I separately asked Gwen and Dan to describe themselves in just two words. They both had one adjective in common: adventurous. They planned their wedding in just 5 months while living out-of-state and buying a home together post-pandemic all at the same time. I’d say that’s pretty adventurous. After spending the day with both of their families, I can say that trait runs strong all around! I assure you– there was no shortage of energy and hype at Gwen and Dan’s winter wedding at the Stillwell House!
Gwen and Dan met each other in 2015 after Dan started school at the University of Arizona. Around that same time, he applied for a job at the Veteran Education and Transition Center. Little did he know that’s where he would meet his future wife. For a brief period of time, Gwen was his boss at work, too. She likes to remind Dan of that every now and then haha.
Over the next six years, the two of them became great friends, sharing their mutual appreciation for tacos along the way. They decided to get a bit more serious in February 2021 and dive into a relationship together. “We were taking it slow,” Gwen said. And that’s because they both knew Dan would be moving in only a few months. He was relocating from Arizona to Texas to begin his career as a geologist.
Once Dan moved and he and Gwen were apart, it didn’t take long for him to realize what he wanted. No long distance. No taking things slow. He wanted to start a family with Gwen by his side. So now it was time to tell her how he felt. One night, with the help of a little liquid courage, Dan called up Gwen with a message: “We should make babies.” I mean, that’s pretty to-the-point, right? Gwen calmly told him there would be no babies if they weren’t married and that they could revisit the topic in the morning.
Dan came back to Arizona over the July 4th holiday weekend to visit. He had planned a motorcycle ride up Mt. Lemmon for himself and Gwen. Beautiful views with a romantic picnic. They soaked up the scenery for a bit and then Gwen started packing things up. Just as she thought they were about to leave, she heard Dan call to her: “I turned around and there’s Dan on one knee with the biggest most adorable smile I’ve ever seen.”
Gwen didn’t even see it coming. She and Dan were about to go on vacation together, so she thought maybe he’d pop the question then. When she asked him why he didn’t wait he had the sweetest reasoning for his decision! Dan told Gwen that the proposal was all about her and he wanted to make sure she was the focus of that special moment, not overshadowed by whatever was going on during their trip. Flash forward 5 months later and it was time to celebrate their wedding day!
As soon as Gwen arrived at the Stillwell House, she started looking at how everything was coming together. The flowers had been assembled by her friends and family: each arrangement unique. The cake was made by her mom, glittering all over with gold foil. While she eagerly looked at everything, I gathered up her bridal details. I love having time to grab a few shots of things like the rings, invitation, shoes, etc. It gets me in a creative mindset geared towards the vision that my couple has planned for their wedding day.
As I walked back to the courtyard, I saw the ceremony space was packed full of guests, seated and eagerly awaiting for the evening to begin. Gwen had told me that her brother Matt would be playing the bagpipes during the processional. The lifelong band nerd in me was so excited to see such a special musical element! The guests couldn’t help but turn around and watch Matt as he played down the aisle, followed closely by the bridal party.
This was such a sweet moment during the ceremony! A few of Gwen’s curls were falling into her face. Dan gently brushed them out of her eyes, not letting go of her hands.
Gwen was so happy to put that ring on Dan’s finger!
Mr. and Mrs. Collins, everyone! I never instruct my couples to do anything during the ceremony. I just want them to live in the moment and react authentically. They never disappoint!
This is one of my favorite photos of Gwen and Daniel from the whole day. Entirely unscripted. I always have my second shooter stay behind and photograph the recessional so that I can follow my couple out of the ceremony. And this is why.
Gwen and Daniel’s ceremony took place a little bit later in the day than usual. That meant the light was disappearing fast. After family photos and a quick celebration with the bridal party, we took a short walk down the street.
The Stillwell House offers so many different spaces for brides and grooms. Gwen and Dan hosted dinner indoors for their December wedding, ensuring that their guests would be warm no matter what the weather had in store. The Twigg House fit everyone perfectly, utilizing every inch of space on the top and bottom floors.
After dinner, they returned to the courtyard where they said their vows just a few hours earlier. This is where they shared their first dance together as husband and wife.
Then, everyone meandered into the 1901 room– the home of the Stillwell House’s historic bar. Gwen and Dan cut their cake and then kicked off the party on the dance floor. Both of their moms had told me that the late-night dancing was going to get crazy. They said that everyone there was committed to having a fun reception. I think they delivered on that promise, don’t you?
The next day as I was looking through all of their photos, I posted a quick sneak peek photo of the two of them. “I seriously can’t believe how perfect everything was,” Gwen messaged, “Thank you for everything.” Knowing that her and Daniel’s wedding day felt perfect to them makes me so happy. That’s what my focus is for every single one of my couples. I’m not there to control the day and turn it into my own personal photoshoot. I’m there to document their day while simultaneously adapting to the chaos and doing whatever I can to ensure they have the best day ever. Congratulations, Gwen and Daniel! Thank you so much for letting me share the day with you two.
Venue | Stillwell House and Gardens
Coordinator & Catering Director | Candace Flores Carrillo with the Stillwell House
Photographer | Christy Hunter Photography
Makeup | Poppy Rowe
Hair | Maddy Fitzgerald
Flowers & Cake | the bride’s mom, Maura!
DJ | Phil Montes with Fantastic Five Entertainment
Christy Hunter is a wedding and portrait photographer based in Seattle, Washington.
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