If there's one thing we love here at Brides, it’s a really gorgeous real wedding. Each week we bring you five inspiring stories, all packed with unique details, beautiful dresses, and some of the most unique love stories we’ve ever heard. And while we will never get enough of the flowers and decor, it’s really the two people at the heart of each celebration that draw us in, again and again. After all, it’s the couple that makes each wedding so distinctly unique and personal. So, in honor of the spectacular couples and the weddings they threw, we went through the archives and selected 50 of our favorite real-wedding moments from the past 12 months.
Of course, choosing our favorite photos from this year’s celebrations was no easy feat. After all, we’ve shared each of our real weddings with you because they featured great ideas, beautiful details, and even better photography. That’s why, in the end, we resurfaced the photos that felt distinctive, unique, and downright beautiful. They’re photos of real people, in love, having the time of their lives. They felt in-the-moment and, above everything else, real.
Keep reading to see which photos (and couples!) made the cut, and get inspired for your own big day while scrolling through. After all, you could be included in next year’s list of the 50 best real-wedding photos!
It's no surprise that Nicole Warne and Luke Shadbolt's wedding was out-of-this-world epic. And not to mention picture-perfect: The Instagram influencers exchanged vows overlooking New Zealand's Lake Wanaka then took a helicopter (yes, really!) to capture portraits with a panoramic view of the water below.
Harley Viera-Newton's vows to Ross Schwartzman were three things: colorful, fashionable, and fun. Seriously, every detail of their West Village wedding was highly curated and creative, from the cat-shaped cake toppers and personalized party hats to the bride's three (!!!) Valentino gowns.
Maggie Malloy and Jesse Joeckel love the ocean so they knew a wedding by the water was a must. And though they call Montauk, New York, home, they headed to the bride's family home in Little Compton, Rhode Island, for a tented celebration that looked just as pretty as it was fun.
Once Lauren and Scott's daughter, Elle, was five months old, they decided it was time to tie the knot—and reserved Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, for two months later. They made sure to include their daughter in every detail of their summer wedding: Elle wore gold shoes that matched her mom's, rolled down the aisle (in a flower-covered wagon!) with her dad's twin brother, and joined her newlywed parents at the altar.
Actress Krys Marshall and husband Ted Dolan invited just 50 guests for a weekend-long celebration on the island of Mykonos. Naturally, they highlighted the island's charm (and iconic blue-and-white surroundings!) with a pre-wedding yacht cruise, a ceremony with windmill views, and a beachside dinner with an all-Greek menu, served family-style. “Planning from so far away, it was hard to get to know our vendors or know if they understood our vision,” Krys says. “But once we got to Greece, everything exceeded our expectations!”
Adrian Ohmer and Darren DeWitt's summer camp wedding was no fuss—think bunk bed accommodations, a fried chicken dinner served in the camp's mess hall, and an 80's rave costume party. But one thing is for sure: What it may have lacked in five-star amenities, it more than made up for in good old-fashioned fun!
Every detail of Willa Gross and Beattie Carothers' stunning sunset wedding was intentional. In fact, the bride created the “Willa and Beattie Wedding Style Companion,” an intricately-detailed 19-page document specifying—in both words and pictures—everything from their desired vibe (“playful, modernist, authentic”) to the color scheme (pale neutrals accented with “poppy red...slightly ‘dirty’ yellows and mossy green”).
Influencer Chiara Ferragni's wedding to Federico Leonardo Lucia has been referred to as "the wedding of the year." And it's no surprise why! The couple chartered a private jet to take their guests to a customized setting in Noto, Italy, that included dinner in a "cave of lights" and a carnival-themed after party complete with a ferris wheel.
Molly Higgins’ mother was determined to give her youngest daughter a "royal wedding moment," so she hired a horse-drawn carriage to take the newlyweds from the church to the reception at the family's home in Virginia. “We wound up having a huge processional, with onlookers stopping to wave and take pictures as we and all of our guests meandered by," says the bride.
Pilar Deza and Sergio López's colorful wedding weekend in Spain was packed full of good photo ops, great music, and even better food (think tapas and crepes!).
Chanel Iman and Sterling Shepard's wedding was truly over-the-top (think flowers upon flowers and a seriously star-studded guest list!), but it surprisingly came together in just under three months. On the big day, the bride wore two pale pink gowns by Zuhair Murad and walked down an aisle lined with single stemmed pink roses.
“Our friend Blake officiated our ceremony,” says Julie Geer of her wedding to Jennifer Rorick. “In his remarks, he joked that we kept telling him we wanted an intimate wedding, to the point that he thought he wasn’t going to be invited! Fast-forward a few weeks, though, and we had asked him to be our officiant.” The ceremony included readings from Justice Anthony Kennedy, E.E. Cummings, and Maya Angelou.
