SNAPSHOT: Ali & Chuck's Muskoka Wedding

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While obviously a hot spot for weekend getaways and summer retreats, Muskoka offers a beautiful backdrop for weddings and elopements, especially for outdoorsy couples who embrace camping, cottaging and adventuring. It’s rare for me to photograph weddings outside of Prince Edward County, Toronto and Ottawa, but when Ali & Chuck approached me with their intimate Muskoka wedding vision, I couldn’t say no.

Muskoka is a two to three hour drive north of Toronto (depending on traffic leaving the city). First you pass Barrie, then Orillia and finally you hit the cultural landmark that is Weber’s, a historic burger institution for those on their way to cottage country; they even have a Starbucks now! From there, people disperse into the wilderness, with some heading to the Gravenhurst area and others off to Huntsville and beyond. Us? Bracebridge.

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I had never been to Bracebridge before (though I had been to Muskoka many times). It’s a bustling town, especially in the summer months, and has a cute main drag with plenty of shops and restaurants. Chuck & Ali’s wedding was going to take place at a massive Airbnb on a beautiful lake. The clincher for them when choosing a location to get married was the large dock as they saw it as the perfect spot to exchange their vows.

Chuck was getting ready at a nearby resort while Ali and co. worked on final touches on site. I was warmly greeted by their closest friends and family who made up the VIP guest list. I navigated the property quickly to explore options for a first look and to acquaint myself with the ceremony site, the back lawn for cocktails and the reception area inside the house.

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As the first look approached, Ali got into her dress under the watchful eye of her mom and closest friends. Chuck showed up not too long after, pulling up with his parents and sister in the parking area. After Chuck said a few hellos, I brought him swiftly down to a quiet spot in the woods where he and Ali would have a chance to share a private moment after seeing each looking real good in their wedding attire. The anticipation grew as Ali descended the stairs and stepped into the trees. As Chuck turned to face Ali, it was pure emotion.

They took five minutes for themselves and then returned to the house to greet more friends and family as they arrived. Not long after, guests were encouraged by the officiant, Laura Hartley, to make their way to the dock for the ceremony. It was a hot day, but luckily there were some moments of cloud cover. Once seated, Chuck, his parents, Ali’s niece and nephew, Rhubarb the dog and Ali’s mom, and finally Ali and her dad descended the steps and proceeded down the aisle.

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Ali’s off-white, vintage-style dress looked incredible surrounded by the water and trees that make Muskoka such an appealing destination. As they met at the end of the dock, any anxiety or nervous anticipation seemed to float away. While surrounded by their closest friends and relatives, Ali and Chuck seemed to be on a cloud of their own, totally relaxed and enjoying every moment of it. Their personalized vows were fantastic and following the exchange of rings and a kiss, the two of them led the guests back towards the house.

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Once the formality of the ceremony was over, everyone in attendance took a load off. Bathing suits came out, Jäger shots were everywhere and old friends caught up under the late afternoon sun. Following a long list of small group and couples portraits with all in attendance, dinner was served indoors on a long dining room table under the most impressive chandelier. Both sets of parents spoke, as did the bride and groom, and, following a rhubarb cheesecake dessert, folks made their way outside under the tent to witness a first dance.

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The mosquitos were out in full force, but that didn’t seem to stop people from letting loose on the dance floor, including some of the younger guests who were up WAY past their bedtimes. After the glow sticks and sparklers came out, it was time for me to say goodbye and goodnight.

While Prince Edward County wedding photography remains niche for me, it was a blast to try somewhere new. Muskoka weddings are downright beautiful and I would definitely take on another gig up north. Chuck and Ali’s love was on full display throughout the day and I have no doubt that these two cool cats will share a lifetime of memories together.


Officiant: Heartsong Ceremonies

Dress: Bhldn

Suit: August + Ashley

Flowers: Seasons in the Country

Catering: The Muskoka Chef

Decor and Rentals: Muskoka Event Services

Rings: Lattimer Gallery & Bijoux Village

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