Kiara & Carter // Devil's Lake Engagement

Wisconsin Wedding Trends 2024 – Insights from James Stokes Photography

Wedding trends are akin to the seasons — they shift and change, bringing new flavor and freshness to the timeless cycle of love and commitment. In the heart of the Midwest, Wisconsin has recently witnessed a remarkable shift in how couples choose to say “I do.” This isn’t about following the latest fad; it’s a movement that celebrates authenticity, intentional connections, and a love letter to our natural surroundings. Here, Katie and I  want to share the insights and inspirations we’ve gathered through the lens of my camera as wedding photographers, capturing the magic of intimate, nature-inspired unions in this idyllic state.

Personal Experience with Intimate Weddings

Gone are the days when bigger meant better, especially for the couples who have honored me with their stories. In the intimacy of these smaller celebrations, I have witnessed a profound beauty that is often lost in the grandeur of traditional weddings. Every tear, every smile, every whispered word of love carries a weight that fills the expansiveness of their chosen environment. The impact on photography is profound — storytelling becomes richer, depth of field captures not just details but emotions, and the images we craft together are timeless, painting a narrative that echoes through the years.

Themed Pre-Wedding Soirees

Elevate the anticipation of your big day by hosting a themed rehearsal dinner. With your closest friends and family in attendance, why not ignite their excitement with a touch of enchantment? Couples are embracing the rehearsal dinner as a chance to curate a bespoke guest journey through the lens of a chosen theme. Celebrate your shared heritage with a charming Italian trattoria affair, where guests can craft their own delicious pizzas with cheese curds or french fries. Or, for those who relish in cozy evenings and intrigue, immerse your guests in a thrilling murder mystery dinner. Perhaps you bonded over strikes and spares at a bowling alley—why not keep the fun rolling with a nostalgic bowling bash? Whatever your passion or shared story, themed rehearsal dinners offer a delightful preview of the magic to come on your wedding day.

Nature-Inspired Themes and Aesthetics

Imagine exchanging vows under a canopy of leaves, the breeze carrying the scent of wildflowers, the rustle of the forest as your gentle accompaniment. Nature-inspired weddings have an unmatched charm, each as unique as the uncut gemstones embedded in the bride’s crown or the wildflowers adorning the tables. It’s more than a theme; it’s a reflection of the couple’s connection to the land, to each other, and to the story they’re writing. The choice of locale holds a significance that transcends scenic beauty. It becomes a part of their history, a theatre where their love takes center stage.

Kiara & Carter // Devil's Lake Engagement

Nautical Nuptials on the Great Lakes

Imagine saying “I do” aboard a boat, surrounded by the serene waters of the Great Lakes—the ultimate backdrop for a truly unforgettable wedding experience. As the gentle waves sway beneath you and the fresh breeze caresses your skin, you and your guests embark on a journey of love and celebration unlike any other. Whether you choose to cruise along Lake Michigan from the thumb to Door County or venture to the majestic shores of Lake Superior, the possibilities for nautical nuptials are as vast as the endless horizon.

The allure of hosting your wedding on a boat goes beyond just the novelty of the venue. With no noise restrictions and stunning panoramic views in every direction, the S.S. I Do offers a captivating setting that captivates both the hearts and senses of all who come aboard. For couples who share a passion for sailing or simply love the romance of the open water, a party boat wedding on the Great Lakes is the perfect choice.

To make the most of this trend, consider timing your nuptials with the magical golden hour, when the sun bathes the landscape in a warm, ethereal glow. Whether you’re exchanging vows against the backdrop of the rugged shores of Door County or the breathtaking vistas of Lake Superior, the golden light of sunset adds an extra touch of romance and enchantment to your special day.

With its unparalleled beauty and sense of adventure, hosting nautical nuptials on the Great Lakes is a trend that promises to create memories that will last a lifetime. So, set sail into matrimony and let the majestic waters of the Great Lakes be the backdrop for your love story’s most unforgettable chapter.

Black and White is Back with Blur

“Black and White is Back with Blur” signifies a captivating resurgence in wedding photography aesthetics, blending timeless elegance with a contemporary twist. This trend reintroduces the classic allure of black-and-white imagery while infusing it with the dynamic energy of blur, resulting in visually striking and deeply evocative images. By emphasizing emotions and mood through intentional blurring and creative techniques, photographers can craft narratives that transcend mere documentation. This approach offers a canvas for artistic expression, pushing the boundaries of traditional wedding photography and inviting viewers to immerse themselves in the story of the couple. With its timeless appeal and versatility, “Black and White with Blur” adds a poetic and cinematic quality to wedding visuals, elevating the narrative of love, connection, and celebration captured through the lens.


