Romance in the Ruins Style Shoot

Photos ByErika Mattingly Photography

Savannah Hope's picture
Written By
Savannah Hope
April 11, 2017

When one thinks of romance, an abandoned church in Gary, Indiana may not be the first thing that pops into their head. For Erika Mattingly, of Erika Mattingly Photography, the dilapidated City Methodist Church of Gary was the perfect place for a stunning style shoot where she could transform the old and broken into something romantic and elegant. To pull the vision together, Erika got ahold of Abby Griffin of Heirloom Event Co. The two were able to create a moody, chic and intense shoot in which Erika says, “The destruction and ruins were the perfect backdrop for the look we were going for. Something elegant amongst the ruins—love amongst the ruins.”

Erika and Abby were determined to create the feel of a darker, fanciful look. To create this look, they went for a darker color scheme filled with dark reds, gold hues and light pops of color. Erika says, "We really tried to keep things unique so that viewers would see and experience something different. We really wanted to inspire couples to think outside the box rather than go with the norm." 

The dress for the shoot had a more modern look with an extremely textured bottom. The dress added a contemporary twist to the otherwise dark feel. Erika says, “The dress fit well because it provided that perfect contrast between the distresses and ruin to the beautifully made, elegant gown. In a place that hadn’t seen much movement or life in years, this dress gave us something to work with.” This dress paired with the groom's blue, soft-checkered suit, supplying the shoot with some stylish accents in an ancient looking space.


As for the florals, the team envisioned something that would fit into their color scheme. They went to Fleur, Inc. to get the perfect match for their vision. Erika says, “Fleur’s work has always been rich in color and their branch has more of that dark/moody feel we were going for.” The darker florals added to the reminiscent feel of the shoot but worked well with the modern styled bride.



The team did not want to have any typical stationery in their shoot, so they decided to go for letterpress—a unique choice for most stationery that would add to this shoot’s rarity. Erika says, "Cory of Four Hats Letterpress was the perfect creative to accomplish the look they wanted." The stationery kept to theme by incorporating dark reds but still looked modern with bold, all-caps letterpress font.


The furniture rentals from Strangelovely added the maudlin points that the shoot desired. The gold chest and blue, chinoiserie sofa popped out in the ruins. The red floral-patterned plates and gold-tinted chargers added to the allure of the tablescape, and the candles placed throughout created that gentle glow that brought romance into the barren setting. The hexagon-shaped place cards were an avant-garde detail that gave the tablescape a more modern nod when mixed with the moody hues.  

Sweet Melissa Desserts supplied the rare treats the decorated the dessert bar. The gold-leafed mini-cake topped with blackberries was the perfect match for the decadent and elegant theme. Erika says, “The cake/desserts done by Sweet Melissa Desserts were unique in that there wasn't just one dessert to choose from.” The dessert table followed the out-of-the-box ideas that the team was going for. The decorative plates filled with different goodies all stood out on their own. 

Despite the shoot appearing as a flawless product, it did have its challenges. The main challenge was working with a decaying building as their setting. “There was no power or bathrooms, so we had to plan accordingly. Hair and makeup was done off-site.” The old church was not an easy place to have a style shoot, but the finished product showed how beautiful things can come out of the most unexpected places. 



What We love 

This is not your ordinary, everyday, romantic setting, yet the team was able to make it a place where love could be celebrated. They also saw the best elements in an otherwise gloomy setting. It shows how talented the team is at making light and beauty come from the least expected places. 


City Methodist Church - Styled Bridal Shoot from Brandon Mattingly on Vimeo.


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