Here at APW we like to close out the year by rounding up some incredible weddings executed by real live humans rather than trend-boards or styled shoots. And every year this roundup shows us the extent to which there really are no wedding “rules.” How the “coolest” weddings are always the ones where folx are being unapologetically themselves, something that y’all are really, really good at—even though it ain’t always easy. As longtime APW photographer Neva Sullivan said:
Long before I was a photographer, I was (and still am!) a devoted APW reader. There is truly no safer space on the internet for such a diverse, thoughtful, and respectful community to come together and help one another navigate the often fraught waters of modern wedding planning and everything that goes along with it. The prospect of serving this particular community through my art fires me up. I get so excited to work with APW couples because, to be frank, they kick so much ass.
And I mean, based purely on these stories and photos, y’all really do kick serious ass. So without further ado, here are some of the most amazing weddings of 2019 brought to you by some of our favorite APW wedding vendors:
Emma and Jaime found me through APW and had a small heartfelt celebration that really focused on all the good stuff and left out a lot of the wedding nonsense folx tend to get hung up on. They made sure to have a great space, surrounded by the people they loved, with incredible food and drinks, and some little details that really pulled everything together and perfectly represented the two of them.
After their first look they created a crystal grid and set intentions for the day and for their marriage. We walked around Red Hook and took their portraits in the most gorgeous late September light, with a requested stop in front of Ikea!
Marianna and Jonathan are hands-down some of the funniest, most delightful, and kindest human beings I’ve ever met. Their wedding was full of warmth from their community, from their ceremony that included most—if not all—of their wedding party to their reception where multiple family members were hoisted for the hora, every bit of their day felt like a huge party your closest friends were throwing: A true celebration of the two of them as a couple and as amazing people.
Seth and Harrison’s wedding was pure magic. They held their ceremony on the bow of a vintage ferryboat. As the DJ started spinning ABBA, the lights of the Seattle skyline started blinking in the distance. Okay, I hear you. I’m writing this now and it sounds like too much… but everything about this wedding was honestly the best! It’s hard to describe without going into platitudes. And Seth and Harrison? They are two of the smartest, funniest, sweetest guys we’ve ever photographed. Their wedding was a clear reflection of their incredible personalities. And their dance party was off the hook!!!
Nikkie and Rob are huge fans of Disney and it has played an important role throughout their courtship. It was befitting that their wedding was an enchanted Disney-inspired party full of personalized touches and DIY details. As an artist, Nikkie wanted to take the time for every guest to feel unique and special with handmade details. Each guest table and name-card was themed to different Disney characters while family and friends got to rock the photo booth with constructed decorations and props (Ariel’s shell bra and the giant Mickey Mouse popsicle plush were fan favorites!) One of my absolute favorite details from the day was Nikkie’s green wedding dress which she paired with star-studded socks and a gorgeous pair of Harriet Wilde shoes. All of the amazing thoughtful details aside, the thing that stood out the most for me throughout the day was the love and tenderness that Nikkie and Rob not only had for each other, but for their family and friends as well. It was such a joyous, heartfelt occasion!
One of the most fun moments of any Indian wedding is a horse-drawn Baraat. Priti and Ryan’s was particularly fascinating because they came down a main street in Berkeley riding on his horse!
Emma and Aaron’s colorful and whimsical wedding at the Chauncey Conference Center in Princeton was magical. For a summer wedding, they embraced color—in the color ribbons Emma’s mom put together at their ceremony site, to the coral and teal colors of their wedding party (where each half was appropriately called bridesmates and groomsquad), to the florals on their wedding cake—color was everywhere, including a rainbow’s appearance after a brief rain shower.
When we talked with Cara and Will for the first time on the phone last year, what stuck out to me was that they were getting married in an industrial venue that was completely white, and they wanted color to be central to the wedding. Cara got so excited just talking about it. Flash forward to the day before the wedding, which happened to be Halloween, and Cara, Will, and their wedding party were all dressed up (Cara and Will as a precious ringmaster and lion) at the rehearsal, which made for a hilarious practice down the aisle.
