Honorable Mention: I loved this beautiful photo of Rebecca and Kelly's August wedding in Warwick. It was captured moments after the power came back on during their reception and was a nice moment where the bride and groom danced with all their friends and family members to the music of their live band. This image just missed out on my top 10 images of the year list but it will definitely find a place in my latest wedding portfolio. Below, check out my annual list of favorite photos from this past wedding season. 

The Top 10 of 2017

Ever since I decided to get serious about pursuing a career in wedding photography, I've had some amazing moments at some incredible weddings and have taken some photographs that I know I'll never forget.

Because of this, I made it a yearly goal at the end of 2015 to compile a new portfolio of some of my favorite photos from the most recent wedding season to give brides and grooms a look at what my current style is as I try to improve and change each year.

As a part of that effort, and because everyone likes Year in Review style lists, it made sense to create an annual top 10 list of my favorite wedding photos from the previous year while I was doing that. 

Since I began this list, I've seen my business grow from shooting 11 weddings of my own in 2015 to double that a year later.

The year 2017 was, without question, one of the busiest years I've ever had and I was blessed to work with some incredible couples whose weddings I will never forget.

Narrowing this list down from the approximately 92,000 wedding and engagement photos I took from the 23 weddings I shot on my own and seven I photographed as a second shooter 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. Family matters

Taken: Saturday, September 16th, 2017 at The Roger Williams Park Casino in Providence, Rhode Island

It's easy to forget when you shoot them often but weddings are an incredibly important milestone in a person's life and, sometimes, they can come to represent the way a family marks the passage of time. This is especially true for older folks as, sadly, a wedding may be the last time everyone is gathered together with a certain relative or the last time many see a particular family member alive. 

I knew going into Allison and Len's September wedding at the Roger Williams Park Casino in Providence, Rhode Island that Allison's grandfather was in poor health and may not have been able to attend. This was the man who was instrumental in helping Allison grow up and, as she is one of my closest friends, I knew how much his being there meant to her. 

And that's why I love the photo above so much.

Much to the delight of all of Allison's family members, not only was her grandfather in attendance on her wedding day but he was having a great day, fully with it and enjoying every moment. And in the photo above, as Allison took her place at the front of the area where she would soon say "I do," I could see the look of pride on his face for seeing such an important day in her life.

Allison's grandfather would pass approximately five weeks after this photo was taken and as I walked through the funeral home where his wake took place back in October, I could see countless photos I took from this wedding on display. And I can't tell you how thankful her family members were that I was there to capture this day, which they all agreed was one of the last great ones he had.

It's easy to forget how much wedding photos can mean to a family but I know how important my being there to capture these moments was for the Smith family and I'll never forget it. 

9. Now the fun begins

Taken: Saturday, October 7th, 2017 at the Golden Lamb Buttery in Brooklyn, Connecticut

It often amazes me just how stressful some wedding days can be. No matter how laid back your couple is and no matter how well you plan out a timeline, you simply can't account for some things that are out of your control and that will inevitably go wrong.

And that was the case on a beautiful fall afternoon in October as Samantha and Dale said "I do" at St. Robert's Church in Johnston, Rhode Island and had their wedding reception at the Golden Lamb Buttery in Brooklyn, Connecticut.

Due to no fault of their own, Sam and Dale ran into countless issues with their transportation and the entire timeline of the day got thrown out of whack, with the bride and groom arriving to their reception venue more than an hour and a half after they were supposed to. Now, if that seems like a nightmare scenario for a wedding, trust me, it was. But, thankfully, Samantha and Dale aren't the type of people to dwell on the negative and thanks to some super-quick formal photos when they arrived to their venue, we were able to have plenty of time for photos without them missing a beat.

That's why the photo above is one of my favorites because, at this point when Sam and Dale were introduced as husband and wife to their crowd, the timeline no longer mattered and we survived it all. All the formalities of the night were essentially over and the bride and groom couple sit back, relax and enjoy their wedding night.

You can see it on their face too. These folks are super excited to party and have fun and, believe me, that did just that.

8. Take my hand

Taken: Saturday, October 21st, 2017 at Castle Manor Inn in Gloucester, Massachsuetts

I love the magnitude of the big moments of every wedding but, by far, my favorite is the first dance. There's just something special about seeing a bride and groom together for really the first time, standing alone in the spotlight with all their friends and family members watching.

And as I'm editing wedding photos, I tend to focus on the first dance and think a lot about it.

Such was the case during Mike and Rachel's October wedding at Castle Manor Inn in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

I've known Mike most of my adult life and used to work with him at one of my first jobs in college.  

But the Mike I saw on this wedding day was a much more mature, grown up version of the guy I used to know and, I've got to be honest, seeing him dance with his beautiful wife Rachel to the song "Crazy Love" by Van Morrison, a throwback tune if I've ever heard one, was a sight to see.

I loved everything about this first dance, particularly the beautiful venue they got married at, but what stood out to me was the way these two looked at each other. That look above? It's what people spend a lifetime chasing and it makes married life worth living. 

