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Michaela & Casey’s Wedding

on October 28, 2023


We’re about to get into the story of Michaela & Casey’s wedding day from my perspective as their photographer. I’ll walk you through a play by play of how everything came together at the Blackwall Barn & Lodge in Gambrills, Maryland. From our close call with a autumn festival that tried its darnedest to make us late, to the daring feats of a human pyramid of groomsmen, we’re going to look through some of my favorite images from the day and how they came to exist in the first place. Casey & Michaela’s wedding represents not only a fantastic reflection of these two individuals starting down a road together, but also a great example of how a wedding doesn’t have to be huge and complicated to also be beautiful and special. And, we’re going to look at how the different vendors brought their A-game to the table and showed an uncommonly close attention to detail that made a small event into something remarkable.

Want to skip the story and jump straight into the photos? Go for it.

Arrival & Scouting the Venue

Our day began at the Blackwall Barn & Lodge, a venue tucked away in Gambrills, Maryland, a European pub style venue with large stones, dark wood accents and a complex layout. Arriving early was essential, not just to refresh our memory of the space, but to anticipate any changes that could impact our photography. We had to navigate the challenges posed by the sprawling parking lot, which intersected some of the best shooting areas, and the tight spaces that required careful maneuvering. Felipe, not shooting that day, but instead serving as my assistant, was an essential asset in managing these quirks.

During our initial scouting, we encountered some unexpected elements: another, larger wedding was taking place in a different part of the venue, and a nearby autumn festival threatened to disrupt our transport schedule with potential delays. We noted these factors, planning our movements to minimize any impact on our photography schedule. We moved on.

Preparations at Michaela’s House

At Michaela’s mother’s house, happenings were a blend of excitement and calm anticipation. The team from True Colors Beauty was well into their work, showcasing some remarkable skill working with Michaela, her bridal party, and both mothers. Their efficiency in keeping the morning on schedule is worthy of note, especially since hair and makeup are often the root cause of early delays in wedding timelines.

We really had more time at the prep location than we needed, so I spent some time looking for something to hang the dress on for a shot to document the dress among some of the tight spaces offered by the house. Then when it was time for Michaela to suit up, we captured a nice moment between her and her mother.

Capturing the camaraderie in these moments honestly felt almost as crucial as the formal events of the day. These were preambles to something special, and really help round out the over all narrative the finished images display. Before long, we were back in the car, carving out a little extra time to deal with festival related traffic. Luckily, it was not as disruptive as we thought it might be and we were back at the venue in no time.

First Look & Bridal Party Portraits

The first order of business back at the venue was a first look between Michaela and Casey. Little House of Flowers was hard at work finishing the floral dressings in the ceremony space. They ran out of hands at one point so Felipe jumped in. What a guy, but I digress. The first look was charged with emotion like few typically are. Set against an evergreen backdrop in the Blackwall garden, it was a moment meant for unfiltered connection between the two. They chose to share their vows privately ahead of the ceremony, knowing that it was going to be challenging to contain themselves and would rather not have such a sensitive experience the first time in front of all their friends and family.

Following this intimate moment, the bridal party portraits began. We got a few shots right there in the garden where we stood, then moved to the other side of the fence where the vibrant autumn colors provided a spectacular natural backdrop. Despite time constraints, we were able to create a surprising variety of images. The rustic spot outside the fence, along with the forested area full of bright yellows and oranges, offered a stunning setting unique to the time of year.

The Ceremony

The ceremony was officiated by Casey’s best man, a close friend of the couple. I love when couple’s choose someone close to them to officiate. There are always benefits to a professional or clerical officiant, but when someone important to you does it, it adds a layer of personal warmth and authenticity that I think really layers meaning in a special way. He was initially nervousness, but settled into the role and gave a confident delivery which brought some added emotional depth of the ceremony.

Readings by Casey’s sister and Michaela’s brother during the ceremony also added personal touches that amplified the emotional resonance of the event. The succinctness of the event was good for capturing a variety of narrative angles, while also keeping the guest’s attention from wandering off.

