Belhaven Wedding Venue | An Interview with Kate Brown of River Forest Manor

An interview with Kate Brown of River Forest Manor

Photo taken by Sara Coffin Photography

As most of you know, I am from Eastern North Carolina. Now, I know some of you may think that eastern NC is like the rest of the state—but, it is not. There’s a harder southern drawl, things are typically slower, and honestly—the people are more tan. I miss living in this part of the state, there’s some sort of magic to it. That’s why when Kate agreed to chat with me about her venue in Belhaven, I was just so happy!

Kate is a wonderful point of reference for business, but also for brides in general. Kate is one of the owners of River Forest Manor located in Belhaven. Now, if you have never been to River Forest Manor (which just opened up only a few years prior), you should really take a trip to go see her in its glory. Imagine a white house with the tallest of columns belting loud and proud on the patio porch right in front of the water. I mean, it is something spectacular to see even if you are a local. It is such a sight that it will immediately put you at ease—this is a place for celebration in the happiest of ways. I am excited to share with you more from Kate on how River Forest Manor came to be what it is today.

The images that you will see in this blog post are not my images. Please see the verbiage written under each image to see which wonderful photographers shot which image.

Photo taken by Renee Sprink Photography

Photo taken by Renee Sprink Photography

N: Tell me how you came to be part of this wild and wonderful wedding industry. What is the history behind your venue?
: My family is from Belhaven and I grew up on its waters, so the River Forest Manor & Marina has always been in my life.

When I was little, the River Forest Manor operated as a restaurant and hotel with a fully operating marina. It was a true landmark in the community and our town. The River Forest was a place that people gathered for a special meal or came to buy boat gas. Sadly, it fell into disrepair and eventually closed.

Together with a handful of investors all with local ties to Belhaven, I bought the historic mansion a few years ago in 2014. We were not quite sure what to do with the property at that time, but similarly timed marriages among our investment partners and some of our investors’ children led us to realize the grand place was meant to host life’s most important events.

More than a century-old, the River Forest had set the stage for great celebrations, large and small. We knew that its first owner built it for that purpose in mind and we were ready to restore it to do just the same.

 We officially re-opened the doors in 2016 and the River Forest Manor & Marina again has become a place where the local community and people from all over can celebrate. It is again a place that will bring economic opportunities to our charming waterside town.

N: What sort of couples do you typically have at the venue, etc.?
The majority of our couples come to us seeking a memorable destination for their wedding. We’ve proudly hosted local couples as well as welcomed couples from throughout the state and many parts of the country.  

 N: What are some key things about The River Forest Manor that separates it from the other wedding venues? Is your venue considered a destination wedding venue?
We affectionately call the River Forest Manor & Marina our Grand Lady because she is a true historic gem and definitely a destination. When we purchased the property and started to do renovations, we had to search for key contractors who specialized in ornate ceilings and antique woodwork to ensure we restored her properly. Because of this, we now have the most gorgeous renovated details throughout the house and property.

 We have 13 bedrooms on the property all perfectly suited to host bridal party members and guests. We’ve also created a network with the Bed & Breakfast owners and AirBnBs within the Belhaven community for guests to stay within walking distance of the Manor. We’ve even had guests dock their sailboats at our Marina for accommodations.

 Our events team will also set up fun activities for the bridal party and guests including massages and facials, boat rides off our docks and even hunting excursions.

 Our full-service Marina also makes the River Forest a unique setting that guest really enjoy. We always have boaters on our docks and they especially love to see the wedding festivities on our property. Many boaters will camp out on their vessels to watch the bride and groom depart—some will even sound their horns to send them off. It’s just amazing to hear and see so much celebration right here on the property. The guests love it, too. It truly is special.

Photo taken by Debra Ash Martin

Photo taken by Debra Ash Martin

 N: Do you work off a preferred vendor list? If so, why? If not, are there any vendors that are absolutely necessary from a venues standpoint--like catering, etc.?
We do have a preferred partner list and it includes the companies we have previously partnered with to envision and create spectacular events. We appreciate professional, honest, and fun companies. However, we also appreciate it when a couple has their heart set on a specific vendor or partner—that allows us to broaden our network. We do ask that our caterers be licensed and bonded accordingly, but other than that we welcome all vendors.

