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outdoor wedding ceremony at tavistock country club in new jersey

Tavistock Country Club Wedding | Dawn and Lou

I knew from the moment I spoke with Dawn over the phone this past spring that she and I would get along super well. What I didn’t know was just how well we would get along.

Usually I have two calls leading up to my clients’ weddings: one to go over the photo timeline I created specifically for their big day and a second one to review the timeline and make sure there were no last minute changes to their wedding day. Dawn’s second call was different from most — she texted me earlier saying she had a surprise in store for Lou and that she needed my help pulling it off. I got super excited … of COURSE I would help her surprise her soon-to-be husband on their wedding day!!! I gave Dawn a call and we discussed the plan (which you will see pictures of further down this blog post). But then the conversation morphed into a general catch up phone call, just talking about life and our love of small towns and how we handle our significant others yelling at the TV during Steelers games 🤣 It was so lovely just chatting with her about non-wedding things! That phone call made me even more excited to document her big day 🙂

Getting Ready

I arrived at the venue a little early to make sure we had plenty of time to get all the pre-ceremony shots in. When I walked into the bridal suite, my jaw hit the FLOOR … Dawn looked absolutely STUNNING in her dress!!! She proudly told me that she got it for $200 on a second hand website (excuse me, what?! Yes, queen!!!) and twirled to give me the full view. Wowowow, I could NOT wait for Lou to see his bride walk down the aisle (for more reasons than one … stay tuned!)!!

I got to work right away photographing Dawn’s details — her rings and Lou’s wedding ring, their purple invitations, and their one-of-a-kind garter, a Steelers/Eagles combo!!!! Lou is the BIGGEST Steelers fan, but Dawn’s family are Eagles people, so there were lots of football references throughout the night which was honestly so much fun. I took some photos of Dawn with some of her favorite people in the bridal suite before going downstairs to get some getting ready pictures of Lou and his groomsmen (which were actually his sons!). But when I got downstairs, there was nobody … Lou hadn’t arrived yet!!!! Ohhhhh crap, I thought to myself. But I took a deep breath and told myself not to panic. We still had a solid 30 minutes before the ceremony! So I decided to take some advantage of the extra time and grab some extra photos of Dawn getting ready, including a special portrait of her holding a rosary that Lou’s late mother passed down to her for their wedding day! I could tell that this was a super special detail for Dawn so I made sure to focus on it throughout the ceremony.

A few minutes later, I decided to try again to see if Lou had made it on time — thankfully, he did!!!! I brought him and his sons outside to take advantage of the beautiful landscaping for some pre-ceremony portraits. I also got some incredibly cute photos of Lou and his grandson (who was a straight-up MODEL). Before we knew it, it was go-time. I got my gear ready and headed outside for the ceremony!

Ceremony

I grabbed a few shots of the crowd filing into their seats as they waited for Dawn & Lou to approach the arbor. I found the DJ and discussed our secret plan before getting into position for the ceremony. The wedding party walked in looking beautiful and paving the way for the gorgeous bride. I made sure I had a good view of both Lou and Dawn to grab his reaction to seeing his bride. The guests stood up right as Dawn appeared from the shadows with her father, bursting with joy and smiling from ear to ear. I got Lou’s reaction (which was fantastic) and some solid shots of Dawn walking slowly with her father. Then I stood up and signaled to the DJ — it was time. The music stopped for a minute and there was complete silence for two heartbeats before a soft sound came from the speakers: “Ohhhhh Mama, I’m in feeeear for my life from the loooong aaaarm of theeee lawwww” … Dawn decided to surprise Lou and his family by walking down the aisle to RENEGADE by Styx, the Steelers theme song!!!!!!!! I mean the crowd LOST it with laughter, and Lou literally started crying and said “I can’t believe I get to marry this woman!!!”

The ceremony was very laid back while still being incredibly sweet and romantic. Dawn & Lou were careful to only invite loved ones that had played an important role in their lives, so the entire day felt like one big family/friend reunion! They each wrote their own vows to each other, which often leads to lots of happy tears (yes, this rang true for Dawn & Lou!). During the affirmation of his wedding vows, Lou joked that “as long as she lets me have 17 weekends out of the year to watch the Steelers, I do!” And Dawn replied firmly and with a smile, “I DO!!!!” The two sealed their union with a kiss and walked hand-in-hand back down the aisle, waving at and high-fiving their loved ones along the way!!

