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One of the best perks of documenting the love is that every once and a while, I get an opportunity to travel to photograph the wedding of friends. At the tail end of April this year I had the honor of flying back to my old stomping grounds of Chicago, Illinois to photograph the wedding day celebration of my old family friend Matt and his lovely bride Liz. Growing up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, I grew up knowing Matt and his family through our local church and the family social circle. A few years back I was able to photograph the wedding of his brother Nick in California so when I learned that Matt and Liz were to be married, I was completely honored when they asked me to photograph it. It is such a treat for me to be able to document the weddings of old friends.

These two lovebirds decided to marry in style in the heart of The Windy City. We started the day getting ready at The Godfrey Hotel and from there took a trolley around the city taking in the sights, dodging the spring rains and making creative portraits along the way. Their wedding ceremony took place at Holy Family Church one of the oldest Catholic churches in the city. A beautiful gothic looking building. As the day transitioned into the celebratory reception, we finally landed at Salvage One, a 60,000 square foot vintage Chicago warehouse covered in fantastic antiques. Great food, laughter, and some epic dancing made the night truly one to remember. I was so grateful to be a part of it. Here are some of the highlights from their wedding day. What a fun weekend. Wishing these two a lifetime of happiness. -M

To see all of their wedding photos click here.

 

Whew! I’ve finally started to decompress from my fun, but busy 2011 wedding season. In my new found free time, I’ve been able to go back through my back log of vacation images and a few wedding assistant gigs that I have been meaning to process. Despite my busy wedding schedule this past summer in Sacramento,  I did actually get to attend one wedding as a guest. In between my Montana wedding and trip to Colorado for a Geekfest photojournalism summit back in early September, I hopped a flight to Chicago O’Hare Airport to return to my old stomping ground of Crystal Lake, Illinois for the wedding of my good ol’ high school buddy Karisa. I’m at that age now where more and more of my close friends are tying the knot especially all of my friends from high school living in the Midwest. It’s one thing to witness and photograph the wedding of my clients and another to witness the union of someone you’ve known since adolescence. Karisa is one of the few people I’ve managed to stay in touch with since graduating from high school. When I sought out the outdoor recreation bliss in the Rocky Mountains of Montana for college, she headed east to attend Dartmouth College to pursue her love of acting on stage. As the years have progressed, I’ve watched with excitement and pride as she has climbed that ladder of success in her craft. She is a Renaissance woman whose acting pursuits have branched into small movie roles, commercial shoots, on stage plays and comedy improv troops in the Chicago scene. So it’s only natural that the man she would fall in love with would be from that creative environment. Karisa met Scott when they were cast together four years ago on an Chicago improv group together called Counterproductive Lover. “We make each other laugh, so that’s absolutely a cornerstone in our relationship,” said Karisa. The group continues to regularly rehearse and perform long-form improv together and I even managed to catch a show of theirs a few years back. These days the two stay pretty busy working full time as actors. Scott is coming of his recent success with a show he was in at the famous Second City comedy club and Karisa recently finished up a commercial shoot for US Bank. From what I can tell, acting is not an easy road to venture so it give me a lot of joy to see these two making waves.

I was looking forward to their wedding day. It would be a good opportunity to visit with past friends and also because it would be the first time in a while that I could actually celebrate a wedding properly without having the obligations of producing wedding photos for a client. Karisa wanted to make sure I would enjoy the party properly and not be working it. Alas, you can’t take the photographer out of the boy. I couldn’t resist bringing along a camera and lens just in case I came across a scene worth documenting. And I found many scenes. In between socializing, dancing and drinking in celebration, I made a few wedding photographs that stood out to me during my editing session. I used the occasion to experiment a little but mostly I used it as more of a snapshot approach. Some things worked others not so much. But that was okay. I was thoroughly enjoying myself.

Karisa and Scott decided to have their ceremony and reception in the beautiful backyard of her parents home in Cary, Illinois. When planning their big day, the emphasis was to have it feel very personable and reflect their style. Much of it was put together with the help of family and friends. Karisa designed the wedding invites and all other paper stuff which were then assembled and printed at home. The bouquets were made by family members. Instead of a DJ, they opted for the do it yourself iTunes playlist where they picked their favorite songs. This worked for a while until their computer crashed. (Something to think about for your own wedding entertainment). Luckily, there were no shortages of personel iPods around and her friends took turns spending the rest of the evening choosing songs to play and dance to. For other items at their wedding, they went for the professional approach. They had their wedding photography shot by Chicago based photographer and fellow WPJA member Allison Williams and their photo booth set up by their friend Rob Strong. Karisa and her bridesmaids had her hair and make up done by Jennifer at Jen J Style. The wedding was catered by a great Mediterranean buffet-styled grill called Roti. They also had the great idea for having a local food truck which allowed guests to make after dinner smoothies, wild game sausages, and coffee drinks. You could not have asked for a nicer day. I am so glad I was able to see it. Here are a couple photos that I made from their wedding day. I wish these two all the best! -M

