How to Capture Great Family Photographs on Your Wedding Day

Let’s be honest, formal family photographs are likely not a part of your wedding day that you’re most looking forward to (you might even wish you could skip them entirely), BUT at the end of the day these photographs are so important.  Family photographs are the images that will receive the most love, be shared between your family and friends the most, and be printed to hang on the fridge, on the mantle, or on the back of phone cases.  Even though there’s nothing glitzy or ‘fun’ about these photographs, it’s important that we do a bang up job of capturing them, and plan it all out so that things are as efficient, fast, and painless as possible.  Take the following steps to heart as part of your wedding planning, and let’s make sure to create photographs that will make you, your parents, and your grandparents happy.

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 Create a family photo list

This is the one part of the day that has the possibility of dissolving into chaos and taking way longer than it needs to.  Keep things organized by creating a list of all the family photographs you would like your photographer to capture.  Write this out in list form, use people’s names (so your photographer isn’t searching for ‘uncle #2’), and think about the most logical order for this list to flow from start to finish.  For example, start with larger groups first so that we can disperse cousins, aunts, and uncles, and try to take your grandparent photographs early if they won’t be comfortable standing around for a long time. 

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 Email this list to the people included

Nothing slows down a family photo session than an uncle who didn’t know he was needed for photos and has disappeared off to the bar.  Make sure that you email (or otherwise contact) everyone who we will need to have present to let them know that you would love to have them in your family photographs, and that they should meet us at the given time and given location (do not pass go, do not go get in the bar line).   Often, having your officiant announce this post-ceremony helps remind people.

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 Designate a ‘runner’ to help your photographer

For your photographer, family photographs involve managing a large crowd, and having a psychic ability to know which of your many aunts is Aunt Mary.  Choose a member of each family (a brother, sister, or close cousin usually works best) who knows the members of your family, and will be able to help your photographer pull the right groups of people together, or locate any family members who have disappeared into the crowd.  Again, let these helpers know that you would like them to assist with this, and I will bring an extra copy of the family photo list for them to help out!

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 Choose the right space for the photographs

While your photographer will ultimately choose the location with the best light and space available for family photographs, make sure you consider the options ahead of time.  Think about the largest group that you would like to have photographed, and make sure it is feasible for the photographer to fit everyone into the available space.  Make sure the location is accessible to everyone (grandparents in wheelchairs find forest photo sessions a tad difficult), and most importantly make sure the space is available at the necessary time.  Often the church will have booked for another wedding shortly after and will ask us to leave, or the room you thought we’d use is actually being used for the cocktail hour at that time.  Shooting outdoors is always a great option if possible, just make sure we have a backup rain location just in case.

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 Think about lighting

As we’ve already established, these photographs are important, and deserve to be taken in high quality locations just like your bride and groom photographs.  Light is the most important part of any photograph, so don’t relegate your family photographs to the windowless room in the basement to make sure we’re out of the way.  If we’re not shooting outdoors, choose a location with as much natural light as possible.

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Remember to eat!

Couples always forgets to eat on their wedding day, and family photo sessions right after the ceremony are often when people start to feel reallyyyy hungry.  This isn’t helped by family members having their photograph taken with a samosa in hand, or hiding their glass of bubbly behind your back.  Designate a member of your bridal party to go get you a drink, glass of water, and a full plate of snacks from the cocktail hour.  While you’ll be a star member of all your family photographs, there’s always time to take a drink and snack on a piece of mushroom toast between shots while I’m getting everyone organized and in place.  Pro tip: glasses of bubbly can hide perfectly behind your bouquet. I promise, everyone will respect that you need to eat and drink, and I won’t take a photo of you chewing!

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Beth & Alex's Elegant and Relaxed Wedding

After their fantastic cottage engagement session earlier in the summer, I was looking forward to Beth and Alex’s wedding for weeks.  These two have so much fun together, and are so wonderful to spend time with as a couple, because you just can’t help but get swept up in their contagious happiness. 

