I’m not going to lie: winter weddings are my favorite. Maybe it’s because it’s already the most wonderful time of the year! Maybe it’s because it’s the season I was married in! Maybe it’s because the first wedding I ever photographed was in the winter! There’s just something magical about it!
Donna and Chris’s wedding was no exception! It was more magical than you could’ve dreamed! Here is the story of their wedding day!
It was a cold morning in December. A slight dusting of snow was on the ground as the girls arrived at the Sanctus Spa and Salon in Latrobe. The forecast wasn’t calling for much more snow, but I was hopeful that there would be some!
Donna and her girls began getting their makeup and hair done, and I arrived at the spa shortly after. I was in awe of how beautifully it was decorated for Christmas! Twinkle lights and Christmas decorations were everywhere, filling the room with cheer. I was so surprised at how huge the salon was! There was actually another bridal party getting ready at the same time and our paths hardly ever crossed.
One of the bridesmaids had a little girl who was just adorable! She came all snuggled up in her snowsuit and fuzzy hat.
As I looked around, I realized one of the bridesmaids was missing. I always get a count of how many there are beforehand, that way I don’t miss anyone when taking photos. I was in tears when Donna told me she had been diagnosed with cancer earlier that week and wasn’t going to make it to the wedding. Still the wedding must go on, but there was a lingering sadness in the air.
As the girls finished up at the salon, they headed over to the Hampton Inn & Suites. It’s the hotel right next door to Chestnut Ridge Resort, where they’d be getting married at! They relaxed for a bit, ate some sandwiches and made sure they were properly hydrated before heading over to the Chestnut Ridge former spa area. They were going to get ready in one of the empty rooms!
I had been there almost exactly a year before for a wedding, and that room had the most gorgeous natural light! I was so excited they were able to use it to get ready in!
Donna’s girls helped her get her dress on, and her mom placed the finishing touch with her veil. She was stunning!
Meanwhile, back at the hotel, the guys were helping Chris get ready! Liz (my second shooter for the day) was there to capture some moments, and she headed outside with them for some group photos while the girls were getting ready. We could just see the tops of their heads out the window from where we are, and Donna got to sneak a peek at her soon to be husband.
The coordinator came in and told us we could go right out the side door to take some photos before the ceremony on the patio! I sent a quick text to Liz to make sure they were back inside before we headed out.
Fresh snow had fallen right before we got there, and a nice blanket of white covered the golf course. It wasn’t extremely cold, which was nice! But the bridesmaids had warm scarves and Donna had a gorgeous knitted shawl to keep herself warm.
Then it was almost time for the ceremony to begin! I headed up to the ballroom which they had sectioned off. The ceremony was all set up and ready to go. I had been told that morning that Chris had a twin brother…AND they were identical, but they had done their hair differently. I had met Chris once before at their engagement session in Pittsburgh. I was pretty confident I’d be able to tell the two apart. I walked into the room and there he was! So I walked over to say hi. He was a little standoffish, but said “Hi!” and responded “I’m doing well.” When I asked him how he was doing.
A few minutes later, the REAL Chris walked into the room and I busted out laughing from embarrassment. They weren’t lying when they said they were identical! I had mixed them up already. Thankfully, they didn’t try to play a switch on Donna and the real Chris was up at the front when she walked down the aisle.
It was finally that time! The big golden doors opened, and in walked Donna with her dad. As she walked towards Chris, it was with longing eyes as if they hadn’t seen each other in months. If you remember from their engagement story, Donna and Chris spend months apart at a time because of their jobs. They had only arrived in town together the night before, for their rehearsal.
They had a unity sand ceremony, exchanged their vows and rings, and then had their first kiss as husband and wife!
Everyone in the room was cheering as they walked out.
They went to a side room to celebrate and wait for their family so we could begin family photos, and something happened. The coordinator came running into the room and said she needed the groomsmen to come help. Chris’s grandmother had fallen and couldn’t get up.
Everything stopped for a minute as all the guys ran out to help her. After a few minutes, they realized it wasn’t good. The staff called an ambulance and they took her to the hospital. Everyone was devastated. Unsure of what to do next, I recommended we postpone family photos until later during the reception. We decided to head outside for bridal party photos as it was starting to get dark fast.
As we got outside, Donna’s garter fell off. In a hilarious moment, Chris turned around, trying not to peek as her sister helped her put it back on.
We had such a great time in the snow with the bridal party. I don’t think I heard one single complaint even though it was cold!
Afterwards, I spent some time with Donna and Chris before we headed back inside to warm up.
Nearly all of the decorations were handmade by Donna. She is incredible at graphic design. Everything came together perfectly for their Starry Night themed wedding! Even their cake was right on point! The cake topper was a constellation globe which I absolutely loved.
The ballroom was filled with excitement as DJ Bob from Powerbomb Productions got everyone fired up for the evening!
Then those big golden doors opened again and there they were: Mr. & Mrs. McClain!
We listened to some toasts from the best man and one of the bridesmaids. One of their out of town guests even snuck in his own toast!
They began their dances and DJ Bob had the dance floor crowded the entire night!
The dancing continued through the evening, and we stopped at one point to do family photos in the bar and cookie table room across the hall! Everyone was busy dancing so the room was pretty empty and a perfect spot.
Donna & Chris had planned an anniversary dance for all the married couples at their wedding. When it was time, some of their family wheeled Chris’s grandpa out to the floor. Even though grandma wasn’t able to be there for the reception, they were still the longest married couple at the wedding! Everyone was in tears. It was one of the most beautiful and thoughtful moments I’ve ever witnessed.
The night ended with one big circle of family and friends, singing and laughing together.
You just never know what surprises are going to come your way on your wedding day! I can truly say, Donna and Chris were so happy to finally be married. In that moment, nothing else mattered.
Wedding Venue and Coordinator: Chestnut Ridge Golf Resort & Conference Center
Bridal hair and Makeup: Sanctus Spa & Salon
Wedding décor: DIY by the Bride & friends
DJ, Uplighting, & Monogram: DJ Bob from Powerbomb Productions
Wedding Dress: MB Bride
Cake & Cupcakes: Chestnut Ridge Catering
Photography by: Lasting Memories by Ellen
Assistant Photographer: Liz Capuano