He had recently put the finishing touches on his lake home in Lake Beulah. It was exactly as he wanted it, and he stood out on the peninsula that jutted out into the waters, looking at the lakeshore surrounding him, the sun getting lower over the treeline, surveying his handi-work. The breeze whipped past him and swayed the hammock a bit. Across the lake, she gunned the engine in the boat a bit, impishly looking back towards her daughters to see if she had caught them off guard. They paid no attention and were instead ensconced in the love of extended family members snuggled around them, hair whipping into their faces. It was a celebration for her Grandmother’s birthday, here at her lake home. There wasn’t a better way to remember that woman than to spend time on these waters, she thought to herself. She swiped a tear from her eye as she looked across the lake in front of her. The peninsula with the big blue house came up on her right, and she started to turn around it, hugging into the curve. Just as she rounded the bend, the engine killed on the boat. She looked down perplexedly. Checked her gages but found no answers. She turned the key, and then turned it again. No luck. She looked up and saw one of the empty docks on the peninsula. A tall and lean man was walking towards them, waving his arms. “Hey, you need help?” he yelled. She laughed, looked back at her boat full of people. Cupping her hands around her mouth, “Yes, I think so!” She lobbed back. He hit a trot down the dock. Her aunt chuckled, taking up a spot next to her at the wheel. “Well, this just got interesting, didn’t it?”
I met Dave first. I was a bit reluctant to, actually. He was one of the trainers at a gym I belong to, and his profile picture was a little….scary. After one workout, I came to understand the picture was actually funny, as he’s a kind and thoughtful person who really enjoys helping people. He was also someone who in the early years I knew him always declared he’d never be a parent. I remember finding that surprising in my mind, as it was clear he’d be a great father. Melissa is a fellow photographer who I knew “online” first and then started sweating along side her at the aforementioned gym. We quickly bonded over our shared profession, motherhood, and workouts. Fast forward several years later and suddenly life has taken a fun twist for these two. Melissa’s living a healthy lifestyle she adores, thanks to Dave. And Dave finds himself filling a “Man Mom” (as Melissa dubs him) role, and simply loving his life with two young ladies and their wonderful Mom.
It’s funny how the road changes, isn’t it?
When Melissa asked to do a photoshoot to commemorate Emma turning 13, and maybe also capture some “new family” photos, I jumped at the opportunity to document friends, their bonds, and this chapter in their lives.
I had a mother of a bride, who on the morning of her daughter’s wedding made an odd request. She asked me not to photograph her. At all. I’m sure the shocked look on my face was unchecked. I immediately responded with a smile, “But you are part of the story today. Of course, you will be in the pictures.” To which she went on to explain that she always hated pictures of herself, that she never liked the way she looked, that seeing herself in pictures made her feel like the ugliest woman in the world. Yes, she used those words.
And I’m telling you – the woman that stood before me was none of those things. Far from it. She was lovely, and in so many more ways than just conventional beauty. It broke my heart a little to hear her say this. She wasn’t fronting, she had thought about it and planned to tell me this, that was clear. As we had this conversation, on the other side of the room were several of her children – women themselves. They were gorgeous, beautiful souls. They were full of confidence, intelligence, boldness, kindness, and grace. These were the women she raised. I turned to look at them after this conversation and wondered how someone who felt that way about herself could mold women like these.
There were no words I could offer this Mom in that moment to assure her that she was indeed, beautiful. I was at a loss for what to say. As the day wore on and I sought to include her in pictures and capture her reactions and moments that swirled around her – she would tsk at me and shake her head no in admonishment whenever she saw my camera pointed her way. Times when she should have been so wrapped up in the moment and living it, but instead she was policing the capturing of her likeness.
What I came to want to say to her was this:
I’ve spent the day with your daughters, your sons, your husband, and your friends and relatives. I’ve heard them speak of you. I’ve heard their words, watched their faces. I’ve seen the look on your daughter’s face as you walked into the room dressed for this special day. I’ve heard your new son-in-law tell stories about you. I witnessed multiple toasts that reflected on your kind heart, your efforts, your love for your family. I’ve seen you through the eyes of those who love you. And I want you to know something.
You are the most beautiful woman.
They see none of your so-called flaws. They look at you and see only your love for them. They see the Mom who dried their tears, who created imaginary worlds to play in, who propped up their dreams, who helped create the day you are living now. I wish I could show you how they see you. I might, if you let me. They see nothing but your beauty. Because your beauty isn’t in the physical things you are dwelling on – it’s in your actions. To them, there are no double chins, no thick arm, no sagging skin, no wrinkles, no gray hairs. Only you. And you are beautiful beyond measure.