 N: How often do you receive images from photographers who have photographed weddings at The River Forest Manor? Which images stand out more from a venues perspective? Which ones are you more likely to share or showcase on your website?
We do receive images from the majority of our wedding photographers. We often receive our couple’s engagement photos, sneak peeks during and after the events and eventually the full wedding gallery. We love to share those photos with our community, on social media and our website. Of course, we always ask permission to share the images and are very courteous to every photographer to ensure credits are included.

 N: What are some things that you wish more photographers did on a wedding day shooting wise? Anything dealing with communication you wish photographers did in advance?
We are firm believers in allowing the photographer to be his or her true artistic self. There is no limit to the images that could be created here, and every eye is different. Our Grand Lady photographs well—ha! Truthfully, we very much appreciate the opportunity to see the special moments each photographer captures.

N: If you've never worked with a photographer before--do you suggest having them reach out to you? Do you ever suggest them to come by to take a look at the property?
We know our brides, grooms and their families want the very best photos to remember their special celebrations and, therefore, I do recommend that photographers visit our venue prior to the events. If a photographer doesn’t have the knowledge of light or hasn’t seen the full property in advance, the photos may not work out as well as they could.

We’ve found that many photographers will scout the property during bridal portrait sessions and speak with the bride about ideas.

N: What makes for a good vendor relationship?
Our job is to make sure the event logistics are seamless. We ask planners to pass along timelines a few weeks before the wedding to notify us when vendors will start delivering materials, like tents and décor, to the venue and offer a schedule for the various activities.

With proper planning and communication between all vendors, we are able to better support our couples and their family to make sure the celebration they’ve dreamed about comes to life.

Photo taken by Dana Jo Photography

Photo taken by Dana Jo Photography

How Can it be Wrong When it Feels so...Copyright? | A Simple Guide to Understanding Copyright

You know, it’s one thing to sort of think you know something on a topic dealing with your profession—it’s another thing to come to the conclusion that you should probably do more research on what seems to be a controversial topic in your area of expertise. The more newer/beginner photographers I meet, the more I realize that the topic of copyright has never been really explained to them. Information can seem to be written in a way that is over our heads.

I wanted to talk with a copyright lawyer to ask the questions that I have been asked (and couldnt answer with certainty) by other photographers. For something as simple as copyright, why is it such a big deal? Furthermore, why is this such a hot topic within the photographer community? Thankfully, a good friend referred me to John Kivus with Morning Star Law Group, and he helped guide me to some wonderful resources and answered some questions in regards to this topic.

I talked to John for 45 minutes on these topics, and have summarized his answers below. Though I had him check certain points for technical accuracy, the write-up is my summary of his conversation, not exact quotes. As you would probably assume from that description, this write-up shouldn’t be considered legal advice. If you have a copyright issue, you should contact a copyright attorney that you trust.

N: What is the textbook definition of Copyright and how does this effect photographers?

J: An original work, fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Basically, this means there has to be some level of “creativity” involved. For example, a table of data might not be considered creative. Furthermore, You can not copyright an idea. An example that I like to use is that there is a musician in a bar and the musician has freestyled some music. If no one records said music, there’s nothing created that can be copywrited. However, if it was recorded, then the artist  can copyright it. As a photographer, you satisfy the fixation requirement by simply capturing it in camera.

N: Does this effect every sort of photographer? Meaning, can anyone with a camera benefit from copyright laws?

J: Yes. This could mean your mom taking a photo with her ipad. She would own it the second she takes the photo.

N: What are the necessary arrangements that need to be made to make sure a professional photographers images are correctly copyrighted?

J: Copyright is a federal statute and you have to bring any formal enforcement of your copyrights in federal courts. You cannot bring to NC Small Claims Court. A pre-requisite to bringing a copyright enforcement action is registration of your copyright. You do this through the copyright office at the Library of Congress. You can submit multiple works in one registration, but there’s a size limit to submit via a zip file. Also the max size of a submission is 750 thumbnails. Registration also gives you access to certain other remedies (such as statutory damages) that may increase the likelihood that you receive a settlement if someone uses your work without permission.

