Their sixth anniversary is coming up in less than two weeks (one of the first weddings I had photographed!) and, this year, they have a whole new level of thankfulness, respect, and love in their household. After years of struggling with infertility and a journey through doctor’s appointments, egg retrieval, and embryo transfer, there was a positive pregnancy test. I was so honored to document the tail-end of Lisa’s pregnancy at their maternity session in July and I got to step into their newborn world a week ago and photograph their beautiful little daughter, Vaida, in a lifestyle session.

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It was the first game of the season for the Iowa Hawkeyes, and a home game at that. Sharing space downtown with thousands of football fans isn’t easy, but thankfully, the timing of the game and the location of our photos a bit off the beaten path made it far easier to pull off than I had anticipated. Also, a very helpful usher who ran people-patrol for getting folks out of the background of my photos made things a breeze!

Sara & Shawn have been such a pleasure to get to know. Sara has a magnetic smile that lights up her whole face straight from her soul. It’s so fun to see (and photograph)! Shawn doesn’t like to have his photo taken, but I’m proud to say that at the end of the night, he told me it wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be.

They surrounded themselves by their best friends who, according to Shawn, were split into three various levels of rowdy. Thankfully, all the rowdy was well-contained during photos, in part due to the fact that we did all the formal photos before the ceremony. After the ceremony, things indeed took a turn for the wild, but since the reception is all about the party, they all fit in quite well!

Sara & Shawn met 7 years ago through a mutual friend. Sara says, “I had never dated anyone for longer than 3 months and when we made it through that, I was just proud I made it that far. Once we hit a year, I knew it was meant to be because we went through a lot in one year. I can’t put an exact date or time on it; he’s just the one because I know I don’t want to take on life with anyone else but him!”

Shawn adds that he first knew because “my dad told me that if I ever found someone who resembles my mom, to marry her.”

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I love the way they look at each other! And those smiles!!
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Out at the Celebration Farm, I had a few minutes to snap photos of the decor before the guests arrived behind us for cocktail hour. It was gorgeous thanks to Town or Country Event Design, who pulled all of Sara’s dreams together seamlessly!
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You know my favorite time of the day is taking the couple out for sunset photos. We only had about 5 minutes to snag these during the flow of the reception, but I loved it nevertheless and I’m so glad we were able to step out!
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Photography: Emily Crall Photography

Wedding Coordinator: Town or Country Event Design & Coordination

Videography: Jared Mills

Florals: HyVee

Cake Artist: Tip Top Cakes

Catering: Jerry & Margie’s Catering

DJ: Unique Events of Iowa

Makeup: Hollijo Makeup

Hair: Salon La Di Da

Paper Suite: Zephyr Weddings

Bridal Gown: David’s Bridal

Maids’ Gowns: Hope’s Bridal

Suits: Skeffington’s Formalwear

Ceremony Venue: St. Mary’s Catholic Church

Reception Venue: Celebration Farm, Double Round

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At the end of August, we’re prepared for heat and humidity, but we’ve been in for a real treat this year with cooler temperatures, cool breezes, and gorgeous weather. It was actually cloudy that morning and the sun didn’t even start to peek out until mid afternoon. Having their entire wedding day in one location is always a special treat for me since it means that we don’t have to factor in any travel time in the middle of photos (so more time for pictures!) and I can unload everything just once. And a location like The Celebration Farm never disappoints. I love photographing out there and working with the staff there.

Randi and the rest of her ladies were finishing up hair and makeup while I grabbed gowns, shoes, jewelry, perfume, and paper suite items to photograph. Thanks to Borrow My Vintage, I had so many beautiful backdrops for the detail photos, from a perfectly color-coordinated rug to a brilliant blue velvet sofa. I adore shooting details, but especially when I have the space and background for them!
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As advertised in their invitations, it was their best day ever. Randi & Nate had first met back when she was an 8th grader and he was a freshmen in high school. Their first date was a a few years later, at the young age of 16. This isn’t your traditional high school love story though. They talked a little bit in high school, but didn’t officially date until later on in college, even though they had never really stopped communicating. “In many ways we grew up together,” she says. “We have been through a lot. I guess if I had to say how I know Nate is the one is no matter what life as thrown at us over the last 9 years, our relationship has become stronger and grown from those experiences.”

