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A groom embraces his bride from behind as they stand in the garden of Fairlee, Vermont. Image overlaid with text that reads Fairytale Lake Morey Resort Wedding in Fairlee, Vermont

Natural Beauty and Fairytale Charm

Catherine and Kyle wanted a whimsical fairytale garden feel for their celebration, and this Lake Morey Resort wedding truly delivered the magical atmosphere they were hoping for. They had their ceremony in the garden space of Lake Morey Resort because it’s a beautiful spot that doesn’t need too much decoration. The luscious trees and flowers were gorgeous enough to do all the heavy lifting here!

Later, we went right down to the shore of Lake Morey for some spectacular photos at the edge of the water. The natural beauty of this Lake Morey Resort wedding was so simple but so pristine. It looked like a dream come true.

Tiny Details Made this Lake Morey Resort Wedding Special

Something that made this wedding extra special was the flowers. The couple chose to work with Cedar Circles Farm, which had a “pick your own” option for bouquets. Catherine and Kyle were able to visit the farm and pick out the flowers that they wanted, and the Cedar Circles team made arrangements right from the ones they chose! The end result was totally gorgeous.

Another detail that really stood out to me and elevated the event was that the couple had a cupcake topper that was a replica of their dog! Their pet couldn’t make the trip to their Lake Morey Resort wedding with them, but they made sure the whole family was represented anyway. 

Planning Makes Perfect

I loved helping Catherine and Kyle have the wedding day of their dreams. I worked closely to help them plan their weekend and make the day run smoothly. This included creating a detailed timeline in advance so they wouldn’t have to stress about anything on their wedding day. In the end, everything worked out perfectly! I’m wishing them all the best for their life together.

If you’re looking for a wedding photographer and you like my style – let’s talk!


Flowers: Cedar Circles Farm
Venue: Lake Morey Resort

Fairytale Lake Morey Resort Wedding in Fairlee, Vermont

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Bride and groom sharing a kiss in a lush green location at a ranch; image overlaid with text that reads The Ultimate Ranch Wedding Planning Guide

There’s an undeniable charm to ranch weddings – couples from all over the country, whether they have roots in agriculture or farming or not, are choosing to celebrate their love on beautiful ranches. If this is something you’re dreaming about, read on for my guide on planning a ranch wedding!

First things first: define your vision for your ranch wedding

One of the great things about a ranch wedding is that there are so many different ways you can style them. Do you want to really lean into the ranch aesthetic and have a Western-themed wedding? Or do you want to play with a contrast between the rustic surroundings and a polished and formal atmosphere? Are you looking for something warm and down-to-earth or a more pretty and whimsical aesthetic?

Bride and groom share a kiss under a makeshift wedding arch in front of a ranch as their guests look on

You have so many options open to you, so before you start to look for venues, make sure you’ve got a firm idea of the kind of event you want to create – that will help you assess how well each venue would lend itself to the look you’re going for. Here are few examples of aesthetics that would be perfect for a ranch wedding:

Cowboy Western

This is a classic theme for a ranch wedding. Cowboy hats, roast hog, and saloon drinks could all play a role. If you want to feature horses in your wedding, check out my guide to the perfect horse wedding.

Shabby Chic

When rustic charm meets beautiful taste! 

Floral Boho

The big spaces – meadows, barns – that you have access to as at a ranch wedding make these venues perfect for you to create gorgeous floral installations. You can really put your own stamp on the venue.

Seasonal

A Christmas wedding would be so wonderful on a ranch! You could have full-sized Christmas trees, bonfires, mulled wine, and, depending on your location, a layer of snow.

Location, location, location

Location is everything when it comes to planning a wedding, and that is particularly true with a ranch wedding. If you’re lucky enough to live out in the country with ranches and farms in your area, you can probably stay local. But plenty of couples who plan a ranch wedding are looking at a destination wedding. If you’re going to have to travel out of your area for your wedding and you’re on the fence about whether or not to hire a wedding planner, I’d really suggest that you go for it. A wedding planner is going to be invaluable in helping you choose the right location and navigate local vendors.

Now, as you search for venues, think about what you want in your day. A key decision to make is whether you want to be married on a working ranch or on a dedicated wedding venue. Working ranches have an unmatchable atmosphere, and many of them will have very polished wedding packages – but some of them will have lower rates but fewer amenities. You may have to hire things like tables and chairs, flatware, and sound systems for yourself. A venue that is dedicated to creating gorgeous weddings will have thought of all the little details that make your day go smoothly – but you might lose something in atmosphere and creative freedom. It’s all about what works for you!

