Mona’s Top 17 (ish)

Hello fellow blogstalkers! #1 fan Mona here to share my 4th annual list of favorites for 2013. For anyone newer to the blog, or if you are just nostalgic, check out my past lists for the 2010, 2011 and 2012 seasons. I’m thrilled to be continuing this little tradition we have, and although my comments are not always as timely as they have been, I’m always watching… but not in a creepy way. πŸ˜€

This year I’m changing the rules a bit. I have added a category dedicated solely to some of the awesome personal works that JP and Big Joe have been so kind to share with us. It is so clear how much you two enjoy what you do, and we all really love seeing that translate to other projects as well. As always, there will be a top list and an honorable mention list. Another thing to note is several couples wowed me so much with both their e-sessions and weddings that I could not choose. Last year I made mention of two couple’s e-shoots in their wedding write up, but this year I could not hold back. Seriously guys. Make it harder on me why don’t you? πŸ˜‰

Ahem, and now please read the following fine print:

Dearest Elario Brides, Grooms, families and babies,
You know you all look great. You know I can’t choose you all. Would it help to know you were all THIS close? No??? Well, again know this was a tough task. So tough, in fact, that in anticipation I tried to narrow down the list as I commented along. Did this make selection easier? Hell no! Why? Because Big Joe and JP just keep stepping up their game, as do all of you.

This season brought us several new venues that were jaw dropping, and one common challenge followed EPI each week – RAIN. What started as a whimsical “NBD, we can shoot around this rain” soon became a matter of “Rain. Again?? Seriously?” from JP’s blog. Everyone did an amazing job dodging raindrops, or shielding downpours in some cases. Nice work guys. If anything, the take-home message here is that you can trust these fellas in just about any conditions.

As always, the following are listed chronologically (though for the combos, I will file these via the most recent of the two events). Grab your drink of choice, kick back, relax, and let’s go!

Adventures at EPI
1) Saratoga as I see it
I love seeing Big Joe capture the excitement, the top of the stretch, the heat, the dirt, the joy, and all those gorgeous horses. So proud his picture was chosen for the 150th Anniversary program cover. Thanks for sharing, and can’t wait to see more!

2) Katie the Yogi and Cailey
It’s wonderful when both Big Joe and JP can keep it fresh for themselves (and us) by constantly challenging themselves and pursuing their interests in photography beyond what we usually see. I loved seeing both of JP’s shoots of Cailey and Katie’s and hope to see more of this type of stuff this year as well! Love seeing your artistic eye and vision at work!

3) 90 State Events/Angela’s Bridal
Seriously, do I even have to say why this was so awesome? New place? Lots of pretty ladies in Angela’s Bridal, all having been made Fabulous for this shoot. It’s a killer one.
Onto your regularly scheduled list:

1) Sara and Eddie
New venue! What a gorgeous one, at that. I remember how much attention Sara paid to every detail of their e-shoot in Central Park last year, and needless to say I was not one bit surprised when I saw these pictures. Let me get to those details later and start with Sara. Wow. Bridal magazine anybody? Her hairstyles, that dress, and the bridesmaid dresses? I do especially love how beautifully all of the bridesmaid dresses complemented each other without being exactly the same. I’m seeing more of this trend, and this was beautifully executed. The other details were just icing on the cake – the stationary, the menu, programs, seating charts – all done by Sara. Did you notice how the wedding programs picture the lime walk, the very place where they got that incredible picture in the rain? Did you? I’m still blown away by the vibrance and beauty in each photo. I will say it again: Bridal Magazine. Very much enjoyed this wedding, as well as seeing some familiar faces.

