Love is on the air
by Laura White
Chris and Toni Wheaton have made a life out of love stories. Their own—one company, ten years, and zero nights apart—is just one of them. For a decade, the two have told the tales of newlyweds through Heart Stone Films, one of the most sought after wedding film companies in the South. Now, they are also the subject of their very own Amazon Prime reality series, Weddings with the Wheatons, which just wrapped its first season. And it all began right here in Raleigh.
“This is where we met.” The couple says it in unison; the two feed off one another so effortlessly that this meet cute narrative could be rehearsed. “Our parents were friends. I met him and instantly had a crush, but he wanted nothing to do with me,” Toni Wheaton quipped with a smirk. But time and circumstance were on her side, and the two were married in 2008. Toni Wheaton was working for Barton Creek Weddings, a video production company. Chris Wheaton, meanwhile, was in the mortgage industry—right as the subprime mortgage crisis began to wreak havoc. Cue: serendipity. One night, the Wheatons were talking about their future goals. Toni Wheaton wanted to run a production company, but assumed it was at least ten years down the line. Chris Wheaton wanted to be a business owner. Within a week, her boss said he wanted to retire and offered them his company. Toni Wheaton was 23, Chris Wheaton was 22, and they suddenly had everything they had wanted.
Today, the company is called Heart Stone Films because, well, they love penguins. “It’s kind of like a little symbol of our relationship. Chris had a dream when we were dating about penguins, and he knew we were going to get married in that dream,” Toni Wheaton said. “Penguins give each other a stone as a courtship gesture, so to us it’s like a piece of their heart.”
With a staff of six, Heart Stone Films creates roughly 30 wedding films a year. The duo has filmed around the world, from the misty moors of Scotland to the cactus-studded sands of Aruba. Booking is often up to a year and a half in advance, and they have been behind the lens for more than one or two celebrities.
They also run a commercial production company, Portico Pictures, which is home to a 1,500 square foot full-service production studio aptly named The White Space. It’s painted entirely white, from floor to ceiling, and invokes a bit of Willy Wonka-esque vertigo as you enter. Their two-year-old son, Elijah, refuses to step inside.
What began as a contest celebrating their ten-year anniversary developed into their reality series, which follows them along their journeys that they single-handedly film and produce. “We got caught up in the first few weeks, and were giving each other acting critiques, like how to be on camera,” Chris Wheaton says.
Eventually they became more comfortable—filming themselves and filming weddings, according to Chris Wheaton. And what is a reality show, but a personality? These two have more than enough to go around. It is their dynamic, after all, that has carried them this far. While relating the tale of a drone lost in Aruba—high winds snatched it out of range—the two poke and prod, teasing one another and laughing at their own mistakes. “That’s the only major gear malfunction situation that we’ve had,” says Toni Wheaton.
Is another season in the cards? Perhaps. “By the end of season one of the show we really figured out an awesome formula that we want to take into season two, so we want to see where that goes,” says Chris Wheaton. They’ve even had ideas about who they might want to include.“We handpicked all the people who were in season one and that’s what made it so great,” Toni Wheaton says.
But what’s definitely next for the Wheatons? Spending more time with Elijah and their dog, Keeko, plus more weekends at home. According to Chris Wheaton, “We’re gonna reach higher and harder for rest and relaxation.”