My Favorite Rustic Wedding Venues in CT and NY

My Favorite Rustic Wedding Venues in CT and NY

 Photos of a rustic wedding ceremony at Maplestone Inn in New Paltz, NY by Jeff Lundstrom Photography

My favorite rustic wedding venues in CT & NY will help you select the perfect venue for your wedding.

It’s that time of year! Engagement rings were dropping like Eli Manning passes over the holiday season. And all those Yes’s can mean only one thing – It’s wedding planning season! Every year at this time, couples begin the exciting challenge of planning their wedding. I’ll admit, planning a wedding is not for the faint of heart. It’s a lot to do! So, I wanted to offer my advice on THE single most important wedding planning decision you have to make – the venue! There are a myriad of wedding venues to have your nuptials, but what venue is the ideal venue for you?

This post is the first in a series of posts about my favorite venues in Connecticut and New York. I will be highlighted venues I’ve actually had the pleasure of photographing so you will get my bonafide, real world opinion. And you’ll notice, right off the bat, that I focus my ten plus years in the wedding photography world on venues that appeal to adventurous couples, couples that want something a little different for their wedding. Whether it’s the country or the coast or a barn or even something completely unique, the venues that I will feature are not your traditional wedding halls. No, they are what I consider to be ‘hidden gems’ that can only be found ‘off the beaten path’.

Why? Because I am passionate about being true to your personality and interests. No excuses! That’s just the type of couple that I love to work with. My ideal clients want an experience for their quests (and themselves) that’s truly unique and that just doesn’t fit into a traditional little box.

Sooo, here goes!

Candlelight Farms Inn | New Milford, CT

Photo of a rustic outdoor wedding at Candlelight Farms Inn in New Milford, CT by Jeff Lundstrom Photography

Arguably my favorite rustic wedding venue in the entire state of Connecticut, Candlelight Farms Inn is truly a country lover’s paradise. Set atop Candlewood Mountain Road, Candlelight Farms, has the most beautiful sweeping views of any venue I’ve photographed. The whole setting is as traditional New England country as you can get. The 640 property features a colonial era inn that houses 5 guest rooms, perfect for your bridal party preparations, immaculately maintained terraced lawns and gardens, working horse stables, and it’s own airport! If you want country for your wedding, Candlelight Farms just might be your venue.

Village at Boulder Ridge | Barkhamsted, CT

Photo of a rustic outdoor wedding at The Village at Boulder Ridge Barkhamsted, CT by Jeff Lundstrom Photography

Perhaps the best kept secret in rustic venues in the state of Connecticut is The Village at Boulder Ridge. Tucked away in the northwest corner of the state, The Village at Boulder Ridge is as charming and country as it gets. The grounds are spacious and everywhere you turn there is a gorgeous view of the Litchfield Hills. Outdoor wedding ceremonies are held down on the edge of a pond with the rolling hills in the background. You can’t help but feel wrapped in nature at Boulder Ridge. I love Boulder Ridge for it’s rustic simplicity. It’s truly a breathtaking experience.

Maplestone Inn | New Paltz, NY

Photo of a rustic outdoor wedding at Maplestone Inn in New Paltz, NY by Jeff Lundstrom Photography

If you’ve ever lived in New York City, then you know that weekends are for getting out of the city. And there is no better destination for a Manhattan escape than the Maplestone Inn in New Paltz, NY. Maplestone Inn is that inn you dream about when you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of life. The inn is a lovingly restored 1700’s farm house. The restoration was undertaken by Sean and Patty Roche to breathe life back into one of the area’s most historic icons. They did a remarkable job staying true to its warm and cozy farmhouse roots. It may just be the perfect setting for a rustic wedding.

Highlands Country Club | Garrison, NY

Photo of a rustic outdoor wedding at Highlands Country Club in Garrison, NY by Jeff Lundstrom Photography

A country club on a list of rustic wedding venues? Yep. Not a typo. Highlands Country Club is unique in that it is a working country club but has the setting of a country destination resort. Located in Garrison, NY, Highlands offers everything you could want in a rustic wedding venue. The Grand Ballroom is truly grand with it’s soaring ceilings and it’s massive windows overlooking the property’s garden. You’ll sip your cocktails outside in the garden with views of the nearby Highlands Hills. And, depending on the time of year, a cozy, outdoor fire pit is the perfect end to an amazing wedding day in the country.

If you, or anyone you know, are planning a rustic wedding, then please spread the love by clicking ‘SHARE ON FACEBOOK’ below.

