As you can probably tell, I’m pretty terrible at keeping up with the blog, so I’m trying to post fewer photos in the hope that I can blog more weddings! I first worked with this couple on their engagement session, during which we had such a great time sailing on Lake Michigan. For their wedding, we returned to just a few blocks from the harbor, to the beautiful University Club of Chicago for their wedding reception following a ceremony at my favorite church, Saint Clement. Danielle and Mike are so sweet and kind and really a perfect balance to each other! Their wedding last spring was a very large wedding that still felt intimate, with only their siblings comprising the wedding party and Danielle and Mike sticking close throughout the wedding, enjoying champagne in their vintage car after the ceremony, dancing the night away on the floor, and then stealing out to the UCOC’s terrace for a private moment and some beautiful night photos. My sweet friend, Anne Book, beautifully designed the celebration, which was full of so many amazing details. Having met at a wine festival, their cocktail hour featured wine tastings for guests (a very cute idea you can incorporate at really any budget!) and their escort cards were beautiful compasses as a nod to their fondness for sailing. Another dear friend, Natalie Walsh of Hello Darling did the flowers, and walking into the huge Cathedral Hall at UCOC was like walking into a garden — I truly have never had a wedding smell so beautiful (sounds so weird, but is so true!). It was like being in a beautiful spring garden, right on Michigan Avenue.
Ceremony Venue: St. Clement Church || Reception Venue: The University Club of Chicago || Bride’s Wedding Dress: Monique Lhuillier || Bride’s Veil: Ultimate Bride || Bride’s Shoes: James Ciccotti || Bride’s Accessories: Gabrielle Sanchez || Groom’s Tux: Hugo Boss || Bridesmaids’ Dresses: Jenny Yoo || Wedding Design & Coordination: Anne Book Signature Style || Florist: Hello Darling || Stationery: Magnificent Milestones || Favors: LH Calligraphy || Rentals:Tablescapes || Entertainment: Colby Beserra and the Party Faithful || Photography: Olivia Leigh Photographie
Several years ago I did what I called a “freedom wedding” for one of the sweetest couples in the Bay Area. For a long time I had been wanting to do a wedding for a couple that truly could not afford my services and also one who would really give me the freedom to artistically explore on the wedding day. This ended up being an extremely fulfilling experience where I was able to shoot a lot of film and shoot differently than I usually do all while shooting a very simple, sweet and heartfelt wedding.
I always encourage couples to invest considerably in their photography, whether that be with me or another photographer, as the photography truly is the one thing that lasts after the wedding and preserves all the memories of the other things — florals, music, food — that you invest in for the wedding day. But at the same time, I realize it is just not feasible for some couples to get even close to being able to afford the commission for me or some of my colleagues.
This year I’m intentionally taking a lighter load of weddings to be able to give even more attention to my couples and actually have some time for personal work. What this also means is that I’m excited to have the ability to bring back the Freedom Wedding, Part Deux, for another go this year.
FREEDOM WEDDING 2.0
Who you are: Truly awesome couple who honestly (truly!) cannot afford the regular wedding commissions, who also has a great spirit, is emotionally open with yourselves and others, and is willing to let me have pretty much total creative control over the photography (i.e., no big lists). You must have a minimum of 30 minutes available for portraits of just the two of you outdoors.
Your wedding: Is an outdoor ceremony (sorry, this is a requirement!). Not in downtown Chicago. Can be anywhere else in the world or outside the city. Is happening in late June, July, September or the second weekend of October 2014 (Fridays and Sundays are much more likely, but maybe your Saturday will pan out, so give it a go).
What you get: 8 hours photography time by me, online gallery, USB of your images
What I get: Freedom to shoot your wedding with totally fresh eyes, try different angles than the standard expected shots, and also shoot some film.
How much this costs: Costs only (travel + film, as applicable). Hooray!
How to get in on this: Please send me an email and tell me about yourselves: tell me your story and why you are getting married, where it will be held, and what your vision for the day is, what you hope it is like. Having a connection with my couples is always super important but for this wedding in particular, the more you can share to determine if we’re a great fit, the better.
Apply by April 26, 2014.