Pick your season for the ranch wedding

For a ranch wedding, you’ll want to choose your time of year carefully. When you look into venues, talk with the venue manager and ask them what the weather is like around your date. If you’re going to spend any time outside – and in a ranch wedding, you most certainly are – it’s doubly important to be prepared. Heat is your main concern, but be sure to ask about wind – you don’t want fragile decorations or flimsy tents to be blown away, and no one wants to spend their wedding day fighting to keep their veil on!

Make sure that you, your wedding planner, and the vendors at the venue have a clear backup plan for if it rains – you want the peace of mind of knowing that if the heavens open over your cocktail hour, there’s a plan to move the event inside so that the fun can keep flowing.

Make sure you double-check the amenities that are available – what parts of the ranch have AC? And if you’re looking at a summer or fall wedding in higher temperatures, make sure you plan for that for your guests – with lots of hydration stations and shady spots for people to enjoy.

Choose a realistic wardrobe for your ranch wedding

This brings us to your wardrobe. A ranch wedding offers so much scope for fun outfit choices for you and your wedding party, but remember to keep it practical. If you want to wear heels, make sure you have some flats too to change into for walking through muddy paths or long grass – many brides opt for cowboy boots, which can be the perfect touch!

In the evenings it will likely cool down significantly, so if you’re going for an outdoor meal or a bonfire, make sure you have a jacket to go over your dress! For men, keep in mind that a full tuxedo might be too hot for the full heat of the day. The key is just to be fully informed on what you can expect on the day, and then plan accordingly!

Stay local with catering

Having a ranch wedding usually means that you have an abundance of fresh produce and products on your doorstep. Take advantage of this! Serve up locally reared beef or regional whiskey.

Whether you want to serve up a gourmet meal or keep it to simple, hearty food, it’s going to be so much better – and more special – if you know it was grown right where you’re celebrating.

Think about the flow of the weekend

One of the incredible things about choosing to have a ranch wedding is that you usually have a lot of space to work with – barns, meadows, saloons, porches.

Black and white photo of the bride and groom dancing under fairy lights after their ranch wedding ceremony

This opens up so many opportunities to create lots of special moments in the day. Think about moving through the ranch throughout the day – welcoming guests, ceremony, drinks, dinner, and dancing all in different spots. If you’re spending a weekend there with your guests, so much the better! Schedule various activities according to your theme for everyone to enjoy.

Final thoughts on planning a ranch wedding

As you can see, a ranch wedding has the potential to be a truly striking event for you and your friends and family! For more inspiration, check out my gallery of the gorgeous weddings I’ve photographed. And if you have any more questions about planning your own ranch wedding, get in touch!

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Bride and groom share a kiss in a baby blue pick-up truck; image overlaid with text that reads The Ultimate Ranch Wedding Planning Guide
Bride and groom sitting at the back of a baby blue pick-up truck as the groom cups the bride's face while they look into each other's eyes; image by Makayla McGarvey and overlaid with text that reads The Ultimate Ranch Wedding Planning Guide for 2021

The Ultimate Ranch Wedding Planning Guide

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Bride and groom embrace and pose during their wedding photographed by Makayla McGarvey. Image overlaid with text that reads Gather Estate Country-Western Wedding in Mesa, Arizona.

Merrill and Jana were married in Mesa, Arizona, in a beautiful and stormy outdoor ceremony. Their wedding venue, Gather Estate, provided so much freedom for the indoor spaces to flow into their gorgeous outdoor environment. The combination of luscious greenery with areas of classic Arizona desert landscaping at Gather Estate is so unique, and the mellow beauty of the architecture here really allows any couple to put their individual stamp on the place. Merrill and Jana turned it into an intimate celebration with country-western details.

A Country-Western Wedding

The whole atmosphere of this country-western wedding was filled with warmth. You could feel Jana and Merrill’s excitement, and it radiated out to all the guests at Gather Estate. This event was full of the special little touches that really craft an ambiance. All the groomsmen sported black cowboy hats, the bridesmaids and bride were beautifully styled by Braids by Ellie, and best of all, the bride had golden cowboy boots on under her dress.

In Rain or Shine, Sun or Storm

One of the most common questions I am asked is “Will you keep taking photos if it’s raining?”

The short answer? Absolutely.

At this wedding, a shower of rain struck right before the ceremony, which was planned to take place outdoors on Gather Estate’s green lawn. Instead of waiting for the rain to pass, the bride, Jana, was so excited to get married that she insisted that everything go ahead – rain or shine. Everyone grabbed umbrellas, and it ended up being an amazing ceremony – the rain didn’t stop it from being full of laughter and joy.

I loved the way that she chose to fully embrace the moment for what it was. Sometimes couples only want photos of the ‘perfect’ moments. But the real and raw are just as significant, and I will always choose to capture something authentic – a true-to-life memory for you to keep forever.

