The Buck Hotel Philadelphia Wedding | Meg and Chris
Meg & Chris need to win the world record for “most big life things accomplished in one year” for 2021 🤣 These two got engaged, bought a house, attended 5 billion weddings and had their own wedding at the end of the year to cap it all off!!! Meg & Chris, if you’re reading this, I hope you had lots of time to rest and soak it all in these past few weeks 🙂
Meg booked me way back in January or February of 2021. We stayed in touch periodically, as she and Chris were on the fence about engagement photos. Then I decided to have a session giveaway on Instagram in August, and lots of couples & individuals entered for a chance to win a free one-hour photo session with me of any kind. I entered all the names in a random name generator and was ECSTATIC when Meg & Chris’s names came up as the winners!!! We were going to do an engagement session after all 🤩 (You can see their free session riiiiight here!!!)
After getting to know Meg & Chris a little better during their engagement session, I felt even more excited and much better prepared to photograph their wedding in December. The plan was to get married in the church they both grew up in 🥺 (even though they didn’t meet till later), pile into a school bus, head into the city for wedding party photos, then ride the bus back up to northeast Philly for their reception at The Buck Hotel. Solid plan, right? I couldn’t wait to end my first full year of wedding photography with a bang!!!
I arrived at the hotel where Meg was getting ready about 15 minutes early, as per usual. I met her bridesmaids and got my things together as Meg had the finishing touches applied to her hair while wearing her monster fuzzy slippers (that I was immediately jealous of lol). I walked around the room to get a few getting ready photos of the girls before asking one of her bridesmaids to help me carry Meg’s dress alllll the way down the hall into the lobby (she was the first MVP of the day … stay tuned for the second bridesmaid MVP!!) where there was better lighting for the detail photos. Another wedding photographer was actually just leaving that area with a different wedding party and had left their speaker playing music while we were there — we hit the jackpot for detail photos!!
I’m pumped with what I was able to create in a short time with the dress pictures (hung up in a precarious position on the curtains of the lobby windows) and the rings & invitations (the comfy chair had a surprisingly nice texture!). As soon as I was wrapping up, I got word that Meg was ready to get into her dress!! Perfect timing 🙌🏼
Meg looked absolutely STUNNING in her dress. Like, wow. I photographed her mother & matron of honor buttoning up the beautiful lace buttons on the back of her dress and managed to get a few mirror shots of Meg observing the process. As per Meg’s request, I got some fun photos of her bridesmaids being super dramatic and touching her dress with big smiles — she had done this picture at one of her friends’ weddings this fall and wanted to re-create the picture for her own wedding! Before we knew it, it was time to head to the church.
I arrived at the church before the ladies so I could get some groom portraits of Chris before the ceremony … but he was nowhere to be found!!I made a mental note to make sure I got some solo shots of him later on before the craziness of the reception began. Instead, I got a few scene setting photos of the outside of the church and met up with the gals as they ushered Meg into the back room to hide before the ceremony. There, I got some candid photos, some more portraits to show off Meg’s dress & flowers and orchestrated the first look with her dad!!
Suddenly, it was time for the ceremony to begin. I got in position and tested both cameras to make sure I had my settings correct right before Chris’s mom started walking down the aisle with the ring bearer and flower girl! I turned around and got a quick shot of Chris shaking the ring bearer’s hand before returning to my original position to photograph Meg’s family and bridesmaids. Before she and her father walked down, I noticed the backlighting of where Meg & her dad were standing while they were getting directions for how to walk down the aisle and snapped a quick photo, making a mental note to do black & white to amplify the backlighting. Just photographer things 🤣
Then the music changed. Everyone stood up and turned around to witness the bride looking like a literal princess as she walked down the aisle toward her beaming groom. Chris had the BIGGEST smile watching his bride approach. Meg & her dad embraced, and she & Chris shared a quick kiss as they held hands and prepared to be married.
They had a Catholic ceremony, so I mostly stayed on the outskirts and used my zoom lens to photograph the couple while making sure I got some wide shots of the (beautiful) church to set the scene. I made sure I got at least one solid photo of each speaker they chose to be part of their wedding, and I tried to only use flash when it was necessary so as not to disturb the service. One of the benefits of Catholic ceremonies is that because they are longer than the typical modern ceremony, it gives me the opportunity to get creative with my angles and composition — more time for the creative juices to flow!
Then it was time!!! Meg’s maid of honor AND matron of honor (yes, she had two MOH’s and you should too!!!) fluffed her dress to fulfill their duties and got in position to watch their beloved Meg say “I do” to a lifetime with Chris. The wedded couple said their vows, slipped their rings on each other’s fingers and sealed their union with not one, not two, but THREE kisses before raising their interlocked hands and turning towards the congregation in celebration!!! Meg & Chris looked at each other and shared the biggest smile EVER before returning to their seats for the rest of the mass. (Right after the sign of peace, one of the groomsmen tossed something to Chris on the altar that he caught and quickly put into the pocket of his suit jacket. My guess is half of his boutonniere fell off when he was hugging friends & family during the sign of peace! 🤣)
After communion, where Meg & Chris waved hello to some friends & family members, the newlyweds walked over to the statue of Mary to say a prayer while the vocalist sang Ave Maria. Chris rested his hand on Meg’s shoulder while she knelt in prayer, which made for a super sweet moment. Then the mass was over – the priest gave some closing comments before sending Meg & Chris back down the aisle as Mr. & Mrs. Waninger!!! (And the crowd went wilddddd ahhhhhhh!!) Chris got a high-five in the aisle and I directed him to kiss his WIFE with the cheering congregation in the background! Congratulations to the Waningers!!! 🥳
We got through most of the family photos in the church right after the ceremony – I always find it’s near impossible to get formal photos once cocktail hour begins so immediately post-ceremony is usually the best time for these important family pictures!! After we got those taken care of, the wedding party loaded onto their school bus and I followed them in my car as we made the trek to Franklin Square for some Christmas-themed photos before the sun went down.
