Blended With Love

By Debbie Lagestee     •     Photos by Valerie & Ed Photography

Some say relationships are always stronger when you are friends first and a couple second. Valerie and Ed Brantley agree with this philosophy. Valerie is a professional photographer. They met in 2017 when she hired him to help her photograph spring weddings. They quickly became friends and spent time together enjoying each other’s company. They were both divorced and were hesitant to begin dating when they realized their feelings went beyond friendship. Two months into their friendship, they took a leap of faith and started dating. “It was the best decision I ever made,” said Valerie. They joke that they established who the boss was from day one, but they enjoy a healthy equal partnership in all seriousness. They got engaged on the Today Show in 2018. They had a short engagement and married a month later in Miami, Florida, and honeymooned in Key West.

Wedding photo by In A Glimpse Photography

Valerie and Ed are both Charleston natives. Valerie grew up in Mount Pleasant. She then attended Carson Newman University in Jefferson City, TN. She earned a BA in Mass Communication with a German minor. Valerie began her career in journalism, then transitioned to photojournalism and fell in love with photography. It became her passion, and she has been a self-employed professional wedding photographer in Charleston for 15 years. Ed grew up in Summerville. He earned his BFA in Photography from Winthrop University and his Masters in School Administration from Liberty University. Ed owned and operated two Atlanta Bread Company restaurants in the Charleston area before becoming a photography teacher and professional photographer. Ed is currently a part-time Visual Arts Teacher at Allegro Charter School of Music. Together they own Valerie & Ed Photography. They love working collectively as a team. They specialize in weddings but are also a full-service studio providing family portraits and commercial imagery. Additionally, they are the Contributing Photographers of Carolina Bay Neighbors magazine.

When Valerie and Ed got married, they blended their families together. Ed has 3 children from his first marriage. All are attending high school in Richmond, VA. Ethan is 18 years old, and he’s a senior. After graduation, he will enter the US Navy as a nuclear technician. Jackson is a 16-year-old junior; he plays baseball, football and enjoys paintball. Dabnie is 15, a freshman, and she has many creative outlets, including visual art, dance, and sewing. 

Valerie brought her daughter Lydia to their relationship. She is 7 years old and is in 1st grade. Lydia is learning to read. She is incredibly agile at any physical activity, from biking to skiing. Her hobby is collecting TY Beanie Boos, and this girl is always ready to play a board game. Outside, she has fun exploring the neighborhood trails. Valerie and Ed welcomed baby Donovan into their happy family in 2019. He’s a joyful 2-year-old with an infectious laugh. Playing outside, helicopters, and trash trucks are his favorite interests at this stage. They blended their families and their hearts, and now they are complete. They have a family motto they live by. Valerie says, “The only steps in this house are stairs, and the only half is the creamer in the fridge.” In addition to the 5 kids, they have 3 pets, a 5-year-old Yorkshire Terrier named Journey, a 2-year-old Siamese cat named Clifford, and an 8-month-old Ragdoll kitten named Dolores.

The Brantleys love living in Carolina Bay. Valerie had a couple of best friends living in the neighborhood and knew it would be a great place to live. They love the neighborhood location, sidewalks on both sides of the streets, the pools, and the trails. Food Truck Fridays were always a good time. They love their neighbors. This past year brought them closer together, spending time outside in the evenings watching the kids play while the adults socialize. They feel lucky to have great friends to chat with at the morning bus stop or grill out in the evenings. They relax by taking joy-rides in their golf cart and sitting in their hot tub on the cooler nights.

Ed loves surfing, snowboarding, 90’s hip-hop, playing the guitar, and being a bourbon enthusiast. Valerie has plenty of hobbies as well. At the top of her list is cheering for the Kansas City Chiefs (her dad’s favorite team). She was thrilled when they won the super bowl in 2020. Snow skiing and lap swimming are her favorite ways to stay active. Planting vegetable gardens has become a favorite pastime and a fun activity to do with her daughter Lydia.  Last year they grew yard-long beans which were really fun to grow. She recently started doing DIY dip nails and has quite a following on Instagram.

Valerie and Ed enjoy giving back to the community. Every year they are involved with the American Lung Association’s Lip Sync for Lungs Charity Event. It is a unique action-packed event featuring local celebrities in a wildly entertaining way. The event’s goal is to raise funds to provide lung health programs in South Carolina and lung disease research.

They have a mutual love of travel. Valerie lived in Berlin, Germany, and traveled all over the world to photograph weddings. She and Ed spent time sightseeing in San Francisco before they were married. They earned the nickname “Last Minute Brantleys” because they often take spur-of-the-moment trips out of town. They like to visit the SC upstate and go hiking around the waterfalls. In 2021 thus far, they have been to the NC mountains twice to ski and once to go tubing.

Ed and Valerie are a fun-loving, easy-going couple always laughing together enjoying life. On a given night, they can be found singing and dancing with the kids in the kitchen while making dinner. “We never tire of each other’s company. We’re truly best friends,” says Ed. They took their friendship to the next level and managed to blend their families and create a business together. Through any lens, it’s easy to see they made a great decision.

This article was featured in the April 2021 issue of Carolina Bay Neighbors magazine.


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