7. Standing tall

Taken: Saturday, August 12th, 2017 at Crystal Lake Golf Club in Mapleville, Rhode Island

Before every wedding, I always tell a bride and groom that I'm open to any ideas for photos that they would like to create but few brides have ever taken me up on that offer as much as Toni did during her August wedding to Scott at Crystal Lake Golf Club in Mapleville, Rhode Island.

Scott and Toni were a fantastic couple to work with and I loved the concepts Toni came up with for photos but this one still makes me laugh more than any of the other funny shots we got on her wedding day ... because of the back story in what it took to get it.

While the photo above in and of itself was hilarious, particularly the point where I had to convince six adult males to pose in funky ways, what I'll always remember about it is the look on everyone's face as I got in position for it.

See, a shot like this requires an elevated angle from the photographer and as we were in a bad area with short tables and even smaller chairs, my only option was to kick my shoes off and walk from one table to the next until I was in position.

I'm not the most athletic person but I do pride myself on my ability to "get the shot" and right after I got this photo, I was thankful for it despite the awkwardness of walking on a collection of thin tables in my socks while carrying a ton of equipment in both hands.

What I didn't plan for was coming down. But, thankfully, gravity had me covered as my balance would only help me so much and the table I was standing on started to fall shortly after I took the photo above.

Like Legolas in the Lord of the Rings, I rode the table all the way down and stuck the landing all while protecting my gear. That effort earned me a round of applause from the wedding party and a surprised look of befuddlement from the bride-to-be. 
Yeah. it was totally worth it.

6. Words from the heart

Taken: Saturday, October 28th, 2017 at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Providence, Rhode Island

Whenever I'm at a wedding, I have to stay alert and keep my guard up for the entire shoot as I never know what brief moment in time will come to define the day. Sometimes you can predict what the couple will remember forever. Other times, it's over in an instant.

For Keiran and Jessica's October wedding ceremony at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Providence, Rhode Island, the moment was a split second and a one-word response that is easily the cutest thing I have ever seen at a wedding.

Jessica and Keiran are high school sweethearts who fell in love in eighth grade and grew up into adulthood together. They were one of my favorite couples this year despite being the last wedding I shot on my own in 2017 and it was largely because of the dynamic they have together.

Nowhere was that on display more than in the photo above as the always silly Jessica is too adorable for words and melted my heart moments after her priest pronounced her and Keiran as husband and wife.

How'd she do it? With one word. "YAY!"

Those three letters, spoken moments after the first kiss, were uttered with such innocent joy and happiness that it was hard for me not to stop right in my tracks and have my heart melt like I just saw a basket of kittens learn to walk for the first time.

I know that may seem sarcastic but it's really not. It was the most adorable thing I've seen this year, a perfect representation of both her silliness and their relationship together and a fantastic memory from one of my favorite weddings of the year.

5. Our first sunset

Taken: Saturday, August 19th, 2017 at Lake Pearl in Wrentham, Massachusetts

As I've already established in the Scott and Toni bar photo above, I'll do just about anything for a photo. I've climbed shaky 20-foot ladders, walked barefoot into a fish-infested pond, and laid down belly-first on the ground more times than I can count but, even then, what happened at Cynthia and Ao's August wedding at Lake Pearl in Wrentham, Massachusetts was something even I look back on and laugh at my ridiculousness.

Cynthia and Ao were married on a sweltering hot summer afternoon at one of my favorite venues in New England and I knew based on the oppressive heat alone that we were going to have an amazing sunset. 

What I didn't know was how beautiful this venue is set up for when that happens as Cynthia, Ao and I were able to sneak over to their dock area and grab some beautiful photos on the water at the end of their formal photo session.

But I didn't quite feel like I had the "one" that would define this shoot, largely because the sun was far and away on our right and the dock only allowed me so much room to work.

So, like any good photographer, I took my socks and shoes off (Are you sensing a theme?), rolled my pant legs up as high as they would go and waddled into waist-high water to get the angle I wanted for this photo. 

And even though I walked into their reception venue still dripping from the water, I can safely say four months later that it was well worth it. 

4. The look of love

Taken: Saturday, September 16th, 2017 at The Roger Williams Park Casino in Providence, Rhode Island

There are a lot of reasons why I love a first look but, truth be told, I really don't have a preference. Or at least I didn't have one until Allison and Len's September wedding at Roger Williams Park in Providence, Rhode Island. Now? Now I just might. 

Allison and Len, who are two close friends of mine, had a picture perfect wedding day but it sure didn't start that like.

No, see, despite her best efforts, Allison became a nervous bride in the moments leading up to her wedding and it wasn't until she had a chance to see Len during this first look, easily my favorite first look of the year, that her nerves settled.

As I stood on the deck of the Roger Williams Park Casino, I couldn't help but look at the way Allison and Len interacted and the ease in which he calmed her down and brought a giant smile to her face. It was a sweet moment between a soon-to-be bride and groom and as I took this photo, I knew it would be one that defined that moment not only for me but for the couple as well.

A good photo takes you back to the moment in time in which it was captured and any time I look at this one, I'll be right back on that deck smiling at the beautiful life moment two friends of mine were having. And that, folks, is why I'll never tire of wedding photography.

