Meet Hunter and Justin. The recently married couple was kind enough to share photos of their gorgeous North Carolina mountainside wedding. Both real estate agents, the couple has been together for eight years prior to getting engaged. Hunter spoke to us about their wedding, the fabulousness of sooo many roses (just wait ’til you see the photos!), the unpredictable weather and the amazing energy that their guests brought to the day. Read on for great words of inspo and advice.
Couple: Hunter McNair and Justin McNair
Wedding Date: September 18, 2021
Location: Castle Ladyhawke, Tuckasegee, North Carolina
Guest Count: 90
Photographer: Rachel L’Antigua Photos
How long did it take for you to choose your wedding location?
It was the first location we looked at in person. We had done a lot of research online. We wanted something a little outside of the box.
How many months did it take for you to plan your wedding?
We got engaged in June of 2020 and then we picked the venue out literally a week later. We already knew we were going to get engaged so we already were doing research ahead of time. So from June of 2020 until September of 2021 we were planning.
What did you want for your wedding when you were planning it? Did you have a vibe you were going for?
We wanted to create an experience for people. It was about creating this enchanted experience, like this ‘castle in the mountains’ experience. It’s fairly difficult to get into the venue, just pulling into the driveway, it’s like a three or four minute uphill drive. We wanted the vibe to be like something out of Disney. We wanted our guests to be in this illusion of a different world.
With that in mind, a lot of it was in the details. Even from our invitations and our Save the Date cards, each had these rose wax seals on them that I hand did myself. And then we translated that to the day of the wedding by having the same rose stamp seal holding up our table numbers. And then when everyone sat down at their seat for the reception, they had a rose on their plate. We were all about roses. It was just about carrying those little details throughout. When people got out of the car with valet, everyone got a glass of champagne. It was just all the little details to add a little extra “umph.”
How did you feel making all of those seals yourself?
It meant something special. You’re doing it, knowing it’s going to the people you care about, like, this is what my mom is going to see, my best friend from college is going to get this one. So yeah, it was more special than it was tedious.
Do you have any advice for couples having gone through the planning process? Anything that made it easier?
Yes, planning wise, I would say knock out the big stuff right away so that you can have fun with the small stuff. We also chose not to care so much about certain decisions so that our mind space wouldn’t be so taken up. We understood people aren’t going to remember what they ate. They’re not going to remember that you had this, but not that. So not being so attached to those little details and really just letting yourself have fun with the smaller things.
What was one of the most memorable moments for you looking back at your wedding day?
Well, it rained. And what’s really funny about that is ever since I was young, I always said it’s going to rain on my wedding day. So I always said that I can never get married outside because it’s going to rain. Well, obviously, it rained. I actually ordered umbrellas when I saw the 15-day forecast called for rain.
Our ceremony turned from being this outside on the side of the castle with a mountain view ceremony into this really cool intimate indoor wedding. We ended up moving it into the Great Hall of the castle, we had the fireplace all decked out, so it ended up becoming this beautiful, homey, cozy atmosphere. It felt like we were getting married in this beautiful candlelit space with all of our people right there with us. It was just really raw and intimate. We thought we would be getting married with this sweeping grand view and then it turned out to be this really intimate, homey-feeling experience.
Is there some part of the reception time that you were really glad you decided to splurge on?
Two things. The biggest thing really was the flowers, specifically roses. They are very difficult to get right now. We had so many roses that the venue doesn’t allow that many anymore, that’s how many roses we had. Just petals, everywhere.
The other thing we did was for our guests. We had a welcome drink and small passed hors d’oeuvres before the ceremony. And then we also did a late night snack. So when people arrived, they were handed a glass of champagne, sparkling rosé, because pink roses. And then they had little bites. Because we had a shift from outside to inside, it allowed that to happen seamlessly. Everyone was exploring the castle and getting this enchanted vibe. They were getting to experience it before we actually got married. We did this whole pre-ceremony thing on top of doing a cocktail hour after we were married. And each part was a different menu, different food selection and different liquor selection. It was just like this full experience. And then people who stayed late got late night snacks, like burger bites and chicken tacos late. So food and flowers, that’s what we splurged on.
How did you make special people in your lives feel valued and special on your wedding day?
We did toasts. Our moms walked us down the aisle. We both had two girls and two guys in our wedding party. The night before at our rehearsal dinner we gave them personalized bags that had their names on them. We gave girls robes and the guys we gifted them shirts with unicorns showing off their muscles on them. Everyone got little bottles of vodka, tweezers, Gucci cologne. We really went wild on their bundles.
How did you entertain your guests?
We had assigned seating. And we purposely pinned people together who didn’t know each other. It was really fun to see different people from our lives meet each other who we thought would get along and then actually see that really pan out. Everybody loved each other, everyone became friends.
I think the energy was really, really great. We’re gay people and so we have a lot of gay guests and everyone in our lives is very accepting of that. And so it was really cool to see straight couples mixing with our gay friends and our families celebrating with our friends. Like Justin’s uncle grew up in the sticks, and he had a great time. Everyone really blended together in this really cool way. And we had some guests who were real dancers.
One of our guests sent us a video of a wedding she was at and they were playing “Dancing Queen,” and no one was dancing. We played “Dancing Queen” too and there was, for sure, dancing. Because of it being a queer setting, everyone felt comfortable. Everyone felt like they could be themselves and have fun.
Do you have any advice for creating that fun atmosphere?
You get to pick your family, right? Like the people that come to your wedding are the people who should be the people that are in your family, in your heart. My biggest advice is don’t let anything get in your way of having the best day of your life. There’s going to be so much stuff like, rain. Guests were concerned and coming up to me like, ‘Are you okay?” Because it’s raining on my wedding day. And I was like, ‘Yeah, I am fantastic!’ There’s nothing that was going to ruin this for me. Because this is my day. And I get to make it what it is. lt was empowering to us to feel like we were really in control of our result. Mentally more than anything else. Anything could have happened. But as long as that four o’clock ceremony started and we got married, the rest didn’t matter.
Things are going to come up. Someone is going to mess something up. It shouldn’t get in the way of your day being amazing. You just have to really embrace that you’re living in the heaven that you’ve created.