It was an absolute pleasure to be there for Ben and Julia on their wedding day. The venue was the beautiful Onteora Mountain House in the Catskills. Gorgeous weather, happy couple, beautiful bride…

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It’s making me ridiculously happy to imagine that Julia’s granddaughter will someday wear this beaded kippah on her wedding day, and a wedding photographer of the future will be asked to recreate a version of this photo.

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I got there just in time for the finishing touches, and then Julia went to meet Ben for their first look, family photos and the ketubah signing.

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Their first look was tender and affectionate.

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We shot some quickly family photos, and then the wedding day momentum began to kick in as shuttle buses were re-directed and guests began to arrive.

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I snuck the bride and groom away from the hustle and bustle for a few moments to take in the mountain views and take some photos together.

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We re-joined the family to sign the ketubah. The rabbi sang a beautiful song as a “spiritual palate cleanser” and invited everyone to set any last-minute details aside for a moment. She gathered everyone together to witness the bride and groom signing their traditional Jewish marriage license (with a feminist twist, as Ben and Julia chose the most egalitarian wording, and also, truly traditional Jewish brides don’t sign their ketubot).

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These two photos together really capture the energy in the room- a few tears of joy and the bride’s beaming smile.

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Once the ketubah is signed, the couple is technically married, but the chuppah ceremony is a time to exchange vows and rings.

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After Ben and Julia walked in escorted by their parents, they observed another Jewish custom, with a contemporary twist. Historically, brides circled their grooms seven times, symbolizing the seven blessings on marriage and the seven days of creation. This act signifies that a woman is making the man the center of her world, and the most traditional interpretations recall Biblical text about the miraculous tumbling of the walls around the city of Jericho. Chabad Rabbi Aron Moss writes, “If she surrounds her husband with the protective aura of her love, if she envelops him with affection, and if she makes him feel that he is the anchor, the center, the focal point of her life, then he can feel safe and comfortable. When that happens, the walls protecting his heart come tumbling down. Then she has conquered him – all of him.”

Except… that’s not really an accurate reflection of Ben and Julia’s relationship or love story. Instead, they chose to circle each other, taking turns, making each other the center of their lives in a united and equal way.

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They shared wine, which was then blessed by seven loved ones and shared again.

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They exchanged rings, vows and messages of love. “This is everything I ever wanted,” the bride said.

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The rabbi enveloped the newlyweds in her tallit, sequestering them for a moment to bless the private life they will share.

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They kissed and Ben stomped a glass- one of the most cherished traditions in a Jewish ceremony. There are many interpretations. Some say it symbolizes the destruction of the Temple. Some say that it keeps away bad luck; after all, something bad has already happened, a glass broke. Some say it’s a symbol of the marriage vows- just as a shattered glass can not be put back together, the bonds of marriage can never truly be undone. Some say that the fragility of the glass reminds us of the frailty of human nature, that you should treat each day together as you would your last. No matter which interpretation you like, all of the guests shout “Mazel tov!” and the celebration really gets under way.

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These hugging photos with everyone weeping tears of joy,especially Ben, are some of my favorite moments of their entire day.

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Ben and Julia took a few moments alone. It’s a Jewish tradition called “yichud” or seclusion, and actually, I recommend all my clients do it, Jewish or not. It’s just a moment to be alone together and process the emotions of the ceremony.

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Then we hit the woods, the koi pond and a lovely autumn tree with changing leaves in quick succession for the rest of the photos. (I love this part.)

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Cocktail hour was in full swing when we finished.

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The reception got under way with a simple introduction of the happy couple, followed by their first dance.

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They went right into the horah.

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Ben and Julia have so many friends from so many eras of their life. Friends are far-flung, and many of them met in med school. With busy residency and doctor’s schedules, this was the first time in years everyone was able to be together in one place.

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Hilarity ensues.

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Everyone hit the dance floor before the bride got on the mic and asked everyone to join her at the bar for a whiskey shot.

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You: “I can’t dance.”
Whiskey: “Yes, you can.”

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Okay, so I really debated posting this photo, because it’s not the most flattering angle of the guest. That said, everyone had broken up into guys and girls to sing “Summer Lovin,'” and this photo captures the energy of that like no other. (Sorry, not sorry.)

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The groom’s mom made this most special and amazing hand-painted cake.

