Emily with Soiree texted me one afternoon a few weeks ago asking if I’d be available to help out with a styled shoot at Bella Sala and I was delighted to be able to join the quickly-collecting team of vendors! It was a really busy afternoon (I was utterly exhausted that night), but so much fun to be able to shoot all these setups.
We were graced with a gorgeous set of rings from M.C. Ginsberg Jewelers and the stunning oval solitaire diamond in particular was absolutely breathtaking. Allegra provided the paper suite and printed details and Borrow My Vintage was so kind to set up a beautiful lounge in the reception space. The florals–ahhhh, so perfect–were provided by Hydrangea Bloom and our models (hi, Katie and Derek!) brought their dog, Charlie, along who even got fitted with a floral collar! Hair & makeup was provided by Sugar Salon (makeup by Erin and hair by Stephanie) and the gowns and suits were fitted by The Bridal Shop by XOXO Bridal.
Bella Sala hosted us all so graciously and I’m especially excited to see their space after the remodel this spring! A whole wall of windows! New light fixtures! And, as you’ll see below, brand new chairs and tables that are so beautiful, they’ll make your heart go pitter patter.
After their engagement session on Friday in the rain forest and on the beach and their wedding on Sunday at Casa de España, we capped off our trip to Puerto Rico on Monday with a newlywed session at Castillo San Cristobal and in the streets of Old San Juan. Overall, from a photography perspective, it was so fun to be able to truly capture so many views of Puerto Rico in one trip. We got the rain forest, the beach, a fortress, the colorful Old San Juan streets, and, of course, the wedding venue right there in the midst of town.
While Casa de España is walking distance to Castillo San Cristobal and is right there in Old San Juan, the timeline of the wedding day didn’t allow us even 10 minutes to go off-site so this session, the next day, was a perfect choice! It was relaxed and fun with zero clock-pressure. And, as an added bonus, Nicole got to take portraits in her reception gown! (If you look at their wedding photos, she was wearing a Morilee gown, but changed for dancing later than night into this gown.)
Just a week ago, we were enjoying the warm sunshine in Puerto Rico as we were celebrating Nicole & Braylen’s Casa de España wedding in San Juan. We were thrilled to be back in Puerto Rico (my sister got married at Castillo San Cristóbal 10 years ago!) and we loved getting to meet Nicky & Braylen’s friends and family. Their wedding day was filled with so much joy and celebration (the dance floor never emptied) and it was so sweet to witness their vows. We packed our trip with photos (the wedding, obviously, but also an engagement session on Friday and a day after session on Monday; those will be on the blog later this week!), but we also had some time to hike in El Yunque, swim in the ocean, and walk through the Spanish fortresses and Old San Juan. It was a busy trip, but busy with so many good things.
Nicole & Braylen live in North Carolina, but Nicole is from Puerto Rico and many of her family still lives there so it was sort of a hometown wedding and sort of a destination wedding. They had looked at several venues in San Juan, but everything about Casa de España fit their wishes and it was such a beautiful venue to photograph in! Casa de España was built in 1934 as the headquarters of a private social organization made up mostly of Spanish citizens who lived in Puerto Rico at the time. This is clearly reflected in the stunning Spanish Moorish architecture. (Those pillars! Those tiles! That courtyard! Those towers! That ceiling!) Two interesting facts that I found out: 1) the fountain outside is a copy of the “Patio de los Leones” at La Alhambra in Granada, Spain! and 2) the courtyard where the ceremony was held was used to film two coronation scenes for the Disney movie “Princess Protection Program,” which I’ve never seen, but now I sort of want to. So all that to say, this building has history and it was really fun to photograph in such a unique and beautiful place!
We started the day at the Caribe Hilton, where everyone was getting ready. It’s a beautiful resort that was just a short drive from Casa de España and we got to look out over the ocean as everyone got ready.
I‘ve been antsy to shoot out at the new Little Lights on the Lane (if you’re getting married there, I have a special venue-love discount off your photography with me!) and this styled shoot ended up being a perfect, fun, low-key way to be able to enjoy the space. Ever since I saw the plans for this beautiful space, I’ve been thrilled to see it come to life! It is so perfectly situated right on the Cedars Edge Golf Course with the most gorgeous established trees and views! Every little detail from the getting ready suites to the hidden sprinkler system to the bar that opens to both the inside and outside has been thought out and executed with such precision. It’s such a masterpiece of design and I’m so excited that it’s right here in our backyard!