            They got ready at home in Toronto, before heading to their sweet neighborhood church for the ceremony, followed by the Thornhill Country Club for their reception. Their parents had been married at the same club years before, and it was so much fun for them to see Beth and Alex married where they had stool before.  The weather was gorgeous, sunny, and warm, their wedding party was SO much fun to be around all day, and I truly can’t think of a more welcoming, friendly, and happy couple to spend the day with.

            Highlights?  The paddle that Alex hand made for Beth as a wedding morning gift.  Doesn’t every Canadian gal dream of a guy who will present them with a hand made paddle, lovingly inscribed with their initials on her wedding day? 

Vendors:
Venue: Holy Trinity Church & Thornhill Country Club
Band: Truly Band
Florist: The Orchid
Cake: The Danish Bakery
Makeup: Tamara Spence
Hair: Locale J Hair Design

Rachel & Caleb's Fall Wedding In Collingwood

Rachel & Caleb Wedding

Rachel and Caleb make everyone around them smile.  They hosted a colourful, joyful fall wedding at Craigleith Ski Club up in Collingwood, and laughed their way through the entire day together.  Caleb could not stop staring at his bride and telling her what a lucky guy he is all day, and Rachel opened up the most beautiful smile and laugh every time they touched and looked at one another.  They focused on creating a wedding day for their family and friends to enjoy, have a great time together, and truly celebrate the occasion with them.

            As urban gardeners in Toronto, florals were an important part of the day to Rachel, and they absolutely knocked it out of the park with a stunning fall coloured arch for their ceremony, bridesmaids bouquets with rich jewel tones that worked beautifully with the bridesmaids dresses and fur stoles, and a dried floral hair piece for Rachel that was one of the most thoughtful and unique bridal accessories I’ve seen in a long time. 

            The day started out with a dusting of snow, but it soon melted as the sun came out for our photographs, creating stunning bright fall colours in the Collingwood Arboretum for our portraits.  I think my favourite photographs took place at the end of the night though, when we handed their guests sparklers, and Rachel and Caleb enjoyed a fast paced sparkler exit to the night, before running back inside to re-join the dance floor of course.

            If you’re thinking of planning a fall wedding, be sure to take a scroll through for some amazing, colourful, sophisticated yet relaxed inspiration.  These guys are going to make you smile!

Vendors:
Planner – Emma Chateauvert
Venue – Craigleith ski club
Rentals – Four Seasons party rentals
Florist – Ashley Elaine Florals
Makeup – Makeup by Lee
Hair – Ainsley Garbutt Hair

Engagement Session Styling Tips

It can be hard to settle on a style for your engagement photographs.  It’s a chance to say so much about yourselves, and can quickly get overwhelming, especially if you start looking through lots of other engagement photographs!  I’ve put together a small list of tips, tricks, questions to ask yourself, and things to avoid when planning your engagement session outfits.

How can your outfit compliment the location you’ve chosen?

Think about your outfits in relation to the location you’ve chosen for your engagement photographs.  This will quickly help pare down your options.  If we’re going hiking, maybe put those summer dresses back in the closet, if we’re at the cottage then suddenly a bathing suit sequence could be part of the shoot, and if we’re going out to your favourite wine bar for a night on the town, consider opting for something a bit more dressy than your daily jeans and white T-shirt combo.  

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 Dress like yourselves

Don’t try to put on a persona for your engagement photographs.  This is an opportunity to document who you are in your lives together at this point in time.  If you’re feeling cool and want to ride your motorcycle around the neighborhood for your shoot, let’s do that in your favorite worn in leather jackets.   If you’re outdoorsy and live in your Patagonia half zip, then let’s go hiking in Tobermory and wear those fleece tops!  If you love hats, wear a hat, if you never put on dresses then why squeeze into one for your shoot? Above all, you want to look back on these photographs, sigh contentedly, and say ‘hot dam those photos are so US’.

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 Be comfortable

I always say ‘don’t be fidgety and don’t be freezing’.  This is pretty self explanatory, if you don’t feel comfortable in your clothing, you won’t look comfortable in your photographs!  If we’re taking winter engagement photographs, steer clear of shorts and summer rompers, wear your favorite cashmere turtleneck and camel coat instead.  If you really want to wear that new top you just bought, but feel like you have to keep tucking your boobs back in, maybe save it for a night out and not your engagement photographs.  If you have to keep worrying and fidgeting with your outfit you will have a hard time getting into the flow and relaxed movement of an engagement session.

