Love and Poetry

In keeping with tradition, Jay gave me a book of poetry for our anniversary. This is not because he’s a Romeo romantic, but rather because I really love poetry.

I remember the first poet I fell in love with. I was in 6th grade–he had long been dead. Nevertheless, I was quite smitten with Edgar Alan Poe–and not just because of his famous “The Raven” bit. I still have my first anthology of his work that my mother bought for me in Russia–I know because the price sticker is in rubles.

Now, I’m not any good at writing poetry, but that doesn’t stop me from trying my hand at a verse or two every now and then. But, most of the time I just stick to reading it…John Donne, Thomas Hardy, Emily Dickinson…and of course the Russian poets–Anna Akhmatova and Osip Mandelshtam (thanks college for exposing me to their talent).

This year Jay gave me Sylvia Plath’s “Ariel.” It’s probably about as far from romantic stuff as you can get. In fact, it’s downright depressing. Despite this fact, I’m quite amazed at her raw talent and deft use of the English language. Still, not exactly your snuggle-up with book.

Do you like poetry? Do you have any recommendations for next year?

Winter Reading List » Pittsburgh Wedding Photographers | Birchtree Photography Blog - […] of the stack is the complete collection of Anna Akhmatova’s poetry, translated into English. I love poetry, and Akhmatova is my favorite Russian poet, so this was an excellent birthday […]

How to Get Your Best Wedding Photos

I’m guessing that if you’re reading this blog and planning a wedding, you place a high value on your wedding photos. After all, when it’s all said and done, the only thing you’re going to have left from your wedding is a used dress, tired feet, some frozen cake, and of course, your pictures.

So, I want to share some of the best tips I’ve learned for getting great wedding photos. This is also my “wish I’d known that” list when I was planning my wedding.

1. Choose a Professional Photographer

This should go without saying, but I’m including it here as the foundation for everything else. If you really do value your wedding photos, I highly recommend choosing a professional–if not me, someone else who has professional equipment and has experience shooting WEDDINGS. Also, choose a photographer whose style you like. If you don’t like their style, you won’t like your own wedding photos.

2. Give Yourself Some Time

This was one of my biggest regrets from my wedding–I didn’t allot any time for photos outside of the church. HUGE mistake! While most of your photos will look more like this (ie, candid–which I LOVE):

The ones you’ll probably want to hang on your walls may look more like this:

The truth is, you can’t get those kind of shots unless you give yourself some time to take them (and a nice location doesn’t hurt). How much time? As much as you can spare! Of course, you should be mindful of your guests, but you should also realize they probably expect to wait a bit for you.

I would recommend giving yourself at least 1 hour to take photos at a second location–in reality, you’ll probably end up having less time as few things go as punctually as you planned. If you can spare more time, go for it!

3. Appoint a Wrangler

That’s right, my brides–I may be from Texas, but I’m not kidding about this one. Find the friend, relative, or unlucky guest who has the loudest mouth and knows who is who and appoint that person to be your wrangler. Their main task is to make sure everyone who should be in a family photo is sitting in the pew ready to go when you are.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen brides having to wait on missing relatives–and that just cuts into your time for fun formals!

4. Communicate With Your Photographer

I want to know your expectations, and I want you to know how I work. That’s why I include the engagement session with every package–I want to get a feel for how you and your fiancรฉ interact, and I want you to be comfortable with me. If you’ve got some ideas for your wedding photos, I really want to hear them! If there’s things you absolutely can’t stand, let me know. I’m not really good at guessing that type of information, so you’ll have to tell me about it.


You’ve planned for months and you’ve covered every detail, now just enjoy your wedding day! Let everyone else sweat the small stuff! You will look gorgeous, rain or shine, trust me. I can fix little things in photoshop, but I can’t create a belly-laugh-smile. If you have fun on your wedding day, your photos will be BEAUTIFUL. So relax and soak up the moments!

Becky and Joe are Married | Pittsburgh Wedding

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of photographing Becky and Joe’s beautiful wedding in Greensburg, PA.

To say it was HOT would be an understatement. And I’m not just talking about the temperature outside!

Becky started her morning off at Rambler Hair Design in Greensburg. Then she grabbed a bite to eat at her mom’s house, and then it was off to First Presbyterian Church in Greensburg. This church was gorgeous, and it had a wonderful room where Becky could get ready and wait with her bridesmaids.

After the ceremony, we stopped by the Pitt Greensburg campus for some formal shots. What a wonderful pick that was!

Lastly, Becky and Joe celebrated and danced with their family and friends at Giannilli’s II, also located in Greensburg.

