Author Archives: Slava

The Garten Verein Galveston Wedding Galveston Reception Galveston Wedding Photographer Historical Wedding Venue

The Garten Verein
Galveston Wedding
Galveston Reception
Galveston Wedding Photographer
Historical Wedding Venue

Slava of SGI Photography is grateful to be a favorite Galveston Wedding Photographer. He has a long history of photographing engaged couples, bridals, weddings, wedding receptions, maternity and portraits on Galveston Island. He especially enjoys covering celebrations in Galveston’s Historical Wedding Venues. It was a privilege to photograph Katie and Cliff’s wedding and reception at The Garten Verein. They have their own unique love story which is now intertwined with the history of the Garten Verein and Galveston,Texas.


Katie and Cliff met during her sophomore and his
 junior year at Auburn University! WAR EAGLE! They met when we were chosen to be a part of a recruiting organization for the Auburn University football team. One year after their initial introduction, Cliff asked Katie out on their first date while working together at a recruiting camp on Memorial Day weekend.

“From that point on we have been pretty much inseparable. Even though the last 2 years, I have been in Texas at Physician Assistant School in Texas, and Cliff has been in Indiana working at a polymer company, we have made the distance work for us. We take every possible break we have to see one another.”

The Proposal

Imagine Christmas-time in Chicago. Cliff took Katie to the city for a weekend getaway during a beautiful time of year. They had plans to go to Hancock tower to see the city from the 95th floor at night.

“Cliff and I were some of the only people there that night, it was so romantic. Cliff and I started dancing to some Frank Sinatra, and he got down on one knee to ask me to marry him. I was blown away and said yes immediately.”

He even surprised her with both of their families being there to help them celebrate, including reservations at the original Morton’s in downtown Chicago. No wonder Katie described it as a ‘magical night’!

The Venue

Katie had spent a year in Galveston at UTMB in Physician Assistant school. Cliff had visited her many times while she was there, so Galveston was on their list of areas to research for wedding venues.

“We fell in love with The Garten Verein as soon as we walked in. We loved the historic aspects and character of the Garten Verein as it was built in 1880. We had people coming from all over the country and we both wanted to have a venue where people could be in any part of the venue and see everything that was going on. We loved the area around the venue with all the beautiful trees. We also loved that we could bring vendors of our choice into the venue.”


The Big Day

It may not be for everyone, but Katie and Cliff decided to do the first look prior to the ceremony. “It was very emotional and exciting for both of us. We loved having the intimate moment prior to the ceremony were we could spend together and reflect on the day.”

They had also chosen to do communion during their ceremony. That was also a very emotional part for both of them. “It was an intimate moment we were able to share together.”

There were so many things to love about their reception, but Katie and Cliff especially loved being able to enjoy their first meal together as a married couple at the sweetheart table. They also loved being able to talk to all of their guests at the reception. “The way the Garten Verein is set up made it so easy.” The DJ Premium Sound was also great. “We loved dancing the night way!”




The Details

Guests: 165

Gown : ‘Noelle’ by Maggie Sottero, Something Blue in Angleton, Texas

Cake: Carriage Caterer’s. The bride’s cake was vanilla with vanilla icing and the groom’s cake was Auburn themed to give homage to their alma mater and was chocolate

Flowers: Carriage Caterer’s

Honeymoon: Sandal’s resort Ochi – Ocho Rios in Jamaica


         “Do not sweat the small stuff! Enjoy this time in your story together and everything will work out. No one will notice if anything does not go exactly as planned. It will be a beautiful day and one you both will remember for the rest of your life!”


The Tuscany Villa Wedding Venue Houston Wedding Photographer Katy, TX

These precious clients have a powerful love story full of puzzle pieces finally coming together to create a big, beautiful picture!

CoverMeant to Be
Christina and Luis met sixteen years ago at the Clarion Inn Hotel when they were 24 and 22 years old. at the Clarion Inn Hotel. She worked the front desk and he was a houseman setting up for the hotel events. Shortly after they met, Luis moved away to New York. TEN YEARS LATER, Luis showed up at Christina’s door with a cheesecake to ask her out on a date! He had recently relocated back from New York.