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Lean towards lighter colours

If you’ve chosen me to be your photographer because you like the light and bright style of my photographs, then style your engagement session to play this up.  Choose clothing that is lighter coloured, and more pastel in hue.  If you’re deciding between black jeans or light wash, go for the light wash.  If you’re deciding between your fave LBD or and organic flowing linen number you love, go for the linen.  My work is very organic, soft, and light coloured, and if you love this we should make sure to style your engagement session appropriately.  The exception to this is of course if you prefer wearing dark colours, anything works to photograph in the right environment! 

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 Book your hair and makeup trial

Sometimes people book their hair and makeup trial for the same date as their engagement photographs.  This is a great idea IF the hair and makeup style you choose compliments your outfit and activity (glam buns and lashes out to there will look out of place at the park with your dog).  If you’re booking your hair and makeup trial just to get to know your stylist more, then opt for a look that will compliment your engagement photographs instead of serving as practice for your wedding day.

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Things to avoid

While I never want to tell people what not to do (there are always exceptions to every rule!) here are a few things I’ve found are usually best to avoid when styling your engagement session outfits.  We want to actually be able to see your face in your engagement photographs, so avoid covering up with something like a ball cap.  Hats are okay, and can play perfectly into your style, just make sure we’ll be able to see you easily and without too much dark shadow over your eyes.  Avoid neon colours.  Again, this might play up your style, in which case go wild, however I generally find that really bright and neon colours reflect light up onto your face and create strange skin tones that are difficult to normalize.  If you don’t absolutely love it, steer clear of that pylon orange t-shirt.  Finally, I recommend avoiding extremely large and graphic logos.  They look distracting in portrait photography, and could say something or represent a brand that you’re not going to love so much years from now.  Unless you’re high up on the Levi’s food chain and want to rep that company, maybe opt for the simple white T instead. 

Rebecca & John: A Sunrise Session in Trinity Bellwoods

If you don’t already know, couples who agree to sunrise engagement sessions with me capture my heart right from the get go.  I’m a hopelessly early riser, and getting up to start the day with the sunrise is one of my favourite things.  When couples want to join me, get a cup of coffee, and do something fun to start the day as well, I know that I’ve found my people!

            Rebecca and John were happy to meet me in Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods park as the sun was coming up, and made the usual sunrise session even better by bringing along their classic tandem bicycle as something fun to do during their session. Yes, read that again, their.tandem.bicycle.

            We started with a warm cup of coffee from White Squirrel Coffee to wake ourselves up and warm up a bit as the sun rose higher, then ventured into the park with their bicycle to cruise the many paths, enjoy the sun, and generally have a fantastic time riding their bike around and waving and honking the horn at curious onlookers.  Rebecca and John are one of those awesome couples who are game for anything, love getting out and about in the city together, and are always up for some fun.  As craft beer connoisseurs, lovers of the Toronto skyline, and tandem bike owners, I knew from our first meeting together at Soho House that we would be a great fit.

            I could go on and on about them, but am way too excited for you to take a scroll through and see some of the fun we had shooting with their tandem bike.  I will be photographing their wedding later this summer at a craft brewery, and cannot wait to experience this amazing day with them and share it with you!

xo
-c

Emily & Kaegan: An Intimate Wedding in Thornbury

You may remember photographs from Emily and Kaegan’s engagement session last year when I met them in New York for an early morning engagement shoot around their East Village neighborhood.  Fast forward a few months and I was driving back country dirt roads to meet them at an estate up in the hills of Thornbury for their intimate fall farm wedding. 

            It was one of those gorgeous days where dark purple storm clouds threatened the hills, but continually rolled through to reveal patches of sunlight.  It was warm enough for an outdoor ceremony and cocktail hour, while the reception moved into a beautifully rebuild barn complete with harvest tables, Turkish rugs, twinkle lights, and various chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.  Just a barn with chandeliers, casual. 

