Notes from the Bride: The First Step to Planning Your Wedding: Priorities

After the celebratory champagne was done and I'd finally gotten used to the word "fiancé", it was time to start planning our wedding. I can't tell you how anxious the prospect of wedding planning made me. One of my first worries was that my fiancé and I wouldn't be on the same page. And even worse, what if wedding planning would cause fighting? We aren't fighters - we talk things out. The second something bugs us we tell the other person and so have great communication between us. Even so, there's always that "what if?". I knew we needed to start this off on the right foot. 

To kick off our wedding planning we needed to talk about PRIORITIES. If they weren't aligned from the start, we'd have a real problem. So we sat down and figured out our top four:


- A wedding venue that some people could stay at and that we could rent for a whole weekend

- Good food and wine

- A great DJ for the reception and a great band for our ceremony and cocktail hour

As you can see there are already compromises in there. He wanted DJ and I wanted a band, so we'll have a little of both. Other things that were important to us was that it be a summer wedding as our best friends are teachers, as is my Dad, so it should be convenient enough for them all to come over to France. Also, that we have our big wedding in Bordeaux. We chose there for a few reasons:

  1. Pyk is from Bordeaux so it's a lot easier for his parents to help out with planning and logistics as they live there.
  2. $$$ - Getting married in France will cost us probably around a third of what we would pay in the US for the same style wedding. Yes, that much less. 
  3. There are chateaux and other historical places around Bordeaux that we just couldn't incorporate into a wedding in the US because the historical architecture isn't there. Our wedding venue is from the 14th century. You just can't find that in the US. 
  4. Most importantly, Bordeaux is where I fell in love with France. The first time I came to France to visit Pyk it was winter. I landed in Paris and for DAYS it was rainy and grey. A few days in, we took the train down to Bordeaux and as we were arriving into the station, the skies opened up into a gorgeous blue with puffy clouds and sun shining. We explored the city and the only word I could think of to describe it was magic. That's where I told Pyk that, "yes", I could move to France. 

After we had talked about this I felt SO much better about wedding planning. We ended up being on exactly the same page and that has made making decisions and contacting vendors so much easier because we know what's important to us. 


Tips for the newly engaged:

- First things first, I'd say that even before figuring out your budget, figure out your PRIORITIES. What do you want and what does your fiancé want? Can you meet in the middle? Once you have these in place, you have somewhere to start. The first thing we booked was our venue. Stay tuned for that story! 


P.S. Thank you to our incredible vendors, all photos are from our actual wedding

Photographers: Bubblerock

Hair and makeup: Kendra Hittinger

My dress: Rue de Seine from Lovely Bride

His custom suit: Samson Bordeaux

Caterers: Deval

Venue: Chateau Isabeau de Naujan

Notes from the Bride: How He Proposed

Did you read the last post about how we met? Read it HERE. If you're already up to date, here's how our engagement went..  hint: everything went wrong (ha!)

The next four years after meeting were a whirlwind of 1.5 years of long distance, Pyk trying to move to NY, me moving to France, me learning French and opening up a business, us getting our first apartment together, getting a civil union, and many many adventures in between that all lead to the proposal!


In December '15 we flew out to Mexico to photograph a wedding. We were on a gorgeous resort in Playa Del Carmen with the most amazing group of people. I say it all the time but let me repeat it for those in the back:  MY CLIENTS ARE INCREDIBLE. I had photographed Dan and Kat in Paris for their engagement and a few months later received an email ending with them asking if I’d come to Mexico and photograph their wedding. Umm, HELL YES.

Three days of amazing wedding festivities go by and our last day was the only real day ‘off’.

Here comes the hysterical series of unfortunate events that prefaced that famous question:

Original plan: Pyk brings me to the paradise island of Cozumel for snorkeling and then proposing on their gorgeous beach.

How I ruin it: I was exhausted from photographing the wedding the night before and told him I wanted to just stay on the resort and veg out. Pyk can’t be like, “But babe THAT’S where I want to propose!” So we stay at the resort.

Plan B: Pyk plans a romantic candlelight dinner on a pier for that night with the resort. He’ll do it then.

Ruined: It gets rained out and we show up to a pitch-black pier and a cancelled dinner.

Plan C: ??????

Ruined: We go to dinner at one of the tapas restaurants right next to the beach. For an appetizer we get a bowl of roasted vegetables. I eat a little pepper thinking it was one of those roasted Spanish green peppers forgetting we’re in Mexico.

It’s like I swallowed a dragon.

And her babies.


I run to the bathroom and throw up. Yes, it was THAT hot.

Plan D: Wing it.

We finish dinner, me without taste buds and Pyk with a few dry whiskeys. He brings me out to the pier and while we’re walking arm in arm, I can feel his heart beating. It dawns on me that this could be a big moment and OMG HE’S GOING TO PROPOSE. He proposes on the pier. I cry. He cries. Of course I say yes. We celebrate with margaritas and some champagne.. 

AND VOILA! Our totally un-romantic and very much series of unfortunate events engagement story.

The best part about it all? It’s so us. So often in life the universe throws stuff at us and you just have to laugh about it (sometimes vomit) and roll with the punches. 

