They met back in the spring of 2012 in college through her best friend. “It was basically a handshake,” she says. It wasn’t until later that year, in the fall semester of college, that they met again. “When I returned for the fall semester,” Derek says, “A friend of mine–and now ours–convinced me to go out on a Tuesday night the first week of classes. I was very reluctant to go but apparently it was meant to be.” As he approached the bar, he saw Kira standing outside and “my stomach instantly filled with butterflies.”
They had their first date the end of August and, as memorable as that one was for both of them, they both recall date number two being the “big date”, the date they knew they would someday marry one another. “As crazy as it sounds, we were literally the complete complement to each other. Our second date was an eye-opening experience to what I was truly missing,” Derek says.
Derek proposed the day before Christmas Eve last year. “We were planning to wake up early, pack the car, and take the 2-hour drive to my parent’s house,” Kira explains. “There had been some crazy snow the day before so we knew we needed to leave some extra time for the drive. In typical Derek fashion, he told me that he had my gift ready and we needed to run up to the farm before we left to take a look at it.
“Normally my internal private investigator instinct would kick in and I’d get to the bottom of it before he could surprise me, but I had so much to do to get ready for Christmas so I figured I’d let him have his surprise this time. I did my hair, got dressed, and finished up my list of to-dos. Derek had run out for a few minutes and just got back into the house. … We hopped in his car, and turned the opposite direction of the farm so instantly I was rolling me eyes thinking, ‘This couldn’t wait until after Christmas?’
“We pulled up to the corn crib, which sits about 1/2 mile from our house. Derek unveiled my present, a large–no, huge–rock that came from the foundation of the farmhouse in Alburnett, one of his family’s first farm homes. I was so happy that he took the time, don’t get me wrong, but I was getting ready to say, ‘This could have waited two more days, Derek.’
“But I looked at him and caught the flash of a red box being pulled from his pocket and had instant tears. It’s still surreal. We had been dating for so long and I wasn’t prepared for him to finally propose. He kept his proposal speech short and sweet, just ‘Kira Leigh, will you marry me?’ And, of course, I said yes!”
Derek knows they dated a long time before proposing, but he adds, “Everyone asks why I have waited so long to get engaged. Truthfully, time has flown together. the last six years have been so surreal that it doesn’t even seem like that long. Every day that passes just reaffirms that Kira is the one.”
For the ending of their session, we went back to the corn crib where Derek proposed and also the spot where they had that second date. “Trying to impress Kira I pulled out some tricks up my sleeve. It was a Wednesday night and we went out to dinner where we oddly ordered the exact same thing. After dinner I asked Kira if she would like to go out for drinks. Knowing that it was a little early to head to campus town, I took her to a partially combined cornfield, which I had scouted out earlier that day, outside of town. It was secluded from the road and we had a plain view of the stars as the sun was quickly setting. I pulled out a blanket and a bottle of her favorite wine and we sat and talked while the music from the radio played in the background. It may or may not have been in my plan but I convinced Kira to dance with me and I taught her to swing dance. After a couple of hours dancing and stargazing we headed back into town and spent the rest of the evening with our friends. That night was one that I don’t think either one of us will forget. I think it is mostly my favorite date because it seems to be the one that set the ball in motion for where we are now.”
Kira adds, “He pulled into a cornfield that had recently been picked and parked his truck. I am a total rule follower so I thought we were definitely going to get in trouble for trespassing, but Derek insisted I get out of the truck, he had plans. He flipped on a CD of music, opened the tailgate to his pickup, and laid out a blanket. Then he pulled out a bottle of wine. I was impressed he bought a wine I drank frequently and later found out he asked my roommate (that bestie that introduced us, Laura) what kind to buy. After a little while he asked if I wanted to dance…under the star light on a September night in a cornfield. Of course! So we danced. I felt like I was in love at that moment. I’d always wanted to know how to swing dance, so he taught me that night under the stars. It was so so so early in our relationship but he had swept me off my feet.”
Many thanks to Melissa Banes for Kira’s makeup.
