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Trying to describe Courtney & Ben‘s wedding day is like peeling back the layers of an onion.  The details and moments are so numerous, you keep peeling, one by one, only to find the next one sweeter than the last.  A stunningly simple ceremony under the “wings” at the Milwaukee Art Museum, jovial cocktails on the terrace, and a rockin’ party complete with an array of cupcakes, the couple’s own personal infinity equation, glass boots full of Spotted Cow, and modern lounge spaces.  An appearance by Bucky Badger, performances by the groom, the best man and the sister of the groom; and personalized chocolates rounded out the evening.  Those who paid close attention found little glimmers of Ben and Courtney’s personalities sprinkled everywhere – little eyeglasses on signage, a charming bi-plane, ruffly petals, trivia napkins; the list goes on and on.  The day was finished off by newlyweds who departed at the height of the party (with the bride in a get-a-way dress) in a horse-drawn carriage, quietly into the night.

Courtney & Ben – Getting to know you both and your families over the past year has been such a treat.  I am so looking forward to seeing how your relationship grows and what is ahead for you all in the coming years.  Your wedding was a big blinking exclamation point on my calendar last year, and such a joy to shoot!

Credits:

Ceremony Venue: Milwaukee Art Museum

Reception Venue: Milwaukee Art Museum

Wedding Planner: The Event Lab (Katie Lenz)

Florist: La Tulipe

Catering: Lee John’s

Cupcakes: Classy Girl Cupcakes

Cake: Simmas

Invitations, Menus, Escort Cards, Place Cards: Sugar River Stationers

Brass Quintet: Sterling & Brass

Reception Band: Out of Control

Makeup: Blush Beauty

Hair: Symmetry Hair Spa

Bride’s Gown: Pronovias

Bride’s Getaway Dress: Pronovias

Bride’s Shoes: Manolo Blahnik

Bride’s Clutch: Kate Spade

Bridesmaid’s Gowns: Jim Hjelm

Groom’s Suit: Brooks Brothers

Groomsmen Suits: Brooks Brothers

Chocolate Favors: The Chocolate Sommelier

Jewelry: Earth Resources Jewelry (custom designed by Alice Barlow)

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Admittedly, when it comes to wedding toasts, I’ve seen and heard just about everything.  In my book, nothing beats a classic heartfelt message with a dash of funny and a touch of choked-up.  And, it should always end with people raising and clinking glasses.

A good amount of the time, much of your toasts gets lost on your guests because they are too busy eating and chatting at their dinner table.  Too often, guests are annoyed they have been interrupted.  Great Aunt Millie is straining to hear you, Cousin Amy is silencing her kiddos, and Uncle Ned is trying to see your Dad’s reaction to a joke around a column.  It’s not an ideal situation.

Enter Annie & Ben with a brilliant idea for their toasts last weekend.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  The experience was magical, emotional and spot-on perfect.

After the ceremony, the newly-minted couple processed down the aisle, followed by their wedding party, and formed a line behind the chairs of guests.  As that was happening, the country club staff appeared with trays of champagne which was quickly distributed among the seated guests.

With bubbly in hand, the guests sat in rapt attention as Annie’s father gave a wonderfully heartfelt toast to his daughter and new son-in-law (who had joined him up front).  And then Ben offered a welcome and thank you to those same guests.

Glasses were raised, eyes were dabbed, chuckles floated on the breeze.  And not a word was missed.  Everyone could hear, everyone could see the couple’s reactions.  The entire group went on the emotional ride together.  It was so special, exactly as a toast on your wedding day should be.

I certainly hope this is an idea that catches on!

Many kudos to Annie & Ben for showing us how a wedding toast should be done!

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Julie & Tucker’s wedding was one of my favorites this year.  Not because of their unique and fun vintage style, not because of the incredible reception location of my dreams – Salvage One, not because they were married in one of my favorite Chicago catholic churches – Holy Family, not because of Tucker’s southern drawl, not because of their super fun wedding party – but because of Julie and Tucker themselves.  They are the sort of couple you get sucked into orbit with and find yourself magnetized to.  You are riveted because they are so rich in life, so deep in love and so much freakin’ fun.  They are a couple you wish you were cool enough to be friends with.  And yeah, some of those other things might help.

Julie and Tucker got ready at The Renaissance Blackstone Chicago Hotel – so, so, so gorgeous, and just the right fun and posh start to their day.

