I first photographed a wedding at Sugarland during my first photography season in Madison in 2011.  It was a complete dream come to true me then.  The rolling hills, the beautiful trees and the land seemed foster reverence in the same way old churches often make you feel.   It left a great impression on me and I was so excited to come back and photograph another wedding there.  Charles and Katia’s wedding was beautiful and meaningful.  They are a lovely down to earth couple who were able to pull of an intimate wedding on a Monday in October!

In their words: We met at an anti-war meeting on UMass campus in 2007.  Charles was speaking about sexism in the Vietnam Antiwar movement.  Katia thought that he was alright.

After a year of being close friends we started dating in the summer of 2008.

Where was your wedding and how did you choose the venue(s)?

Our wedding was at a farm in Arena, WI called Sugarland. It’s operated by the folks who run The Old Feed Mill in Mazomanie, WI.

We moved to Madison together from New England four years ago. When we were discussing what kind of wedding we envisioned for ourselves we really wanted it to be a reflection of us as a couple, and of what our life in Madison has been like. We felt that picking the right venue was a really important piece of that puzzle. It’s also worth noting that we knew from the outset that we wanted to get married during our favorite season, Fall, and that our venue would, ideally, allow us to incorporate the smells, tastes, and colors of Autumn.


What personal touches did you add to the wedding to make it your own?

I think, more than anything, we wanted the entire wedding to feel like our own.  That was my biggest anxiety, that it would feel impersonal or that after all the planning and expense (and AMAZING generosity of our friends and families) that we wouldn’t actually enjoy the wedding itself, like a crying kid at her own birthday party.  Luckily, that didn’t happen.

Our officiant is a close friend of my family, who knows us as a couple.  This really helped with personalizing the ceremony.  We decided to use Humanist language, we incorporated Russian Orthodox and Celtic traditions to feel continuity with our families’ heritage…  We stood on the same cloth that three generations of my family have been married on.

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What memory stands out most from your wedding day?

It’s hard to pick… Charles says, “My favorite moment was seeing my beautiful bride for the first time.”

We were really blown away by the toasts our friends and family made during dinner. We didn’t know who was going to speak because we had left organizing the lineup to our Best Man, Joe. We did ask him to solicit speeches from the women in our wedding party and families, specifically. Oddly, I think women’s voices sometimes get left out of the celebration and that would be bizarre.   

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I LOVE LOVE LOVE wedding ceremonies!!!  It’s such a beautiful reason for people to come together; to witness and celebrate in ceremony two people making a life long commitment of love and partnership.  I know I’m a  hopeless romantic but I just find the ceremony (and marriage) beautiful and touching.  I have documented many weddings and I see the challenges couples face with making a wedding ceremony moving and powerful.  Many times my couples are shy or don’t want a big to-do and would prefer to have the ceremony be quick (and hopefully painless).  Even then, I still see the beauty and meaning woven into the fabric of each ceremony as each couple takes the leap, vowing their lives together.  

Admittedly I love being carried away with all of the guests witnessing this union – to feel the couples love and to see their collective personality and to believe in their love that could last a lifetime.  One window into the love at the heart of a wedding is in the readings that a couple chooses.  So I thought I should start asking for them to share.

I loved their readings and I’m so grateful that they shared them with us.  I posted some here and at the end of the photos.

We are all a little weird

And life’s a little weird,

And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours,

We join up with them and fall in

Mutual weirdness and call it LOVE. 

— Sometimes attributed to Dr. Seuss (read by Ginny Lyons, Mother of the Groom)

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What was your greatest challenge in planning your wedding? What did you feel least prepared for?

I was least prepared for some of the personal dynamics to be kind of stressful.  We’ve been together for almost seven years, so we didn’t anticipate drama and tension that’s probably a natural part of, not only blending families, but the financial and personal stress of planning a big(ish) event.

Otherwise, it’s hard to stop planning.  We had a small, rustic wedding – we had to be careful about not taking on too many DIY projects.  After a year of planning, I was burnt out by the time our wonderful friends and family arrived from out-of-state and I didn’t really have the energy to direct them well.  Luckily, our helpers were self-directed and wonderful and made the race to the finish line a lot of fun.

What resources (blogs, friends, websites) helped you in planning your wedding?

