The first kiss is the official first step as a married couple. Liz & Steve had an amazing one complete with mountains and streamers! Mabyn Ludke Photography


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Up until a couple of years ago, I had never been past Buffalo NY as far as going west in the USA. The east coast and I had become fast friends, but the rest of the country was an undiscovered adventure waiting to happen. Slowly but surely, wedding photography has brought me to places like Chicago, Colorado, Boston, St. Thomas, Long Island, Florida, and now my longest flight to California! These adventures never would have been a thought in my head if it weren’t for some pretty incredible people. My clients, whom have taken it upon themselves to get me to their wedding, are the only reason I’ve been able to adventure and see this beautiful country.

Liz & Steve are two such incredible people that I’ve been privileged to meet and befriend.  We originally met to chat about their Syracuse based wedding that was quickly turning into a mega event! After watching the guest list grow and grow, Liz & Steve realized that their dream wedding day didn’t include running around like chickens all day saying hi to 400 people and maybe getting a bite of cake in between. They really wanted to enjoy their day with their closest and dearest family & friends. So as many of my destination clients do, they changed their original plans to and started searching Napa California for the perfect venue. The most surprising part of it all was that they asked me to come with! *insert the happiest of dances here*

When Gina and I drove up Napa Valley we couldn’t help but be in awe by it’s beauty. I mean, you hear about how beautiful wine country is, but you don’t really get it until your there. Had Gina and I known, I think we would have spent more time there. I definitely want to go back and just wander! But I will say, that Liz & Steve chose one of the most incredible venue’s I’ve shot at yet. Calistoga Ranch is this amazing little hide away that is tucked on the hillside of a mountain. It’s got this feel like you’re camping in the forest but at the hight of luxury.

So when I’m at a venue like this, and the likely hood of being there again is low, I try to take full advantage if I can. Sometimes I ask a little more of my clients than I normally would. I knew Liz & Steve wanted amazing photos, so I stepped out of my comfort zone and asked if they’d be willing to take a short walk up one of the hiking trails there at the Ranch. It was risky, the trail was dusty, and Liz hadn’t officially walked down the isle yet, but regardless they said YES! Really?! YES?! We held up her dress & made the walk up to the perfect little ledge. I scrambled down the hill (got covered in tumble weeds in the process) and snapped away while Liz & Steve snuggled on the hillside. How many brides can say they took a hike on their wedding day? I love Liz so much! 😀

Then it was time for their wedding & celebration. Jessica Kerns of So Eventful took Calistoga Ranch and made it her playground! Every inch of Liz & Steve’s wedding was covered in some sort of beautiful detail, from the stationary to the flowers, to the adorable cake topper, everything was flawless. So of course you know I was feeling like a kid in a candy shop. The rest of the day was full hugs, stories, dancing, and a lot of delicious wine! It was an honor to get to know Liz & Steve’s family & friends and spend time capturing every moment for this rockin’ adventurous couple! It’s weddings like this that remind me of how lucky I am to do what I do. Thank you Liz & Steve for having such faith and trust in me. I can’t wait to see you and share everything with you!


Liz & Steve were married in Napa Valley. It was a stunning area.Grape season was early this year which I found very convenient. Thank you Napa Valley for the perfect day! MaThe groom getting ready in a near by hotel in his rented tux from Mens Warehouse. By MabynBoutonnieres by Bella Vita Event Productions captured by Mabyn LudkeLiz gave her groom Syracuse cufflinks as her gift. A little piece of home in Calistoga California.Liz's Alfred Angelo gown couldn't look more amazing at Calistoga Ranch in California. Photo by MabynphiloSophie did a wonderful job creating Liz and Steve's invitations and other stationary.California succulents are a beautiful accent to Liz & Steve's wedding rings. Rings are some of Mabyn's favorite details to shoot.

