Alex & Gina | The Patrick Haley Mansion

Alex and Gina first met in college. They both attended The University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, and over the next four years, they became the best of friends. They even studied abroad together in Rome, and decided in their senior year of college that there was something more than a friendship. 

Fast forward to November 6th, 2016. That's when we first met Alex and Gina. He surprised the love of his life with the most romantic proposal, EVER! And we were privileged to be a part of the surprise! CLICK HERE to check out how it all began ... and then be sure to come back here to check out their gorgeous wedding day! :)

Alex and Gina were married on January 13th, 2018 in Gina's hometown, Joliet, Illinois. It was a beautiful winter day and they married at the beautiful St. Joesph Catholic Church in Downtown Joliet. It was the kind of church that reminds you of the cathedrals in Europe. When you walk in, you're taken to another place; It truly was breathtaking.

The reception was held at The Patrick Haley Mansion. It is one of the most beautiful venues; it's full of such nostalgia and wonderful details. Not to mention the staff were incredibly kind, and awesome to work alongside of.

There were many beautiful details that Gina and Alex included in this beautiful celebration, that highlighted not only their time together, but also Gina's Italian heritage.

They chose the black beauty rose as their main flower, to pay tribute to Gina's late grandmother. She also wrapped her grandmother's rosary around the bouquet, which is an Italian tradition.

Once you get down to the reception photos, you'll see a beautiful, amazing tower of cannoli, and small cake, which when we saw that, I'm pretty sure my sister and I (and maybe everyone there) said "Holy Cannoli"! HAHA, but really. It was an amazing and creative take on a traditional wedding cake. The small cake that sat on top of the tower read: “Ti amo da qui ... alla fine del mondo ... di nuove qui ... all infinito”, which translates to: “I love you from here ... to the end of the world ... here again ... to infinity”. Both Gina and Alex studied in Rome, and while there, they came across graffiti along the Tiber River, which had this beautiful quote. We love that they included this on their beautiful day. 

When it was time for Alex and Gina to dance their first dance, as husband and wife, Gina's dad, Mike and four of her cousins played "Pistol" by Dustin Kensrue. It was so beautifully played and wow! They are quite the musicians! And for the father/daughter dance, Gina and Mike choreographed the most epic dance and they absolutely killed it! 

EVERYONE got on the dance floor during the Tarantella, which is a beautiful, Italian folk-dance! It got the dance party lifted off with a bang! Which brings us to the amazing entertainment for the evening ... The Walk-ins! These guys were so incredibly talented, entertaining and so kind! We loved working with them and hope that our paths cross again.

We cannot say enough good things about this special day, and these special people. Some of the kindest souls you could ever meet. Congratulations Alex and Gina! We are so humbled to have been able to be a part of your amazing day!

{If you'd like to check out Alex & Gina's wedding day slideshow, CLICK HERE!}

Ceremony: St. Joseph Catholic Church
Reception: The Patrick C. Haley Mansion
Caterer: The Patrick C. Haley Mansion
Photographers: Hey Sisters! Photography | Emily Allison & Erin Elliott
Videographers: Frank Slow Films
The Dress: Bella Sposa Bridal
Bridesmaids Dresses: Bella Sposa Bridal
Hair & Makeup: Salon: Tamara Makeup + Hair Artistry
Tuxedos: The Black Tux
Florist: Petals, Custom Wedding Flowers
Invitations: PS: I Love You
Wedding Cake: Creative Cakes
Reception Band: The Walk-ins




Justin Appel, Conductor {Notre Dame Concordia and Ritornello Ensemble}

Last year, I was seriously so honored to photograph the incredible talent of Justin Appel, a conductor, composer and pianist! The Notre Dame Concordia and Ritornello ensemble, which consists of 21 singers and 11 instrumentalists performed in the Reyes Organ and Choral Hall, at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. These brilliant vocalists and musicians performed some of the most beautiful music my ears have ever heard, and my only wish was to have bottled it up, to hear it over and over again.

The beautiful backdrop of the choral hall, with such amazing music to fill it, was an absolute honor, and I'm incredibly grateful for such an opportunity!

If you'd like to hear some of Justin's musical genius, you can check out his website here: (I highly recommend checking out the videos and listening to Long Road - Ēriks Ešenvalds - it's breathtakingly beautiful.)