So be in the photographs. You are a huge part of their lives and a huge part of this story. To look back and not see you present in the collective memory of this day would be such a crime. In fact, be in all the pictures, every day.
**Moms included in this photo collection are for illustrative purposes only, and this story isn’t about any of these ladies pictures here. In fact, though it is inspired by one Mom I met, it is shared because after over 300 weddings I’ve found this isn’t an uncommon occurrence. It doesn’t matter who it is about – just a gentle reminder to give yourself some grace, try to appreciate how others see you, and love yourself enough to be included.**
Whenever it gets quiet over here on the blog, it often means I’ve been shooting and shooting some more, which means I’m then editing, editing, and editing some more.
Such is the case now, but I had to share this little ditty from my editing desk today. I hoped for a shot like this on Christine & Matt’s wedding day. Mr. Brown is a bit of a wiseguy – cracking jokes and sidestepping tearful moments masterfully with laughter. But there’s this sweet little vestibule at St. John’s Cathedral where a bride and her Dad wait for their cue. It’s a spot where I knew he wouldn’t see me watching, and sure enough….there was this.
Kim has a habit of making friends, pretty much wherever she goes. So it’s really no surprise that Sri fell into her friend net one day in London. He was the friend of a friend, there were drinks one night and then they went on their seperate paths. Years later, that same friend posted a picture of a trip with Sri and who should see it but Kim. She sent him a friend request, he accepted, they met for dinner and they’ve been together ever since. Some would say facebook brought them together. Others would credit that mutal friend. I’m saying it was Kim.
The snow crunched under their feet. He swung her arm a bit and they continued along the trail. It was a lovely way to start the day; hiking the Oak Leaf trail surrounded by the last snow of the season. She knew she’d appreciate the extra Kyle time later that day at work, but right now she was a little peeved. Last night he had taken her out to the site of their first date, then out to the bar. She thought for sure he was going to propose, but then nothing. Even this little walk was her idea, she’d mentioned it weeks ago. So this couldn’t possibly be the moment. They rounded the bend, heading into the sunrise. He squeezed her hands a few yards later, suggested they stop to watch the sun come up over the hill. She snuggled into his arms, breathing in that scent that was so signature to him. He started to talk about how much fun they have, how much he enjoyed being with her. ‘How sweet!’ she thought. The sun broke over the treetops, warming her face. Kyle moved quickly, down onto one knee and asking a question. Kristin just cried happy tears.
Barn weddings are among my favorite. I just love the contrast of elegance and casualness that inevitably develops. And, let’s be serious – any couple willing to get a little dirty on their wedding day is a couple willing to have fun!
When I started this list back in 2013 (yes, I was way ahead of the trend!), finding a barn venue for a farm style wedding is an exhaustive search with very few resources. I’ve added to this list continuously, and now reposted it here.
These are my favorite barn or barn-like venues throughout Wisconsin. And, it goes without saying that I would be THRILLED to shoot at any one of these wedding venues!
Sugarland Barn – (pictured above) A gorgeous property that has every rustic dream in its acreage. A plantation style house (available for rent and use), a sweeping lawn, ancient trees, a country road and a beautiful giant red barn, all among remote farm fields and woods.
Wedding by m three studio at this venue: Mariah & Warren
Lussier Family Heritage Center -It’s the outdoors of this location that really rocks – great exterior and beautiful prairie everywhere.
Serendipity Bed & Breakfast – A giant, beautiful white farmhouse turned B&B, with a big red barn right next to it. White picket fences, rolling fields, manicured grounds.
The Barn at Harvest Moon Pond – a barn configured to host. Built in bar, beautiful chandeliers, stained glass inset in the original walls, exposed beams….
Olin Park – Right in the heart of Madison, but some great rustic structures to work with, and right on the water
Badger Farms – An authentic white wood barn partially encircled with a patio deck for cocktails. The property is also a working farm and surrounded by crop fields.
O’Brien Barn – the original red wood barn on a working dairy farm, this one has two levels – a lower one for eating, and a loft for dancing.
MJ’s Farm– they originally opened for concerts, but are now hosting weddings as well in their charming white washed barn. The owners have a great relaxed vibe – worth checking out!
Over the Vines – (pictured above) A lovely red barn with stone foundation and silo overlook a young vineyard. The owners have renovated the original farmhouse into bathrooms and “getting ready” quarters. Their own wines are available to serve to your guests.
