Newport Wedding at Bel Mer | Francesca + Frank

Wedding-industry peeps get married, too, and when they do, It’s pretty awesome! Their vendors are often industry friends, which brings a whole new layer of love to the day. Plus, they’ve seen loads of weddings and couples in action, which helps their own vision come together. What’s really cool, though, is how the perspective of a wedding professional and bride comes together.

Francesca, a wonderful wedding photographer, said “I do” to Frank, her sweetheart, and the whole day was as romantic, fabulous, and heartfelt as can be. The two met at driver’s ed in high school (sooo John Hughes movie plot!)! After Frank proposed (check that sweet story below!), they began planning. Though they’d always dreamed of a destination wedding in Italy, that wasn’t a thing during a pandemic, so they went with the glamorous Bel Mer venue in Newport, Rhode Island. They’d fallen in love with the area’s ocean views and architecture on a previous vacation, which made it a special place. When we asked Francesca for planning tips, she dropped some excellent advice:

1. “Focus on what’s important to you and your fiancé. It’s so easy to get caught up in trends on Pinterest and Instagram that we can forget why we’re planning a wedding in the first place. On our wedding day, we were most excited about our ceremony because it meant we finally got to get married!! Our guests laughed with us because we were up there dancing at the altar; we were so excited.
2. Don’t plan every day. I always encourage my clients to pick a night or two nights during the week and call it “Wedding + Wine Wednesdays” or something like that! We did the same thing! Use that time to daydream about your wedding day together, chat with vendors and make your plans. And the rest of your week, enjoy being engaged. Celebrate your time as a fiancée and prepare for marriage together. Keep dating. Keep having long conversations about your dreams for your life. Surprise each other. Make dinner together.
3. Trust your vendors. Having a team of talented vendors to support us on our day made all the difference. We didn’t have to worry once! We knew we were in great hands and that we can simply sit back and soak in all of the joy. ”

Wondering how a wedding person chooses her dress (our Sofia gown at Jessica Haley!) or whether Francesca and Frank’s engagement story is as sweet as how they met (the answer is 100% yes!)? Get the details from our thoughtful, wedding-photographer bride below.

wedding dress: Lea-Ann Belter Sofia via Jessica Haley Bridal | photographer: Mindy Briar Photography | scroll down for full vendor list

How did you guys meet?


“We actually met in Drivers Ed, back in high school! One day our teacher was late to class, so my (now) husband and his friend got up to “teach” the class themselves. You can say he was sort of a class clown. He had all of us laughing hysterically, and I remember asking myself how I didn’t know this guy before! After that, we became best friends and even went to prom together at the end of the year. It wasn’t until five years later, though, that we finally started dating!”


How did you know Frank was “the one”?


“Geez, I think part of me always knew. After that Driver’s Ed class, we both started developing feelings for each other, but we were scared to admit it. He swears I friend-zoned him for years, which may sort of have been the truth! But after high school, we kept in touch and stayed friends. Eventually, we admitted our feelings to each other, but the timing had always been wrong. It wasn’t until years later that we met for coffee, and I realized he was still the one for me. He was still the best friend I had fallen in love with when we were 16. After that, we went on our first official date to the beach, and this time, neither of us were going to let each other go.”


How did you guys get engaged?


“Frank and I love to drive around different towns and talk about real estate and dream up our future together. Reading this back to myself, it sounds a little lame, but it’s so fun! I challenge everyone to drive around neighborhoods with their significant other and daydream about where they want to live next and how they want to build their future. But I digress… one afternoon last July, Frank had mentioned that he wanted to drive around Greenwich, CT, to look around and go out to lunch. So instead of driving around looking at houses, he surprised me by taking me to Cos Cob Park that has this gorgeous overlook of the water. I turned around to look at the scenery, and he got down on one knee. It wasn’t until later that I realized it was exactly three years from the date we first said “I Love You” to each other.”


How did you choose your gown?


“Being in the wedding industry myself, I had known that I wanted to visit Jessica Haley Bridal when I got engaged. I had been there a few times before, and it is such a dreamy salon. It has the perfect upscale elegance you expect from Rye, and both Jessica and Haley are so sweet and incredible.

