You are going to notice the pictures in this post are heavily weighted in one direction – towards the ceremony. Not only was it clearly the most important part of the day for Kelsey & Dan, but it was positively unforgettable if you were in attendance. I’ve never seen a ceremony like this, and that’s saying something since I’ve shot over 300 weddings. First, let’s talk about how gorgeous St. John’s Northwestern Chapel is. The light, the textures, the height, the colors…it’s just a dream for a wedding! But the inspiration for this focus goes beyond the aesthetics. Kelsey is a worship pastor and so they opened the ceremony with praise music. I have to say, standing in the front of that church – with all the voices in unison, and witnessing Kelsey & Dan so moved by the experience – it was hard not to get caught up in it all. It really set the tone for the day, and for my focus in capturing it.
Ceremony Venue: St. John’s Northwestern Military Chapel
Reception Venue: Anodyne Coffee
Bride’s Bouquet and Boutonnieres: Belle Fiori
Bridesmaid’s Bouquets: Blooms by the Box
Bride’s Dress: Etoile, BHLDN
Suits: The Black Tux
Bridesmaid’s Dresses: Pink Blush
Hair: Linda Draxler
Catering: Beans and Barley
Music: Piano Fondue
Bride’s Shoes: Aldo
It was eighty degrees in mid-May, and you were standing at the bottom of a staircase. I was at the top, negotiating with our planner that- no, in fact, our wedding doesn’t start in 30 minutes. It starts now. I was anxious. I just wanted to get down those stairs and next to you.
Seven years before that day, we had met. I wasn’t looking, and neither were you. But then you put your lunch cooler down on the counter, with “MICHEL” written across the side in permanent marker. I looked up at you and it was as if just for the briefest of moments, time stood still. I could paint every minute detail of that ordinary scene, it is so fixed in my memory. In that smallest of moments, I realized I had just met my husband. You were the first guy that I had to chase. You even told me you weren’t getting married until you were 35, which I think you thought would scare me. It didn’t because I’m stubborn. And because I knew it was already decided. I just had to wait you out.
I was used to dating people who let me be the star and were happy to just support, be in the background. But you weren’t going to be pinned down like that, not for a second. It took me years to figure out that we had to be the stars together, to trade off supporting, be a true team. And we did. We knit ourselves together slowly with long-distance phone bills, stand-by airline tickets, and all too infrequent visits. I chased you, my dreams, and a future I had once conjured up. And you, you waited me out. I came back home and we found our rhythm in the same zip code.
So, back to that hot day in May, and the man I was smiling at through my happy-tear stained veil. It’s much observed that the two young people saying those vows, rarely understand the weight of them. And of course now with 10 years behind us (17 really), I know that no couple can. Because the vows aren’t words. They are actions. They are alive. They live and breathe in every moment to come. With each year that passes for us, I look at those two people in our pictures – smiling as they leave the ceremony. I wonder if they know that year one will be easy. That year four will bring heartbreak they can’t fathom. That year five will see them to the brink of life and back again. And just when they feel like they have their feet under them, year six will be devastating. Year seven won’t itch at all. They will cling to each other harder and faster than they ever have. As a result, they will be rewarded with one of their greatest joys before it ends. And year ten. Year ten will have them looking back, not sure they are where they had hoped to be. Planned to be. For sure, that couple, standing there in the spring sun ten years ago – they don’t know these years yet. They think they understand those vows and what will come. They think they know the path. They would think year ten should have them in a different place. But they are wrong.
It’s ten years later, and it’s a cold day in May. You stand at the bottom of a staircase, clutching the hand of our oldest daughter who is squinting in the sun. She’s shielding her eyes with her arm, scrunching her nose up to keep her pink-rimmed glasses in place. I’m at the top, chasing our youngest, who barrels down the stairs, pigtails bouncing, and can’t wait to get to the bottom, to be by your side. Me either, little one. Me either.