The Proposal
Luis knew that was one of the most important things to Christina was to ask for her hand in marriage from her father.  Her dad was sick at the time, and couldn’t travel far. Luis took Christina to a small restaurant where he asked Christina’s dad for her hand in marriage. Her dad then gave his Blessing, and Luis proceeded to propose to Christina in front of her dad and 7 children.  
Sadly, her dad passed away shortly after that special moment, and he was not able to be at the wedding.
The Venue

“We had visited several wedding venues before we made our final decision. We live in Humble, TX. The Tuscany Villa is in Katy, TX which is an hour away from where we live, but the distance didn’t matter.  When we came across The Tuscany Villa we knew that was the place we wanted our wedding to be. The Tuscany Villa has it’s own special character; beginning with the charming Spanish roofing, appealing Palm trees that stand outside, the divine double stair case with the elegant railing, the bridal quarters were very spacious with enough room for my 7 bridesmaids, my daughters and my mother to spend the day in and create priceless memories throughout the whole day, there is also a garden tub to relax in just in case you need it.”

The groomsmen quarters were also ideal as it hold a game room, furniture, a shower, a TV and lots of other amenities to keep the groom and his crew busy throughout the day. The Tuscany Villa had everything we needed to make our vision come alive. Not to mention our wedding coordinator, Duke… We met him the first moment we walked into the villa. From that moment on…he was always ready to accommodate us and help us personalize our wedding without hesitation. The spirit of the villa and all of the people that worked there had always been peaceful,  beautiful, and very elegant.”  

First Look
A couple may see each other every day for years before their actual wedding day, seeing each other for the first time on the big day is a unique experience for each person.
Luis described the moment when he first saw his bride in her wedding dress, and Christina shared special thoughts of seeing her groom:
         I was  shocked! Surprised! Amazed! Loved the dress ~ so very beautiful and elegant ~ and I was impressed. Her dress represented her as in her character ~ she is very classy. I felt like I fell in love with her all over again ~ like the first time I saw her. I felt so special knowing that such beautiful woman was going to be my wife!


Christina shared how she felt seeing Luis on their wedding day, as well as precious thoughts and prayers of her heart:
       The most eloquent of words could never explain the feeling I had when I looked into his eyes that day. I felt an overwhelming spirit of joy and happiness. I was shaking from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. A man I had known for 6 years and had 3 children with ~ how does he still make me nervous? He was tall, dark, and handsome…I was going to marry this perfect man in a few hours! He walks with a special light, I thought…Thank you God for bringing us together. I know he’s the one I will grow old with.”

The Ceremony
Reader, this is where you’ll need to grab a tissue. Things are about to become deeply moving. These are moments we at SGI Photography do what we do in wedding photography. To capture these emotions, expressions, and memories to be cherished for generations to come.
         “The whole ceremony was very emotional for me. It was my dad’s birthday and he’s in heaven. I was marrying my best friend and I had gotten the whole family together to eat, drink and have fun just the way I had promised him.

I looked all around and saw faces from each side of the family. My mom walked beside me and passed me on to my brother, my brother passed me on to my son, and my son walked me down the aisle and I had everyone’s blessing to marry the man I love. After I had finished looking around, I looked straight ahead and saw Luis waiting for me to get to him.

wedding ceremony fireworks

         I had a revelation at that point which was God’s promise to me to not be afraid. He said “be still my child, and receive the blessings that I have for you.”  I wasn’t only walking into a promise from Luis, but a promise from My Father God himself. I found so much peace in my heart when my son gave my hand to Luis. As I said my vows, my voice trembled. I wanted to cry,   because I knew I was making a promise ~ a most beautiful promise ~ to my husband and to God. And all 7 of our kids were there to witness it along with my mom and other family members. There will never be enough words to explain the beauty of it all.”

         For Luis, the whole ceremony was just as emotional.“When I saw her walking down the aisle and when she said her vows promising to be my wife through anything and to never leave me, it was beautiful. The fireworks were also significant because I feel like there wouldn’t be enough fireworks to get the world’s attention to let them know how much I love her.”

The Reception
There were 200 guest celebrating the union of Christina and Luis that day. The Tuscany Villa accommodations were able to host everyone comfortably.
The cake was created by Edible Designs, and the flowers arrangements were done by Petals by Design. Christina especially enjoyed the speeches from their Best Man and Maid of Honor, and the meaningful confirmation of the Scripture she had chosen to put on their Unity Candle;1 Corinthians 13 4-8 ~ a scripture about Love. “Luis picked his wedding ring with the engraving, I picked our unity candle with the scripture and my daughter (also my maid of honor) incorporated the scripture in her speech. We all made these decisions without the other knowing! The whole venue was filled with love that night…that’s ultimately what I enjoyed most!”

Luis remembered the highlights of dancing at the reception. “Our first dance was very magical. Also dancing with my mom and knowing God allowed her to be there for me after 17 years of not seeing her.”

