In October, my friend Heather and I ventured hundreds of miles south to photograph the wedding of the amazing Colleen and Shannon Jackson. I first met the couple last April (before they were engaged) at another wedding where the two lit up the dance floor. They were so graceful, so happy, and so in love. I snapped a few cool dipping photos of Shannon and Colleen and posted them to the gallery with all of the other images. A month or two later, Colleen was asking to purchase the image from me and I took that opportunity to ask if she was interested in modeling for a stylized session that I would be doing in August. Fast forward to the fall and the amazing session was over and I got the call from Colleen that she was engaged! I never thought she’d entertain the idea of brining me down to Virginia for her wedding, but it didn’t even seem to be a question. I was so stinking excited to pack up my car, grab my friend Heather, and head to the beautiful historic Airlie Estate and Hotel for the nuptials. I familiarized myself with the venue while the couple rehearsed the night before the wedding and then joined them for their rehearsal dinner. I could tell from the very beginning that the following day would be absolutely amazing just by meeting those who surrounded the happy couple. The morning came and I hung with the ladies while Heather went with the men to do something a little different for “getting ready” pictures. Shannon and his dad and groomsmen went skeet shooting. We could hear gunfire pops from our cozy cabin by the woods while Colleen and her ladies got their hair and makeup done. After Colleen opened up a beautiful gift from Shannon (a beautiful locket that she wore that day) Colleen dressed herself in a beautiful princess-worthy ballgown and slipped her Jimmy Choo’s onto her feet. With her mother by her side, Colleen smiled and twirled and laughed for the next few hours while taking her portraits. Her bridesmaids, all of whom were dressed in gorgeous sparkly red gowns, threw flower petals over Colleen while her sister (and flower girl). After the portraits were finished, the ceremony began and Shannon got teary as his soon-to-be wife graced the aisle with a radiant smile and a cathedral veil. The two were married after a few readings and songs sung by their friends and proceeded to finish taking the rest of their portraits before their reception began. After they were announced, the couple shared their choreographed first dance (by Colleen’s lovely mom Kate) and listened to speeches from their parents and “best people.” After the parent dances and a tasteful cake smash, Heather and I left the couple to their party but not before snagging a piece of cake on the way out!! Congratulations to Colleen & Shannon, you beautiful couple you! To see more work from this Airlie Wedding Photographer, click here.
How they met…
We met at a happy hour organized by Colleen’s uncle, JD Ragan. He and Shannon had volunteered together on a Senate campaign in Alaska and the next time JD came to Washington D.C. JD could not stop telling Colleen about how wonderful Shannon was. JD organized a happy hour for us to meet and we had such a wonderful time talking politics, telling stories, and laughing together. We exchanged numbers that night – I asked for Shannon’s number. We had our first date a month later and dated for 2.5 years before our wedding.
How he asked…
Shannon put together an elaborate romantic scavenger hunt through DC to all of the places that were special to their relationship: Where they had their first date, their kiss, their first dance, a sunset picnic, a beautiful day exploring our favorite museum. At each stop, a family member or friend was waiting to hand Colleen an envelope with a poem from Shannon and a clue for where to find the next clue. Family and friends had flown from Vermont, Colorado, and drove hours from rural Virginia to be a part of the proposal. Colleen’s parents were waiting with the last clue at the place where Shannon and Colleen had shared their first kiss. Colleen’s parents gave her the final clue that sent her to where Shannon and Colleen had danced together for the first time on their second date – The WWI DC war memorial. This memorial is a beautiful round pavilion set back from the National Mall amongst a grove of trees. Shannon was waiting there with a three-piece band to ask Colleen to marry him.
“When I saw him, all I wanted to do to was to get to him and be in his arms. He had to ask me to let him go because he had a question to ask me! We spent the next half hour dancing together while Shannon’s best friend captured the moment.”
About the location…
We both grew up in beautiful places and feel very connected to the outdoors and the beauty of nature. We wanted somewhere that matched how we grew up so we looked for places that fit that feel – gardens, woods, lakes. Airlie was the first place that we saw and we immediately fell in love. Driving through the grounds surrounded by trees and rolling hills, located beside a beautiful stone wall; we felt like we were driving into a fairy tale. The venue only got more beautiful from there with gardens, fountains, flowers, and fairy lights. We were sold.
A word from the bride…
It was a fairytale come true and more filled with love, laughter, and happiness than we could ever imagine. It was unforgettable.
The theme and the flowers…
We wanted the wedding to be “Garden Romantic” and to feel elegant while incorporating the gardens and nature around us. We gave our florist a lot of freedom in her choice of flowers. We told her that we wanted them to be a little messy, romantic and we sent her a swatch of the bridesmaids dresses. It was fun giving up the reins and letting her play; they ended up being so much more beautiful than weI would have ever been able to describe! One thing that I asked of her is to add some eucalyptus to my bridal bouquet. thought that it was a fun tribute to the fact that I grew up in Australia.
Shannon’s mother is a wonderful watercolor artist, we used her artwork in most of our signage. We also let the venue speak for itself – the ceiling is covered in romantic fairy lights so we used glitter table numbers and votive candles to make the tables glow as well.
Biggest Surprises of the day…
Colleen: Shannon is a wonderfully romantic person but does not get emotional very easily at all. This was the first time that I had seen him cry. It was such a romantic surprise.
Shannon: Our wedding was the greatest day of my life. Two things that caught me by surprise was how overpoweringly emotional it made me and the incredible speed that everything flew by at.
Advice from the bride and groom…
The day went by so fast for the both of us and there were a couple timing hiccups with some events going longer than others. If we were to give advice, we would suggest to always build in buffer time for everything. If everything goes to plan, then you can have that time to just be with each other, but if something goes longer than planned, you have that time there. Also, drink water and eat!
Highlight of the day for the bride and groom…
Colleen: Nothing can beat walking down the aisle to marry the man you love. It felt like the rest of the world dropped away and it was just us. We also chose to write our own vows to make our commitment more personal to us and it was one of the best decisions we made for the wedding.
Shannon: How does one choose? From hearing Colleen’s vows and saying mine to her, to our first dance, to our first kiss as husband and wife – it would be impossible to name them all. They will forever replay in my mind and regularly be recounted!
Wedding Planner: Favored by Yodit
Florist: Growing Wild Floral
Invitations: Mrs. Michelle Jackson (Shannon’s mom)
Cake: Eloise’s Pastries
Dress Designer: Lazaro Bridal
Heels: Jimmy Choos
Sneakers: Kate Spade
Hair & Makeup: Gabby and Martha Hair and Makeup
Suit: Men’s Warehouse
Band: Highway Star