(photo by Heather Cook Elliott)
They say love finds you when you aren’t looking for it. For Tara & Victor that has proven true many times. A week of training seminars was where their paths crossed. When they separated for different parts of the state, they exchanged numbers. It was a few months later when Tara realized she’d been texting with “that guy” from the seminar for weeks. So they met up, started dating, and then moved in together. It was another day of low expectations and work-related fatigue that saw Tara coming home looking forward to some couch time. Instead she stumbled up on a trail of rose petals, a smiling Victor and a ring…
Ali & Ben had a surprising wedding day in all respects. Let’s start with the fact that no one in attendance was from Milwaukee – the bride and groom simply thought our fair city was a good middle point for everyone. Well that, and having a wedding in a brewery sounded like good fun. Without a doubt, fun was definitely a chief goal for these two. Laid back, funny and witty, they handled their day with candor and delight. Laughing was in anything but short supply, especially during Ben’s personal vows which quoted three ‘famous’ Bens. Really, the whole hall was in hysterics and somehow Ali stayed standing despite all the laughter. Those words set the tone for an evening of dancing, speeches full of amusing stories and more and more laughter.
Venue: Pabst Great Hall
Floral: Bloom Floral & Event Design
Doughnut Cake: Holey Moley Doughnuts
DJ: Greenline Talent
Catering: The Smoke Shack, La Masa
Makeup & Hair: Neroli Salon & Spa
Bride’s Gown: David’s Bridal
Suits: The Black Tux
I have to admit, when my Facebook and Instagram Story feeds start filling with ladies walking the runway in all the latest bridal collections, I swoon. I mean, shopping for your wedding dress is one of the very best parts of wedding planning, right?!? Its the dress you dream of first, picture yourself in, don mockups of as a little girl…flip through countless magazine pages devouring the possibilities.
The Spring 2018 collections do not disappoint. There is a lot of texture and drama to be found in just about every designer’s offerings. Admittedly, I look at the dresses and imagine working with them from a photography standpoint: How will they move? What are the posing possibilities? Will they overwhelm the bride? Those that pass this test then get submitted to my Midwestern practicality. I look for real wearability – can you sit, can you walk, will you be able to dance, does it require constant diligent attention? To that point, there are A LOT of the new dresses which were basically transparent and really not wearable in that respect. Though they were beautiful, I couldn’t see a bride showing up in one and saying hi to Grandma. You know, that’s the bar I set.
So, fingers crossed a few of these beauties are found in my camera lens in 2018…hint, hint!
Kicking it off with two of my all-time favorite designers. Carolina never ever disappoints. She’s timeless and gorgeous. Victor & Rolf – no one does a ballgown skirt like they do, and I always feel like you’ll love that dress to the end of time.
The blush trend continues in Spring 2018 and it’s made it’s way into the pale pinks that were all over the runway. This flowy number by Leanne Marshall was an instant “yes”! And the one in the upper left – what a beautiful and feminine take on sleeves. Temperley managed to bring lots of texture and architecture to their collection, without losing the femininity.
Mori Lee isn’t always a favorite of mine, as I tend to shy from a lot of embellishments. But the silhouettes in this collection can’t be beat, and the gorgeous soft skirts – so lovely, and there’s that blush tone again. Julie Vino was a new discovery for me this season, and I loved the gladiator take on lace and jewels paired with the split skirt.
These next picks are the stuff dreams are made of. I mean, look at them. The translucent lace skirts! The way that upper right one shows off two, maybe even three silhouettes at once and still manages to look classic. The necklines! Oh, how I love a non-strapless dress that manages to make you even forget about the all-too-often-chosen option. All the hand claps to Gemy Maalouf.
I have to hand it to Theia in the relaxed and wearable arena – they always nail that. Easy, breezy, and just about anyone could wear them. Oscar de la Renta on the other hand – he makes all my dreams come true with texture that doesn’t overwhelm. And the mere suggestion of a veil that is that much fun? Sign me up!
