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southwest michigan wedding photographer::lvl photography

(click to enlarge)

(All photos copyright LVL Photography)

Leda gave me my choice of 2 amazing weddings to showcase—one was bright and dramatic, and the other soft and subtle. While I’m normally a sucker for some bright, beautiful colors, I was completely smitten with the gorgeous tones (and beautiful setting) of this wedding! Everything is so subtle and subdued, yet still so very, very beautiful!

Check out Leda’s website and blog for more beautiful eye candy!

sw michigan wedding photographer::lvl photography

(photo courtesy Terry Johnston-GR Flikr)

I worked a wedding with Leda of LVL Photography back in May, and she is such a fun and energetic person! She’s currently located in Cedar Springs, Michigan, but she’s a Southwest Michigan native, and you can find her here all summer shooting weddings. Here’s a little Q+A to get to know Leda!

How would you describe your style?
Fun. Real. Natural. I love capturing life as it happens.

How did you get into photography?
I can blame it all on two of my favorite guys. My dad and my son. Photography gave my dad and I a common interest when I was a kid, and it was also a way for him to challenge me and my eye. I took a break during college, got married, then our son was born. Tyler re-inspired me.  No training, just many hours of trial and error. The best part of photography is the learning is never over. Oh, wait…I do have training. I have a college degree in sales and advertising and many years of experience with customer service. *giggle*

What is your favorite moment during a wedding? Do you have a favorite image to capture?
I love the uniqueness of every wedding. There is always a favorite capture, but never the same one. I LOVE details. All the planning and creativity of each bride’s vision. I also love the romance and goofiest of wedding parties. That first meet, the “almost” kiss, a tender touch, and glances across the reception location.

What inspires your photography?
The search for something new, different, unique. I shoot because I love the capture. I’ll never forget my first “walk” around MSU’s campus looking at architecture as a subject and learning about long exposures downtown Grand Rapids. What it truly comes down to is I am inspired by my friends and family. They are a priceless tool to success.

What do you love about wedding photography?
I get to experience months of personal touches that go into every wedding. I love the locations, the details, first looks, incredible families, fabulous bridal parties, and the unexpected moments as the day flows. Seriously, what better “job” could I have? I get to spend the first most important day of a couples life with them! Would this also be the area where I can admit that weddings are a great means of exercise? *giggles*

What are you doing when you’re not snapping wedding pics?
I am spending time with my family. Playing with my kids, road trips, days at the lake, and projects around the house.  I love date nights with my husband, girls night out, and kicking back with a movie and ice cream at home.

Thanks Leda, for starting off Photography week! I’ve got to give a huge “Thanks!” to the photographers we get to feature this week! Stay tuned later today for Leda’s beautiful photo feature!

sw michigan wedding venue::the heritage center


(All Photos by Stella Event Design)

The Heritage Center (not so long ago, known as the Priscilla U. Byrns Heritage Center) is on Main Street in downtown St. Joseph. If you’re looking for an elegant venue, its greek revival architecture offers beautiful floor-to-ceiling columns (both inside and out) as well as a 2nd story balcony, chandeliers, beautiful murals, and huge windows. I may be a bit biased since I had my own wedding here, but this is a gorgeous location for a mid-size wedding!

Shepherd Hall, the main ball room, can comfortably sit 220 guests banquet style. I’ve seen it set up for many weddings, from 50 guests up, and this is the maximum I would suggest to leave ample room for a dance floor! (optimal space would be at 160-200 guests!)

The Heritage allows outside catering, as well as bringing in your own bartenders and beverages. It’s within walking distance of the downtown shops, restaurants, and the lovely Boulevard Inn overlooking Lake Michigan.

Joyce, the events director is extremely helpful, and is available most weekdays from 9-4 to answer your questions! The building is also open Saturdays 9-12 and Sundays 12-4 throughout the summer and fall to stop in and check it out! If you’re stopping by on Saturday I’d suggest stopping in before 11:00–the rooms will be set up, but you can avoid any run-ins with the wedding itself!


unique southwest michigan wedding venue::the blue dress barn

If you’re planning a wedding in Southwest Michigan, a must-see venue is  The Blue Dress Barn, located in Millburg, Michigan, just a short drive from St. Joseph. The beautiful historic “House of David Dairy Barn” was lovingly restored by husband and wife artists Amelia & Kirby Briske and they have done an amazing job of combining the original historic beauty of the barn, with some wonderful modern amenities!

The barn boasts over 4,000 square feet of space, including a beautiful dining area, dance floor and stage, all beneath a beautiful beamed ceiling, accented with wrought iron chandeliers. The paper lanterns strung around the room offer a wonderful ambience, and the lighting is absolutely beautiful for photographs! The barn can accomodate up to 280 guests, and along with the main barn area, has several balconies as well as beautiful grounds outside, including gardens, a fire pit, and a beautiful ceremony location…lots of opportunities for gorgeous pictures! Below, some pictures from the 2009 wedding of Lisa+Bart, by Stella Event Design. Photography by Kelly Powers.


The barn offers the use of outside catering as well as bartending/beverage service, which is a huge plus in my book, as you can choose a caterer that fits both your taste, style and budget! They also offer a separate bridal area for you and your bridesmaids to prepare! If you’re seeking a truly unique (and beautiful) location–The Blue Dress Barn should definitely be on your list!

Blue Dress Barn featured in Martha Stewart Weddings Fall 2008 Edition!


