My 2019 was one of my busiest seasons so far. I had the opportunity to photograph a destination wedding, work with some talented, local vendors, and check out quite a few of Southeastern Wisconsin’s best wedding venues. I also had the honor of working with some of the sweetest couples. From small and intimate to large and lively, I covered just about every type of wedding. Except a brunch wedding, I definitely want to photograph a brunch wedding! Here’s a run down of some of my favorite moments of the 2019 wedding season.
3. The Sanger House Gardens. As a little girl, I was a big fan of the movie & book, ‘The Secret Garden.’ This is kind of what this place reminds me of. John and Millie had a very small and intimate wedding reception here, hosting mostly family and a few very close friends. I can honestly say this was the only wedding that I’ve photographed where I actually cried. I’m pretty good at keeping my emotions in check! Millie’s touching speech about John and her daughters really hit home for me. If you’re looking for a mansion style wedding, definitely check out The Sanger House.
4. The ‘Til Death sign at The Ivy House. This place offers so many “Instagramable” photo ops but this one is by far my favorite. I’m so excited to be back at the Ivy House this May!
5. Dog-friendly venue spaces. When Kyle and Ali told me that they wanted to include their pup, Jax, in their wedding at Birch, I was all for it. I love dogs and I really do love when couples incorporate them into their wedding. I photographed two weddings this year where the couples incorporated their pups and I love that Birch is a dog-friendly venue!
6. Villa Filomena. Another Milwaukee mansion that doesn’t disappoint. I loved everything about Dave and Alexis’s wedding. The day was absolutely perfect and personal in every way. From the handmade hair piece to the game themed reception decor, this couple put their personal touch on every aspect of their wedding and they did it in a very tasteful way.
7. Carving out time for sunset photos. There are a few reasons I love when your wedding timeline allows for sunset photos. First, it’s my chance to pull you away for just a few minutes to really soak up your time as husband and wife. It gives couples a chance to check in with one another and make sure everything is going well, and many couples appreciate the “breath of fresh air” after visiting with lots of loved ones during the day.
8. Brides with a sense of humor. Cassaundra contacted me a few days before her wedding and explained to me how she wanted to play a practical joke on Craig, her husband to be. They were planning on doing a first look, but instead of seeing his bride when he turned around, Cassaundra worked with Craig’s best man to give him a good laugh and relieve any nerves he might have about seeing Cassaundra for their first look. The two enjoyed a “real” first look afterward and it was perfect.
9. Dessert Bars. Not everyone loves cake (I get it, but I don’t…). When you’re not big on wedding cake, hosting a dessert bar is another great option and Miss Molly’s does not disappoint. These brownies were the best I’ve ever had. I’ve worked with Molly for a styled shoot and now for a real wedding and I hear nothing but great things from anyone who eats these delicious baked goods.
10. Vingettes and champagne parades. When your mom owns a rustic and chic decor and home furnishing store in the Third Ward, you better be ready for an amazing wedding day set up! Terry set up vignettes around their property for Alex and Garrett’s gorgeous backyard wedding. When I was photographing the details, I kept thinking about how I wanted to put some of the decor into my new home! This wedding was so wonderfully done in many ways, I can’t wait to share more from their day. Alex and Garrett also did something I’ve never seen any couple do before. They led a champagne parade from their ceremony site to where the guests were to enjoy cocktail hour! That’s definitely a parade I want to be part of.
When I ask couples if they’re doing a first look, they either fall into one of three categories: A definite “NO!”, a “Maybe, we haven’t really thought about it”, or “What’s a first look?”
So what is a first look anyway? A first look happens usually a few hours before the ceremony where the bride and groom see each other for the first time, instead of waiting until the bride walks down the aisle. It’s usually prearranged by the couple and the photographer and is built into the timeline of the day.