I loved how Randi Rahm & Peter Langer utilized sleeves without making them feel heavy. Mira Zwillinger gave us geometric necklines that don’t feel put upon. And Reem, well who can argue with the artistry that is her signature beading and embellishment?
Galia Lahav. I’m still dreaming of this one dress from their collection. It’s pink, and full, and flowery and the silhouette is divine. Jenny Packham always owns the bejeweled dress, and this season was no exception.
I chose A LOT of full skirts this season – it’s because they are so much fun to wear and photograph. It’s such a classic silhouette. And, when else can you wear a dress like that and just revel in the drama of it? I’d be remise not to include the awesome Monique Lhullier in this round-up, and she brought all kinds of romance and loveliness to this silhouette.
All images are from Martha Stewart Weddings, where many, but not all were credited to First Sight, the designer, or no credit given.
That’s what I always call it when I finally get to talk with one of my far-flung Besties. “So good to catch up!” we will always chime, as if the minute details of our daily lives that we just exchanged are what makes us friends. Really, the fact that we can go weeks without chatting and pick up right where we left off, that’s the real stuff our friendships are made of.
So, let’s catch up, shall we?
Incidentally, if you’d like to chat on the regular – we can be email buddies. Subscribe to my weekly newsletter and get the 411 on all that I’m up to, what I made for dinner last week, and what’s on my editing tv, as well as some other randomness. Click to sign up!
The obvious first: It’s Spring! Finally, right ?!? I’m still surprised to look out my office window and see green filling the frame. Now is also about the time I start feeling like I’m already behind on yardwork and our garden. So you know here I’ll be this weekend…
Speaking of far-flung Besties….I had the unique opportunity to surprise my little girls with a visit from their “Aunt Mo” (you know her as my often talked about studio photographer, Melissa). We met up in Chicago, had lunch on a boat on what was likely the most perfect early spring day. Squeak is still talking about the “big boat!” and how much fun they had. If you’ve ever heard me talk about my oldest, you know she is rarely without words. Seeing her Aunt Mo open the car door left her rarely speechless, and that was pretty fun to witness too.
May is full of events for us this year. Mini will graduate from pre-school, both girls are in their ballet recital, we have our own 10th Wedding Anniversary (squeee!), this little studio of mine is celebrating 10 years (!) and Hubby’s busy because Summer Untapped is Memorial Day weekend. He has some pretty exciting announcements coming for that event – follow along on facebook and instagram if you are the beer and music loving type.
Have you seen “The Handmaid’s Tale” on Hulu? Oh my, it is soooooo very good. The story is riveting. And well, disturbing in a way that sticks with you for awhile. And the cinematography and art direction – just gorgeous.
We had the first round of Spring Mini-Sessions a couple of weeks ago. Lot of giggles and energy with so many mini-humans running around the studio. Next weekend is the outdoor sessions, and we still have a couple of spots left. If you want one – shoot me an email! It’s a great deal, and the perfect Mother’s Day gift – A 30 minute session at the Botanical Gardens, 10 digital files with printing rights and an online gallery – all for $250.
If you’ve caught my Instagram Stories, you know I’ve been testing out a new idea…yep, totally going to be vague on that for a bit. Because it’s a “when there’s extra time” sort of project. But watch my Insta Stories and you might get more peeks at it…
Well, I should split. I’ve promised my little ladies a mushroom hunting trip today…
So, there’s one thing I’ve never understood about weddings. Okay, well there are a few things, but one that truly puzzles me.
Why in the world do men rent a suit? (And, even more, why do they rent shoes?) There are so many things wrong with this concept. Not the least of which is the fit is never right. Don’t fool yourself – no suit that is made to fit an “average” size or sizes, could ever really be the right fit for your unique features and proportions. There are as many rules about how a pant should break, where a cuff should fall, what the right width of lapel can do for your frame – as there are for dress silhouettes, fabrics, bustles….
