Live Wedding Painting - The Story
It all began when Suzie contacted me in July inquiring about hiring me as a Live Wedding Painter at her wedding vow renewal in September. Suzie shared with me that this will be a surprise gift for her husband Dave. The couple was married one year ago and due to the pandemic, they opted for a micro wedding. The ceremony was in their church, St Augustine’s in Weston. A year later they planned a second celebration - a vow renewal and a festive reception party at the beautiful Waveny House in New Canaan, CT.
This was exciting for me because I grew up in New Canaan and Waveny was a big part of my life growing up. As kids, my brother and I spent many hours playing and exploring the grounds and looked forward to the annual 4th of July Celebration. A few of our high school proms and post-prom parties were held at Waveny and the list goes on of all the fond memories.
The house was build for the Lapman family in 1912, and purchased by the Town of New Canaan in 1967. With no details left unturned, the elegant, vintage estate offers beautiful wood paneling, tutor style leaded glass windows, marble fireplaces, hand-stenciled muraled walls, a beautiful sun-light staircase to make a grand entrance, and a backyard terrace overlooking the expansive grounds.
Suzie and I met on a Wednesday afternoon in August at Waveny to view the grounds and decide on the scene to capture and where the best vantage point was. There were two different plans, one inside in the main hall and the second one would be out on the back terrace. It was a wonderful afternoon, getting to know each other and it felt like we were good friends catching up after a few years apart. I loved hearing the sweet romantic story of how Dave proposed to Suzie.
A few weeks later I sent Suzie two watercolor sketches of the scenes.
Suzie loved the sketches and offered her feedback, this is one of my favorite parts of the painting process, the beginning stages when the ideas and thoughts go from a simple conversation, words spoken into a concrete idea on paper. This is when we see together the vision starting to take shape. One thing we always have to remember is that things can change the day of the wedding. Nothing is set in stone but creating this preliminary sketch helps us both feel more confident that we are on the same page.
Wedding Day- Finally Here!
I arrived a little earlier than expected since it was Labor Day Weekend and I had no idea what the traffic would be like. When I entered the main hall, there was a lot of activity going on, tables were being set, the musicians and flowers had just arrived. The wedding coordinator was directing folks and I found my spot right between a doorway looking into the main room.
The scene I’m be painting is Suzie and Dave’s first dance. This was so important to them because dancing wasn’t part of their wedding celebration last year, so Suzie wanted this to be a special moment captured on canvas. I set up and went right to work. The canvas size is 24 x 36. My first step is to draw an outline with my pastel stick. Next comes the underpainting or first layers of paint. While working on location I chose to paint in acrylics. Acrylics are water-based paint that dries quickly and are easy to clean up. There is little to no odor compared to oil paints.
About 45 minutes before the ceremony started, Daniel the photographer approached me to ask if I could move my easel back into the side room, close the doors and hide. Suzie’s plan was to unveil the surprise to Dave after the ceremony and before their first dance.
Tucked away in a side room, I continued to work on the painting based on my memory and photos from my camera.
I worked up until the 4pm ceremony on the side Portico, option B in case of rain. The caterers did an amazing job redirecting and setting up all the chairs on the Portico. Father John, a dear friend of the couple’s presided over the wedding ceremony making it extra special to hear his personal words spoken over the two of them.
A little damp from the rain but that didn’t stop anyone from enjoying the misty background scenery, in fact, it just made it more romantic.
Now,time for the Big Surprise Reveal, although the painting was still in the beginning stages, I was able to place the first layer of the background in, enough to see what’s going on. The photographer and his crew were ready for when Suzie and Dave entered the room.
Suzie introduced me and I shared with Dave what I was painting and what the scene will be of. It took just moments for Dave to process and the expression on his face as well as Suzie’s was priceless.
There were tears of joy and happiness and so much love just radiated from the both of them - I think it brought all of us in the room to tears. The only thing I could do is smile and offer each a paper towel. They were so thrilled, we opened the doors and I was able to continue painting while they continued to enjoy their party.
The tables were set with cobalt blue tablecloths, dusty rose napkins, and gold chargers. The tables sparkled with a mix of wine and water glasses, along with candles and flower arrangements. I love the mix of soft pink roses, hydrangeas, little blue flowers, and greens. some tables had low arrangements and others were presented with tall brass stands.
As the evening moved along, guests would visit often taking a peek at the progress of the painting and we would engage in small chit chat. I love meeting the guests and hearing their reactions. Although live wedding painting has been around for over 10 years now in different parts of the country, this is fairly new to New England so there were only one or two other people who attended a wedding with a live wedding painter.
The sweet flower girls, Maria her sister Olivia and their cousin came to visit me often, asking the best questions and wanting to know what I was going to paint in next.
It was about 6:45 when Suzie and Dave came down the grand staircase for their first dance. Everyone gathered around the dance floor to watch as the couple gracefully moved in beautiful motion together. But the best part was when the music stopped and everyone applauded thinking it was over, then Dave say something like “there’s more!”
An upbeat pop song came on and the couple busted out their dance moves - the crowd cheered as they twirled and spun around the dance floor! I snapped a zillion photos hoping to capture just the right move and position.
And I found it! The moment their arms were wrapped around each other and they turned their heads to look into each other’s eyes! Magic! So back to the easel I went, ready to add in the bride and groom.
The progress of the painting moved along. Adding small grouping of guests, and of course the three little girls. I snapped photos of couples as they walked by my easel asking for a quick pose.
Then Suzie and Dave came over to view the progress, I asked them if they would like to paint on the canvas, Suzie painted highlights on her dress, and Dave painted the highlights on his suit! So fun to see the two interact with their painting!