He adds, “Very early on in our relationship we went through a ton of adversity, more than most would be able to make it out of. We were two young kids and our lives where going to change in a big, big way. Randi told me instantly after the news that I would have her full support going forward and we would make it through everything; together. I just remember thinking to myself how much and how true this love may really be to have such support.

“Little did she know that when she committed to me, I silently committed to her. I knew instantly that I had to do everything I could to convince this girl that I was the one. (Don’t tell her but she could probably do much better.) I knew from that very moment that I had to start making changes and start putting Randi before other activities. Our relationship was tested in such an extreme manner so early that it gave us this whole ‘there’s nothing we can’t overcome together’ type of attitude, which is an amazing quality for us to possess. I know that this girl counts on me, but she doesn’t count on me nearly as much as I count on her! So as it turns out, I was indeed able to convince her I was the one.”

And on their wedding day, in front of their family and friends, they committed to each other for a lifetime, a continuum, really, of their resolute choice to be together through good and bad, easy and difficult.
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All these shades of pink and blush!!! It still makes me swoon.
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Nate and Randi chose a first look, which just means they got a private (except for our cameras) moment to see each other. Not only is this really special, but it also means we could do all of their formal photos beforehand, freeing them up to enjoy cocktail hour with their friends.
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Nate’s daughter, Taytem, loved being part of the wedding and was a trooper though so many pictures and all-day events and people!
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While guests finished eating dinner, I snuck Randi & Nate outside for a few more portraits. We were only out for a few minutes, but I loved all that we were able to do in that short amount of time!
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This beautiful, hand-lettered sign was by their dessert table and included the lyrics for their first dance song.
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Photography: Emily Crall Photography

Venue: The Celebration Farm

Florals: The Flower Cottage

Cake Artist: Jules Bakery

Catering: Hearth-N-Home Cooking

DJ: Unique Events of Iowa

Makeup: 100% Pure Pro

Hair: The Grand Strand Salon

Bridal Gown: Tara Keely from Schaffers

Suits: Skeffington’s Formalwear

Linens: Celebration Linens

Design & Decor: Borrow My Vintage

Calligraphy & Lettering: Emelyn Letters

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For August, the weather on their wedding day was surprisingly cool. I mean, it was still warm, but August is typically the hottest month of the year in Iowa and this year has been strangely cool in comparison. Kristen and the ladies were on the second floor in the church, in a room filled with cozy chairs, music playing through someone’s iPhone, and windows that looked out over the street below, filled with people enjoying Saturday’s nearby farmer’s market. Veritas Church in Cedar Rapids is very industrial and it made me so excited because I’ve been longing for a modern-industrial wedding location for years.

Chad & Kristen met in 2015 on a mission trip in South Carolina. At the end of the summer, they went their ways, her back to school at Iowa and he back to Minnesota, but it didn’t take long for him to make a trip to Iowa to see her. “We hadn’t seen each other for over a month since the mission trip had ended,” she said. “We had just been talking on the phone and FaceTiming so I was pretty nervous. When he got here, he got out of his car and gave me flowers and had this sweet video he had made for me right before he had left South Carolina the month before.” Chad added, “I asked her to be my girlfriend the second I got there.”

They dated long distance the remainder of that school year and then last summer, he moved to Iowa City to be closer to her. “I knew Chad was special since the day I met him. But it wasn’t until [last] summer that I for sure knew he was the one. He had just moved down to Iowa City and while the transition was a little shaky of being in the same place for the first time, there were just some moments that I was like, ‘Wow, he came all the way here just for me and I can’t imagine life without him.’ He is so selfless and caring and while I can’t pick out one definite moment of when I knew, it just kind of happened.”

