first look

Chelsea & TJ: A Rustic, Fall Wedding by Bolla Photo

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That look! That look being exchanged between TJ and Chelsea sums it all up. The friendship. The excitement. The adoration. The love these two have for each other is undeniable. And they just exude adorableness!

"To my beautiful bride on our wedding day: Chels, As you are getting ready for the best day of our lives, I ask that you take a moment to relax, and think about how far we have come....I always knew there was something special about you. I was instantly drawn to your bubbly personality and just how damn beautiful you are. As time went on and we started dating, I leaned that there is so much more to you than that. We share the same heart. You are kind, loving, thoughtful, and just a really good person. I can tell you that I will not have a nervous bone in my body today because I am 100% sure that you were meant to be my wife and I was meant to be your husband."

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Push the Limit is one of my favorite bands and they definitely delivered, as always! 

Congratulations again, Chelsea and TJ!

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Southern Illinois Wedding Ceremony: St. Paul's United Christian Church, Nashville, IL
Southern Illinois Wedding Reception Venue: Buxton's Banquet Hall, Beckemeyer, IL
Southern Illinois Wedding Band: Push the Limit, St. Louis, MO
Southern Illinois Floral Artist: Town and Country Florist, Breese, IL

Jamie & Joel: Wedding at the Wildey Theatre by Bolla Photo

Joel and Jamie are a couple who are right up my alley! Since I actually wrote this blog post from the bottom-up, I will refrain from any further gushing about how fabulous these two are! Prepare for some gushing! You have been forewarned! ;-)

First looks. Have I mentioned how much I love first looks? I really love first looks! These two adorable expressive people epitomize why I love first looks! Both of their reactions could not be any better if I scripted them myself! Amazement, excitement, joy, love...emotions, tears, smiles, hugs, kisses? Check! Check! Check to all of the above! Love it!

Per tradition, Jamie had her father, Joe, walk her down the aisle. But her mom, Barbara, joined them when they reached the altar so that both parents could officially give her away to be married. I thought that was such a sweet gesture! Both Jamie's and Joel's families are just so sweet!

Jamie and Joel were so ecstatic to be married! They are naturally just that cute and fun-loving, though, too! The only possible issue I could raise against these two (and even this is actually good, not bad) is that they laugh so much with each other it was sometimes challenging to do any non-laughing photos, especially during their engagement session. We had such a blast!! Love, love, love fun couples like them!

This was my first wedding at the Wildey Theatre in Edwardsville. It is such a fantastic venue! (I loved it so much I rented it for the baby shower I hosted in June!) The exposed brick and domed ceiling require little additional decorating. Jamie took advantage of that and used simple and elegant silver accents along with lanterns and flowers. Between the vanilla scented LED candles and the delicious cake from Bailey Cakes, the room filled with the heavenliest aroma. 

Just before sunset, Jamie and Joel humored my fancies and agreed to go frolicking (OK, not actually frolicking...although I'm sure that would have made for some great photos too!) just outside of city limits. On our way back into the reception, we, of course, had to get the obligatory photo with the theater marquee. 

Congratulations, Jamie and Joel!

St. Louis Wedding Ceremony: Our Lord's Lutheran Church, Maryville, IL
St. Louis Reception Venue: Wildey Theatre, Edwardsville, IL
Cake Artist: Bailey Cakes, Edwardsville, IL

Erin & Josh: The Wedding with a 1920s Gangster Car by Bolla Photo

Erin and Josh are a super sweet couple. They wanted their wedding day to reflect the seriousness of their commitment to each other. But they also have a light-hearted side. Their transportation from the church to the reception was their 1928 Dodge gangster-style get-away car. It is often used for shows down in Branson, Missouri and even came complete with its own bullet holes and tommy guns. Such a fun addition to the day!

Before doing the First Look with her soon-to-be husband, Erin wanted to do a First Look with her father. Both Dale and Josh were, of course, thrilled with how beautiful Erin looked. Taking these few moments together also gave the bride and groom time to spend in prayer, reflecting on the importance of the day.

The ring bearers walked down the aisle as security guards, complete with security badges and a safe for the rings. They were just too cute!

Instead of lighting a unity candle, Josh and Erin opted to put together  a unity cross, symbolizing the different roles they will play in the marriage.

As mentioned above, Erin and Josh really wanted to keep the focus of their big day on their relationship. So after a few fun photos with the wedding party at the church, just the three of us spent some time doing photos at a nearby park.

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The ballroom at the Regency was decorated for fall with a variety of centerpieces at the guest tables. And Eckert Florist in Belleville made gorgeous bouquets, staying true to the fall burnt orange and purple theme.

One of my favorite parts of a reception is when the couple has a live band playing. I definitely recommend St. Louis Big Band. The singer's Sinatra-like crooning had all the ladies swooning! (Yes I just said that! haha) I wanted to bottle up his voice and take it home with me! <3

Congratulations, Erin and Josh!

