Alaina and Michael’s Stillwell House wedding was full of energy. I’m not sure if either one of them went more than a few seconds at a time without laughing. The moment we started planning the wedding day together, they both just stressed that they wanted it to be fun. Mission complete! Bold colors. Practical jokes. Sweet and sassy wedding vows. Surprise dances. This wedding day was overflowing with fun!
Alaina is one of the most in-depth and involved brides that I’ve worked with in my career. She kept me in the loop about all the important decisions that she made while planning her wedding. I grew more and more impatient for her and Michael’s big day to get here as I started to hear about all of the details she had chosen. Alaina even arranged a ride for me from the venue to the getting ready space so that I could snag a good parking spot early in the day! Major bride brownie points.
I should have known that their wedding would be full of personal touches after hearing their proposal story. You can read all about how Michael popped the question in their engagement session blog post. And surprise, it also took place downtown! These two really enjoy the urban Tucson lifestyle.
Michael and Alaina got ready for the day at a modern luxury apartment high-rise downtown. It was just a few blocks away from the Stillwell House & Garden. Its proximity to the wedding venue meant that we didn’t have to spend too much time getting from place to place. Win! The walls were a bright gray– perfect for indoor portraits. The furnishings were also neutral, ensuring that they wouldn’t be distracting.
Alaina’s mom and grandma had to fight back some tears watching her get ready!
What’s a good way to take some nerves away from the groom AND make morning portraits easier? Put a drink in his hand!
A few months back, Alaina reached out to me via text so that she could let me in on a little secret. She was planning a surprise First Look for her fiancé with one of his best friends, Tommy. I’m sure you’re like, “Wait a minute. A First Look with the groom and NOT the bride? What are they doing?” This is where it gets good.
Alaina and Michael describe their relationship as “each others best friend who are goofy and easy-going.” So when Alaina told me what was going to go down, I just couldn’t help but laugh. It is so them! I think these few minutes of comic relief really helped Michael relax at the beginning of the day. He thought he was waiting outside for his bride, but then…
Surprise! Tommy seemed pretty proud that he was able to fool Michael.
Alaina’s brother Josh played a very important role in his sister’s wedding day. He was the ceremony officiant! Alaina wanted to make sure to share a special moment with him before the day’s events kicked off. She met him on the Twigg House lawn, ready to get a huge hug from her “little” brother.
A few of Alaina and Josh’s family members watched them from the porch. I know that seeing this brother and sister hug each other so sweetly was just the best feeling!
The garden courtyard at the Stillwell House is what truly draws couples to host their wedding here. Can ya blame them?! The courtyard floor is a beautiful aged cobblestone that’s a rich yet neutral color. In contrast to the stone, the alter area is wrapped in greenery giving a soft and romantic feel to the space. Even though the standard setup is pretty on its own, it has so much room for personalization to create a one-of-a-kind ceremony backdrop. This historic downtown Tucson wedding venue is definitely special.
No matter how many times I photograph at the Stillwell House, I always get goosebumps when the bride enters through the wooden gates! There’s nothing like a double-door entrance reveal to really get those butterflies going as you walk down the aisle.
THIS. This was the moment that I was waiting to see all morning at Alaina and Michael’s wedding. Alaina and Michael went back and forth on whether or not to do a First Look, but decided to wait to see each other until she was walking down the aisle. Since their engagement session in May, I knew how animated both of them are. I stood at the end of the aisle, looking through my viewfinder as the wooden gates opened behind me to reveal his bride. I’m pretty sure Michael’s face is what pure joy looks like… and Alaina knew it, too.
Alaina and Michael wrote their own vows. They let all of their guests know that they were entirely committed to each other, even despite some unique quirks and crazy experiences that they’ve had together.
As Michael got out his vows, he made a quick announcement. “I swear we didn’t read each other’s notes, ok…” As he recited his promise to her, everyone laughed. Alaina was in shock. All of those quirks and experiences were in his letter, too.
You know you have some killer vows when your bride has to fight back the tears!
It’s officially official: presenting Mr. and Mrs. Pesanti!
During the ceremony, the moment of the First Kiss is usually my favorite. But what happened after these two kissed stole my heart. The big smiles Alaina and Michael gave each other? Absolute joyful perfection.
Alaina chose to have wood flowers for her and her bridesmaids’ bouquets. “Getting something that survives the times is our jam. The colors are inspired by Indian/bohemian weddings. We wanted warm fall tones and lots of color!”
I asked Alaina and Michael why they chose Stillwell House and Garden for their wedding day. Alaina said, “Downtown is where we like to be. The venue is a slice of elegance and history in the middle of an urban setting.” Since that downtown urban feel is so important to them, I made sure to incorporate it into their sunset portraits after the ceremony. We might have suffered a mini heart attack from a fire truck blowing its horn for the newlyweds, but we had a blast walking around the bustling city.
I kept my eye out for spots where we could incorporate the urban aesthetic with a sprinkle of colorful landscaping.
The Twiggs House is also referred to as the main house at Stillwell. This is where most couples host Cocktail Hour for their guests while the courtyard is transformed for the reception. The cozy ambiance really shines through in the house. Even though you may not use this space for long on your wedding day, it’s always worth it to have your guests spend some time in the Twiggs House! There are tons of little spaces to decorate and explore.
Alaina and Michael joined Cocktail Hour with a grand entrance together down the staircase. As they mingled with their guests, I went outside to photograph the newly-transformed courtyard that had become their reception space. The bistro lights that crisscrossed above the tables provided a subtle glow to the space, continuing that cozy feeling from the main house. The Stillwell House is really such a versatile outdoor wedding venue in Tucson. I set up my lighting as the sun set, ready to kick off the party.
Alaina and Michael chose to be seated at the start of the reception so they could watch their bridal party members strut their stuff as they entered the courtyard. The sun had set and the lanterns and string lights illuminated the space.
I’m not sure why I was surprised when Alaina and Michael busted out into a choreographed dance together. I should’ve known that they wouldn’t do the traditional slow dance the whole time! The song they chose was “Make Me a Bird” by Elektrik People. They started off nice and cozied up together and then burst into flight in time with the chorus.
After their first dance, the DJ then invited all of their guests to join them on the dance floor to kick off the party.
The 1901 Room is another gem on the Stillwell House property. Previously, this space used to be an old carriage house. Later, it was transformed into a bar. That historic bar room is now where most couples house their wedding cake for the evening and other sweet treats for their guests.
Alaina and Michael had no idea what their wedding cake was going to look like. It was meant to be a surprise prepared for them by Michael’s aunt and uncle. The setup was definitely a grand display for them. Their reaction says it all!
What a gorgeous Stillwell House wedding! It’s not hard to see why it’s one of my favorites wedding venues in Tucson. Alaina and Michael, your day was beyond memorable. I had so much freaking fun with you guys. I just wish that I could’ve stayed longer. Seriously. That city energy has nothing on the two of you! I hope that you keep that playful, loving spirit going forever.
Venue | Stillwell House and Garden
Getting Ready Venue | Rendezvous Urban Flats
Photographer | Christy Hunter Photography
Videographer | Cameron Robbins
Caterer | El Charro
Dress Shop | Free Ever After Bridal
Gown Designer | Madison James
DJ | Herm Guzman
Cake Artists | Teri and Chuck Rosier, the groom’s aunt and uncle
Makeup Artist | Kyrie Cochran
Hair Artist | Krystal Valdivia
Groom and Groomsmen Attire | Nick’s Menswear
Floral Supplies | Sola Wood Flowers assembled by the bride and her mom
Christy Hunter is a wedding and portrait photographer based in Tucson, Arizona.
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