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  • Writer's pictureTamara Merri

Branford House Winter Wedding | Shane + Margarita

Updated: Apr 11, 2023

branford house wedding groton, ct

IS BRANFORD HOUSE NOT THE MOST STUNNING MANSION WEDDING VENUE IN CONNECTICUT?! Honestly when Shane and Margarita told me where their wedding was going to be I about died. Stunning! Shane's family lives near UConn (the Branford House is on UConn campus) so it was a great location to not have them travel very far.

On the other hand, every single other person had to travel from across the country. Shane and Margarita traveled from North Dakota, as did the Maid of Honor, since they're all stationed there for the military. A little side note: when you're in the military you don't have too much say on where you're based. So both S + M requested to be stationed in North Dakota in order to be together since they weren't married yet. Ugh! So sweet! Embracing the cold for love haha. But now that they're married they'll always be together, yay!

I first met S + M when Shane reached out for me to photograph their proposal. If you'd like to read that story, check out the blog link below:


branford house winter

branford house mansion

Okay so back to the wedding day and Branford House. Since their wedding was small (just 27 guests) they held their ceremony in the Grand Ballroom. And thank god because this was probably the coldest day of the entire year. When I woke up the real temp was in the negatives!! Every aspect of the mansion is so stunning; from the hand-carved wooden panel interior to the stone veranda and beyond the panoramic view of Fishers Island + the Long Island Sound, it for sure is a show stopper. If it weren't so cold / if it was a bigger wedding, they may have opted to host their ceremony outside on the lawn and paired it with a tent. That's what the Branford House suggests, anyway! I'd love to come back to this gorgeous Mansion every year to capture ceremonies in every season! If you're reading this and still searching for a photographer hit me up. I've mastered the art of subtly, if you couldn't tell.

hand carved wooden panels

chandelier viewed from below

wedding rings

bridal portrait on grand, oak carved staircase in branford house

Although it was legit FREEZING we did their first look outside to have some privacy for the moment, away from wedding party and event staff who were setting up. Plus, I mean, this architecture and light? SWOON! It was so so so sweet and meaningful for them to see each other for the first time. They exchanged cards during their first look which included their vows to each other. They did this in replace of speaking their vows during the ceremony since they wanted to keep it private and sacred. This is a PERFECT way to share your feelings for your partner if you don't feel comfortable saying something personal during your ceremony. Highly recommend! Afterwards we took a few photos before retreating inside to regain feeling in our faces lol.

The ceremony was in the grand ballroom with the fireplace that is across from the main entrance. It is such a STUNNING ceremony spot! They decorated the fireplace with minimal florals to let it shine on its own. Each Shane and Margarita, as well as their wedding party, proceeded down the grand staircase in order to enter the ceremony. They were going to walk down the aisle together, but then Shane wanted *that* moment for Margarita all by herself to shine in her own light (so freaking sweet)! Margarita's father (and more of her family) are in Russia so they attended the ceremony virtually via zoom.

grand ballroom and fireplace at branford house mansion as seen from the balcony

Their officiant was Margaritas best friend, Jordan, who absolutely CRUSHED it. His script was witty, romantic, and nostalgic all wrapped up into one personalized bow. Their small guest list of just 27 people laughed, cried, and was fully focused on the couple. It was incredibly important to M + S that no one have their phone out during the ceremony so that everyone would be fully present, and their wish was granted! If this is important to you too, I highly recommend either having a sign that directs your guests to turn off their cellphones or have your officiant make a small speech BEFORE the ceremony with the request (or both!).

group photo of all wedding guests in the grand ballroom at branford house

This is their full guest list!! I love that everyone was able to fit in one photo - small, intimate guests list for the win!

wedding party in front of the hand-caraved wooden panel interiors at branford house
cocktail hour - taking polaroid photos of guests

After the ceremony we braved the cold to take a few more wedding portraits now that they're officially married!! Luckily, Margarita and I worked out the timeline so there would still a little bit of daylight left after the ceremony in order to be able to capture their portraits outside! Sunlight / natural light is a photographer's best friend. Taking your photographer's advice for the best time of day to capture specific elements is crucial to receive a gallery that meets your vision.


bride and groom running on lawn with the branford house mansion behind them

sunset silhouette image with Long Island Sound in the background

This is their officiant, Jordan, and his boyfriend silhouetted in the sky. I LOVE when guests ask for photos during the wedding. As long as I'm not already doing an "assignment" my answer will always be yes!! I feel like these kinds of photos of guests are also super important to the narrative of a couple's wedding day. Especially for Margarita and Shane's wedding, I knew that every person of their 27 guest list was important to them - especially their officiant!

After the sun set and cocktail hour ended, it was time for the reception. Margarita and Shane entered into the west room to the song Holding Out for a Hero (you know that iconic Shrek song) and went straight into a very lively first dance. It was so *them*. It was so cute, after the dance, Margarita turned to me and said, "I've always wanted to enter my wedding reception to that song - even before I met Shane". AND SHE DID. It was such a powerful moment to see just how excited she was; a dream on a bucket list that was just crossed off.

couple entering reception in west room at branford house

After their first dance their friends gave speeches. The photo below is so powerful to me! It's Margarita's sister, and they couldn't look at each other without crying, so they stood back to back as Olga delivered her speech. After speeches dinner began and my coverage time ended!

maid of honor speech bride and MOH are back to back

bride hugging her new grandma-in-law

wide photo of grand ballroom at branford house for wedding reception

The Branford House is SO GORGEOUS!! I would love to go back to photograph more weddings! Whether your wedding will also be during chilly New England winter or you're planning for a warmer day out on the lawn, please contact me to inquire if I am available for your date!



Tamara Merri Photography


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I'm Tamara!

I'm a Massachusetts wedding & elopement photographer. I'm the voice behind this blog and the girl behind the camera. 

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