Embracing Nature’s Tranquility Together before the Nuptials

Contrary to conventional norms, couples are discovering the beauty of spending quality time together in nature before their wedding ceremony. Instead of adhering to traditional separations, some are choosing to embark on serene walks through the woods or enjoy peaceful moments by a tranquil lake, immersing themselves in the natural beauty surrounding them. Whether it’s sharing a sunrise hike to set intentions for the day or simply basking in each other’s presence amidst the serene backdrop of a forest, these moments in nature serve as a peaceful prelude to the celebrations ahead. This trend not only fosters a deeper connection between the couple but also highlights the importance of embracing individuality and personal preferences in crafting meaningful wedding experiences.

Bring your Fur Babies

Bringing your dogs to a wedding has become a heartwarming and increasingly popular trend that adds a unique touch of joy and personality to the celebration. For many couples, their dogs are not just pets but beloved members of the family, and including them in the wedding festivities allows for cherished moments and unforgettable memories. From serving as ring bearers or flower dogs to simply being part of the ceremony, dogs bring a sense of warmth and companionship to the occasion.

One of the most endearing aspects of having dogs at a wedding is the opportunity for adorable photo opportunities. Whether it’s the dogs wearing tiny tuxedos or floral collars, posing with the bridal party, or cuddling up with the newlyweds, these moments capture the genuine love and connection between the couple and their furry companions.

Moreover, having dogs at the wedding can create a more relaxed and joyful atmosphere, breaking the ice and bringing smiles to the faces of guests. Dogs have a special way of spreading happiness and easing nerves, making them wonderful additions to any celebration.

Of course, bringing dogs to a wedding requires careful planning to ensure their comfort and safety. This includes choosing pet-friendly venues, providing water and shade, and assigning a trusted caretaker to look after them throughout the day. It’s also important to consider the temperament and behavior of the dogs and whether they will be comfortable in a busy and potentially noisy environment.

Overall, including dogs in a wedding is a beautiful way to honor the bond between couples and their beloved pets. It adds a personal and heartfelt touch to the celebration, creating cherished memories that will be treasured for years to come.

marriage photography


Embracing Shadows and Mood in Wedding Photography

Embracing shadows and mood in wedding photography represents a departure from traditional bright and airy styles, instead opting for a more artistic and emotive approach. By deliberately incorporating shadows and playing with light, photographers can create images that evoke a sense of drama, intimacy, and romance, adding depth and dimension to the visual narrative of the wedding day.

Shadows, when used thoughtfully, can enhance the mood and atmosphere of a photograph, casting subtle nuances that evoke emotion and intrigue. Whether it’s the soft silhouette of the bride and groom against a sunset backdrop or the interplay of light and shadow highlighting the tender embrace of a couple, embracing shadows allows photographers to capture the essence of the moment in a way that is both timeless and evocative.

Furthermore, by embracing shadows, photographers can create a sense of mystery and allure, drawing the viewer’s attention to the subtle details and nuances of the scene. This adds layers of complexity to the image, inviting viewers to linger and contemplate the deeper meaning behind the captured moment.

Incorporating shadows also opens up opportunities for creative expression and experimentation. Photographers can play with different lighting techniques, such as backlighting or chiaroscuro, to create dynamic compositions that emphasize contrast and texture. This not only adds visual interest to the photographs but also imbues them with a sense of artistic flair and sophistication.

Ultimately, embracing shadows and mood in wedding photography allows photographers to craft images that are not only beautiful but also meaningful and evocative. By capturing the interplay of light and shadow, photographers can create a visual narrative that reflects the depth of emotion and connection shared between the couple, resulting in photographs that are both timeless and unforgettable.

Community and Local Businesses

The transition to intimate and nature-inspired weddings has not been a solitary one. It’s beautiful to see the burgeoning web of local vendors and artisans coming together to cocoon these celebrations. Each cake baked, each dress sewn, and each photo captured is a thread in the tapestry of community collaboration. It’s heartening to witness the dedication and craftsmanship of these businesses, infusing every wedding with a local flavor that is both unique and sustainable.

Challenges and Rewards

Of course, every change comes with its share of hurdles. Smaller weddings require a level of planning that is often described as meticulous. Every detail must be deliberate, every choice a reflection of the couple’s essence. However, the rewards are immeasurable. The bonding that occurs in these close-knit settings is something to behold. Friends become family, and family, an integral part of the narrative. The emotional resonance of such moments is what fuels my passion as a photographer, capturing those candid stories that unfold only in the most intimate settings.


The trend of intimate, nature-inspired weddings is not just a passing fad. It reflects the growing desire for wedding celebrations that are genuine and rooted in love and connection. I encourage not only the couples getting married, but also the community as a whole, to embrace this trend. It creates an atmosphere where every detail, every smile, and every celebration is a deliberate choice, one that resonates with the deeper emotions of our hearts.



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