Sometime in the summer of 2009 at cross-country conditioning, Elizabeth & Dylan first got their first chance to lay eyes upon one another. At that time though they didn't really talk to each other much but I am certain that both of them felt, something, for one another. It wasn't until the spring of 2012 that they really started to finally get to talking between them and then that fall they started dating!
During our consultation Elizabeth has mentioned they enjoyed running and still assist with coaching and their teams to this day. We talked about where we might photograph their engagement session and after a bit of deliberation we ended up on St. Patrick's Park in South Bend, Indiana. It's a beautiful park with a lot of memories for not just the locals in the area but this photographer as well.
These two seemed slightly nervous at the start of the session, as most couples do, it's natural to feel that way. But not even 5 minutes into the session I was able to witness that anxiety melt away as they almost forgot I was even there while paying more attention to one another.
I cannot wait to photograph their wedding in July of 2018. Thank you both for spending the evening with me and allowing Westley Leon Studios to capture not just your engagement session or your soon to be wedding but the memories that will last you both a wonderful lifetime.
Living near the South Bend area and trying to plan an engagement session is somewhat an easy task. There are so many great spots around here that sometimes seem to get overlooked. But Notre Dame campus really does have some of the best places around for photographing an engagement session. Beautiful tree lines, always changing colors, outstanding landmarks, and a random fun fact, no power lines!
When sitting down during our initial consultation, Jackie & Alex wasn't too sure on where we wanted to go for their e-session. We chatted for a little while on where to go and landed on Notre Dame campus for the engagement session. You don't have to be a football fan to appreciate the backdrops either, it's just all around a gorgeous place.
One of the best things I love about these two is their sense of humor. They were constantly laughing, making jokes and just being silly, which looks GREAT on camera. The way they looked at each other while standing in front of my lens showed me exactly what kind of a relationship they currently have and of course the one they'll continue to build together. One of laughter, love, embrace and an accidental kick to the groin when their photographer asks them to "play around"... My bad.
Enjoy the photos! <3 :P
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes.
Every morning the moment I wake up on a wedding day I always lay in my bed under my covers and wonder how the weather will play its role in the day's events. You can never truly trust the weatherman in the Midwest, we more believe in what stories the sky through our windows will tell us.
That specific morning of Leah & Billy's wedding, much like every wedding day morning, I pulled back my curtains with a slight hesitation and saw... that it was going to be a sublime day to craft some images for these two wonderful people. After one long wedding day checklist and a few cups of coffee later I drove through South Bend on my way to capture their wedding day at Morris Park Country Club.
Entering the country club I am escorted to the ladies’ getting-ready room and I can hear laughter echoing through the halls. I am greeted with Leah in the stylist’s chair having her hair done and a smile on her face, which almost never left the entire day. Moments after arriving, Leah’s bridesmaids Lauren & Lindsay, brought her an album filled with wonderful notes and memories for our bride to reminisce to. Joyful tears would fall from our brides’ eyes onto the album leaving another memory for them to find at a later time. Much to her surprise, her groom would be sending wave after wave of thoughtful gift after thoughtful gift.
With Leah’s hair looking flawless she was ready to move to the makeup artist station to be pampered by "Enhanced by Ashley". With the stroke of a brush, a bit of eyeshadow applied and a smidge of eyelash glue Ashley stood by the promise in her business' name. She didn't make Leah look like someone she was not but only brought out the best of Leah's already wonderful features.
Moving through the hallways we'd find the entrance to the men's locker room where Billy and his groomsmen were to be getting ready. There are typically a few different kinds of grooms that we wedding photographers get to see. The "laid back" groom; the "emotionless till I see her" groom; the "sweating profusely" groom; and then there was Billy. Excited, nervous, relaxed, proud, in love. Billy would be kneeling on the ground wrapping presents with such purpose that no Christmas gift has ever been so joyfully wrapped. You could tell this day meant just as much to him as it did for Leah.
Moments before all the guys were about to be getting ready, a few of the bridesmaids brought Billy a gift. They exchanged hugs and laughs as Billy is presented a box. He reached for the gift and opened it to find himself a brand new and beautifully crafted Michael Kors watch. Grinning ear to ear he began to examine it knowing it would go perfectly with his tux hanging upon the wooden lockerroom door. Billy asked the ladies to send Leah his appreciation right before he moved to his locker to finish getting ready. Our ride would be arriving shortly to escort everyone to the ceremony location.
