Amanda and Michael's Whimsical and Elegant Wedding


This past summer, at the stunning Haley Mansion in Mystic, CT, Amanda and Michael said their “I do’s.” We absolutely love this unique and fun “birds of a feather” theme they selected, and the story behind it. The details of this magical day were perfectly captured by Dani of dani. fine photography, all the way down to the feathers on the invitation suite! We caught up with the bride, Amanda, to hear more behind the planning of their big day.


Where did you draw your inspiration from?

The inspiration of the bird themed wedding came from my husband. One of his hobbies growing up was bird watching with his Grammy. I felt that the females perspective is always the focus of many weddings- it was an opportunity to include his passion into the special day.

What was your favorite moment from the big day?

Our favorite moment derived from the terrible weather that we were experiencing all morning long. Only hours before the wedding the rain stopped, but the gray clouds remained. Upon walking down the aisle and holding hands the clouds cleared and the most beautiful sunshine came shining through. It was a moment everyone remembers, and (what seemed like) a sign from our loved ones above looking down on us.

How was the styling process for the wedding? Did you start with one detail and grow from there? Or did you know an overall concept you wanted to achieve?


The wedding details were grown from the basic concept of birds. I wanted to create a romantic and elegant way of representing the bird theme into my details. This was done through wedding flowers (cages for centerpieces, feathers in bouquets, corsages), table names (every table was different bird name), stationary design, place cards, ring holder (birds nest).

How did you find your venue?

I wanted to get married somewhere near the ocean (basically spent my summers at the Cape and RI) but also I put a lot of value into where my money would be going. I wanted a venue that my spending would be benefiting- a historical mansion (The Haley Mansion) was perfect because I knew my money was helping preserve something historical and beautiful.

Any advice to brides or grooms to be?

Weddings are expensive! It will cause disagreements, stress, and anxiety! Remember to always be mindful of each others opinions and come up with a middle ground. I would emphasize the importance of literally how fast the day goes by. Make sure to take a moment as a couple and observe the intricate details you created and how they came together. The best part of the wedding was the atmosphere, the joy, and the fun everyone had. Have a blast and don’t forget to eat the food you purchased!

Planning Your Engagement Photoshoot with Melanie Zacek


‘Tis the season of engagements! After the initial excitement starts to ebb, it’s time to get down to business and make some fun decisions. One of the first tasks to handle: your engagement shoot! We had a chat with the amazingly talented Melanie Zacek to put together a full guide on planning your engagement shoot -- everything from timing to what you need to bring to make the day a success.


Image Courtesy of Melanie Zacek

Image Courtesy of Melanie Zacek

How soon after your engagement should you be scheduling your engagement shoot? How far before your wedding should this happen? Well, it all depends! If you’re planning on using your photos for your Save the Date cards, you’ll want to schedule the shoot for 6-7 months before the wedding. Not including photos on your Save the Date? You have the flexibility of scheduling your engagement shoot anytime before the big day!

Should your engagement shoot match the season/theme for your wedding? It’s totally up to you! Sometimes it's nice to have a completely different look for your engagement session. For example if you are having a summer wedding, a cozy snowy day engagement session could be fun! Just make sure you time things properly if you are using images for your Save the Date cards! If you want these to have images with the fall foliage, make sure you plan with plenty of time in advance so you aren’t rushing to get your cards together at the last minute!

Image Courtesy of Melanie Zacek

Image Courtesy of Melanie Zacek

What is the average turnaround time a couple should expect to see images in? The turnaround time for photographers will really depend on the time of year you are getting photographed. If it’s during the summer or fall (the height of wedding season), turn around times may be slightly longer. Melanie’s average turnaround time for engagement photos is 3 weeks.

How far before a wedding should a couple plan to book their photographer? If you want to have your first choice of photographer booking about one year in advance is a good bet.


