Strongwater Food & Spirits Wedding Photos
Catie & John
Strongwater Food & Spirits, Columbus, Ohio
June 18th, 2023
You never know where wedding photography is going to take you. Literally.
I've been fortunate in my 13 years of shooting weddings to travel to a ton of great venues up and down the New England coast but there's something that just hits different when a couple reaches out and wants to book me to travel to a new state to document their nuptials.
In the case of Catie and John, who were married back in June in Columbus, Ohio, that meant even more as I've known Catie's mom Stacey for years — she was my first-ever second photographer — and knew how important this wedding day would be not only to all three of them but to their entire family.
And when all was said and done, not only was Catie and John's wedding everything I wanted it to be and more, it was a wedding well worth traveling over 700 miles to capture and one I know I won't soon forget.
In fact, while it might be a bit early for me to call it my favorite wedding of the 2023 season, I know it's going to take a LOT for another wedding to make me smile more than this one did.
My time with Catie and John began well before their actual wedding day as the pair asked me to photograph their rehearsal dinner and the informal gathering they held for out-of-town guests the night before they said "I do."
I knew just from spending a few hours with them and their closest friends and family members that this wedding day would be one full of good times and partying and the moment I walked into Strongwater Events, their wedding and reception venue, I could tell I was right.
Not only was Catie in great spirits — even so much as dancing with her sister during bridal prep — but the venue was unlike any I'd shot at before and I knew we were in for a day unlike any other.
As for the groom, much like most of the guys I work with John was super calm and relaxed before his wedding ceremony. While the girls were trying to cram last minute touchups in and trying hard to get their hair finished before the start of the ceremony, John and his guys were casually hanging out in a small room with a pool table and just casually chatting.
If John was nervous, he sure didn't look it.
The fun part of working with Catie and John was that they knew, through Stacey, that they could trust me to build a timeline that worked for their day. So when we fell a bit behind schedule with finishing up bridal prep, there was no sense of panic or worry because we had everything under control and could adjust as needed.
I will say, I was a bit relieved once we got the show on the road, however, but mostly because I was really looking forward to seeing Catie's first look with her dad and John's surprise first look (that he was completely unaware was going to be happening) with his best man.
I love a bride and groom that don't take themselves too seriously and John's fake-out first look was the perfect way to set the tone for this wedding day.
Of course, I'm partial to the ACTUAL first look we did with the bride and groom as it was one of my favorite parts of this wedding day. Well, that and actually managing to have a few minutes for some early bride and groom formal photos at the ceremony site.
I could have worked with this bride and this groom in this setting for hours but, alas, we ended up with just a few minutes before guests arrived. Not that I'm complaining. I couldn't wait for this ceremony.
I knew from the moment I walked outside to see the ceremony site at Strongwater Events that Catie and John's wedding ceremony would be my favorite part of their day. Not only is the venue super industrial and unlike anything I've seen in New England but the light fell PERFECTLY on the bride and groom and made for stunning ceremony shots.
Seriously. Look at Catie coming down the aisle and tell me a place that looks cooler for that moment I certainly can't think of any. And look at John. His face really says it all.
Catie and John's wedding ceremony was full of little personal moments and you could tell it was going to be a fun one when the bride and groom started things off with a football huddle that brought a big laugh from guests.
That's not to say this was a wedding ceremony without its serious moments though. No, all you needed to do was watch the way John and Catie both soaked in every second of this moment in their lives to tell how much it meant to them.
This was absolutely one of my favorite ceremonies in a LONG time and not just because the photos came out perfectly. Though, admittedly, that helps.
By the time John and Catie officially said "I do," I don't think there was a dry eye in the house ... be it either from the sweet emotions of their ceremony or the sweat pouring down everyone's face from the insane heat of a mid-June wedding day.
Nevertheless, this bride and groom trekked on and I'm so glad they did because even after TWO long family and wedding party formal photo sessions, Catie and John were excited to walk the streets around their venue for their bride and groom portraits and, man, Columbus Ohio had a lot to see on this particular afternoon.
When John, Catie and I got together last summer for their engagement photos in Newport, Rhode Island, they wanted photos by the water because they wanted a vibe that was different than their wedding day in an urban downtown setting would allow.