N: When sharing to social media, lets say--Instagram-- would a platform like this revoke our copyright to said image? If yes, is there a way around this?

J: Posting to social media doesn’t mean that you abandon your copyright. If you’re looking for an example of how one might “abandon” his or her copyright, you could probably do this by a very broad Creative Commons license (American non-profit organization devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share.)

Instagram -- when you post to instagram you are giving instagram the license to do what they need to do to reshow your image. There are questions in the grey area that may allow for them to sell your image to third parties. This is more likely to happen rather than losing your copyright. Instagram has muddy language about what it can and will do with your images. Instagram does have a way of submitting take down notices if someone says an image is theirs or if its not. This bigger risk is widely seen than abandoning copyright.

N: Obviously, in a wedding photographers line of work it is common these days for photographers to share images with all of the other vendors who participated in said wedding together. What is the lawful way of sharing images with these vendors? Is it requiring every vendor to sign a contract?

J: This is a complicated issue. It involves the industry as a whole. I will say that a good place to inquire about what is going on within the Triangle photographers would be the WPS.

If you’re a copyright holder, you have a bundle of rights. Some of these rights include reproduction, publicly performing, and printing rights. These rights are things you can give as a bundle or give away like certain sticks. You can be very specific when giving these rights to someone--you can say things like “you may display these images via social media as long as you always tag us.” The great thing is that you can be specific. The best way to do this license is to show that is written, signed or acknowledged.

N: What are the different types of rights that we as a business can grant to others to use our images? For instance, can a photographer grant printing rights up to a certain size? What does it mean for a photographer to grant FULL rights to any images?

J: In commercial work, a photographer may grant rights to use images for a certain amount of time. This is the discussion by many wedding photographers-- are photographers comfortable in giving these rights away.

N: Does copyright ever expire? When would something be placed in the public domain category?

J: The life of the author plus 70 years is the life of the copyright. There are some specific other situations where things might be a little different, but that’s the most common.

N: What can a photographer do if someone has used their image without permission?

J: You can file a lawsuit, you can send a Cease and Desist letter, you can also send a take down notice to the web host of the person who is using the image wrongly. I would suggest to follow up with DMCA news to stay up to date with the current status of this very thing. The intent behind DMCA was to create an updated version of copyright laws to deal with the special challenges of regulating digital material.       

N: What is the biggest misconception about copyright law?

J: The biggest misconception that I correct the most on is “can I have the copyright to the photos that you took at my wedding?” This is considered a license and not a copyright.

Downtown Durham New Years Eve Wedding

It is with great pleasure to share with you this wedding. I have had the privilege of getting to know not only both Stacy and Alex, but their families, as well. Being able to collaborate and dream with them has been one of the best perks about this wedding, and it was just an all around good time. Stacy and Alex tied the knot on New Years Eve and threw a massive party for all of their guests to enjoy. Guests flew and drove from all over the country for this, and that just tells me that these two were extremely loved from the beginning.

Stacy and Alex met while working in DC. From what I heard via the reception speeches, this came out of the blue and there were sparks of instant attraction. Stacy and Alex moved back to this area shortly before their wedding— Alex is originally from the triangle, and Stacy is from Florida. I quite enjoyed getting to know them a bit more and where they were from. Surprisingly, Alex grew up literally right down the street from my husband in Carrboro. I found out Stacy had an adorning love for all things agriculture, which you all know is my sweet spot. She stole my heart, too.

Stacy and her bridesmaids got dressed and ready at the quirky hotel 21c in downtown Durham. They started the day out here drinking mimosas and having hair and makeup done by Bella Trio. Right across the square, Alex and his groomsmen were getting ready at the Marriott Hotel. This was perfect because later for their first look all they had to do was walk outside and meet in the middle of the square.