I’ve been excited to show this wedding for a while now. How appropriate that my last wedding shoot of the year was spent documenting the union of an old family friend. Nick and Emily hired me to fly down to greater Los Angeles area to photograph their wedding weekend festivities. I’ve known Nick and his family my entire life. Growing up in Crystal Lake, Illinois, his family and mine were close friends who attended the same church where the kids shared in the same childhood mandate of singing in the church choir. Nick and his brother Matt were partners-in-crime with my brother and I every Sunday as we played games of hide and seek around the church sanctuary often times managing to get into trouble as young boys tend to do. The tradition of mischief continued throughout adolescence through countless celebrations and BBQs together and our families’ annual road trip westward towards the mountains of Colorado for a week of skiing every spring. So, needless to say, when I heard that Nick was getting married and his family asked if I could photograph the celebration, I jumped at the opportunity.

Nick and Emily met on the job. Nick, upon graduating from high school, moved out to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of becoming a Hollywood actor. He was supporting himself at that time by working in numerous positions at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company restaurant from dancing in a shrimp suit to being host. It was there that he met Emily during a work training session three years ago. Emily, a Los Angeles native, has since found her calling as a talented pastry chef working at Rivera Restaurant in Los Angeles. “It wasn’t exactly love at first sight with Nick,” joked Emily when recalling how they first met, “Our relationship started off as friends but he was the persistent type and kept trying to ask me out on a date. I didn’t want to risk losing the friendship.” But thankfully, persistence pays off and after asking her out four times with her answer being no, it was the fifth time that she finally said yes to a date with him and as the saying goes…the rest is history.

When it came time to plan their wedding things got a bit complicated. Nick was cast in a lead role for a new television show and would spend the four months leading up to their wedding filming in Prague within the Czech Republic. Emily was busy trying to finish up her schooling as a pastry chef. Being resourceful, they were able to defy the hurdle of the time zone difference and plan out the wedding through the power of Skype and with the help of their family members. It all came together really well with a good mix of professionalism combined with a do-it-yourself feel. Above all, they were adamant that they wanted candid, high quality photography for their wedding day and that’s where I came in. The wedding festivities were to be held on Saturday around noon. I flew down Friday evening to Burbank where I met the wedding party and watched as the last minute preparations were made. The outdoor ceremony and reception were held in the courtyard of The Castaway Restaurant in Burbank, California. It was a beautiful warm, southern California setting overlooking the De Bell Golf Course and the surrounding Burbank hills. These two families know how to celebrate a union! Their ceremony went off without a hitch and then the celebration began. Like all great receptions, there was plenty of dancing. Food was provided by the venue and when their wedding cake plans fell through a couple days prior, Nick’s grandmother Ann was able to whip up a beautiful homemade cake for the event. All in all it was really great to be apart of and document the celebration for an old family friend. I wish them all the best. -M

To view more of their wedding images you can check out their wedding story here

and to view their entire wedding photo shoot and purchase prints you can see them in the photo archive here

I’ve been working hard to finish up the wedding photos of my friends Nick and Emily Wedding photos. Pneumonia be damned. They are almost done but I couldn’t wait to show some of them. They will be up here soon. Stay tuned.

When Erin & Ryan hired me to photograph their wedding weekend in the Denver, Colorado area, they made it apparent to me that it was going to be a huge celebration. The two have made a successful careers working in Palo Alto, California – Erin at Facebook and Ryan for the AGC of California and they wanted a wedding that could accommodate all of their friends coming in from all across the country. After the last three and a half weeks of processing their wedding photos, I can honestly say that it was one of the biggest weddings I have photographed. My day began with an early morning start with Erin getting ready with her bridesmaids at the home of her aunt and uncle in Parker, Colorado. It was a huge, beautiful custom-designed mansion complete with antique furniture and big windows that cast in a lot of natural light. It really set a nice scene for the pre wedding preparations. It reminded me of being in some fancy European castle.

Like I mentioned in my previous post, photographing Erin’s wedding was a mini reunion for me because I knew her and many of her bridesmaids from high school in Crystal Lake, Illinois. It was so great to see them all again. As the girls got ready, they sipped champaign, laughed over old high school stories and helped Erin get ready for her big day. Once they were finished with their make up and hair by the stylists from L Raymond Styles Hair Salon, they got situated into their black, designer dresses from Rent the Runway and we were able to do some Vogue fashion style formal portraits. As the wedding start time approached, we loaded up into a stretch Hummer and made our way to the church. Erin and Ryan decided to have a more traditional catholic wedding held in the Ave Maria Church in Parker, Colorado. It was there that my hired assistant Justin Edmonds, a photojournalism friend and fellow Eddie Adams Workshop Rust teammate, arrived and we worked together to document the story of their wedding day. Having a second photographer to help photograph a wedding allows me to have multiple angles and to provide a much more thorough coverage of my client’s wedding day. It really makes a huge difference and if it’s something you are considering for your own wedding day, I can’t emphasize benefits enough. He was a big help.