            Emily met Kaegan and I at the farm, ready for their first look in one of my favourite gowns ever.  Kaegan described her later as an 80’s supermodel, and it’s completely true, she has absolutely stunning style, combined with Kaegan’s 1920’s French actor aesthetic you could say I was excited to photograph them again!

            My favourite moment of the day arrived when it was time to head outside for their sunset photographs.  We set off into a wheat field to shoot for a few minutes when Emily turned to me and said ‘want to go on an adventure?!?’ heck yes, yes I do, always.  She quickly slipped out of her pink suede shoes, handed them to Kaegan, and set off barefoot through the field towards the forest.  We trudged into the forest together, until finally arriving at large concrete cube sunk into the ravine.  Emily explained that there were a number of these hidden around the property, the result of one of Kaegan’s final architecture school projects where he mixed escarpment rock into cement, poured giant blocks of concrete, then returned them to the land they came from.  She mentioned this might be a meaningful wedding photograph, I.was.stoked.  By far the best part was when we trekked back out of the woods at dusk and Emily discovered that her dress was absolutely full of burrs.  As we started carefully picking them off she made sure we had plenty of photographs of the occasion, saying that this represented them more than anything.

            Future brides and grooms, if you ever want to ask me ‘want to go on an adventure?’ on your wedding day, please know that my answer is always, always, heck.yes.

            Scroll through for some photographs of the most awesome couple, a dog who steals the show, the cutest flower girls, a forest adventure in a wedding dress, and the coziest barn wedding in the fall I’ve ever attended.  I’m going to be in love with these photos of these two for a longggg time.

 Vendors:
Caterer: Bruce Wine Bar
Florals: Ashley Elaine Florals
Rentals: Four Seasons rentals
Dress: BHLDN
Bridesmaids:  H&M

xo
-c

Annie & Colin's Toronto Waterfront Wedding at The Henley Room

Annie and Colin just make my heart happy.  They hosted a wedding with fabulous unique and retro flair, at a gorgeous waterfront venue in Toronto, that was absolutely jam packed with as much good music, food, and dancing to Abba as anyone could possibly ask for.  For anyone who knows me personally, you’ll understand how much I adore these guys already.

            Annie wore one of my favourite dresses of all time, designed by the talented Gabby of Truvelle Bridal, a stunning bridal design line out of Vancouver.  She paired it with some seriously shit kicker heels, a romantic up do, and a smile that truly lit the room.  Colin is a musician, by trade and talent, so I was already pumped to see what they described as the ‘cabaret’ that would be taking place during their cocktail hour, hosted by a number of their musically talented guests from Colin’s various performances and choirs.  Guys, if you’re ever invited to a wedding with a ‘cabaret’ go.  Do it.

            By far the most memorable moment however took place during their waterfront ceremony on the docks of The Henley Room.  Colin’s choir was arranged to sing a number of pieces throughout the ceremony, but he surprised Annie shortly after saying their vows by walking over to the choir, who proceeded to sing backup for him as he serenaded her with a song about growing old together.  I’ve never seen an entire audience start to cry before at a wedding, I was absolutely sobbing behind my camera, and Annie, true to form, stood smiling as absolutely massively as her face would allow, enjoying the heck out of the entire experience.  Have I mentioned that I adore these two?

            The rest of the evening passed in a beautiful, twinkle lit reception of good food, a gorgeous cake made by one of Annie’s talented friends, a shoe game played by the bride and groom that had the room in stitches, and a night of dancing the time away to Abba.  If you already love Annie and Colin as much as I do, make sure you checkout their Beaches engagement session from earlier this year, and take a page from Annie’s book if you want to plan your wedding day to really feel like ‘you’!