Cocktail Hour

The cocktail hour that immediately followed the ceremony (I mean, they were literally steps away from each other!!) acted as a massive reunion party! There were so many hugs and smiles and waves all across the board! I stayed in the shadows, capturing candids of these moments while giving space for the newlyweds to greet their guests. After about 15/20 minutes of this, I approached Dawn and asked if she wanted to rally the crew for family photos while the crowd was still mostly together! She and Lou gathered their families together with impressive speed and we got to work cranking through the family pictures. The light was getting increasingly prettier and prettier (it was peak golden hour!), so after checking the last family photo off of my list I told Dawn & Lou that we MUST do at least a few bride and groom portraits to take advantage of the perfect light!! They happily agreed and we got some beautiful portraits of the two of them right near the spot where they said their vows.

Reception

The Steelers surprises continued with the grand reception entrances – the DJ (who was AWESOME, highly recommend, click HERE to see his website) rallied the guests before the entrances by asking everyone to pick up their cloth napkin and wave it around their head to mimic Terrible Towels, the sea of yellow in the Steelers stadium!!!! Dawn and Lou LOVED IT, and it made for one of the most exciting entrances I’ve ever witnessed!!! I mean the crowd embraced it SO much and went CRAZY for their entrance!!! Biiiiiig fan 🙂

Dawn & Lou swayed to Elvis for their first dance (Can’t Help Falling In Love, a classic for a reason!). They had huge smiles on their faces as they soaked in the moment together. Dawn then danced with her father which was incredibly sweet. Then the dance floor opened up to the guests, and even though dinner hadn’t been served yet, there were quite a few people too excited to dance to wait on the food! I could tell this was about to be an incredibly fun reception.

Surprises

As if there already weren’t enough surprises, the newlyweds were suddenly ushered to the dance floor by Lou’s sisters. The DJ walked up to them and said, “So, I heard that you two are Mummers people. Unfortunately I didn’t bring any Mummers Parade songs with me. *dramatic pause* BUT … I thought a live band might be better anyway.” ENTER A MUMMERS BAND INTO THE RECEPTION!!!!!! Dawn and Lou were handed white and black Mummers umbrellas (respectively) and started marching around to the music!!! It was such a fun moment to be part of, photographing everybody going bananas to the music of the band. And the band did a great job — it was about a 10 minute set, not too short but not too long, just enough time to get some solid marching in!!!

Y’all, get this — ANOTHER SURPRISE!!! This time, thought of by Dawn & Lou for Lou’s son who was recently married. His son & daughter-in-law didn’t get to have a full wedding when they got married, so Dawn & Lou decided to gift them with a first dance at their wedding. Cue the tears. HOW SWEET IS THAT?! The two of them could not stop crying happy tears during their first dance, holding each other tight as they swayed back and forth to the music while everyone at the reception watched with massive smiles on their faces. I felt so honored to document that moment — it was soooo freaking special!!

Traditions

Before we knew it, it was time to start the traditions with the cake cutting. Dawn & Lou had a beautiful, multi-tiered wedding cake that they cut into together and nicely fed each other a bite of … well, until Dawn decided she wanted Lou to have a bit of icing on his nose 🤣 It was then that Lou noticed he had a cake just for himself – a Steelers cake, of course!! It said “Happy Wedding Day Lou”, sitting right there next to the large wedding cake. I got a fantastic photo of him holding the cake with a giddy smile on his face — this couple sure knows how to love each other!!

The bouquet and garter toss were up next! Dawn said that Lou didn’t want to do these traditions, but let me tell you, it did NOT look that way when Lou started dancing all around Dawn to take her garter off – he was loving the spotlight!!! It was a super fun moment and the crowd loved it!! It ended up being a couple at the wedding catching the bouquet and the garter; since they were already dating and comfortable with each other, they also put on quite the show for the crowd! Everybody was clapping and laughing and it made for a high-energy start to the dancing portion of the night (although let’s be honest, people had been dancing since the moment they walked through the reception doors!!!).