The forecast was terrible. There’s really no other way to put it. It was 90% change of thunderstorms all day long and, indeed, on the drive there that morning, my windshield wipers were on the highest speed as everyone on the interstate was struggling to see through the downpour. But then! Something miraculous happened. It remained overcast, but the rain just stopped. Nothing.
We photographed the details. Marisa got into her gown. Her and Josh saw each other during their first look. And still…no rain. Armed with a few umbrellas, I made the call to head outside and get as many photos as we could before the rain started again. And for the next hour, we just kept making the call as we went (literally, me texting Marisa’s personal attendant–one of my past brides!–telling bridal party and family to meet us a few blocks away) and I never ended up opening those umbrellas! It’s been the rainiest October I’ve seen, but I felt so much gratitude on this day that God held back the rain for us exactly when we needed it.
Truly, aside from how we were all astonished at the sudden disappearance of rain, it was the most joyous day for Marisa & Josh! These two have been together for years. Having known each other since they were my son’s age in preschool, they’ve quite literally seen each other through the most awkward phases of growing up. Well, I assume they were like most people who have awkward teenage years, but then again, these two are class acts so they may have managed to avoid that. I had photographed Josh’s cousin’s wedding several years ago so it was really fun to see his side of the family again and to meet Marisa’s family. I always find it such a wonderful treat to meet the parents who have raised these individuals and and friends and siblings who have known them since their birth or high school or college or whatever formative years they entered their lives. I get to know the couple first and then when I meet their support system, I finally get the whole picture of just why these two are so wonderful and sweet and kind.
Marisa and Josh, thank you for inviting me into your wedding day! Not only was it beautiful and fun, but you were so gracious and relaxed and easy to work with! I hope you will always treasure these memories.
I don’t know that I need to even mention this, but Marisa has the best style.
Marisa and Josh chose a first look and it was so sweet to witness. Josh just kept saying, “You look absolutely amazing!” I’m sure Marisa felt like a princess that day and Josh was every bit in awe of how lucky he was/is.
Since they got married in downtown Cedar Rapids, we embraced every bit of urban and it was so much fun to stroll the streets!!
Remember this guy? He made an appearance again on their wedding day in his little suit and, oh my gosh, how adorable!!! He was so well-behaved too!
In trying to think of a location downtown to take photos of a large bridal party, I was stumped. All the rain had made our original location too wet and our rain backup was inside and not ideal. So when I stumbled across this huge black wall in an alley while we were walking, I felt like I hit the jackpot!!
A few days after their wedding, Josh’s grandfather passed away. I stumbled across this image and immediately sent it over to Josh because it just felt so special. The pride on his grandfather’s face is something I hope Josh will always treasure.
This wedding was nearly 100% designed by the Unique Events team. Everything from florals to custom bar to chargers and linens and flatware to uplighting and music and a light-up dance floor: it was complete magic and I think it took everyone’s breath away when they saw it!
Can we all just take a moment to ooh over this hanging floral piece? There were TWO! One over the harvest head table and one over the lounge!
And this cake by Tip Top Cakes was a focal piece at the entrance of the ballroom. Look at the sugar work in those flowers!!! Rumor has it that this is the largest cake Adam’s ever done, but I haven’t confirmed that yet. But do the math, there are 8 tiers, the bottom one a massive 22″! (I can confirm that it was as delicious as it looks!)
The dance floor was SO MUCH FUN! They had the best dance party that night and I just had a smile plastered to my face.
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Photography: Emily Crall Photography
Videography: Diamond Label Films
Florals, Design, Decor: Unique Events
Linens & Tableware: Unique Events
Cake Artist: Tip Top Cakes
DJ & Uplighting: Unique Events
Makeup: Lindsey Coblentz
Hair: Wright Salon & Co
Bridal Gown: Hayley Paige from Calvet Couture
Maids’ Gowns: Azazie
Suits: Men’s Wearhouse
Ceremony Venue: Trinity Lutheran Church
Reception Venue & Catering: The DoubleTree by Hilton
We’ve had the most rain-filled weeks here in Iowa and it’s really stepping on my fall-loving toes. More importantly, however, October is packed with photos and the rain has been a constant threat. And so it was on Anna & Travis’ wedding day. They had hoped for an outdoor ceremony at Ashton Hill Farm, but the radar was menacing and the sky was gloomy so they made plans to move the ceremony inside.
