Mona’s Top 15(ish) 2014

Hello fellow blogstalkers! #1 fan Mona here for my 5th year end wrap up for the 2014 season! I’m proud to have been doing this since the 2010 season, and have enjoyed it so much. Check out the past years with these links: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. This year, I started early as well, but it has been taking me longer than ever. Why? Well, for one thing, Big Joe and JP’s work make for really difficult narrowing down. It’s hard when you’re comparing shoots that all rank, on a scale of 1-10, between a 9 and 10 🙂 Big Joe and JP bring their game and their passion for what they do, no matter what. Also, I’ve been enjoying writing this blog and may have been stretching it out a bit as a result, especially with the thought that this may be my last blog of this nature, at least. Who knows though, right? 🙂

So what actually goes into the making of this blog? Keeping up with blogs that are flying hot off the presses (we can still say that for blogs, right?) several times weekly… or at greater intervals in what I like to call “binge-blogstalking.” I don’t need to tell you all – the gang at EPI have been busy this past year! Even more wonderful, both JP and Big Joe have been able to pursue and share some more personal projects. How lucky are we? This year, I’ve highlighted those again as well, as they really deserve their own category.

Speaking of luck: how did you all like the weather this past year? If you’ve been following along, you’ll remember that 2013 was the year of RAIN. It seems that every week Big Joe, JP and the gang were dodging raindrops, monsoons, what have you. They were great sports and didn’t let it affect their game. This year, we saw very little rain, and those fall colors I love so much hung around way later (into mid November) than we’ve ever seen. Really, this was just incredible. Let’s see what 2015 brings!

So let’s get down to business. I am going to start with my review of the personal projects at EPI, then we’ll move onto the top lists. As usual, there’s a “top” list and an “honorable mention” list.

And now for the usual red tape 😀


Dear Elario brides, grooms, families, babies and other,

You’re all beautiful, but I can’t choose you all. The blog is long, and I’m not the most concise individual. 🙂 Ask anyone. I tried again to narrow down as I read along this year, and I still had the most difficult time narrowing down the list! This has easily been the most difficult year in all the time I’ve done this. You all keep bringing your A-game, and Big Joe and JP (always) bring theirs. That’s hard to beat.

As always, events are listed chronologically, with the exception of combined events. In that case, it is listed by most recent event. Grab your drink of choice, sit back and relax. Let’s do this!

Adventures at EPI

Last year, there were so many personal projects on the blog that I could not help myself but to include them. Big Joe and JP are so incredibly talented. To see even more of their work and vision beyond the weddings, e-sessions and family sessions we so cherish is quite a treat. Thanks for making my job tougher guys – you have your own full blown category. And I couldn’t choose a favorite, so I didn’t (what?)