The next day as the ladies were getting dressed, one by one they came out in the most fashionable, confident outfits I’ve ever seen from a wedding party. Cara, with the most stunning, studded gown, was a sight to behold (at the end of the night, Cara changed into an insane sequined pantsuit that turned her into a sparkly, confetti-ed fairy). Hop to the venue, in a very industrial part of town situated next to a train yard. We enter the space and take in the most STUNNING floral situation I’ve ever seen. Cara, who works at FLWR Shop herself, said she wanted it to look like a confetti explosion, and that was definitely achieved. Cara was part of a clowning troupe in high school (Patch Adams’ son, Cara’s dear friend, officiated the wedding!) and clearly this embodiment of visual joy was bursting from person to person, flower to flower. Meanwhile, Will, a graphic designer, designed the cohesive, modern menus and invitations for the day, as well as making the colorful backdrop to the ceremony.
Cara and Will ooze creativity, and let their wedding be a giant collaborative project to share their talents. I’d never been to a wedding like it, but it honestly didn’t feel like a big production BECAUSE it was so them.
From the first type I video-chatted with Khush and Josh I knew we were going to be lifelong friends. Khush is one of the most compassionate and loving people I’ve met. Her laugh and energy are infectious and she lights up a room. Her vibrant personality perfectly compliments Josh’s quiet strength and together they make such a sweet team. From the ceremony to the dishes at their reception, their wedding was the perfect blend of their families and cultures. The day was full of color, vibrance, texture, kids, and the most adorable dog. But most importantly it was full of joy.
Nicole and Andrew went from being wedding photographer colleagues to realizing and admitting that they’d fallen in love with each other. Their wedding was an intimate gathering of their closest family and friends with almost no resemblance to a “traditional” wedding. But it was an amazing evening to enjoy and celebrate the unlikely fact that they’d found each other!
Reb and Rob are two of the most fabulous people I’ve met. When people tell you to throw away the rules of the Wedding Industrial Complex they are probably telling you to make your wedding true to YOU, just like Reb and Rob did. This wedding was full of homemade and unique touches and took place in a public park with rainbow bridesmaids dresses, hay bales, cozy blankets, a lovely grill out, a tiramisu cake, and an absolutely fabulous bubble machine. Reb made her own dress from scratch, Rob’s friends played their favorite Motown vinyls to get the party started, and an amazing time was had by all!
Kendall and Tracy had their wedding at a speakeasy behind an old theatre/restaurant. What could be cooler? They didn’t want to have your typical wedding with a bridal party in matching outfits—they just wanted to have fun, spend time with everyone they love, and have a killer dance party. They totally accomplished every bit of that and included some personal touches in their dessert table which had rainbow cakepops with #loveislove on them, shortbread cookies decorated to honor their favorite football teams, and cupcakes that look like their kitty cat (who super sadly, was not there in person). They also made sure that all of their vendors were local womxn-owned and -operated businesses!
Bayzha and Matt were all about keeping it intimate and relaxed. They had family coming in from out of town so they really went with a super San Francisco vibe. They landed on the trendy and happening Mission District to give everyone a taste of the vibrant city vibes. Pre-ceremony, the couple drove around with their rad photographer Paul from Hazel Photo to some SF hot spots (including the awesome colorful murals the Mission is famous for).
This couple was all about having a non-traditional wedding, but still honoring each other’s love. For the ceremony, Bayzha walked down the aisle with her grandmother. Instead of a bouquet, she opted for a sweet floral headband. Dinner was served family-style so that all of their guests could interact with each other and the food. Every step of the way, this couple was thinking about how to make their guests feel welcome and comfortable. They even purchased to-go boxes so guests could box up leftover dinner and dessert for a midnight snack!
