as possible.
Another great moment was this idea Daissy had for my first dance with my husband, she climbed up to the catwalk upstairs in the Lesner Inn and took photos of us dancing! They are so cool and unique, and I never would thought of doing that!
She also was great for me to ask questions/professional opinions! I was struggling with setting up my timeline and I sent her a rough draft of it and asked her what should be changed and she helped me figure it all out! The day went super smooth because of it.
How does it feel knowing you were the 100th wedding for Daissy Torres?
What advice would you give couples who are still looking for their photographer?
Obviously do your research but if you want someone that knows her stuff, will be 100% honest with you, and produce INCREDIBLE photographs, then call Daissy Torres Photography! She will work with you and your style. She is extremely fun loving but knows how to handle any monkey business your bridal party might bring to the big day.
Want to have a similar experience? Then click the link to the Daissy Torres x Lesner Inn Contest or find it on our instagram bios – @lesnerinn & @daissytphoto for your chance to work with Daissy Torres and the Lesner Inn!
As for Jessica and Adam, we wish you the absolute best in love and life! Thank you for sharing your big day with us!
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from?
I was born and raised a Puerto Rican who loves laughter, different cultures and can fluently speak English, Spanish and the universal language of memes.
Did you study photography or are you self-taught? What made you want to focus and do photography as a full-time business?
About 10 years ago, I suffered the loss of my dad who loved photography. Due to this experience, I started looking within myself for things that bring me happiness. Some people garden, others exercise, while I concentrated on photographs. Without any formal training, I exclusively photographed my inner circle. That is, until a couple asked me to photograph their wedding at the Lesner Inn. I don’t think anyone thought seven years later, I’d be celebrating more than 100 awesome couples!
Who were your early influences or is there anyone you have or continue to draw inspiration from?
The wedding photographer world is so vast and there is so much talent out there! However, my favorite inspirational wedding photographers are Two Mann Studios. They are authentic, raw and creative which is all I aspired to be in my business.
How would you describe your style of photography?
I’d say it is moment-driven & joyful. The result is bold images that tell my couple’s love story, journey, and the deep connections they have.
What made you want to do weddings over other types of photography?
I wanted to be a birth and newborn photographer. Being in the pediatric field for some years made it seem like the obvious choice. However, as soon as I had my first wedding reality struck. I really, really do love weddings! The fast-paced, emotional roller coaster and culmination into a party is therapy for me.
What is your favorite part of being a wedding photographer?
All those emotions! I can see all of them in 8-12 hours and such emotional display reminds me to be present in my own emotions and within my own personal circle. The fact is that it ends up in a big celebration of love with my couples realizing how amazing their day went. It is enough to keep bringing me back.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
These last 7 years! I’ve photographed more than 300 events and each one of them has taught me something about people and myself. That and my 22 years of marriage and the two crazy kids that came along with it!
Looking back after 7 years with your first wedding being at Lesner Inn as a wedding photographer and your 100 the wedding also being at Lesner Inn – how would you say things have changed?
I’d like to think both my editing style and creativity are bolder. However, how I love my couple’s day hasn’t changed. Each wedding feels like family, therefore I give my 100% to them.
Are there some types of photos or shoots that you love doing when working with a couple? What are some creative elements you enjoy adding if any?
I enjoy reflections, sunset shots, and unconventional angles. My couples love seeing their love displayed in new ways.
If you could tell your clients and future clients any piece of advice when it comes to their photographer what would you say to them?
Wedding days are madness! As you research your photographer, make sure you choose someone whose personality connects well with yours. After all, you’ll be seeing their face all day! Someone who makes you feel at ease and prepared for what is to be the fastest day of your life will be well worth the investment.
It is always a pleasure to have Daissy come to the Lesner Inn! We always look forward to seeing the photos after of our amazing Lesner Inn couples, which is why we partnered with Daissy Torres Photography for the Daissy Torres x Lesner Inn contest. Check out our instagram bio to enter for the chance to win a 2 hour engagement session, 100 custom Save the Dates or Guest Book, $1,400 off your wedding collection, and $500 credit towards your Lesner Inn wedding! All you have to do is share your love story!
