Ali & Gary
Strip away all of the pressure that goes into planning a wedding and all of the little decisions you have to make from attire and location to menus and playlists and, if you're lucky, what you're left with is a special day to celebrate having found the love of your life with the people you care the most about in this world.
Thankfully, I constantly get to see this life lesson play out in the real world as most of the couples I work with take this approach to heart. But I don't think I've ever seen it play out as beautifully as it did during Ali and Gary's May 2018 wedding at the Roger Williams Park Botanical Center.
Right from the moment I met this couple, they told me their only priority was throwing an amazing, casual party where their friends and family could dance the night away and, boy, did they ever.
I may shoot up to 40 weddings this year and who knows how many hundreds for the rest of my career but I don't know if I'll ever see a group of people who were as genuinely happy and carefree as the guests at Ali and Gary's wedding and all you to do was listen to how many of them said it was the "best wedding ever!" as the night rolled on.
Looking back on the photos, it's kind of hard to argue with them. This one was, indeed, one to remember.
My coverage of Ali and Gary's big day began with an abbreviated bridal prep session with Ali and her girls at an Airbnb in Providence.
Ali was a simple bride and felt no need to have photos done during her hair and makeup appointment so this was the first time I'd see her on her wedding day. I knew instantly she was in great spirits as she arrived from the appointment with a big smile on her face and immediately began making jokes with her bridesmaids while trying to sneak in a last-minute snack before the day got too hectic.
I loved watching Ali and her girls interact before she headed to a first look with Gary. I've seen so many brides lose it in the final moments before their wedding day begins but Ali was the picture of cool and genuinely excited for what was to come. Not that I can blame her. She and Gary have an amazing relationship where they both bring out each other's personality and are constantly making themselves laugh.
For that reason alone I couldn't wait for their first look as I knew it would be something special and it was. It really was.
For most first looks, I secretly hope the groom loses it and becomes an emotional mess but for Ali and Gary, I knew that was unlikely and really wouldn't "fit" their character.
No, this first look where they both instantly beamed smiles when the groom turned around fit much better.
The moment Gary saw Ali for the first time, I could see how much love he has for her and it was really heartwarming watching as he inspected the dress and looked genuinely surprised at how stunning his soon-to-be bride looked.
After Ali and Gary's first look, it was time to take care of formal photos with their wedding party and family members and I really couldn't have asked for a better spot outside of the Botanical Center and couldn't have wished for better light that what we got.
And, thankfully, Ali and Gary's wedding party was as silly as they are and were totally down for any ridiculous photos I asked for. It made the session fly by super quick and even left us a few minutes to spare for some additional bride and groom formals in the Rose Garden area before the ceremony began.
By the time Ali and Gary got ready for their ceremony, I had already been with them for a few hours and almost forgot we still had the most important part of the afternoon ahead of us.
And while I've shot a few weddings at the Botanical Center, this was the first time I'd ever seen a ceremony inside of the building. Talk about a beautiful location. And, wow, did it fit this couple perfectly.
Ali and Gary's wedding ceremony was a beautiful celebration of their love but you'll have to excuse me if I didn't hear a single word that was spoken as all I could focus on was the beauty of the spot where they chose to say "I do" and the amazing way they kept stealing glances at each other throughout the ceremony.
If I had to choose a favorite part of Ali and Gary's ceremony, it would probably be where they fist bumped each other right before putting on their rings but the photo above, where the bride celebrates being married and everyone looks on happily, is definitely a close second.
Following their nuptials, Ali, Gary and I headed back outside for a couple final family formals and a few additional bride and groom portraits but the rest of the night was, rightly, about getting the party started.
Ali and Gary chose "Question" by Old 97s as the song they played for their first dance and it really was a beautiful reminder of their relationship as it could have easily fit in any traditional wedding reception, any backyard celebration or even a tropical island wedding.
I couldn't help but smile anytime these two hit the dance floor together as they never stopped looking in one another's eyes. It was the perfect start to one of the most fun receptions I've ever seen.
Following their first dance, Ali and Gary hit all the familiar beats of a wedding reception -- the toasts, the cake cutting, the parent dances -- but they did it on their terms.
Not only did they space the "formal events" of their reception out but all of them were crazy low key and, above all, funny.
While most couples tend to opt into a formal "dinner period" for their guests, Ali and Gary chose instead to do a loose cocktail-hour type structure for food. There were no assigned seats, no formal menu and no stuffy "Sit awkwardly and talk to people you may not know" period that many wedding receptions fall into.
The result? Everyone in attendance was in great spirits and even those who didn't know each other became fast friends. It paid off in a big way when the dance floor opened too as the party NEVER let up at this reception and the night was an amazing show of high spirits and celebrating that still puts a smile to my face now as I think about it.
This party was insane. Not only did we get treated with a rousing rendition of "Africa" by Toto that will likely be one of the greatest moments of any wedding I photograph this year but we had impromptu conga lines and a hilariously emotional room full of people singing "Paradise by the Dashboard" by Meatloaf.
It all led to some amazing reaction photos.
Seriously. I could create an entire wedding album JUST on the ridiculous photos we captured from this reception.
By the end of Ali and Gary's wedding reception, I knew I had witnessed something special.
I didn't just love this night because of the fun I had or the photos I took. No, I loved this night because I know, deep down, it was EXACTLY what the bride and groom had dreamed of when they started planning their wedding.
Ali and Gary's wedding day was the perfect summation of their relationship and a night their friends and family members will never forget.
I'm just honored I was there to witness it all and able to capture as much of it as I did with my camera as I know these photos will hold a special place in this bride and groom's heart forever.
And it will certainly do the same for me.
The Vendor List
Photographer: Paul J. Spetrini, Paul J. Spetrini Photography; Hair & Makeup: Coiffurium Salon in Providence, RI; Ali's dress: Ceremony Bridal Shop in Boston, Massachusetts; Ali's shoes: Designer Shoe Warehouse; Caterer: Emery's Catering in Warwick, Rhode Island; DJ: Mike Keeley; Ceremony and Reception: Roger Williams Park Botanical Center.
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