We ended up doing their first look photos right in front of Pour which was great because of the fun twinkle lights that surrounded the small trees in front. Take a look at some of those images because they may be some of my all time favorites. I love the ones that Samantha took of the full group (bridesmaids and groomsmen). Seriously, they make me smile some kinda big when I look at them.

The ceremony took place at the beautiful Asbury United Methodist Church and they were married by Pastor Wes Neal. I enjoyed the ceremony and the ambiance of the church, but the best part was being able to see Alex’s face when Stacy and her dad walked down the aisle to him. It’s the little things that get me, and this is just the best part of the whole day. This one part. Yall, the little moments matter. It was a site to see, especially with all of the couples bridal party standing right next to them in this packed full of guests church. All of their friends and family in one place to witness.

The reception took place at one of my favorite Durham venues (not even kidding!)— The Rickhouse! This night could not get any better, but it did. The spirit of all of the guests made this night one to remember. The food, the dancing, the laughter—it was just the place to be for New Years. I loved the small details meant for guests, like flip flops for dancing on the dance floor, or even beaded necklaces and fun glasses to indulge in for the big NYE ball drop. I don’t know what was the best thing about the reception—all of these little things or the fact that they had late night snacks come out when the party needed it.

Obviously, this was our last wedding of the year—and we went out with a bang! I so enjoyed getting to know these two and being a part of their celebration. I do meet some incredible couples, but mine have to be some of the best people around. Stacy and Alex, congratulations on your marriage! I wish you so many years of love and happiness—you two deserve it!

Special thanks to all of these vendors!
Hotel and Accommodations 21c Museum Hotel & Marriott
Hair and Makeup Bella Trio Salon
Bridal Gown Coastal Knot
Florals Fallon’s Flowers
Ceremony Asbury United Methodist Church
Transportation Carolina Livery Transportation
Rentals American Party Rentals
Catering Southern Harvest
Reception Venue The Rickhouse
Photography Fancy This Photography

An Inside Look at Why You Need a Travel Agent for Business and Pleasure
Photo taken by Kevin Glaser Photography

Photo taken by Kevin Glaser Photography

This post is for all you dreamers out there. Yep, if you dream of photographing couples on the beautiful beaches of the Caribbean, this may be the blog post to get your foot in the door. If you are a bride who is feeling overwhelmed by the thought of having a local wedding and would like to just be whisked away to some tropical island and tie the knot on a beautiful pier overlooking windex colored water—this is the blog for you. If you are just thoroughly interested in the life of a travel agent, wanting to know more about what they do and how they can help you plan that dream vacation or honeymoon…this blog is for you.

Debbie, which might I add was our travel agent for our destination wedding, has shared some valuable information that I think could not only help our client readers, but also help photographers who are needing more information on the honeymoon/destination wedding process. I feel as though there are some solid tips shared about the travel industry, but also about business in general.

As a side note, if you are thinking about traveling to the Caribbean, reach out to Debbie. I know destination weddings are not for everyone, but if you are planning on doing what my husband and I did (we tied the knot in the Bahamas), Debbie was our saving grace throughout the process. I will chat more on that later, but this lady is a rockstar at her job. Not only did she help my husband and I with out travel needs, she did so with my sister and her husband, and about 5 other couples and families that we have referred to her. She’s amazing at what she does, and I am not saying that lightly.

P.S. Some of the images that you will see in this blog post are not my images. Please see the verbiage written under each image to see which wonderful photographers shot which image.

P.P.S. Indulge in some of our wedding portraits!!! Thanks, Kevin Glaser!!

Photo by Lindsay Aikman Photography

Photo by Lindsay Aikman Photography

N : Tell me what a travel agent does. How long have you been in business?

D: A travel agent in the simplest of terms helps clients find the perfect trip for the clients specific needs. A travel agent does not charge a fee, however, we do receive a commission from places that we do refer. This does not come out of the clients pocket so its a completely free service. We ask specific questions so that we can see which resorts might fit your needs. We take care of all of the details for the clients, including bookings. We can book all of the flights, deal with communication between the resort and the client, and really serve as the liaison for a smooth experience. BluPrint Travel has been in the business for over 5 years now! However, I have been in this business for 35 years working with other brick and mortar travel agencies.