The ceremony was at my favorite Chicago catholic church – Holy Family.  I’ve shot there before, and its just gorgeous every time.  Beautiful light, an amazing dramatic but friendly interior, and one of the nicest priests you’ll ever meet.

Starting from this moment below, Julie smiled thru the entire ceremony, and really the entire day.  Seriously, she was giddy with love and happiness, and it was clear on her face.

This picture below is what every church wedding should be.  Fun, full of life and personal, as well as traditional and reverent.  Julie and Tucker brought in an episcopal priest close to Tucker’s family who co-officiated, and adding this personal element made their ceremony just that much more them.  This moment right after their vows, as everyone transitioned to the next step, with Julie & Tucker overtaken in laughter and the business of a ceremony unfolding around them, epitomizes their comfort and joy.   Most church ceremonies feel stiff and unfamiliar – but not this one!

See what I mean about that light?

The photo below – all Julie & Tucker’s idea, and all them.  Easily a favorite of mine, forever.

I don’t usually include outtakes or silly photos in the blog post.  But, this shot below is just so the type of humor you encounter with Julie & Tucker every couple of minutes, that I couldn’t leave it out.

Ah, so now we get to Salvage One.  My dream wedding reception venue.  (Okay, well, one of them)  An architectural artifact and found object store/warehouse in downtown Chicago that hosts events within the store. What could be better for exploring and partying?  Oh, how I love this place!  So much fun, so much to work with photographically, and so much personality oozing out of every corner.

Each table setting was a different feel and era of furniture, so I felt it only fitting to immortalize these choices with some chair portraits:

Tucker’s mom is a pottery artist and made all of the vases for the centerpieces:

On the left below – hangover cures for each guest to take on their way home – so adorable!

The Alabama vs. LSU game was the same day as Julie & Tucker’s wedding.  And well, from what I understand, being a ‘Bama boy means being a fan from birth – so I loved it when Tucker’s Mom checked in on the game with him during dinner from her phone.

Recipe for a rockin’ reception?  Awesome setting, dramatic lighting, a jammin’ band, and a relative who can take to the microphone and the harmonica and totally take over the crowd!

The Credits:

Ceremony Venue: Holy Family Catholic Church

Reception Venue: Salvage One

Getting Ready Venue: Renaissance Blackstone Chicago Hotel

Florist: Asrai Garden

Makeup and Hair: Pin Me Up Chicago

Catering: J&L

Band: The Homewreckers

Cake: Alliance Bakery

Bride’s Gown: Lazaro

Bridesmaids Dresses: J. Crew

Groom’s Suit: Balani

Julie & Tucker – where to start?  I wish our time together hadn’t already come to an end.  I loved working with you both and getting to know you this past year!  You are so fun, and so blessed to be surrounded by such wonderful family and friends who love and support you, but also add to that level of fun.  May the joy, blessings and wonderful memories of your wedding day be only the beginning of a spectacular married life together!

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Some wedding days are a perfect storm of every element that makes a wedding great.  I’ve blogged about them before.  After experiencing such a perfect storm at Emily & Dave’s wedding, I’ve concluded that there is something about the couples that choose the combination of a ceremony at Villa Terrace and a reception at Lake Park Bistro that causes this to occur.  Every wedding I’ve shot with this combination has been so gorgeously designed, had such perfect weather, had such a happy and joyous couple and family, and the most awesome friends and guests – people you wish were your own friends.  They are the types of weddings you don’t want to end, that you hate to leave, that you wish were your own.  Oh, and they really know how to party!  I’ll get to the pictures and fill you in on some of the awesomeness that was Emily & Dave’s incredible wedding day.

This little flower girl totally entranced me.  I sent a screen grab of this shot to Hubby on the spot – if we have a daughter half as adorable, beautiful and sweet as this little one, we will be very lucky.

Emily & Dave bought their groomsmen custom baseball bats, which made for some awesome props!

Where to even begin with Jonathan Diel’s design?  Incredible.  Such amazing florals – textured, unique, full of interest and color.  Wait until you see the rest!

Dave and Emily had two officiants who shared in creating their ceremony.  It was so emotional, so spiritual.  You could feel the faith and strength radiating off of them all.

How awesome are parasols at Villa Terrace?  So beautiful, and so useful on that fully exposed terrace!