Thankfully, we still managed to find some water on our journey and it made for some of my favorite bride and groom portraits in quite some time. We weren't able to get everywhere we wanted to as there was a festival blocking our way but, all in all, I think we did a great job exploring the city in the short half hour or so we had for these photos.
I'll admit, though, I was very excited to get inside for their reception ... and not just because it was air conditioned.
With such a unique wedding venue, I had high hopes for Catie and John's wedding decor and it certainly didn't disappoint. Catie and John did a wonderful job taking advantage of the industrial and brick look of their reception room with very complementary table settings and a purple color scheme that let everything pop.
And once the reception itself started? Man, this place came alive.
I should have known Catie and John's reception would be a rowdy one from the fun time we had the night before at their rehearsal dinner but any doubts about how this night would go were settled the moment they were formally introduced as husband and wife.
The pair took their time and did a lap around the tables at their venue, to much applause, and rolled right into their first dance, set to “Until I Found You” by Stephen Sanchez.
I loved this moment and not just because that song is one of my all-time favorites for a first dance. I don't know if their reception hall looked any better on this evening than it did for this first dance and whether they were swaying in each other's arms, trying a fancy dip or just losing themselves in each other's eyes, this song and this moment was truly beautiful and a great way to start a wedding reception.
What I also loved about Catie and John's reception was they rolled right from their first dance into parent dances. I normally like to have dinner in between the formal dances but the energy in this room was so strong, it made both Catie's dance with her dad and John's dance with his mom feel even more special than they would've been otherwise.
And while both dances were full of little moments of love and admiration, I adored how different they were in tone. Catie and her father made each other laugh so many times as they made their way around the room while John and his mom kept it traditional and emotional, as lots of moms tend to do.
With parent dances in the books, John and Catie finally had a chance to sit and relax while they listened to three beautiful toasts in their honor. And, after dinner, the pair only had one real formality left to check off their list: A simple cake cutting to let guests know the party was about to get started.
With the formalities out of the way, though, it didn't take long for this crowd to get the message. And, even if they hadn't heard the night was going to take a turn, they would have seen it themselves as Catie welcomed her guests to the dance floor with a group dance number she often teaches her students in school.
Sure, this crowd may have taken longer to warm up to it than Catie's students but once they got the hang of it, the dance floor was packed and the fun was officially underway.
I've seen a lot of wedding receptions so far this year but Catie and John's was one that worked me the hardest. Everywhere I looked, folks were going wild in the best way. Add to it some of the funkiest lights I've ever had at a wedding reception and it was not easy keeping up with this party.
Still, I love nights like this. These are the moments that make a wedding memorable and I know John and Catie were lost in each song and each unforgettable minute of their reception.
As John and Catie's reception came to an end, the pair decided to cap their evening the way it began: In each other's arms. And I can't think of a more fitting way for this party to have concluded.
As my time with John and Catie came to an end, I couldn't help smiling as I thought about the way 2010 Paul would have never predicted this little fun hobby of his called wedding photography would have him jet-setting all around the country.
John and Catie's wedding in Ohio marked the seventh different state I've shot a wedding in and I'm pretty proud of that fact. More importantly, it was the kind of day I left feeling so fortunate at the great people I get to meet and awesome places I get to go thanks to this amazing industry.
So, thank you John and Catie for a truly unforgettable wedding weekend. I'd say I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did but I already know that to be true. It was the perfect day and exactly what you always said you wanted and I can think of no more fitting tribute to your relationship or your story together.
Best of luck on this new chapter of your life as husband and wife. :)
-Paul J. Spetrini
Check out more of my most recent wedding blogs:
The Vendor List:
Photographer: Paul J. Spetrini, Paul J. Spetrini Photography; Bride's Hair: Hair by Michelle Harrington; Bride's Dress: Twirl Bride, Kenton, Ohio; Florist: The Flowerman, Columbus, Ohio; Violinist: Xan Vargo; Ceremony & Reception Venue: Strongwater Food & Spirits, Columbus, Ohio; Cake: Golden Delight Bakery, Columbus, Ohio; DJ: Brad of Sensational Sound Unlimited, Columbus, Ohio; Rehearsal Dinner: Hofbrahaus Columbus Brewery & Restaurant, Columbus, Ohio; Night-Before Gathering: Land Grant Brewery, Columbus, Ohio.