A Night to Remember

The good times continued after the ceremony to the reception dinner, also at Gather Estate, where the newlyweds played a game of ‘Mr and Mrs’ using their cowboy boots instead of paddles! Friends and family celebrated long into the evening, dancing the night away to DJ Flo Entertainment on an open-air dancefloor.

Looking for a wedding photographer to capture the real life moments? Let’s talk.


Venue: Gather Estate
DJ: DJ Flo Entertainment
HMUA: Braids by Ellie

Gather Estate Country-Western Wedding in Mesa, Arizona

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Images of a bride and groom posing with a horse during their wedding and overlaid with text that reads The Perfect House Wedding Everything You Need to Know.

Looking to celebrate your big day with majestic and loving friends? Horses are one of the most intelligent, powerful, and stunning animals on Earth. For the perfect horse wedding, you’re going to need to know a few things before you begin your big day with these brilliant creatures.

When & Where to Incorporate Horses 

First things first, you’ll need to decide during which parts of the wedding you want the horses involved, how much you want the horses involved, and where. 

Here are a few possible options to consider for horse placement. Feel free to incorporate some, if not all of them during your perfect horse wedding.

Grand entry

Option #1: Ride in style to the aisle on horseback or arrive by horse and carriage.

Option #2: Instead of walking down the aisle, ride down the aisle to make an unforgettable entrance. Be sure that your aisle is wide enough to allow for a horse to easily move through.

Grand exit 

If you prefer leaving your big day with a finale, riding horseback or being pulled by a carriage would be a sure way to conclude your day as one heck of a memorable horse wedding.

Bridal party pictures 

Have your bridal party pose with horses for a stunning photo session.

Option #1: Each member of the bridal party could have their own horse, or you could have a few horses for your party to pose alongside and/or ride. 

Option #2: Having horses in the background of your session for both the bridal party and/or the bride and groom’s pictures could make for a striking visual. 

Bride and groom pictures 

Have a horse prepared for both the bride and groom to pose with, engage with, and/or ride on. There are plenty of beautiful posing options when it comes to working with horses.

A bride and groom hold hands while walking up to pet a horse.

Miniature horse as your ring bearer 

Another fun option to incorporate into your horse wedding: have a miniature horse to carry the rings down the aisle. This would be one of the cutest highlights of the day, I’m sure. Be sure to have someone to lead your miniature horse, a flower girl or ring bearer, so that you can ensure a safe arrival of the rings down the aisle! 

Location is Everything 

When choosing the perfect location for your horse wedding, you’ll want to be sure to stay away from busy venues such as city locations or loud distracting environments. Because horses hear more than double the amount of sound as humans do, picking the right location is vital.

This will ensure that your horses stay relaxed and comfortable during your dream wedding. You wouldn’t want them running away scared or reacting in panic. No, for the perfect horse wedding, you’ll need the perfect location!

Suggested Locations for your horse wedding:

• Ranches

• Estates 

• Farms 

• Fields with gated areas

Locational Requirements

Within the location of your horse wedding, you’ll need to locate a place to rest and house the horses. This could be a barn or stable. This will ensure that the horses have a spot to return to when they are not needed and help them stay comfortable while they wait. A comfortable horse is a much better companion on your big day than an uncomfortable one, for sure!

Choosing the right location for your horse wedding will allow the horses to be properly prepared and well-taken care of throughout the course of the day. They will need a spot not only to wait but to return to when the wedding is over.

You’ll want to make sure the horses feel comfortable and safe, giving them time to adapt to the environment. Weddings can be a nervous and exciting time for horses. With all those people and all those fun activities, you’ll want to make sure your horses are having fun too.

Horse Trainer 

Having a horse trainer for your horse wedding is similar to the difference between a pinchy ill fitted shoe and the most beautiful shoe in your perfect size. A horse wedding without a trainer is a tight half-sized shoe that does the job, but not without a few blisters by the end of the night to show for it. 

A bride and groom kiss while standing on the road next to a horse pasture, photograph by Makayla McGarvey.

To ensure a beautiful wedding, you’ll want a trainer. It makes the world of a difference to have someone who knows how to handle horses when they are at their best, and when they are at their worst, on your wedding day. A horse trainer guarantees a seamless day and the horse wedding of your dreams!

Horse Trainer Research

Be sure to do some research to ensure you’re selecting the right fit for the job. Depending on your location, scout out some nearby ranches, and/or riding coaches to decide who would be the ideal trainer for your horse wedding.

Assistant Horse Trainer (Optional)

An assistant horse trainer would be someone who could get the horses’ attention for pictures and someone to take care of transporting them to different places throughout the wedding. 