The mother of the bride and her beautiful daughter spending a sweet moment together as Liz gets ready. Mabyn Ludke Photography

Liz looked stunning in her Alfred Angelo gown just moments before she saw Steve for the first time. Mabyn Ludke PhotographyI love Liz's excited face before her first look session with Steve. You can cut the anticipation with a knife!The looks of love that melt my heart in a first look. Mabyn's favorite moments!Liz had a beautiful veil that loved to flow in the wind while they rode in the golf cart around Calistoga Ranch. Photography by Mabyn LudkeLiz rocked her Alfred Angelo gown and Mabyn Ludke Photography was in love with the California country side at Calistoga Ranch.Liz and Steve took their wedding plans from Syracuse NY to Calistoga California. Mabyn Ludke captured the dreamy romance of their destination wedding day.Calistoga Ranch provides a beautiful backdrop for wedding portraits. Photo by Mabyn LudkeAn epic wedding calls for an epic setting. The California country side did not disappoint! Photo by Mabyn LudkeHow many couples take the time for a romantic walk on their wedding day? A first look really slows the whole day down and allows you to really enjoy your day. Photo and advice by Mabyn Ludke PhotographyLiz & Steve had sweet details everywhere. I especially love this one on the bar. Mabyn Ludke PhotographyI especially loved Liz & Steve's ceremony programs. This unique fan shape was beautiful and who doesn't love a streamer send off? Program by philoSophie’s and photography by MabynJessica Kerns of So Eventful designed a simple and intimate wedding ceremony for Liz & Steve's big day. Photo by MabynMoments like this between a bride and her father are why I love wedding photography. Liz & her dad were so sweet walking down the isle. Mabyn Ludke PhotographyCalistoga Ranch has some breathtaking mountain views. Calistoga Ranch is the perfect spot for an intimate wedding. Photo by MabynLavender bushes lined the path to Liz & Steve's romantic California wedding at Calistoga Ranch. Mabyn Ludke PhotographyLiz & Steve kept their wedding small. Only 30 guests attended their day at Calistoga Ranch which kept the mood intimate and peaceful. Photo by Mabyn LudkeLiz, Steve, and their wedding party look on as their friend serenades them with a gorgeous Adel song at Calistoga Ranch in California. Mabyn Ludke PhotorgraphyThe first kiss is the official first step as a married couple. Liz & Steve had an amazing one complete with mountains and streamers! Mabyn Ludke PhotographyThe Wine Cave at Calistoga Ranch is an amazing setting for a wedding reception. Photo by Mabyn LudkeJessica Kerns of So Eventful created an elegant table setup for Liz & Steve's gorgeous wedding with the help of Bella Vita Event Productions in the Wine Cave at Calistoga Ranch. Mabyn Ludke PhotographyMabyn Ludke Photography was in love with these silver sparkly chargers that Jessica Kerns of So Eventful found for Liz & Steve's Calistoga Ranch WeddingMabyn Ludke Photography was in full display all over the Wine Cave at Calistoga Ranch.Jessica Kerns of So Eventful thought of ever little detail for Liz & Steve's Wine Cave wedding reception. Location Calistoga Ranch. Photography by Mabyn LudkeBella Vita Event Productions couldn't have created more beautiful floral arrangements and So Eventful did an amazing job bringing Liz & Steve's vision to life. The Wine Cave at Calistoga Ranch was absolutely breathtaking. Mabyn Ludke PhotographyPâtisserie Angelica made one of the cutest wedding cakes I've ever seen! I was especially in love with this sweet wire cake topper. Photo by MabynSmall weddings provide the perfect setting for more than just toasts. The guests at Liz & Steve's wedding told wonderful and hilarious stories all night long. Mabyn Ludke PhotographyLiz and her best friends celebrated her wedding day in the Wine Cave at Calistoga Ranch with wine and laughter. Photo by MabynEveryone had a good time at Calistoga Ranche's Wine Cave for Liz & Steve's beautiful California wedding. Photo by MabynA beautiful first dance in California at the Calistoga Ranch Wine Cave. Photography by MabynFun moments at a gorgeous Calistoga Ranch wedding by Mabyn Ludke PhotographyA very sweet moment with the bride and her father during their first dance at Calistoga Ranch. Mabyn Ludke PhotographyThe ceremony streamers came in hand at the reception when the guests decided to party at Calistoga Ranch. Photo by MabynAMS Entertainment knows how to throw a good pary. Liz & Steve's guests had an awesome time dancing the night away at Calistoga Ranch. Photography by Mabyn LudkeGuests were getting down on the dance floor while AMS Entertainment rocked it out. Photo by Mabynfriends, drinks, and amazing dance moves were all thanks to AMS Entertainment at Liz & Steve's Calistoga Ranch wedding. Mabyn Ludke PhotographyThe entrance to the wine cave was the perfect spot for Mabyn Ludke Photography to light up at the end of Liz & Steve's Calistoga Ranch reception.