But Maria, why would we want to see each other before the wedding? Wouldn’t that ruin the tradition? I get it! Trust me, my husband was very traditional that way as well and we did not have a first look at our wedding. But do you know where that tradition stems from? Back in the day, when arranged marriages were common, the bride and groom were not allowed to see each other at all before the wedding. The ceremony symbolized a done business deal between two families. The father of the bride feared that if the groom found his daughter unattractive, he would call off the wedding, bringing shame to his daughter and the family. So the two were not allowed to meet until the day of the wedding. And the wedding veil over the face? That was so the groom couldn’t see what the bride looked like until the officiant announced, “You are now husband and wife. You may kiss your bride.” Romantic hey?
If I could do it all over again, I’d definitely have a first look and here’s why.
3. You get to enjoy your entire reception! This one is huge and probably one of my biggest regrets. About 50% of your entire wedding budget goes to the reception, you literally owe it to yourselves to be there for it. To this day, I still hear so many great things about our cocktail hour, but we barely got to experience it between we chose to take our pictures between our ceremony and reception. Enjoy your cocktail hour and those who are there to celebrate you!
4. You will still get your walking down the aisle moment. Every couple (grooms especially) say they’re so happy they decided to do a first look and that it took nothing away from seeing their bride come down the aisle. You will still be just as excited to see one another and you won’t have the urge to give each other a big hug and kiss after being apart all day.
No client of mine has ever told me that they regretted doing a first look. I’ve always gotten the response, “I’m so glad we did that!” I understand that first looks aren’t for everyone but it’s something that you should really consider doing. It frees up time in your day and makes the wedding schedule a little less hectic. Chances are your marriage isn’t arranged, you two know what the other looks like and you’re not backing out of anything.
Did you decided to have a first look? Comment below!
It was a beautiful September day. Unseasonable warm for this time of year in Wisconsin. One of the hottest days we’ve had all summer. When I drove down the wooded driveway and approached the house, there was a sense of calm. None of the hustle and bustle you’d expect on a wedding day. When I walked into Mauria’s mom’s house, the girls were sitting around the table, finishing up breakfast, drinking mimosas, laughing and listening to chill music. They had under eye patches on-the same ones I had been wearing earlier that morning. I knew right then and there that I was in great company. Mauria introduced me to everyone, but because they were all so close, I had a hard time keep track of who her real sisters were when I first got there.
I met Mauria for coffee a few months back. She told me about her wedding, her bridesmaids and what they were wearing. She went on to describe her wedding as a simple backyard wedding with about 100 of their closest family and friends. When I arrived on site, it was much more than what I had envisioned. The property was lined with tall trees and fields. Mauria and Sarandi were married under a willow tree in her parents backyard and it was perfect. On our coffee date, Mauria had mentioned how artistic Sarandi was. It was one of the things she loved about him. Sarandi was responsible for painting all of the table numbers at the reception. They were beautifully done.
Mauria’s sisters went on to talk about the many phases of Mauria. There was lots of laughter in the audience. Some of these phases I could even relate to. And then they talked about the Sarandi phase, which is her forever phase. Sarandi and Mauria lit each other up the whole day. If there was a brief moment of stress that arose, Sarandi instantly brought a calm to Mauria. It was as if the two just kept front of mind what the day was about: the two of them starting their lives together and nothing else mattered.
I asked them toward the end of the night if there was any last minute pictures they wanted before I headed out. They said no, so I went inside and packed up my gear. When I came back to find them to say goodbye, they were dancing off in the distance by themselves. I always advise my couples to take a few moments by themselves to just take in the day. It goes by so quickly. I’m glad they listened and had their own moment separate from me taking them out for pictures.
Sarandi and Mauria, thank you so much for choosing me to document your wedding day. Congratulations to you two! Cheers to a lifetime of love and happiness!
