Lovely Lincoln Park Engagement

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Fanciful, Floral Chicago Wedding

 
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If you spend eight years of life attending, celebrating, observing and wholeheartedly participating in weddings, you might come to a fork in the road. On paper, wedding days may first appear to follow the same general structure: dressing of the bride, first kiss, presentation of the newlyweds, first dance... Experientially, of course, each day presents in a wholly unique manner, with personal touches and intimate moments that honor the story of the individual couple. As a photographer, I've found rest in this- documenting the details and moments that are rooted in personal meaning for my clients. I consider it the depth of this work to engage in each couple's perspective and witness the day in their eyes. Now for the fork in the path...

I will remember May & June of 2018 as one of the most transformative seasons of my work and life. Not because we've had a wedding every weekend or because these weddings have been particularly personally meaningful to me. (Oh my heart, and how!) This season has been an opportunity for renewal of the love that I have for this pursuit, and an opportunity to interpret wedding days through a more poetic, emotionally evocative lens rather than strictly documentarian. In the past, I have intentionally created and curated a final collection of images for clients that visually answer the question: "What happened, and who was there?"

However, as a creative, I've followed a journey from identifying as a "craftsman" to now finding integrity as an "artist" in this pursuit. Good art evokes feeling, triggers thought, connects spiritually, illustrates memory. Photography itself has fought a long battle to be considered a "fine art" peer of painting and sculpture. Wedding photography, even more so. After an off-season of contemplating what elevates wedding photography and how to get there, I've pursued wedding days this summer with a radically different question: "How do we love?"

ALL OF THAT TO SAY: I owe everything to the couples who have embraced and encouraged my work as artistry- and none so much as Taylor Dahlstrom & Dan Rehor. I had the privilege to be present for Dan's proposal one wintery day in 2017, walk through the planning and dreaming with Taylor (she's the visionary behind Amelia Cole Events) and ultimately celebrate their first day as a married couple on June 16, 2018. I'm deeply grateful to share this first look into their wedding day at Patrick Haley Mansion. Congratulations, loves!!!

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Wedding Planner: Amelia Cole Events / Venue: Patrick Haley Mansion / Florist: Life in Bloom / Beauty: Bianca Sansosti Artistry / DJ: Charizma Entertainment / Acoustic Singer: Zach Wcislo / Videography: Courtney Cimo / Wedding Cake: Amy Beck Design / Donuts: Do-Rite / Photobooth: TagPrints Digital / Transportation: M&M Limos

 

Sparkling, Chic Gold Coast Wedding

 

For the past couple of years, I've had the honor of photographing several Lurie Children's Hospital Foundation benefits, including the First Look for Charity at the Chicago Auto Show! Through these events, lovely bride-to-be Maeve and I became connected and first met for a memorably wonderful glass of wine at the 3 Arts Club after her engagement. We chatted dreams, ideas, vision and her plans with Erik for a winter wedding day in Chicago's Gold Coast.

(You may remember Maeve & Erik's featured engagement session in Lincoln Park this past summer!)

Their December wedding day was blessed by sunshine and just a touch of snow. The bridal party prepared at ultra-chic (and freshly renovated) Talbott Hotel before the traditional Catholic ceremony at St. James Chapel, two blocks away. Following mass, the bride and groom walked with their bridesmaids (cozy in fur stoles) and groomsmen to The Casino, Chicago's iconic club on Delaware Place for cocktails and reception. 

December 9, 2017 will stand out in my memory for this couple's charm and warmth and the elegant perfection found in the simplicity and quality of each detail of the wedding timeline. It is my hope that these wedding photographs (it was difficult to limit the highlights to only fifty!) capture the magic that was Maeve & Erik's winter wedding day in Chicago.

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Enchanting Heritage Prairie Farm Wedding

“When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms. 

When it is over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument. 

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.” 
- Mary Oliver

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This year, June 25th at Heritage Prairie Farm was a beautifully breezy Saturday for a wedding. Kelsey and Kris stood together under an old oak, made their vows in the open air and the sunshine and celebrated with their family and friends under a lofty five-peak tent hung with flowers and sparkling with candlelight. It was the kind of wedding day that Marilynne Robinson would write about.

This couple and their wedding day is near and dear to my heart. I met Kelsey last spring at her sister's wedding (April 17), which I was photographing and certain couldn't be equaled in measures of joy, happiness and inspiration. I was thrilled when Kelsey and Kris emailed to ask if I was available for their own landmark day. (!!!) This wedding photo gallery is full of intentional details, thoughtful consideration of family heirlooms, new treasures, a spirited bridal party and a loveliness in every detail, including terrific blooms and floral installations by Eva's Floral Wonders in Geneva.

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Chicago Riverwalk Lifestyle Engagement

Some things are meant to be, some things just happen, and more often than not, things that are meant to be just happen.  These two are no exception. James is from Ireland; Tavia is from Chicago. A work opportunity brought James to Chicago, and he decided to stay after meeting Tavia. 