After an hour or so of dancing, which included a massive circle dance for Sweet Caroline where everybody joined hands and danced around the bride and groom, it was getting ready to be time for me to head out. I found Dawn and informed her that I would be leaving soon, and she said WAIT! Before I left, she wanted me to photograph a special moment that she and Lou decided to do last minute — they just found out that it was one of their guests birthdays, so they wanted to celebrate him!! Lou took to the stage and announced the birthday into the microphone, and everyone gave the birthday guest a round of applause which he greatly appreciated!!

That moment (and the rest of the surprises at this wedding) speaks volumes to how kind and caring Dawn & Lou are both individually and as a couple. They don’t hesitate to celebrate and show love to the people around them in ways big and small!! It was truly an honor to document their marriage and I know they will bless many people in their union. Congratulations Dawn & Lou, and I wish you a lifetime of love and happiness!! Oh, and GO STEELERS!!!!!

Vendors who made this day as special as it was:

Venue: Tavistock Country Club

DJ: Steve and Company

Photo Booth: Steve and Company

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- Melissa d.

“Gabriella was absolutely amazing!!! Words cannot even describe how perfect she was, but I’ll try my best. Right from the beginning, I knew she was the one. She was so caring, calming, organized, and just a genuinely happy person. She made me feel even more excited for my wedding. She was so helpful throughout the entire process right down to the big day. AND THE PICTURES - OH MY GOD. They are absolutely breathtaking and she definitely tells the story of your day in the most perfect way. She captures every precious moment while having a smile on her face the whole time she’s with you. I can’t say enough amazing things about her. I would absolutely recommend her to anyone looking to have the BEST photographer for any occasion. We had such an amazing experience with Gabriella and we can’t thank her enough!”

"Captures every moment"

- Dawn g.

“Gabriella is a very great planner, very organized and an absolute delight to work with. Her planning and organization helped me prepare for the big day without any fear that I left any important photo out. Her planning skills ensured I didn't miss any details. She is such a delight to work with she was even happy to help me with my little surprise I had for my husband, it went off without a hitch. She captured all the photos we could imagine....all the fun, sweet, sincere moments throughout the day. She even provided the photos to us in a timely manner. I HIGHLY recommend her; she's highly energetic, personable, easy to work with, a planner, organized, and she captured lots of beautiful pictures. She exceeded all of my expectations. She was such a great photographer.”

"Exceeded all my expectations"

- Melissa N.

Making my dream wedding come true!
Gabriella was hired by my (now) husband, as a surprise photographer for our proposal. She was phenomenal and we hired her for our wedding as well! Her energy and vision for our wedding photos captured every moment and emotion. She was amazing in every way. Her attention to detail and knowing what was important to me on my big day was awesome - she went the extra mile. I would 10/10 recommend her to any one wanting to capture beautiful moments in life - for their engagement, wedding, and more.

"She went the extra mile."

- Megan W.

Hiring Gabriella was one of the best decisions that we made during our wedding planning. From our very first conversation, Gabriella was warm & bubbly. She radiates positive energy that I knew that we needed for our big day. Gabriella has a vigorous work ethic and eye for detail. Her ability to transform any setting is pure magic. We enjoyed working with her throughout the planning process and are absolutely thrilled with our engagement and wedding photos (which she had edited and back to us in less than one month!).

"One of the best decisions"

- Lisette & Tyrus b.

What can we say about Gabriella Marie Photography. There are so many words to describe the amazing job Gabriella did on our special wedding day. Gabriella will not only shoot your wedding, she can help you design what your wedding will be. She is there every step of the way. She has amazing attention to detail. Before the big day, Gabriella has a plan that will ensure that your day will be spectacular. She is always available via text, call, direct message, FaceTime or Zoom. Gabriella is the absolute best photographer ever. The best quality that she has is that she is more than a photographer, she is a true friend. She cares about her clients and makes us feel like a trust-worthy friend is there to help. For example, she sent my wife and I a pre-wedding care package. This gift proved to be so valuable for us while dealing with wedding stress. This gift was the most thoughtful thing my wife and I ever received. A simple thank you is just only the tip of the iceberg with regarding Gabriella Marie Photography. Everyone please check out our new friend Gabriella. Trust us, she is worth every penny and more.

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