Right after the ceremony, one of my favorite moments unfolded – Dave led Emily into the library for a few private moments (albeit captured by me thru the doors).  I was privileged to witness their unbridled joy at being married in these first few moments – I’m sure it is a moment they’ll remember always.

The Kiel’s and the Yolo’s are two families I will hope to work with again and again.  Such wonderful, sweet parents, such great siblings, and family dynamics you wish you were a part of.  They are the types of families where you hope that is you and your husband one day at your own children’s weddings.

Cutest flower girl and ring-bearer ever.

Emily and Dave arranged for this vintage car (loaned by a friend) to be on-site to transport their grandparents to the Reception.  I love it when a couple sees beyond themselves and makes a special gesture for others on their wedding day.

Here comes more of that amazing design work by Jonathan Diel.  Seriously, Lake Park Bistro was transformed.  It was comfortable, imaginative and beautiful!

I have never, in well over a hundred weddings, seen a tent-full of guests give a standing ovation to the Father of the Bride before he gives his speech.  There was some serious love in that tent, and Mr. Kiel knocked his speech out of the park!

A wedding party romping around on the lawn bowling courts amongst the sprinklers means they are having a seriously good time.

A little sunset light photo shoot to reconnect before the serious partying begins:

I’m not sure how to describe this dance floor.  Constantly packed, high energy, people singing every word to every song, and much, much, love for Sound By Design who fostered that atmosphere.

The Credits:

Ceremony Venue: Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum

Reception Venue: Lake Park Bistro

Catering: Batrolottas

Florist & Wedding Designer: Jonathan Diel

DJ: Sound By Design

Makeup & Hair: Creative Flair Salon – Emma Hofstetter

Bride’s Gown: Watters

Bridesmaid’s Dresses: Jim Hjelm Occassions

Groom’s Suit: J.Crew

Groomsmen’s Attire: Express Men

Transportation: DMI Limousine Service and Milwaukee Trolley

Stationery:

Emily & Dave – Thank you so much for including me in your “perfect storm” of a wedding.  It truly was a magical and exceptional day, just like the two of you.  Your energy and joy are infectious, working like a magnet to all around you. I hope the years ahead only improve upon this incredible start and are filled with beauty, love, faith, joy and sunshine.  May our paths cross again and again!

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Some wedding days are epic.  The scale to which the elements come together are just massive, and the impact on guests and all those surrounding the day is significant.  Emily & Nick had that sort of wedding.  Emily’s family hosted this destination wedding at their vacation home and Woodwalk Gallery in beautiful Door County (Sister Bay to be precise) Wisconsin.  People flew in from all over the country to travel to the popular and rural vacation destination, many for the first time.  Emily & Nick, their family and their fabulous wedding stylist gathered antiques, details, chandeliers, hand-made barnwood tables, hay bales and florals for months in creation of their vision.  It was a labor of love that caught everyone up in a swirl of energy, joy, emotions and delightful details.  Pulling away from the barn that night, it was a satisfied feeling of tiredness that washed over us, the type that only comes from knowing you really lived fully that day.   A feeling which is such an appropriate metaphor for Emily & Nick.

Where does one start in describing the beauty that is Woodwalk Gallery?  A rustic barn that houses a lovely art gallery by day, was transformed with all of Emily & Nick’s special touches into a farm playground.  The venue has so much to work with already – rusty silos, open fields, split rail fences, weathered wood, and of course – amazing light!  There was so much to capture on this day that I had help from my friend Melissa Schollaert, and the two of us just fell in love with Woodwalk Gallery.   Anyway, I’ll let the pictures do the talking…

Ceremony Venue: Woodwalk Gallery

Reception Venue: Woodwalk Gallery

Florist: Flora

Wedding Stylists: Emily Gan Birren (Bride), Tina Gan (Bride’s Mother) and  Angie McMahon, Viva la Cottage

Cake: Flour Girl Patissier

Bluegrass Band: Eric Lews, George Sawyn, Tommy Burroughs

Vocals: Caroline Reese

DJ: DJ Chicago

Videographer: I Do Films

Caterer: Alexanders of Door County

Bride’s Gown: Kenneth Pool

Bridesmaid’s Dresses: BHLDN

Hair & Makeup: Darcy Gilmore

Groom’s Suit: Burberry

Emily & Nick – It’s no surprise to me that you both work in the movie and television industries – your lives and your love story seem straight out of a great script.  And the day you created to celebrate all of that was of equal caliber.  The hard-work, dedication, passion and drive you bring to everything you do is evident in the quality of your relationship as well.  May you never loose the desire to live each day to the fullest and push for more.  Great things lie ahead for you because of that quality you posses as a team. Thank you for having m three studio there to capture this chapter of your lives – we had a great time and will forever remember your day.