How long have you been a photographer?
I started way back in 1998, where I was originally a film photographer! It’s crazy to have seen all the changes and trends throughout the years but it also hits home the importance of not allowing them to influence your work too much. From day one, it’s always been about documentary wedding photography, shooting those real moments to guarantee your wedding story is timeless.
How would you describe your style of photography?
I call myself a wedding photo-journalist. I definitely shoot all the beautiful portraiture and details but I am also intent on telling your wedding day story in the most natural way possible and capture how it feels because in the long run when you look through your wedding day gallery, that’s what I want you to remember.
What details do you believe make the best photographs?
I love those in-between moments. I think those fleeting, honest snippets really tell the story of the day. Most of the time my most ecstatic reactions from clients are over these special, forgotten moments when they didn’t even know I was watching.
What is your favorite thing about working in the wedding industry?
You know, it’s all good. Being in it for 20 years, I’ve seen it grow from a tight knit group to this expansive crowd now. And though I may not know as many of the people in it, as it’s exploded, we’re still a pretty solid community overall and enjoy working together every weekend. There’s this easy camaraderie we all have with each other working towards making the day as perfect as possible. We’re a pretty lucky group to share in one of the happiest days of a family’s life.
What is the most difficult thing about photography and what is the most rewarding when it comes to weddings?
Hmmm, I don’t know about difficult but with pinterest and instagram there may be more managing of expectations. A lot of images that might be initially desired are actually created under super unique and controlled circumstances. But I swear, the couples I seem to click with are literally just the best and luckily we always seem completely in sync by the time the wedding day rolls around! With such a crowded field, I never lose sight of the fact that it’s an honor that they chose me – trusted me – to document their day, so I really take that seriously and feel rewarded by that.
What’s one piece of advice you’d like to give couples who are looking for a photographer?
Really research your photographer. Explore their portfolio to make sure it fits your vision. Is their style consistent and compelling? Dive deep, ask to see reception photos. Make sure you hire a professional that knows how to handle the rhythm and pace of a sometimes hectic and challenging day because experience matters. Schedule a phone call or in person meeting to make sure your personalities are compatible – you’re going to spend the majority of the day together so you’ll want to make sure the comfort level is perfect!
Julia and Jake kissed their way into forever at Lesner Inn on May 25, 2019 overlooking the Lynnhaven River. The day was perfected with light blues, cake to feed the guests as they danced the night away, and love that filled Lesner Hall to the brim. After their big day was over, we asked Julia and Jake to take a second a reminisce on their relationship and their wedding day – take a look at their love story below!
How, when, & where did you meet?
Jake and I met back in 2013 while both attending Longwood University.
Tell us your engagement story? When did it happen?
Jake had been stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina for the past two years, so Jake’s mom and I went down to visit him for the weekend in September 2018. The three of us met up for lunch in Fayetteville Downtown Historic District, which is a beautiful area with lots of cute boutiques and shops. After lunch, Jake and I were walking around downtown sightseeing, and Jake got down on one knee and popped the question. In a funny twist of events, Jake had the ring box in his back pocket during lunch so he had to pry it open with a pocket knife because it was bent…his execution wasn’t as smooth as he had hoped for but I still said yes.
What made you pick Lesner Inn as your wedding venue?
Jake and I were both immediately drawn to the Lesner Inn. Aside from how beautiful the venue is, my favorite aspect of the Lesner Inn is the Sunset Deck. I’ve always known that I wanted to get married by the water, but I loved that the Sunset Deck offered shade and protection from inclement weather, as well as phenomenal scenery to serve as the backdrop for us as we said our vows.
What additional vendors did you choose for your wedding day, and why?