Nina is a beauty. What more can I say about that? I’ve heard she’s a sweetie to boot! The ones of her with the coffee mug especially made me want to label it #iwokeuplikethis. Also loving the little candid parts of the series too. Gorgeous and fun shoot, amazing light, amazing subject. I would have gone for a Red Sox hat though 😉
2) All the Angela’s Bridal shots
I’m in love with the seasonal shots JP did with Angela’s bridal. I loved the crispness of the white against the white, with all the girls’ dark hair standing out again the snow for the winter shots. The spring ones had a lightness about them (also reflected in all the models lighter hair) and had a very updated flower child feel to them. Perfect for spring. Can you feel the heat in the summer shots? The group portrait was absolutely outstanding. And let’s not forget the fall shoot that I like to think of as the fall flair shoot. Love all the layers and details in all the dresses. Can someone pay me to try on wedding dresses and look pretty posing? No? Ok it was just a thought.
Cailey + desert + mountains + a little bit of rain = some spectacular pics. Again! JP caught up with Cailey when he was in Vegas for WPPI, and man are these stunning. The warm neutral of the desert is just perfect to showcase her beauty. If we’re choosing favorites, I love the two where you can see the rain pouring down – especially her last outfit shot with the mountains behind her.
4) Pop up portraits with JP Albany/Saratoga
LOVED these. I love that he caught real folks on the street (and some friends) for a pop up session. Getting to see the happy, thoughtful expressions on everyone’s faces made me smile (and made me wish I were in Albany or Saratoga either of these days!) JP said he wanted the portraits to be “fun, natural, honest, real and maybe a little bit silly too.” Done. Another beautiful reminder how JP and Big Joe are “people photographers” when it comes down to it. Right? Right.
Ok so sometimes Big Joe and JP are even more than people photographers. Here’s another great year of seeing Big Joe capture the crowds, the intensity, the mud, and the excitement of the Saratoga racing season. A few faves? The “traffic” shot of the horses, the 6:45am panning shot, the motion shots… and the shot of the betting windows – a rarity to see empty like that.
All I have to say is that I just reviewed this blog post, and I’m starving now. These shots are colorful, beautiful, and mouth watering. The drinks on the bar. The steaks. The cookies. All of it. Get. In. My. Belly.
This was so different! I loved how the leotards just sort of equalize everything, so your main focus goes to the hair, makeup, and floral headdresses. These women killed it. I love how beautiful and strong they all look. This is once again a great way to see JPs vision beyond our regularly scheduled programming of weddings and engagements (clearly by the following, you know we are all about those too.)
Onto your regularly scheduled list:
#LetLoveSparkle. If you’re reading this, chances are you know about Katie O via all her appearances on the blog as wedding planner extraordinaire. You may also know her by her beautiful curly red locks, and her affinity for forehead kisses, and all things that sparkle. I so love when someone in the wedding industry gets married on this blog. Attention. To. Detail. Always. Needless to say, this did not disappoint. Katie, you had me at your bridal session. I agree that this needs to be more common. And now moving onto the wedding. As JP advised, I did not try to count the sparkle – it was all over the place!!! To name a few though: shoes, lifemaids dresses, that bouquet, and of course her dress. Besides all the sparkle and smiles, I so loved all the photos of Katie and Nate together. Couldn’t you just see them bursting with joy? I especially loved their outdoor portraits, and that first look (particularly his funny comment/compliment). It was such a pleasure getting to see Katie O have all the care and joy on her wedding day that she provides to all her KOWE couples. I was smiling right along with her and Nate throughout this one!
2) Brooke and Mark Crooked Lake House
Brooke is apparently a force to be reckoned with on the dance floor, which is how she broke her foot just two weeks before her wedding was originally scheduled in 9/2013. I won’t go through JP’s initial write up, but I was so impressed that they managed to line up all their vendors for the “take two” 7 months later. Brooke and Mark looked beyond excited. Imagine any other bride and groom, and add another 7 more months of anticipation. That’s how big their smiles were. Love all their outdoor portraits together, and her extra “I do”. So yea – had to give girlfriend some love on the blog for alllll that. Happy to see you healed up well! Finally, I ESPECIALLY love the Elario alum picture. 10 couples total!!! That has to be some sort of record, right?
Jenni and Sean had one of those perfect summer wedding days. It’s this type of day that makes it so clear why people get married in June. And these guys did not miss one detail. I mean really. Jenni had a classic look with her mermaid dress, and might I commend her on the bridesmaid dresses? They just worked so nicely together. Faisig Tipton was the perfect backdrop for it all. It was warm, inviting, classy, and perfectly Saratoga (as was their whole wedding really). The flowers and design on this was really set it apart. Again – no detail overlooked. Did you see the table linens too? Their couple shots were just great. I adore the one framed perfectly with that curtain. And what a party! When night arrived, so did that beautiful blue light – can’t get enough! Last, I’d be crazy not to mention that ring shot. That’s a LOT of bling right there!