Special thanks to these vendors for making these photos possible:
Photography: Maria Campbell Photography
Hair: Betsy Arsnow
Dress Designer: Cristiano Lucci
Bridal Boutique: Amelishan Bridal
Groom Attire: Calvin Klein at Men’s Wearhouse
Flowers (Bouquets,boutonnieres, corsages): Parkway Floral
Flowers (Centerpieces, Table arrangements): Shoua Vang’s Bouquet
Jeweler: Custom designed at A Trio
Bakery: The Cake Lady
Planners: Cara Turkowski and Dianne Hofmann
Amanda and Jim had the most perfect day for a wedding at Boerner Botanical Gardens. Their ceremony was small and intimate and very much about them, as they both wrote their own vows to one another. There was barely a dry eye in the audience. After their ceremony, the two hosted a fun, casual and laid back reception at one of my favorite places, Camp Bar in the Third Ward. Congratulations Jim and Amanda! I wish you nothing but the best for your life together!
Special thanks to these amazing vendors who helped make Jim and Amanda’s day extra special:
Ceremony: Boerner Botanical Gardens
Ceremony Music: Sound By Design
Reception: Camp Bar
Florist: Bloom Floral
Taylor and Kyle had the most perfect wedding day anyone could’ve asked for. It was so much fun hanging out with them all day long and I’m still so honored that they asked me to document their big day.
I had the joy of hanging out with the ladies at the salon before the bridal preparations took place. Because Jamie had another wedding that same day, she had to fit Taylor in earlier in the morning. Afterwards, we all had lunch together before heading to the venue.
One thing I learned about Taylor and Kyle is that everyone at their wedding had a long history with them. These two definitely make friends for life, which should be a given since they’ve known each other since they were kids themselves. It’s so amazing to see a couple that has grown up together and who are still so in love after all these years of really knowing each other.
Congratulations Taylor & Kyle! Thank you for asking me to be your wedding photographer and for making me feel like part of the family.
Ceremony & Reception Venue: Schlitz Audubon Nature Center
Cupcakes: Miss Cupcake Bakery
Groom’s Suite: Men’s Wearhouse Navy suit
Florist: Rachel Block @ Reflections of You
DJ/Entertainment: On the Limiter Productions
Bridal Party Hair and Make up: Impressions
Kacie & Justin knew each other in high school. They were two grades apart from one another and it wasn’t until after Justin graduated from high school that their paths crossed and a relationship blossomed. Justin decided to propose on the coldest day of the year. He had carved in an ice patch behind their house, “Will You Marry Me?” and had to do some strong convincing to get Kacie outside. After some resistance, she went outside and was so surprised at what Justin had done…in the freezing cold weather.
These two are meant for each other. They light each other up and we laughed the whole time during their session. Kacie wanted to do their engagement shoot at her parent’s horse farm where grew up in Southeastern Wisconsin. We had so much fun walking around her parents’ land and finding all sorts of random things. These two will be married next July and I can’t wait to celebrate the beginning of this new chapter in their lives together.
To find a love like Kyle & Taylor’s is rare these days. These two started dating the summer going into 8th grade. Kyle asked Taylor out three times before Taylor finally agreed. They were voted ‘cutest couple’ by their 8th grade classmates. A title that still proves to be true. These two are absolutely adorable together. The way they look at each other is how I imagine they looked at each other in those early days of dating, they are still wildly in love with one another.
Kyle proposed to Taylor with a unique engagement ring: a champagne sapphire stone set in a rose gold band. They had just come from fishing at the lake. Kyle claimed that they had forgotten something for his dad and that they had to go back. He got her back to the lake and popped the question! She of course said, “YES!” and the two will be married this July. I’m so excited for their wedding. I know the day will be wonderful.
Melissa & Victor have been on the blog before and this more than likely won’t be the last time you see them. Melissa is due with my NIECE in July and I can’t wait to photograph that little bundle of joy. For their maternity shoot, we chose Hubbard Park in Shorewood, WI. I couldn’t wait to photograph here and play around with the tunnel. A few weeks ago, Victor contacted me asking me for my opinion as to how he should pop the question. He threw around a few ideas, one being at her maternity shoot. I said it would be perfect and I knew exactly how I wanted to set up the shot. It took a lot for me to keep this secret and I did my very best not to let anything slip. I’d say I did a pretty good job 🙂 The ring is absolutely gorgeous and neither one could stop smiling all morning long. It was adorable. Congratulations Melissa & Victor! You both have so much to look forward to and I can’t wait to be there right beside you both.