Later in the evening, I offered my two biggest fans, to paint the wine in the wine glasses in the lower left side of the canvas, I showed them once how to mix the paint and fill in the outline of the glass. Then they proceed to follow, carefully and in full concentration - how precious the moment was.
The evening continued with the cake cutting and dancing in the portico - The band was outstanding, playing fantastic dance tunes - so fun to watch everyone enjoying themselves - living life to the fullest and celebrating with friends and family.
I packed up, said my goodbyes, and out the door by about 9:45pm -
The fondest of memories were made that night and to have the honor and pleasure to be a part of their wedding day celebration is truly a blessing for me!
2 weeks later: Back in my studio now, I have time to analyze and make corrections, add the details, and several glazing layers both with acrylics and then with oils. The faces take the most time especially since most of them are under the size of a dime!
I love seeing the progress of the painting develop.
I sent over a proof for Suzie and Dave and they were so happy! they were amazed at the painting! They asked for a few corrections and we discussed framing options.
“The painting looks amazing- Dave and I are very happy with your work. Thank you so much for being there and capturing the night. You were a big hit. And the best part of it, Dave was so extremely surprised and delighted that there was a talented and kind Christian painter at our reception. “
Next Steps: Framing and deliver! My absolute favorite part is the reveal day!
As always, thank you for following my art journey-
For more information on Live Wedding Painting or Post Wedding Portraits go here - Or contact me by phone: 203-444-5705 or email -
What an honor and pleasure to be hired by the best man and his wife to paint the wedding ceremony of his brother Val and bride Emily. The outdoor ceremony held at The Barns at Wesleyan Hills in Middletown CT set the background for a picturesque scene. The grounds offer soft rolling hills, a pond with a fountain, a white walking bridge but the most distinctive characteristics of the grounds are the graceful willow trees. When I was growing up we had a large willow tree in the front yard. I loved to watch the long droopy branches sway in the wind. It was as though they were invited to dance the moment the wind whispered a sweet hush.
There were approx 150 family, friends, and relatives seated in the white folding chairs with the afternoon sun on their backs. It was about 5pm when the ceremony began, the perfect time and perfect weather. Earlier in the week the forecast called for thunderstorms but you would have never guessed it. The bride and groom exchanged sweet and tender vows to each other and love was definitely in the air.
Capturing as many photos as possible of the ceremony while trying to stay out of the photographer's way as a challenge. Photo bombing their wedding photos what not on my list. I arrived an hour earlier than the guests to set up my easel and supplies inside the reception area. It was a perfect spot where there was plenty of light, easy for those who wanted to see the progress of the painting develop and close enough to the appetizers and bar.
The Barns at Wesleyan Hills, run by the CT Wedding Group is truly a wonderful place for weddings. The atmosphere both indoors and out felt casual yet well-maintained and careful detail of the aesthetics and decor was clearly visible. Cathy was the wedding coordinator who did an excellent job at keeping everything flowing so smoothly, the bride, groom and guests seemed to enjoy every moment of the celebration. I was able to sample the appetizers and offered a meal to enjoy with the rest of the staff in the balcony. The food was undeniably superb!
As a plein air painter who goes out on location, my painting gear is fairly compact. I use a french easel that folds up like a little wooden suitcase. my painting bag, portable palette and a 18 x 24"' gallery-wrapped canvas. I did try to rig my iPhone up to the top of the easel to view the ceremony photos but after a while I just held the phone in my hand.
In the first photo above you'll see the start of the painting. I first tone the canvas with a golden yellow color. This helps to harmonize all the colors and the white canvas isn't so bright and... intimating. Yes I said intimating, even after years of painting and hundreds of canvases I haven't gotten over the "blank canvas fear"... I know I"m not alone.. Vincent Van Gogh spoke about being afraid of a blank canvas too!
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I arrived an hour before the guests, sat outside and sketched the grounds. This is a common practice for me especially when painting outdoors or in a new environment. I love to engage all my senses, I can hear the soft lapping sound of the water cascading into the pond from the fountain, and feel the warmth of the afternoon sun on my back. Just observing and slowing down to sketch helps me to see more details and to truly capture the essence of the scene.
After reviewing a few photos and sketches with Tara, I quickly went to work drawing a basic sketch on the canvas using a pastel stick. The pastel stick allows me to work quickly and direct onto the canvas. Next I blocked in the background scene, the sky, distance trees, pond, foreground trees and grassy area. Moving onto the bridal party I added each figure and then the guests. As the painting progressed more and more guests would stand by peaking over my shoulder or engaging in a conversation about art, painting, or just how beautiful the ceremony was. Perhaps we would chat about how beautiful Emily looked in her dress or the flowers. I was able to meet the parents of bride and groom and the bridal party.
Although at times I feel like an introvert, when I'm engaging with others in conversation about art or beauty or creating I love to share and learn about others and their experiences. I believe Art has a unique way of connecting people that may seem very different at first with little in common but Art can open the doors to a conversation... and that is incredible!
One of the sweetest moments of the evening was when Tara and Parva brought Emily and Val over to the easel to see what I doing. This was a total surprise for the both of them and when they saw the background and realized that its a painting of their ceremony the both became teary-eyed.
Although I was able to complete a good portion of the painting during the 5 hours of the reception. I've been working on the painting back in my studio for the past two weeks. Using my laptop and studio easel, I can take time to work on the figures to express a more accurate likeness.
To be apart of Emily and Val's special day was amazing in itself. Then to capture this moment in time for them, my hope is that they genuinely love the piece and if I did my job well, the joy and love and overwhelming happiness they had shared that day with radiate from the canvas and will bring them the sweetest memories for years to come.
Thank you Tara, Parva, Emily and Val!
Peace, blessings and a life-long marriage of joy!
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Linda S. Marino Art
Branford, CT 06405
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