When I made my appointment, Haley asked me how I wanted to feel in my gown. She even had me answer a few quick questions before I stepped into the store. Here was my answer: “When I was little, my mom teased me that I wouldn’t let her pick out a dress for me if it didn’t twirl… It turns out, not much has changed! Haha! I can’t wait to find a beautiful, ballgown-style dress that makes a statement. I love dresses that are simple in fabric yet have some unique element – like a low back, a bow, or a fun neckline. When I’m in my dress, I honestly just want to feel joy. The best weddings I’ve photographed are the ones where the bride is SO stinkin’ excited to get married, and it shows. That’s how I want it to feel. “

When I arrived at the store, she had the Lea-Ann Belter gown picked out already based upon my description! Ironically, I didn’t want to try it on at first. I think I wanted to have the opportunity to find my own gown and look around a bit. So, I did! I tried on about ten other gowns, and just before I thought our appointment was over, Haley encouraged me to try mine on.

As soon as I did, I knew. It was perfect. It had everything I wanted. Not only was it a ballgown, but it was the perfect combination of sexy and elegant. Plus, the flowers on the skirt added the statement I was really looking for, and even better, it twirled!”


Tell us about your day!


“Originally, Frank and I dreamed of getting married at a far-off destination like Italy. We are avid travelers and dreamed of traveling somewhere with our family and friends to celebrate there. When we got engaged, though, the pandemic was in full swing, so we knew that might not be the most realistic idea.

As a wedding photographer myself, I was concerned that our day would go too quickly! I can’t tell you how many brides I hear from that say, “I blinked, and the day was over!” So I knew if we had to travel, even a little bit, for our wedding, we’d be able to soak in the joy a little longer.

The year before the pandemic hit, Frank and I had visited Rhode Island for a few days and fell in love. We had such a fun vacation, and we adored the ocean views, the stunning architecture, and the versatility of the venues. Since our European destination was out of the question, we knew that Rhode Island would be the perfect option for us. Throughout the actual planning, we tried to be as realistic as possible depending upon the current restrictions. We had multiple versions of our guest list and focused on key points that we felt were most important for our day and could be achieved no matter the restrictions.

One of these moments was the ceremony. As a little girl, I dreamed of getting married by the priest who performed my parents’ marriage ceremony. Over time, this priest has become such a dear friend of our family, and he was so honored to do it for us. He traveled to Rhode Island for our wedding, and that is a moment I’ll treasure forever.”


What was your first dance song?


“Our First Dance song is called “Greatest Love Story” by the band LANCO. If you listen to the words, it talks about a couple that was close while they were in high school and reconnected years later and got married. Our friends joke around and ask us if LANCO called us for inspiration for this song. It’s exactly what happened with us!”


What was your something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue?


“This may be one of my favorite questions because I love all the little touches we were able to incorporate. My grandmother had passed away during the pandemic from cancer, and my grandfather had passed away in 2018. I’ve seen so many different ways to create a memorial for lost loved ones at weddings, but I knew that my grandparents wouldn’t have wanted that. So instead, Frank wore my grandfather’s cross on our wedding day. For me, I wore my grandmother’s earrings and necklace as something old. My something blue was this beautiful blue ring that my other grandmother had given to me when I graduated from college. My something borrowed was the headpiece I wore! My aunt wore that for her wedding 22 years ago, and my something new was my beautiful gown!”

Francesca + Frank’s Newport Wedding Vendors

wedding dress: Lea-Ann Belter Sofia via Jessica Haley Bridal | photographer: Mindy Briar Photography | venue + catering: Belle Mer at Longwood Venues | beauty: Jaclynn Kate Artistry | florals: Botanica Wedding | rentals: Peak Event Services  | videographer: Earth and Sun, Co. | entertainment: Murray Hill Talent | transportation: Rockstar Limo | signage + decor: Write Pretty For Me and Sealed with a Kris | bridal party attire: Azazie and Men’s Wearhouse 

Were you a Lea-Ann Belter bride? We’d love to see your pictures and share your story! Email