I got right to work photographing the bridesmaids all together then individually with Meg before switching to individual groomsmen photos with Chris (we got a solid groomsmen group pic at the church). I snapped some fun photos of Meg & Chris before Amy, the matron of honor, established her MVP status by getting us all onto the carousel in the middle of the square!!!! So now I can officially say I’ve ridden a carousel on the job 🤣 While we were in line, a BEAUTIFUL image popped into my head of Meg & Chris kissing with the carousel spinning behind them — I had to make that happen!!!!! I quickly got Meg & Chris together, adjusted my camera settings to make that picture come to life, instructed them to kiss, and made one of my favorite bride & groom portraits to date. No joke. Meg & Chris, thank you for following along with my spontaneous ideas!!!
I mostly stayed on the outside of the carousel, getting creative with my photos while the wedding party enjoyed their children’s ride in full on suits and dresses. It was so much fun!! I hopped on the moving carousel (which made me feel pretty cool, not gonna lie) to get some stationary photos of Meg & Chris riding the carousel before the ride ended. We then got a full wedding party picture in front of all the lights and I was able to snap a few more romantic portraits of Meg & Chris on our way out!! (Remember Amy, the MVP who got us onto the carousel? She became the DOUBLE MVP by kicking an annoying sign out of the way for those romantic portraits!! Cheers to the matron of honor, everyone!!! 🙌🏼)
We finished pictures just in time – I mean it was practically nightfall by the time we got on the road to head back north for the reception! I got there before the wedding party and photographed some scene setters & details before guests began arriving. The space quickly filled up with people talking, laughing, drinking and eating delicious appetizers (I helped myself to a few cheese squares!). I bopped around from here to there, trying to photograph as many candid smiles as I could and even getting some cute shots of the kids interacting with each other!
Instead of the bridesmaids & groomsmen pairing up for individual entrances, they all walked in single file to super fun music and gathered around to cheer on the newlyweds. Meg & Chris entered to the sound of applause, hoots and hollers with their hands raised high and huge smiles on their faces!! They waved hello to their loved ones and shared a kiss before getting in position for their first dance. They twirled around the dance floor to a song by the Black Keys, a relatively unique song for a first dance which is always cool to hear since I witness so many first dances! Chris spun Meg out for the finishing move to show off her dress as the crowd stood in applause!!
The DJ moved right into toasts as Meg & Chris took a seat at the beautifully decorated sweetheart table. (Take a close look at Chris’s socks here and you might be able to make out the Philly Phanatic!!!!) Meg’s sister and maid of honor Kathleen led off the toasts by talking about how incredible of a human being her sister Megan is and how excited she was to welcome Chris to the family. She ended her toast with a welcome gift to Chris as a nod to the Simpsons — a pair of cufflinks!! Chris immediately put them on as his first best man stepped up to make the second toast. It was obvious from the beginning that Chris was super tight with his buddies, and this first best man had the crowd roaring with laughter. He ALSO ended his toast with a gift to Meg & Chris … a massive bottle of Smirnoff Ice!!! (Marking this as a first for the bride & groom to be iced at their own wedding!! 🤣) Chris obligingly took a sip before hugging his first best man. Then the second best man gave his speech. He echoed a lot of the first best man’s speech about how great Chris was and had the crowed in fits of laughter before making the final toast of the night. It was very obvious that Meg & Chris are well loved and are surrounded by a fantastic group of supportive friends!!
We moved right into parent dances after the toasts! Meg and her dad sang together as they moved slowly around the dance floor, waving to the crowd as they finished their dance! Chris and his mom began with a slow dance (during which his mom may have shed a few happy tears) ended with an all-out dance party that some of his family members joined in on in the middle of the dance floor!! I’ve photographed a few parent-dances-turned-dance-parties, and let me just say, I am a massive fan!!!
Right after the music ended, it was time to cut the cake!! Bredenbeck’s Bakery did a freaking fanTASTIC job on Meg & Chris’s 5-tier cake with figurines that looked just like them and hidden Philly Phanatic on the back!!!! The Buck Hotel wheeled the cake into the middle of the dance floor for the cutting (a very nice touch by the venue, I might add) so the crowd had a better view of the special moment. The newlyweds nicely fed a piece of cake to each other — it looked like it was super tasty!!!
As the entrees were beginning to be served, I asked Chris if he wanted to gather his family together for a “formal” photo since we weren’t able to do one at the church. He said yes! so we made our way down to the photo booth in the back, where I took lots of photos of Chris with his friends and a massive family picture that more and more people trickled into until finally the last person slid in on the floor to complete the picture!!! I made sure I took enough photos to avoid that one person blinking and gave them the thumbs up, which resulted in a loud cheer. I’m glad we got that photo in before it was time to go!!!
Mr. & Mrs. Waninger, congratulations on your marriage and on accomplishing an insane amount of big life events in 2021!!! I wish you lots of joy & happiness in the years to come and a less busy schedule in 2022!! Lol 🤣 It was an honor to document your big day!! Cheers, y’all 🥂💛
Vendors who made this day as special as it was:
Venue: The Buck Hotel
Dress: Sposabella Bridal
Men’s Wear: Indochino
Hair: Beauty FX by Leann
Makeup: Underground Artistry
Florals: Your Poppy Flowers
Cake: Bredenbeck’s Bakery