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5 Steps to Find Your Ideal Wedding Photographer

5 Steps to Find Your Ideal Wedding Photographer

I love photographing brides and grooms outside in wide open spaces!

5 Steps to Finding  Your Ideal Wedding Photographer

Introduction

Finding a photographer for your wedding isn’t hard. In fact, it’s quite easy. The tools for finding your wedding photographer are quite literally right at your fingertips!

From online wedding vendor sites, to wedding blogs, to magazine ads, to bridal shows, to word of mouth, to search engines, even social media. It’s actually never been easier to find a wedding photographer for your wedding.

The challenge is finding the right wedding photographer for your wedding.

I’ll pause there.

You’re probably asking yourself “Well, why does it matter that I find the right photographer for my wedding? I mean aren’t they all basically the same? Point, shoot, edit, deliver?”

Oh, friend! There is SO much more to photography than that.

Let me ask you a question – What’s your first reaction when someone points a camera at you? Unless you’re related to Gisele Bundchen, your first reaction is probably to duck, dodge, swerve, or juke out of the way of that thing!

Cameras are intimidating. Being photographed is a vulnerable experience. You are having an image taken of you that will be freely judged by the entire world.

Yeah, no pressure there!

That, my friends, is exactly why it is SO very important – vital really – for you to find your ideal wedding photographer to photograph your wedding.

Because photography, especially wedding photography, is all about feeling comfortable in front of the camera, not being intimidated by it. And the single most important factor to feeling 100% relaxed in front of the camera is the guy or girl who’s holding it.

Rapport is EVERYTHING in photography, especially when it comes to wedding photography. Why? Because, like the example above, most everyday people don’t like having their picture taken. They feel nervous, awkward, apprehensive, self-conscious. All that and more.

It’s the job of your photographer to make you feel relaxed and natural. 100% your authentic self. Why? Because that’s what will show in your photos. You have to live with your photos for the rest of your life, don’t you want to see your real self in them?

True story. I had a couple hire me to do an engagement session despite the fact that they already had their wedding photographer booked. They did their engagement session with their photographer and, while they liked their photos, they felt like something was missing. That feeling drove them to want to do another engagement session. A referral from a former client lead them to me.

We ended up having a blast together! We did a fall session. The colors were gorgeous, the light was perfect, and the vibe was just relaxed and chill. We basically laughed straight for almost two hours until it was too dark to shoot.

In the parking lot as we were leaving, they showed me a photo from their other engagement session. It was a really dramatic photo of the two of them on the beach at sunset with the deep vibrant colors in the background and a big shiny model light on the two of them.

It was a really cool shot, but it just didn’t suit them. It’s more suited for a bikini model. As we were saying our goodbyes, the bride to be said something that I’ll never forget. She said, “Yeah, we really wanted to do another engagement session because we wanted photos that were just, I don’t know, more normal.”

Well, she got exactly what she wanted because when she saw the photos from our session she was ecstatic! She was ecstatic because she could see her and her fiance as their natural, normal selves.

5 Steps

So now that you know the importance of finding your ideal photographer, I am going to show you how to do it.

In the next few sections, we are going to cover a ton of valuable tips and tricks for finding, choosing, and hiring your ideal photographer.

  1. I’ll talk you through the various lead sources for your search and give you industry-insider advice on what I feel are the best sources to use.
  2. I’ll explain how to breakdown a photographer’s website so you can tell if that photographer would be a good fit for you even before you meet them.
  3. I’ll teach you how to email a photographer that you’re interested in to guarantee that you get a response, even if they are booked for your date!
  4. I’ll give you a set of questions to ask photographers in your consultations that will give you insight into what they are really like to work with
  5. And, lastly, I’ll give you a bullet-proof method for choosing ‘the one’.

1. Lead Sources

I will show you how whittle down your list so you don’t have to meet with 20 different photographers, but first let’s talk through the best ways to get your list going. There’s lots of ways to find your photographer. Some better than others. I personally recommend 5 different lead sources for your photographer search.

Referrals from your friends (or friends of friends)

A referral from your married friends is hands-down, the best place to start your photographer search. Why? Because it’s already a specific, targeted search based on you and your friend’s shared interests. If your BFF loved her photographer, chances are, you will too and that will save you tons of time in your search.

“What if I don’t have any married friends?” If this is the case, then try a friend of a friend who recently got married. Know anyone who was a bridesmaid recently? Ask her for the bride’s contact information. People are always willing to help so reach out to your network and ask recent brides about their photographer.