Natalia del Rivero and Christopher Darling had two weddings: an intimate chapel ceremony followed by a lush garden party in the south of Spain. And as evidenced by this photo, each event was equally as chic as the next.
Shanina Shaik and Gregory “DJ Ruckus” Andrews said "I do" on the beach in the Bahamas, in the exact same place where the groom proposed—with two engagement rings! On the big day, the model bride wore Ralph & Russo for their oceanfront ceremony, which was followed by a tented dinner on the beach. "Our wedding reflected our personal style (simple and elegant) with the added touch of a bohemian vibe as well," Shanina explains.
Lindsay Brown and Travis Taunton hosted a tented soiree in Charleston that was full of peach Old Fashioneds, adorable flower girls, and greenery details. But their fondest wedding-day memory is from their time on the dance floor. “Around 10 p.m. we brought out a bunch of fun hats, glow sticks, boas, and fake mustaches,” says Lindsay. “It was hilarious seeing our friends and family embrace the fun, and it made for a perfect ending to the reception.”
Bride Sabina Vargas says she wanted her wedding to Carson Fulmer to be "different, something that hadn’t been done before." To accomplish that, they planned a moody, romantic dinner party (created with a dark color palette!) and scenic ceremony high above Malibu. “Watching the sun go down over the mountains was absolutely breathtaking, and being able to be in such a secluded area made the whole event feel so private and intimate, which we both wanted from the start,” says the bride.
Tara Mullally wore Vera Wang to marry her childhood crush, Elliot MacMillan, at his home in Jamaica. The outdoor celebration was full of sweet moments—from the couple's adorable first look to their late-night dance number in a dreamy, twinkly-light-filled tent.
Josh Ezrick and Estan Esparz hosted an intimate, inviting wedding in the Catskills, and even rain showers couldn't throw off their celebration. “Four things matter most—good food, good music, a good photographer, and a good partner," Estan recalls. "The rest will work itself out! And don’t forget to be a guest at your own wedding so you can enjoy every moment.”
A hurricane ruined their wedding plans, but in less than 24 hours, Jessica Clemons and Lawrence Parker pulled off an indoor ceremony (at the famed Arnaud's Restaurant) followed by a dance sesh that transitioned into a house party after the town's mandated curfew. "We didn’t have time to do a lot of the traditions—the first dance or bouquet toss," Jessica says. "But in the end, that was fine. The focus was just really on the love; there was so much radiating that it shifted the winds. Our love blew that storm away."
Ashley Deshields and Jeff Zhang wanted a romantic destination wedding in France, so they found a grand chateau with just enough guest rooms for their 50 friends and family. “We wanted our wedding to be more than just a celebration and party, we wanted it to be an experience,” she says. In fact, they planned a boat trip down the Seine, a trip to Versailles, large dinners in Paris, and a rehearsal dinner at another chateau for their guests, who came from California, New York, the Middle East, and China.
When Rachel "Rocky” Barnes and Matthew Cooper set about planning their wedding, they did so with a single vision: traditional bohemian. “That’s us! I’m a total beach-hippie California girl, and he’s a born-and-raised New Yorker and is much more traditional,” says the influencer bride. But first: The couple celebrated with a rehearsal dinner in NYC's Greenwich Village, during which Rocky wore a slip dress and custom hat and Matt rocked a custom green suit.
After Sarah Jesup and Brett Hershey got engaged on a beach in Anguilla in April 2017, it was a no-brainer that the couple would convert this special spot (and their favorite island!) into their wedding venue. However, Hurricane Irma threw the pair's planning for a loop and they had to postpone the ceremony by two months. "That was an unexpected road block that made things stressful!" the bride admits. Regardless, the duo's week-long destination celebration (featuring a beach party to start!) went off without a hitch. "Every day was unique and different while still keeping the island vibe," says Sarah.
Though Nayha Patel and Zubin Shetty were planning their wedding while attending med school and doing residency rounds, the couple was still able to put together a spectacular Indian celebration full of lush flowers and an elegant blush, champagne, and ivory palette. In fact, they went all out on their garden theme—adding flowers on every detail from the embroidery on Nayha’s gown to the roses you could smell from outside their massive ballroom venue (they had 500 guests!).
China McGee and Daniel Macena gave themselves a year-and-a-half to plan their wedding in Long Eddy, New York, setting the date for July 7, 2018, and inviting 115 loved ones to join them. “We chose Handsome Hollow for its natural beauty," she says. "The elegant barn, lush fields, and ceremony site surrounded by towering trees make an incredible statement without trying too hard.”