Family & Couple’s Portraits

The post-ceremony family portraits were handled with a priority on efficiency and time-consciousness, both for the sake of the schedule and a family that was eager to get some drinks and snacks. Starting with the smallest group on Michaela’s side and gradually incorporating larger groups streamlined the process until we reached a pinnacle that included everyone from both sides, and then deconstructed in the other direction. This approach also allowed family members to leave as soon as they were no longer needed, minimizing wait times.

For Michaela and Casey’s portraits, the natural setting around the perimeter of the Blackwall’s commercial surroundings offered some spectacular, though perhaps unlikely, backdrops. The vivid foliage and some careful framing perfectly camouflaged the commercial nature of the surroundings, allowing us to capture stunning, natural-looking photographs. We caught a range of images from some more traditional in style, to others that highlighted the unique and quirky aspects of their relationship.

Our timeline and available sunlight didn’t give us much time, but we caught a good bit of variety in about 20 minutes. We finished off the portraits, at Felipe’s suggestion, with one last shot of the two of them walking off toward the venue with the building in the background, which is exactly the kind of sinuous narrative image that can bring a set of images like these together. Felipe has an amazing eye for this kind of thing, and one of the reasons I like bringing him along, even if he’s not formally shooting.

The Reception

The reception, held in the Blackwall’s all-season patio, was a stunning display of elegance and warmth. The European-style stonework and central fireplace created a cozy and inviting ambiance. Little House of Flowers’ decorations perfectly captured the couple’s unique color palette, while Sweet Eden’s Bakery’s cake was not just visually stunning but thematically consistent with the day’s aesthetics.

The reception started with some quick introductions MC’d by C&J Entertainment, and then without much delay got into toasts from Michaela’s mother and father. A funny moment was shared when, during Michaela’s mom’s toast, she gave Casey a gag T-shirt that read “I’m a proud son-in-law of a freaking awesome Mother-in-Law… and yes, she gave me this shirt.” I got a great shot of Casey holding the shirt up for all to see.

After Michaela’s mother and father were finished speaking, they handed the mic to Michaela’s sister, and then Casey’s best man who had officiated the wedding. Each shared some touching, mostly heartfelt words which elicited a lot of sweet reactions from the couple.

When the toasts were done, dinner was served by The Blackwall. Salmon, Crab Cakes, Mashed Potatoes and grilled Brussel sprouts. It was delicious and for lovers of good food, one of the best reasons to host an event at the Blackwall Barn & Lodge.

The first dance between Michaela and Casey was a tender and intimate moment, marking the beginning of the night’s celebrations. Though dancing was not the central focus, it added to the jovial atmosphere, with guests joining in after the couple’s dance.

The cake cutting was another highlight, featuring the fluffy red velvet cake from Sweet Eden’s Bakery. This was followed by the distribution of the cake and an array of cookies, also provided by Sweet Eden’s, adding a playful touch to the evening. I ate at least 3 of them.

As the night carried on, drinks flowed, and the mood shifted to a more vibrant atmosphere. The increase in dancing, the closeness of the guests, and the groomsmen’s human pyramid added a lively dimension to the festivities. The Blackwall staff brought out late night snacks of little grilled cheese sliders in cups of tomato soup. So good. And the photo guest book was an uncommonly big hit.

My day with this couple ended a little before the party itself disbanded, but not before capturing just about everything there was to capture and getting a real sense of why these people like each other so much.

A part of me wishes every wedding was as simple, sweet and heartfelt as Michaela & Casey’s. There was little pageantry, but a ton of sentimentality, and the team from Blackwall Barn & Lodge, Sweet Edens Bakery, Little House of Flowers and C&J Entertainment, as well as Felipe and I, brought things together to feel like a much larger event and I loved every minute of it — not to mention so many photos that I love.

Please enjoy exploring the images!