2) Erin and Tim
Another wedding with the family angle! πŸ™‚ And yet another wedding with rain. By now, JP and Big Joe had already had it with the rainy days (and this was only June, mind you). Rain or not, they got some amazing images of Erin and Tim. I couldn’t talk about all that without mentioning their most notable image where the rain is coming down sideways and they are under partial shield of the umbrella. Go ahead. Go take a look, I’ll wait right here. Sideways. Rain. This is why you trust JP and Big Joe (and your wedding coordinator. We all know JP loves the coordination). Once again we have proof that inclement weather not only doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors for your pictures, but it might even just make them that much more special. I believe this is where the DIM (Drop It Modern) backdrop “Gatsby” was first debuted. If you recall we saw quite a lot of that over the season as well. But again, to look at those pictures captured in the rain, to see what went into capturing those shots, and to later see Erin and Tim dancing around (presumably dry) really tells us so much about how awesome Big Joe and JP are, as well as all their brides and grooms!

3) Beth and Sheel
Beth and Sheel’s NYC engagement session was really a stunner. Now sometimes we see some familiar sites in NYC, but this one had some very unique twists. First and foremost, where they shot in Central Park was damn near deserted! How often does that happen, really? And then… we got to their rooftop. Jaw dropping view, amazing lush colors on the roof, and a gorgeous couple to boot. Beth’s dress really went well with all the greenery up there. It was also in this blog that the “Bling it in” shot officially joined the ranks of the bling shot, Elario configuration, and the turnaround.

4) Jessica and Tim
Another new venue for the blog! This place was beautiful, lush green, and with so many amazing little places to shoot (stone archway, anyone?) Jessica and Tim were both pretty easy on the eyes too. I think just about every wedding has featured a bride with both her hair down, and later an up-do. You get the best of both worlds, and a whole different look. Here’s another wedding where rain made a cameo, and then disappeared like it never happened. For their ceremony, they had lush grounds and clearer skies. Really though, I just love some of the more dramatic shots around the grounds, particularly the one where JP had to stand in the river to capture it (nice work, dude)

5) Julia and Jon E-session AND Wedding
So here’s the first of a few combinations of couples whose sessions were just too much for me to choose. So I thought I’d make my job an iota easier. Their e-shoots on Lake George were done just a few weeks from their wedding and were gorgeous. The whole shoot was amazing, from the shots on the boat, to amazing light, to the shots on the shore in the woods, this belonged in a J. Crew catalog. Moving onto their wedding – did I hear something about rain? (Recurring theme here. If this surprises you, clearly you do not read the write ups carefully enough!) JP alleges there was rain, but do we see any? Nope. Ok, the skies look a little threatening around the school bus portraits, but otherwise you really would not know. Back to Julia and Jon. This couple looked incredible, so happy and relaxed. I loved her romantic curls and her hair down, and the Saratoga theme was icing on the cake.

6) Kendal and Zach
Really? How do I even start to describe this one? Beekman. Mansion. This place was gorgeous. Perfectly manicured, a classy country feel. I cannot even choose a favorite here. The property is something else. Loved the shots around the front of the house, on the steps, the porch, but especially loved the ones by the hay bales. Just love those! I can only imagine how giddy JP must have been to shoot this. As for Kendal and Zach, they really coordinated their outfits nicely for each part of the shoot. Kendal wore warm happy colors, and alternated between casual chic to chic, and Zach dressed up and down so nicely as well. Beautiful couple, beautiful backdrop.

7) Kat and Dan
This one just felt larger than life to me. I’m not terribly eloquent so let me be more clear: the shots in front of the NYS Museum are incredible. The shots around the grounds are incredible. It lent itself to that “larger than life” feel where normally you’re dwarfed by this magnificent structure. Normally. But somehow in this case, the setting just brought them out rather than obscuring them. The “let’s get married” picture blows me away. Wow. And let’s talk details – loved the robes for her girls, the birdcage veil, the custom tux, everything really. But overall what got me here was the classic (and classy) Albany feel to this. Just. Classic. Albany.