So, let’s think about this a moment. The Bride will shop for days, with much effort and opinion going into the selection of her dress. Once chosen, it will be ordered in her size, then altered and perfected until it looks as though it was made just for her. Much time and expense will go into her look. In contrast, the Groom will walk into a rental shop, get a few measurements, pick something out of a catalog and then never see it again until it arrives in a garment bag, stamped with a bar code, the day before the wedding.
Hmmm….doesn’t exactly seem fair, does it?
Shouldn’t the Groom – who is a whole half of this wedding equation – be given the same attention? Shouldn’t he get to feel like he looks his best? Doesn’t he benefit from the confidence boost of a well-tailored look that feels personal, special, new and signature? And, for the love of God, doesn’t he deserve to wear a comfortable shoe for the day, that actually fits?
I think he does.
Still need convincing? Okay, let’s be practical for a moment. Why, oh why – would you go to your closet and pull out a garment that has been worn by multiple unknown people, likely been puked in or on in a previous wearing (not to mention the sweat, or other activities), washed countless times in questionable chemicals and is only marginally flattering on you? You wouldn’t. And you certainly wouldn’t choose it for your wedding day. To be further practical – the cost of a tailored suit that you own outright – brand new, off the rack and altered – is about the same as a suit rental!
From a sentimental standpoint – wouldn’t it be wonderfully nostalgic to see your wedding suit in your closet in the years to come? To wear it again to another wedding? To pass down a piece of it to your child? To be able to feel the weight of the fabric, to slip it on again and remember with a flash what it felt like to secure that jacket button, tuck your ring into the inside pocket?
If equality speaks to your soul – then let’s consider that a Bride will spend hundreds if not thousands on her wedding day look – with custom or carefully chosen accessories, shoes, undergarments, and of course the dress. Her bridesmaids will each have bought a dress ($$$) which is then altered for them ($$$), shoes, accessories, hair, makeup…. you get that this is adding up, right? So, why don’t we expect the same of men? Why do they get away with a rental and don’t even have to buy a pair of matching shoes?
There’s just nothing like a man in a well-tailored suit. It’s a classic look that never fades. So I say – the groom should get to enjoy the experience of a custom tailored or even custom made suit for his wedding day. He should get measured, fit, and fit again. He should get to pick out the fabrics, choose a custom lining, have his initials embroidered into the pocket. He should be excited to take that suit off the hanger on the wedding day. Thrilled to pull on the jacket and excited to show his Bride his well-polished look.
A few of our favorite suit makers:
**Disclaimer: Yes, I know there are plenty of lovely rentable suits out there, and always someone who feels that was the best decision for them, and that it was a great fit. And I also know it’s just the generally accepted convention. I just think with your wedding day you can do more. Heck, we even made this misstep on our own wedding day – Hubby had a suit done for our rehearsal dinner then for some inexplicable reason we rented for the wedding day. He felt like a million bucks at our rehearsal, and was rather uncomfortable on the wedding day. So, I’ve always said this is something we would do differently for sure. **
Katie and Mickey have an exuberant kind of love. It’s evident within moments of meeting them. There’s just this electricity as they talk. They start finishing each others thoughts and sentences as the energy grows. You’ll see Katie squeeze Mickey’s hand and his eyes crinkle in response. She’ll throw you a megawatt smile, and then he’ll unleash a laugh, and you’ll be hooked in. Now you are part of their energy and you better hold on tight, because it’s quite a ride. Their wedding day was just like this. They each planned small and large surprises for the other (a thank you for the bridesmaids from Mickey, rival seat cushions for the ceremony, a bagpiper at the ceremony, a flash mob dance performance at the reception), and it was like a long stream of trying to one-up the other and their guests as it all crescendo’d into a raucous dance party in the Pilot House at Discovery World.
