kaely + joe | the barn at hornbaker gardens fall wedding.

Kaely and Joe’s story is one of those sweet ones (corny pun a little bit intended, please forgive me) – as I mentioned when I shared their engagement photos last year, they first met at a friend’s wedding while Kaely was near the s’mores bar building her dessert. Joe walked up to grab a s’more packet of his own, and Kaely couldn’t help but emphatically speak up about the disgrace of Joe removing the chocolate from his s’more entirely. This led to them chatting and getting to know one another throughout the remainder of the evening. Joe lived in Montana and Kaely was in Illinois at the time, so while neither of them were certain where this would lead, they soon found themselves spending hours on the phone with one another in the weeks that followed. Joe’s next trip back to Illinois was for another wedding, and when he eventually asked Kaely if she’d be his date, they started to discuss the details and soon realized that Kaely had lived on the same dorm floor as the groom in college, coincidentally. She attended the wedding with Joe, and after more long phone calls and flights, Joe decided to move back to Illinois and they’ve been doing life together since.

This story has all of the trappings of an adorable rom com plot – it’s boy meets girl with a sweet little wedding meet cute, and it’s playful banter amidst an evening of celebrating love, and it’s will-they-ever-see-each-other-again and long distance love and quirky coincidences and romance, all rolled into one. I love hearing these stories, but more than that, I love seeing what these couples are like once the opportunity is given to rummage past the initial tale they’ve been asked about so frequently that it may even, despite their best efforts, start to feel a little bit rehearsed as they tell it. This is one of the coolest things about this job – being given the chance to shuffle through the stuff on the surface, and document the moments underneath that feel even more true.

Joe told me right before their first look that he wasn’t much of a crier, and I told him that was ok – and it really, really was. Wedding days are wonderful because they’re this singular day in time when you celebrate your love amongst all of your favorite people, and on top of that, you do it in a way that best fits the two of you. So when Joe first saw Kaely coming down the hill in her wedding dress, he let loose this gigantic smile, and he squeezed her tightly, and he kissed her on the cheek and told her how much he loved her. They didn’t need tears, simply because they were busy beaming at one another like two people in love do. From there, we walked toward the pond – Kaely hoisted up the skirt of her dress as they made their way down the narrow steps toward the dock, tulle spilling over the railing as the man she would soon marry followed her. I put on some country music after asking them what they’d like to hear, and the two of them smiled at each other and started dancing on the dock; I hadn’t asked them to dance nor had they discussed doing so, but rather, they just did. These are those moments I’m talking about – when weddings aren’t necessarily about tear-filled first looks or adorable meet cute stories, but rather about the way in which a couple can wordlessly start swaying in unison, grinning at each other knowingly to a song they love and forgetting they’re being photographed. I lost track of time while we were down there on the dock, because sometimes you get caught up when you’re witnessing a thing that feels a little too pure to even interrupt.

After rounding up the wedding party and family members for a few more photos, they each went to their respective rooms prior to the ceremony, and still beamed at each other like it was the first time as Kaely walked down the aisle. After reflecting on their day a week later, Kaely wrote something that felt, to me, as though it encapsulated exactly what I love about marriage: “it’s been one week and the main question I’ve been asked about being married is do I feel any different. No. I really don’t. The truth is for me I’ve been married since the moment I met Joe. I knew he was special. I knew he was “the one”. There was literally never a doubt in my mind that we wouldn’t be together forever. We took our time before we decided to get married. We built a strong relationship and a foundation for our future and the wedding was the time we took to share our love with all of our family and friends. The icing on the cake.”

This statement feels so big to me, because I think it illuminates exactly what I love seeing most of all on these days. Weddings are wonderful, but they’re only the icing – when I watched the way Joe and Kaely embraced during their first look, and danced together on the dock, and simultaneously beamed out at their guests immediately after their first kiss as husband and wife – those are the moments when I feel like I’m truly seeing the cake.

Venue: The Barn at Hornbaker Gardens
Dress: Adore Bridal
Desserts: Christy’s Kitchen
Catering: Childers Eatery
Linen & Votive Rental + Event Set Up: Marien Mae Boutique
Florals: Beck’s Florist
DJ + Lighting: Jonny Rovatti
Videography: Complete Wedding & Events

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Chicago, IL


Weddings + Engagements + Life

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