Meet the photographer behind this amazing Game of Thrones inspired photoshoot

It even had its own direwolf.

With season seven of HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones lurking just around the corner, it seems only fitting that one photographer used the show as inspiration for a fantasy-filled wedding shoot.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. The last thing you want to have is a Game of Thrones wedding as they have a tendency to end in a bloodbath (let’s not even mention the ‘Red Wedding’).

But North Carolina-based photographer, Katie Lee of Katherine Elena Photography, thought that despite knowing how weddings in the show end, it has such a big fan base, not to give it a go: “I knew that the show has such a cult following and that there were many elements in the show that could be brought together for a really fantastic wedding. I wanted to give people an idea of how this theme could be pulled off with a lot of romance and wow factor so I never considered it having a violent end! If I tried to copy everything in the show exactly, then it wouldn’t make the shoot unique to me and my style and I think that’s part of what makes it work so well.

“I wouldn’t call myself a Game of Thrones ‘super fan’, but it’s one of my favourite things  to watch with my husband when it is on. I think my favourite character is Arya Stark. She’s so feisty and pretty badass! I also really loved Hodor and am still sad about that whole situation, but man, was it a great addition to the plot line.”

You would think that with the show’s popularity, a theme like this would be tired and overdone, but it surprised Katie to see that there was nothing quite like this out there: “I don’t remember exactly when the idea came to me, but typically when I get an idea for a shoot I first try looking it up online to see if it’s been done before or if it’s been overdone. I was mostly surprised when I tried searching for Game of Thrones wedding inspiration that I really didn’t find much at all, being as it’s so popular.”

To re-create a whimsical medieval shoot to a grand scale such as this, takes a lot of planning and the location is key: “The location was a tough one, because if you know North Carolina at all, we are not known for having castles! There are only actually a few in the area and Smithmore Castle was one I didn’t know about.”
This 121-acre private mountain estate, provided the perfect setting for the photoshoot. “This ‘castle in the sky’ in the Blue Ridge Mountains was the perfect place inside and out to set the atmosphere for the inspiration shoot,” recalls Katie. “The dress designer, Erin Foley, actually mentioned it to us after we had reached out to her to create the gowns. When I saw the view and the beautiful architecture, I knew it would be perfect.”

The characters behind the inspiration for this spectacular shoot were two of the more memorable faces in the show: Daenerys Targaryen and Sansa Stark. “These two women are both very strong and beautiful but have a soft, elegant side to them as well. We wanted to portray this in both the dress styling as well as their attitudes. We reached out to a local designer to create gowns that would fit the characters and leave others breathless.

“The gowns were actually created specifically for this shoot and tailored to each model!” says Katie. “Erin did a fantastic job bringing the vision I had to life in those gowns. She knew exactly what I was looking for just from a few conversations and she was so fast! I would love to say that this shoot was the result of months of planning, but to tell you the truth we put it all together in less than two weeks!”

Katie started the process by originally reaching out to a North Carolina-based wedding planner in December 2016 about putting together a Game of Thrones inspired shoot but life got too busy and it was postponed.

It wasn’t until someone told Katie that the premiere of the new season of Game of Thrones was just around the corner, that the team eventually started planning this project: “someone told me that the premiere of the show was supposed to be February 12, so right around the end of January we started putting the shoot together to have it out in time for the premiere,” remembers Katie. “It was only after we did the entire thing that we found out that the premiere was actually pushed back to the summer.”

“The details are always my favourite parts of a shoot as this is what many wedding blogs like to focus on, so I knew I had to have some really special elements. Since we clearly couldn’t have dragons, I knew that I wanted the cake to embody the dragon essence with the scales and Celestial Cakery came up with the rest. They did some research and came up with the amazing idea to have the top two layers emulate the style of Daenerys’ dress which really elevated the cake to another level.”

To create such a epic event, a huge team of vendors needed to come together to create a fantasy medieval wedding, fit for a queen. This included: “Heather Feather’s Art and Ambur Rose Designs who completed the look of the models with gorgeous period headpieces; while the stunning vintage rings came from Trumpet & Horn. The hair and makeup came from Mirror Bomb Studio and Lauren Cirillo respectively, who transformed models Austen Mauney, Courtney Edelman and Max DiNatale into real life versions of their characters. For Max, we decided to give him a general strong warrior look rather than having him emulate a certain character, though it didn’t hurt that his look was similar to Jon Snow!” says Katie.

The intricate details that Katie Lee and the rest of the team went to produce this GoT inspired photo shoot is truly outstanding. Right down to the well-known quote from the series: “Moon of my life. My sun and stars,” which then inspired the stationary suite, which was hand-drawn on hand-torn cotton paper. To complete the invitation, a “direwolf” wax seal was placed on the back of the envelope.

To add even more detail, the Great Room of the castle was adorned with an eight-foot Swarovski Crystal chandelier, stark white walls and a large stone fireplace, which served as the perfect backdrop for the start of the shoot. When planning this styled shoot, Katie and the team were immediately reminded of the show and the quote, “Winter is coming”. It was the perfect way to take that part of the series and bring it to a wedding.

To top off this amazing Game of Thrones shoot, it even came complete with its own direwolf (well, not really). According to Katie: “the wolf-dog was the one element that I knew was going to be tough but it was also the one thing I knew I had to have. That’s what really was going to take it from a nice wedding shoot to WOW!
“I started looking for wolf rescues in the area and though I found out that there are actually no full-blooded wolves in the area anymore, there are still many wolf/dog hybrid, many of which end up being neglected or killed because their owners don’t understand how to take care of them properly.”
So instead Katie came across a company called Full Moon Farm, a non-profit organisation that cares for abused wolfdogs while searching online and contacted them to see if they would be interested in taking part. “Since they run entirely on donations, I wanted to not only give a small donation for their efforts, but it was also important to me to get their information out there for others to see the great work they do.
“River (the wolfdog we had in the shoot) was one of the most majestic animals that I have ever seen. Looking at him, there were so many times that he looked like a domesticated dog, but then all of a sudden you would see the wild animal when he would stare right at you. It was a really amazing experience and River quite enjoyed himself too considering he got to eat cheeseburgers and ham!”
Maybe, just maybe, we have all been proved wrong. Game of Thrones isn’t all bloodshed and sex after all, as Katie and the team behind this great feat have proved it can actually be very romantic and beautiful.
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