Sam + Latalia, Married! Lovers return to home among the hills to wed at The Forks Inn, Elkins, WV


If you know me at all, you know I’m a sucker for anything West Virginia. And this wedding was no exception. The Mountainside Fete was such a joy to attend.


Sam and Latalia went to the same Governor’s Honors Academy but didn’t meet until they were earning their degrees at Princeton, 6 hours away from Elkins. The pair now live in Chicago, but decided to say their vows in their home among the hills. Driving to their wedding, Randolph County’s signage seemed apropos. “Welcome home.”

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Latalia got ready at her parents’ house and she looked so beautiful. The handtied bouquet of rich purples and reds, created by Tammy’s Floral , was a perfect compliment to the bridemaid’s wine dresses and really popped off of her form fitting, lace gown. Eden and Megan looked so pretty! Sam and Latalia were not afraid to make their bridal party their own too. Latalia joked that she didn’t want to give up her brother to Sam, so Luke was a “Bridesman” and Diana, an old friend, was Sam’s “Groomswoman.” I am LOVING that couples feel more free to make wedding traditions into their own special brand. Matt and Joe rounded out the bridal party and kept things jovial. Those two had me laughing throughout the day. (One tradition the pair didn’t buck, much to the excitement of the Mother of the Bride, was a confection by local cake legend, Suzanne Carter . MOB Angie was a woman I could level with, she was all-about-dat-cake. My soul-sister! )

Latalia and Sam’s first look was so sweet and beautiful. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating, first looks are so wonderful! They set sometime aside for just you and your almost spouse. I’m not shy about shooing people away and I rarely ever come up against any resistance. Friends and family are excited to be with you and may sometimes need a hint to skedaddle, but when I say, “we’re going to take just a private moment so the couple can just be alone together and breathe in the moment,” they totally get it. Wedding days go by so quickly and having this moment where you can hug and kiss for a few moments and really take in the beauty your fiance has prepared for you… well it’s just a really special gift to yourself.


Before the ceremony started, we took family formals and it worked out so well. One of my favorite moments of the day happened during family formals- which honestly is pretty rare! Usually I’m trying to work through long lists quickly before everyone gets tired or cranky! But there was this moment where we had taken the “formal” image of the Bride and Groom with the Groom’s Family and, before getting up, Sam’s grandfather took Latalia’s hand and kissed it. It was this little gesture but it meant so much. It was like he was giving his blessing and welcoming her into the family. I nearly teared up!


The pair said their vows overlooking the mountainscape from the deck of the Forks Inn. The ‘guestbooks’ paid homage to the different origins of friendships: a relief map of West Virginia, an aerial view print of Princeton University, and a subway map from Chicago. Latalia and Sam recited vows they wrote. My second shooter and I remarked after the ceremony how perfectly the vows dovetailed together. Sam and Latalia value the same commitments and their vows complimented one another so well.


After the ceremony, Drew & Trevor Stalnaker and their staff worked quickly to turn the deck from ceremony seating to dining space. During the cocktail hour, guests took advantage of the overlook , taking selfies with the mountains until the sky faded. Then everyone danced to the stylings of Bunji Elmore and it was a GREAT party. I was cracking up looking at some of these images from the party dancing! I love it when guests are having so much fun that they really let loose on the dance floor!


And just a quick shout-out to the always incredible Leslie Clagg. I’ve had the pleasure of having Leslie as a second shooter a handful of times and it always leaves me wishing we lived closer to one another! She’s a true professional and great photographer.

I’m so grateful that Sam and Latalia invited me to celebrate with them. They are two incredible individuals and it was awesome getting to celebrate with the people they hold nearest and dearest. Congratulations you two; I can’t wait to hear about your honeymoon to Morocco and Iceland!

Claire Watson