Social Media

Wedding photos are all over Facebook and Instagram so keep a close eye on your feeds for wedding photography related posts. Photographers also utilize ads to target customers so you may start seeing wedding photography ads in your feeds. If an ad catches your eye, click to learn more. They may just be the one!

Your Wedding Venue

Your venue is a great source of referrals, so ask them for the Preferred Vendor List. In it you’ll find a list of photographers who have experience photographing your venue. But don’t stop there! Another good source of leads is the work that is on display at your venue. It can be hard for a photographer to break onto a venue’s preferred list. So instead, photographers provide the venue with samples of their work from weddings they have shot there. So, check out the work on display in the waiting area (albums, wall art, etc.) and jot down the photographer’s name and contact information.

Search Engines – Google and Pinterest

Google is a great resource (obviously), but there are certain keyword searches that are better than others for finding the right photographer for you . I do not recommend the keyword search “CT Wedding Photographer”. Too many hits. Too generic. Too broad. Your goal should be to get targeted and specific to your personality and style. Instead, try the type of wedding you are having like “Rustic Barn Wedding CT” or “Beach Weddings in CT” or “Outdoor Weddings CT” or “Vineyard Weddings CT”. This will give you a list of photographers that prefer to photograph these types of weddings which is a great commonality to have.

I would also recommend “Your venue + Wedding” like “Saint Clements Castle Wedding”. That will yield results full of photographers who have shot your venue. Again, like interests!

You could also try “Style of photography + wedding photographer” like “Documentary Wedding Photographer CT”. This works well if you know you want a certain style of photography for your wedding. Again, it’s targeted and will yield photographers that specialize in a style that fits your needs.

I would definitely recommend Pinterest too. Pinterest is its own search engine so you could use the same search keywords that you would use in google.

Online Vendor Listing Sites

Websites like Wedding Wire and The Knot are chock full of wedding photographers. I’ll warn you though these sites can be a little tricky to navigate because there are a TON of photographers listed. The best way to narrow your search is by your venue city. From there note any profiles that grab your attention so you can visit their main website to get more information.

2. Breaking Down a Photographer’s Website

Okay, so you’ve got like 12 photographers (give or take) on a list. Your goal should be to whittle this down to like 3 to meet with. I call it, the ‘A List’. So, how do you that? Well, you’ve got to know how to break down a photographer’s website to see if he or she is a good match for you.

Here’s how to do it –

Look beyond ‘pretty pictures’

Don’t be blinded by pretty photos. Really look at them. Ask yourself – Do the people in the photos look natural and relaxed? Or do they look posed and stiff? Does the style of photography match my personality? Is the style glamorous and fashion-y but you are more down-to-earth and natural? Actually try to picture yourselves in the photos. If you can’t picture yourself in the photos then that’s a sign that their style may not be for you.

Find their strengths

We wedding photographers are good at a variety of photography genres – portraiture, details, candids, group photos, pets, kids, even landscapes! We are a jack-of-all-trades, but every photographer has a speciality. An area of photography that they naturally gravitate towards. You’ll be able to tell from their website what their strengths are. Do you see a lot of portraits of the bride? Lots of candid moments? Lots of detail shots? What you see the most of is likely their strength and if that strength matches your vision then he/she may be a good fit.

The About Page

The About page is a must read. It’s a window into your photographer’s personality. If you find yourself laughing out loud, hanging on every word, and saying “Oh, my god, me too!” Then chances are pretty good that that photographer just may be ‘the one’.  If, on the other hand, you fall asleep, move on.

The Blog

If the About page is a window into their personality, then a photographer’s blog is like a front door to their life and their work. On the blog you will not only see full weddings and engagement sessions , but you will also get an idea of who they are as a person. While the About page may list some fun facts and quirks about the photographer, the blog usually dives deeper.  What a photographer chooses to talk about on their blog will give you great insight into what they are like as a person and what they will be like to work with.

The Pricing Page

You’re busy – career, social life, travel, family events, binge watching Game of Thrones, etc. Add in wedding planning and life is downright crazy! Shouldn’t you be able to know if your photographer is in your budget without having to email them? I think so. Back when my wife and I got married, my #1 pet peeve was vendors not listing their prices on their websites. Not even a starting point! If a photographer doesn’t provide you with this convenience from the start then what’s that say about them? Perhaps they don’t have your best interest at heart.

3. The Email

Yep – this one gets an entire step devoted to it. It’s THAT important. Like really, REALLY important. Your email to the guy or girl that is going to make it possible for your wedding day to live on forever should NOT just be “Hi! Packages and prices please.” There is no faster way to my Recycle Bin than an email like that. Why? Because I have no idea how serious you are. Do you like my work? My style? Something I wrote on my site? There’s no connection whatsoever!

