Zukas Hilltop Barn Wedding Photos
Jonathan & Gina
Mary, Queen of the Rosary Parish & Zukas Hilltop Barn
September 20th, 2020
You can often tell a lot about how a bride and groom are feeling about their wedding by the way they handle themselves during their formal photos. For some couples, a wedding day is so stressful and anxiety-inducing that they can't get into any sort of comfort level in their photos and it shows. For others, the thrill of the upcoming reception is so intoxicating, they can't wait to rush through their formals and get to drinking.
For Jonathan and Gina, who were married back in September at Mary, Queen of the Rosary Parish in Spencer, Massachusetts, neither of those were true. The pair were simply happy to take their time with each other and get as many portraits together as possible because they were genuinely enjoying themselves.
What does that say about their wedding day? That they were totally, one hundred percent locked in on savoring every moment and with the wedding these two had, I can't blame them.
I knew right from the start of Jonathan and Gina's wedding day that I was in for a busy afternoon and would have a lot to document. Because both the bride and groom were staying at the same location — Comfort Inn & Suites in Sturbridge, Massachusetts — I knew I'd be bouncing back and forth from each of their rooms as they finished preparing for their 1 p.m. church ceremony.
What I didn't know was how focused and ready the bride-to-be would be. Gina was on point from the moment I arrived and looked super focused and eager to get the day's events underway.
Jonathan, meanwhile, was a little more ... shall we say anxious about the day. Like many grooms who prefer not to be the center of attention, Jonathan seemed a little nervous about the hectic schedule of the day as I arrived to photograph his preparations but it was nothing seeing his bride wouldn't cure.
I really enjoyed documenting Jonathan's preparation, particularly as his grandmother helped him finish getting ready in what I thought were some really sweet and touching candid photos.
Bouncing back and forth between Gina and Jonathan also gave me a chance to make sure both were on time and ready to go as the minutes ticked closer for our planned first look before they jumped in their limo.
It wasn't until we got ready to head out of the hotel that any signs of nervousness appeared on Gina's face but, luckily, her mother and matron of honor kept her spirits pretty high as we kickstarted the wedding festivities.
One of the first big tasks of Jonathan and Gina's first look was a simple one: A first look. I chose to bring the soon-to-be newlyweds to a nice, shaded spot outside of the hotel so they could share this private moment together and I'm glad I did as I could see any nerves wash off both their faces the minute they saw each other.
In fact, as they exchanged notes to one another, neither Jonathan or Gina could stop laughing and smiling and I knew we were in for a really fun afternoon as we headed to the church to see these two tie the knot.
Speaking of churches, Jonathan and Gina picked a nice one as Mary, Queen of the Rosary Parish in Spencer, Massachusetts had a decidedly historic feel to it but also felt contemporary with beautiful stained-glass windows and soft lighting.
Gina and Jonathan's wedding ceremony was as traditional and standard as it comes, with the slight exception of the masks adorning the face of the groom and several guests. But in the time of coronavirus, it's always better to be safe than sorry.
What I loved most about Jonathan and Gina's wedding was the way the two looked at each other. You can tell a lot about a couple by the expressions on their faces when they think no one else is watching.
As soon as Jonathan and Gina were pronounced husband and wife, I couldn't wait to get out of their church as fast as possible. Not because I didn't enjoy their ceremony, of course, but because their reception was set for Zukas Hilltop Barn, one of my new favorite locations to photograph a wedding at.
And believe me, this spot did not disappoint.
Oh, did I forget to mention that Jonathan and Gina even brought their dog along for some formal photos? If that wasn't the surefire sign we were in for some great shots, I don't know what is.
Jonathan and Gina were so much fun to work with during their formal photos and I'm glad because, right as we were getting ready to pack it in, I saw a beautiful spot tucked away with absolutely stunning natural light and fall foliage. Needless to say, I might have been more excited about the bride and groom portraits than the bride and groom IN the portraits.
I should have known that finding the beautiful shade at Zukas was a sign that Gina and Jonathan's reception was going to be a blast to photograph but it wasn't until I walked into the tent at the venue that I had any idea how MUCH fun it would be.
I've only shot one other wedding at Zukas in my career and I almost forgot just how beautiful this venue's tent area can be, especially with great uplighting to accentuate the string lights lining the tent.
Needless to say, I adored this location and, honestly, Jonathan and Gina's decor ranks at the very top of the decorations I've seen in 2020 because of it.
But decor alone isn't enough to take a reception from "good" to "great" in my eyes.
Luckily, Gina and Jonathan did that immediately upon entering their party as their first dance — set to "In Case You Didn't Know" by Bret Young — set a great tone and was absolutely stunning in the beautiful tent atmosphere they helped create with their closest friends and family.
Speaking of close friends and family, even though Jonathan and Gina's guest list was on the smaller side thanks to social gathering restrictions in a global pandemic-affected world, there was simply no shortage of inspiring and beautiful moments in which the newlyweds were honored by those closest to them, starting with two lovely speeches from the matron of honor and the groom's daughter, who served double duty as his best woman.
The speeches were just the start of a night that largely centered around honoring the people the bride and groom rely on the most. Jonathan and Gina veered slightly off the course of a traditional wedding reception by hosting multiple special dances with those they loved most.
For the bride, it was the the traditional dance with her father but, also, a surprise dance with her mother. For the groom, meanwhile, the night wouldn't be complete without a dance with HIS daughter as well as his grandmother and aunt.
All five moments were special and emotional for the two on the dance floor and felt even more meaningful under the beautiful lights of the Zukas tent.
But no good reception is complete without a party and while Jonathan and Gina's wedding may have had a COVID-reduced guest list, it was still rocking the moment the DJ took over and the party kicked off.
I loved Jonathan and Gina's reception from the moment the bride hit the dance floor but, I have to be honest, I couldn't wait to get the two back outside for some more portraits as the sun started to set.
Every good party needs a moment or two where you take a little break and getting the bride and groom to hit the swing at Zukas while posing around the property was just the momentary pause we needed before closing the night off strong.
And though I was initially worried the party may have let up while we were gone, thankfully that wasn't the case and Gina jumped right back into dance mode once she hit the floor for a second time.
As my time with Gina and Jonathan came to an end, I couldn't help but laugh at all the fun times I was able to capture in a little over nine hours.
In my experience, a great wedding day is one which you can't wait to relive over and over again and I know just from talking to this bride and groom that their September wedding day is one they will never forget and one that will always be top of mind.
It's hard to imagine how it could be any other way as Gina and Jonathan did everything they wanted and so much more. And we have the photos to prove it.
So congratulations Jonathan and Gina on a gorgeous wedding day that I have no doubt was exactly what you dreamed of. If this is the way your married life is going to go, you're certainly in for a beautiful time full of life, laughter and especially happily ever after.
-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& Make- Up: MakeMeUp By Christina Kaian, Cranston, Rhode Island; Bride's Dress: Spark Bridal Outlet, Cranston, Rhode Island; Groom's Suit: Aldo’s House of Formals, Cranston, Rhode Island; Florist: Amanda Mele of Stop and Shop in Providence, Rhode Island; Ceremony: Mary, Queen of the Rosary Parish, Spencer, Massachusetts; Reception Location & Cake: Zuka's Hilltop Barn, Spencer, Massachusetts; DJ/Photo Booth: Greg Bedard.