Honorable Mention: This beautiful detail shot from Maria & Sebastian's March wedding in Pawtucket narrowly missed out on my top 10 images of the image list but it will live on, for sure, in my latest wedding portfolio. Below, my annual list of favorite photos from the wedding season. 

The Top 10 of 2016

Around this time last year, I had some free time one week and decided to comb through the nearly 100,000 photos I took in 2015 and narrow it down to my 10 favorite photos of the year. 

It was a fun exercise and I enjoyed the process so much I decided to repeat it this year but, in doing so, I guess I never really thought about it but I can see exactly how much I've changed as a photographer in the past 12 months thanks to this list.

See, a year ago I waxed poetic about the 11 weddings I shot on my own and the 17 I shot as a second shooter but this year? Well, this year I literally doubled those individual weddings of my own and I could not have asked for a more professionally rewarding time doing so.

The year 2016 was, without question, the best year of my career so far and I was blessed to work with some amazing couples at some incredible weddings that I don't think I will ever forget.

And these 10 photos, more than any others, represent my absolute favorite shots of the year.

Narrowing this list down from the approximately 68,000 photos photos I took from the 22 weddings I shot on my own (I didn't include any of the 10 weddings I second shot) was incredibly difficult but these pictures are, for various reasons, the ones that stand out to me most.

If you don't see your wedding on the list or don't like your placement, please don't be offended. This is in no way a reflection of the weddings themselves, the couples themselves or the wedding photos themselves. 

These are just my personal favorite top 10 images and the ones I love the most from an amazing year of wedding photography. Enjoy!

10. Light up the sky

Taken: Saturday, May 28th, 2016 at Hillside Country Club in Rehoboth, Massachusetts

One of the things that makes wedding photography a fairly challenging profession, and one of the reasons I love it so much, is how difficult it is to predict what's going to happen next. Despite all your best efforts to go over a timeline with a couple, sometimes you just have to react to an unplanned event or moment and just roll with the punches.

In starting my "Best of 2016" list, I can think of no better representation of this concept than the photo above, which was taken at Michelle and Eric's May wedding at the Hillside Country Club in Rehoboth, Massachusetts.

Despite the fact that Michelle and I had literally talked about her wedding for months, at no point during all of those late night Facebook conversations did she bring up the fact that she and her guests would be lighting Chinese lanterns and sending them off into the sky during her reception.

Instead, what I got was about a three minute heads-up that this was going to happen and I was left to figure out how to shoot this moment, which I had never experienced before, with no time to really prepare for it.

That might sound like I'm whining a bit but I'm really not. I love challenges like this and I'm incredibly happy with the results I got from this big moment, which I winged and shot like it was a nighttime landscape shoot and hoped for the best.

What resulted was one of my favorite photos of the year, both in actual execution and for what it represents. It was a moment that reminds me whenever I see it that I need to be ready for anything on a moment's notice. 

9. All grown up

Taken: Saturday, September 3rd, 2016 at the Roger Williams Park Botanical Gardens in Providence, Rhode Island

While I loved the photo of the Chinese lantern release above because it was unexpected, the next photo on this list is here because it occured during a moment at almost every wedding where you can expect something special: A mother-son dance.

Jen and Kyle's September wedding at the Roger Williams Park Botanical Center was one of my most non-traditional shoots of the year but even though this bride and groom marched to the beat of their own drum, I knew I could still expect the familiar emotionally impactful moments during the key signature events of their reception and they did not disappoint.

In the photo above, Kyle and his mother danced to a beautiful song and I could see the emotions of the moment all over her face the moment she hit the dance floor. 

Parent dances are, quite possibly, the most emotional part of a wedding and this one was a beautiful tribute to that moment when a mother realizes her son is officially all grown up. 

8. Dance the night away

Taken: Saturday, November 19th, 2016 at the Salem Cross Inn in West Brookfield, Massachusetts

Speaking of dances, I can think of no other first dance that brought more emotion out of me as a photographer than Crystal and Andy's during their November wedding at the Salem Cross Inn in West Brookfield, Massachusetts.

I was initially hesitant to include this photo in this list given that I haven't even debuted this blog on my website yet and this wedding just happened a few weeks ago but sometimes a photo just so perfectly sums up a day that you can't stop looking at it and that's exactly how this one makes me feel.

Crystal and Andy had a beautiful wedding day but I knew going into it that the reception was the most important part of the day for them and it didn't disappoint.