Erica and Ed also had EPI at their rehearsal dinner the night prior to their wedding, and so I’m going to touch on that briefly. Loved the bun, loved all the people shots and the DT ALB shots. What a beautiful precursor to their even more beautiful wedding. I’d love to see more of this type of thing. Onto the wedding: Erica’s veil was so ornate, and she looked stunning. Try counting the smiles between her and Ed. You won’t be able to. There was such happiness throughout this post. The shots of them together in the park and on outside Glen Sanders makes you feel like they don’t even know someone is photographing them, right? Mother nature really hooked them up that day. I am having trouble choosing my favorites there, but the ones on the dock (with the amazing light, the fountain, and then the silhouette) rank pretty damn high. And what better way to end a summer evening than with a few fireworks lighting up the sky. Awesome.
Can we talk again about how incredible has the weather and light been this season? Jessica and Chris’ wedding is certainly no exception. I’ll get to that in a minute. First, the basics. The dress. It was about halfway through the blog when I went “Whoa! The back of her dress!” So ornate. I love seeing a little something beyond the strapless sometimes. Also, both her hairstyles are drop dead gorgeous. Who says you can’t have it both ways? Not Alayne, that’s for sure. She made a romantic do for the ceremony (did you see the back? Go look. Really. I’ll wait), followed by a sophisticated low bun for the reception. You might notice this happened conveniently after the boat ride. Speaking of the boat – the shots there are incredible. It’s always so special when a couple is able to recreate a little of their engagement session too revisit, and they’re clearly having so much fun. The Erlowest is all decked out for them – the linens! The table numbers! All around spectacular. These guys got so many great couple shots together as well, but I particularly enjoyed the one of them pre-ceremony, leaning on the balcony fence thingie (really Mona? Is there a word for this?), just looking happily at each other. And for their finish – fireworks. Boom! (See what I did there?)
That gown! Been a while since we’ve seen a ballgown dress, right? Kendal’s is incredible with the lace bodice, and the tulle skirt. Such a pretty combination of classic with a modern twist. The setting of the ceremony, the Beekman Mansion, is… well, I have no words. It’s picture perfect, inside and out. I am kind of obsessed with the picture of Kendal and the ducks, just before their first look. It’s adorable. Also adorable? Zach’s focus on Kendal all the way down the aisle. Even when shaking his father in law’s hand, he can’t take his eyes off her. And can you blame him? They may have had a tiny drizzle during the ceremony, but as you can see, everyone seemed prepared. Again, we’ve had some great luck with the weather this year! Some of my favorites here are Big Joe sneaking some shots as he did, and that one of Kendal holding open the doors with her back to the camera – magazine material. They brought their A-game for all the couples shots on the grounds of the mansion, and looks like they had a beautiful and fun reception at the American Hotel. Love the unique setting of this wedding.
This was one very nicely styled e-session. Maritza and Andrew have beautifully looks that really compliment each other well (I’m talking about themselves as well as their style). Each of their three outfits choices were totally perfect, and almost coordinated all the better with the type of light we saw changing throughout the post – first we had that light-buttery light that evens out, and finally gets to that beautiful blue light we all love too. From the second set, I am loving the one of them sitting on the dock, backs to the camera, and the look Maritza is giving Andrew. The b&w canoe shot is beautiful and classic with all the contrast there. That final shot in the candlelight, PLUS the blue light really cinched it for me. Also of note – they live here?? I hope and imagine we’ll see some more of these types of shots next year for their wedding (yay!)
I’d be crazy if I didn’t start by talking about the wall with the color gradient. LOVE. I could stare at it all day. In fact, I think I’m going to have to do a little field trip down to DUMBO sooner rather than later. Really, I  love all the graffiti art they’re pictured with. Shows so much of NYC’s character. In fact, this whole post really does that. You’ve got this amazing art as a backdrop, then onto some old school NYC cabs. And finally? A beautiful skyline, sunset, and the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges. I MEAN COME ON!!!! It’s almost not fair to pack all that amount of awesomeness into one blog, is it? (Yea, it’s ok). Oh and to top it off, our favorite former bride/always stylist Tiffany styled the couple. It goes without saying, but I will: amazing as always!
I’m loving all these weddings we’ve had where the B&G have photographs of their rehearsal dinner as well! Especially when it is done like this! Oh my God, the food was making my mouth water. Onto their wedding – I can’t say enough here. Every shot was spectacular. Amanda exudes grace, serenity and poise in all her portraits… and sheer elegance. Did you see Stephan’s face at their first look? Clearly he agrees!! The Mount is such a classic and elegant backdrop to their whole day. I’m glad to see more weddings and engagement sessions here. It’s an incredible place overall – all the eaves, the lime walk – they nailed all their couple portraits. Every. Single. One. And the group shot – the neutral colors just add to the classy and classic feel here.
10) Megan and Ben Central Park and SNGC