We were lucky enough to be joined on this wedding day by some of our favorite videographers – the team at I Do Films!  Clearly, the six of us had a very good time working together that day….and yes, that is Hubby there too – he served as assistant for me and Melissa and did a fabulous job as always.

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A small, backyard farm wedding was just what this metropolitan, big-city dwelling Chicago couple wanted.  Bring on the corn, the farm fields, the open spaces, the bonfires, the corvettes, the s’mores.  Oh yes, S’mores!  This was a wedding that highlighted everything that makes Abby & Greg’s hearts light, with just the right amount of style and sophistication thrown in to make it all extra beautiful.  This is a vintage farm wedding with all sorts of fun and quirky antique touches – but they aren’t just for looks.  These are the tables, the oil lamps, the hay bales, the linens, the jewelry, the details that already make up Abby & Greg’s life – celebrated.  You know how your Mom puts the mini-marshmallows in your hot-chocolate just the way you like it, and it feels so right?  That’s what this day was like – as if someone was doing that, at every turn.

Abby & Greg were married in a quaint country church that her father serves as a pastor in.  He even took up the charge of co-officiating this ceremony, which added a extra thick layer of emotional icing.

We travelled in style all day in a fleet of vintage corvettes – all owned by Abby’s Dad.  A man with four girls (all in the wedding party) and seven vintage corvettes (and a few others in the garage).  When we departed, I promised him I’d be sure we took care of his “babies”.  He smiled, turned me around to face his girls and said “those are my babies”.  So sweet!

A gaggle of nephews and nieces added so much fun to the day!

Proof that elegance (and fun!) can be found in a cornfield:

The uniqueness continued post-dinner when the bluegrass band struck up their instruments and everyone took to ….the bonfire, for gourmet s’mores.  No dancing at this wedding – just cocktails, conversation and backyard fun!

Ceremony: North Cape Lutheran Church

Reception Venue: Private Residence

Florist: The Wild Pansy

Cake & Desserts: Family Friend – Jo Guay

Band: Sweetgrass

Catering: Saz’s

Bride’s Gown: Watters & Watters

Lace Bolero: Glory by Jeannie Lee (etsy)

Bridesmaid Dresses: JCrew

Groom’s Suit: Hugo Boss

Stationery: The White Aisle

Calligrapher: Trial by Cupcakes

Favor Tags: Roberto Sand (etsy)

Rentals: Canopies

Abby & Greg –  I struggle to describe accurately what a breath of fresh air your wedding day was.  So honest, so true to who you are as individuals and as a couple.  It was a joy to be a part of – from your frolicking nieces and nephews, to the crickets on corvettes, to the mist rolling in over the cornfields – every minute was a joy to witness, experience and photograph.  Thanks so much for inviting me into your lives to document it all!

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I love a first look.  It’s one thing I would do differently about my own wedding day if I could.  Over the years, I’ve photographed those first glimpses in a number of different ways.  The first look is always specific to the couple in the form it takes.  Some do it alone, some with onlookers at a distance.  Some go blindfolded, some just show up at the same place and time.  The one shared factor is that it is always fantastic.

Stephanie had a great vision for how she wanted to see Ethan for the first time.  The result was one of the best first looks I’ve ever had the privilege to photograph.

First, Ethan and his guys got into position.  The men formed one solid line on the steps, and Ethan faced them.

Then, Stephanie crossed the street, hidden by her bridesmaids.  They formed a similar line, hiding Stephanie behind them.

And then, on the count of three, the girls parted and Ethan turned.

It was just….awesome.  And truly unforgettable.  Just the way a first look should be.