– Tell me a bit about the planning process for your wedding: My husband and I initially began planning our wedding at home in the Syracuse area. We were planning a very large wedding to accommodate our large group of family and friends. However, as we progressed in the process, we began to realize the wedding we were planning was not the wedding we truly wanted. Half joking and half serious one night, my husband suggested we return to Napa Valley for my birthday to look into the possibility of planning a destination wedding. What we initially joked about, quickly became a reality as we booked plane tickets and engaged our wedding planner to help us with a venue search. Once we stepped foot on Calistoga Ranch’s property, there was no turning back. We fell in love with the natural beauty of the property and knew that a true “Napa Valley” wedding would be a once in a lifetime experience for us to share with our guests.

– What was the most memorable moment(s) of your day? For the Bride: Calistoga Ranch is located in a private valley and has several hiking trails for the use of their guests during their stay. On our wedding day, Mabyn asked us if we would be willing to “take a hike” so we could get some amazing pictures from one of the hiking trails. Our guests hardly believed me when I told them Steve and I had been hiking the hour just before our ceremony began! We had a blast and I’m sure the pictures will be even better!

For the Groom: For me, the most memorable moment was immediately after our ceremony was finished as we were introduced for the first time as husband and wife. However, the whole day was very memorable.

– Funniest memory from your wedding day? The funniest memory we have was when we had to quickly getting ready after getting back from our hike so that we could look our best for the wedding ceremony, and not look like we had just been working out, full wedding attire and all.

– If you had to do it all over again would you change anything?  We would have just started planning our Napa wedding sooner—we wouldn’t change anything about that experience.

– Any advice for future bride & grooms? Enjoy every moment of the planning process and most importantly, your wedding day. It is over too far quickly!

– What was your biggest fear before hiring Mabyn Ludke Photography? Did it come true, and if not, what happened instead? Right after my husband and I got engaged, we found out Mabyn was moving to North Carolina. We knew we wanted to hire her because we fell in love with her pictures after she photographed one of my law school friend’s weddings. Of course, we were afraid Maybe would not be willing to travel back to New York. And then, when we chose to have a destination wedding, we were afraid she wouldn’t want to travel to California with us! Mabyn was nothing but supportive throughout the entire process. She even had an assistant travel with her to help document our wedding day. Her enthusiasm and excitement to go on this journey with us was a very special part of our wedding weekend.

– What, specifically, was your favorite part of working with Mabyn Ludke Photography and why? Mabyn’s personality allowed us to relax. She instantly became a friend in addition to being our photographer. She made us comfortable during our photo shoots and her work product has always been impeccable. We have never doubted the quality of work we would receive from Mabyn. She is truly an amazing artist!

– If you were to recommend Mabyn Ludke Photography to your best friend, what would you say? Before my husband and I were even engaged, I recommended Mabyn to a close law school friend for her wedding. All I told her was, take a look at her pictures—they are worth more than I could ever say. Of course, just as I did, she saw Mabyn’s work posted on her blog and there was no turning back. Mabyn has a gift to be able to capture raw emotion and love in every picture she takes. It is a gift very few have, and Mabyn no doubt does!

Hair/Makeup Artist: Denise Cronk, Studio 304, Liverpool, New York // Dress Designer & Store Location: Alfred Angelo, Syracuse, New York // Jewelry: Lia Sophia // Veil or Hair accessories: Alfred Angelo, Syracuse, New York // Shoes: Kate Spade // Bridesmaids Dresses: Alfred Angelo, Syracuse, New York // Grooms Attire: Men’s Wearhouse // Ceremony Venue: Lommel Lawn at Calistoga Ranch, Calistoga, California // Reception Venue: Wine Cave at Calistoga Ranch, Calistoga, California // Florist: Bella Vita Event Productions, Santa Rosa, California // Transportation: Pure Luxury Transportation, Petaluma, California // DJ: AMS Entertainment, Sebastopol, California // Caterer: Calistoga Ranch, Calistoga, California // Cake: Pâtisserie Angelica, Sebastopol, California // Event Designer/Wedding Coordinator: Jessica Kerns of So Eventful, Healdsburg, California // Invitations & Stationary: philoSophie’s, Spencerport, New York // Other event rentals: Hartmann Studios, Richmond, California; Encore Event Rentals, Petaluma, California

Calistoga Ranch Wedding – Liz & Steve