2016 Adventures {Pittsburgh, Gettysburg, Philadelphia, Washington D.C.}

After I saw Rocky for the first time, so many years ago, I told myself that I would visit those stairs and run them, just as Sylvester Stallone did in the film. While it's taken 20+ years to get there, I finally did it back in May, and it was every bit of awesome as I thought it would be! Not to mention, being able to run them with my little boy and husband, made it that much awesome-er. ;) It's funny how in our younger years, we have these dreams; these little things that we want to do, but never actually get out and do them. There are a variety of reasons we hold ourselves back, but truthfully, if we could all be a kid again, we'd chase after those silly things with true grit. Because those are the things that truly ignite the passions deep within - and help us become the people we were meant to be. So go on. Go ahead and go do those things you've always wanted to do. The best time is NOW.

{In addition to running those amazing Rocky stairs, my hubby, baby boy and I first ventured to Pittsburgh, then onto Gettysburg, hit Philadelphia and our final destination was Washington D.C. It was a whirlwind trip, but oh so amazing - and filled with so much rich history. Grateful for this time. Grateful for these moments.} :)

And just because I love facts - and history - figured I’d share a little bit of what we learned adventuring to all of these amazing places!

First on the list: Pittsburgh!

- The very loved and very kind Fred Rogers of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” called Pittsburgh home. 
- There were quite a few movies filmed in Pittsburgh; some you might know are “The Silence of the Lambs”, “The Dark Knight Rises” and "Jack Reacher". 
- There actually is a language that is specific to Pittsburgh natives; it's called Pittsburghese! I think maybe I heard a little of it?! ;)
- A Primanti Bros. sandwich is a not so typical sandwich. No matter which one you order from the menu, they top em' with french fries and coleslaw. And surprisingly, it's actually quite tasty!
- Rosie the Riveter was born in Pittsburgh in 1942. Yea Rosie!!
- Did you know there are 446 bridges in Pittsburgh alone? The city gets the nickname: "The City of Bridges".

Did you know …

Gettysburg was a 3-day battle in 1863; it was considered the most important engagement of the American Civil War. General Robert E. Lee marched his Army of Northern Virginia into Pennsylvania in late June 1863 – and on July 1, the advancing Confederates clashed with the Union’s Army of the Potomac, commanded by General George G. Meade. As the three day battle ensued, the Confederates attacked Union soldiers on both left and right. On the final day, General Lee ordered an attack by fewer than 15,000 troops on the enemy’s center at Cemetery Ridge. The assault, known as “Pickett’s Charge,” managed to pierce the Union lines, but eventually failed, at the cost of thousands of rebel casualties. Union casualties in the battle numbered 23,000, while the Confederates had lost some 28,000 men: more than a third of Lee’s army. The Battle of Gettysburg irrevocably turned the tide of the Civil War in the Union’s favor – but it was by far the costliest battle of the Civil War.

In Philadelphia sits the beautiful, amazing Liberty Bell, and you might not know that on July 8, 1776, it was the ring of this bell that changed the world. The Liberty Bell rung out from the tower of Independence Hall summoning the citizens of Philadelphia to hear the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence by Colonel John Nixon. But, after the divisive Civil War, Americans sought a symbol of unity. The American flag became one such symbol, and the Liberty Bell another. The Liberty Bell also gained iconic importance when abolitionists, in their efforts to put an end to slavery throughout America, adopted it as a symbol. “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all inhabitants thereof.”

Our final destination, before heading home was Arlington National Cemetery. I was incredibly reverent seeing the fields of tombstones right in front of me. You stand humbled by the sacrifice vividly displayed here. You cannot help but stand still for a moment and say a thousand times, THANK YOU. I'm grateful to the men and women who laid down their life so that we might have freedom - and incredibly thankful for the men and women who continue to put their lives on the line, day in, and day out. This sacrifice - it is not taken for granted - we say THANK YOU a million times over, knowing that is not enough, but stand respectfully and remember today, and every day that freedom is not free.

“Arlington, this place of so many memories, is a fitting place for some remembering. So many wonderful men and women rest here, men and women who led colorful, vivid, and passionate lives. All of these men and women were different, but they shared this in common: They loved America very much. There was nothing they wouldn’t do for 'her'. And they loved with the sureness of the young. It’s hard not to think of the young in a place like this, for it’s the young who do the fighting and dying when a peace fails and a war begins. Today is the day we put aside to remember fallen heroes and to pray that no heroes will ever have to die for us again. It’s a day of thanks for the valor of others, a day to remember the splendor of America and those of 'her' children who rest in this cemetery and others. It’s a day to be with the family and remember.” ~President Ronald Reagan