If you actually want to get a response from a photographer that you are interested in then try something like ….

“Hey Jeff, my fiance and I were just on your site and really liked your photos. We especially love the fact that you appreciate Amy Schumer’s sense of humor! So do we! Trainwreck was such a good movie! Anyway, we’d love to get some more information from you. Our wedding is July 15, 2018. Hope you are available! Thanks!”

Now THAT’s an email I’m responding to! Look, I get it, wedding planning is a lot of work and it’s tempting to blast out a bunch of emails to try to save time. Trust me, it will backfire because you won’t get responses to generic emails.

Bonus: With a good opening email, you dramatically increase your chances of getting a response from the photographer even if they are already booked! Great emails that show you actually took the time to look at our work and read our website score huge points with us. HUGE! So, even if we are booked for your date, we will do you the courtesy of responding to you and offering to refer you to a colleague. We are all firm believers in good karma.

4. The Consultation

Okay, this is where the rubber meets the road. The in-person sit down. Here are few recommendations for making the most of your consultation with your photographer. You can even print out the list of questions to take with you!

Bring your fiance

Please bring your fiance with you. We want to meet you both as a couple because, you know, we’ll be photographing you both! Having both of you there gives us the complete picture of what you guys are like and helps us get a feel for what it will be like working with you.

Parents

Parents are optional. I am a very family oriented guy so I’m totally cool if you want to bring your parents along. I can’t speak for other photographers, but if family is important to you then by all means bring ‘em! Just FYI – Don’t expect to have your parents sign our contracts, even if they are paying for our services. Photography contracts are between the photographer and the bride and groom (period).

Questions to ask your (potential) photographer

The relationship you are about to enter into with your photographer seems pretty straight-forward, they provide their photography talent and you get the pictures.

Easy right?

Remember when I said that rapport is everything in photography? Well your photographer’s professionalism and experience is just as important.

You want to ensure that your photographer is prepared for your wedding day and is well-versed in business management skills like communication, organization, planning, time-management, customer relations, even crisis management.

A wedding is living, breathing event that can sometimes have a life of its own! It’s not enough for your photographer to rely on his or her ‘art’ alone. They need to be able to prepare for wedding day and manage the actual day effectively.

So how do you gauge their level of professionalism? Their amount of experience? Heck, what are they really like on wedding day? Are they going to be like a brat-y little French chef and throw a temper tantrum if they don’t get the perfect light?

Here are a few questions that I would recommend asking your photographers in your consultations to try to get a feel for the professional acumen:

  1. Do you prepare a timeline/schedule/itinerary for wedding day?
  2. How do you handle the family group photographs?
  3. Can you tell me about a time when it rained at one of your weddings and you had to put your Plan B into action? How did you handle that?
  4. What if the day runs late and shortens our bride/groom portrait time?
  5. What do you do if your equipment breaks on wedding day?
  6. It’s 90 degrees outside and we’re just about to wrap up our hour-long family photos when my Aunt Sally, who wasn’t planned to be in the photos, asks if she can get a quick photo with the bride and groom. How do you respond?
  7. Are you comfortable taking charge and making decisions? Even if it involves a large group of people?

Ask these questions (or some derivative) and sit back and listen. Does he or she come up with examples of how they’ve successfully navigated the ins and outs of wedding day? Do they sound confident and strong with their responses? Or do they kind of stammer and seem a little nervous in their responses?

Weddings can be rather chaotic and your wedding photographer is an integral part of your wedding day. He/she will need to step up and take charge at certain points throughout the day. You are going to want someone who is comfortable taking the lead when necessary.

Trust me – you don’t want a sheepish personality or a flake-y artist type who isn’t comfortable setting direction, especially when it comes to groups of people.

Because if they can’t, then it will likely end up being you who has to.

5. The Decision

If you’ve found a clear-cut winner, then go ahead and book em! You’ll feel elated to cross another vendor off your wedding planning ‘to do’ list. Yay for that!

If, however, you have a couple of strong contenders and aren’t 100% sure which one to go with, then focus on fit, professionalism, and experience.

Ask yourself, “Can I comfortably sit at a bar and have a drink with this person?” “Would I look forward to doing another photo session with them in the future (like an anniversary or family session)?” “Would I be proud of their behavior on my wedding day?” “Would my friends and family come up to me on wedding day and say “OMG! Your photographer is AWESOME!”

If the answer to these questions are a resounding yes, then that’s the one.