Hanna and Kathryn are two of the most happy and goofy people who know how to be super present and enjoy each and every single moment. Kathryn asked for a surprise for the wedding day—thinking something like jewelry—but Hanna turned it around to pick out the grandest of surprises for her partner. A hot air balloon! It was a year in the making logistically and the longest kept secret Hanna had ever kept. Kathryn nearly fell on the ground when she saw it as they walked through the trees from ceremony. It was stunning to watch! These two were all about creating a beautiful and unforgettable party—and I personally will never forget it.
In the midst of stressful wedding planning every couple dreams of eloping, but how many actually pull the trigger and just do it? After seeing how much their “dream wedding” would cost in California wine country with a guest list inflated by their parents and getting an instant stomachache à la The Good Place’s Chidi, they just said SCREW IT and started thinking about what they actually cared about: What would be the most fun?! Narrowing in on wine and natural beauty, they stumbled into an intimate space on Lake Como and then invited only their closest friends and family to come adventure with them to Italy.
The highlight, though, was probably their mode of transportation: A private speedboat they rented since it’s the fastest way to get around the Alpine lake. Lianne and Dan were feeling a little nervous before they headed off to the ceremony and had a million things running through their minds, but when they got the chance to be alone together (well, except for the captain and photographer), all their troubles washed away. Whipping around Lake Como they were reminded of why they trekked halfway across the world: To celebrate their love on their own terms and just have a literal boatload of fun.
I have known Dave for some time. He and I worked on our fair share of weddings together before he and his girlfriend, Betia, set out for Tokyo, Japan to start the next chapter of their lives. When Dave and Betia reached out to me about photographing their wedding in Guatemala, I was expecting the traditional twenty- to thirty-person reception, but this wasn’t exactly a destination wedding. This was more of a coming home wedding for Betia. It’s rare to see so many people from so many parts of the world come together like this, but the way we saw them interact with one another was amazing. There was so much love and passion poured into this reception. Dave’s friends played the guitar and sang for their first dance, family brought homemade food, and everything was locally grown and harvested from the community. It’s hard for me to talk about this event and really put it into words. Dave is one of those people everyone should know, and Betia is someone nobody can forget. Getting to know them better was such a privilege and I’m honored that I could be there for them on their wedding day. Antigua will forever hold a special place in my heart as one of the most welcoming places I have ever visited.
Emily reached out to me to make her a few faux flower arrangements for her wedding. She was literally the chilliest client I have had to date and when she told me about her and her husband-to-be’s wedding vibe I was every bit of jealous! They got married at Glen Echo Park in Maryland which is a vintage amusement park-turned-venue… I KNOW. They got married on the night of a full-moon and incorporated a lot of moon and stars into the decor. Their colors were deep jewel tones and had a vintage, mid-century modern feel to match their super unique venue! It was such a pleasure designing a bouquet (and the other pieces) for Emily and Kyle. Emily was so down to earth and made it apparent she wanted to have a thoughtful wedding to celebrate each other, rather than an overly extravagant display for just one day. Emily and Kyle are who I think of when I think of an APW couple!
As soon as Daniela and Kaylee reached out to me I knew it was meant to be. They were so open and real with me over the phone as we spoke about the reasons why they were choosing to elope thousands of miles away from their home. This was going to be their first time in California and only the second time they had ever seen an ocean!! They hopped in the car in Texas with a couple of friends and drove out to meet me telling me they just wanted two things: to elope at sunrise and spend time at the ocean and left the planning and location scouting to me. Having such an intimate experience together and being one of five people witnessing their vows bonded us forever. I LOVE that they made their own rules and traditions and took the leap to elope, which isn’t always easy. They spent money on what mattered to them. PS: Their dresses are from Amazon so don’t let anyone tell you that your outfit needs to cost lots of money money, honey.