When I first met Shawn and Stephen, we bonded over shared senses of humour and a mutual love of Milwaukee and bourbon. After telling me more about their vision for the wedding which included a desire for honest and authentic photos from the day and their details revolving around a DIY bourbon theme, I knew I just had to photograph their wedding. When their fall celebration rolled around, I couldn’t have been happier that they selected me for the job. All my couples are deeply in love, and I always say couples show that bond in many different ways, all of which are beautiful and wonderful. However, once or twice a year I photograph a couple that has such a palpable and obvious bond that adds an even more deep and meaningful twist to the photography. Shawn and Stephen are definitely this way, and several times throughout the day — including during a first look in the hustle and bustle of Wacker and a first dance surrounded by all their friends and family — you could almost see and feel the rest of the world fall away, with them completed focused on one another only.
Aside from this connection, their day was also just such FUN. Stephen is from a family of boys and Shawn, from a family of girls, and the entire group was just having such a blast the entire day. A bourbon theme doesn’t hurt, either, and Shawn and Stephen (designers and art directors) really brought their own touch to the details, collecting dozens of bourbon bottles and dipping them in gold to hold their centerpieces with the help of their florist, making a sculpture of their self-designed monogram out of an old barrel, signature bourbon cocktails, and using the top of a barrel for a guestbook. Both the couple and their guests were so wonderful about truly being present on the wedding day (the biggest factor toward getting great photos in my opinion) and I think and hope it really comes across in the photos. Thank you so much S&S! I had such a wonderful time and couldn’t have been happier to shoot your day.
Invitations, Favors, Custom Decor: DIY by couple | Florist: STEMS | Bride’s Dress: Blue by Enzoani | Groom’s suit: BOSS | Caterer: Paramount | Cake: Amy Beck | DJ: Toast & Jam | Guitar: Michael Mcavena (friend of couple) | Assistant/Second Photographer: Julia Franzosa
I’m working on posting a lot of work from the last year that never made it to the blog, and the first day of spring seemed like a wonderful time to share this warm, summery shoot. Mimi and Alex opted for a sunrise shoot, which I absolutely love doing. I love photographing sessions with the glowy, warm and romantic light from sunrise or sunset, and as the lake is an especially popular location, doing the shoot in the morning allows the sun to rise up over the lake for the most dreamy of images! I also love shooting then as no one is out and you are starting fresh before any stresses from the day may impact your mood! Mimi and Alex are so sweet together, though, that I think any time of day would have been a great time to photograph them! While I’m sad I wasn’t able to shoot their wedding, I was so happy they asked me to photograph this shoot for them and was so thrilled with the images we got at the lake and where they got engaged, at the Chicago Botanic Garden!
Many couples ask me about “first looks” (when the couple sees one another before the ceremony) — Should we do one? Should we not? Won’t it ruin that moment at the ceremony? My opinion is that if you have ample time in between two locations, it’s fine (and in some cases, ideal) to do photos in between your ceremony and reception when the lighting is great and time is on our side, but if your cocktail hour is beginning right after the ceremony, if you are having your wedding at one venue, or if you simply want to spend a little time by yourselves on the wedding day, a first look is a wonderful route to go to ensure you get great portraits and then can truly CELEBRATE for the rest of the day! On the matter of “runining a ceremony moment” I’d have to point to these photos of Laura and Wes! Granted, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a couple so unabashedly excited to be marrying, but these reactions during their first look were some of my favorite of all times. You simply would never get these moments in a church, where by virtue of the setting, a more reserved reaction tends to be the norm. Of course, we can still capture the emotion in your eyes and perhaps a lip quivering, but the all out joy that Laura and Wes had in seeing each other was one of the highlights of my year to capture and I am so thrilled they opted to do it in a private setting where they could really be themselves!
Aside from their first look, the rest of their day carried the joyful spirit we witnessed in those moments. They were just so very excited and it made such a joy to shoot all of their moments, from portraits to toasts to some serious dance floor celebrating! Their wedding also took place during the Stanley Cup Finals, a pretty big deal in such a sports loving town! Wes’ mom in particular is a huge Blackhawks fan, so for her and other guests, a TV was set up on the side of the Drake’s Gold Coast Room. Capturing the party of the reception along with the nerves of the game was a unique experience and one that really helped tell a true story with little nuances that could only be Laura and Wes’ wedding!
Ceremony: St. James Chapel | Reception + Catering: Gold Coast Room at the Drake Hotel | Cake: Amy Beck | Band: Colby Beserra and the Party Faithful |Second Photographer: Jacqueline Barkley + Vivan Wan | Invitations: Elizabeth Grace | Florist: Yanni Design Studio