Florals: Jane Kelly Floral
Makeup: Shannon Bartz
Bridesmaids: Alfred Sung
Men’s Suits: Joseph A Banks
Band: David Rothstein Music
Door County has a grip on me. The little peninsula in the Northeast corner of Wisconsin is enchanting, charming and inviting. Life is a bit slower, the sun seems a little sweeter, the people are small-town awesome, and there’s a strong respect for history on every street. You can spend a week there and still not have explored all the nooks and crannies. It’s a wonderful choice for a wedding – whether you’ve been vacationing there all your life and it feels like a second home, or you want something “destination”.
I’ve shot several weddings each season there for years, and have developed a strong list of the awesome locations you can get married in the Door. (And, a healthy list of the best vendors in the area too – just ask!) The best helping hand for a wedding in the area is without question the Door County Event Planners – give them a call and you’ll have your ideas turned into reality in no time.
*I add to this list all the time, and welcome your suggestions!*
Garden Gables – This little farm is straight out of Martha Stewart. Painted in pale greens with beautiful decorative siding, a heirloom garden in the center, and plenty of green space to spread out and enjoy a laid-back wedding.
wedding at this venue by m three studio: Terren & Shane
Horseshoe Bay Gulf Club and Beach Club and Farms – Horseshoe Bay is the obvious choice if you are looking for top-notch service in a resort setting. A myriad of lodging options for your guests, and three options for weddings – their incomparable golf club, the perfectly positioned beach club and the beautifully maintained farm.
wedding at this venue by m three studio (Beach Club): Gaib & Sam
The Wickman House – Classic with a modern polish, and incredible food and cocktails.
Woodwalk Gallery – An enchanting hobby farm with multiple ceremony options, an open slat barn and fields that disappear into the setting sun.
About Thyme Farm – One of the biggest barn venues in the peninsula – think weathered wood, a perfect cocktail lawn, and plenty of surrounding outbuildings to add to the ambience. Oh, and chickens!
wedding at this venue by m three studio: Jenna & Drew
Chanticleer Guest House – You have to see this one to believe it. Red barn buildings, outfitted with modern comforts.
Eagle Harbor Inn – A charming inn right in tiny Ephraim.
Gordon Lodge – This resort is so perfectly positioned. Surrounded by a beautiful forrest and nestled right against the water on the “quiet side” of the peninsula. Multiple ceremony options, an expert staff, and fantastic lodging options.
wedding at this venue by m three studio: Michelle & Kyle
Maxwelton Braes Lodge – A historic lodge, extensive grounds, beautiful golf course, and right on the water.
Silver Poplar Studios – An eclectic barn style venue that has all the whimsy of an artists’ studio – because it is one! Beautiful meandering gardens, unique spaces and plenty of options.
Simon Creek Winery – This is a beautiful rustic property nestled into a wooded hill. The original barn serves as backdrop for the modern tasting room, and there is plenty of outdoor terrace and green space for a tent.
wedding at this venue by m three studio: Gaib & Sam
Stone’s Throw Winery– Unique and modern architecture is paired with a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
The Peninsula School of Art – art galleries, gazebos, lush gardens, a gorgeous octagonal barn…
Bjorklunden – This is a tucked away property owned by Lawrence University. It is home to a beautiful hand-hewn Scandinavian chapel (Boynton Chapel) an enchanting forest straight out of Shakespeare and waterfront views as well. Vail Hall provides an indoor option for your event, but there’s plenty of space for a tent for something outdoors.
wedding ceremony at this location by m three studio: Jenna & Drew
Washington Island is part of Door County, but it deserves it’s own category because it has it’s own unique vibe. Accessible only by ferry and virtually without a cell phone signal – this is where you go to truly get away from it all. The little island looks like it was plucked from Cape Cod and plunked down into the Midwest. The island’s residents are as eclectic as they come – and you’ll run into the best characters here. The venues on the 18 square mile island are rustic and charming, with many of the best options likely in renting a private home. We’ve been lucky enough to shoot two incredible weddings on this island, and are always itching to go back!