8) Megan and Doug e-session AND wedding
Maine debut! Listen, I went to college up in Maine (Yea Bates!), and spent my fair share on some of their beaches as well (usually Lobster Bakes… mmm). These made me so nostalgic. I love that Megan and Doug were able to take photos somewhere that means so much to them. Now to the pics – absolutely stunning. It doesn’t hurt that these guys are dressed the part, and seem really at ease too. The “Oh my” picture still takes my breath away. The most amazing part? How were their feet not blue? Seriously, spring/early summer that water can be so cold, you’ll get a cramp in your leg. I digress. These blew me away. Now let’s move onto their wedding. Loved the emotion and happiness here. This season we haven’t seen a whole lot of that buttery, golden light that JP so loves. The rain kept that more at bay other days, but it was out full force at SNGC for these guys. Megan’s dress was so unique, from the little sparkly detail, to that slit down the side, I just loved how smoothly it flowed. Between that and her makeup and hair, the whole look was super romantic and natural. Loved the suspenders for the guys too – everyone looked sharp. I just had to pick both of these.

9) Kate and Tim
While Kat and Dan’s blog was classic Albany, Kate and Tim’s wedding had a nice little Saratoga theme going on. First of all, the reception was at Faisig Tipton. Secondly, they not used the “Saratoga” drop it modern backdrop for the photo booth. 3) They had a replica quarter pole made (by Tim and his father) to serve as a guestbook. Kate’s dress fit her like a glove, and she looked beautiful and happy all day. I don’t often focus as much on the grooms, but I have to say that Tim also seemed to feel very at ease with the lens. I was going to say “The dude has clearly studied the blog” when I went back to look at their e-session and saw that JP posted that, indeed, Tim was a long time blog stalker. Nice work buddy. I like when grooms take pride in showing some extra attention to details as well (the date embroidered on the shirt? Subtle, but awesome.) Really enjoyed this wedding as well as this new-to-us-blogstalkers venue.

10) Lindsey and Ryan… and the whole Jackson Hole shoot
It isn’t often we see anniversary shots, right? It also isn’t that often that we see anniversary shots in a jaw dropping location like this. Seriously, did anyone else want to move out there after seeing this blog post? I thought so. Lindsey and Ryan are another Elario class of 2009 couple (woo woo!), and time has been great to them. They brought the perfect amount of rustic chic style to this session, and you could not ask for a better background than what JP and Big Joe shot out there. I mean wow. Lindsey really stepped it up a notch with those adorable spurs. Just saying. #Impressed (and yes I just hashtagged that. What?)

11) Meredith and Nick
Another trend of 2013 (besides rain): New venues galore! Camp Fowler did not disappoint either. This place has a little rustic flair, and is gorgeous. I can’t get over the textures, colors, and overall feel of this. But you know, our friends here in the wedding industry know how to do it up right! What did Kris Ann call this? Adirondaks ‘n Glitter, right? Perfect description. Meredith and Nick looked to be on cloud nine the whole day. Looking through this post again, suddenly Meredith reminded me of someone. Now this is always a tricky one, since some people do not like the public figures to whom they’re compared, but here goes. Anyone else see a resemblance to Kate Middleton? Yes? Clearly Meredith has the edge though πŸ™‚

12) Amanda and Stephan
Anyone who knows me personally (or through this blog) will tell you I have a soft spot in my heart for Boston. Having spent nearly 6 years there after college, I still consider it a second home. Needless to say, Amanda and Stephan’s e-session here made me all nostalgic. Their pics in the Public Gardens were just so quintessential Boston-in-the-fall. Their outfits – also perfect for the setting. Moving onto Beacon hill, I felt like I was getting a little walking tour there. Again, classic. Now the blog had not seen the likes of the Boston Public Library until this blog, and I must say it is even more beautiful than I remember. Such a perfect transition there for their dressy part of the shoot. Finally, finishing up on the Mass Ave bridge just really nailed the homesickness in me (I told you, it’s still another home to me after all these years). The B&W, the bridge, the Back Bay skyline. Perfect. Classic Boston.