Erin got a lot of assistance with all of the wedding details and decoration ideas from her wedding planner Stacy Pisani, of Alexan Events. Where the wedding ceremony followed a tradition catholic undertone, the reception was a stark contrast of hip, luxurious style and design. A large air conditioned tent was setup in the backyard of Erin’s aunt and uncle’s house where you could find a full dance floor with DJ music from Scratch Weddings, a club style lounge with couches, table settings and chairs from Event Rents, an assortment of gourmet food stations from Epicurean Catering and fine wines from The Wine Experience Café scattered through out. It was an incredible evening complete with delicious food, a fun, Greener Visuals photo booth that I set up and the guests danced well into the early morning. These guys know how to have a good time.

This is a sample of some of the photographs from their wedding day. You can see all of my favorites from the day under my wedding stories section hereYou can view and purchase all of the photos from the day here.

Wishing Erin and Ryan all the best with their new life together. Congratulations!

I’m just about finished with their Colorado wedding photos. Stay tuned…..

Sometimes it’s the little things that can make a wedding peak over the top of awesomeness. A couple weeks ago, I helped Erin and Ryan do just that by setting up a photo booth for their guests to play in and take photos of themselves throughout the reception. What I love about offering photo booths to my clients is that they are totally customizable by the fun props and backdrops clients provide and are limited only by the creativity of their wedding guests. I have yet to keep a straight face while editing a photo booth take. So often they yield hilarious results. Being a high up the totem pole in the marketing department over at Facebook, Erin really wanted step it up a notch and have a social media aspect to her wedding day. She approached me about a concept of having her photo booth photos posted straight to Facebook throughout the evening so her friends and family could tag themselves and share the photos. I thought it was a pretty cool concept that I had never tried before but was up to the challenge. Through the help of my trusty photo assistant and local Denver photographer Justin Edmonds, we were able to figure out a solution using presets in Adobe Lightroom 3. The result was a couple easy clicks (on my computer which was tethered to my camera) and the photos uploaded straight to her Facebook page dedicated to her wedding day. It was a huge hit with her wedding guests and a new challenge I was pleased that we were able to conquer. In the end I couldn’t resist and stepped in to make a couple photos of myself. Too much fun. Here are a couple of my favorite images that were made during Erin and Ryan’s wedding. You can view the full photo shoot here on my archive site. Stay tuned for their wedding shoot. Coming soon. Until then, -M

I love shooting the weddings of friends especially one’s I haven’t seen in a while. Last weekend I had the pleasure of traveling to Denver, Colorado to photograph the wedding of an old high school friend Erin who was tying the knot with her college sweetheart Ryan. The two hired me for a full weekend coverage starting with their wedding rehearsal dinner at the beautiful Wine Experience Café & World Cellar in the southeast corner of Aurora, Colorado part of the greater Denver area. I flew out to Denver Friday morning from Sacramento and arrived mid afternoon in the mile high city. Being back Colorado, I had forgotten how much I missed it. While in college, I worked a couple summers at a outdoor summer camp in Estes Park, CO where I quickly fell in love with the front range of the Rocky Mountains. I had not been back much since and was looking forward to a return. Erin and Ryan had met years earlier while attending undergrad studying Marketing at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado and the two now live and work in Palo Alto, California – Erin at Facebook and Ryan for the AGC of California.  Sharing the same love for Colorado as I do, they decided to have their wedding there where they would be closer to family and friends not to mention having a stunning mountain backdrop for their wedding weekend.