Historic Island Dairy – Possibly the most unique space on the island for a wedding. Surrounded by a burgeoning lavender farm, the former dairy building has been converted to a shop on the first floor and an airy and bright event space with vaulted ceilings on the second floor.
Trueblood Performing Arts Center – a modern building with outdoor patios and lawn space. They regularly host concerts and art shows – a wedding is an easy transition.
Hotel Washington – Majestic Oak trees provide the perfect canopy for an outdoor ceremony on the lawn in front of this historic house. The property overlooks Detroit Harbor and boasts beautiful accommodations and onsite catering.
Scandinavian Stavkirke Church – a rustic and traditional Scandinavian church nestled into the woods just off the main road. For intimate weddings only, as it holds only 38.
Gibson’s West Harbor Resort – perfect sunset views and a spectacular natural setting.
Froghollow Farm – I personally think this would be a charming place to host a wedding with the “at home” feel. I’m not sure if the owners would offer this, but it’s worth asking!
Washington Island Farm Museum – They have no official website, but the Facebook page is up to date. I’ve seen a wedding happening there, and it would be quite the authentic setting.
Wedding dates get picked for a myriad of reasons – my own actually got picked by our venue when they double booked our original, carefully chosen date. So how do you pick? Based on your sibling’s wedding plans? Maybe the dates your venue has open? Or maybe it’s when you are able to get enough vacation? There’s a certain amount of serendipity and chance that is lovely about that process.
But if you could pick any wedding date, let’s pick the perfect one.
In my book, the perfect day to get married in the Midwest is the days surrounding summer solstice. It’s all because of the light.
People, the light! Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year, which means the sun is going to be up for glorious extra time. You know that languid, warm feeling you get in summer – when your brain knows it’s evening, but it’s still light out? You feel like you are cheating time. That feeling that there is still so much of the day left ahead, so much possibility with the oncoming dusk. It’s all because of the extra light.
Your cocktails will be fully lit – giving a sparkle to your guests’ conversations and the fizzy deliciousness in their hands. You’ll be victoriously walking into your reception just as golden hour is starting. Your toasts will be bathed in light that flatters everyone. Your first dance? Imagine beautiful golden rays of the setting sun all around you. (You do realize I’m describing a fully lit dinner? Perfect!) Dark will come, and with it, your dance party. The onset of dark is a natural cue to the brain that it’s time to transition into party time. Light plays a huge part in mood and energy – so go ahead and put that on your side to add the awesome to your wedding day.
And you know, as your photographer, I couldn’t be more excited about a choice for the best light!
What other benefits does this time of year have? So many!
-In the Midwest, Summer Solstice falls right in the middle of summer. So, you’ll spend half of summer prepping for your wedding day, and the other half enjoying being newlyweds! Perfect, right?
-It’s also right before the 4th of July, so you’ll have a major holiday right after your wedding to be the glowing newlyweds and dish on all the fun your day was with family and friends.
-Think to the future – your anniversary will also fall mid-summer, which is a great time for trips and celebrations.
-Here in the Midwest, the heat is often a factor in choosing a date. The end of June is typically a sweet spot – where it’s warm and very summery but not yet humid and sticky. So breezy dresses and strappy sandals are perfect, and your makeup will be too.
Of course, this is not to say that other wedding dates aren’t perfect. They are – for different reasons. But photographically speaking – I’m always going to take the side of light, and the very best light of the year in the Midwest is over Summer Solstice. Your fall wedding date can be arranged beautifully to take advantage of light, and so can your spring or winter wedding – it’s really about maximizing what is special about that time of year and using it to your advantage.
*All images in this post are from weddings around this perfect time of year. Here’s some links if you want to explore:
Kyle & David at the Milwaukee Country Club
(they took full advantage of the light on their day with a clearspan tent – that’s doubling down on all the goodness!)