One of the first things you’ll notice when entering the main area of Summit Church is the stage. It’s very interesting, and quite intriguing to look at. It made for a wonderful backdrop to the ceremony. Before the ceremony took place one of the first things we wanted to do here was to allow Leah & Billy a moment for just the two of them. They would stand around the corner from one another unable to see their lover's eyes but were allowed to hold each other’s hand.
The two of them began easing their hands around the structure to find each other's embrace. Once the moment their hands touched they both were overcome with happiness, relief, and tears. Love is powerful that way when you don’t even know how to control your emotions just from the fact you touched the person you love. That is powerful. That is love. And these two have loads of it.
Leah holding a small black box had one last present to give her soon-to-be husband. Something to let him know just how much she loves him and also to never forget just how lucky he is... Upon regaining his composure after looking through his gift, Billy told Leah he loved her and headed for the ceremony. If he would have been made to wait there any longer I know he was going to toss the “rules” to the side and turn that corner so he could lay eyes on the one he was going to marry. With much restraint, they parted ways and stayed tucked back till it was time for the ceremony.
With every wedding I photograph, it always takes me back to my own wedding. I remember standing where Billy was standing, thinking probably the same thoughts he was too. Watching his bride walk towards him and not even realizing that these memories are being permanently inscribed into his being. He'll never forget her face, her smile, what he felt as she walked down that aisle, all of it. It's there forever. Billy looked at his beautiful bride and Leah floated towards her groom with the same phenomenon happening to her as well. As powerful as this moment is; it's over before you realize it. Words were given, their vows exchanged, and rings placed on one another's finger, the ceremony was over and two became one.
Mr & Mrs. Siderits.
Upon opening the church doors there parked our bride & groom's chariot; aka party bus but we're going to go with calling it a chariot, awaited to take our newlyweds to their reception. Equipped with a fine stereo and plenty of... Refreshments. The party had begun only slightly before the reception which always makes for great photographs during our portraits as well and this crew rocked them!
Walking through the doors of Morris Park Country Club I was very impressed with the design and setup they & Burns Rent-alls provided for Leah & Billy. Elegant silver chairs, soft white linens, and beautiful floral arrangements by Snapdragon-designs. I know both Billy & Leah fell in love with it as well. When entering the hall at MPCC where their friends & families stood awaiting to cheer them towards the head table they couldn't help but yell with excitement. When you have a crowd of a few hundred people cheering you into a room, it'll get you pretty pumped! With the adrenaline of being announced into their wedding reception, Leah & Billy embraced each other for their first dance as husband and wife.
With the ending of their song ringing throughout the venue and one more kiss to seal the dance, they went directly into cake cutting. This is where Leah lets everyone know just which tradition will not be taking place during the said cake cutting, that dress, that makeup, it's not going to be getting ruined.
Leah & Billy walked towards to the head table to sit down and listen to her father give his welcoming toast and blessing. It's moments like this I love to really pay attention to not just the bride and groom but also her father. Over the years watching his little girl grow up, like most fathers, it would at some point randomly cross his mind that he'd one day be giving this exact speech. During his toast you could see all those memories playing out in front of him, the home movies in his mind as he looks at his beautiful daughter and thinking how proud he is knowing he was apart of her life and able to give her away to the man she loves. It's truly special.
Soon the bridal party would follow with their own speeches that filled the room with caring words of wisdom all the way to roast-like commentary. It was a fun and loving room, you could really sense it, especially when it was announced that dinner was to be served.
Now that everyone was fed it was time for the Father/Father/Daughter dance. Yes, you read that right and like the gentlemen those two men are they each had a chance to dance with the girl they both hold dear. From there Billy took the dance floor with his Mother and they both proceeded to enjoy their dance together as she got to dance with her now married son.
First dances are done, the cake has been eaten and stomachs are now settling. Rick Mitchell of Black Diamond Productions announces that it was time for the bouquet & garter tosses. A chair is pulled up for Leah to sit in as Billy must go and retrieve her garter. What Billy doesn't realize is that the garter Leah is wearing is sporting the colors of Leah's favorite football team, Michigan. Billy is an MSU fan in case you didn't know... Hence his reaction but don't worry, he quickly tossed it.
