Around this time last year Helen and Jon met me for a wedding consultation. From the beginning it was like hearing a friend tell me about her wedding plans. Helen was down to earth with a beautiful vision of blue and white vases decorating her reception and her desires for an elegant and romantic bridal session. Even amidst the light buzz of the coffee shop, Helen, Jon and I were able to get a true feel for one another and discuss their day.
After nearly a year of planning, the wedding day finally came! This past Saturday I spent the day with Helen, Jon, their family and friends as they vowed their loyalty and love to one another. It is always so remarkable to talk with a bride and hear her ideas, her visions and dreams, during the initial wedding consultation and finally see it all come to life.
Helen and her seven bridesmaids got ready at the quaint and beautifully decorated Thyme Inn above the It’s About Thyme American-European restaurant in Culpeper, VA. (If you haven’t been, you have to go! The cuuuuuuuuuutest place I have seen in such a long while and to top it off, the staff are all incredibly warm and friendly). Open brick walls, rich wood, a fireplace and a beautiful three-mirror armoire garnished this rustic elegant room.
The ladies had a nice spread of hors d’oeuvres and mimosas. The orange cocktail was served to Helen in a personalized champagne flute as she sat while getting her hair and make up done. At times the room would get more crowded, with two make-up/hair artists, seven bridesmaids, one mom, and a photographer. Through the sea of people and joy, there were moments I would catch Helen sitting in peace as her hair was being braided and curled.
During Helen’s bridal session (releasing soon! — watch here for a link!) I had not yet seen her beautiful veil. She had chosen to wear her mother’s veil, seasoned with tiny pearls. When they brought out the veil at the Thyme Inn, I squealed with delight! Long veils are my favorite!
Helen and Jon wanted to stick with the tradition of the groom seeing his bride for the first time as she walks down the aisle, so instead, Helen opted to keep her dress a secret from her father and have a FATHER DAUGHTER FIRST LOOK. While I do love me a first look (blind or full), my heart strings are always pulled during daddy daughter first looks. There’s something unique and special that happens in that moment for a family and I get goosebumps just having the honor to capture this for them.
Just a few blocks away stood Precious Blood Catholic Church in downtown Culpeper, the very same church Helen was baptized in and where Jon received his sacraments. For the first time as his bride, Helen walked down the aisle toward Jon. We all watched as Jon fought tears as soon as the doors were opened. Father Kevin Walsh performed the holy ceremony for Helen and Jon’s wedding.
M R . & M R S . B R A L E Y !
After the traditional portraits at the altar, everyone scurried over to The Inn at Vint Hill in Warrenton, VA for the cocktail hour and reception. We had a very small window for bride and groom portraits before the introductions, but we made it work! Helen was already a pro between her modeling history and our bridal session together, and Jon effortlessly followed queues and directions. This is not something most men are comfortable doing, so I was so happy that Jon just fell into place with Helen!
When you have seven bridesmaids and seven groomsmen with tons of personality, it can make for a some pretty funny and entertaining introductions. The guests were laughing as each of them were introduced. Cheers all around as the new Mr. and Mrs. Braley were announced! Immediately Jon swept Helen into his arms for their first dance to God Only Knows.
Helen and her father aren’t so much super serious, and so a somber father-daughter dance just didn’t feel natural. Guests watched as they took to the dance floor for what seemed to be a traditional slow father-daughter dance, then suddenly Helen and her father, Scott, broke out into funky dance moves! Soon after they invited Helen’s maid-of-honor/sister to the floor to join them and the three of them rocked out in a much more natural Dawley way.
The sun was to set at 7:01 PM, so I grabbed Helen and Jon after they’d eaten their dinner to grab some more portraits of just the two of them during sunset. By this time the both of them were loose, happy, and seasoned models who needed very little direction! That’s what happens when two people are friends and in love though. When you get them together, they just fall into place. I always call myself a documentary styled wedding photographer because the authentic moments that happen during the day; the organic ways a couple fall into place together, that’s what I love capturing and that’s what my clients love to have as their memories.
At the end, the three of us hugged. That moment is always so very bittersweet. Through the year you really get to know the couple, their accomplishments, their wedding dreams, and my favorite… you get to know their love story. Getting to know each love story is as important and unique as the couple themselves because it’s in their story that you hear and see who they are; you get to know what kind of wedding day is ahead for you.
It was a great honor to capture your day, Helen and Jon. I pray many blessings of happiness, health, and success over your many years of marriage. Cheers! Now onto the photos!!
Helen chose truly stunning earrings for herself and each bridesmaid. All of us couldn’t stop gawking and ooh-ing and ahh-ing over them! Her days helping run a fine clothing boutique and learning the ways of fashion were very apparent in all of her tasteful and beautiful details.
Isn’t Helen just stunning!? Tall, slender, beautiful. She looked like a painting everywhere I asked her to stand for photos!
This is one of my favorite getting ready shots, when Helen’s mom, Julie, was off to the side watching as Helen was surrounded by her closest friends.
Waiting for Jon’s first reaction was just too enticing, even for the groomsmen. Natalie, Helen’s sister and maid-of-honor, couldn’t help but beam with pure joy as she watched her sister come down the aisle. Oh my heart!
You won’t believe it, but the Blonde Ale and Hoppily Ever After was brewed by Jon himself! Boy were these guys a load of fun!
Little Isabelle made for the cutest little flower girl. She dreams of the day she can walk down the aisle and be a bride too.
The Inn had blue and white vases scattered throughout the cocktail hour and on each table at the reception. Aren’t these gorgeous?!
See what I mean? They just fall into place when they’re together. Genuine love and joy is always a treat to get to photograph.
Sometimes you just have to wear a skirt on your head.
Many congratulations to you, Helen and Jon! Thank you guys SOO much for giving me the honor to capture your special wedding day!
Dawley-Braley Wedding Team
Photographer: Brittany Renee Photography
Second Photographer: Sarah Botta
Bride’s Dress: Ava Laurenne
Earrings: Etsy Treasures by Agnes
Shoes: Badgley Mischka
Florist: Good Earth Flowers
Hair + Make-Up: Courtney Yau + Amanda Rocha
Bridesmaid’s Dresses: Vow to be Chic
Men’s Suits: Men’s Warehouse (Groom); JC Penney (groomsmen)
Bridal Suite – Getting Ready: Thyme Inn
Ceremony: Precious Blood Catholic Church, Culpeper, VA
Church Planner: Peggy Young
Cocktail Hour + Reception: Inn at Vint Hill, Warrenton, VA
Reception Planner: Dawn Donaldson, owner of Inn at Vint Hill
DJ: Brian Dlouhy