The two took a lot of time planning the biggest party of their life and it all came together for real, for the first time, during their first dance.

I loved this shot of Andy and Crystal dancing together as it perfectly summed up their night and their relationship together and if the purpose of wedding photography is to capture a moment, this one sure did that in spades.

7. It's a celebration!

Taken: Saturday, October 15th, 2015 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island

So far on this list, I've shown off some of my favorite candid moments of weddings this year but, I'll be honest, that's not all I do.

Sometimes, a bride and groom have specific ideas in mind and we "create" the photos you see (Such as some of my favorite formal shots still to come on this blog) and that's not always a bad thing. Take, for example, the photo shown above.

For Stephanie and Henry, whose October wedding was 20 years in the making, the bride and groom spent a lot of time thinking about the little touches they would have on their day and it was a blast helping them capture that.

I mean it literally and figuratively. 

One of my absolute favorite shots from their day, and from the year in general, came during Stephanie's bridal prep session at her mother's house as she bought a prop bottle of champagne and wanted to open it with her mother, grandmother and two bridesmaids in a photo straight out of the depths of Pinterest.

But as much as we planned FOR the moment, we couldn't really plan FOR the reactions these four would have and the sheer hilarity of the instance the top of this prop bottle popped off, and the way all five girls laughed at it, made me chuckle quite hard and set the stage for one of the best weddings I shot all year long.

6. A night to remember

Taken: Saturday, August 27th, 2016 at the Whispering Pines Conference Center in West Greenwich, Rhode Island

Speaking of the best weddings of the year, if I actually made a list like that (And I won't because each wedding I shoot is special to me in its own way), I'd have a hard time finding a bride I adored more than Kim.

And of all the moments I loved during Kim and Matt's August wedding at the Whispering Pines Conference Center in West Greenwich, Rhode Island, I think their sparkler exit at the end of the night stands out to me the most.

Kim and Matt were an amazing couple who had a perfect day (Save for a fence we broke during formal photos ... but I'll go into that more in a future blog) and even though it was well over four months ago, I still find myself thinking back to that night quite often as we reflect on the year that was. 

The reason I keep coming back to their sparkler exit, though, was how much fun we had setting up that chaotic scene.

As anyone who has seen a sparkler exit in person knows, they're insane. You're usually asking your drunkest guests to hold a live firework when all anyone wants to do is go to sleep after an exhausting day but for Kim and Matt, the guests in attendance were all game and ready to go.

Problem is ... we forget to bring enough lighters to make it work.

The laughter on Kim and Matt's face as I had them run through their guests rapidly so the flames on the sparklers wouldn't go out still makes me laugh months later and the photo above, taken on a whim as I had a quick moment of realization that I wanted to have them kiss in all this chaos sums up their night perfectly as this bride and groom couldn't contain the joy on their faces from an evening they'll never forget.

5. Hold me now ... and forever

Taken: Saturday, July 16th, 2016 at the Overlook at Geer Tree Farm in Griswold, Connecticut

One of the things I love the most about reflecting on a great year of wedding photography is thinking back to the moments I wish I could relive and while there are a lot on this list, if I could relive one part of one day, it would probably be Justin and Lauryn's formal photo session. 

I've had a lot of time with bride and grooms this year but there was something so incredibly special about the time allotted to me with Justin and Lauryn during their July wedding at Geer Tree Farm that I can't help but wish every formal photo session was like it.

Maybe it's the picture perfect weather. Maybe it was the bride and groom who were up for any ideas I had.

Either way, we spent a TON of time shooting bride and groom formal photos during their big day and I think the results were absolutely spectacular.

My favorite photo of the period, though, has to be the one pictured above.

I loved this shot so much I made it the front page of my latest pricing guide and with good reason: You've got a beautiful bride, a handsome groom, a pose to die for and a background that couldn't be much better if you tried.

I like to think some of the best photos just come together and this was definitely an example of that. 

And I know in my heart this is the type of image I'll be chasing a lot when the 2017 wedding season comes around.

4. A love worth waiting for

Taken: Friday, October 14th, 2016 at the Farm at SummitWynds in Jefferson, Massachusetts

Speaking of beautiful formal photos, I'd be hard pressed to find a bride and groom session that meant more to me on a personal level than JD and Brooke's session during their October wedding at the Farm at SummitWynds in Jefferson, Masschusetts.

I've known JD since I was a freshman in college and he is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of my most romantic and thoughtful friends. I knew, then, that the woman he chose to spend the rest of his life with was going to have to be special and Brooke is that and much more.