Megan+Greg at Mill Creek Barns in Watervliet, Southwest Michigan

Yana+Brannon at Shadowland Pavilion and The Heritage Center in St. Joseph, Michigan

Kate+Mitch at Shadowland Pavilion and The Heritage Center in St. Joseph, Michigan

Stefanie+Jim at Santaniello’s and Weko Beach in Bridgman, Michigan

Lisa+Bart at the Blue Dress Barn in Millburg, Southwest Michigan

tracy+david {foundry hall} 7.11.08

As promised, some of the lovely pictures of Fridays wedding of Tracy+David have arrived from Jen of JK Photography! She told me I would love these, and she is so right! Foundry Hall in South Haven is such an amazing space, with so much charachter (check out the b&w floors and that killer chandelier in the entry way!) and I loved working here!

For some more amazing pictures from their gorgeous beach ceremony, check out Jen’s blog—this was one beautiful wedding (and the incredibly beautiful bride+groom didn’t hurt, either!) She has one of my favorite dresses to date! Have a wonderful time on your honeymoon, and thanks so much for letting us be a part of your special day!


a southwest michigan wedding with 30’s style

Saturday I had the pleasure of coordinating for Claire+Chris, a fantastic couple from Washington, DC who tied the knot in New Buffalo! The ceremony took place at St. Mary of the Lake, and the reception was held at the beautiful Barker Hall in Michigan City, Indiana. They took from Barker Hall’s 30’s style, and wove it into a beautiful wedding with charm and personality.

I missed the first dance as I was running some errands for the bride, but Leda of LVL Photography captured it beautifully—aren’t they stunning!? They opted for live music, and Me and the Boys kept the night going with big band hits! I can’t say enough good things about the band–all 8 pieces! They were all super nice, and they did an absolutely amazing job–such a unique touch!
The amazing floral arrangements were provided by Flowers with Jazz (how appropriate) and they did an absolutely amazing job–the bride incorporated Bells of Ireland into almost all of the arrangements, as well as peacock feathers.

The dinner selection was out of this world, and Matt Kis of Great Lakes Catering did a phenomenal job with the presentation. Check out their “window display” of fruit–I love it! The menu consisted of chicken breast with an apricot honey mustard glaze, roasted prime rib, glazed salmon, an amazing salad bar, and green beans and potatoes that were delish. Not to mention Matt was so easy to work with, and bent over backwards all night to help us out!

The lovely Leda and Sasha of LVL Photography were on hand to capture all of the beautiful moments at this truly personal and fun celebration. They were a pleasure to work with, and you can check out more great pics at Leda’s blog! Thanks Claire+Chris, for letting me share in your special day, and hope you enjoy your honeymoon in Hawaii!

*All images copyright LVL Photography

fernwood botanical gardens

(photo copyright MONIKA PHOTO)

Another beautiful outdoor wedding location in Southwest Michigan! Fernwood Botanical Gardens is located on Range Line Road in Niles. Fernwood is a beautiful location for small, intimate weddings. Members are able to reserve an outdoor area and/or meeting room by calling the Visitors Center. The reservation fee, which can be found here, includes admission to all of Fernwood for your wedding party and a pre-specified number of guests (100 people maximum). Fees are based upon the total number of people attending the celebration, including bridal party, parents, and guests.

Thanks to Monika Caban of MONIKA PHOTO for supplying this beautiful photo! I met up with Monika for lunch on Thursday, to talk weddings and go over some of her work! She shared some of her beautiful photos with me, as well as some amazing albums she offers! She is such an open and genuine person, and focuses on the relationships and meaning of the day, to capture the “fleeting moments” of emotion that you will look back on so fondly! She’s done a number of amazing outdoor {and indoor} weddings in Southwest Michigan and beyond, so if you’re planning a wedding in Southwest Michigan, check her out!

weko beach house

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Weko Beach is located off of Exit 16 (I-94) in Bridgman, Michigan. The city beach is the little sister of Warren Dunes State Park. It offers a beautiful stretch of beach, along with picturesque walkways and overlooks built into the dunes. Also on Weko Beach is the beautiful Beach House, which is available to rent for weddings and other events. The building is directly on the beach and has 3 walls of windows facing Lake Michigan. The building is unavailable from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Now you just have to pretend the dune grass is green and beautiful and the trees are full and lush!

silver Beach, shadowland pavilion & the bandshell

I get a lot of inquiries from out of town brides (many from the Chicago area) looking for outdoor ceremony sites in Southwest Michigan. Unfortunately, unless you are familiar with the area, or have the time to really do some investigating on your own, outdoor ceremony locations can be difficult to locate for a destination wedding (unless of course you’re headed to a heavily travelled wedding spot such as the Caribbean).

Southwest Michigan offers some beautiful options for outdoor ceremonies. Kelly, one of my most recent brides, is from Chicago, and planning a destination wedding in Southwest Michigan. Since we’ll have limited time to look at venues together, I snapped some photos this weekend of potential ceremony locations. I thought I’d share for any of you planning an outdoor destination wedding in the area!

Shadowland Pavilion is just a stones throw away from the beach location shown previously. It’s situated on a corner between the St. Joseph River and Lake Michigan. The lighthouse can be seen in the background, and the dunes line the south side. There is even a beautiful sculpture in the backdrop! One thing I love about St. Joseph is that there is sculpture everywhere! There’s at least 6 different pieces along Silver Beach alone! The nice thing about Shadowland Pavilion is that is can be reserved, which means you are free to put up chairs, decorations, etc.! It can be reserved for 1/2 or a whole day, for a fee paid to the city. Also, in the case of inclimate weather, a smaller wedding could be brought up under the pavilion.

The John Howard Band Shell is located on the bluff of St. Joseph (the other 2 locations are below the bluff) overlooking the St. Joseph River. The band shell has nice new benches, which means no chair rentals if you’re on a limited budget! Like the Pavilion, the Band shell can be reserved. There is street parking as well as several free parking lots within a block downtown. The band shell is on the edge of downtown St. Joseph, within blocks of all of St. Josephs adorable shops and restaurants.

Stay tuned for more outdoor locations coming soon!