vintage valentine’s {behind the scenes}

Today is going to be all about showing you and telling you how the Vintage Valentine’s wedding shoot came to be. I’m going to try to give you a little picture of what it was like to be behind-the-scenes day of, and how we created the look and feel of the event. Get ready for lots of photos!


First of all, meet my partners-in-crime! Dena Swenson, myself and Emily Steffen were the creative brains behind this whole gig. We made a rockstar team, if I do say so myself!! Believe it or not, the planning of all this began exactly two weeks before the date of the big shoot. At the end of January, Emily emailed Dena and I asking if we’d be interested in collaborating on a “a wintery-vintage-valentinsey” wedding photoshoot. I have known Emily since college, and adore her work, so I jumped at the chance to partner with her on what seemed like  a fun, creative project. I had never met Dena before, but had heard so many good things about her, I was also thrilled at the opportunity to get to know her better. The three of us met for a late lunch on January 31st, and filled two hours with talking, brainstorming, and plenty of big ideas. The wheels were turning, and the emails flew for the next two weeks. We had the shoot scheduled for the 13th of February, and all the details were falling into place. Props were collected (99% of them came from our own homes!), models were arranged (friends of Dena’s), and the location was set (a farm belonging to one of Emily’s friends).

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The photoshoot was held at a beautiful farm in western Wisconsin, situated on 35 stunning acres of rolling hills, fields and forest. When we arrived at the farm bright and early on the big day, and were greeted by the most magical setting.


Every branch of every tree was coated in delicate frost, creating a look that felt like something straight out of a fairytale.


The woods behind the barn carried that same storybook quality, and later in the day, as the sun set, it became a magical place, ripe for capturing intimate moments between the bride and groom.

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Styling shots of people is entirely different than working on detail shots (like the candy buffet or the tablescape, which I will talk about in a bit). We were lucky to have two fantastic and fun couples to model for us. Luke and Monica were the bride and groom, and a charming and sweet married couple. They weren’t afraid to get all dolled up and frolic around in the snow on a very cold day, wearing summer-like wedding attire! To ease the pain of these chilly outdoor photos, Emily and I worked together to plan each shot as much as possible, while L&M hung out in a warm car. Here, you can see me getting the two chairs ready for some cozy forest shots of the bride and groom.


Once we had the couple where we wanted them, Emily came in and worked her magic behind the lens. I tweaked attire and made sure that the little elements of the shot were clean and in place. In between photos, we wrapped our blushing bride in a warm blanket and her husband’s arms!

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Unlike styling shots of people, which is very much “in the moment”, styling the various still-life elements of the event took much pre-planning and forethought. Take, for example, the candy buffet. At our initial meeting, we discussed doing a themed candy buffet that featured all valentine’s candy in various shades of red, pink and white. We all brought various jars and containers, and Dena had this great little white table to use as a base for the buffet. The night before the shoot, I was sitting on the floor in the farmhouse dumping dollar-store candy into all the various containers, trying to strike a balance of colors and shapes. Adding, and taking away, combining and moving around until I felt like the visual symmetry was just right. Above you can see it “in process”.


The day of  shoot, I took what I thought were the right elements for the candy buffet, and arranged them on the table with a rough wall of the barn as a backdrop. A bit of rearranging and tweaking, and I was satisfied with the shot.


Once it was ready, Emily came in and photographed all the details from various angles, capturing the sugary goodness of these sweet treats.


I should mention that I used my (now famous) DIY chalkboard balanced on a stack of red, pink and caramel colored books as an element of the candy buffet. It fit perfectly with the delicate, whimsical look we were aiming for.


Here you can see the final shot with everything in place.

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This, my friends, was the scene in the farmhouse the night before our shoot. Dena, Emily and I showed up in three separate vehicles, filled to the brim with a good portion of our belongings. Dishes, crates, bowls, chairs, tables, books, antiques and everything else in between was unloaded and spread out across counters and floors. We started to separate and categorize scenes that we wanted to style, and slowly created separate boxes of props for each shot that would be set up and photographed the next day in or around the barn.


Saturday dawned bright and beautiful, as previously mentioned. We headed to the barn with all of our props, and quickly got busy working on the tablescape, which was the most involved scene to prop and style. You can just see the edge of the table that we used in the open doorway of the barn above.


As the sun rose into the sky, we began to arrange Emily’s grandma’s china and silverware, Dena’s candleabra, tiny knit hearts, amazing paper details (by Dena) and scores of candles, all set on a weathered barnboard table (found in the back corner of the barn).


You can see here that some of the legs of the chairs are propped up on boards, and the setting around the table isn’t perfect.


However, when the scene was set, Emily entered with her camera and carefully and miraculously captured the subtle, sparkly beauty of this scene.


The candles glowed, and the details came alive!


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In a nutshell, I suppose I can summarize by saying that event design and photo styling is really about taking many small pieces and setting them in a pleasing arrangement to make a visually attractive “whole”. I don’t claim to be a professional, by any means, but I certainly enjoy this type of work, and teaming up with such talented ladies made the whole process a total blast! I hope you enjoyed this little behind-the-scenes look at the Vintage Valentine’s wedding shoot.  I can’t wait to share more details on the mini wine bottle favors and Emily’s sweetheart banner, so stay tuned!

*All photos except for 7, 8, 12, 13, and 14 were taken by Emily Steffen.

  1. What a fun project. Love getting the scoop behind the scenes. Creative people rock!

  2. I LOVE THIS! I love that you did the “behind the scenes”…you make us look so organized and fun! :) I wouldn’t have picked any other partners in crime besides you and Dena! We make an amazing team and your behind the scenes look is simply perfect! :) :) :) :)

  3. Michelle says:

    First of all, I am SOO jealous! That looked like SO much fun! Secondly, I SWEAR that kitchen is identical to mine-we have some land in Prescott, and an old barn too! If you ever want to come over & play-I would absolutely LOVE it!!!

  4. Chris Evans says:

    This place looks familiar…
    Cool idea doing the “behind-the-scenes”!
    It was fun having everyone around.

  5. Bethany says:

    Laurie, thanks! :)

    Emily, putting this together was sooo fun, and I can’t wait for our next one!

    Michelle, would love to come play at your barn! Email me photos and maybe we can use it for an upcoming shoot.

    Chris, THANK YOU times a million for letting us use your amazing place!! You and Amy were so gracious to let us take over your house (and garage and barn). :D

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