13) Emily and Jeremy
Another new venue! We couldn’t get enough this season. This NYC couple chose EPI first before securing a venue (good call by the way!), and ended up with the breathtaking New York Botanical Gardens. Nice. Work. Did you see their tree “guest book” where you sign the leaves? I do love the trend of a more non-traditional guest “book”. So nice to see these framed and up on the walls to enjoy for years to come. How can you go wrong with a great looking couple, framed by all those gorgeous flowers? What a sunny day they had as well. I especially like the shots around the grounds and in front of the conservatory. Just beautiful in every way.

14) Lauren and John
NYC never gets old. There’s always so many options of where to photograph. Here we got to revisit where John proposed to Lauren at Grand Central. I really love that one shot of them from afar with all the hustle and bustle around them. Beautiful shots by the library and Bryant Park as well. And then? Then off to the Top of the Rock! Have we been here before? Yes! Does it get old? HELL NO. Every couple brings a different energy to Rockefeller Center, and JP always keeps it interesting. I am in love with the shot of these guys from above with the city behind them. Love it. Rounding out the session with the street shot in front of Radio City Music Hall was dynamite. That’s one for the walls for sure. Seriously, are you two sure you’re not hired to be in some magazine?

15) Rhiannon and Vinny
Ah, Halloween. A time for… a wedding? You’ve got that right. I really enjoyed this one. This wedding was quite the family affair too (Commisso and Commisso-Barbato), AND involved a great team overall. I confess – I love when you folks in the wedding industry get married. Y’all do it up right! I almost made a separate column this year for you all. Anyways, back to Vinny and Rhiannon. How do you do Halloween? Like these guys. This theme was carried with a whole lot of class and attention to detail.
I need to talk about Rhiannon’s dress now. This was by far one of the more unique dresses I have seen on the blog in a while. Her dress married vintage and modern into a beautiful classic gown. So lovely. They lucked out with foliage. Usually after mid-October those leaves are gone. Not so this year – must have been all that rain (seriously). The ballroom looked incredible, again following the theme in the classiest way. The candy bar? The DIM backdrop? Perfect. Looked like a fantastic time!

16) Lauren and Neil
Holy mackerel! There was a lot going on with this wedding (all good of course). I don’t know where to start. I may have to start with her Aunt Maria (Party with Mia) and her decorating the Crooked Lake ballroom. So elegant, and the colors were so perfect in line with the bridesmaid dresses, etc. Just so beautifully coordinated. Stunning. Let’s talk about those bridesmaid dresses while we are at it – love the muted colors, so classy looking. Loving Lauren’s drop waist gown there. Neil added a nice little personal flair of his fishing-related cuff links. The outdoor shots with the leaves were incredible. Again, you don’t usually get peak leaves past mid October. Y’all lucked out this year thanks to all the rain (I know, I know, I said this earlier, but it merits repeating). Definitely loved all the party pictures too – you could tell it was a fun fun time.

17) Katie O and Nate surprise engagement and Savannah E-session
I told you I almost needed a separate column for our wonderful friends in the wedding industry. We’ve all seen Katie O’Malley (aka: Katie O’, or Katie Go) on the blog, and seen how she makes her brides SPARKLE. Looks like it is her turn now! Again, as someone who is so integral to pre-wedding planning, doing day of coordinating, and surely wrapping up things afterwards, it is WONDERFUL to see you as happy as your brides and grooms as well. So special thanks to JP for sharing these (and clearly for Katie and Nate sharing them with us). So let’s get into it. Nate came up with an elaborate plan to get JP to shoot a surprise proposal (if you didn’t read it, go do it HERE). Nothing better than a surprise proposal, and capturing that emotion. Beautiful. So congratulations to you two! Can’t wait to see what you have planned.
But wait! I’m not done! Then a few months later they headed to Savannah, Georgia to get some incredible engagement pictures. Oh. My. God. The Wormsloe pictures leave me speechless (and that’s a pretty big feat). Just incredible. The whole shot was an easy fave for me, but I’m so happy that the fates worked out the way they did that the friendly ranger happened to be nearby when they discovered the park was actually closed.
Honorable Mention

When I think of Megan and Rob’s wedding, the part that stands out are those photos with the clear umbrella. But most of all this quote in JP’s write up stands out “Although we didn’t get a sunset we got rain but I thought, why not? I’m going to ask them to come outside with an umbrella and go for it. Thankfully they trusted me and we all went for it! To say I love the rain photos would be a huge understatement!” Well JP, Mother Nature heard you loud and clear πŸ˜‰
A few notes here – loved the gold bling shot, and absolutely loved her dress. Loved it.