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Look, I don’t mean to make this about me, but this “mother with her son on his wedding day” moment? Let’s just put it this way. I have a son named Ben myself, and he’s only nine months old, but this photo makes me imagine hugging my Ben someday on HIS wedding day. *sniffle*weepies*blows nose*

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Finally, I have to thank Ben and Julia for being willing to take time from their party at the end of the night to let me grab an umbrella and set up my remote triggers and make this shot happen. I’ve been striving for this shot since I got the remote triggers in 2017. The lighting and weather all came together for this! Thank you for humoring me! (Thank you, weather, for you know, happening.)

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Ben and Julia begin their marriage after a decade together. May all the decades to come bring you joy and adventure and so much love.

Filled Under : Wedding

I first met Sam and Shelby when they were a groomsman and bridesmaid in Glen and Liz’s wedding party. In fact, Shelby had just picked up her engagement ring. The ring design was a collaborative process, and she was just getting used to the feeling of the ring on her finger at the salon where all the ladies were getting ready. There was absolutely none of the jealousy or “It’s MY day!” pettiness that Hollywood filmmakers creating atrocities like “Bride Wars” would have you believe. In fact, that seldom exists amongst my clients, and definitely not in this group of friends. This is my third wedding with this crew. (Love y’all; thanks for the referrals! -OX, Angie’s bills)

In fact, Shelby did all of the flowers for Glen and Liz, and I could just see the wheels turning in her head as the process of being a bridesmaid inspired her. I knew her wedding to Sam would really be something special, and I was so excited when they picked me last summer.

I don’t want to make it sound like this was all Shelby, though, because even though she is the one who rocks a well-appointed craft corner and wields a glue gun like nobody’s business, the wedding was absolutely a reflection of the two of them. They have been together for five years already, and they already share so much. In this era of name portmanteaux for super couples (I blame Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez for “Bennifer,” which started it all), they are “Samby.” This wedding was, well, the Samby-est.

 

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What does that mean? Well, their invitation is a good place to start.

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Retro gaming systems were everywhere, from the centerpieces to the music to the Mario Kart video-gaming station in an adjacent room at the reception. (We’ll get to that.) Shelby wore Legend of Zelda-inspired earrings.

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Although both Shelby and Sam both had awesome attendants helping them get ready, and everyone was excited to watch them get married, I will *always* maintain that it’s your flower girls who are most excited to be a part of wedding traditions. When it came to joyfully wearing dresses I chose for them, primping at a day spa, watching me unwrap wedding presents at my shower, hitting the dance floor, etc., my bridesmaids were game; they were supportive. But my flower girls? MY FIVE-YEAR-OLD FLOWER GIRLS WERE ALL IN. Like them, Penny and Evie were here for it, all the way.

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Shelby gave Sam gaming-inspired cufflinks as well.

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The reason I started this entry talking about Shelby getting her engagement ring the morning of Glen and Liz’s wedding and how happy they were for her was because this group of friends is, in its own way, a forged and chosen family. They get ordained on the internet for each other, show up newly postpartum, and make their six-week-old baby a part of the day. It’s loving. It’s unconditional.

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There was a moment, which happens at almost every wedding, actually, where no one knows how to put on a boutonniere. This is something that I know how to do. Along with bustling a wedding gown, ballet-wrapping a bouquet and using dental wax to artfully balance wedding rings on each other, it’s just something that wedding vendors tend to pick up. I gave a quick demo, but there’s always the tricky part, where technically, it’s better for me to take pictures of everyone getting ready as opposed to putting everyone’s flowers on for them. I’ve totally done it and faked the photos after, but in general, it’s better for someone else to do it.

“You know who knows how to do this?” Sam volunteered. “Shelby.”

“Yeah, Shelby did it at my wedding,” replied the best man.

WE NEEDED THE BRIDE.

(The bride was waiting for the “first look,” the big moment when the groom sees her in her dress, and everyone wanted them to have that, so… No.)

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Julie to the rescue!

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It is my fervent hope that someone keeps this photo of Leo getting his boutonniere pinned on and gives it to him on his wedding day.

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Shelby made sure Sam was wearing a special Peter Gabriel pin they had chosen next to his flower (“A FLOWAH?”). Then they started practicing their first dance for a minute and I got overwhelmed by The Adorableness.