Chad had known for a long time, perhaps giving him more reason to uproot his life and move to Iowa. “On my birthday about half a month [after meeting her], I wrote her a note about how I felt and that I knew she was the one.” He gave that note to her the day he proposed.

And their wedding day was filled with all the anticipation and joy of two people finally starting their lives together as husband and wife. Their ceremony was filled with their love for Jesus and their respect for each other. It was a beautiful start to their marriage and it was an honor to not only witness it, but document it for them.

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The commentary provided by Kristen’s sweet grandma’s was so fun to listen to as they reminisced about their own wedding days and the difference between then and now.
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The back of Kristen’s gown was so stunning and the dress fit her so perfectly!
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We went to a nearby park for photos and this was the first time that day Kristen and Chad saw each other. Their first look was so sweet and filled with the most tender, genuine moments.
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After their wedding at Veritas Church, we drove to the Celebration Farm for their reception.
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Kristen & Chad, I wish you all the blessings in the world as you begin your marriage. The wedding day was just the beginning–and what a beginning it was–and it only gets more wonderful and more meaningful from there.

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Photography: Emily Crall Photography

Florals: E’s Florals

Cupcakes: Scratch Cupcakery

Catering: Dostal Catering

DJ: Twisted Mics Music Entertainment

Makeup & Hair: Salon Voche 

Paper Suite: Wedding Paper Divas

Bridal Gown: Stella York from Bucci’s Bridal

Maids’ Gowns: David’s Bridal

Suits: Men’s Wearhouse

Ceremony Venue: Veritas Church

Reception Venue: The Celebration Farm, Timber Frame

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The thing about yogurt is that it always sounded really intimidating. Like, one must really know what they’re doing if they can make yogurt in their own kitchen. But I tried it last week for the first time and it was surprisingly EASY and, even more surprising, absolutely delicious. So many people have asked for the recipe after I posted about it on Instagram so I thought I’d type it out, simple style, because so many recipes online for yogurt are so overly typed out that it makes it more difficult than it should be.

Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon milk (I used plain old store brand 2%)
  • 2 tablespoons starter yogurt (simply put, already-made yogurt; I used Yoplait’s Oui vanilla yogurt, but you can use any kind, just make sure it’s a high-quality yogurt containing milk and live active cultures, nothing more)
  • 1-2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract, optional
  • Sugar, optional

Additional kitchen items to have: 

Directions: 

  1. Pour the cold milk into a cold Instant Pot (IP) bowl and place the lid on the pot.
  2. Press the “yogurt” button on the IP pressure cooker and then the “adjust” button until the display says “boil”. This will take somewhere between 60 to 90 minutes so don’t expect this to be done in 15 minutes. When it’s done, it’ll beep and the display screen will change from “boil” to “yogt”. This process hasn’t been pressurized so you can immediately remove the lid.
  3. Use a whisk to stir the milk (to get an accurate temperature reading and avoid hot spots) and then immediately check the temperature of the milk with a digital thermometer. You want the milk temperature to be at least 180 degrees. (It’ll set up even better if you can get it to 181-185 degrees.) Be patient. You may need to run another boil cycle to get it to 180. (To help it get to temperature on the first try, you can stir it every 30 minutes or so while it’s heating up.)
  4. Take the IP pot out of the cooker and set it on a wire cooling rack (so air can circulate around it) and allow the milk to cool to 110 degrees. This will take roughly 2 hours so feel free to go on with your day in the meantime. When the temperature reaches 110 degrees, you can add your yogurt starter.
  5. Take 1 cup of milk from the IP and pour it into a separate small bowl. Add the yogurt starter and whisk together, mixing well. If you are adding vanilla, now would be the time to do that as well. Pour this mixture back into the pot and stir.
  6. Place the IP pot back into the pressure cooker. Push the “yogurt” button. The display will show “8:00”. This means 8 hours. Do a quick check to make sure the option on the IP for “less, normal, more” displays “normal”. Put the lid back on and let it go to work! (The timer will count up, not down, in the yogurt function so just note that in your brain.)
  7. When the 8 hours is done, you are ready to strain it! I put my nut milk bag inside my strainer inside a bowl in order to keep it lifted out of the liquid (whey) as it strains. (You can save the whey to use in smoothies, salad dressings, etc for added probiotics if you’d like.) A fun fact about yogurt is that unstrained yogurt is just regular yogurt; Greek yogurt is yogurt that has been strained. I love Greek yogurt so I let mine strain for a good 3+ hours! The first time you do it, just strain it until it gets to the consistency that you prefer and then make a note of how long it took so you can just set the timer for next time. It’s fine to leave it on the counter during this time unless it’s really hot in your kitchen. If it’s hot inside, just put it in the fridge instead.
  8. Once it’s strained, just put all that delicious yogurt into a bowl. I like to add a bit of sugar to mine, but used only about 1/2 cup for the whole batch. You can certainly leave the sugar out completely if you’d like. You can just keep it in the bowl in the fridge and dish it out to eat or if you want a quick breakfast/snack, you can separate it out into small glass jars. (I love these jarsand these lids.)