We didn’t really exceed the standard choice of vendors most couples choose. For obvious reasons, we hired a florist, photographers, DJ, hair/makeup artists, and a bakery. (Fairfield Flowers, Blushwood Studio Photography, DJ Barry McKay, Darling & Dapper, and Plaza Bakery). These vendors were all chosen based off of online reviews and exceptional conversations/meetings with each respective vendor. One decision that we made during the planning process was hiring The Happy Hour Hostess to assist us with the “day of” coordinating—which turned out to be one of the best decisions we made.
What décor & other design aspects of your wedding were most important to you?
I was a pretty carefree bride so I didn’t dwell on decor as much as much as I probably should have. But it meant a lot that the majority of my decor/signs were made by both my mother-in-law and my maid-of-honor, who are two of the most creative souls I’ve ever known.
What was your vision for your wedding day?
I guess the words I’d use to describe my vision for the wedding day would be rustic, relaxed, and classic.
What unique details did you add to your wedding?
The only really unique detail we added was that the handkerchief in Jake’s pocket was a piece of his grandmother’s own bridal gown—which she had Jake’s names stitched into. As a side note, I had to put my dog (who had been the love of my life for 15 years) down days before our wedding, so it meant a lot to see that my mother-in-law had added his picture to the memorial table.
What were you most excited for your wedding day?
It’s hard to pinpoint just one aspect that I was excited for…it’s cliche but I think I was most excited to walk down the aisle with my father and to see Jake standing at the arch.
How did you handle the stress of wedding planning? Were there any major hiccups along the way?
There weren’t any major hiccups during the planning process, but again, our coordinators definitely helped ensure things ran smoothly for us. As far as handling the stress of planning, I self medicated with Cabernet Sauvignon and copious amounts of cardio to keep the stress at bay.
Do you have any advice for couples who are planning their weddings now?
My biggest recommendation to anyone planning a wedding is to utilize a coordinator—Krystinia and Carrie were a crutch for us in the weeks leading up to the wedding and of course the day of.
A wedding coordinator is something we suggest as well! They help take so much off your plate the weeks leading up to the wedding and the day of! We actually offer day-of coordination services as well, just ask us about it! And, of course, a huge thank you to Julia and Jake for sharing their reflection of their wedding day!
Day-of Coordinator: Happy Hour Hostess
Photographer: Blushwood Studios
Florist: Fairfield Flowers
DJ: Barry McKay
Hair/MUA: Darling and Dapper
Bakery: Plaza Bakery
Bridal Gown: BHLDN
From the beginning you were absolutely amazing. Through all of the changes I made you were so kind. I just want to thank you for making our day amazing.
What a beautiful venue! Our wedding at the Lesner Inn was absolutely perfect. Cayleen and Alexis are just amazing. True professionals with an eye for detail. Everything was taken care of beautifully. We couldn’t have asked for better people or better views on our special day.
I could NOT be happier with the service from Lesner Inn. Our coordinator Liz was SO helpful each time we met with her and had questions. The ceremony and receptions spaces were absolutely beautiful. If I had to do it all over again I wouldn’t change a thing and I would recommend this venue to anyone!
I don’t think I can truly describe how much my husband and I enjoyed having our wedding ceremony at the Lesner Inn. I looked at and researched several places, but after my first conversation with Elizabeth, I already knew the venue was going to be perfect for us. It began when they were able to work with me on very short notice. Elizabeth made me feel completely relaxed about the process, not even concerned that time was short. She fully explained all my options and was very patient, even when I made changes along the way. The amount of services Lesner Inn provided made planning this wedding almost stress free for me. The locations was beautiful and simple in a perfect way. It truly was the right location and size for my close family and friends. Even my husband has commented on it several times since then. He isn’t want to have an opinion on these things and yet he has expressed how much he liked it over and over. He absolutely loved the location and had so much fun. Knowing he truly loved it makes me even happier about my choice. Thank you Elizabeth, and the staff at Lesner Inn. It was an experience better than I ever could have hoped for!