Malin Akerman's wedding to Jack Donnelly was what boho bride dreams are made of. The bride walked down an aisle of pampas grass, exchanged vows under an altar of dreamcatchers, and wore a pale pink slip dress by Cushnie.
Noeme Santos and Luis Vizoso Noval call Spain home, but they ventured to a "lost hippie town" in the bride's home country of Brazil to say "I do" with a five-day festival. “We wanted to make a wedding mixing Spanish and Brazilian cultures,” says the bride.
Not long after they started dating, Margherita Cardelli took Gerardo Cavaliere to visit the hills near her family’s farm. As the sun set, they drank wine and decided that’s where they would marry. "I think that's where we understood that our encounter was 'the one,'" she says. The pair officially said "I do" in a religious ceremony, followed by a second outdoor celebration under the Gran Sasso mountain.
Gretchen Valade and Kevin Steen married at the Detroit Institute of the Arts, in front of its infamous Diego Rivera Mural and surrounded by 250 family members and friends. They also utilized other spaces throughout the museum, with dinner in a grand, historic hall and dancing in a surprise location. "My dad selected 'Dancing in the Street' for our father-daughter dance, which seemed like an odd song choice," the bride recalls. But it all made sense when the band started playing the tune and the couple's officiant invited everyone to go outside for dancing.
Capel Kane and Ross Brendel met and fell in love in New York City so they flew in their favorite DJ for a taste of NYC at their casual Bahamian celebration. For their first dance, the couple selected Aretha Franklin's "I Say a Little Prayer," while the bride danced to James Taylor tunes with both of her dads. Capel adds, "Our only request for the DJ was the 'Macarena'—and the crowd loved it!"
From the embellished Marchesa gown to the historic Spanish cathedral, every element of Alicia Cesaro and Kyle Henry's wedding was beautiful. But most noteworthy was their red carpet ceremony exit. "This was a total movie-star moment," the bride says. "It was everyone else's favorite moment too!"
Ashley Greene and Paul Khoury wanted to celebrate their love story in a unique environment so they booked Nestldown, a family-owned retreat near San Jose, California, that looks straight out of Twilight. “I loved the idea of getting married among the redwoods,” she says. “They’re so majestic and they’ve been there such a long time. There’s something special about starting a life there.”
Though they’d dreamed of an outdoor wedding, Elizabeth Dilk and Garrett Morin will both tell you that they have bad luck with weather, so they figured a unique indoor space would keep their guests comfortable and dry. And on the big day, just as the couple had expected, it started to pour once the dance party was underway! “We were very happy to be dry inside,” says the bride.
Janelle Lloyd and Shola Akinrolabu teamed up with Brides to plan their dream day at Montage Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, South Carolina. On the wedding day, after months of planning with our editors and readers, the bride wore an elegant ballgown for the chapel ceremony, the couple took a boat cruise on the May River, and their guests partied in a greenery-filled reception.
Though Ross Matsubara and Noa Santos met in the Big Apple and got engaged in Paris, they always knew they would marry in Hawaii, where they both grew up. They did just that at Maui’s Haiku Mill, a sprawling 19th-century sugar factory with 150-year-old ruins and a dramatic jungle setting, and transformed the space with a runway-style aisle, Technicolor floral photo booth, and more highly curated details.
Ghazal Ghaysar and Payam Doostzadeh married in a traditional Iranian ceremony that honored rituals, but they ended the proceedings with personal vows they had written to each another. “That was absolutely one of the most special moments,” says the bride.
For their wedding, Whitney Mufson and Alexander Shashou invited 210 guests to join them in the bride's hometown of Aspen, Colorado. “I consider it to be one of the most beautiful places on earth, and we wanted to share the magic of Aspen with all our loved ones," she explains. "It was important to both of us to be amongst nature—the mountains, fresh air, and Aspen trees—when we were married.
These expecting parents were so excited to say "I do" that they planned their whole wedding in just three short months. They stayed close to home in Brooklyn—with a ceremony in a penthouse, followed by a reception in a hotel's garden—and focused on what was important to host a celebration full of heart, great food, and close friends.
After meeting at their best friends' wedding, Gray MacDonald and Tate Huffard planned their own at the bride's family lake house. "Our ceremony exit was the best," Gray says. "We left the church, which was on the lake, in my family's old wooden boat, the Sea Jet. Our friends and families waved us off for a little alone time before we met back up with them at cocktail hour."
