Katie + André's Catskills Wedding Weekend at Carey Institute for Global Good

My first weekend back to photographing weddings this year was a full wedding weekend celebration with Katie and André out in Rensselaerville, NY at a beautiful Catskills wedding and event venue, Carey Institute for Global Good.

After arriving at the venue and checking in, Katie and André had a ceremony rehearsal with their wedding party, followed by an intimate dinner with their close family/friends. At the end of the night there was a Welcome Bonfire with smores at the Stonecroft building on the Carey Institute’s campus. Upon arrival at the venue, it was raining pretty heavily, and the forecast for the following day was looking to be just the same. There was a heavy fog in the air outside, and yet nothing but lightness and joy for the bride-and-groom-to-be and their families.

After all the worry about rain in the forecast, everyone woke on the wedding day to blue skies and sunshine, and it was PERFECT. I could go on forever about this day, but what I loved the most was how special every single detail was to Katie and André and their story. Katie’s parents have both sadly passed, but she wore charms with their faces and favorite phrases on them, so they could be with her as she walked down the isle. And she also wore a necklace that her mom wore on her wedding day. A close friend married them during their ceremony. They wrote their own vows. Since Katie’s mom loved and was known for her needlepoint work, they incorporated that in the beautifully intricate and handmade ring pillow and table numbers. Their signature drink was the Pina Colada (appropriately named Pineda Colada) – the drink they had many of while on the vacation where they got engaged. They had cookies and pie as dessert – two of Katie’s dad’s favorites. And of course, who can forget the truly unique additions of not one but TWO bouncy castles for all the kids (and of course for themselves) to enjoy and the piñata smashing they did instead of a traditional cake cutting. The dance floor was packed all night long with their favorite music – not a single person was at their seats! And because of the venue being out in the Catskills, the night was clear and crisp – allowing everyone to celebrate under the stars and Milky Way! From beginning to the very end, it was a joyous day of celebration and love.

If you’ve ever been at the tail end of a wedding day, you’ve probably seen the rushed goodbyes given out to the bride and groom. It’s a whirlwind, and at the end of such a busy day it’s really hard to take it all in. But one benefit of having a wedding weekend is that you don’t have that. Katie and André were able to celebrate ALL NIGHT LONG and then woke Sunday morning to enjoy a full-spread of delicious food and reflective conversation at their morning-after brunch. Guests filled their bellies before their travels back home and the bride and groom passed out warm, genuine hugs to everyone.

It was such a beautiful and meaningful wedding weekend, and it was such an honor to be there for every single moment. Katie and André, congratulations again and thank you so much for allowing me to be a part of your story!

Bride and Groom’s favorite moments/memories from the wedding? This question is SO HARD. Every time we pick one, we think of 5 others that were just as great. So here's a not-so-short list:

- The dance floor. We both love to dance, and we get really into it. We each had a song when people spontaneously formed dance circles around us and people chanted our names. It was so, so fun. Will never forget how it felt to be surrounded by people we love celebrating with us

- The piñata! Instead of cutting a cake, we had a cake-shaped piñata bashing. The piñata came with a stick to break it with – didn't work. We upgraded to a broom, and we broke the broom while smacking the piñata. Then André bashed it with a chair, but the piñata still didn't break. Everyone was cheering us on and laughing. We had to take the piñata down and stomp it open. It was hysterical!

- The bouncy castles! Katie wanted bouncy castles SO BADLY. Jumping in them together was so silly and great.

- THE WEATHER. It had called for rain all week, but the night before the wedding, the forecast cleared. It was sunny and gorgeous on our wedding day, so our guests got to enjoy swimming/hiking/tennis/relaxing, and we got to have bouncy castles and cornhole. The night sky was so clear – I couldn't believe there were so many stars. You could even see the Milky Way! We had glow sticks and light up shutter shades, and many of our guests went outside the tent and had a mini-rave.

- The afterparty. We all just hung out on this beautiful patio, listened to music, and talked to our friends and family. Such a perfect end to the day.

- Right after I walked down the aisle, and before our officiant started talking, André kissed me, and everyone laughed about it. We were both just so excited and couldn't wait till the end of the ceremony.

- My uncle walked me down the aisle, and as we walked he gave me a running commentary of all the wonderful things around us – the weather, how beautiful I looked, how so many people had come to share this special day, how much love was around us.

Do you have any recommendations for future couples planning a wedding? For us, the most important parts of planning were to be a team and compromise, and find the best vendors. Our wedding could not have happened without the incredible team we had that day!

Get EVERYTHING you can done before the wedding day! The day is so fast as it is, so if there's anything you can get off your to-do list beforehand, take care of it!

Also, paradoxically, plan some time the week of the wedding for some solid self-care/relaxing. You'll want to be ready to go on your wedding day!

If you/your future spouse is prone to stress/getting overwhelmed, plan a breather for yourself after you eat! Have a good friend check in with you and take a walk. It can help you reset and re-focus from any stress you're feeling so you can go back to your party and have fun.

Special shout-out to the vendors!

Ceremony, Reception, and Lodging Venue:
The Carey Institute

Wedding Planner/Coordinator: Majority of Planning: Bride & Groom; Venue Coordinator/Planner: Tina Stannard; Day of Coordinator: Heather of Cullen Creations

Officiant: Chris Jackson

Photographer: Dawn M. Gibson Photography

Florist: Jess at Farmhouse Floral Designs

Caterer: The Carey Institute - Head Chef John Murray

Cake/Bakery: Cake: Treatie Beatie Cakes by Evelyn; Other Desserts: The Carey Institute

DJ/Band/Entertainment: DJ Benj

Invitations: Precise Continental

Hair: Lari & Assistant of Lari Manz Hair & Make Up

Makeup: Jess of Aranda Artistry

Rings: Greenwich Street Jewelers

Bride/Groom Attire: RK Bridal / Robbie & Co. Men's Shop

Shoes: Shoes of Prey / Aldo

Accessories: Hair Pins: BHLDN; Necklace: Bride's Mom; Shoe Charms: OOAKResinDesigns @ Etsy; Cufflinks + Ties: Robbie & Co. Men's Shop

Wedding Party Attire: Bridesmaids - Weddington Way; Groomsmen - Men's Wearhouse

Decorations/Decor Design or Rentals: Decoration & Design a joint effort between bride & groom, Heather at Cullen Creations, Jess at Farmhouse Floral & Design, and Tina at the Carey Institute

Bouncy Castles: Jumping Bean Party Rentals

Table Numbers: Handmade by bride, Emily, Jessica, Caitlin, Annie & Co Needlepoint, and by kathrynslater @ Etsy, who was kind enough to rush orders for us!