Wedding by m three studio at this venue: Meg & Rob
Century Barn – miles of white post fences, sunflower and hops fields and a big white barn high on a hill
Schuster’s Farm – a rare round barn available for events and weddings, nestled on a friendly family farm. Located near Fort Atkinson and Lake Mills.
Farmin’ Bettys – A classic Wisconsin red barn with an unfinished interior, nestled on a property that is truly built to suit all your event needs.
Windy Pine Barn – A red rustic barn true to all your pinterest visions – light leaking between the boards, rolling hills, timber beam ceilings.
Bridle Barn & Gardens – (pictures above) Charming farmhouse, big red 1870’s barn, and 14 acres of manicured gardens and landscape.
Wedding by m three studio at this venue: Sarah & Nate
Quivey’s Grove – (pictured above) A charming little red barn that shares property with a rustic restaurant and plenty of space for a tented reception. Near plenty of countryside – but requires driving.
Wedding by m three studio at this venue: Ashley & Mike
Huntington Farm – A beautiful yellow (!) barn on a manicured, family-occupied property just outside of Madison. Holds up to 150.
Whispering Willows Farm – Extensive acerage capable of hosting any variety of tents or open-air configurations. There is also a pole-barn for indoor accommodations. Surrounded by farms and rural prairie land for miles.
Barn at Trinity Peak (aka Weide Barn) – Five acres of wildflowers and fields with a large fieldstone barn that can accommodate up to 200.
Holy Hill Art Farm – A huge weathered wood and fieldstone barn nestled into the hills of Richfield, 20 minutes outside of Milwaukee.
Trimborn Farm – Three barns (stone, red and natural wood), an old lime kiln, several out buildings and plenty of land.
Old World Wisconsin – a round barn (!) nestled in among bunches of period buildings and surroundings.
The Irish Barn at Whistling Straits – (pictured above) it’s only an hour outside Milwaukee, so I had to list it. Gorgeous, rustic and a little slice of Ireland right on the shore of Lake Michigan.
The Family Farm Event Loft – just outside Milwaukee in Grafton, this space was tailor-made for weddings.
Schuster’s Farm – a rare round barn available for events and weddings, nestled on a friendly family farm. Located near Fort Atkinson and Lake Mills.
Windy Pine Barn – A red rustic barn true to all your pinterest visions – light leaking between the boards, rolling hills, timber beam ceilings. One hour from State Fair Park.
The Rustic Barn at Prairie Gardens – A beautiful red barn with a covered outdoor space for cocktails as well. Located near Burlington, this is a very accessible option.
The Landing 1841 – A gorgeous property located on the White river with panoramic river views, hosting a very large original red wood barn.
Ram Horn Farm – natural wood barn, beautiful outbuildings and charming gardens.
Twisted Willow Farm – Beautiful big barn, gorgeous little farm house, chickens and they grow all of their own produce for their onsite bar and restaurant. Just outside Milwaukee in Port Washington!
LacLawrann Conservancy Barn and Learning Center – Beautiful rebuilt barn with wonderful lighting, new learning center with floor to ceiling windows all situated on a beautiful 145 acre conservancy just 30 minutes north of Milwaukee in West Bend. Wedding capacity is listed at 230.
The Farm at Dover – (Pictured above) So charming! Beautifully landscaped in a wild/rustic manner with overgrown vines and pocket gardens on 7 acres, this property hosts a large weathered wood barn, several smaller buildings and a charming victorian house as well as a garden built into the stone ruins of a former structure. Just 35 minutes south of Milwaukee, and only a short trip from I-94, the location is remote and convenient all at once.
Wedding by m three studio at this venue: Andrea & Scott
Wind Beneath Our Wings – There’s no website for this one, but a well-attended Facebook page shows a lovely rustic barn, fantastic grounds and a lot of charm!
Rustic Manor 1848 – Twelve acres filled with meadows and fields, lined with trails, and a large red barn that can host up to 275 guests (on two floors). Located in Delafield, just 30 minutes outside of Milwaukee.
Wedding at this venue by m three studio: Brittany & Matt
Bennett Barn – A gorgeous weathered wood barn that holds just over 300. As a bonus, there is a big farmhouse for getting ready, and an adorable country church across the street as well.
Woodwalk Gallery – (pictured above) a positively charming hobby farm with silos, a beautiful barn and other structures and plenty of land to work with including wild fields.