In the end, both the result and meaning are the same. I said yes, we got married a year and a half later, and most importantly, we love each other.

For hot pepper or worse.


P.S. All of these photos are from out post-proposal trip road tripping up route 1 in California. 

Notes From The Bride: How We Met

PREFACE: I’ve hesitated a long time to write and share this because our meeting and engagement was so intimate that I wanted to selfishly guard just for us (my preeeccious). But after witnessing and hearing so many beautiful love stories in my work, I felt compelled to share my own along with lots of thoughts and journal entries compiled from our engagement and post wedding. I've decided to call it "Notes From the Bride". Now let's start at the beginning...

Pyk and I, Photographed by Sara Monika

Pyk and I, Photographed by Sara Monika

I’m not one of those girls who dreamed about the day they'd get engaged. Or married for that matter. I’ve dreamed about the day that I’d move to Europe, the day I’d have kids, and the places I’d travel.

Everyone’s love story is romantic, whether that includes “I dos” or not. Ours is romantic because it’s us. It’s OUR story.  It’s not better or more epic or worse or more simple than anyone else’s. That night he proposed, our relationship changed and my whole view of the future changed. It was a real turning point and that makes it huge.


Let’s start at the beginning with how we met…


I had a flashback the other day to around 6 months before the time I met Pyk (my guy). I remember thinking to myself, “Wouldn’t it be funny if in a year I'm dating someone who I don’t even know right now.” I guess in NYC that’s pretty easy to do, you meet people all the time. Little did I know that just a few months later I’d meet Pyk.

In the beginning of June of that year I moved into an apartment with my friend and fellow photographer. Like the hosting-lovers that we are, we had an apartment-warming party.  Basically it was to show our friends the shoebox that we had just moved into and then drink some beers on the patio in the back (conveniently located next to all of the garbage cans - remember, it’s NYC.)

Over the course of inviting friends, my friend Nick asks if he could bring a few guys from his rugby team. I knew a lot of them already so of course I said, “Yes!”. If there is one thing you should know about rugby players it’s that they are freaking hysterical, I’ve literally not met one rugby player who I thought was lame. So my friend brings a few people and the one guy I didn’t know wasssss… TAH-DAH… Pyk!

We all hung out, heading to the local bar after the party where I finally get around to talking to Pyk. He starts telling me ALLL about Bordeaux (where he’s from) and how good the wine is. (OMG SO FRENCH!!!)

(While that is what I was thinking at the time, I totally see where he was coming from: culturally in France, you basically start drinking wine in baby bottles and have to be full-fledged sommeliers to graduate high-school. Okay, I may have exaggerated a bit there but now that I’ve lived in France and absorbed some of the French swagger, I get it -- wine freaking rocks, Bordeaux wine even more.)

That first night I did not fall in love. There was no movie scene where we locked eyes and he swept me away to France to feed me croissants. Sorry Woody Allen.

BUT a few days later he asks me out on a date and over a plate of homemade pasta and pesto we hit it off.. fast forward him surprising me in NY after 1 month of long distance, 1.5 years more of long distance, and 3 years of living in France together and BOOOOOOOM.. cue in my wine-loving Frenchie dropping to one knee in Mexico. 



 Ours was such a chance meeting and against all odds, worked out (yay!)

Please comment below on how you met your love, I'd love to hear!!

There are so many roads to happiness..


3 Gorgeous Locations for a Photo Session around the Eiffel Tower II Paris Honeymoon Photographers

Paris is a city with a million and one things at your fingertips: culture, walking, eating, touring, wine-tasting.. all amazing things to do during a weekend or a vacation here (or even better, if you’re a local!) But if this is your first time, it can be SUPER overwhelming, especially since you don’t really know the distances between the places you’d like to see. 


Coming from NY, I’m constantly comparing the two cities. Size wise, I’d compare Paris to the size of Manhattan. For trains, the metro (Paris subway number lines like the 1, 2, 3 etc.) are the same as the local subway lines in Manhattan that stop every few blocks (ex: the 6 or the 1 in Manhattan). You can pretty much walk between metro stations within 5-7 minutes. Paris RER lines (the letter lines like the RER A, B, C etc.) are the equivalent to NYC Express subway lines (the A or the 2/3 in Manhattan), and once they’re in the Paris suburbs, it’s more like the Metro North or LIRR stopping between towns and other neighboring cities. 


It probably seems complicated but really, I find the Paris metro a lot easier than the NYC subway lines as you never have crazy track work or any trains running local after 10pm. (If you’ve ever gotten home late from work in NYC to find that your express is now a local through the upper west side, you know what I’m talking about.) Everything is clearly indicated and the metro is SO much cleaner. In 5 years, I’ve seen zero rats and 1 baby mouse. You see easily 5-6 rats DAILY in your morning NYC commute. 

Okay, so back to the real reason I started this post: Around the Eiffel Tower there are beautiful and diverse locations that are SUPER easy to walk to AND They’re all ONLY about 10 minutes walking from each other. SUPER EASY!!