Umindi Francis and Dadi Dennis planned a destination wedding on the Amalfi Coast. And as all couples planning a wedding 4,000 miles away, they ran into a few hiccups like their church cancelling (they found a new one) and their guests arriving early (they hosted impromptu cocktails a day early). But the final curveball came from the groom, who wanted to skip the first look. His hyperorganized fiancée originally objected—postceremony pics would throw off the schedule—but she eventually relented. “I’m so glad I did,” Umindi says. “It was so emotional seeing each other in church for the first time. Dadi had tears in his eyes.”
When it was time to cut the cake at their Napa Valley wedding, Emily Anderson knew that her husband Jake Ryan was going to stuff a piece into her face, whether she liked it or not. “He was very delicate in putting cake on my face, but I retaliated with a huge piece!” says the bride. “In the end, I’m glad he didn’t listen!”
Aspen mountain views and colorful florals made Hudson Smythe and Lindsay Patterson's spring nuptials a hit. As did the ring bearer's adorable entrance—he carried a sign that said "They don't trust me with the rings!"—and late-night truffle fries from Ajax Tavern.
Sam Bartley and Nate Bakke strove to individualize their nuptials in any way they could, but the bride considers their vows the most personal component of the wedding overall. Neither had heard the other's vows prior to the ceremony, but they coincidentally proved that great minds truly do think alike. "We both ended ours with 'always and forever,' a saying we always say to each other and have engraved on our wedding bands," she says.
For their NYC wedding, Ali Rozell and Sammi Steinfeld stayed close to home. Says Sammi, “We live in Greenwich Village, a short walk from where our relationship began, and we wanted to tie the knot in the neighborhood where our love took root.” As for the wedding's vibe, Sammi wanted a large guest list while Ali wanted an intimate atmosphere, so they compromised by hosting "the nicest dinner party their 150 guests had ever been to" at the Bowery Hotel.
Kristina and David Turken had fun planning an action-packed Cabo celebration that was complete with late-night treats (pizza and house-made ice cream), double musical entertainment (a DJ and a band!), and a party-ready Zimmermann frock for the bride. But looking back on their effortless destination wedding, the bride has this advice: "You will miss it when it’s over," she says with a laugh. And also: "Hold on tight to your new spouse during the reception," she says. "It’s easy to get separated talking to all of your guests, but remember, the night is all about you two!"
Melissa Bruckman and Reid Covington embraced their Antigua destination, inviting just 80 guests to join them as they exchanged vows on a bluff overlooking the ocean and partied in a weekend full of exciting activities. “We had a welcome barbecue, wedding Olympics (with a hermit crab race!), a catamaran cruise, and an all-night after party,” Melissa remembers. “We wanted it to feel like a weekend-long celebration for everyone we love.”
Kate and Sam Taylor are both Australian natives but moved to the Big Apple just before they said "I do." And since 65 of their 80 wedding guests flew in from Australia to attend the pair's rooftop nuptials, the couple made a point to showcase their favorite parts of their new home. To start, they decided to host the event at Gary's Loft in the heart of Manhattan, which Sam describes as one of the most "dreamy" city spots. "We fell in love with this venue and nothing else compared," says the bride. "We wanted something very New York with an amazing view to wow our international guests."
In June, bridal designer Leanne Marshall eloped with her partner Rémy Falgayrac, and the two chose the location at the request of their photographer, India Earl. "She gave us a choice of two places where she could squeeze us in, so we chose Dubois, Wyoming,” Leanne explains. In fact, the couple limited the number of decisions in general and instead focused on what was important to them. “We’d rented a nice cabin, so we all went back and barbecued, making dinner together, and enjoying some of our favorite wines,” she says. And, of course, the designer bride wore two custom dresses of her own design!
Haley Stewart and Brandon Mason hoped for a relaxed, whimsical celebration full of wildflowers and personal touches. “We wanted our guests to be comfortable and at ease,” she says. Their colorful palette extended from the lush flowers to the custom watercolors that Haley, a graphic designer, created. They also included their loved ones in their big day, with a friend of Haley’s singing as she walked down the aisle and the pair’s designated “third wheel,” Joe Jonas, officiating.
Matt Misisco and Chloe Mitchell took weeks of dance classes for their first dance, but got nervous practicing as their destination wedding in Mexico approached. “In the moment, we decided to scratch the rehearsed number,” says Chloe. “We wanted to enjoy the moment together instead of focusing on the steps.”
After marrying in a civil ceremony in London, Evelyna Leferink and Nicola Protasoni wanted to celebrate—this time, with 100 friends and a Dolce & Gabbana gown!—and traveled to Tuscany for an evening at a romantic villa overlooking the city. “The idea was to do something more spiritual,” the bride says. “We wanted it to be really participative so everyone would feel involved.”