Departure wedding exit

Words of Wisdom

The beautiful bride’s advice: Don’t sweat the small stuff! Sometimes, as a bride, you think things like, ‘there aren’t enough flowers’ or what your bouquets are made of matters. In the end, none of it matters! When LOVE fills the room, it’s ALL beautiful! If your dad is still here to walk you down the aisle and you’ve found the perfect guy to marry, you are rich! And being rich in love is the best kind of rich you can be!
The handsome groom’s advice: Never be afraid to go through with it. Honoring God and making your future wife feel special is the best thing you can do. Please her and make her your queen on her special dream day!

House Plantation Wedding Venue Houston Wedding Photographer

House Plantation Wedding Venue
Houston Wedding Photographerbride and groom house plantation photographer

Kandyce and Andre met in college at Baylor. One of Andre’s friends from high school ended up being Kandyce’s roommate her sophomore year. Even though they met in their sophomore year, it took Andre all the way until the end of their senior year to finally ask Kandyce out. At first, Kandyce declined, but she  developed a huge crush on him later on.

Plantation_House groom getting ready

The Proposal
After a few years of dating, they moved to Baltimore for Andre’s work. Around their 5th anniversary, they found themselves moving back home to Texas for another great job opportunity. “On our way back, we stopped in Wilmington, North Carolina because I had always wanted to go. While I told Andre that I had wanted to go because of the beach, I really wanted to go because I am a huge ‘One Tree Hill’ fan and that is where it was filmed. And while Andre stated we would go to celebrate our 5 year anniversary it was really because he planned to propose. It was our second night in Wilmington and we went to the beach for sunset. After telling me a whole bunch of sweet things about how much he loved and cared about me, he proposed on the beach. I was so shocked, I don’t think I ever said yes.”
The Venue
Kandyce & Andre chose the Plantation House wedding venue near Houston. The main reasons for their decision were the location and all-around view of the property. “We visited so many that just didn’t compare to the beauty of the entire property at Plantation House. They also included so many things and the staff was just top notch! Everything ran so smoothly.” The gorgeous restored Victorian mansion, and stunning views provide a romantic indoor/outdoor Texas wedding experience.

The Details

Number of guests: 210

Gown: Sophia Tolli

Cake: Sprinkles Cupcakes

Flowers: Nancy Ditges – mix of roses, dahlias, hydrangeas, bells of Ireland and fun greenery.

bride getting ready at the plantation house
The Big Day
Kandyce and Andre felt really happy and excited as they first saw each other on their wedding day!

They hadn’t gone anything about wedding vows with each other beforehand, so it was a completely surprising and emotional moment to hear one another say their vows. It was also very touching when Kandyce’s Dad and her Aunt sang.

At the reception a good time was had by all! “We really just wanted a really fun reception that was very organized and that’s what we got. Our families and friends were on the dance floor with us the entire time and it was a blast!” Then the newlyweds headed to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic for their honeymoon.

bride and groom at house plantation in cypress texas bride and groom posing for the photographer at house plantation bride and groom send off at house plantation wedding photography in houston texas

Good Advice

From a wedding photographer’s perspective, these excellent tips from Kandayce and Andre for future brides & grooms can also apply to choosing your wedding photographer! 🙂
“Start planning early and take everything one day at a time. Get your venue as soon as possible and then tackle everything else one thing at a time. Being flexible with the date will allow you to get the venue that you fall in love with.”

Ashton Gardens West Houston Wedding photographer

Ashton Gardens West Houston Wedding photographer.

The story of Matt and Kati.

Have you ever wondered if God was trying to tell you something? There was no doubt that it was God’s plan for Kati & Matt to meet. They kept running into each other while they both were living in Austin, had mutual friends and even ‘met’ on a dating website! They finally got the message and love was in full-bloom!  

The Proposal
The story of Matt’s proposal to Kati is sweet, humorous and one of the most sentimental stories we’ve heard in awhile. It’s absolutely best to hear it in Kati’s own words!
         “Matt had planned a romantic weekend get-away in Burnet, Texas. Looking back on the beginning of the weekend, there were so many signs that he was about to propose; however, I was completely oblivious to all of them…I actually just thought his odd behavior was because he was coming down with an illness!  Some of the signs were: Matt carried the ring through the Longhorn State Park Taverns in his jacket pocket and wore the jacket the entire time despite the warm temperature.  I thought, “Does he have a fever? Why would he be cold down here?”  At lunch, he continuously made excuses to go out to the car and check on the ring (i.e, he went to the restroom multiple times so again, I’m thinking he is sick).  After playing cards, we decided to take some pictures, but we were the only ones around so Matt set up the GoPro and said he’d just take still shots of the videos later so we could capture a few memories on camera.  We walked down by the water and that’s when Matt popped the question.  I was completely surprised and after lots of happy tears and kisses, I said, “Yes” and he put my beautiful ring on my finger.  
         (P.S. – the ring is my mom’s first diamond that my dad proposed to her with.  My mom offered it to Matt and I after she was first diagnosed with cancer so it means so much to me.  Matt took the stone and had it put into the beautiful halo setting). I was so glad Matt captured the whole proposal on the GoPro so we can relive that moment at any time.  Matt had also snuck some champagne into the fridge and had champagne flutes engraved so we poured us a glass to celebrate and called our families and close friends to tell them the news!”
  ashton Gardens west wedding photography groom at ashton gardens west