I love how no matter how many times we see a location (Central Park OR SNGC, the former which has become increasingly popular with the blog), there’s always a really unique twist and some fresh takes for each couple. Megan and Ben had a sweet, bright and colorful e-session at Central Park. I adore their shots in the arcade! For their wedding, Megan chose a beautiful dress. I love that flash of light pink in her sparkly belt, and the skirt – oh the texture! So pretty. I love when couples are able to personalize like they did with the benches draped with significant dates in their relationship. And let’s get to the foliage – holy yellow! I could not get enough of all the pictures with that one tree! They really lucked out – not only did they get some great foliage, but some wonderful lush green grass, blue water, and golden field shots too. Come. On. Too beautiful.
What’s a little rain on your wedding day? No problems here. Lauren and Johnny were champs (as was the gang at EPI) shooting in some pretty heavy rain. And guess what? All their shots are incredible. This should really only be a surprise to you if you’re SUPER new to this blog. But let me get you up to speed: snow, rain, heat, night – Big Joe and JP will “bring it like a mailman.” And that they did. The fog could not completely obscure the foliage peeking through. Take, for instance, their first look under cover of the porches. Behind Johnny, you see this flash of yellow from the tree, glowing about as brightly as he is as he takes in first look of Lauren. If that weren’t already enough, after their ceremony they braved the rain with an umbrella, and took some amazing and romantic shots outdoors. That was not light rain, people! And Lauren and Johnny didn’t look like they even noticed. Then guess what? The rain did stop for them for a bit eventually too, allowing them even more amazing and colorful shots. I have to say the shots outside the Mohonk in the rain are spectacular. I kept saying it felt like somewhere at a ski village in Europe or something.
Every now and then, I like to break my own rule of never including families, babies, or maternity shoots. I HAD to include this session. If you don’t know Sara and Eddie, then you clearly have not been a blogstalker for long. Their engagement and wedding were so detailed and really had a very clear vision. This maternity shoot is straight out of a fashion magazine. Sara chooses such flattering outfits for each portion of the maternity session: that beautiful gray form-fitting dress shows off her bump beautifully; love that off-white sweater dress paired with the boots too. And the long black dress with the cut out? Stunning. She casts off the shoes for an even more romantic feel here. The backdrop was nothing but beautiful, crisp fall color. Then we head near the water, where she stands by a scroll she designed herself (so moving, such a sweet tribute), and then into the water. These put this session over the edge. She grew up here, and it just comes together so beautifully. The shots of her in the water are among my favorite ever for a maternity shot. They are beautiful, natural, and yet innocent all at once. That’s a fine line to walk in a maternity shoot, and this is done just perfectly. Love every bit of it all.
13) Katie and Ryan Lake Placid and
You know you’re a game bride and groom when your wedding is in November, and you do an e-esession on the top of a mountain in Lake Placid. This was a first. I love the shots of Katie in her heels while the skiers and boarders head out. It’s such an awesome contrast. And how can you top a cozy fireplace with hot cocoa? (Answer: you can’t). Then there’s their wedding. You know, you never know what you’ll get in November. Usually it’s cold (our wedding), but then two days after ours it was 60 degrees, so you never know 🙂 Katie and Ryan didn’t have to worry though, after all they were champs on top of the mountain for the e-session remember? However, unlike most November weddings, the colors REALLY hung on this year. Incredible outdoor shots. Those lush greens and vibrant yellows were so not typical of a season that usually peaks just past mid-October. And her dress – I don’t think we’ve seen a lot (any?) long sleeve dresses, and she worked it! Finally, the little “pill” bottles were an adorable touch.
14) Michelle and Dan E-session and Hall of Springs 
Here are two shoots that combine two things I’m a sucker for – no, wait, three – Boston, fall foliage, and Hall of Springs weddings (November, even better). Michelle and Dan have some amazing quintessential Boston shots at the Public Gardens, and then Beacon Hill. Perfection. Their wedding at the HOS was incredible. First of all, did you all SEE how long the color was hanging on? We do not normally see quite so much color and leaves still on the trees in early November. Seriously. Must have been all that rain from the 2013 season, right? The light was just perfect out there. Speaking of light – that light wall/curtain behind the pillars was breathtaking. Man, every time I see the HOS all prettied up for a wedding it brings me back. I just love seeing each couple’s unique take on the Hall. That light wall brings such a warmth into all the photos as well.
I kept waiting and waiting. I looked back over the e-session saying “Ok. It’s December. Did I miss their wedding?” Nope! These two got married on December 31st, ringing in the new year together with friends and family. The shots before their ceremony outside are breathtaking, especially the sunset shots (the silhouette – nice work Jacob). Now take a look at her dress – see how that lace just fades out into the (tulle?) below? Now for the ceremony space – OMG. You had me at that first picture with the lights glowing inside. I actually gasped. It’s intimate and perfect. I also adore the different POV with the shots from above. Great bird’s eye view. They managed to maintain a BEAUTIFULLY warm and rustic feel throughout this wedding (Pat’s barn, remember?) I’m still looking forward to a Nipmoose Barn wedding someday too 🙂

