Iā€™m Stephanie, a wedding + lifestyle photographer based in Colorado Springs, Colorado and Warrenton, Virginia. Whether Iā€™m by the mountains of Colorado or Virginia, my soul feels at home, surrounded by rural living and the raw beauty of nature. I genuinely love what I do, and feel so passionate to share the enthusiasm and joy of these celebrations with you!



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December 2, 2020

Cory & Cat | James Madison University, Virginia Wedding Photographer

Cory & Cat | James Madison University, Virginia Wedding Photographer

I might be biased, but you know I will forever bleed purple. <3 Regardless of whether you are a fan of JMU or another college, you’re going to love Cory and Cat’s intimate celebration!!! After postponing their wedding in June, we were all sure that the end of October was safe! As we all quickly learned, the wedding industry took a different turn this year. Their big plans to have family and friends from all over gather in one place soon became a reality that it wasn’t safe or possible. They ultimately decided to cut their guest list and have an intimate wedding at James Madison University! Not exactly what they originally planned, but it made the celebration so special taking it back to where it all began!! šŸ™‚

Cory & Cat | James Madison University, Virginia Wedding Photographer


Prepping for Forever.

When Cat and Cory were planning a new plan and decided to host their wedding at James Madison University, they fell in love with The Madison Hotel! I couldn’t believe how much changed around campus since I graduated in 2011. I mean, droids were driving around on the sidewalks and I thought they were patrolling campus. Haha! Anyway, I was so impressed by the modern hotel JMU built on campus and couldn’t wait to squeeze Cat and Cory after all of the phone calls throughout the year!

Cat and her sweet mom welcomed me with a gift as soon as I walked into the hotel room. I was humbled by their thoughtful gesture because I was in total celebration mode for Cat and Cory! Haha! But that just shows you the heart this family has. <3 

After seeing Cat’s dress, I could hardly wait to see everything come together! Her mom and MOH helped Cat get ready, and as soon as the veil was secured in place, we were all swooning! Cat was FINALLY marrying her best friend!!! Just before we left for Edith J. Carrier Arboretum, Cat had a special gift to open from her soon-to-be-hubby. As soon as she opened the box to reveal a JMU Duke Dog leash, her mouth DROPPED, and she squealed with excitement!!! Who am I kidding… We all squealed! HAHA! I cannot wait to see what dog they decide to raise!!! šŸ™‚

Cory was pretty stoked about his wedding attire. After learning a little bit about his special hat, I could understand why it is treasured! So glad he was able to use it on their special day. šŸ™‚ And to complete the look, Cat surprised him with a VERY special watch that made him giddy! I’m glad they were both able to surprise each other in meaningful ways. šŸ™‚

The Ceremony.

While their guest list had to cut down drastically, they took their ceremony to a very intimate location. The Edith J. Carrier Arboretum was the perfect backdrop, especially during the peak of the fall season!! I loved the colorful ceremony backdrop and hearing the ducks quacking in the near distance. Although the ducks had a few things to say during the ceremony. HAHA! 

They had Cory’s fishing buddy’s wife officiate their ceremony, which made it very personal and special. As soon as Cat made her walk towards the altar, Cory’s face LIT up! And those smiles never left their faces. šŸ™‚ At one point during their short and sweet ceremony, they came together to close a special wine box that was made for a special tradition. If you aren’t familiar with the wine box tradition, check it out HERE! They incorporated a bottle of wine, wine glasses, and letters to each other. šŸ™‚ 

After they exchanged vows and rings, they sealed their marriage with their first kiss as husband and wife!!! FINALLY! šŸ™‚ I’m so happy they didn’t postpone this celebration again due to the pandemic. They waited long enough for this moment. 

Because 2020 is unconventional anyway, Cat and Cory decided to have their first dance and parent dances after the ceremony. I mean, why not use the beautiful outdoor backdrop? šŸ™‚ I love that weddings don’t have to be cookie-cutter, and Cory and Cat made it THEIR day. <3

Their Best Friends.

While they had an honorary wedding party in attendance, they just had their Maid of Honor and Best Men stand by their side for this intimate celebration. šŸ™‚ And they were all troopers getting through this part of the day because the temps were dropping fast and the drizzling rain was pretty cold. But nothing a little whisky can’t help, right? šŸ˜‰ Fortunately, they all were so kind, patient, and wore a smile the entire time!!!

Newlywed Moments.

I was thrilled that Cory and Cat wanted to take advantage of their photos around the JMU campus!! šŸ™‚ Funny enough, I took senior portraits for Cat YEARS back around the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum!!! So many fun memories. šŸ™‚ 

Cory and Cat powered through the cold temps and the drizzling rain before we hopped into the car to take some fun photos with the infamous Duke Dog statue! šŸ™‚ But I love that we had some unexpected guests walk into the photos … “Hello, ducks!” Haha! But I loved our time together taking photos around the Arboretum, the Duke Dog, Kissing Rock, and Quad! As we wandered around, we talked about our fond memories around campus. Although, at one point, I embarrassed myself after I was changing out a lens and realized that my growing pregnant belly threw my weight distribution off … I ended up tipping over like Humpty Dumpty! HAHA! But I got up, and we ended the portrait time on a high note in front of Wilson Hall! Gah! I have so many favorite photos from all around campus!!! They are so easy-going and FUN together! <3

The Details.

Back at The Madison Hotel, the ballroom was decorated with a tasteful amount of purple and gold! They didn’t want to overdo the JMU colors, but rather in a rustic and classy way. šŸ™‚ And thanks to Cory’s talented momma, she made/designed all of the florals for the wedding!!! I know that is a big task and she did a beautiful job! 

Speaking of including family and friends on their wedding day, Cory’s lifelong family friend had the honor of making their wedding cake! I don’t typically get to eat wedding cake, but I got to as a wedding guest … OH MY GOSH … I’m drooling just thinking about that cake again. And I’m typing this blog post at 10:30 a.m. HA! Everything came together beautifully and tastefully, literally. šŸ˜‰

The Party.

To conclude the wedding festivities, Cory and Cat had everyone gather for a delicious dinner at The Madison Hotel! I was honored to join their guests and the party! šŸ™‚ Lobster ravioli? Yes, please!! I feel like I’m talking a lot about food … It could be pregnancy or just the fact that they had really yummy food at their wedding! šŸ˜‰ Haha!

Cory and Cat’s parents, as well as their wedding party, stood up to say some sweet words about them … and of course, some funny stories about their relationship! It was a great way to end the night, along with social time with everyone. <3 I’m so thrilled my friends were able to hitch and have a special celebration. Now I cannot wait to watch their marriage grow over the years to come … and see photos of their new pup when they get one!!! šŸ™‚

Thank You!!

THANK YOU, Cory and Cat, for giving me the greatest honor of standing by your side to document and share your precious moments!!! Gosh, what a beautiful celebration! I know it looked SO different from what you originally planned, but this day looks as though this was your Plan A the entire time. <3 Whether you have another party in the future or not, I am glad you were able to have a day to celebrate YOU! I’m so happy for you both and cannot wait to see you again in the future!!!


Thanks to the vendors who made this happen!!

Venue: The Madison Hotel | Ceremony: Edith J. Carrier Arboretum | Wedding Photographer: Stephanie Messick Photography | Caterer: The Madison Hotel | Florist: Tisha Ashwood | Baker: Debbie Robinson | Officiant: Cary Paugh