A Black-Tie Wedding at Elawa Farm - Kathryn Jean

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a bride and groom pose together for their portraits at Elawa Farm

A Black-Tie Wedding at Elawa Farm

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November 23, 2022
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katie reynolds
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Elawa Farm History

Built in 1917, Elawa Farm in Lake Forest was initially a gentleman’s farm; it is noted for its refined design from the North Shore’s premier estate architects, David Adler and Alfred Hopkins. Named for its original owners, Elawa Farm is one of the last remaining Midwest estate farms.

The Garden at Elawa is a slice of perfection. Overlooking the stunning Middlefork Savanna on the western border of Lake Forest, the garden was initially commissioned in 1918, and it is now carefully re-established.

a bride and groom pose together for their portraits at Elawa Farm

Elawa Farm Wedding Photos

Full, lush greens form neat aisles lined by statues; it one of my favorite backdrops for wedding portraits. There are so many places for a couple to walk hand in hand or a young, excited toddler to give chase; it’s just picture-perfect.

The Paddock, overlooking the spectacular Garden, is an outdoor space featuring the Hay Barn, which is most often used for weddings and events. The versatility of this gorgeous space allows for indoor seating or festive outdoor dinner served family-style. It’s the perfect place for an intimate wedding!

The grandeur of the historical setting means that Elawa Farms is also host to amazing black-tie affairs.  The warm, original brickwork of the Hay Barn is a raw canvas where couples can add sophisticated touches like candelabras on perfectly set buffet tables. The Hay Barn can host both an indoor ceremony and reception for up to 175 people.

an image of a minimal wedding cake at elawa farm


Both the Hay Barn and the Wagon Shed have a natural, rustic elegance that feels warm and inviting. The Edison lights and wildflowers found on the grounds have an upscale, chic feeling to the grounds. Organic vegetables grown at the working farm offer a truly farm-to-table experience for guests and can be coordinated with the catering staff. 

A premiere Lake Forest wedding venue, Elawa Farms offers couples the option for indoor and outdoor ceremony options. Say “I do” in the Garden or under a custom arbor overlooking the Middlefork Savannah. You can also arrange for a ceremony or reception to be hosted in the green space under a fantastic tent.

One of my favorite places to do family photography and wedding portraits is the  Middlefork Savannah at Elawa Farms. Just a short walk away from the barn, you find yourself standing in the rare tallgrass savanna, which features almost 100 acres of oak savanna, woodlands, wet and mesic prairies, sedge meadows, and marshes. It’s amazing to think this property is a mere 40 miles from Chicago’s Loop, it feels a world away! 

A bride and groom hold hands during their vows at Elawa Farm

Each space on the estate’s grounds is beautifully maintained, from the rolling hills and unique tallgrass to the plantings of native wildflowers. Creating outstanding wedding portraits from fun candids walking along the path or fantastic family formals is easy to do at Elawa Farms.

Elawa is a truly remarkable place to have your wedding in nearly any season. In the spring, I love the lush green of the gardens and the flowers starting to bloom. Summer is glorious, with so many places to take photos it can make your head spin! In the fall, the mature trees around the property begin to burst with color, along with the other native grasses supplying texture and warmth to the photos.

A Black Tie Wedding at Elawa Farm

In September, a late afternoon played host to one of the most fabulous black-tie affairs that Elawa Farm has ever hosted. Having been together for over ten years, Jim and Barbara decided to commit to each other at this working, organic farm whose rich history makes it the ideal spot for hosting an intimate wedding in Lake Forest

close up of a bride and groom holding hands after their vows at Elawa Farm

Guests were treated to black tie face masks and temperature checks upon arrival, and let’s be honest, that’s also how love looked in 2020. Love adapted.

Dapper in a black tux and tie, Jim’s grandson was proud as he walked his Grandfather down the aisle. Jim’s best girl, dressed head to toe in white and lace, was his beaming granddaughter. Framed by the lush greens and set against the tall savannah grass, it was an adorable start to a fantastic ceremony.

Barbara was every bit of elegance and on her wedding day, her ensemble was designed completely by Badgley Mishka. From her stunning earrings to her gorgeous shoes, Barbara looked elegant and radiant. I loved the long sleeves covered with bling on her gown!

The moment that Jim sees Barbara is breathtaking and is exactly what I love about being a wedding photographer. From the smile on his face to his raised eyebrows, his look of absolute love and adoration for his bride: THAT is what love in 2020 looked like.

A bride and groom pose before dinner at Elawa Farm

In a grand space like Elawa Farms, surrounded by old-growth and the Middlefork Savannah, you have a feeling that this place is special. The sophisticated touches like white and green florals rich with white hydrangeas made it feel like black-tie-meets-elegant-garden-party. It’s a true testament to a venue when they can make any size celebration seem like exactly the right fit. After they exchanged vows, the party moved to the outdoor reception area, where the couple’s attention to detail created a welcoming yet chic party. Family-style tables hosted an amazing menu featuring some of the organic vegetables grown on the working farm at Elawa. Mixing the chairs’ warm wood with white linens and centerpieces of glass-encased candles and vibrant greens, the canopy of trees and Edison lights gave this outdoor reception a cozy feeling.

After ten years of happiness, the day for this couple was perfect. The sun setting behind their family formals and the way their wedding attire was set against the historical buildings created fantastic portraits. 

Taking current times into consideration, hosting an outdoor reception for 50 friends and family was an inspired choice. Their reception brimmed with laughter and dancing at the helm of dueling pianos and guests who were thrilled to be present to celebrate their commitment. As the sun went down, the space was illuminated by the twinkling lights, a round of exuberant toasts.

What a wonderful reminder of the good things in life are still good. Love endures. If you’re looking for a place where you can get many different looks to your photos without having to travel around Lake Forest, I can’t think of a better setting than Elawa Farms.  Let’s talk more about what you envision for your wedding.To learn more about wedding photography, please view Kathryn’s wedding page.

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