Classic. Gorgeous. Breathtaking. That’s how I would describe James and Danielle’s wedding ceremony on July 30, 2021, at St. Mary’s Church in Pompton Lakes, NJ, and reception at The Mansion at Mountain Lakes in Mountain Lakes, NJ. I mean just look at the detail in that church! From meeting on a cruise ship (more on that later), to building a house in Virginia, to planning a wedding through a pandemic, and so much more, it was an HONOR to photograph these two finally getting to have the wedding day they had been dreaming of!
Their wedding was the first wedding of my season (thanks to many of my spring weddings getting postponed again + blocking off a lot of time on my calendar for my own wedding) so needless to say, I was a little nervous going into the day! (Yes, after almost a decade of photographing weddings, I still get nervous!) It had been SO LONG since I got to photograph a full wedding day, but these two made it a walk in the park.
The day started off for me at The Mansion at Mountain Lakes in their bridal suite. Danielle and all her bridesmaids got ready there – a GORGEOUS room with INCREDIBLE light – AKA a photographer’s DREAM. Their hair and makeup team made some magic in the morning, and then we cranked up the tunes for some fun shots in their robes before everyone got dressed. While the girls got into their dresses, Danielle read a letter from James and opened a gift from him – all of which were adorable. He had printed a photo from their micro ceremony on glass, with their first dance song on it (You and Me, by Dave Matthews) with a quote from the song “Together we can do anything.” – CUE THE EMOTIONS ALREADY!
Danielle got into her dress with her mom and sister (which was a sight for sore eyes if you ask me – MY GOSH SHE IS BEAUTIFUL!) and then, we all hopped in cars and the bus to head to the church for the ceremony!
St. Mary’s Church was Danielle’s childhood church so of course, it was the natural choice for their Catholic ceremony. Danielle is originally from New Jersey, (right by where I live, actually!) but her and James decided to build their home and life in Virginia, where he is from! However – on their wedding day, everyone came up to her hometown to celebrate their love, and it couldn’t have been more perfect.
After the ceremony, we traveled to Laurelwood Arboretum in Wayne, New Jersey (right by my house!) for all the bride and groom and wedding party portraits! They turned out SO beautiful with all the lush greens in the background, accented by the girl’s chianti colored dresses (a dark, neutral, rusty reddish purple!) and the guys’ Navy suits and the beautiful flowers! Danielle and James had a huge wedding party that was so much fun and made our job so easy and fun all day long! Good wedding parties make our job SO much more fun!
From the arboretum, we traveled back to their venue – The Mansion at Mountain Lakes, to finish up Family portraits, and then everyone headed to cocktail hour while we photographed the reception! Every detail was absolutely beautiful, and the dance floor was packed all night long. TRULY a perfect day.
And while the wedding day was perfect, I am also in awe of their love story. It’s like a story out of a Hallmark movie, and I HAVE to share!
Danielle and James met on a July 4th cruise out of NYC to the Caribbean. James was on the cruise for his Grandma’s 80th birthday with his entire Dad’s side. Danielle was on the cruise with one of her best friends and her friend’s mom. Danielle met James’ cousin on the first night of the cruise and then met James the next night. They hit it off right away and spent the rest of the cruise hanging out and getting to know each other. The last night of the cruise they decided to stay up all night and watch the cruise ship pull into the NY harbor at sunrise. When it was time to leave the boat, they exchanged numbers, and now, here they are, newly married! (They even had friends that they met on the cruise attend the wedding! So cool!)
For their first date, Danielle decided to make the trip down to Arlington, VA from New Jersey 3 weeks after meeting on the cruise. James planned the whole day for them sightseeing and doing activities around D.C. They started the day off with kayaking on the Potomac River and walked around the monuments and then went to dinner at a BBQ place in D.C.
Fast forward through their epic love story, and these two absolutely knew that they were in this for the long haul. So, James planned to ask Danielle to marry him at a dinner they planned for a Christmas gift to each other. The morning of, they spontaneously chose to buy last-minute tickets to the Giants/Cowboys season finale at Metlife stadium. Danielle suggested that they cancel their dinner plans in lieu of the game, and James calmly scrambled to change his plans. They quickly got ready, he hid the ring in his winter hat, and they left for the stadium. Once they were parked and settled, they sat to have a quick breakfast in the car before meeting some friends at the tailgates. James started talking about their future and how important Danielle was to him and pulled the ring from his hat and asked her to marry him. She was completely shocked and even said “I’m confused” as he held the ring in front of her. Finally, after realizing what was happening Danielle said YES and she couldn’t stop smiling. They then both went to meet friends at the tailgate, celebrated, and then watched the Giants lose to the Cowboys (unfortunately).
Then, that’s where I came in! Referred to me by one of my past Groom’s mothers (Thanks Bobby!), Danielle and James booked me for their 2020 wedding day. COVID-19 clearly had other plans. Luckily, we got to photograph their epic engagement session down in Virginia in 2019, and I had the pleasure of staying at their home for the night! (Thanks guys!) Psssst – check out their gorgeous engagement session here: https://imlauraleeblog.com/virginia-engagement-session-nj-photographer/
That brings us to this amazing July 2021 day. A day to be remembered. The most epic celebration of love, and a day I was elated to be a part of.
Danielle and James, it was truly an honor to be brought along and be a part of your love story – from your engagement session in the vineyards of Virginia, to the most epic wedding day in Mountain Lakes, I loved getting to know you both these last few years! I cannot wait to see where life leads you and how your love grows over the years. Thank you for choosing me to celebrate such a special time with!
CEREMONY VENUE: St. Marys Church
RECEPTION VENUE: The Mansion at Mountain Lakes
PHOTOGRAPHER: Laura Lee Photography
VIDEOGRAPHER: Magic Moments Productions
FLORIST: Floriography Designs
BAND/DJ: Magic Moments Productions
MAKE-UP ARTIST: Pin it Up and Pout
HAIR ARTIST: Pin it Up and Pout
BRIDESMAIDS DRESS: David’s Bridal
TUXES: Men’s Wearhouse
BRIDAL GOWN: Tina’s Bridal