The Venue
Just like finding the right wedding photographer for your big day (SGI Photography was honored that Kati & Matt chose us as their wedding photographer) searching for the perfect wedding venue in Houston can seem like looking for a needle in a haystack. There is such a wide-variety of wedding venues, it can be intimidating at first. Take your time and do a little research on the ones that appeal to you, narrow it down to a few, then spend time touring and meeting with their representatives. Kati & Matt looked at many wedding venues in Houston and finally settled on Ashton Gardens and couldn’t have been happier with their decision.  
         “We originally liked the look of Ashton Gardens North, but did not like the lay out.  We wanted a large rectangular room so all the guests could see the dance floor, speeches, introductions, etc.  We also wanted a venue that had plenty of room for mingling and more than one bar area.  
My favorite aspect of Ashton Gardens was the gorgeous chapel.  The wooden beams with windows in the back blew us away when we first walked in.  It was so nice to have the chapel right next door from the reception so no one had to drive between the two events.  The coordinator, Bethany Stanton, was incredible.  She helped pull off every detail of the wedding.  Ashton Gardens worked with us to plan the perfect food and drink menu and they were more than accommodating to make any special requests happen.  I would recommend this venue to anyone!”
wedding ceremony at ashton gardenswedding send off at ashton gardens houston wedding photographer

The Details
Gown: Pronovias Barquilla from Brickhouse Bridal in the Woodlands  (Kati also took her time choosing her favorite my dress designer, and the results were well worth it! Such a lovely dress for a beautiful bride!)

Cake: Bavarian Cakery’s Bavarian cream cheesecake – marbled vanilla and chocolate cake with a layer of cream (each tier had either a vanilla or chocolate Bavarian cream cheese cake layer)

Flowers: Floral Events (They were amazing!)

Number of guests: 250

newlywed couple at ashton gardens houston ashton gardens first dance reception photo of ashton garden west The Big Day
Finally, the moment Matt and Kati were waiting for had arrived! “Excited and relieved that after all the planning, the moment we had been waiting for was finally happening! I don’t think we’ve ever smiled so much in one night!” Of course there were all the feels!

“Oh man!” Kati said, “I had lots of emotional moments!  So many happy tears!” There was a tie for most emotional moment between the chapel doors opening and Kati seeing Matt for the first time or listening to her father’s speech.

The happy bride & groom took time to share some of the highlights of the their wedding reception with us. You may find some tips included that you may not have considered while planning your own Houston wedding. “Looking around and knowing that all of guests were there for us and that everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time.  You spend months planning for one night so having all the guests enjoy themselves was really important to us.  Matt and I were both so thankful that my parents allowed us to extend the reception an extra hour (5 hour reception instead of 4).  That gave us the opportunity to walk around and talk to almost all of the guests and gave us plenty of time to celebrate on the dance floor as well.  Also, eating dinner in a private room by ourselves was advice given to us early on and one of the best decisions we made.  It gave us a moment alone to relax, talk in private, and really take it all in!”

Soon, the newlyweds were off on their Honeymoon at Sandals Ochi in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.  It was an all-inclusive couples’ resort with a Romeo and Juliet room.  “We had our own private pool and hot tub in a courtyard between our room and our private living room.  The best part was that we didn’t have to plan anything!”  

father daughter dance at ashton gardens west houston wedding photographerAdditional Advice
Trust us when we tell you that experience gains wisdom! Take into consideration the advice of brides & grooms who have been where you’re headed! Kati & Matt are an exceptionally wise married couple now, so heed what they have to share with you!
“Try not to stress!  Be organized so everyone knows what you need them to do on the wedding day.  Enjoy the planning process and on the wedding day, don’t get caught up on the little details!  When you’re relying on so many vendors to come together on the wedding day and do exactly what you want them to do, someone is bound to misunderstand or forget something…BUT that’s okay.  I expected at least one little hiccup so when a few of the mishaps occurred, I wasn’t upset by them.  All that matters is that you’re marrying the love of your life!  At some point during the night, take a moment to stand back, look around, and realize that all of your loved ones are in one room celebrating you and your new husband/wife.  Enjoy every moment of the night because it goes by way too quickly!”

bride and groom send off

Grace Episcopal Church Wedding Photography Galveston

Grace Episcopal Church

Wedding Photography Galveston

Bethany and Peter are incredibly interesting individuals who make a fascinating couple! SGI Photography was honored to be a part of their wedding celebration! The actual story of how they met is best told in their own words (as posted on their wedding website).