We hired Jayme Galanos at Beyond Elegant Events (B.E.E.) to help us with Day Of coordination.  I strongly recommend this if you have A-Type personalities in the mix.  It allowed some of our key players to relax and enjoy the big day.  Additionally, our Best Woman, Sophia, works at a wedding venue so she was a valuable resource for answering vendors’ questions.

We used The Knot’s wedding website as well as their planning binder.  Our families and wedding party are scattered all over the country so we got multiple binders so we could literally be on the same page.


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What was the most enjoyable part of planning your wedding?

Charles says, “Food.”

Planning the wedding put us in closer contact with many friends and family members. Bringing all these beloved people closer to us was the best part of planning the wedding. I started having weekly phone calls with the wedding party… long email chains with family friends. It’s been really nice to feel close to people you don’t always know how to reach out to.

What advice do you have for people planning a wedding?

Don’t spend too much money on flowers.  Do your toasts during the meal.  Don’t ask your wedding party to spend crazy money on their apparel, that’s no fun for anyone.

If you had an unlimited budget or could simply redo your wedding day, would you have done anything differently?

Yes and no. We got married on Monday, which was a stroke of brilliance and a blessing in many ways. Many vendors and venues that would have otherwise been booked were available to us, and often at a discounted rate. This was great. That said, it wasn’t really our first choice.

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Why did you choose Maureen Cassidy Photography?

Maureen was recommended to us by beyond elegant events because she was, “Kooky and had great energy.”  That sounded like a good fit.  When we met with Maureen she made us feel confident that she understood our priorities and style.

Posed pictures were really important to my mother, but we wanted to feel relaxed and natural.  We wanted to find a photographer who could capture candid moments and make us feel at ease when taking the posed pictures.  Maureen was definitely the right person.

Any funny moments to share?

Maureen was a wild woman, she was practically hanging off the rafters during the reception to take photos.

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What readings did you have at your wedding?

 I will love you as a drawer loves a secret compartment,

and as a secret compartment loves a secret,

and as a secret loves to make a person gasp,

and as a gasping person loves a glass of brandy to calm their nerves,

and as a glass of brandy loves to shatter on the floor,

and as the noise of glass shattering loves to make everyone else gasp,

and as someone else gasping loves a nearby desk to lean against,

even if leaning against it presses a lever that loves to open a drawer and reveal a secret compartment.

I will love you until all such compartments are opened and discovered,

and until all secrets have gone gasping into the world.

I will love you until all the codes and hearts have been broken and until every anagram and egg has been unscrambled.

— Lemony Snicket (read by Kelly McDonough, Mother of the Bride)

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.

“Pooh?” he whispered.

“Yes, Piglet?”

“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand.

“I just wanted to be sure of you.”


“How do you spell ‘love’?” asked Piglet

“You don’t spell it, you feel it,” said Pooh

— A.A. Milne (read by Denis Chernyshov, Father of the Bride)


Awesome Wisconsin Vendors that helped make this wedding day extra great.

Ceremony Venue: Sugarland http://sugarland-weddings.com/

Hair: Hair Excellence http://www.hairexcellence.net/

Make up: I did it myself

Wedding Dress: Saja http://www.sajawedding.com/index.html

Bridesmaids Dresses: ModCloth http://www.modcloth.com/

Groom & Groomsmen Attire: Men’s Wearhouse and Macy’s

Catering & Bar-tending: The Old Feed Mill http://oldfeedmill.com/

Rentals (tents, chairs, linens, etc.): A La Crate http://alacratevintage.com/

Officiant: Rev. Maddie Sifantus

Wedding planner: Jayme Galanos “Beyond Elegance Events” http://www.beyondelegantevents.com/

Flowers/Florist: Daffodil Parker http://www.daffodilparker.com/

Invitations: Minted.com http://www.minted.com/

Dessert (cake and such!): Cupcakes A-Go-Go http://www.cupcakesagogo.com/

Photography- Maureen Cassidy Photography http://maureencassidyphotography.com/

DJ and/or band: MidWest Sound http://www.midwestsoundwi.com/

Favors: http://www.cbmaplefarm.com/wedding-favors.htm

Honeymoon: DisneyWorld

Maureen Cassidy is a Madison wedding photographer, Madison family photographer & Madison boudoir photographer who loves capturing connections, love and beauty in Wisconsin and around the world. If you would like to send her a message contact her {here}.