I had umbrellas along, but when it was time for Anna & Travis’ portraits, it was cloudy and overcast, but not raining so we moved quickly and managed to get all of their photos done outside! Still without rain, I pulled the bridal party out to do their photos. But then it started to sprinkle. I sent the ladies inside and photographed the gentlemen quickly before it started to pour. When we were done with the guys, I needed a quick plan for the ladies’ photos. Because of the way the rain was falling, there was about 2 feet of dry space right up next to the building so I pulled the ladies back outside and put them in that dry space while I stood out in the rain under an umbrella. It absolutely worked! We ended up doing family photos right there as well!
In the end, it was great that the ceremony was moved inside because it rained buckets outside during the ceremony. The temperatures also dropped quickly and it was so so cold out! (It was also so cold when we did their engagement photos last fall!) These are the high and lows of fall photography.
Anna had the most gorgeous details. Simple and classic and so much fun to photograph!
They shared such a sweet first look right in the spot where they would make their vows just a few hours later.
Annie & Travis, thank you for the honor of not just photographing your wedding day, but being witness to your love as well. You guys are so full of joy and it was so much fun being a part of the first day of your marriage!
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Photography: Emily Crall Photography
Venue: Ashton Hill Farm
Videographer: Diamond Label Films
Florals: Julie’s Fountain of Flowers
DJ: Livewire Entertainment
Caterer: Kalona Kountry Katering
Makeup: Stacy Waters and Becky Davies
Hair: Salon La Di Da
Bridal Gown: Watters from Bridal Boutique
Maids’ Gowns: Bill Levkoff from Heart to Heart
Design: Borrow My Vintage
They grew up in the same small town, attending the same elementary, middle and high schools, and knew of each other, but had different circles of friends. She describes having a crush on him, but that was all it was. Their families both moved away from the area after high school and they hadn’t seen each other for years. It wasn’t until 2016 when they were both back for class reunions. She was on a parade float and saw him on the side, waved at him (and described having those butterflies again: “there’s Jeff Bradley”), and she says the rest is history. They connected on Facebook that week and began daily long-distance communications for three months before their first date.
Because he lived in Arizona and she in Iowa, they decided to meet back in their old high school town of Red Oak. “We hit it off in person very well, and it felt like we had already been dating,” Laura says. “We spent three days together visiting places in Red Oak and getting to know each other. He even took me to a family dinner where forty of his relatives were attending. He introduced me to all of them as we entered the room. We joke that his family was on our first date. They approved.”
After dating long-distant for a little over a year, Laura using her school teaching breaks to visit him in Arizona, Jeff tried to figure out the perfect proposal. “I had the engagement ring with me for several days and wanted to ask at the right moment, public or otherwise. We were together at my apartment on New Year’s Day 2018 and we opened our Christmas gifts to each other and then I said, ‘I have one more gift to give to you.’ I pulled out the engagement ring and got down on one knee and proposed. It was just us two, and the moment was right.”
Laura adds, “Jeff told me later that he had my ring in his pocket all of those four days [I was visiting him], waiting for the right moment to propose. He had taken me out for dinner, to see Christmas lights, to the LOVE statue in Scottsdale. He just didn’t feel right at those places. He decided the right moment for us was in private, at his home, and to begin the new year with our love.”
They both said the best date they’d shared was that first weekend together in Red Oak. “It solidified we were brought together for a reason,” Laura says. “I never once thought it wouldn’t go well…it just did. Since our families moved away from Red Oaks years ago, both of us don’t visit there much. It was neat to experience our hometown together as adults.”
Laura lives and teaches in Iowa City now and Jeff is in the process of moving here. It was so fun to explore the campus with them, neither of them having grown up here. We had the most beautiful day too: sunshine and cool fall temperatures! I had lots of fun nooks and crannies I was already planning on, but was thrilled to discover a new spot that I’ve never seen before, one of the perks of walking around and finding spots you’d never see in a car.