Garden Gables Farm – (pictured above) The most charming little hobby farm, with a pale green barn and beautifully manicured grounds and gardens. Straight out of Martha Stewart this one!
Weddings by m three studio at this venue: Terren & Shane
Silver Poplar Studios – an eclectic and artistic farm homestead. Gardens, fields, and plenty of scenery.
Barnsite Retreat and Event Center – A big red barn (9,000 square feet!), exposed beams, scenery for miles. There is also a full house built right into the barn that is available to the wedding party – for overnight guests, rehearsal dinners, out of towners, or just a getaway for the wedding party.
Willow Pond bed and Breakfast – a big red barn and plenty of lovely grounds with – as the name would suggest – willow trees in abundance.
La Grange Edgestone Barn – a new construction barn space with a lofted dinner area and new facilities built to accommodate.
Birch Creek Music Performance Center – I heard a delightful rumor that this music venue housed on a lovely farm with weathered wood barns and great scenic grounds is now hosting weddings. Check it out!
Whistler’s Knoll Barn & Vineyard – Chickens, grape vines and a rustic red barn – such a great combination! Weddings can be held in the barn, vineyard, woods or tented on the property.
Mulberry Lane Farm – Known primarily as a children’s petting farm, it is also available for weddings. 125 acres, a giant red barn, and all just 25 minutes outside of Green Bay.
About Thyme Farm – An original weathered wood barn atop a fieldstone foundation that can accommodate 200 for sit-down dinner. A large yard surrounded by other weathered wood outbuildings. Larger weddings can put up a tent among the cornfields, rolling hills and beautiful scenery.
Wedding at this venue by m three studio: Jenna & Drew
The Milkweed Club – just a unique and cool venue. Perfect for a smaller, more intimate wedding.
Pedretti Party Barn – A white barn on a vineyard in Western Wisconsin (30 min outside of LaCrosse) – as picturesque as it comes.
Norskedalen Nature and Heritage Center – the property boasts a few homesteads with original structures (Log cabins, barns, stone buildings), an intimate cabin in the woods for a getaway and an arboretum.
Justin Trails – The jewel of this venue is the 100 year old timber-frame barn built and still owned by the Justin Family on their 200 acre farm. 3 acres of gardens, a disc golf course and on-site lodging add to the appeal of this venue. They are able to accommodate guest lists under 200.
Farm to Fork Wedding Retreat (Dancing Yarrow Retreat) – Multiple ceremony locations, a 1/4 mile of river frontage, barns, room for a tent. A lot of care and craft has gone into this venue with a spiraling herb/flower garden, a frisbee golf course, canoeing, horseshoes, hiking trails and 4 acres of Organic gardens. Since it is also a retreat center, 2 apartments are available for use by the couple and their families as well.
The Enchanted Barn – courtyards, two barn structures, balconies, weathered wood, incredible property, horses…
wedding by m three studio at this venue: Sandy & Cain
The Still Farm – a lovely authentic and rustic white barn near Eau Claire.
Fergusen’s Orchards – located near Eau Claire with tens of thousands of apple trees and a beautiful rustic barn
Brickhouse Getaway – a lovely barn and all the rustic elegance you could hope for. The main house is also available for rental
Justin Trails – newly renovated 1919 post & beam barn with a red exterior. Covered deck, silo, gardens, fields, and the cutest little yellow farmhouse.
Gatherings on the Ridge – A historic restored barn in white with open spaces between the boards for lovely filtered light. There is a bridal room for preparation, catering kitchen and brand-new bathrooms. A pick-your-own strawberry field is on the grounds as well.
Jean Acres – A tornado in 2013 afforded the owners the opportunity to rebuild, and the result is a beautiful big red barn that seats up to 200. The property is full of homestead charm and the barn interior is light and bright!
Birch Hill Barn – a beautifully restored red dairy barn with two floors, that offers the comfort of modern touches while retaining the character of its historic roots. Built into the side of a hill, it offers spectacular views of the countryside.
The Still Farm – A charming white-washed country barn, just minutes from Minneapolis/St. Paul. The barn itself can accommodate up to 150 guests.
Blue Horse Farm – A 100 year old rustic barn that can accommodate up to 200 guests. Surrounded by prairie land.
Dixon’s Apple Orchard – Extensive grounds, a pole barn structure, fields and scenery for days. A beautiful location with dedicated managers.
Cedar Hill Farm – A gorgeous cedar barn (heated and air conditioned) on a working farm. Horses, cows, fences, you name it.