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He ducked a bit so he could peek under the large awning of the tent.  A verdant green hill stretched in front of the tent, leading up to the tasting room of the winery.  Down by the creekside, he shivered a bit in the cool rainy breeze.  Just as he was about to stand up straight again he saw it.  A flutter.  He ducked lower.  There, on the hill was a dress, white, flowing, no….fluttering over the hillside.  It was her.  His heart stopped for a split second.  He hadn’t fully prepared himself for this sight – that he suddenly knew for sure.  The cloud of white and ruffles continued to float it’s way down the hill, a pair of well-heeled shoes keeping up next to the skirt.  He stood back up, steeling himself for the moment she would dip into his eyeline, below the tent.  His best man leaned over, cracked a joke.  He obligingly laughed, but instantly forgot what was said.  He looked back to the end of the aisle and there she was.  A vision.  A dream.  His wife.  And he had to remind himself to breathe.

Gaibrelle and Sam had planned for a beautiful outdoor wedding at the lovely Simon Creek winery, a gorgeous tented reception at Horseshoe Bay, all right in the heart of Door County.  And that is precisely what they got – with a few different details.  Spring came very late this year, holding up the budding trees and flowers, and bringing instead endless rain and cold.  But the temperature, the raindrops and the mud couldn’t get in their way that day – they took it all in stride, shrugged and laughed.  It was their love that made the day beautiful, and no one could deny that.

I just adored Gaibrelle’s little sister – so cute and full of personality.  And so tiny.  One day, her wedding day will be so fun.

Simon Creek winery might have been a bit barren for this spring wedding (afteral, the vines look more full in the fall), but we found beauty anyway.

Sam’s custom made Nicholas Joseph suit deserved a little recognition of it’s own:

So did Gaib’s breathtaking headpiece:

I said to Gaib “I’m pretty sure you are going to get dirty” and she just shrugged.  “So what?!?” she said with a smile.  And so we went for it:

The Credits:

Ceremony Venue: Simon Creek Winery, Door County

Reception Venue: Horseshoe Bay Beach Club, Door County

Tent Rental: Sperry Tents

Florist: Burst, Green Bay

Cake: Truffles by the Wellington, Green Bay

Band: The Nicks, Door County

Caterer: Horseshoe Bay Golf Club, Door County

Bride’s Gown: Gigi Private Collection, Gigi’s of Mequon

Groom’s Suit: Custom made by Nicholas Joseph, Chicago

Stationary: Dapper Paper (etsy)

Linens: Hand-painted by the Bride

The tent, the linens, the whole design of the reception blew me away.  Hand-painted linens, shabby chic elements, a wishing tree, printed placemats, individual cakes, a gorgeous canvas tent right on the lake, simple string lights, mercury glass, I could go on and on.  It was a classically Door County wedding.  Just beautifully done, and a joy to experience and shoot.

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I pull images from blogs, magazines, articles, websites – whatever – all of the time.  They live in a little cluster on my computer.  For what, I’m not 100% sure.  I mean, I’ve already had my wedding, and though my couples often ask for help with things, I don’t get to design theirs.  I think I save the images so I feel like I can use them in some way.

I thought maybe you’d be inspired by what I found to be interesting too…

Clearly, farm / barn/ rustic weddings are still an obsession.

A friend recently invited me to pintrest.  I’ve been avoiding it afraid it might become an obsession.  One day….

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Katie and Nolan had a truly sophisticated wedding day.  Everything about their plans and choices exuded elegance.  A lovely Catholic ceremony at Christ King in Wauwatosa, and a drop-dead gorgeous wedding reception at The Pfister Hotel.  I have to hand it to Katie and her Mom – they had a firm hold on their vision for the day, and it was carried out in every detail beautifully.  The warmth and opulence was a nice contrast to the dreary, grey autumn day.

We were just enamored with the flower girl and ring bearer from this wedding – they were the epitome of cuteness!

I have to hand it to Sue from Fresh Design (once again) – she just knocked this floral design out of the park.  This room was breathtaking.  The natural feel of these arrangements is an unusual choice for a venue like the Pfister, but it worked so well in visually unifying the tables with the intricate period chandeliers hanging above.

Credits:

Ceremony: Christ King

Reception: The Pfister Hotel

Bride’s Gown: Judd Waddell

Flowers: Fresh Design

Band: Deja Vu

Cake: Peter Sciortino’s Bakery

Katie & Nolan, it was a joy to walk amongst you and your family and friends on this pivotal day for you.  Their love and care of you and your relationship is a treasure.  May the future be bright, bold and beautiful!

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