3. A modern classic

Taken: Sunday, September 17th, 2017 at Colt State Park in Bristol, Rhode Island

There are some photos that look so good before I photograph them, all I have to do is not screw it up and that was 100 percent the case during Stacey and John's September wedding at Colt State Park in Bristol.

Perhaps my most traditionally-attractive couple of the year, Stacey and John both looked like models on their wedding day but it wasn't until we finished their formal photos in the park that I really saw the photo that would define their day come to life.

As has been a trend in recent years, Stacey and John opted for an antique car to take them from their wedding ceremony to their reception.

Boy, am I glad they did as the car that came for them was perfect for a beautiful bride and groom portrait that I truly think sums up their relationship perfectly. I love the photo above for a number of reasons but, without a doubt, my favorite part is the way it mixes the traditional wedding beats, namely the car, a bride in white with a veil, a tuxedo-wearing groom, with the beautiful tattoo Stacey has which gives it a modern feel.

The moment we put Stacey and John into position, I knew this would be a photo that was this list and the end of the year and I was right.

Stacey and John had an amazing wedding day that I still laugh about four months later but this image? This image is one I'm proud of for both the story it's telling and the beauty shown itself.

I don't fancy myself an artist by any stretch of the imagination but this is definitely one of the most artistic shots I took all year. 

2. Hidden beauty

Taken: Friday, September 22nd, 2017 at The Towers in Narragansett

As much as I love when photos look perfect BEFORE I even take them, every now and again, I don't know what I have until I've pulled it up on my computer screen and sat with it for a while. 

Such was the case for this shot of Arielle and Gary, which I almost deleted until I really examined what it contained.

Arielle and Gary's September wedding at the North Beach Clubhouse in Narragansett provided a number of amazing photos that all could have been listed on this year in review compilation but it's the shot above that, to me, defines their afternoon.

Despite the fact that it was legitimately freezing by the Towers on this afternoon, Gary and Arielle decided to go through with an outdoors first look in the area and I'm glad they did as Gary's reaction was incredible in every way.

This groom LOST it and couldn't stop smiling. I don't think I've ever seen someone react with such glee to a first look but Gary really nailed the moment. Afterward, as we calmed down for a moment, he and Arielle kept talking and I watched his eyes to see he was in awe at her nontraditional dress. I had a feeling he wouldn't be able to stop gawking at how beautiful it was and I was right so, when he leaned in to give his soon-to-be wife this hug, I was ready and snapped it in an instant.

Admittedly, I didn't think too much of this photo at first as it was horizontal and had a ton of extraneous stuff in the background (including a giant light pole right above their heads). It wasn't until I was editing their photos and really focusing on each shot that came out that I saw the potential of this picture as a vertical and, after spending almost 45 minutes editing out the light pole and fixing the way the roof looked, I was pretty proud of this one.

As I reflect back on their wedding, this, to me, was the shot of the night. It just defines them so well and defines my goals for photography perfectly.

I love planned photos and capturing the BIG moments of a wedding day but, sometimes, the things that really matter are as simple as a simple hug.

1. Let the sparks fly

Taken: Saturday, August 26th, 2017 in Warwick, Rhode Island

What can I say about a photo that really needs no words?

Despite the fact that I took well over 140,000 photographs this year, there was one image that I knew the moment I snapped it, it would be the best photo I took all year.

Rebecca and Kelly, whose August wedding in Warwick, Rhode Island was one of my favorite wedding days ever, had a million little moments that made me smile then and warm my heart now. But it's their simple sparkler exit that, to me, perfectly captures what my career is like in 2017.

I pride myself on being a candid photographer but a lot of work goes into knowing where to be for a photo and when to be there.

Over the past three years, I've had a lot of time to hone my skills but there are still daily challenges which really test my knowledge and make me stop and think about what it is I want to do and how I want to do it.

In the photo above, I gave Kelly and Rebecca very simple instructions. After spending the better part of 10 minutes trying to plot everything out in my head, what with their 100 or so guests all expected to take part in this sparkler exit, I set the two of them up where I wanted them, gave them sparklers, lit them and told them to start walking.

This photograph came at the tail end of their sparkler exit and happened with very little input from me. I told them to kiss and they did the rest.

To me, this photo is an amazing representation of what I want to achieve in wedding photography. Yes, it's a great capture of a candid moment in time but it's one that is only made possible due to proper preparation (Like researching how to shoot sparker exits since I hadn't done one at this point in months) and knowing how to hold my camera steady enough not to mess it up. Add in the other technical elements and you can see why this isn't an easy image to hit. And because I feel I did, and because of how perfectly it sums up not only this wedding but all of the weddings I shot over the last 12 months, to me there was never any other choice for my favorite photo of the year. 

And if I can get anything half as great as this in 2018, it will already be a massively successful year. 

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 2018!

Paul J. Spetrini is a Rhode Island wedding photographer.

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

  • Instagram Metallic
  • Pinterest Metallic
  • Facebook Metallic
  • Twitter Metallic