~ Jennifer and Neal ~ MARRIED!

I adore winter weddings.   There is something so incredibly romantic about them.   You can already feel buzz a of happiness in the air with the holidays right around the corner.   Families are happy to be together,  hugs are tighter and smiles are bigger.  There also isn't any pressure for the weather to be perfect, and it's a great occasion to break out your best winter coat,  the one in the back of your closet that you don't wear to the daily carpool or grocery store :)   Jennifer and Neal had an absolutely perfect winter wedding.

~ The Santa Claus Sessions ~ 2012 -

20 families, 2 days, 1 Santa, and a very exhausted photographer. 

Last year when I blogged about the Santa experience I gave my kids, my inbox and voicemail were flooded for days with other families begging me to share this with them.  I was hesitant at first, because it was something so personal I did for my kids.  But just thinking about how much they loved it, and how they still talk about "the time they got to play with Santa," I just couldn't pass up letting other families get in on the Christmas Spirit. 

I put my whole heart into this shoot.  I spent the days and weeks before stressing and planning.  Getting up at God-awful hours to visit the farm, chart the light, and scout the grounds, while climbing ladders, stringing snowflakes, stapling stockings, making real reindeer food and burning myself with a hot glue gun more times that I can count.

After all, if you're gonna do Santa Claus, you better do it right. 

I've never attempted this volume of work in one weekend before.  I truly wasn't sure how I was going to shoot 20 families in one weekend and give them each the time and attention they deserved.  Not to mention, dealing with the harsh lighting conditions of shooting during peak hours of sunlight.  

But the kids kept me going.  Their wide eyes, their giggles, their "Oh my gosh, I just fed a reindeer" face.
With the help of Mother Nature, my husband highly trained assistant, and some faithful clients who wanted to see magic in their children's eyes, we did it.  Together. 

Please enjoy the slideshow below.   Make sure you share it with your family and friends.

Merry Christmas!

So, will I do it again next year?  I can't say for sure, but probably. 

If you would like to be added to my 2013 Santa Claus list just send an email to Kellymanno@yahoo.com…and if you're on my nice list, you'll be the first to know if they're happening again next year! 

~ Alexis & Nate ~ MARRIED!

It was supposed to be a beautiful day. 

Even the weatherman said so.  And as Alexis and her family got ready at her home, there wasn't a cloud in the sky.  There was sunshine, snacks, and a lot of loud Italians :)
Alexis and Nate had already decided to do a "First Look" before the ceremony.   This is when the Bride and Groom actually see each other before the ceremony in order to do some photos. 
I'm so glad they made that decision.  I was a little reserved shooting them before the ceremony, waiting to pull out my big guns for later.   Nate's father is the President of the Zoo, and with the ceremony being held there we were going to have the opportunity for a lot of cool pictures.  Alexis and I had plotted out some areas: on the train, the carousel, the penguin house.   Really, our zoo is gorgeous, so the options were limitless.  I had so many cool ideas in my head that I thought my brain was going to burst. 

It was about this time, during the family photos, that the wind picked up like crazy, and within minutes it was pouring cold rain.  I live under the impression that it never rains anywhere in St.  Louis for more than 20 minutes.   I figured it would pass…it always does. 
I was wrong.  As the soggy guests made their way into the event tent while shaking out umbrellas and smoothing wild hair, the rain continued to pour.  It pounded the top of the event tent as we waited for the bridal party to come down the aisle. 
The music started, the guests stood, and Alexis and her daddy came form the curtain.   The whole atmosphere changed.   Faces were smiling, eyes were crying tears of joy, and you couldn't even hear the rain anymore.  
Don't get me wrong, you could still "hear" it physically, but no one paid any attention to it.   So many people in this room loved these 2 kids so much that the roof could've blown off and they still wouldn't have left those seats. 
No one paid attention to the water that swelled up on the sidewalk and overflowed into their ceremony. In my mind, I gave her permission to "lose it" - many brides would have.  But she didn't, and he didn't, and at the end of the day, they were just as married as they would have been if it was sunny and 70. 
The zoo staff was amazing,  holding the Sea Lion show despite the weather, shuttling guests around on golf carts, and making sure everyone was having a great time.
Because of all the rain and all the golf carts being in use, we had to ditch many of our fabulous Zoo pictures.   We did manage to sneak into Sea Lion Sound - I knew it'd be dry in there - but the rest of our options were limited.  The bride and groom were soaked, I was soaked, and it poured buckets of water for 4 hours straight.  In the 8 years I've been shooting weddings it is the 2nd worst weather day I've ever had.   April and Chad still hold the top spot with their 6 hours of sleeting rain in April. 
 I felt completely helpless that all of our cool zoo pictures were a bust.  But then I had an idea for a shot, which would require my bride and groom going back out into the rain.  I wasn't sure if it would even work; I knew what I wanted it to look like it my head, but I wasn't sure if I could execute it.   So I practiced on one of her poor groomsmen who stood in the rain while I practiced the shot.  With the help of my assistant, Erica -who is standing behind them in the pouring rain holding an umbrella over my $600 lights- we got this shot.   I was so glad Alexis and Nate were up to having a little fun because it's probably one of my favorite shots ever.
Once the reception kicked off, the guests were warm and dry.  Their bellies were fed, and the music was awesome.  The dance floor was packed all night.  You could see the look of relief on Alexis and Nate's face-  the ceremony was over, the hard part was done.   Now all the had to do was spend the rest of the night throwing the biggest party they ever had, with all the people who loved them the most.
I was supposed to be a beautiful day…and it was.   
And if it's really good luck to have rain on your wedding day, then I'm betting these two will be pregnant with triplets by their first anniversary and win the powerball.  

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