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Wendi and Clint’s Stratford Hall Wedding

Wendi and Clint were married this past August at the historic Stratford Hall Plantation in Westmoreland County, VA. Having lived in King George, I had often heard about Stratford Hall, but had never been there before the day of the wedding. Call me a convert, because after Wendi and Clint’s gorgeous wedding, I’m convinced that Stratford Hall is one of the best kept secrets in Virginia. Even though the park was open to visitors, as I wandered around the grounds with Wendi and Clint, it felt as if we had the whole plantation to ourselves. The setting made for a truly magical day for Wendi and Clint. From the historic cabins the ladies got ready in, to the ceremony on the steps of the mansion, the romantic stroll through the garden for portraits, and the gorgeously appointed space that Wendi envisioned for the reception, Wendi and Clint’s wedding couldn’t have been any more perfect!

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Kory and Mel at Woodend, Chevy Chase, MD

After Mel and Kory saw their wedding photos, they sent me a touching note, welcoming me to their family for life. It was a small gesture, but it meant a lot to me, mostly because I already felt like I was family! Kory and Mel have that way about them. As soon as I arrived at the Helix hotel, Mel welcomed me with a hug, and invited me in as if I was her fourth bridesmaid. The day only got better from there, as we traveled to Mel and Kory’s favorite street in DC for a joy-filled first look, and then on to Woodend Nature Sanctuary for their gorgeous ceremony and reception. I could go on and on about Mel and Kory’s wedding, but I’d rather let the pictures do the talking. A special thanks to Kelly Lynn Hrncir for being an awesome second photographer.

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Jenny and Chris

When Jenny asked me to photograph her engagement to Chris, and then her wedding, I was touched. Not only is Jen a driving force behind one of the most successful wedding and event venues in Virginia (Stevenson Ridge), but her family has almost become a second family to me over the course of my photography career. Six years ago now, before Stevenson Ridge was officially doing weddings, Jenny hired me to photograph her brother’s wedding, and three years later, her sister’s. I’ve even had the privilege of creating some adorable portraits of one of their faithful dogs! I always have a great time at Stevenson Ridge, but after Jenny and Chris’ engagement session, I knew that their wedding was going to be such a beautiful reflection of the couple and their families, and I was not disappointed!

We start with a gorgeous ceremony site, hand built for Chris and Jenny, in the beautiful forest behind the Riddick House. In the weeks leading up to the wedding, Jenny and Chris were banned from the ceremony site, and didn’t get to see it until their first look!  The vintage beams made a gorgeous altar, and once Amanda Apple of Anthomanic put her finishing touches on the site, it was truly magical. While Jenny was getting done up by the talented Teddi of Bobby Pins and Blush, I could tell that she was anxious to see the love of her life, and the spot where they would say their vows. She didn’t have long to wait, as we quickly ushered her off to her first look with Chris, where I got to witness them take in the beauty of the day, and the site, and each other. I’ve said it before, but the first look is one of my favorite moments of the day. The ceremony itself was a beautiful, and intimate family affair. Chris’ son acted as his best man, and his daughter, one of Jenny’s maids of honor. Jenny’s brother walked her down the aisle, and her sister offered a reading. After portraits, we partied in the basement of the Riddick house, and enjoyed some delicious food provided by the catering crew at Stevenson Ridge, and wonderful entertainment by Richard Green.

But the best part about this wedding? Is that I get to see this happy couple and their families every time I shoot a wedding at Stevenson Ridge. Congratulations Jenny and Chris!

Engagement Photos at Spotsylvania Battlefield

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Stevenson Ridge

Stevenson Ridge

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Stevenson Ridge Wedding

Stevenson Ridge Wedding

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Flowers by Anthomanic

Flowers by Anthomanic

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Richard Green - Beautiful images of an incredible day! This post took me right back to that day! Great job Aaron!

A Few Moments from 2013

Here we are again, late February, and I’ve not even blogged half of the weddings that I shot in the previous year. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to be the type of business guru who could keep up with that type of stuff (or ideally have my eager interns keep up with it for me), but 1. I don’t have any interns, and 2. Nope, there’s no two. That being said, I’ve recently been forced to reflect on the previous year by way of the WPJA’s Q4 competition deadline. I don’t always submit to the quarterly contests throughout the year, but I do make sure to enter images into the final as a sort of personal retrospective. It’s a good way to go through my own work with a critical eye, and think about how one of my esteemed colleagues would view my photography.