1. Let’s start with the Trocadero. It’s easily one of the best vistas of the Eiffel Tower. Especially if you’re planning on doing an photo session.. This is the main place where you’re going to want to head to to get an unobscured view of the tower. Here it is:



2. 10 minutes walk from the Trocadero, just over a bridge crossing the Seine, is the Champs de Mars. This is a LOVELY and vast garden around the Eiffel Tower. Here your views are stunning of the base. There are tree-lined alleys and beautiful buildings surrounding it. If you’re a runner, it’s a great location to head to in Paris because it’s always open and has dirt paths. For a photo session, it’s perfect for families with kids! You never have to worry about little ones running into the streets. A++



3. The streets around the Eiffel Tower like Avenue de Bourdonnais and Avenue de Suffren are beautiful because they are right next to the Champs de Mars, and have stunning buildings for your more casual Parisian backdrops. 


To do all of these locations we could use 1-2 hours for a session depending on how quick everyone is and if there are little kids walking! Little legs take a bit longer and tire out more quickly for sure!

If you’re living in Paris or are here for only a few days, I hope this is helpful! The Eiffel Tower area can be really beautiful throughout the 4 seasons of the year so if the ET is an absolute MUST for your photo shoot, these places are perfect for you!

- Katie

Food Blogger Kit Graham from The Kittchen II Paris Blogger Photographer, Katie Donnelly Photography

Paris seems to be a city of inspiration for so many creatives... lucky as I am, I get to meet a ton of them who come through. Usually a quick portrait session with a side of coffee is my go to way to get to know them so we can create beautiful portraits together that are relaxed and natural. It’s one of the things that is super important to me, you have to be able to see a little peek into my subjects soul. If you don’t have that, why take the portrait? 


At least, that’s my view as an artist. 

I think that I simply love people, and photography is my way of expressing it. It’s why I’m not a fashion photographer or a landscape photographer, to be honest, I forget about everything other than the people. To me, everything in life is measured on how it makes humans feel.

Doesn’t this make you want some of that steaming hot cocoa!? Mmmmmm, so good!

Doesn’t this make you want some of that steaming hot cocoa!? Mmmmmm, so good!

Music, art, how peonies smell when they first bloom, your favorite shampoo, herbal tea.. it’s worth is simply how you feel about it. If peonies make you gloriously happy, then pay the few extra bucks to buy a bouquet out of season. That’s my opinion at least.

That’s how I give worth to photography and portraiture in general. Do you look at a portrait and have it transport you back to your favorite vacation? What about that memory of your grandma laughing? Does seeing your great grandparents wedding portrait give you a feeling of family and a sense of legacy?

Whatever art does to you, I hope my art makes you feel like you get to know the people in them. That they give you some of their joy for whatever they’re doing in the portrait.  

Per usual, my meeting with Kit of The Kittchen was serendipitous and came together fully at the last minute.  I feel like that’s my life tag line (haha). A Maine native, and now living and working in Chicago, we found we had a lot in common.. Funny story, I told my dad about her parent’s BNB in the same town in Maine where we vacation and now our dads have connected. Small world, eh?

In pure Katie form, we took a pit stop at a cafe (Judy Café to be exact!) during her photo session (I mean, it was totally normal, her blog is about food!) and had delicious hot chocolates!! We chatted and just enjoyed walking around in a very misty Paris. If you’re interested in her, head over to her blog. Before we met, she sent it over to me as these portraits are for her blog and social media, and right away I thought, “I need to meet this woman!!”.  Don’t you love how that works out sometimes? 

Love this shot.. A true Paris experience and being pulled in by the beauty of it all.. 

Love this shot.. A true Paris experience and being pulled in by the beauty of it all.. 

Visit Kit’s BLOG

Visit Judy Cantine Qualitarienne’s Website

It’s Not Where We Go, It’s Who We’re With II Paris Honeymoon Photographer, Katie Donnelly Photography

Their honeymoon was simple: a few days in Paris, and a few days in Disneyland.

Places that they loved and made them happy.

So often we search for the craziest adventure, or the most epic journey, when it’s right in front of us. It’s not where we go that makes something incredible, it’s the people we’re with, and the memories we get out of it.

Simple happiness can be found wherever you look, but most often I find, it’s wherever the people you love are. 


3, Gallery Framed 11X14in Portraits over a mantle


A Winter Engagement Session in Paris II Portrait Photographer, Katie Donnelly

Sometimes last minute meetings are the most serendipitous, don’t you think? The beautiful Vaishali and her fiancé Amit contacted me on a last minute idea of having their engagement portraits done in Paris. 

It worked out perfectly with our schedules and the weather! Little would you know but as we took the last portraits and enjoyed a café together to warm up, the rain began to fall. 

Lucky lucky us =)

I’m so excited of what they chose for their wall! It’s our New York wall collection that we just introduced. A 3 gorgeous art pieces: 


Here’s the rest of some of their favorites! I feel so honored to document these once in a lifetime memories. Being engaged is such a special time. To be able to share their love and happiness with their families and their future kids is a wonderful thing. Thank you so much for giving me this honor, Amit and Vaishali!!