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WARWICK ALLERTON CHICAGO WEDDING: MICHAEL + ALICIA

So… I think I need to start considering doing a celebrity look alike series with my couples as there have been some uncanny resemblances to celebs over the past months. If you’re within a decade of my age, (am I self-conscious of my age? Nope. Am I still not saying it here? Yep!) you were, are, and forever will be obsessed with all things Saved By The Bell. Which side-note, there’s a new pop-up bar resembling “The Max” in Chicago right now. Just sayin’… Sure, we all loved Zach, Slater, and Jessie, but we all watched it because we were obsessed with one person in particular: the gorgeous miss Kelly Kapowski.  Today’s bride, Alicia not only looks like her, but in some ways is a lot like her. Obviously gorgeous….Popular… (the wedding was packed with friends!) Has mad dance skills…(Alicia & Mike’s first-dance was epic!!) And of course, every girl wanted to be her! We’d all be glued to our T.V screens living vicariously through Saved By The Bell, and for a magical day, we and our cameras got to live through Alicia & Mike picture perfectly! Congrats guys!!

RECEPTION: Allerton Hotel: http://warwickhotels.com/allerton-hotel-chicago/

FLORIST: French Poodle Floral: http://www.frenchpoodlefloral.com/

DJ: Toast & Jam: http://toastandjamdjs.com/

HAIR: Zazu Salon: http://www.zazusalons.com/locations/chicago-hair-salon/

DRESS: Amelishan Bridal:  http://www.amelishan.com/

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How To Have The Greatest Adventure On Your Wedding Day: Greece Wedding Photography: CHARU + PETE

After a decade and hundreds and hundreds of weddings, the best piece of wedding planning advice I can give you is to invest in the areas that matter most to you. Truly, why spend hundreds if not thousands on a cake if you could have cared less that it could have been donuts from your local bakery? Why absolutely lose it over trying to whittle down a guest list if in all honesty you’re kinda hoping that person you haven’t seen in years, RSVP’s that they cannot attend? More than likely, your wedding will be one of the biggest investments in your life. Investment of your time, your energy, and surely your finances. People often say that after your wedding all you have are the photos. The flowers dry up, the food gets eaten, the guests return home, and your dress goes in the closet. Well, coming from an absolutely unbiased source, (Wink Wink)  I think they’re right! (: Well…Almost! At the end of this journey you’ll actually be left with 3 things: Your photos, your memories, and the great love of your life in whom you married. Obviously, your wedding day is important to you! Otherwise, you wouldn’t be putting so much into it! But I encourage you before falling into the wedding planning and financial abyss, invest the most into those three areas, and you’ll have a wedding day that you couldn’t even fathom! Perfect example: Pete & Charu! Now before I tell you of the most epic ending to their wedding, let me first start at the beginning:

There has probably been no two people that have taken that advice so to heart than Charu & Pete. Being endearingly close to their families I know it wasn’t an easy decision to not have a traditional wedding. However, these two put the highest value of importance on three things: photos, experience, and each other. Forgoing a traditional wedding plan, they decided to invest in the greatest adventure of their life, and elope (sort of) to Greece. Instead of DJ and dance floor, they slow-danced amidst probably the most beautiful sunset ever. All for a moment stopped: every civilian, every worker, and surely us, halted in awe of it’s beauty.

Instead of a full guest list and paying per plate, they had a private candlelit 6 course meal paired with the only surviving wines from an exclusive vineyard after a devastating earthquake took out all the land.

Instead of an engagement party, they traveled Athens. Cruising to remote islands where cars are not allowed. Where the exploration of winding cobblestone gave us a glimpse of everyday life for the locals. Being captivated by what we had only yet to see in history books. Standing where the great Socrates and Plato spoke. We’d cool off with frozen lemonades on the footsteps of the Parthenon. There was no catering. We went off the locals recommendations and a whole lotta Trip Advisor reviews. (:

Nothing about this trip was or should be about me, (Though if I ever had a career bucket list, this surely would have topped it!)  but for those who know me, the fact that I got to go to the first modern olympic stadium (last summer, while also in Greece, I got to go to the first ancient olympic stadium) was not only a highlight of the trip but it’s right up there with coolest places I’ve been in my life. It’s the only stadium made of all marble which consists of 67,000 seats! . I got to sit in the queens throne, walk out the gladiators door, and stand on the podium!  Yeah… I was geeking out. I may or may not have gone through the tour twice on two different occasions. (:

We then headed out to spend a week in Santorini,  where it was just Charu & Pete, and my camera capturing them completely and utterly undistracted by anything or anyone but each other as they prepared to get married! You could say they were eloping, but maybe it’s just a verbiage technicality but it’s not that people didn’t know that they were getting married in Greece. In fact, loved ones were very much so still a part of it all. Pete & Charu created a wedding travel blog. Where they’d write our adventures from that day, and I’d post a few images that help tell the story. Skype was open on the regular, and come the morning of the big day, gifts from loved ones all over the world began to pour in.

Go to where any bride is getting ready and you’ll most likely see the teeter-totter of nerves and well, chaos. (: Sure, part of that’s the fun of it but to get that answer you probably were asking a bridesmaid…Who’s taking selfies. (:  All too often I hear brides wishing away time on their wedding day. “I just want to see him, and then I’ll be fine.” Which that’s true! The moment the bride & groom lock eyes for the first time on the wedding day all is right in the world. All the worries, go out the window. Unless the bride & groom are doing a first-look, nearly half the day is spent a part. Well, with Charu and Pete, they were in it together, from the very beginning, to the very end. He picked up lunch at their favorite local eatery and Skyped family, while she got her hair and make-up done inside the room. He zipped her dress, and she rolled up his sleeves. They opened people’s cards, and sipped on gifts of champagne.

Sure, the scenery was absolutely epic, but even more than that, the beauty of two people standing hand-in-hand, having nothing to prove to others, nor any agenda other than to vow that their heart would be wholly the other’s for rest of time, was and is quite possibly the most romantic expression of love I could have possibly witnessed. And when I say witnessed, I mean literally. Being the only “guest” in attendance, I got to sign their wedding license. (: Amidst the expansive entirety of the sea, it all was intimate, time stood still. An intimate moment captured through tears, laughter, and genuine promises that will last an eternity. It honestly felt like such an honor to be able to be in a small way, a part of it.

It’s pretty normal for after a ceremony, a bride & groom go take pictures around the area. It’s not so customary, for it to be in the epic-ness of Greece! There really isn’t a bad view so we could have just stood in one spot and gone to town of photos right then and there, but not Pete & Charu. What do they do while still wearing their wedding clothes? Hike a mountain! Yep! A for real, rest your hands to your knees many times along the way to catch your breath, took days for us to figure how to get out to it’s remote location, mountain! We’re talkin’ descending winding steep paths from the near-by village to then re-ascend what could be in my opinion, the coolest spot in all of Greece! Again, this all done with Charu still wearing her wedding gown! There’s so many things that I love about this couple, but surely there ability to pursue opportunities that others may want to do but never have the guts to try…Their willingness to try something new… and despite any luxury at their fingertip, they want to do, see, and experience it for themselves are things that are at the top of my reasons as to why I admire them so much.

Candlelit dinner for two? How about it it cascade over the mountains, with panoramic views of the sea and probably the most picturesque city in the world, Santorini? Even if the food were granola bars it would have still been the most romantic dinner of all time. In reality, swap the granola bars for a 6 course crem-de-la-creme artisan made feast. Paired with irreplaceable, few people have the opportunity to ever try them wine selections made just for them. With a little slow dancing over the the sunset, and talking till the blackness of the night, brought out a canopy of stars. Absolutely everything about this “wedding reception” was sweep you off your feet romantic! Shoot, everything about this elopement was magical! They traveled, living some of the greatest adventures, and allowed me and my camera to follow. It’s hard to put these people or these experiences into words…So I’ll let the images speak for themselves.

As if traveling Athens for your engagement and Santorini for your wedding weren’t already above what you could ever hope for, Pete & Charu then headed off to Mykonos for their honeymoon. Yes, each destination was as dreamy as the next, but if I could describe their honeymoon, I’d sum it up with relaxing & fun!! Pete rented a Mini Cooper convertible for us to zip around the island’s coast, marking off every beach we could find. After two weeks of unbelievable travel, we lounged, we swam, and of course, ate ice-cream. (: I’d say perfect ending to an absolutely perfect wedding, but it really is just the beginning for these two.

