One of my favorite locations at which to photograph weddings is Chicago’s Botanic Garden, and I had been looking forward to Julie and Spencer’s garden celebration for a long time. This young and fun couple had an amazing day planned, and I couldn’t wait to celebrate with them. When I arrived at the Renaissance North Shore’s bridal suite, Julie’s dress, designed by Ulla Maija at Ultimate Bride was hung by the window, ready to wear.
Her gorgeous, bejeweled James Ciccotti shoes were nearby…
…and so was Julie’s mom, who helped her daughter into the dress.
Every detail was perfect and Julie couldn’t have looked more lovely, thanks in part to the talents of hair and makeup designer Lillian Toma of Starlight Makeup.
Meanwhile, Leah was with Spencer and his groomsmen as they were getting ready. As usual, a refresher course in tying a bow tie was needed!
Luckily, Spencer’s father was there to help out. Spencer’s face reflects my feelings every time I put on any kind of tie.
Spencer’s brother figured out a method, too.
Back in the bridal suite, Julie’s dad was checking in on his daughter’s progress.
The proud papa gave Julie a peck…
…and then the bride presented herself to her delighted bridesmaids.
It was almost time to go! The ladies shuffled around, picking up all the odds and ends they would need for the celebration.
And boy, was this bride ever ready and excited to meet her groom!
Spencer was excited, too, as he waited for Julie at the Circle Garden.
They both lit up when they saw each other in their wedding clothes. Spencer and Julie took a few minutes to admire each other…
…and then it was time for pre-ceremony pictures.
Spencer’s brother took a moment to stop and smell the roses before we headed out.
Not far behind was the rest of the wedding party, all wearing their best picture-taking smiles.
How could a photographer not love taking wedding pictures at the Botanic Garden?
Especially when you’re working with such a lively and fun group?
The excitement and joy was palpable as this group of friends and family enjoyed each other’s company throughout the shoot.
And Julie was happiest of all, with her warm and gracious smile present at all times.
Spencer’s brothers served as groomsmen, and watching them interact throughout the day, I could only imagine the good times (and maybe even trouble?…) they had growing up together.
Spencer’s brother couldn’t help but jump in on a photo of Julie and her bridesmaids. He felt pretty, too!
This may be one of the best spots for pictures in the entire garden. I could have spent hours posing the couple and their attendants around this particular backdrop, but showed (a little) restraint.
This guy! He had a lot of love to give to his brother and needed Julie and Spencer to know just how much he approved of the union.
Lovely colors were popping out everywhere as the garden displayed some of its finest blooms.
Everywhere I looked, I was inspired. And Spencer and Julie were game to be posed just about anywhere!
Our garden walk came to a close as the ceremony start time drew nearer.
We had just enough time for a few final pre-ceremony portraits…
…before joining family and friends for the ketubah signing.
Spencer’s grandmother watched proudly as the marriage agreement was reviewed.
And Spencer’s mother and father couldn’t have been happier for their son.
The ketubah was signed and it was time for the formal ceremony.
A string quartet was strategically placed, providing a lovely, welcoming soundtrack as guests found their seats.
Spencer escorted his parents into the garden, and gave them hugs and kisses before taking his place under the chuppah.
Soon after, Julie made her entrance, escorted by her father. All eyes were on the beaming bride as she took her place by Spencer’s side.
Julie’s mom was beaming, too, as the couple took each other’s hand and the ceremony began.
Photos of Julie and Spencer’s parents and grandparents wedding day were displayed on a table just outside of the ceremony area.
The lily pond, with its serene waters and drooping willows, was an excellent choice for a ceremony location.
A courteous guests helped me shoot through the trees by taming some of the wilder willow branches!
It’s always heartwarming to see the loving looks on the faces of family and friends during wedding ceremonies, and there were plenty of joyful moments to be captured.
Finally, we came to the point in the ceremony where Spencer and Julie publicly stated their marriage vows…
…and exchanged rings.
Then they were officially married!
The newlyweds walked off down the path to spend their few moments of married life together alone…
…while Leah and I joined the guests for cocktail hour.
Julie and Spencer were greeted by guests with lots of hugs and well-wishes.
And Spencer’s brother kept guests entertained!
And the food! The Botanic Garden’s catering staff outdid themselves again!
The celebration was off to a great start.
And the gardens couldn’t have been more gorgeous as the sun began to set.
Daylight was slipping away from me, so I headed over to the pavilion where the reception was to be held to capture some of the details.
Kelly from Clementine Custom Events was the event coordinator for the day, and she always has some beautiful ideas up her sleeve, like this unique lighting setup.
And as fitting for a Botanic Garden wedding, the floral design was top notch. Jesse Deckard from Event Creative did beautiful work with the floral designs for the day.
The pavilion couldn’t have looked any more wonderful or inviting.
Check out these centerpieces!
Soon enough, the guests filled their seats and Julie and Spencer began the reception with their first dance together as husband and wife.
Spencer’s brothers delivered a toast in honor of their brother and new sister.
And the Best Man had some laughs in store for the couple with his speech.
Julie’s parents were up next with a few surprises for their daughter.
This reaction shot is classic.
Julie and her family are Michigan fans, and Julie’s dad used that as the theme for the speech.
He even had one of Julie’s favorite football players make an appearance and congratulate the couple in person!
The surprises didn’t end there… after cutting into the traditional wedding cake- a beauty of a confection baked by Deerfield’s Bakery– Julie treated her groom to his favorite treat: ice cream cake!
The cake was delicious, and the sugar high put to good use as the bride and her father kicked off the dancing with the traditional father & daughter dance.
Spencer and his mother shared a few twirls around the dance floor, too.
Oh yeah! My favorite! The Hora! Some of the best reaction shots of the whole day happen during this timeless dance.
Like a cat with string, Julie’s dad couldn’t resist reaching for some of the hanging candles.
This bridesmaid loved her time in the chair!
What a great way to get the party revved up. The best man was so into it, he didn’t even notice that he had popped a few buttons!!
Everyone grabbed a partner and made their way onto the bustling dance floor.
It was an exceptionally high-energy, raucous time!
It was a party that exceeded their expectations, and I left the newlyweds with smiles of pure bliss on their faces.
Thank-you for including me on your big day, Julie and Spencer, and congratulations on your marriage!