Win, lose, or draw with the WPJA, I am proud to say that 2013 was one of my best years as a wedding photographer yet (for those of you counting, 2014 is year 8 as a professional wedding photographer), and I’d love to share a few of the images I selected with you, as well as some of the stories behind the images. Before I do, I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank all the wonderful couples who have and continue to trust my vision and craft by inviting me to document their lives. Thank you!

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My friend Megan asked me once if I remember every photograph that I take. The answer is a resounding no, but I often surprise myself by how many I do keep stored in the old vault. This image of Wesley and his grandmother will be one that sticks with me for as long as I’m a photographer. Wesley and Sarah were married in August of last year. They threw one hell of a party at the Jepson Alumni Executive Center in Fredericksburg, VA. Behind me, the dance floor was so packed that the action had spilled into the adjacent dining areas. During the reception, I always have one eye on the guests, and one eye on the bride and groom. So when I saw Wesley leave the dance floor to visit with his grandmother, I knew that I wanted to capture them interacting together. During intimate times such as these (of which there are a few at a wedding), I have to toe the line between fearless photojournalist, and compassionate guest. What I mean by that is, if Wesley and his grandmother had become aware of the fact that they were being watched, this photograph might not exist. Perhaps that sounds a bit overly dramatic, but it’s that thought that I keep in the back of my head every single time I set out to document a wedding. In the end, I know that this photograph is one that Wesley’s family will cherish, perhaps for many generations to come.

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The “Getting Ready” phase of a wedding is always tense. Some more than others. Add children to the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for waterworks. What I love about these two images is how similar they are. The caring groom and groomsman. The reluctant boy being asked to be a man, if only for a few minutes. The illogical fear of formal wear that so many men seem to develop (I encountered a 40yr old man throwing a tantrum similar to the ones you see above in the Men’s dept of Kohl’s just this afternoon). It’s as if it’s an unspoken ritual that we all have to go through at some point in our lives. If you don’t believe me, ask your mom about the first time she tried to make you wear a shirt and tie. She’s probably got a picture of you looking exactly like this.

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But kids aren’t the only ones who get emotional during the getting ready phase. Sometimes it’s the moments you expect. Like when Meredith gave her mother a hand-stitched handkerchief to carry with her during the ceremony….

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Other times, it’s less than expected. Like when Jamie’s brother saw her all made up for the first time and couldn’t keep from getting emotional.

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A lot of the time, emotional moments are quiet, such as Max helping Meredith’s brother pin his boutonniere to his lapel. Wiseman0037

And then there’s the hilarity that comes from the classic “dress-zipping-train.” What…you didn’t know that was a thing? It’s totally a thing.

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And then, once the tears have been shed, and the preparations have been made, there’s elation. Like this moment when Pat saw herself for the first time, and turned in glee to her friends and family who had all been a part of the process.

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Speaking of getting ready, it’s not just for brides and grooms. There’s a ton of work that goes into the wedding day preparations for the vendors, too. Jamie and Justin had their wedding on their property in Stafford, VA. When the BBQ catering started pulling pork out back, Justin and Jamie’s dogs assumed the position. No dogs were bribed in the making of this photo. I promise.

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Binta and Lloyd chose to have a private “first look” before their wedding ceremony at the Josephine Butler Parks Center in Washington D.C. When Lloyd saw Binta for the first time, he literally melted into her arms.

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One of my favorite quiet moments of the year comes from Sarah and her father. Lined up behind the rest of her bridesmaids, and waiting to process, Sarah’s dad leaned in to whisper something to her. Was it sage fatherly advice? A timely joke? An offer to make a run for it? Whatever it was, it calmed Sarah’s nervous face, and made her smile the way only her father could.

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John and Kate were married over a year ago now! That’s amazing to me. It seems like just yesterday. They were married in Fredericksburg’s Greek Orthodox church. I love this crowning moment for a number of reasons. It’s obvious how over the moon happy Kate is, but if you look closer, you can see John’s cheeks and eyes turned up. You don’t always have to see someone’s face to know how they’re feeling. I also love how the light hits their crowns, and the reflected symbolism in the halos behind them.

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If I can, I always prefer to photograph wedding details with a subtle hint of human interaction, rather than as static objects. The WPJA calls them “found details,” as opposed to details that have been carefully arranged by a photographer or stylist.