I’m so excited to celebrate their love next year and witness their joy all over again. These two are in every way perfect together and I’m so thankful that, after all these years since high school, they have found each other at last.
Hi my darling,
Nine months. You’ve been out as long as you were in. That blows my mind because pregnancy seemed to last forever and now, bam, you’ve been in our arms for nine months already! I constantly have to pause myself and remember that all those things I was looking forward to—the smiling, the babbling, the crawling, sitting up, sleeping, discovering—it’s all happening right now. Somehow those moments I was looking forward to just happened without any warning.
You are crawling everywhere now with ease, pulling up on anything you can. I’ve even caught you standing on top of things, which of course is terrifying for me. You love playing with Henry’s toys, particularly his farm toys and I think it’s because those little tractor tires and plow hooks feel really good on your gums. We’re on a fast-track (for both of you) in learning to share.
You got your first tooth a few weeks ago. It came in with a runny nose and a grumpy few days, but finally it popped through and you resumed being happy again. The other bottom front tooth right beside it is working it’s way through now too so we’re heading into another stretch of #allthefeelings.
Up to this point, you didn’t experience much clinginess when I’d leave you. I remember Henry hitting a stretch of time around 4 months old where he would cry anytime I’d leave him. You didn’t do that…until now. Places you go all the time, daily to the gym daycare, for example, and yet the moment I put you down and leave, you start wailing. I’m told that as soon as I leave you’re fine, but you can’t stand to see me walk away. Similarly, when you’ve got a tooth popping through, you don’t even want to be put down when we’re at home. Full arms over here and lots of multitasking.
You love to eat and the faces you make with new tastes and textures makes me laugh. You’ve been drinking from a sippy cup for months now with ease, but you discovered Henry’s water bottle and now you really want to use a straw cup.
You’re still a champion sleeper, sleeping 12 hours at night and 2 long naps during the day. We’re so grateful for good sleepers. You prefer your crib to sleep so it’s hard to do any morning play dates for Henry, but occasionally, we do anyway and after fussing around for a while, you’ll usually fall asleep in the carrier. When we’re home though, you don’t even want to be rocked anymore before bed. You just want to get in your bed and lay down. The most fun thing is when you wake up and stand up in your crib waiting for us to come get you.
This past month has been filled with so much growth: crawling, climbing, pulling up, walking with help, first tooth! It’s all happened so fast and it’s been so fun to see you discovering your capabilities. I will always be cheering you on.
I love you, baby girl.
Loves: crawling, pulling up on furniture, eating food, having people talk to you/getting attention, “talking”, your pacifier, your brother, your brother’s toys
Wears: 6-9m + 9-12m in clothes, size 3 diapers
Sleeps: 8PM-8AM + 2 long naps a day
With their wedding coming up next month and both of them working busy schedules, we had a very limited time to get their engagement session in. Thankfully, we had the most beautiful sunlight (!), but it was incredibly humid and hot outside and we were all sweating so much and batting at bugs between every shot. As I type this, it’s 30 degrees cooler outside and it feels like we made a quick switch from summer to fall.
Diana & Lee are planning a quick wedding (less than 3 months from engaged to married!), for the primary reason that when they were struggling to find dates for next year, Lee said, “Why wait? I want to marry you right now!” And, really, how can you turn that down? They’re utilizing the help of Jennifer from Harper Hadley Events to get everything lined up and pulled off in time. It’s going to be such a beautiful fall wedding and I’m so excited to see it all come together!
Look at this hazy little rainbow in the left corner! I didn’t notice it until I was editing the images later on the computer.
When we were finished at Wilson’s Orchard, they requested going downtown to the rooftop of the Van Allen Hall building where they had shared one of their first dates, at the Van Allen Observatory. There was going to be a public observation event that night, but the door was locked when we got there, several hours before public access. Lee went on the hunt for someone and ended up running into one of the astronomy grad students, who was kind enough to give us rooftop access for a few minutes for some photos.
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