These two are the kind of fun, easygoing people that everyone wants to hang out with, so it's no surprise that they want to hang out with one another for life.  Tav said YES when James proposed on a ski trip at Breckenridge over the New Year holiday.

When we scheduled their engagement photography session in Chicago this spring, James and Tav shared that they are planning a destination wedding for May next year-- in Ireland! Because of this, celebrating Chicago in their engagement photographs became a priority.

We started with craft cocktails at the terrace at Drumbar on the roof of the Rafaello Hotel in the magnificent mile. From there, we walked down Michigan Avenue to Water Tower Place and took a stroll down the Chicago Riverwalk, a favorite for wedding and engagement photographs in the spring! Congratulations, you two! 

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Rustic Dahlia Chicago Riverfront Wedding

When I first spoke with Amy, she talked about the life and love that she, Matthew and her daughter Jillian share in Tucson, Arizona. She described her vision for their destination wedding here in the Chicago Loop as an intimate celebration with their nearest and dearest family and friends. Matt's family is well-connected with Chicago and he himself is a die-hard Cubs fan (is there really any other kind? #flytheW!). 

Amy's parents and bridesmaids were on hand for pre-ceremony preparations at ALoft Chicago City Center Hotel, with the ceremony and reception hosted at Rivers Restaurant. Taylor Dahlstrom of Amelia Cole Events curated a dream team of vendors and brought together Amy's vision of a truly lovely wedding atmosphere with blush and gold accents, succulents, cafe au lait dahlias, and strings of cafe lights on the riverfront in downtown Chicago. 

For Amy & Matt's wedding day, our light-washed documentary fine art photography style was designed to complement the warmth and affection of this wedding on such a perfectly crips fall October day in Chicago. Marla Kopkie, Amy's maid of honor and Tucson hair salon owner, styled the bride's and maids' hair. Many thanks to Ashbark Florals, A Posh Production, Chicago Farm Tables, and also Sugar Fixe for an especially lovely wedding cake. 

Cream & Blush Country Club Wedding

On July 3, 2016, Cara and Aaron married at Christ Church of Oak Brook and celebrated with family and friends at Hinsdale Golf Club! This sneak peek is only a glimpse into their wedding day, which was full of many truly meaningful and beautiful moments. These two met in middle school through their church's youth group, and over the years their close friendship grew into a remarkable relationship. According to the couple, she loves his sense of humor- and he loves her drive and passion.  

When I first met Aaron and Cara, I was struck by the harmony and partnership they sharedin discussing personal priorities and mutual goals- but also how their relationship with one another is marked by so many smiles and laughter. Wedding planning can be stressful, but these two obviously were enjoying the process of designing a day to celebrate not only the love for one another, but also their families and faith. Their joy is infectious. I'm smiling even as I write this.

As a photographer, it was difficult to be selective with the highlights from this day because there are so, so, so many moments and therefore so many gems of memories and moments captured. I hope you enjoy these photographs as much as I enjoyed putting this sneak peek together! 

Midwest Garden Courtyard Wedding

One day a couple of years ago, Kacie was going about her business, outfitting her handmade girls' clothing booth for that day's farmer's market. Another vendor down the row, a tall, dark-haired entreprenuer chef of The Eating Well company, brought by a cheesecake with a smile to introduce himself. Kacie now says she was totally taken aback and thought "stranger danger" thoughts, but the cheesecake looked delicious... and she was pretty hungry. Turns out the cake was delicious and she and Daniel struck up a friendship. Their friendship quickly turned into something more as they bonded over their mutual love of dogs and family, good food and business ownership.

When I first met Kacie and her mom Meg at a coffee shop in downtown Geneva, I was touched by their friendship and inspired by the way Kacie talked about how she envisioned timeless, elegant wedding photography for her big day.

I was even more excited to hear they had chosen to book May 6, 2016 at The Herrington Inn- one of my favorite Chicago suburbs wedding venues. (Deanne Mitchell, wedding planner, and Rose Johnson, banquet manager, make up the Inn's stellar, experienced team who work together to make each Herrington couple's wedding day dreams come true.)

When the innovative team at Elizabeth Wray Design signed on to create the floral accompaniments (complete with armloads of hydrangeas, coral charm peonies and exquisite ranunculus accents, Kacie and Daniel's wedding day was guaranteed to be gorgeous- if the weather cooperated. 

AND IT DID! Gorgeous, sunny, warm May weather showed up in the late morning and held throughout the day. The ceremony was held in the courtyard and was officiated by Kacie's uncle, the Honorable Thomas Otepka of Nebraska.

It was a joy to celebrate with Kacie, Daniel and their families and I wish them all the happiness in the world in their future together. I hope you enjoy this preview of their wedding day as much as I did putting it together.

Hugs, 

Grace

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