Honorable Mention:

The frozen lake is just an amazingly beautiful (albeit nerve-wracking) backdrop to this wedding. Seriously, it was so beautiful, but it was making me sweat looking at them. Hey, 2014 was a cold and snowy winter so I know that ice was just fine. Lauren makes nice work of changing belts from sparkly to black, keeping with a nice little color theme with her shoes as well (love it). I do enjoy seeing a dress beautifully displayed on a dress form – chalk that up to things I wish I had thought of back in the day! There were also some really nice personal touches showing their interests with the fishing and hunting 🙂 The Crooked Lake house proves to be a great place for a wedding, all year round!
I’ve said it before (in this blog post too), and I’ll say it again: love when you wedding professionals get married! You easily win the contest of “guess how many weddings I went to THIS year!” You guys know how to do all the details just right. Let’s focus on her first: I’m partial to hair down on the wedding day, so I loved her take on a side part with some gorgeous ringlets (and that hairpin! Some nice sparkle to match the shoes). Her lace shawl was a sweet addition to her custom made dress. Adam was rocking the blue tux – this was such a subtle but dapper look. Also, could you not feel the emotion coming through the page with their first look? Her face says it all.
For a couple who got married at the Hall of Springs the same day as a Dave concert, you sure wouldn’t know it looking at these pictures. These guys had the place to themselves! Hey, not that a little crowd matters though! We have seen how a little bustling activity in the background can be pretty awesome as well. Nevertheless, Katie and Jon had a spectacularly gorgeous day. Starting with the Batchellar Mansion, it was a stunner from there on! The light, textures and patterns were so eye catching. Specifically loving the dress shot, the ring shot, all the girls in their robes on the bed. Al the texture and colors! And holy bridal party! 28 people total! All looking great. Between her classic lace dress, the HOS, and that perfect, lush springtime weather, this wedding was just picture perfect.
Have you ever seen the Sagamore like this? In all my years of blog stalking, I certainly have not. As JP said, the threat of rain was pretty high, and then ultimately disappeared. What Jenna and Rory were left with was some of the most beautiful backdrop for their photos. Out on the balcony, beyond them you have the low lying clouds, those intense colors against the hills… and it never did rain did it? All those portraits outside really pop with color. Awesome how an overcast day gives you that gift too. Take a look at all their outdoor shots, and you tell me – how beautiful are they? Their rain plan for their ceremony was a great back up, intimate and sweet. Rory’s little kiss to her hand walking back down the aisle together was too cute. And these guys looked like they had a fantastic time.
5) Julius and Mary-Beth Central Park e-session and Franklin Plaza wedding
I love these both for several reasons. In their e-session, their style was off the hook, and just PERFECT for their surroundings. Loved both outfit choices, but especially crushing on the first set. Now Mary-Beth has these eyes and these expressions that were just awesome. This was another reason I loved their blog. Check out their first look and that look of excitement on her face. Her smile is jumping off the page! For more, check out their “Mr. and Mrs.” shot, the speech, or any number of photos from this. So expressive! Now let’s not forget Julius who was rocking the blue with the brown shoes. Really a good color on him, and again something we don’t see as often. Very dapper. The Plaza caught my eye with some pink uplighting, making for a beautiful evening. Lots of fun, overall!
Jill and Greg had a classically beautiful Lake George day. Gorgeous skies, gorgeous colors, amazing shots down by the water. This is one of those weddings you look at that makes you want to do it all over again. Simple beauty, simply elegant. Again, you simply cannot beat the shots of Jill and Greg outdoors – especially that breathtaking silhouette. Don’t forget the boat ride – it looks like they really had an amazing day, weather wise, as well. Also loved her little first look with her father. So cute.
