Stonehurst Manor Wedding
Jillian & Christopher
October 26th, 2019
When I meet a couple for the first time, I like to tell them I often don't know where wedding photography is going to take me. Most times, I mean this in a figurative way as every wedding is different and some of my favorite moments as a photographer are candid flashes that happen in the blink of an eye and you either catch them or you don't.
In the case of Jillian and Christopher's October wedding in North Conway, New Hampshire, though, it was more literal AND figurative.
Jill and Chris were married at the stunningly beautiful Stonehurst Manor, a venue that lies in the shadow of the White Mountains, and to say it was one of the most "picturesque New England" weddings I've photographed is an understatement. This day was the type of day cheesy writers wax poetic about as they fill books and blogs about what fall "looks like" in New England. It was a day so colorful and vibrant, it almost makes sense to native New Englanders why people travel across the country to "leaf peep."
But, more importantly, this day was exactly what Jill and Chris had always hoped for: a laid back wedding with nature's beauty in the background and the love of two soulmates front and center.
Am I being a little cheesy? Absolutely. But if you knew Jill and Chris, you'd know it was perfectly fitting.
I'm not a morning person but when I woke up on the day of Jill and Chris' wedding, I was super excited to get started.
Not only was it a perfectly sunny day but I had driven four hours the night before from Newport, Rhode Island and was staying a mere two minutes down the street from Stonehurst Manor, which almost never happens.
My short commute aside, I was eager to meet up with Jill and Chris again as the pair were a blast to work with during their fall 2018 engagement session and I knew we were in for a special day when I walked into the bride's suite and could see the smile radiating from Jill's face.
As anyone who follows my blog regularly knows, however, bride and groom prep sessions can sometimes go off the rails so I was glad to see BOTH Jill and Chris, who were staying on opposite sides of their venue, were in great spirits the morning of their wedding.
And, in what would later prove to be one of my favorite moments of the entire day, Jill literally exclaimed "I look like a bride" in sheer excitement as she got ready to head out to her ceremony.
Those are the little moments that make weddings so fun for me and I could tell Jill was having a great day already and it would only get better.
Jill and Chris' wedding ceremony took place in the shadow of the White Mountains and I don't think the pair could have asked for a better backdrop.
I knew right from the moment the groom saw his soon-to-be-bride that this would be an emotional ceremony and it sure was.
I've seen a lot of couples get married this year but few had the ear-to-ear grins on their face the way Jill and Chris did during their ceremony.
While it lasted a little over a half hour, it felt like it was over in a flash as Jill and Chris' ceremony was super personal and heavily influenced by their unique story and the way they make each other the best versions of themselves.
I loved listening to these two talk about what the other means to them and watching their friends and family members try to keep their emotions in check was a lot of fun as I bounced from beautiful vantage point to beautiful vantage point at this stunning venue.
As much fun as Jill and Chris' ceremony was, I was looking most forward to shooting their bride and groom formals and this was especially true once I saw the nice little shaded area we inevitably did most of them at.
Stonehurst Manor is a super intimate venue and the perfect place to get married if you're a fan of that "rustic New England" look and because Jill and Chris chose to say "I do" at the end of October, they got the full effect of the season's mesmerizing foliage before it would all be gone just a week or two later.
As was the case during their engagement photos, Jill and Chris were so much fun to work with. The pair have a beautiful chemistry together and are so easy to pose that we were able to blast through a ton of fun, creative storytelling images in just a few minutes, leaving them plenty of time to get to their reception.
Speaking of their reception, Jill and Chris really did a wonderful job with their decor. Starting with their mason jar themed invitations and featuring a lot of cool, personal touches, Jill and Chris had a beautiful eye for the little pieces that would make their story stand out.
I especially loved the small globe they asked their friends and family members, who traveled from all over the world to attend, to sign. I thought that was a nice touch that they would cherish forever.
Jill and Chris may have been gotten married early in the day but they wasted no time during their reception showing that it would still be quite the party. The pair chose Michael Bublé's version of "You've Got a friend in Me," as their first dance song and surprised their guests with a well choreographed number to the song that really set the tone right for their early afternoon reception.
What I loved about Jill and Chris' wedding reception was how laid back everything felt, especially the formalities of the event. Sure, the pair had two great toasts by their best man and maid of honor, respectively, but neither went on too long and everyone was able to get right to the afternoon's delicious meal.
Afterward, Jill and Chris cut their cake and had their parent dances without making too big a deal out of them.
You could tell these moments were special and meant a lot to both of them but nothing felt over the top or overly produced and I loved how the bride and groom took a lot of time to enjoy their day and their pace.
I think that's why it was such fun to document.
Without question, though, the most important part of Jill and Chris' wedding reception was ensuring their friends and family members had a good time and it was clear, right from the start, that they did.
Even though this was a bit early for a traditional reception, that didn't stop this group from tearing up the dance floor before and after some of the formalities of the event.
I loved capturing the genuine smiles and moments Jill and Chris had with their friends and family and whether it was a planned group dance number or just a private chat at a table, these newlyweds made sure to spend plenty of time with those closest to them and celebrate the only way they knew how to: together.
As my time with Jill and Chris slowly came to an end, I couldn't help but marvel that the two still managed to find moments just for them.
Whether it was dancing in the rare moment the dance floor was clear or heading outside for some extra bride and groom portraits, Jill and Chris never let this day get away from them and savored every moment.
As I headed out of Stonehurst Manor and concluded my time with Jill and Chris, I couldn't help but smile at the day I was lucky enough to witness.
October 2019 was, without question, one of the hardest months I've ever had as a professional photographer. In that small four-week period, I shot nine weddings and really felt at times like I was completely burned out.
My biggest concern this entire time was making sure I never shortchanged my couples and ending on Jill and Chris was such a blessing as these two immediately helped me overcome any fatigue with their amazing attitudes and positive vibes.
I was looking forward to this wedding for a long time before these two said "I do" and it lived up to every expectation I had and then some.
So, thank you Jill and Chris for including me in your special day and allowing me to document such an amazing experience. I have no doubt this is just the start of a life of incredible days together and wish you the best as you embark on your new journey together as husband and wife.
-Paul J. Spetrini
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The Vendor List:
Photographer: Paul J. Spetrini, Paul J. Spetrini Photography; Ceremony & Reception Location: Stonehurst Manor, North Conway, New Hampshire; Florist: Lisa Reilly of Sweet Lavender Flowers, Boscawen, New Hampshire; Cake: Danette McArthur of Delectables by Danette, North Conway, New Hampshire; DJ: Nancy Sweeney of Coastal Music Services; MISC. decor: Courtney Sprague of Courting Sweetness.