Image Courtesy of Melanie Zacek

Image Courtesy of Melanie Zacek

What should you bring with you to your shoot? Melanie photographs with a timeless aesthetic that highlights the emotion between couples in gorgeous natural settings. Because of this, she finds that props aren't necessary for the shoot. Of course if couples would like to incorporate a prop, such as a picnic setting or something similar, they are more than welcome to bring whatever they like! She recommends bringing 2 outfits to the session. Typically one formal and one casual outfit works well! Pinterest is such a great resource to get outfit ideas. Melanie always tells her clients to go with light colors and neutral tones. Be sure to have your ring cleaned and your nails done before the shoot, as the ring will certainly be featured in the pictures!

Image Courtesy of Melanie Zacek

Image Courtesy of Melanie Zacek

How can a couple help make the shoot run smoothly? One of the most common concerns from brides is that they are worried their fiancé doesn't like having their photos taken. Spend some time looking at your photographer's blog and showing your fiancé some engagement photos so they know what to expect. Melanie photographs in an easygoing way and gives directions to guide couples into natural poses. More times than not, grooms will end up coming back after the shoot to tell her that they actually had fun! Picking a photographer that you are comfortable with and feel a connection to will really help. Another huge part of making sure the shoot goes smoothly is to give yourselves plenty of time to arrive on time. No one wants to feel frazzled if they’re running late!

Any other tips/tricks for a recently engaged couple? At the end of the day, you want to relax and enjoy your shoot and entire wedding planning process. It’ll fly by and be over before you know it! Make sure you’re creating and documenting the happy memories to look back on for years to come.

Are you looking for a photographer for your wedding or engagement shoot? Be sure to check out the incredibly talented Melanie Zacek to document your special day!

Wedding Guest Etiquette

You just received your first wedding invitation in the mail. Great! But now what? It truly is an honor to be invited to someone’s big day and with that honor comes some responsibility. While common courtesy still applies, there are some extra considerations to make for weddings in particular. We’re here to break down some of the big dos and don'ts of wedding etiquette.

After receiving your invitation, return your RSVP card at your earliest opportunity. This will help the bride and groom to get organized as quickly as possible. Planning a wedding is stressful enough without having to hound people down to determine if they’re coming or not.

image source: love and lavender

image source: love and lavender

After sending your RSVP, don’t expect to be able to change your response. If you RSVP and end up having an emergency, notify the couple as soon as possible. There are deadlines on when you have to pay for food and if they cannot get their money back, they’ll want to try to fill your seat with another guest. On the same note, under no circumstances is it acceptable to be a no-show with no response or show up to a wedding after sending a “no” for your RSVP.

Most people are familiar with the cliché “don’t wear white to a wedding.” It’s a cliché for a reason! Unless the dress code specifically calls for it, do not wear white to a wedding. If there is no dress code listed on an invitation, that does not mean that the dress code is open ended. Most of the time, an appropriate dress code can be determined based off of location or time of day. At a minimum, you should assume semi-formal attire. When in doubt, reach out to a friend you know who is also attending, or as a last resort, ask the bride’s opinion!

image source: the doodle coop

image source: the doodle coop

The big day is here and you’ve arrived at the wedding! Everything is gorgeous and your first thought is to grab your phone and start snapping photos and videos. Well, don’t! Snapping a few photos before the ceremony begins can be okay, but once things begin, be sure to silence and store your electronics and be present for the duration. Unless the couple has signage with their hashtag or something similar, avoid posting any photos of the ceremony and stick to only posting images from the reception.

image source: primitive weddings

image source: primitive weddings

Alcohol is a factor in most weddings. It’s extremely important to know your limits and to avoid causing a scene. Just because there is an open bar doesn’t mean that you should continue to drink endlessly all evening. Drink responsibly!


If you choose to attend a wedding, it is expected that you bring or send the couple a gift. There is a huge variety of options for any budget. Everything on their registry out of your budget? Opt for a gift card or cash with a small DIY to commemorate the day. Many couples are opting for alternative registries where guests can donate to their honeymoon fund or a charity instead of a physical gift, which gives you another great option!