A few months ago, Shannon from Simply Weddings, LLC reached out to me asking if I’d be interested in collaborating with her for an idea she had for a winter wedding shoot. I immediately said, “Yes!” and she got to work creating her vision. She worked with Lisa from Sunborn Flower Farm & Florist to create a beautiful tablescape, a gorgeous bouquet, and a flower crown that I would’ve worn all day, given the chance. Shannon and her husband were also models for the shoot. They got married 6 years ago at the courthouse and had a very small wedding right before Shannon deployed overseas, so they never had the opportunity to get dolled up and take “wedding” photos. I was happy that I was able to provide them with that experience.
Being a newer business owner herself, I took the opportunity to ask Shannon some questions about her company, what she likes about working for herself and what her ideal bride is like. Here’s what she had to say!
Tell me about Simply Weddings, LLC…What made you decide to go into wedding planning? Jonathan (husband) and I officially founded Simply Weddings, LLC two years ago. We have actually been doing weddings prior to that, but not under a business yet. I got into wedding planning kind of on a whim. Jonathan had a wedding that he was officiating at and I was there to support him and to attend the wedding as a guest, as it was for a family member of a close friend of ours. Since it was one of Jon’s first weddings, he had a general idea on how to run the rehearsal, but what he (we!) found out was that it is really not up to the officiant to coordinate the entire processional with the wedding party. He is there to marry the couple and to perform the ceremony, not space out bridesmaids and coax the flower girl down the aisle with candy. I ended up taking over the coordinating for the processional and recessional during this event and was there on the day of (at the bride’s request) to herd everyone up and get them down the aisle. It was a little chaotic, but thanks to Google and having been at a few weddings, I struggled my way through it! When the bride thanked me and told me “I don’t know what I would have done with out you!” that sealed the deal. I even happy cried when the bride walked down the aisle after, of course, the flower girl had dumbed her flower basket out at the end of the aisle and walked off. After I realized that I loved helping brides on their wedding day, I found a wedding planning certification program, became certified through the Association of Bridal Consultants and Jonathan and I officially opened Simply Weddings.
What has the process been like in starting your own business? Owning a business is definitely not something I ever thought I would be doing. I really didn’t like business classes in college, because I tried a lot of them, so that part was and still is a little daunting. I had to quickly realize that the things I’m not good at, like building a website, I had to pass off to the experts. That is definitely one piece of advice I would give anyone starting out-let the experts do what they do and you do what you’re good at. Graphic designers, web designers, photographers, videographers, etc. are there for a reason. Use them!
Describe your ideal bride. Since each bride is so different in their likes, dislikes and how they envision their big day, I would have to say that I truly appreciate the bride that knows what she wants, but is also open to suggestions that I may have to make her vision even better. I also very much appreciate the brides (and grooms) that understand if and when changes may need to be made to accommodate budget, seasonal items or even weather! Sometimes things happen that are out of my control (such as rain during an outdoor ceremony) that we will need to adapt to and find a different alternative that they are just as happy with.
What is your favorite thing about working for yourself? I love the freedom of building our own business from the ground up. Jonathan and I get to set the tone and vision for our company. Sometimes we agree and sometimes we don’t, but at the end of the day I usually win and he agrees with me…KIDDING! At the end of the day, it’s about our clients and how we can make one of the most important days in their lives even better. I think because we didn’t have a large wedding, we get to live vicariously through the couples we marry and I’m completely fine with that!
I loved having the opportunity to work with Shannon and her business! She has an awesome personality and great eye for detail. If you’re planning a wedding, definitely head on over to Simply Weddings and take a look.
Details, details details…
Location: Bridle Barn & Gardens
Flowers: Sunborn Flower Farm and Florist
Hair: Mariah at Shear Style Salon