After the tosses, the crowd jumped into an open dance, a conga line, a dance-off and Grandma taking the hand of Rick our DJ for the evening and breaking it down a little bit herself. For this photographer, the night was coming to an end so we took the guys outside for a late night cigar shot to top it all off. It was the end of a perfect wedding with two amazing people.
Thank you, Leah & Billy, for allowing me to be apart of your wedding and I cannot thank you both enough. I hope these memories last you and your families for the rest of your lives. I appreciate you both from the bottom of my heart and thank you for everything.
Wedding Planning, Set-up & Décor – Elena Dunn & Staff, Morris Park Country Club | Food & Beverage – Executive Chef Brian Steinway & Staff, Morris Park Country Club | DJ & Lighting – Rick Mitchell, Black Diamond Productions | Chairs and other rental items – Burns Rent-alls | Floral Centerpieces, Bouquets, and Church Décor – Chandra Dover, Snapdragon-designs | Cake and Cupcakes – Crumb Crossing Bakery
Videography – Courtlan Gordon
Throughout my time as a photographer, it took me a few years to come around and try my hand at attending bridal shows. Fellow photographers have previously told me that being apart of a bridal show can be stressful and sometimes putting together anything more than a few photos and tables just doesn't seem worth it. Now while I agree a giant 8ft orange wall can be a tad tasking but I believe you get back what you put into not just your booth but with your clients and those you interact with!
Sometimes just interacting with one another via email or text has us all come off more formal than we normally might be and it's increasingly difficult to show your actual personality over that medium. Attending a bridal show for me is quite vital as it allows me to get in front of my possible clients and for us to truly see each other's personalities, even if only for a bit.
It's these reasons that I absolutely LOVE attending bridal shows! It allows me to be face to face with people instead of sitting behind a keyboard. WeddingDay put in a great show for us vendors to showcase our products skills and of course our personalities!
After the ladies were done showcasing these dresses all that attended the WeddingDay bridal show was treated to a slight quirk on the catwalk as it was now transformed into a "dogwalk". Many people these days want to include their "fur babies" into their wedding and they encouraged their brides to do just that and with floral accessories for your babes by West View Florist & Gifts your pup can look great on your wedding day as well.
Check out the fashion show images below as well as photos from our photo booth too. Thank you all for coming and making it such a great show! :D
And of course the wife and I had to jump in the photo booth. ;)
The morning of this shoot was quite the busy day but I was happy to have met up with Jen & Todd at the Round Barn Winery in Baroda, MI. It was a beautiful morning with the sun still a bit lower in the sky and a bit of dew drops slowly evaporating in its arrival.
Starting with their first outfits we walked around the property and stopped at the little white bridge with the pergola in the back. The two of them barely needed any help with directions as they were just naturally enthralled with one another's presence, it made my morning very easy.
Now here is where you might have seen the pineapple and are wondering, WHY? Now, it's a bit of a secret as it's intended to be a bit of a surprise for their guests on the day of their wedding, but come closer to the screen and I'll tell you... Psyche.
After a sip or six we decide to mosey our way over to the seemingly endless vineyards that Round Barn has to offer where the two of them enjoyed each others company as I captured it all. A few moment later, once we decided we could move on from the vineyard, it was time to retrieve the adorable old soul that is the wonderful K9 known as Tauric. He's so majestic, in every way possible.
Photographing their engagement session as well as their little family was such a great time and it means so much to me when I get the chance to do so. Thank you Jennifer & Todd for allowing me to spend the morning with you all and getting to know you. I greatly appreciate you both and I know your wedding day is going to be a blast.
Driving to Michigan City, Indiana, on my way to the Friendship Botanical Gardens my typical pre-photo shoot ritual is basically just blasting music in the car (Gorillaz) and getting pumped before every session. This mainly involves me singing and dancing in a boxed shaped car (Honda Element, orange of course) and if any onlookers spotted me, it probably would have been pretty entertaining for them. This, of course, doesn't really further the plot of the day in any manner, I just enjoy me some Gorillaz and random storytelling, lol.
When I arrived at the gardens and looked up at the sky I had some mixed emotions. It was a decently cloudy day which can be great for wonderful soft and even lighting but I also really enjoy having the sun to backlight and light to play with. Thankfully my thoughts were heard as the sunset we had later that night was honestly one I will remember for a long time to come.