Holy. Skyline. Right? Samantha and Brian revisited their old stomping grounds where they attended college, and we lucked out with this beautiful e-session. Love how they have some light coordination with her accessories and his shirt, and continue with some special outfit details in the “grown up” portion of the shoot (socks, tie, her Loubs). But let’s get back to the skyline. WOW. Those shots were incredible. Some of the buildings (like WTC) look almost translucent with those clouds (and given how mirrored they are). I mean these are stop-you-in-your-tracks amazing shots of them with lower Manhattan as their perfect background.
The Point O’ Pines has so much character. I love when weddings maintain both a connection to nature, and an intimate feel at once. With the pines, the beach and water, this one had a little bit of everything. Leaves were just starting to really fire up there! Perhaps most importantly, it had that golden buttery light. Love some of the personal touches and tributes Ashley included in her dress and bouquet as well. The reception looked warm and cozy, and I kept mistaking the antique snowshoes on the wall for a heart. Sweet and intimate.
Well these guys are no slumps when it comes to social media 🙂 They do not mess around. Let’s start by talking about that great ring shot JP took on their instagram hashtag page. How cool is that? Kristen’s dress clearly caught my eye with the feathers – THE FEATHERS – at the bust line of her dress. Lays smooth with the rest of the dress, and adds a little feathery frill to the top of the dress. Really feminine and chic. But back to the day itself – they had a stunner. Early October showed them lots of love with ALL the colors. The trees had the bright and happy yellows and oranges, and still that green so full of life. What an incredible backdrop that followed them through all their couples portraits. Nailed it!
Did you know that for the upstate region (and the Berkshire area too), October 18th is generally THE peak day? It is indeed, and Kristen and Andy’s Cranwell wedding day showcases that incredibly. I can’t get enough of all their outdoor shots with the vivid leaves on the ground and on the trees. Their slightly overcast day brings out those colors even more. Those outdoor shots, as well as the twilight shots lighting off the lanterns, were perfect. How can you beat the color and light?
We’ve all been waiting for Big Joe and JP to shoot a wedding here since JP did his Angela’s bridal post last year. What an beautiful space. And what an beautiful couple! I so loved that Hillary wore a veil that had been passed from bride to bride all over the world since 1929. What a meaningful “something old” to include on a wedding day. I especially like how as a family heirloom it has traveled the seas quite a few times. It has been on quite an amazing journey! SO loved that group picture at 90 State, and I have a soft spot for the bride with her bridesmaids in the chilly weather. You girls were troopers! Been there! 🙂 Their first look was just perfect before the rain, and Clayton’s face lighting up says it all. Great inaugural EPI wedding there!
12) Families and babies
Stop being so damn cute! (Don’t stop) 🙂

Huge thanks to JP for having me back on the blog one last time for now. It’s been more than an honor and pleasure to do my yearly recap. Thanks for your patience in my getting this blog done (especially this year). I’ll always be your guys’ #1 fan, even if I can’t check as often as I’d like. You and your dad are a joy to watch work. The passion you both have for your work and art is inspirational. May you both experience as much happiness as you bring to each of us. <3

To all those who graced the blog in 2014, and to those who are reading, thank you for your happy smiles and sharing a bit of your world with everyone.

Now, I’ve never been a fan of goodbyes. Don’t worry. I’ll still be hanging around. When I used to visit friends in France, upon my return to the states I would always say “à bientôt” (see you soon), rather than “au revoir.” And so to you all, for now, à bientôt.

As always, happy blogstalking, happy commenting!



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Best of the Bling 2014