Ella and Grace: the happiest outdoor wedding at Mayowood Stone Barn

A little backstory

The thing you should know about Grace and Ella is that these two have an incredible love story. 

Ella and Grace are both nurses - they met through friends in college, and got engaged a couple years ago in November. They were just beginning to plan their wedding when life happened: Ella in a nurse in the Army Reserves, and they learned that she was going to be deployed the following summer. They debated whether to get married before or after her deployment, but when Grace’s grandfather’s health took a turn for the worse, they decided to make it happen asap. One week later, they exchanged vows with a cozy, intimate ceremony in their living room surrounded by their important people, and officiated by a dear friend. 

A few months later, after their wedding but before Ella’s deployment, I met Ella and Grace when I was looking for a queer couple for a styled wedding-inspiration shoot that I was putting together with Chelsea, a wedding dress designer from Modehaus. When we met Grace and Ella, we knew they were the perfect couple for that project. They were so willing to share their love with us and we had a beautiful photoshoot - and for Ella and Grace, it seemed so fun and special that they were able to take part in some of the dressed-up, fancy elements that weren’t part of their original ceremony. It was really meaningful to give them some romantic, happy pictures to cherish while they had time apart.

As Ella left for her deployment, they began planning a wedding reception for after she would return - and I was incredibly honored when they asked me to photograph it. It was an emotional, joyful day, so full of community and celebration.

Their Mayowood Stone Barn Wedding in Rochester, Minnesota

Ella and Grace’s wedding day was sunny and beautiful - I arrived with Tyler (my partner and second photographer) to Mayowood Stone Barn, and we began out photography with candid getting-ready pictures of each of the brides preparing for the day with their wedding parties. Ella actually grew up right across the street from Mayowood - she had always wanted to have her wedding at the barn, which is really sweet. There was this great moment when one of her next-door neighbors walked across the street to the barn, and brought Ella and her bridal party a plate of hot chocolate chip cookies! It was a very cute (and very Minnesota) moment :)

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Grace and Ella decided to do a “first look”, where we documented a moment when they saw each other for the first time on their wedding day. They were both so happy and full of love and light - we spent a little time wandering the grounds of Mayowood Stone Barn and taking full advantage of the bright sunlight and the lush green nature surrounding the venue. We got pictures with their bridal parties and their families before the ceremony, so that afterwards they’d be able to dive into celebration mode and focus on their community. 

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Outdoor Ceremony under the tree at Mayowood Stone Barn

I focused on candid, emotional photography during their outdoor vow renewal ceremony at Mayowood Stone Barn. Grace and Ella love nature and loved the idea of an outdoor ceremony, so Tyler and I tried to incorporate natural elements and a sense of place into these images - walking away a bit for a far-away image showing the full ceremony site and tree, or shooting through some leaves for a surrounded-by-greenery effect in some candid ceremony pictures. 

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Some of my favorite ceremony pictures are the simplest, iconic moments - Ella and Grace each walking in to their ceremony and embracing their parents, seeing their crowd cheer for them as they renewed their vows to each other, and this celebratory recessional walking out of their ceremony - they look so victorious and happy and I honestly get tears in my eyes every time I look at this picture. These two had such a journey leading up to this moment, and it was such a joy to be able to capture the community and celebration and love that they share.

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Dinner and Dancing inside Mayowood Stone Barn

One of my favorite moments during their reception were the heartfelt toasts that their siblings and parents shared - I think that literally all four of those toasts made me cry, but then Ella and Grace took my breath away with their message to their guests. They stood up and thanked their parents and their community for coming together to celebrate them - and then they thanked the members of the LGBTQ community who had come before them and fought for marriage equality. They said that when they first kissed, they were not legally allowed to get married. And now, here they were - married and surrounded by family and friends at the happiest wedding reception. It was an incredibly powerful moment, and a reminder of the importance of love and community and fighting for equality. They left me with goosebumps and tears and all the feelings. 

Throughout Ella and Grace’s reception, I worked to capture as much of their community as possible - from the two of them greeting guests at their cocktail hour, to everyone dancing and having a blast at the end of the night. As the sun got low in the sky, I did sneak off with these two for a few romantic portraits at sunset - I love how warm and golden the light was at this time of day, and these pictures feel so relaxed and romantic.

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Ella and Grace, where do I even begin? I have so loved getting to know you both and am grateful that we are now friends!! The light and love that you two share is undeniably special, and it’s been such an honor to be your photographer. Thank you for everything!!

Alyssa L-K