Notes:

  • You can use this yogurt now as your starter for your next batch. The easiest way is to put some in an ice cube tray and freeze it.
  • Some people do this whole process in the evening and let it cook overnight. I found it worked really well for me to do it during the day. I did steps 1-2 at 7 in the morning, steps 3-4 around 8:30 right before we left for the gym, and then by the time we ran some errands and came back home, it was 10:30 and I could go right into steps 5-6. It was ready that night around 6 PM, which meant I could strain it for 3 hours and finish it all out before going to bed that night. Fresh and cold yogurt for breakfast the next morning!

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With all of Rachel & Max’s wedding events happening in downtown Iowa City, we had close proximity (albeit tricky parking!) to all of the locations we needed to be at. We started the day at Hotel Vetro, where Rachel and her girl friends were getting ready (this hotel is the best in the area for natural window light in the rooms!), then went to the Pentacrest for photos, then took a quick walk down the street to the Englert Theatre for their ceremony, and finally circled back to Hotel Vetro for their reception.

Rachel & Max first met in high school when she had decided to take an auto maintenance class. It wasn’t long before they had their first date. Their relationship had its ins and outs during the next several years, as most relationships do. She moved away for undergrad, but she says she knew he was the one when he came all the way from Iowa to Virginia to be at her graduation. People who saw them assumed they had been dating for a while, even though they weren’t even officially dating at that time. She continued to medical school and he visited her there as well, only reinforcing the feelings she already had for him.

They got engaged in early 2016 while on vacation. “Max planned a surprise to Cancun. When we go to this beautiful resort, he planned a romantic dinner on the beach, but it got rained out. This happened 2 other nights as well. Finally, on the last night, the weather was perfect and the dinner went as planned. After we finished dessert and our after-dinner drinks, he asked the waiter if he could take a picture of us. He had me stand up to pose for a photo, then took my hand and dropped to a knee and proposed. The picture shows my genuine surprise. He told me had had had to wait 3 nights to do it and have been so nervous, which is cute because Max isn’t really the type to ever get nervous.”

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They shared their first look over near the Old Capital and we were able to do all of their photos there, with the bridal party joining us a few minutes later!

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It was a quick walk back to the Englert Theatre in downtown Iowa City for the ceremony. The Englert has such history and it was fun to see a wedding done in there!

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Their reception was held at Hotel Vetro, with the cocktail hour being perfectly situated up on the rooftop terrace.

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It was starting to sprinkle outside so we only managed a few minutes on the rooftop terrace for sunset photos, but I’m so glad we snuck out anyway!
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And then it was back inside for dancing and more dancing!
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Photography: Emily Crall Photography

Florals: Hy-Vee Coralville

Ceremony Venue: Englert Theatre


Reception Venue & Catering: Hotel Vetro

DJ: Unique Events of Iowa

Makeup: Katlyn Steufen

Hair: Kaylan Tadlock

Paper Suite: Zephyr Weddings

Bridal Gown & Maids’ Gowns: Heart to Heart Bridal

Suits: Men’s Wearhouse

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