Virginia & Co. Brings Black Wedding Excellence to Carolina Grove
A styled wedding that embraces modern luxury and showcases Black wedding vendor talent took place at Carolina Grove in Hillsborough, North Carolina in June 2021. Natelege Bryant, owner and executive chef of Durham-based catering business Virginia and Co., collaborated with several other women- and minority-owned vendors from the Triangle. Together, they created what Chef Natelege describes as “magic.” Opulence in motion / royal wedding reimagined was the theme for this styled wedding.
“Often when we think of wealth or royal weddings, we see tightly spiraled floral arrangements, pipe, drape and uplighting,” explains Chef Natelege. “However, we wanted to flip that definition on its head.”
The intentional selection of Black models is one of the ways her goal was accomplished. Chef Natelege wanted models in this styled wedding shoot to represent the diverse spectrum of beautiful Black skin and bodies that she sees in her daily life. So, she asked her friends and husband-wife duo Olufemi Adeniyi and Jamecia Adeniyi to participate.
“I knew they were going to do an amazing job but when they got on set and we started shooting it was like wow — they brought it,” says Chef Natelege.
Keep scrolling to see how Black beauty, excellence and luxury are represented in this styled wedding at Carolina Grove.
Virginia & Co. – The Taste of Black Excellence
Chef Natelege began cooking at a young age with her mother, grandmother and great aunts in the kitchen. These women worked together to serve their families and often referred to their kitchens as sanctuaries. While her signature, elevated soul food is on the Virginia & Co. catering menu regularly, her talents and experience make her confident in preparing any kind of cuisine.
For this styled wedding shoot, Chef Natelege wanted food to reflect the beauty and diversity of the African Diaspora. Groom model Olufemi Adeniyi and bride model Jamecia Adeniyi are a real-life married couple. In honor of Olufemi’s Nigerian heritage, they hosted a traditional Nigerian wedding ceremony.
“I wanted the food to be authentic to their experience,” explains Chef Natelege.
The menu included some classic Nigerian dishes such as jollof rice and crab and yam pepper soup. Chef Natelege elevated the crab and yam pepper soup by presenting it in a squash bowl with a crab leg for garnish.
Randi Smith, owner of Sugar Euphoria, designed a multi-tiered cake with different shapes, patterns and hues of green to represent the diversity and lushness of Africa. Smaller layers of edible 24k gold added to the regal elements of the day. The cake was displayed on a large circular table covered in an emerald velvet table cloth with tropical florals placed on and around the table. There were also black taper candles and palm branches laid on top of the table.
Tropical Florals with Meaning and Movement
Floral designer Shannon Hill of Elan House used large tropical greenery of different heights to add to the styled wedding shoot’s luxurious theme. Leaves from Monsteras, a popular house plant, served as charger plates while palm fans and banana leaves crowned peacock chairs as a symbol of Black culture and royalty. Fresh basil, mint and rosemary woven into the floral arrangements brought forward the food-centric story of this styled wedding.
Virginia & Co. Collaborates with Carolina Grove
Carolina Grove is a wedding and event venue nestled in a gorgeous grove of trees and string lights just outside of Hillsborough. This stunning event space brings farmhouse and elegance together seamlessly. Surrounded by trees, Carolina Grove stands out with its clean lines, modern upgrades and light and airy style. Inside, high ceilings and glass windows, coupled with white wooden beams, add to the relaxed farmhouse and luxury space.
This was Chef Natelege’s first time working at Carolina Grove wedding and event venue. She says that venue owner Melissa O’Hara was amazing to work with and that she understood the vision for the styled wedding shoot immediately.
“One of the venue team members, Aya, worked with us for the two days we were at Carolina Grove,” says Chef Natelege. “She was so hands-on and was cheering us on from the sidelines! It’s a gorgeous venue but I think the true reason it is a gem is because of the owner and team members.”
Modern Wedding Fashion
Fashion added a moody vibe to this styled wedding shoot. All three bride models wore dazzling black gowns – an eye-catching modern look in contrast with traditional white wedding dresses. Black elbow-length gloves added to the royal-chic wardrobe theme.
“We wanted our groom’s suit to be rich in color and found this fantastic jewel-toned green suit for him online,” shares Chef Natelege. “Our stylist Sia Gattis of Sia de Karle Style found a unique African print to drape around him that added just the right regal touch. Instead of a boutonniere, we used a jeweled brooch.”
Have you ever tried modeling with a live animal while wearing formalwear? Chef Natelege says that the horse was a “random idea”.
“Carolyn and the team at B-Bar Farm were amazing and the horse we used, Matt Dillion, was a pro! The models were game and jumped right in! The only drawback was that Matt Dillion loved to eat all of the beautiful flowers and drink from the glass of Champagne.”
“I believe that representation matters, and I know that readers everywhere are people of color and will love seeing this beautiful Black couple and see themselves in them,” says Chef Natelege.
To learn more about Chef Natelege and her Durham-based catering company, click here.