Every so often, I’ll have a bride who asks me about if I have any “favorite things” I’ve seen at weddings – locations and photo ops, or beautiful signs and clever hashtags. To be completely honest, I rarely remember any of these sort of details – after photographing weddings for seven years, I can honestly say that I never think back to the cool guestbook I saw at so-and-so’s wedding or the collection of eclectic yet rustic knick knacks that made up the reception centerpieces. Sometimes I feel almost guilty about this, because I know the amount of time and thought and money that often can go into these elements — but in the long run, these things just don’t stay with me.
That said, I still have a hard time answering the question, because the “things” that do stick with me are the things that can’t necessarily be duplicated, nor do I always see them coming. On Alex and Andrea’s wedding day, I arrived that morning to a house full of people at her parents’ home – her bridesmaids were getting their hair and makeup done, and her aunt was arranging boutonnières on the couch, and her grandparents, who had made the trip up from Mexico, sat patiently in the living room as other family members popped in and out.
Normally a house full of people can feel stressful on a wedding day, but not this time – everyone seemed at ease in whatever they were doing, and both the closeness of the group and the childhood photos on the refrigerator and walls made me feel immediately at home here, too. Andrea got into her dress in one of the bedrooms upstairs, and both of her parents embraced her fully as her dad looked at her and said a thing that I imagine many parents are thinking on their son or daughter’s wedding day; he quietly uttered “you always have a home here”, not because there was any doubt that she did, but instead because no matter her age or marital status, your daughter will always be your little girl in some way.
Andrea came down the steps to the main floor and did a kind of impromptu first look that I had yet to experience – she entered a room full of her grandparents and aunts and uncles and siblings and cousins and best friends, all at once. After embraces and squeals, her father grabbed her by the hand and lifted his right hand to her forehead for a blessing, and her grandfather and grandmother did soon after, too. My eyes got blurry from blinking though tears, so I wiped them accordingly as it all continued before me, because it wasn’t happening for the photographs.
After a beautiful ceremony followed by hanging out with their closest friends by the lake, in the city where they first met and subsequently fell for one another, Alex and Andrea made their way to the banquet room full of the rest of their most loved. They had a way of spreading their love across the room – they shared dances with friends and photo ops with family and a bottle of gifted tequila with all of these people, too. Many of the receptions I photograph feel full of energy and vigor, but as their parents and friends and families meshed together based on their mutual love for Andrea and Alex throughout the evening, this one felt especially so.
Andrea’s maid of honor, Lexi (being the mutual friend who first introduced them), described the way Andrea’s eyes locked on Alex the first night the two met when the girls happened to run into Lexi’s old friend from NIU at a bar in Chicago. Lexi said you could see in their faces the way they were immediately drawn to each other, and the rest, as they say, is history. I knew exactly what look she was talking about, because even after years of dating and life’s ups and downs, it’s the same look I’ve seen them give one another from behind my camera, and the one they gave each other quietly throughout this incredible day.
Ceremony: St. Ita Catholic Church
Reception Venue: Concorde Banquets
Bride’s Dress + BM Dresses: Wolsfelt’s Bridal
Makeup: Aaron Gomez Skincare & Makeup Artistry
Hair: Lilly’s Bridal Boutique, Lilly and Heather
Flowers: Alelis Flowers
DJ: Joe Delfin Ultra Events Production Group
Cake: Central Continental Bakery
Photo Booth: Icon Photo Booth