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Remember our reluctant ring bearer? Here he is again moments from being bopped in the face with a pillow.  He’s in a much happier place now that he has a firetruck.  Rain brought Amie and Jeff’s ceremony indoors at the Briar Patch Bed and Breakfast.

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And how precious is this flower girl signaling back to her parents after she’s been told to “zip it?” during the ceremony?

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Sometimes the anticipation of a kiss is every bit as powerful as the kiss itself. And after seeing this moment, I’m sure you can imagine just how passionate Maggie and Andrew’s first kiss was (don’t worry, I have that picture too).

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The processional is one of my favorite parts of a wedding ceremony. People’s faces are always filled with so much joy and excitement. This spontaneous kiss between Richard and Kelly was such a sweet moment, and felt absolutely magical in the waning December light out in Delaplane, VA.

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When you’re shooting wedding portraits in public, you’re bound to get photobombed sooner or later. Meridian Hill Park is one of my favorite places to shoot portraits in Washington D.C. It’s picturesque, and usually pretty quiet. However, while creating portraits with Jasmine and Sylvano, these lovely children were taking a stroll through the park, and wanted in on the fun. We gave them their moment in the sun, and they kindly went on their way.

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Maggie and Andrew’s first dance was every bit as sweet as their first kiss was passionate. Their wedding and reception were both held at the gorgeous Stevenson Ridge in Spotsylvania, VA. I love the striking contrast in this photo.

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George and Nicole had a gorgeous affair at the Hotel Monaco in Alexandria, VA, and their toasts where particularly hilarious. I love Nicole’s body language. It speaks volumes about her tenderness and affection towards George.

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John’s dance with his mom was filled with emotion. Friends and family alike were all around the dance floor, wiping tears from their eyes. Perhaps it’s that I’m a momma’s boy myself, but I have a special affinity for the mother-son dance.

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I don’t know what it is about The Atrium at the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, but every wedding I’ve shot there has been packed with dancing from the moment the floor opens until they kick us out. When the dancing action carries on for hours, I always try to look for the alternative shots that add depth to a story. For this shot I was laying down outside on the patio, trying to steady my camera without a tripod in the complete dark.

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When it comes to the cake, anything goes. In this instance, Jeff knew better than to smash the cake in Amie’s face, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t have his cake and eat it too.

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If you couldn’t tell, Justin is a bit taller than Jamie. Just a bit. Nothing a good flick of the wrist can’t handle. I still marvel at her aim to this day. Look at that extension!

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Somehow, Caitlin and Brandon and I convinced their Best Man and Maid of Honor to stand right next to them for the cake cutting without raising any suspicion. Caitlin had been planning this moment for months…..however…

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Brandon had no idea what was coming next. Judging by the looks on their faces, neither did the guests.

Martin0654After the cake cutting, it’s time to really get the party started. More often than not, the ladies have to show the men how it’s done. Jen and her bridesmaids were no exception. They were on the dance floor at the Inn at Kelly’s Ford all night.

Levin0752Greg, seen in the foreground, is in the middle of hoisting his dad up during the Hora. What I love about this photo, aside from the obvious, is that Greg would have never seen the look on his dad’s face if it weren’t for the is photo. If you look closely, you’ll see Greg’s mom in the background cheering them on! Greg and Priya were married at Khimaira Farm in Luray, VA. One of the only venues out there, and one that I have been visiting ever since they started hosting weddings!

Martin0596 I don’t think this flower girl should have been put in charge of the takings for the dollar dance. Who could have the heart to take it away from her when all’s said and done?

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And speaking of dollar dances, John and Kate had the wildest Dollar Dance I have ever seen during their reception at  The Inn at Fredericksburg Square. One of my favorite parts of being a wedding photographer is getting to witness how different cultures approach tradition and share experiences with one another.

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At the end of the night, Jen and Jared shared a romantic kiss during their last dance.

Thanks for taking the time to catch up with me! Just a handful of images from last year, but its images like these, and the stories behind them that make me fall in love with my job over and over again! Here’s to a great 2014!

Donna - Aaron, Your 2013 best of pictures are sincere and engaging. These pictures represent the very essence of what everyone seeks in a photo – that sense of presence, emotion, and heart. You have given these families a gift – moments so still as to form memories to be treasured and shared.

M o r e   i n f o