Having an assistant to help with the horses will come in handy, especially if you are dealing with multiple horses. You and/or your bridal party don’t want to be preoccupied with handling a multitude of horses throughout the day. 

Be sure to pick someone who is not afraid to lead horses, tend to them in between events, and calm them down if need be.

Horse Wedding Pictures

Horse Photographer 

A horse photographer is vital when it comes to your horse wedding. You’ll want someone who knows how to capture horses so that your portraits and pictures are top quality. You’ll need a photographer who is not afraid to get close and has preferably worked with horses before.

Although the idea of having horses in your pictures is enchanting, snapping a picture of your bridal party on top of a horse whose head is turned, nose is flared, or ears are tucked, is not going to make for the prettiest of pictures. You’ll want to select a photographer who’s been around the block before and knows how to capture these brilliant beauties in their prime environment. I’ve photographed many horse weddings, elopements and engagements and to help you get a better idea of my work in this area, you can check out this Western Elopement gallery and my Sage Creek Ranch Styled Shoot.

Your Horse Wedding

Pre-Interaction

Before the festivities begin, you and your bridal party may want to spend a few minutes interacting with the horses. This will ensure a connection is made between horses and riders. This will also help to make the horse feel safe with its leader for the day, and overall, get you in the mood for your perfect horse wedding.

A bride and groom smile while walking with a horse during their desert elopement photographed by Makayla McGarvey.

Pro Tip: Have Horses Cleaned Beforehand

Have the horses cleaned beforehand so as not to ruin the wedding dress, bridal party, clothes, etc.

Horse themed games 

Now that the day has gone on, a few horse themed games would be a wonderful addition to your horse wedding! Here are some suggestions: 

• Pony rides for the kids
• Horseshoe throwing 

Horse themed decorations 

To add to the theme, here are a few horse themed decorations to consider:

• Horse shoes
•Hay bales
• Horse place settings 
• Horse themed cake
• Gifts to bridal and groom party (horseshoe cufflinks option men/horseshoe jewelry women) 

Your Perfect Horse Wedding 

Now that you know the steps it takes to complete your perfect horse wedding, you’ll be ready to have the wedding of your dreams. With the help of a horse photographer, trainer, and the right location, you’ll be sure to shine alongside some of the world’s finest creatures. Be sure to have fun while enjoying your stunning horse wedding and if you’re looking for more tips and tricks for incorporating horses into your big day, be sure to check out my blog, Tips for Eloping With Your Horses.

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A bride and room smile at each other while holding ropes attached to their horses during their wedding. Image by Makayla McGarvey and overlaid with text that reads The Perfect House Wedding Everything You Need to Know.
An image of a bride and groom petting a horse during their wedding overlaid with text that reads The Perfect Horse Wedding, Learn everything you need to know!

The Perfect Horse Wedding (Everything You Need to Know)

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A bride and groom look into each other's eyes and smile while holding the reins of their horses.

A wedding styled shoot at Sage Creek Ranch & Retreat Center

Brenna and Jake had a small elopement with family when they got married a while back. They didn’t have any wedding photos so this wedding-styled shoot was the perfect opportunity for them to get the wedding photos they missed out on.

I really wanted them to have some beautiful photographs that they could look back on for years to come. Thankfully this shoot turned out to be really special and romantic for them. Brenna looked stunning in her lacey dress and the cowboy hats really pulled this shoot at Sage Creek Ranch & Retreat Center altogether. Brenna’s lip color matched perfectly with her cowboy hat and it was such a beautiful touch!

The perfect venue for this styled shoot

The Sage Creek Ranch & Retreat Center in Tucson, AZ has a very western vibe to it so it was the perfect venue to capture this wedding-styled shoot. The sun was shining, the weather was perfect, and Brenna and Jake’s smiles were contagious. 

Looking at these photos, you’d think this was their actual wedding day because they were so overwhelmingly happy and in love. As the sun began to set, the golden hour light hit in all the right ways and the sunset was the perfect way to end a special day with this couple. 

A perfect day with beautiful horses 

Getting to incorporate horses into a couple’s photos is always something I love to do. I really enjoy capturing couples in their unique element and if horses are a part of a couple’s story together, I’d bend over backward to make it happen. 

These particular horses were very important to the venue owners so it was such a joy to involve them in this styled shoot. The horses made these photos even more majestic and beautiful. I loved getting to make Brenna and Jake’s photo dreams come true and I wish them all the best in their life together!

Do you want to know how to incorporate horses into your special day? Let’s talk!


Sage Creek Ranch & Retreat Center Wedding Styled Shoot in Tucson, AZ

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Specializing in Elopement & destination wedding photography

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