This particular styled shoot was very last minute and I give Emily with Soiree so much credit for saying, “Yes!” and making it happen so quickly. Within moments of my original text to Emily, we had Allegra on board with paper goods, Every Bloomin’ Thing pitching in with the florals, and Jocelyn Taylor Bridal & Prom loaning us a gown! To round it all out, Eden Salon & Spa graciously provided hair, makeup, and nails and M.C. Ginsberg loaned us the jewelry. We needed some models and absolutely lucked out with the cutest couple who is both newly engaged and getting married in December! Thank you, Breana and Cole, for dressing up and playing wedding with us!
All weddings have themes of some kind, a core design or color palette that decisions are bounced off of to see what sticks and what doesn’t quite go. So when two people who love all things Disney, even getting engaged at Disney World and taking a Disney honeymoon cruise in a few weeks, start to plan their wedding, the design board is immediately structured upon the perfect fairytale wedding, less Mickey Mouse and more “happily ever after”.
What I love about how their wedding turned out was that it was completely the dreamy fairytale they wanted while also staying true to exactly who they are as individuals and a couple, pulling many personal touches into the design. Ted is an artist and when Shannon told me the best gift she’s ever been given was a large pencil portrait of Walt Disney and her favorite Disney character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, that Ted drew for her for Christmas a few years ago–“It was so thoughtful and perfect, I cried when I saw it. The drawing has been hung up since and we get to look at it every day.”–I asked if she’d be willing to bring a copy of it to the wedding for me to use somehow in the detail photos.
Ted also pulled off the biggest (literally) reception welcome by making a 7-foot-tall hand painted storybook, the perfect custom “once upon a time” nod to welcome their guests to the party. Their cake was so magical it can really can’t be described, a true centerpiece that looked like it came straight from the forest and was decorated by magical little singing elves and woodland creatures with a great sense of style and frosting abilities. And all of that–and the dance floor–was under a sparkling chandelier.
Their wedding rings atop the pencil portrait Ted drew for Shannon.
In high school, she got a part-time job at Fareway, a grocery store. He was working there full-time, on the path to becoming a store manager. They became quick friends and ended up working a lot of shifts together. One Saturday morning in November, she walked back to clock in to start her shift and she saw Ted dropping off an invoice near the time clock. She told him good morning, clocked in, then asked him what he was doing that night. He said he didn’t have anything planned so she asked if he wanted to go out to eat pizza with her family. He had a big grin on his face as he replied, “Yes!” Later that day, he drove over to her apartment and they went to her parent’s home. From there, they drove to meet her aunt, uncle, and cousins for dinner. “He was meeting the whole family on our first date,” she recalls. “He fit right in and those two little boys [cousins] wanted to draw with Ted the whole night.”
It was the first date, that family pizza dinner, that solidified everything for Shannon. “I remember Ted leaving my apartment that night and I couldn’t wait to see him again. The way he was with my family and how well he interacted with everyone melted my heart. We had been friends for a while before our first date and so we new a lot about each other and enjoyed every minute we were together. The Monday after that first date, one of my friends texted me and asked how it went. I told her, ‘I think I found my soul mate.’ I still can’t believe how accurate that statement is.”
They met in Iowa City during medical/dental school–she’s now a surgeon and he’s a dentist–and they have family close to the area so even though they now reside in Texas, where Maria is doing her surgery residency, it made sense for them to come back to the place where it all started for them, right downtown in the heart of the university campus.
It was just a week after they first met that Austin says he knew Maria was the one. “I knew I loved her after a week. And when she stuck around after that, I knew she wasn’t going anywhere. Every day after that, she has shown me more and more how she’s the best person for me and we are meant to be together.”
Maria doesn’t pinpoint a date, but says it was a lot of little things that added up. “How he’d pack my lunches and leave little notes inside. How well we agreed on big things like our values and how we would want to raise kids. How well he supported me when I was upset. A big thing for us is how well we communicate; so I think how well we work through disagreements or difficult times in our relationship has made us both very confident that we’ve each found the one.”
Maria’s aunt is Brenda of Town or Country Event Design & Coordination so planning a wedding from out of state was a complete nonissue as every final last detail was planned and thought out. (My organized self loves working with another organized soul like Brenda Strief!) We knew we had very little time to photograph the details on the wedding day so we flew in and barely caught our breaths before taking as many shots as we could. Thankfully, Brenda had everything ready for us, including these gorgeous florals, and we worked like we were in fast-forward. These ended up being some of my favorite detail shots to date.
Aside from her scalpel skills, Maria is also a talented artist and made this beautiful map for their guests, including some of their favorite dining spots, the ceremony and reception locations, parking, and the medical and dental schools.