Walking around the botanical gardens with Lisa & Jack was great because the location is just beautiful. They have plenty of flowers and colorful trees as well as areas that allow for beautiful pockets of light, plus their dog, Annie, just loved the place!
Once we had finished with the garden, it was onto the beach! Michigan City has some beautiful beaches for people to flock to. Sure, during the shoot it was a tad windy and cold but it was entirely worth hanging out with these two and the photos! Trekking through the sands of the beach and back to our vehicles, we moved down a bit to a more grassy location to get some better footing and a change of scenery.
This happens every time but at some point in an engagement session, there is that moment when everyone becomes so relaxed with what's going on that some of the best photos start to come to life without any thought behind it.
On those grassy hills with my camera in hand and as the ghost of Bob Ross started to paint in the beginnings of a beautiful sunset is when Jack & Lisa really started to open up to one another. Thier love for each other, playfulness and willingness to embrace one another started to shine in front of my lens. That's when the sunset started to pretty much begin to melt our faces in its beauty as it showcased the city of Chicago off in the distance, more clearly than any one of us had seen before.
Thank you SO much, Lisa & Jack, for allowing me to capture these memories for you both. It truly means the world to me that you've trusted me with not only your wedding photography needs and your engagement session but your acceptance in allowing me to craft this imagery for you that will last a lifetime.
The morning of Anita & Kyle's wedding started with such a beautiful semi-clear sky and warmer temperatures that helped with one great beginning to a wedding day. When we arrived Anita and the girls were getting ready inside of the Lakeville United Methodist Church, down the hall from their ceremony location.
Anita and her girls have quite the sense of humor I must say as I loved hanging out with them! Going through that morning and taking detail photos I could see the gleam in not only our bride Anita's eyes but also from her Mother. She was so proud and elated knowing that her daughter was too soon be walking down the aisle with her father towards her soon to be husband.
The ceremony was beautiful, tears were shed, and a bond between two wonderful people was made.
Upon entering the reception hall I just was not prepared for what I was going to walk into... A candy bar and a balloon castle... Are.You.Freaking.Kidding.Me!? It was so amazing seeing all the hard work that went into preparing not just the reception but also that entire balloon castle, fit for our king & queen. :)
I cannot thank you both enough for having me and may you two have wonderful and beautiful lives together. Thank you for allowing me to spend one of the most important days of your lives with you both.
St. Patrick's County Park has always been a great place to photograph couples. This is where we decide to take Brittney & Jonathan, as well as their kids, for an engagement session / mini family session. A lot of clients I have always say they're not good in front of the camera but that's because they don't realize once they stop paying attention to me and start paying attention to each other instead, that's when the best photos happen. And these two did an outstanding job being in front of the lens. Cannot wait to photograph your October wedding. :D
Malinda & Chick were a lot of fun to photograph. These two are so in love and it's amazing. I got the chance to walk around downtown Saint Joseph Michigan as well as on the beaches of Tiscornia Park. It was a wonderful day, beautiful weather with a focus on two adorable people that very much enjoy each other's company. I am so thankful I got to be apart of this. Cannot wait to photograph their wedding day in May 2018.
And YES... Once we were finished with the session, we decided to jump into Lake Michigan for a quick dip! Lol. I mean, we HAD to, right. ;)
Ashley & Torrey are two very unique people and I am so glad to have photographed the both of them. It's not often you get an engagement session out in Vandalia Michigan to photograph two people in love with ATVs, the outdoors, beer and of course, each other.
I cannot thank you both enough for inviting me to capture your wedding day.
Sara & Ethan had a beautiful wedding in South Bend Indiana at Clay Methodist Church with their reception across the way at St. Andrews Greek Orthodox Hall. It was a beautiful day and we had a blast being apart of their major life event that was their wedding day.
A few years ago I got to photograph Katie & Ian's wedding where I was able to meet Katie's cousin, Sarah. She was a blast at the wedding and a handful of years later when she decided to get married she told me they didn't even bother looking because she knew I was the one they wanted to photograph it... Yes, I almost teared up when they said that, lol.
Being able to stay with a family as they all grow and allowing me to capture their precious moments is an amazing feeling and I greatly appreciate them all, not only as clients but as friends. As well as being very kind hearted and warm they're also just all some pretty amazing people.