A perfect fit unlike any couple I've ever seen, I can't even imagine these two without each other now and their October wedding was a culmination of that love in the best way possible. Whether it was the heartwarming personal vows they wrote or the crazy reception where they let loose, this wedding was so JD and Brooke that I don't know any other way to describe it. 

But of all the photos I took, the one above is the one that stands out the most to me. I love the just-after-sunset lighting. I love the composition. I love the pose. I love the storytelling laid deep in the image. 

This photo, to me, defined this day more than any other and is one that will make me smile for years to come.

3. A mother's love

Taken: Saturday, October 8th, 2016 at St. Thomas More Catholic Parish in Narragansett, Rhode Island

While we're talking about photos that defined a moment, I want to change it up just a touch for my next entry on this list.

Like JD, I've known Forrester for well over a decade and was looking forward to shooting his October wedding with Lisajean for a very long time but for entirely different reasons.

While Forrester and Lisajean have a beautiful relationship where they challenge each other and make one another better, a sight I was privilaged to watch in person at their wedding, the shot that brings a tear to my eye anytime I go back and look at his photos is this one with Forrester and his mother.

I've known Forrester since college and one thing I've known about him more than anything else is how close he is with his parents.

So to see him and his mom look at each other in this loving way on his special day just warms my heart.

This is a moment where a son is silently thanking his mother for raising him and where a mother is quietly showing how proud she is of the boy she's seen turn into a man.

And though no words were spoken, the expression says it all between these two. I'll be hard pressed to ever take a more impactful family photo but I look forward to the challenge in 2017 and beyond.

2. A midsummer night's dream

Taken: Saturday, August 20th, 2016 at LeBaron Hills Country Club in Lakeville, Massachusetts

Rounding out my top-10 images of 2016 is a photo that very well could have, and maybe should have, been No. 1. 

I debated long and hard about whether or not this would go down as my favorite image of the year and with good reason. Alyssa and Alex's August wedding at LeBaron Hills Country Club in Lakeville, Massachusetts was the very definition of a perfect summer wedding.

We had blue skies, warm temperatures, an amazing wedding party, a rocking reception and a bride and groom who looked stunning.

Add to that one of the best sunsets of the year and it all adds up to perfection.

I loved this formal photo of Alyssa and Alex for a variety of reasons but the one that stands out most is that it came AFTER we had already shot all of their formals and only happened because I saw the beautiful colors of the sky and asked them to trust me enough to come back outside in the middle of their reception.

They did and it made for a breathetaking shot of them together in the middle of the golf course.

I love the way this bride and groom fold perfectly in each other's arms and the way the grass seemingly bends around them.

When I think summer weddings, I think of this image and when I think of my favorite photos of 2016, this one is right up at the top.

1. A fairy-tale ending

Taken: Saturday, March 19th, 2016 at Falores Restaurant in Pawtucket, Rhode Island

So what's the deciding factor when choosing between two almost-perfect photos as a photographer? To me, this was truly a toss-up and I didn't actually make my mind up and finalize my decision until I started typing this blog out.

While I adore the photo of Alex and Alyssa above, this image from Maria and Sebastian's March wedding was an image that, to me, defined my career in 2016.  This year was a year of a million moments but the ones that I'll cherish the most are the ones that are unplanned and happened naturally with little to no imput from me.

Maria and Sebastian were married on a perfect day in March with unseasonably warm weather and the bluest skies I've ever seen.

And this photo, taken during their reception, so perfectly captures their time together on this day that it has stood out to me as THE image to beat for all of 2016. It's rare to say you nailed something so well your first time out but this image was my favorite on an amazing first wedding of the year and it was only through writing this blog that I realized I spent the other nine months of the year chasing that perfection, hoping something would come along and beat it.

A lot of photos tried and there were a lot of moments I'll always remember from this year but my goal as a wedding photographer has always been to capture the moments no one else sees and the ones that go by in a blink of an eye and this one, above all others, was a moment worth remembering for this year and the rest of my career. 

And I can't wait to get back out there in 2017 and do it all over again.

So, that's it. What did you think? Do you love the list? Disagree with it? Want to nominate another photo for consideration? Sound back below!

And, as always, thanks for supporting my photography. It means more than you'll ever know. See you in 2016!

Paul J. Spetrini is a Rhode Island wedding photographer.

© 2019 Paul J. Spetrini Photography. All rights reserved.

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