Pete & Charu,

Honestly, where to even begin!? I knew in my gut and my heart that we would be the right fit for this incredible adventure you were about to embark on but what I couldn’t foresee was how deep that were to be true. Honestly, after 11 years behind the camera, and hundreds and hundreds of couples later, there’s something I just can’t fully put into words when trying to describe just how special you two are as individuals but even more so as a couple. You strike the perfect balance of full-disclosure honesty with a never-ceasingly hopeful heart and love for all that life has to offer. I admire how you not only respect each other for their true-selves but actually encourage each other to be so. I think your ceremony was a perfect reflection of that. I hope that these images will forever reflect your adventurous spirits & ultimately your love for each other!

You two are some of the most generous of heart people I could ever hope to meet. Soon-to-be Baby Ruggiero truly has gained an auntie & uncle in you, and I’ve gained dear friends.

Thank you for sharing your adventures, and most importantly, your hearts with me!

All The Love In The World,

Melissa

 

ACCOMMODATIONS:

ATHENS HOTEL: Electra Palace Hotel Athens: http://electrahotels.gr/en/athens/electra-palace-athens/

SANTORINI HOTEL: Santorini Princess Luxury Spa: http://www.santoriniprincess.com/

SANTORINI WEDDING HOTEL: Canavas Oia Suites: http://canaves.com/canaves-oia-suites/

MYKONOS HONEYMOON HOTEL: http://www.bill-coo-hotel.com/

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Eaglewood Resort Spa Wedding: JOHN + NELLIE

Get me some stretchy-pants, a take-out of Chinese food and a side of Bon-Bons, I feel like I’m watching a chick-flick lookin’ at these two! Don’t get me started on Nellie’s dress! It’s whimsical…romantic…effortless. Which I think actually describes John + Nellies relationship. You don’t have to try with these two. Their love is contagious and our cameras loved every second of it! Thank you for sharing your day with us! We couldn’t be happier to have captured a picture-perfect day in the life of your love story! Congrats!!
CEREMONY: Holy Family Catholic Church: http://holyfamilyparish.org/ RECEPTION: Eaglewood Resort & Spa:  http://www.eaglewoodresort.com/

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Chicago Newborn Photography: Meet Greyson!

They are like a Pinterest family. You know…The one’s that you stalk their page after searching: “How to not lose your “cool: staying awesome after a baby.” They live in a swanky loft, in the heart of the city. Within walking distance to some of the trendy coffee shops that I’d gladly wait 20 minutes in line for because it’s so stinkin’ cool lookin’ inside. Most new parents are kinda zoned with the lack of sleep but I kept saying: “You guys look fantastic!” Because it was true! And baby Greyson is just as cool as his parents. Barely a peep outta that little guy! Don’t even get me started on how adorable his little smirks are. Yeah… he’s gonna be a heartbreaker. Loved spending the day with you guys! Thanks for sharing your amazing space and incredible son, Greyson with me for the day! 

 

 

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Independence Grove Libertyville Wedding: DAN + JOANNE

When my husband and I were first dating back in college we were pretty limited on our options: Denny’s…(Nothing spells romance like 2AM like the sampler platter and some heart-burn.) or Wendy’s…(Which was actually in the roadside Oasis but as poor college students, we often didn’t want to pay the .50 cent toll to get there.) Well, Dan & Joanne did it right in frequently visiting the gorgeous Independence Grove. Even so much as packing a picnic to dine on the very hill we were taking photos upon on their wedding day. How special to have such an important place to them in their dating and falling in love then be where they later had their wedding!  Being teachers, their oober adorable wedding favors of calculators labeled “Dan + Joanne add up!” made all the more sense as I’ve gotten to know them over this past year. Maybe initially a bit calculated, they both are such genuine people who value the relationships in their life and within their families. They truly are grade A people. Sorry, bad pun…But for real, awesome couple, celebrating so many memories in such a beautiful place! So happy for you guys!

CEREMONY & RECEPTION: Independence Grove: http://eventsatindependencegrove.com/

FLORIST: Polly’s Petals & Particulars: http://www.pppflorals.com/

DJ: MDM Entertainment: http://mdmentertainment.com/

VIDEOGRAPHER: Xpress Video Productions: http://xpressvideoproductions.com/

GOWN BOUTIQUE: Volles: http://vollesbridal.com/

CATERING: Catering By Michaels: http://cateringbymichaels.com/

 

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