Kayli and Niles are both artists—they convinced all of their New York friends to fly across the country to join them at a ranch in the desert in Joshua Tree. Every single person was up for the adventure and so openly appreciative and grateful, especially the couple. Kayli hunted down old rugs all year to use as the dance floor, and she and her friends put together these simple, beautiful sunflower arrangements for the table and her dress was a $12 dollar silk amazing thing her best friend found shortly before the wedding. We all gathered for the ceremony in the middle of a desert tundra at sunset and then some of us danced in a barn and other guests huddled up in blankets around the fire while coyotes howled in the distance. Close to midnight, the couple surprised us with a truck that came rambling up the dirt road with hot fresh churros for everyone. I think I said “I love my job” twenty times that night.
Zajj and Dawson wanted to create something utterly, honestly true to them, rethinking a love celebration from top to bottom. In the end, they weren’t swayed by the idea of what a wedding is “supposed to be like”. They kept traditions that resonated with them, and eliminated the ones that didn’t work. Nothing was off the table. Friends and family decorated the space with hand-made rainbow decorations…including putting up nearly ONE THOUSAND paper cranes that everyone had folded over the months leading to the wedding. Zajj didn’t wear a white gown. She chose to wear a bold, red dress… because…she liked it. They walked in to friends and family singing “The Rainbow Connection” and ended their ceremony with everyone singing “Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by the Proclaimers. They had two officiants—a close friend from each of their sides. Who says you can’t have two officiants? Twice the stories, twice the love. When emotions got high during the ceremony, Zajj crossed the aisle and stood right next to Dawson. No rules to be followed. No cautiousness in sight, just freedom and celebration.
Kristine & Taylor had a truly hip Brooklyn wedding, complete with a pizza pit stop, family-style Italian food with an intimate guest list, and custom ice cream served in Kristine’s own waffle cones!
This wedding was held at Kaylynn’s parents house—her family spent an entire year redoing their property to turn it into a dreamy wedding venue. Every detail was thought out, and being able to see a Queer couple surrounded by SO much community and family and friends was truly special. Their joy was contagious and their thoughtful hand-written vows made everyone cry. They planned their wedding around an October full moon and had a witchy moon theme to their whole day—it was absolutely stunning.
Dieter and Eduardo found me on APW and we immediately vibed. Their wedding was a culmination of the life they’ve shared—their love of travel (Eduardo proposed on an airplane), food (their first date was burritos at El Farolito) and family. Family joined them from Austria, Brazil and all over the States. They had pizza, tacos, and sushi at their wedding, plus an amazing coffee experience from Hedge Coffee. I loved the getting ready portion which took place in their home in the Castro District. Their ceremony itself took place at San Francisco City Hall, where they had the entire building to themselves and tied the knot on the Grand Staircase. Their stuffed bears that travel around the world with them were also part of the wedding ceremony!
This couple planned a Brooklyn wedding in some of the coolest spots. They had their ceremony at Domino Park and then the reception at El Cortez in Bushwick. It was s super fun day from the beginning, you can tell they are both artists but they have a very kind attitude. They made everyone feel so welcome, which we truly loved. It was also great to see how the girls took over the dance floor and you could feel a kind of energy that was really vibrant and empowering.
Leigh Ann and Andrea chose a bouquet from Bash and Bloom made from pages of their favorite books from their favorite writers. We walked around Capitol Hill, even crossing the famous rainbow crosswalk. They both really prioritized their portraits—to capture themselves right now and be able to look at those for a lifetime, which I loved. Sometimes it feels like you’ve spent months or years planning and the details you’ve put into are priority but here’s a tip—you are the priority. Set aside a first look in a romantic spot (a parking garage overlooking the city was perfect), get away from the reception to grab a drink together at Whisky Bar, and surround yourselves with things you love and can’t wait to talk about later. Oh, and consider a rad orange-dipped dress by Wai Ching Studio.
BUT REALLY, ALL OF YOU WHO GOT MARRIED THIS YEAR HAD THE BEST WEDDINGS OF THE YEAR. SO IT’S THAT TIME. SHARE YOUR PICTURES IN THE COMMENTS!