2) Krystal and Kyle
You’ve got to give folks credit for doing an anniversary shot. I love that, being fans of EPI and never having gotten e-shots done, they returned with this. Love Nipmoose, and this couple definitely brought their A-game with their outfits. So now for the real question: WHO IS GOING TO GET MARRIED THERE SOMEDAY? That is all πŸ™‚

3) Alex and Geoff
What an amazing location – first the getting ready pics at Alex’s parents’ house on Bolton Landing, then onto the Sagamore? Really you couldn’t ask for better backdrops. Though JP called the day a scorcher, again you wouldn’t know to look at the pictures. Everyone looks cool as a cucumber. Though I’m happy they didn’t jump in the lake with their wedding clothes, I love how close-to-home (their home of course) this feels. The pictures on the boat are just incredible as well. Add to the fact that you’ve got quite the team rolling there (between Al, Alayne, and Jenny’s designs), and this was quite a picturesque wedding.

4) Hilary and Mike
Remember these guys from last year? Sure you do? Beautiful e-session and now a beautiful wedding. Loved their blue theme throughout (I see what you guys did there with the little gift box favors!) πŸ˜‰ Great shots all around GSM, and special note of the beautiful church where they got married – last minute (read the write up!)

5) Leanne and Cameron
The locations in this particular NYC shot are very close to my heart. For over 4 years I lived on the Upper West very close to where all this was shot. Definitely recognized Riverside Park and the pier instantly, and love the shots around Lincoln Center.

6) Sam and Pat
Loved the peacock details (and their signature “Peacocktail” for the reception. So cool), and all the shots around Saratoga. Did you notice the peacock feather colors reflecting within the bling in the ring shots?

7) Rita and Tom
You had me at the broach bouquet. πŸ™‚ Despite the rain, it was nice seeing the inside of the beautiful Erlowest, and still getting an outdoor ceremony at sunset. The room looked great, and I loved BOTH of her dresses.

Classic, classic, classic. These two making looking great look easy. One big thing that stands out for me here is just how in nearly every picture their eyes were focused on each other. Love it.

9) Jessica and Chris
Anytime you’ve got shots on a boat, you know it’s going to be something pretty fantastic. A boat with a mahogany wood floor, no less. Moving back onto land, I love their dressy outfits (hello sparkly!) with the lake in the background. Stunning.

10) Michelle and Adam
Ok. Even though Big Joe and JP aren’t shooting their wedding next year (you guys sure??), these were too good not to mention. NYC peak foliage? Check. Great looking and well coordinated couple? Check. Central Park? Yup. Again, they really chose awesome outfits – the first set was nice and muted so they still stood out amongst all the colors, and the second, just deep and dark, again standing out against their background.

11) Families and babies
You all are too cute. That is all πŸ™‚

Once again, a big, HUGE thanks to JP for having me back to the blog this year, and for his patience in waiting for this when I thought I would be done a couple weeks ago (oops. Got a little ahead of myself). Though I comment a little later than I’d like sometime, I do so enjoy watching you and your dad bring a little something new to each shot. It is as always a pleasure and an honor to be a little part of the EPI family (incidentally, facebook keeps asking me if I work there… maybe they’re onto something) πŸ˜‰ Thanks again for doing what you do, and making the rest of us smile. <3

To all those whose lovely faces graced the blog – thanks for bringing your love and energy this year! Here’s to a happy and healthy 2014!

Happy blogstalking, happy commenting!



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Janelle + Dennis = Giuliana