Mulberry Lane Farm – a weathered red barn and stone outbuildings. They are accustomed to hosting large groups as a petting farm and school group tour area.
Givens Farm – A little taste of rustic Tuscany in the heart of Wisconsin. Charming european style gardens, rustic stone buildings, wonderful grounds, an old iron bridge…and don’t get me started on the artisan cooking classes…
Blue Vista Farm – stone and wood barn that overlooks Lake Superior. Fantastic Apple Cider too!
Brule River Barn – Owners Jill & Kirk converted their farm property for their daughter’s wedding in 2012, and the results were so great, they’ve opened it up to others!
Sometimes you are looking in all the wrong places. Sometimes you get knocked over with the realization that what you’ve been seeking has been right in front of you all along. That’s Annie & Mike. They met freshman year of college. He was a floundering teenager spreading his wings for the first time. She says she was much the same. His roommates made friends with hers, and so they were friends. Four years flew by and they all graduated and scattered about the country like leaves in the wind. Then there was that rare weekend in Chicago where everyone happened to be in the same place at the same time. They talked all night…about everything. Emails turned into texts, texts became phone calls. Annie booked a ticket to Florida and Mike finally admitted he had a crush. She already knew because she had one too.
One week, 24 couples, over two thousand votes, and several leader changes, we have a winner in the “Best of 2016” Contest!
Taking the title are Sandy & Cain, with their late-fall wedding at The Enchanted Barn. This DIY extravaganza has love oozing from every detail, all crafted by Sandy herself. And their sweet-as-pie pups are the very best attendants.
It was a fun race. Thanks to all who voted, campaigned and revisited these fabulous stories! Each of you deserved to win. This contest is all in fun, and I hope you know I was honored to capture each and every one of these stories.
Wedding season kicks off in earnest for us this year in June. So it seemed timely to take a quick look back at all the awesome couples we captured in 2016. You guessed it – it’s time for the annual “Best Of” voting!
Call your friends, write to your family, and get out the vote for your favorite wedding of 2016!
The top vote getter wins a Fuji Polaroid Instax Camera to capture their next adventure with fun and energy. Just a little ‘something blue’ for the years ahead (see what I did there?).
…and, Hint, Hint……we aren’t leaving the voters out of prizes either!
(Pay attention to Instagram, I’m just sayin’)
The Fine Print:
-Voting runs for just one week – Today thru 11:59pm on May 31st.
-Voters are recognized by cookies, and you can vote once an hour.
VOTING at the bottom of the post.
A heartfelt THANK YOU to all 24 of these couples who trusted us with their stories last year.
It was such a humbling and memorable experience to walk in step with each of you!
Couples are listed below in alphabetical order by the Bride’s name, and are linked to their full wedding blog post for your reading pleasure!
Ceremony at Christ King Church
Reception at The Barn at Pioneer Acres
Ceremony & Reception at Beringer Winery
Ceremony & Reception at Rustic Manor 1849
Ceremony at Gesu Parish
Reception at Milwaukee Art Museum
#5 Dana & Ryan
Ceremony & Reception at Milwaukee Art Museum
Ceremony & Reception at Villa Terrace
Ceremony & Reception at Villa Terrace
#8 Jenna & Drew
Ceremony at Bjorklunden
Reception at About Thyme Barn
Ceremony & Reception at The American Club
#10 Katie & Mickey
Ceremony & Reception at Discovery World
#11 Kristen & Dan
Reception at the Harley Davidson Museum
#12 Kyle & David
Ceremony & Reception at Milwaukee Country Club
#13 Lauren & Mark
Ceremony & Reception at Whistling Straits Irish Barn
#14 Meg & Nick
Ceremony at a Private Residence
Reception at East Bay
#15 Michelle & Kyle
Ceremony & Reception at Gordon Lodge
Ceremony & Reception at The Barn at Pioneer Acres
#17 Nikki & John
Ceremony & Reception at The Pritzlaff
#18 Notah & Kosta
Ceremony at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church
Reception at Concourse Banquets
#19 Rekha & Chris
Ceremony & Reception at Milwaukee Marriott Downtown
#20 Sandy & Cain
Ceremony & Reception at The Enchanted Barn
#21 Shawna & Trevor
Ceremony & Reception at Lake Park Bistro
#22 Stacey & Sean
Ceremony & Reception at Milwaukee Art Museum
#23 Sue & Justin
Ceremony at St. Mary’s Catholic Church
#24 Vanessa & Matt
Ceremony at The American Club
Reception at The Lodge at Blackwolf Run