November 7, 2023
Set on the Housatonic River in a charming Connecticut town called Seymour, Aulona, and Caleb hosted their wedding party and family for an intimate rehearsal dinner on the water at Housatonic House | Restaurant and Bar. Upon booking, the only direction I was given was to “make my summer European wedding dreams come true.” The way they decorated the tables with lemons and candles paired with the warm evening situated on the sparkling water with the setting sun truly felt like we were on Lake Como or somewhere tucked away in Italy. And as you can see below, I think it’s safe to say, we both delivered!
It was a perfect night. Entangled hands and hearts everywhere you looked. It was so special being able to get a preview of the outpouring of love and celebration the next day would bring. Their friends and family took turns making speeches and every speech carried the same sentiment. Not only did everyone wholeheartedly believe that Aulona and Caleb are meant to be together, a truly perfect match, but they are so special to their friends and family and supported beyond all measure. I could have never expected the way they rallied and celebrated the next day. It was a wedding I will never ever forget.
On August 18th, 2023 the sky was free of clouds and the weather was warm but not scorching as most summer weddings were this season. Aulona and Caleb rented a stunning Airbnb on the water in Groton, CT to host their wedding party for the weekend instead of a hotel. Not only did it make for the most epic bridal party photos but it was one of the ways I felt bonded their wedding party for the weekend in a way a hotel could NEVER. Not to mention it was perfectly located for their venue, Eolia Mansion at Harkness Memorial Park. Walking into the house the morning of, vibes were incredibly chill. Guys half-naked, roaming around, shooting the shit, and getting ready. The ladies were hanging around in their robes, chit-chatting on the porch outside or lounging and waiting as Aulona finished up in hair and makeup. I used this time to photograph the house and bridal details. I didn’t orchestrate anything but observed and captured the low excited vibrations humming around until Aulona was ready to go. We proceeded to dance and march out to the pier with parasols in hand in single file line and it was a vision I will never forget. It felt like the true kick-off of the day, the energy didn’t waver one bit from that moment forward.
When we got to Eolia Mansion, there was only a bridal suite with nowhere for the guys to get ready (so for those getting married and planning their wedding here, make sure at the very least the guys are dressed and ready to go before arriving). So while I was capturing those oh-so-precious getting dressed moments between Aulona, her mother, and sisters, my second photographer took Caleb around for some groom portraits. We didn’t have a ton of time to spare so I made use of the walk toward the first look and private vows as my opportunity to capture a few bridal portraits. (Here are some tips and guidance on planning your wedding timeline).
Their first look and private vows had me choking on silent sobs so as to not remind the two of my presence during their intimate declarations of their love. I cry at EVERY single wedding and this one was no exception. I’ve known Aulona since high school and seeing that she found her person who is just so completely obsessed and in awe of her was enough to make me weep.
Their ceremony, performed by their close friend was short and sweet. Caleb’s excitement post-ceremony was contagious. He wears his heart on his sleeve and his emotions written all over his face. The walk back to the mansion from the ceremony site may possibly have been the biggest catalyst for the electric energy that the wedding party would emanate on the dance floor after family photos were finished. We had to walk through the very busy public park in order to get back to Eolia Mansion which they did proudly holding hands. Picnicking families stood up and exclaimed enthusiastic congratulatory comments as we marched by which was truly a hilarious thing to watch and witness. We were giggling uncontrollably. I think maybe you had to be there 😛 (the photos below help paint a better visual).
Their entrance into the reception post cocktail hour was to the song “Levels” where they hyped the dance floor up before they even did their first dance. Aulona and her family are from Albania and brought traditional Albanian outfits for Aulona and Caleb. Right after their first dance, Aulona’s family brought out the traditional Qeleshe hat and Caleb made his grand entrance with his traditional outfit on to surprise everyone. The wedding exploded and roared at his entrance (the pictures are priceless). Shortly after the sun began to set so we snuck off for a few wedding portraits. When we returned it was time to privately cut the cake and make our way upstairs where Caleb helped Aulona change into her second look. This may have been my favorite thing that they did that day because this created a true and very intimate moment carved into their day which most couples don’t get or have on their wedding day. They stayed upstairs for a while too if I say so myself 😉
After that, they left everything on the dance floor. They danced into the night extending beyond their bubble exit which was… LEGENDARY. And hosted their afterparty back at the Airbnb (such a genius move).
HAPPILY EVER AFTER.