Sarah & Cody's wedding took place at the Van Buren Youth Camp in Van Buren MI. Most of their family and friend attended this camp throughout the years and this was also where Cody first met Sarah, while working in the kitchen. Many great memories were had at this youth camp and it was just perfect for them to have their wedding celebration there as well.
Having the chance to capture a few loving moments for Brooke & Bryan meant a lot to me because these two were just SO adorable.
We met at the Booneyville Mill Park in Bristol Indiana. At the start of the engagement session, it began to lightly sprinkle down a bit of a rain. Luckily we had the mill to walk under and take a few photos.
After a few minutes of photos under the cover of the mill, the skies began to clear. With this Brooke & Bryan were able to bust out their picnic basket for a quick snack, some smooches, and smiles.
Check out the photos for the story of their fun picnic.
St Joseph Michigan is such a beautiful space for engagement photos! The sun didn't decide to poke out for the evening but no matter, adventure time.
Had such a great time hanging out with Justine & Cody. We just walked around the area and went on a hike around St Joe for the evening and it was quite nice to just chat and hang out for a few hours.
I cannot thank Justine & Cody enough for hanging out with me for the day and entrusting me with their wedding. It truly means a lot to me.
This is part 1 of their engagement session.
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Congratulations, Megan and Race!
On February 18th, 2017, beauty Megan and her beast, Race, tied the knot at the gorgeous Potawatomi Greenhouse and Conservatory in South Bend, Indiana. Complete with tropical plants, waterfall and quaint garden, the warmth and inviting nature of this idyllic location was perfect for their truly enchanted wedding ceremony.
Starting off the day at Kalon Hair Lab getting her hair styled by Kimmie as well as her beautiful makeup from Makeup by Keria. Megan was rockin’ her new-blue-do and a pair of bright yellow converse shoes, Megan looked awe-some as she walked down an adorable Beauty and the Beast themed aisle runner in her stunning strapless corset style A-line wedding dress by Bonnie Bridal. Totally loving the mix of heavy bead detailing, tulle and lace!
Equally as dapper was her beast-to-be, decked out in a Heather Grey three piece suit, navy blue vest and tie, courtesy of Louie’s Tux Shop, plus a pair of stylish brown dress shoes. Megan also made sure her ladies were comfortable in theme-complementing red converses and beautiful navy blue dresses.
Megan and Race exchanged their vows with a lush green backdrop and plenty of natural light pouring through the conservatory greenhouse, certainly making for one heck of a fairy-tale wedding! Once the I Dos were sealed, the celebration continued on at the Hedwig Memorial Center, where Beauty and the Beast’s enchanted rose in a glass dome centerpiece display awaited the newlywed couple.
Known for its Polish food, the center catered a delicious Polish style family served reception dinner. Sweet-toothed wedding guests also delighted in vanilla cupcakes with the choice of either blueberry or strawberry filling as well as peanut butter jelly filled cupcakes and cheesecake bites… while the newlyweds enjoyed a vanilla cake to themselves. Yum!
Perhaps the most “mystical” detail of the night, however, came in the form of a dancing T-Rex dinosaur? Hah, loving it!
Wishing the newlyweds much love and happiness!
#BrideTip: Remember the day is about you and your husband, not everyone else!
I write this post now on the one year anniversary of Olivia & Joseph.. These two are absolutely amazing people with kind hearts and always full of laughter.
I am honored that they believed in my skills as a wedding photographer and entrusted me with capturing these precious memories so that they may last them for years to come. I know without a doubt that these two will make it for the long haul and can't wait to photograph the next big event in their life.
If you're in need of a wedding photographer and live near the South Bend, Notre Dame, Chicago or Grand Rapids area, fill out the form below and let's connect!
In downtown South Bend, Indiana around the South Bend Chocolate Cafe Race, Meg, myself and my wife (assisting) walked around taking photos in the freezing winter weather. But it was SO worth it! I love taking these pre-wedding photos.
If you're in need of some pre-wedding photography, don't hesitate to contact me.
South Bend | Notre Dame | Chicago
On a cool fall morning Leah & Bill met me at Leeper Park in South Bend Indiana for their engagement session. I am so glad these two didn't mind that morning chill because I really enjoyed how the images came out.