Jackson + Ryan // Zoo Knoxville Wedding

Ryan proposed to Jackson on Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. It had always been a dream destination of his and he had dreamt about proposing to his future husband there even before the two of them had even met. Despite being nervous about maintaining secrecy, remembering which hand to place the ring on, and sizing questions, Ryan pulled off the proposal of his dreams, to a man he says he couldn’t even have dreamed up, and it the rest is history. A few months later, Ryan came home to flowers and a well dressed, visibly nervous Jackson who proposed in the first home they owned together as a couple. Jackson chose to propose in the privacy of their home, the place where he says he has always been the happiest. (I mean… awwww!!! amiright?!) He planned an entire night revisiting the bars, restaurants, and important location in their relationship. Even cooler, he scheduled the two of them to start the night having a tin-type photo taken to commemorate the occasion. It was the final tin-type picture the photographer took and they still have it on display in their living room.

Since Ryan proposed to Jax in South Africa following a Safari, they felt it was only natural to incorporate a few pieces of that trip in their wedding day. They are lovers of animals, travel and adventure. They never even looked at a second Knoxville wedding venue, Zoo Knoxville just felt like the perfect place for the next chapter of their story to be told.

Their day was full of love, ridiculous fun and true joy - it was absolutely breathtaking to witness the love these two share with their friends and family. Their tastefully understated color scheme of Navy and Taupe, naturally complimented their wedding party, and looked amazing with the stunning florals by Swank Floral. They chose an amazing mix of tropical greenery and highlighted with the show-stopping South African King Proteas - a choice that seemed inevitable after they fell in love with these native South African blooms while on vacation. They welcomed their guests with a pre-ceremony champagne cocktail, while they mingled with a porcupine! During their ceremony, they had friends give readings, one in particular that struck me - from the Velveteen Rabbit. While the couple took their portraits, their guests enjoyed a lovely cocktail hour in the Den of The Tiger. We all enjoyed fabulous culinary delights by the very talented private chef, Simon Hall. Jackson and Ryan also incorporated thoughtful touches like hand-packing South African Rooibos tea for their guest favors, and serving late-night pizza to their guests, who’d spent the evening imbibing on custom cocktails, riding the carousel and dancing like fools to the music provided by the amazing Starr Entertainment.  This was a night that was planned and executed perfectly.

As we said our goodbyes after their sparkler exit, Jackson and Ryan said something that I will never forget: they thanked me for being an ally, and they told me that they do not take that for granted. They told me that navigating the local wedding market as a ’same-sex’ couple could be a little bit tricky. Not at every turn, no, but it was certainly not the same experience that a ‘traditional couple’ might have had. I am a proud LGBTQIA+ ally in the East Tennessee wedding market, that is a fact, but honestly… no one should have to rely on an a select alliance of vendors to plan their wedding. I am a Knoxville wedding photographer. I love witnessing and documenting REAL love -nothing else matters. Maybe for true equality, we should start by not using the term “same-sex marriage”, because isn’ it just…marriage?

Jackson and Ryan are two of the kindest, most genuinely in-love people I have met during my 10 years of shooting weddings, and what a privilege it was to be part of their wedding day.


Venue: Zoo Knoxville

DJ/MUSIC: Starr Entertainment

Wedding Cake / Desserts:  Publix

Groom's Attire / Designer: Custom suits by Wyatt Woeltje

Floral Design: Swank Floral

Caterer: Simon Hall, local private chef

Linens / Other Rentals: All Occasions