Erin and Ryan wanted their rehearsal dinner to be a relaxed evening event before their big day. They brought their wedding guests to the Wine Experience Café & World Cellar for a wine tasting and light dinner hosted by family friends and owners Rita and Eldon Larson. It was a photographer’s dream location. The cafe had a huge large windows that cast a beautiful soft window light across all of the guests, both local and from out of town, as they wined and dined with smiles on their faces. You could feel the excitement from everyone in anticipation of the wedding the next day. One of the things I’ve been seeing a lot at weddings I’ve photographed this wedding season is couples opting for small samples of many different types of foods served in a tapas style format. I like it because it turns the meal experience into an adventure where guest can really get a feel for the food artistry of the chef. It’s a pretty cool concept and the best part is if there is something someone doesn’t like (a rarity) they know they have more delicious samples on deck. The guests (and the lucky photographer) were served in rounds based off the wine that was being served at the time. As people were starting to trickle in, an assortment of small flavorful dishes like Asian Seared Ahi Tuna paired with a San Quirico Vernaccia di San Gimignano or a Tenderloin Bruschetta with horse radish cream paired with a Gundlach Bundschu Mountain Cuvee wine were served as a starter. As we moved into the seated meal, the food changed course and started with a Apple Spinach Salad or Calamari served in a tempura style with jalapenos and french green beans that was then paired with a Sparr Dry Riesling or an Emyael Off Dry Riesling. As the night progressed onward, the main entree’s were served. It was an assortment of awesomeness. Guests had their choice of Seared Sea Scallops paired with a Chateau Ste. Michelle Horse Heaven Sauvignon Blanc, Wild Boar Fettuccini with sauteed mushrooms paired with an Arrowood Chardonnay, a Filet Mignon with garlic mash potatoes paired with a Luigi Bosca DOC Malbec (a personal favorite), or Pan Seared Chicken Breast with smoked ham and broccolini risotto paired with Century Oak Cabernet Sauvignon. In all it was a really nice evening filled with fine wines, good food and great conversation between friends and family. It was a meal memory won’t soon forget.

These are some of my favorite photographs from their rehearsal dinner. You can view and purchase all of the photos from the evening here. Now onto editing down and toning close to 6000 images I made from the wedding day. I have my work cut out for me. So many great images to choose from. I’ll post them as soon as I finish. Until then, -M

The California wedding season has begun! A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of seeing two of my oldest friends tie the knot at a small vineyard-surrounded property outside of Hopland, California. I met Ashley and Trevor back back in 1994 when I was in sixth grader at North Junior High School in my hometown of Crystal Lake, Illinois. It was a big time of transition at that point in my young life. Junior High meant attending a new bigger school with new kids and multiple teachers, all of a sudden girls started being topics of interests for me and the other boys, we no longer had recess at school (a huge disappointment) and instead, we got our daily fun through games in gym class. It was gym class where I first met Ashley. She was this pretty, firecracker red head who had grown up playing softball and now was a lethal force against anyone playing gym class dodge ball. For all the other pubescent boys and myself it was an immediate infatuation. This girl could throw a ball better than most of us. I’ve been luckily to call her a friend ever since that day.

Now all grown up, I have long since left my Illinois roots and I’ve found that there are not many people from my hometown that have ventured out west of the Mississippi. Ashley and Trevor were some of the few who did. It’s funny to me how as you grow older in your life you never really know what friends will continue to be apart of your journey. Thankfully somehow, some way Ashley and I have remained in contact and have stayed friends throughout. I have had numerous opportunities to meet up her and Trevor (once they started dating) over the years. Their wedding day was a long time coming. These two are perfect for each other and I’ve always been impressed with their shared passion for the flavor of life both in cuisine and culture. Fast forward 16 years since the 6th grade, the two have made a life together working in the fine dining industry of San Francisco and many times they have offered up their apartment couch to me during weekend visits to the city by the bay. Trevor has quickly turned into one of the top up and coming chefs in the San Francisco bay area. I had the opportunity to photograph (and sample) some of his first restaurant dishes as he was starting out. I still dream about them. He graduated from California Culinary Academy in 2005 and quickly became the executive sous chef at Umami Restaurant and has since moved on to become the executive chef at Mission Beach Cafe over the last year. Trevor’s big news is that he just recently signed on to this new project, which will be called Chambers located in the Phoenix Hotel, a notorious destination for famous “rock n’ roll” musicians staying in the city. The restaurant is slated to open the first week of May and the food will be California cuisine with a focus on locally sourced ingredients. If it’s anything like his previous restaurants gigs that I have dined in, I have no doubts it will be a huge success. Ashley is balancing her time between being a head server and wine guru at the Betelnut Restaurant in Marina District of San Francisco while finishing up a major in Business Management with a minor in Economics at the San Francisco City College. I would not be surprised at all if these two opened their own fancy restaurant down the road. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed.

When I got their wedding invitation in the mail, I knew it would be a mini Crystal Lake reunion. They had their intimately small wedding outside of Hopland, California at the Mendocino Hill Event Center. It was really a beautiful ceremony filled with great friends and warm familiar faces. I attended this wedding as a guest but I decided to bring along my camera for fun. It provided a good opportunity for me to experiment and try out different approaches to shooting. Between catching up with old friends, laughing and telling stories over local wine and eating an assortment of fine cheeses and roasted duck, I managed to snap a couple pictures. Here are some of my favorite images I made of their wedding day. You can find more photos from Ashley and Trevor’s wedding here. It was so great to be apart of their special day. I wish them all the best. -M