Becky’s dress was stunning, and it showed off her beautiful figure perfectly.


I just love the way her dad is looking at her here.

The handsome groom.

The guys thought it’d be funny to look studious in the library.

I loved Becky’s navy blue and hot pink color scheme.

Joe striking a pose.

Hot, hot, hot!


Becky and Joe had a rocking dance floor.

Can’t you just hear Counting Crows’ “Mr. Jones” here?

Congratulations Becky and Joe!

Tracey Daily - voting for becky and joe!

Cherie Labrecque - Voting for Becky and Joe as the best wedding.

Andrea - Love the photos- by far the best wedding!

Jessica Ritter - Best wedding Ever!!!!

Jessica Pompe - Becky and Joe have my vote!

Anonymous - Mary, Thank you so much!! We love the pictures and can't wait to see the rest of them! You're the best! -Becky n' Joe

Lisa Piellusch - Really nicely done! <3 ๐Ÿ™‚

And This Makes Four | Happy Anniversary

I lay wide awake, staring into the darkness of my roommate’s bedroom. I just couldn’t stop thinking: “This time tomorrow I will be married!”

I had a habit of thinking about time like that–especially during finals week in college. “In 24 hours this will all be over” would sometimes be the only comfort had to get me through the end of the semester.

Well, I never could have imagined that in four years from that sleepless night I’d be where I am today. I can honestly say that I love Jay more than I did on August 20th, 2005, but that is only because of the grace of God. Being married to him is truly a blessing–and I need to remember that more often!

So, happy anniversary Sweetie! I hope we have 40+ more anniversaries together.

And now you may be wondering about my wedding photos. Well, ironically, that’s one of my biggest regrets about my wedding–my photos.

You’re probably asking, what happened? Well, for starters, I was only at the hobby stage of my passion for photography, so I didn’t know then what I know now.

Mostly, I blame myself for not planning ahead more–for not THINKING more about what I wanted. I really regret not allotting any time for photos outside of the church. What was I thinking?? Also, digital photography wasn’t what it is today four years ago.

I must say our photographer did do a great job with our getting ready shots, but from there things don’t go too well. There’s a lot of missed shots of us during the actual ceremony and reception. I’m not sure what happened there.

Now, I don’t want to end on a sad note–I’m still very happy that I married Jay, and photos or no, you can’t take that away! And I do think we’ve got some good shots. Plus, my experience has been a tremendous inspiration for me in my work–I strive that much harder to make sure none of my brides have any regrets about their wedding photos. And I hope that shows in my work!

We DID have very nice engagement photos.

I’d forgotten how loooong my hair was.

My favorite.

This was my bridal portrait. I was going for the vintage look, so I converted it into a black and white photo. P.S. My mother made my dress!

That’s my sister helping me out (thanks Martha!).

And my mother, brother, and grandmother…hmm..sounds like a rhyme to me.

Ha, thanks Kara!

I love this shot of Ha, Ha, Jay’s grandmother. She passed away about a year after we got married at the grand old age of 95.

And that’s about it for the ceremony photos until “the kiss.” The groomsmen are giving an Aggie “whoop!”

We had our reception at the Astin Mansion in Bryan, Texas, for which our dog Astin was named.

Our groomscake, made by my friend Ashley–yum, cheesecake!

And although this photo is grossly over exposed, it’s still one of my favorites.

This is also a favorite.

And this shot was taken by my mom-in-law’s point and shoot camera.

And they lived happily ever after!

Happy Anniversary - […] And what better way to celebrate five years of marriage than by photographing a wedding together? Yep, it’s also Katie and Brad’s wedding day…and they’ve picked a pretty nice date to get married, if I do say so myself. Let’s just hope it’s not nearly as hot as our Texas wedding in late August! […]

Nicole - Yay yay Mary and Jay! (How's that for a rhyme?) Mary, you look so young there! Crazy stuff. Love you!

Lisa Piellusch - Congratulations! ๐Ÿ™‚ You're sooooo young!! Some great moments captured in those photos. We just celebrated our 17th anniversary at the beginning of the month and our photos are sooo not what I'd have done if I were getting married today! haha ๐Ÿ™‚

Your dress was beautiful!! <3

Kara - yay felicidades! thanks for posting the pictures, y'all look great in them ๐Ÿ™‚

martha - Why is Cullen driving the get away car? Just kidding. Only both Ben and I did a double take on it, for whatever reason, Jay really looks like Cullen in it!

Congratulations, sister! Love you both!

Lindsay - How Sweet! I loved these pictures! Congratulations on four years & hope for many more to come!