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Leo is not technically a ring-bearer. He is a dice-bearer. His job was to bring multi-sided role-playing dice to the ceremony to see who would say their vows first, and he was taking that responsibility very seriously, so seriously that the box gets to be in every photo.

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We shot lots of family photos, swapping step-parents and grandparents and siblings around in seventeen (yup, I counted) different configurations while I was PRAY-ING the rain would hold off. (It held off, just enough.)

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The thing about wedding and engagement posing? The instructions can seem odd and unnatural. There’s, like, no other time in our lives when we hold hands and gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes in attractive locations wearing formalwear in a garden on a Saturday afternoon. Luckily, I am full of helpful instructions like, “Wrap your arms around him with your wrists up by his neck. Then, when I count to three, Sam, give her a big bear hug, while Shelby, you kick your feet up and try to kick your own butt. Ready? Three, two, one… KICK YOUR BUTT.” I kid you not; that’s how you get this shot.

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As I encouraged Sam to take off his jacket and sling it over his shoulder, I could tell he was WAY outside his comfort zone. “I know; I’m sorry this is making you feel like a total douche,” I said. He cracked up, and there you have it- Sam’s real smile.

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The best man had his own methods.

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Listen, a little light-hearted vulgarity (by me) or forcibly re-arranging of facial features (by Glen)? WHATEVER IT TAKES, I SAY.

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The truth is, they are never happier than they are when they are together, so we got through the rest of the photo session super-fast, and soon enough the guests were arriving.

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I spirited the wedding rings away for some artful shots on autumn gourds, and then it was time to hand them back for the ceremony.

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Sam and Shelby walked in together at the start of the ceremony. I love this. I’ve only ever seen this once before, and it was 14 years ago. There was no “giving away,” no presentation, just two people who love each other very much beginning and ending their wedding ceremony the same way: united.

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Everywhere you looked- at the couple themselves, in the audience, at the wedding party- there were either huge smiles, happy tears, or laughter. So great.

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They exited as they entered- together- and then it was “hug everyone you love” time in the receiving line.

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Sam’s grandmother was still crying happy tears as she hugged the bride. “I loved your vows,” she said. “And I know you’ll do what you said you will.” It was so nice.

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A big circle of wedding party and guests gathered together during cocktail hour to play Pokemon GO.

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So, look, in my personal life, I am a huge nerd. I started this Columbus Day weekend where I shot three events (Samby’s wedding being #2) in a row, by going to ComicCon in New York with my husband on Thursday in full Fallout gear. I color-corrected these photos while watching the latest Dr Who premiere On Demand. I can out-Potter even the most devoted nine-year-old Quidditch fan, but I’m not familiar enough with Pokemon GO lingo to type this next bit with confidence. Humor me, but I THINK they formed a raid group to catch a legendary Pokemon.

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VICTORY! So fun.

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As cocktail hour wound down, I got a change to really admire and photograph the reception details, like the centerpieces Shelby made herself, combining autumn colors and gaming systems with trendy wood slice chargers.

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Sweet Baby L was along for the ride as the wedding party got announced to cheers and applause for the newlyweds, who walked into “Guile’s Theme” from the video game Street Fighter 2. (What can I say? Guile’s Theme goes with everything.)

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Their first dance was even better than the preview in the garden hinted at.

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Twirling, a big dip… they nailed it.

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There were four toasts, from Sam’s dad’s story of how they met (spoiler: Sam “emerges victorious”) to Shelby’s mom’s poem, and then kind words from the best man and maid of honor.

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Aw, the chair decorations!

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Guests alternated between playing Mario Kart in the next room and hitting the dance floor.

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They opted for a donut tower instead of a traditional wedding cake.

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Rave-style dancing with light poi happened.

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So did bride vs. groom Mario Kart races…

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And all-sibling Mario Kart races….

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And then it was over…

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With the bride and groom blissed out in each other’s arms as the final song of the ended and everyone surrounded them on the dance floor.

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There’s no way you ever forget that feeling, but I hope having the pictures brings in all back for you whenever you need to remember. Congrats, Samby! Keep on loving each other and music and friends and family, and remember to play together and laugh together a little every day.

Venue: The Gables at Chadds Ford
Donuts: Beilers Doughnuts
Flowers: Media Florist
DJ: Silver Sound
Videography: Enchant Cinema
Hair and Makeup: Roxanna Rotandi

Filled Under : Wedding

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