N: What are the top resorts that you work with? Do you ever help plan vacations that are not on resorts?

D: I mainly work with all inclusive resorts. These include the Sandals and Beaches Resorts along with the Excellence Resorts and AM Resorts. These can be found in Mexico, Dominican Republic, Jamaica.... And other Caribbean islands. Some specific ones are Excellence Resorts, which are adult only and with AM Resorts there is Secrets, Breathless, Zoetry which are adult only and Dreams, NOW and Sunscape which are for everyone. . How I normally tell people what I book is “Fun in the Sun” travel types--so really anything in the Caribbean, Hawaii, all cruises, Mexico, South Pacific, etc.  As far as your question is concerned, I can help clients even if they do not want to go to these fun in the sun type of places, however, I know you would be served better with someone who is well versed in whichever place you want to go. Take for instance, Paris. I could plan a nice trip to Paris for you, but I know there are other people in the industry who mainly do Paris. I specialize in my Caribbean style travel, and I want all couples to receive the best for their travel experiences. I am part of DWHSA--which stands for Destination Weddings & Honeymoons Specialist Association. I can easily reach in to this pool of Specialists who I can guarantee  are qualified and refer them to said client. I want to know that these couples will get as good of service if not better if I refer them out. Just as a side note, if someone says that they can do everything, I would be a bit worried. It takes alot of time and maturity, but eventually you learn what you like and are good at. Once you know what you are good at, there is no need to do other things. You have got to do the parts that you love, because if you dont, you get burned out.

N : I know you work with weddings and honeymoons--I'd like to ask you a few questions about the wedding side. Do you ever suggest the bride book the resort photographer? If you are getting married on a resort, are there any rules about photography or photographers?
D : Most destination weddings that I work with have already chosen a wedding photographer that they want to bring with them. Alot of resorts used to not allow this. Resorts have been more flexible the last couple of years with this, but I think the resorts have realized that they actually make more money this way when a traveling wedding photographer stays as a guest. For instance, if a couple decides to get married in Jamaica, but they do not want the resort photographer and have decided to book a Jamaican photographer instead. This photographer would have to pay a fee to be on the resort for the day. However, if you decide to fly your photographer in from wherever, the resorts are more willing to house said photographer because they would be on the resort for more days. This flown in photographer is considered an invited guest and the resorts are starting to become okay with this idea. As far as the resort photographers go--some clients are okay with them. If its a super small wedding, maybe just the couple themselves, then more than likely they choose the resort photographer. However, if its a bigger wedding, they are more than likely to choose a photographer to travel with them to the destination.

Photo taken by Kevin Glaser Photography

Photo taken by Kevin Glaser Photography

N : Why is it helpful to have a travel agent for a destination wedding or honeymoon?

D: Simple. I help you find a venue. The couple gives me their invite list to send them all of the information. If any of the guests have any questions, they come right to me and not the couple. It’s a seamless process. For a honeymoon-- I help find things that fit in to the couples budget. Sometimes they don’t know about the costs of things, so it’s my job to educate the client. People honestly just dont know what the cost of things are because they’ve never been married before.

N : What type of bride/client do you typically book for your services?

D : 25-35 year olds. These brides tend to have discretionary income. They are more well traveled. They have a knowledge of what travel expenses generally cost. They are college educated, and definitely considered to be in the Millennial generation. The main thing about Millennials is learning how they prefer to do things. I used to find it upsetting and think that some clients were checking up on me--like my resources, etc. But, I realized, Millennials arent checking up on you--they just want to be part of the process. Once I realized this, the whole game changed. I love working with Millennials.

N: Since you work in the destination industry, what advice would you give wedding photographers who are looking to market to destination brides?

D : Reach out to travel agents as we work with quite a bit of destination couples. If you are looking to have more beach themed weddings--then photograph more beach things. You are what you put out there, so make it look like you travel alot. Make it look like you do destination work.


You may find more information at BluPrint Travel