Wedding Ceremony Venue: Sterling Baptist Church, Fairview Heights, IL
Wedding Reception Venue: Regency Conference Center, O;Fallon, IL
St. Louis Videographer:
Jason Gibson Films, St. Louis, MO
Live Band:
St. Louis Big Band
Floral Artist: Eckert Florist, Belleville, IL

Shannon & Justin: A Subtly Nerdy Wedding by Bolla Photo

Shannon and Justin met at Archon, which is a science fiction and fantasy convention held every fall at the Collinsville Gateway Center. Yes, they are nerds! (I can say that because I am also a nerd. I have surprisingly not been to Archon yet, but I have been to GenCon...more than once, which totally adds to my nerd cred.) Naturally, Justin and Shannon wanted to incorporate a few subtly nerdy touches into their wedding. Harry Potter had the most influence, followed by Pathfinder/D&D and Dr. Who.

When Shannon asked me to be in her wedding, the next thing she asked was "But how are you going to be my photographer too?!" Oh, we got this! When your two best friends get married, you do whatever it takes. It made for some challenges but it was worth it. As Shannon knows, I'm entirely too OCD and controlling to allow someone else to be in charge of her wedding photography...qualities that thankfully also come in handy when helping to plan a wedding. ;-) I also had the help of two outstanding photographers who helped me to still enjoy the day and be fully present during the ceremony. (Thanks again, Mary Kim and Katie! Couldn't have done it without you!)

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Shannon's wedding day gift to Justin was a book of photos from a boudoir session we did a few months back. He was completely surprised and definitely happy with his gift. :-)

Below is one of my favorite images from the day. Emotions ran high the entire day (we're all a bunch of crybabies!) but I think the peak was just before Justin saw his bride for the first time. I got him in position for the First Look before Shannon came outside and it all sunk in and he broke down. The raw emotion on his face gets me "in the feels" every time!

The ceremony took place outside the home of Shannon's parents, Jean and Perry. Jean worked all summer long literally creating the space for her daughter's wedding. And Perry hand-made the bridge and bench. They started out with an ordinary backyard (on a hill) and turned it into the perfect site for an intimate garden ceremony.

*Nerd Love* The signs naming all of us in the wedding party also had our (fairly accurate) character alignments (Pathfinder RPG or D&D, anyone?).
*Nerd Love* The paper heart streamers were made from the pages of Harry Potter books.

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*Nerd Love* More recycled Harry Potter pages made up the head table's banner, as well as the heart confetti scattered on all of the tables. The newlyweds' champagne flutes were even engraved with "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good" and "mischief managed."
*Nerd Love* The cake knife gave a nod to Dr. Who with the engraved quote "hello, sweetie."
*Nerd Love* For favors, Shannon thought it'd be great to give everyone a 20-sided die (which is used in RPGs like Pathfinder and D&D), since she and Justin met at Archon. Most of the guests would have no clue what to do with a D20, so instead they went with a pair of regular D6 dice, personalized with their names and wedding date.

Congratulations, Shannon and Justin! I love you guys so much and am so honored to have such fabulously nerdy friends like you and to have been part of your big day!

Sometimes photographing adults is even more challenging that working with babies *and* pets! The expressions we all make without realizing it. Freezing someone in between those expressions. Goofing around during photos. Intoxicated adults....It all makes for some entertainment while editing the photos. Below are a few "outtakes" that are, even according to Shannon and Justin, just too good not to share! Enjoy!

Wedding Ceremony Venue: Bride’s Parents’ home, Beaufort, MO
Wedding Reception Venue: Jesuit Hall, St. Francis Borgia Church, Washington, MO
Cake Artist: cupcakes by 222 Artisan Bakery, Edwardsville, IL and top tier by Cakes by Sabrina

Personalized Dice Favors: Chessex
Invitations, Programs, Reception Welcome Sign, Reception Cocktail Sign: Simonne Bolla (Hey! That’s me!)
Pretty much everything else: DIY or Etsy. ;-)

Jessica & Ben: An Autumn Wedding by Bolla Photo

Jessica is an elementary school teacher. Ben is a PC Analyst at Wells Fargo. Together they add up to one super adorable couple!

First Looks are so much fun! The look on Ben's face when he first sees his bride proves he's more than ready to turn Miss Hagen into Mrs. Hughes!

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The couple decided to make their grand exit inside the church foyer instead of having all their guests stand around outside in the heat and humidity.

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All of Jessica's flowers were absolutely stunning. Also, calla lillies! My favorite! <3

I stole the couple away before sunset so we could snag a few photos and the colors in the sky were phenomenal!

More gorgeous flowers! I loved the variety that florist Jill put together. Every table had several mason jars full of different blooms. Talk about fabulous!

Pastor Downs forgot to announce the newlyweds' first kiss after their vows, so before blessing dinner, he let them have their formal kiss for all to see.

DJ Chris McMahon of McMusic DJ kept the party going all night long. He even got a soul train line going so everyone could show off their moves!

Congratulations, Jessica and Ben!

Wedding Ceremony Venue: Zion Lutheran Church, Belleville, IL
Wedding Reception Venue: Champagne Hall, Hidden Lake Winery, Aviston, IL
DJ / Photobooth: Chris McMahon, McMusic DJ, Photobooth, and Uplighting Services, Fairview Heights, IL

Cake Artist: Cakes by Marla, Smithton, IL
Floral Artist: Jill Batchelder, family friend