Bethany and Peter found each other from half the country away thanks to the magic of the internet. She was all the way down south in Galveston, Texas, handling demanding experiments on a deadly bacterium; he was up north in Minnesota, studying diligently for a medical licensing exam while enjoying his parents’ company. After his return, they met up in Houston and hit it off. It was striking how fluently they spoke each other’s language, how well they could problem-solve, and how much they enjoyed spending time together with their families. The next six months were a wonderful whirlwind. After a Greek festival, two Oktoberfests, carving pumpkins, Thanksgiving with her family, some excellent photography lessons, an original Christmas song, and a lovely Valentine’s day with miracle berries that made even sour lemons sweet, Peter knew he had found the one. He asked Bethany’s parents for their permission to marry her and proposed on a Galveston beach on their six-month anniversary. He put a ring and miracle berry in a lemon, got down on a knee, and told her, “Bethany, life will undoubtedly give me lemons, but if you marry me, you’ll be the miracle that will make even those sweet as can be.” She answered a resounding Yes!

They chose to exchange wedding vows in Grace Episcopal Church. One of the reasons was for its historic feel. Not only is it a beautiful church dating back to 1895, but Reverend Meredith has history with Bethany’s family. The atmosphere of Grace Episcopal was always welcoming and friendly whenever they attended on Sundays. From their first visit, Bethany and Peter knew it was the place where they wanted to become husband and wife!

As for their reception venue, Ashton Villa had always been one of their favorite places on Galveston Island for its architecture. “We love its historical value, and we felt like we were supporting the history of the island by having our reception in such a wonderful venue. Ashton Villa also fit into the romantic and Victorian vibe of our wedding.”

The Details:

Number of guests: 125

Gown: “Garland” by Sottero and Midgley

Cake: The bride’s cake was a four layered white almond cake with raspberry filling decorated to look like the night sky. The groom’s cake was a circular chocolate cake with strawberry filling, and it was decorated with the symbol of the Republic from the Star Wars universe topped with R2D2 and BB-8 robots to symbolize the bride and the groom. Cakes were created from the Cake Lady Bakery.

Flowers: The bridal bouquet was from Knapp Flower shop.
When the big day finally arrived, Bethany said she felt very anxious as they were not going to see each other until the wedding ceremony.
“Peter is my best friend, and it did not feel right to not be spending the morning together. When I first saw him, I was joyous and filled with excitement. I was about to marry my best friend, and we were going to declare our love in front of God and all of our love ones!” As they joined each other together at the altar, there was a wave of emotions. “I could tell Peter was very nervous up there waiting for me at the altar. When we reached the altar, I made a funny face at him in order to cut through the tension. I could see relief wash over him, and his face filled with happiness and love. We were then able to focus on the beautiful message given by Reverend Meredith and our joyous vows of marriage.”

During their beautiful wedding reception at Ashton Villa, Bethany and Peter especially enjoyed their first dance together as husband and wife! “Neither of us are very good dancers, but we spent a few months practicing. Peter picked a song near to his heart – “No Other Love” by Jo Stafford. It was the most romantic part of the evening for the both of us.”

The happy newlyweds had to return to their jobs and education right after the wedding, however, they are planning a grand adventure for this late summer or fall. We hope they have a lovely time!

Take their advice if you are about to become engaged, engaged already or in the trenches of wedding planning! “Give more time than we did to plan your wedding. We got engaged in February 2015, and then Bethany interned in Europe between May and August 2015. It was hard to plan a wedding while overseas and in the short time after she came back from Europe. Also, enjoy the wedding ceremony and reception. Everyone says it goes by really fast, but if you calm your mind and be mentally aware of every detail, the celebration of your new marriage becomes more memorable.”

Grace Episcopal Church Galveston Wedding photographyGrace Episcopal Galveston Wedding ceremonyNewlywed couple portrait wedding photographer galvestonWedding ceremony at Grace Episcopal Church photoFirst dance at Ashton Villa Galveston Wedding PhotographerDepartur from wedding at ashton villaAshton Villa Galveston wedding Photographer