Vendors:
Floral: Quince Flowers
Dress: Sash and Bustle , Truvelle
Venue: The Henley Room, Argonauts Rowing Club
Hair: McManus and Campbell

Danielle & Anthony: Record Shops, Coffee, and Tacos, a Collingwood Engagement

I get to photograph Danielle & Anthony’s wedding just outside of Toronto, in Kleinburg in just a few weeks, so I thought it was a fitting time to share photos from the amazing engagement session we shot together a year ago! These two have spent so much time together at their family cottage up around Collingwood that they wanted to plan an engagement session exploring the area and enjoying some of their favourite things together. 

            These two knocked their engagement session out of the park, and planned the perfect combination of activities to shake things up, add variety, and really enjoy their time together.  I always recommend that people plan engagement sessions like their ideal date day together (with me tagging along as third wheel), and let me tell you, these two have amazing date days together!

            We started out meeting at Mad Dog coffee in Collingwood, a coffee shop/old time rock and roll record and paraphernalia shop.  We sipped dark coffee while browsing their favourite records, admired old Pink Floyd posters that cover the walls, and chatted music shows.  Next up was lattes in the sun at one of Collingwood’s best coffee shops, the Espresso Post, followed by a delicious dinner of tacos and nachos at the most fun, stylish, and trendy spot in town, Bent Taco. 

            To finish up, as the sun was getting low in the sky we drove over the Sunset Point, a beautiful shale beach with crystal clear water where they enjoyed exploring the shore line together, and dipping their toes in the cool Georgian Bay water.  Whether you’re taking engagement photographs or not, I recommend your next trip to Collingwood follow the same plan as these two, like I said, they nailed it.  

Creating Your Perfect Wedding Day Photo Timeline

The number one question I get asked is ‘how much time do we need for our photographs’.  My answer to this is often quite varied, depending on what type of coverage individual couples are looking for, but I thought I would outline a general guideline for planning time for photographs into your wedding day.

            The photographer in me instantly says, ‘the more time for photos the better!’, BUT the WEDDING photographer in me says that we want to plan enough time for your photographs, while making sure that it still feels like the photographs are about your wedding day, rather than your wedding day being about the photographs.  Consider the guidelines below for each series of photographs you would like to have taken, and feel free to get in touch to talk about creating your timeline together if you’re unsure!

Getting Ready Photographs

These are some of my favourite photographs of the day, and make for some amazing candid images of your family and friends spending time together.  Even though I often work with a second shooter, I like getting to stop in with the guys and the girls in the morning if possible.  I usually spend about 30 minutes with the guys, then head to the girls location for about 1 to 1.5 hours.  30 minutes to an hour of candid and ‘makeup’ shots is plenty, and I usually find 15-20 minutes to put on your dress and finishing touches is enough.  I love getting to spend a quiet 10 minutes after you’re finished getting dressed to capture a few really beautiful and fresh bridal portraits before the day truly begins.  Make sure to plan enough time to get packed up and into the Uber after this, while I hop in the car and head to our next destination early.

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First Look Photographs

While this is called the ‘first look’, this is actually when we get the bulk of the photographs done for the day.  Plan approximately 1.5-2 hours for this depending on what photographs we will be taking.  Plan around 10 minutes for your first look, 30 minutes for bride and groom portraits together, 30 minutes for wedding party photographs, and 30 minutes for immediate family photographs.  If possible, 2 hours is ideal for this, as it gives us some extra buffer time if anyone is late, and allows everyone a bit of room to have more fun instead of having to run your photographs like a drill sergeant.  Try to plan in an extra 20-30 minutes after these photographs to take a rest before your ceremony.  This can be some quiet time, a little champagne celebration, or simply time to eat a sandwich and drink some water.

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Post-Ceremony Photographs

Immediately following your ceremony I will grab you for 5 minutes to take a few quick ‘just married’ photos, because at this point you’re going to be feeling on top of the world, and we want to document that!  During this time it’s best to have a designated family member making sure that your extended family is all gathering in a set location, so that we can dive right in to taking photographs with your grandparents, cousins, uncles etc.  Try to schedule about 30 minutes for these extended family photographs (depending on how many shots you would like to have).  I can usually move through them pretty fast with an organized list and roll call. 

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Cocktail Hour Candid Photographs

If we’ve finished most of our photographs early, this means that you’ll have time to head to your cocktail hour!  Yay!  I use this time to capture candid photographs of you, your guests, and the many, many, many hugs that are shared!  I often disappear for a few minutes to get some photos of the reception décor before guests enter.  I find that spending around 30 minutes at the cocktail hours after family photographs is enough to capture some beautiful candid moments. 

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Sunset Photographs

If you want to have a variety of beautiful photographs with your partner on your wedding day, sunset photographs are a must!  I try to convince everyone to schedule time for sunset photos into their day, no matter what.  The light at this time of day is beautiful for portraits, it’s a lovely quiet time to slip off together for a few minutes of privacy, and it creates one more ‘buffer’ time into the schedule in case things ran later than expected and we haven’t captured enough photographs of the two of you together yet.  I recommend scheduling in at least 10-15 minutes for these, and the beautiful photographs we can create if we have a relaxed 20 minutes to half an hour to work with will blow you away!

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Reception Photographs

It’s always important to make sure I’m there late enough to capture some of the fun stuff too!  Once the band kicks in and your guests hit the dance floor, we have an opportunity to capture a few more great candid moments to end the night.  I find that usually about a half hour of dance floor coverage is enough, but schedule in an extra half hour to make sure that we have enough time to capture the party if it doesn’t start on time (which, chances are, it won’t).  If you’re wondering what time we should finish photography coverage, there’s definitely a point about an hour or so into the party when the bar has been open for long enough that I recommend switching to photo booths and iPhones to capture the remainder of the evening.  People have much more fun with a photo booth anyways! 

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The Grand Exit

Sometimes people have a grand exit planned that they want to have photographed, but don’t necessarily want to hire me to stay until 1 am.  If this is the case, there’s absolutely no problem with having some fun and having your ‘exit’ ahead of time.  Sparkler photographs don’t have to happen right as you’re leaving, and photographs getting into your getaway car can happen at any time in the evening.  My favourite ‘grand exit’ moment happened when the party was going much later than expected, and the couple wanted their grandmother to feel that she could go to bed, so they took off in their getaway car, and drove around the traffic circle a few times while their grandmother was escorted upstairs to bed.  They came back to join the party, we captured fantastic ‘get away’ photographs, and family members could go to sleep not feeling like they were missing anything.  It was a win-win plan!

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I value working closely with every couple I get to photograph, to make sure that we create a photography coverage plan that is uniquely suited to their wedding day, and the photographs they value most.  While this is intended to serve as a guideline, I’m always happy to sit down for coffee or a phone call to over your individual timeline in more detail, to make sure we create the perfect balance for your wedding day!

 

Kate & Brendan's Colourful Kleinburg Wedding at The Doctor's House

I met Kate at the Wedding Co Show last winter, and we hit it off right away talking about camping and our favourite outdoor adventure locations.  I immediately knew I wanted to work with her, and was so excited when she got in touch to talk about photographing her wedding later that year!

            Kate and Brendan are the most quintessentially classic, relaxed, outdoorsy, Canadian cottager couple.  They wanted nothing more than to enjoy their day, from getting ready at home with their friends and family dogs, to reciting a funny poem as part of their vows, to hiring The Big Smoke Brass band to make an appearance at their reception and get a dance party going around some fantastic music other than ‘Ra Ra Rasputin’.  They hosted their wedding at The Doctors house in picturesque Kleinburg, with their ceremony in the cutest little chapel, and their reception in the most gorgeously lit room with wide paned windows looking out over the property.

            Kate smiled and laughed her way through the whole day, and had their guests in stitches with her relaxed and happy humour throughout their ceremony.  Brendan couldn’t take his eyes off her, and is truly one of the sweetest, happiest, and most comfortable grooms I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.  The weather was gorgeous, the food was amazing (The Doctors House always knocks meals out of the park), and I was sad to leave what was obviously going to be a fantastic party at the end of the night. 

Vendors:
Venue: The Doctor’s House
Flowers: Rosehill Blooms
Makeup: Shade Makeup
Hair: Krystina Zita
DJ: DJ TimFamous
Band: Big Smoke Brass Band

xo
-c