Christmas. It’s my favorite holiday of the year and it’s made even better by spending it with my large, loud, and energetic family. This year both of my sisters and their families made it back to Iowa so we crammed into Mom & Dad’s house–all 22 of us–and there wasn’t a quiet space to be found. (Except maybe during the little kids’ nap times when the big kids went to the basement and the adults lounged in the living room watching football and dozing.)

The weekend was packed with family time–and unending amounts of food–and I was so sad to see it all come to an end.

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I do not know why this doll doesn’t have any clothes.
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We had our gift exchange on Christmas Eve and, as always, was kicked off with Dad reading Luke 2. Then we start from youngest to oldest with gift opening. The biggest (literally) hit of the gift exchange was Ashton’s gift from Uncle Jordan (that enormous box you can see below). Ashton loves taking things apart so Jordan got him his own tool set and some old junker electronics, but wrapped them in a dryer box.

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Old family movies on super 8 film spools came out sometime in the evening and we laughed and laughed at the silent antics flickering on the wall.
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We spent Christmas morning at our house before going to church. Henry took forever to open his gifts, but mostly because he’d get sidetracked with each one. We had to pry him away from his new cozy coupe firetruck to open another gift (his tracker & wagon), then pry him away from that to open his next gift. And on and on. If we wouldn’t have encouraged him to keep moving along, he’d probably still be opening gifts today.
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After nap time on Christmas, we headed back to Kalona for more festivities, including the grandchildren’s Christmas pageant. The older grandkids were great sports, but not super interested in participating. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the youngest grandkids (uh-hum, Henry & Winston), were not really sure what they were doing, but were cute none the less.
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My favorite shepherd.
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And by now it’s 2017, things have quieted back down, the weather has turned absolutely frigid as it does this time of year, and I’m thankful for photos to help me remember the magic of Christmas.

One of the things we do most in our house is read. We read many, many books a day as it’s Henry’s favorite activity. So when it came to December & Christmas, I knew participating in Advent would be most exciting for him if done with books.

Unfortunately, I had a problem. Well, the problem was twofold. 1) I forgot that I wanted to do this until December 2nd and b) I only had 5 holiday/winter/Christmas books on hand. The first problem was easy to resolve; I just started a day late and he never knew the difference. The second problem required several Amazon orders. But it’s safe to say we are set for next year!

Henry quickly caught on to this new post-bath, pre-bedtime routine of opening a book-gift and the day after Christmas, he went over to the tree looking for another one to open. We had to explain that all his books were opened and we could read any of the ones that he had already unwrapped. The new book every day was a big of a spoil and also became his favorite part of the day.

I got an assortment of books ranging from spiritual Christmas story books to silly Santa books to sweet snowy books.

  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  • The Snowy Day
  • The Biggest Snowman Ever
  • Llama Llama Holiday Drama
  • If You Take a Mouse to the Movies
  • The Berenstain Bears & the Joy of Giving
  • The Biggest Christmas Tree Ever
  • Curious George In the Snow
  • The Hat
  • Snow
  • Five Little Christmas Trees
  • Merry Christmas, Daniel Tiger!
  • What Is Christmas?
  • Little Blue Truck’s Christmas
  • Dream Snow
  • The Story of Christmas
  • The Three Gifts
  • Bear Stays Up for Christmas
  • Big Bear, Little Bear
  • The Christmas Baby
  • Snowy Bear
  • Merry Christmas, Stinky Face
  • Click, Clack, Ho! Ho! Ho!
  • Song of the Stars
  • Little Porcupine’s Christmas
  • A Wish to be a Christmas Tree

A few more that we don’t have yet, but I’m hoping to add to the rotation are:

  • The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish
  • The Gruffalo’s Child
  • Stick Man
  • Little Porcupine’s Christmas
  • The Christmas Wish
  • A Wish to Be a Christmas Tree
  • How to Catch an Elf
  • Room for a Little One

Leading up to the day, the chances of Emily’s dream winter wonderland wedding were looking good. She was hoping for “nice weather with a light quiet snowfall right at 5:05pm.” The chances of snow were 60%, but the closer the wedding day got, the colder the temperatures crept. Saturday arrived with bitter winds, a barely double digit temperature, and, swirling, whirling snow flakes!

Summer weddings—particularly in August—are challenging in that I have to work incredibly fast while taking photos so that no one gets heat stroke. The humidity is brutal. Winter weddings provide the exact same challenge with the opposite effects; instead of heat stroke, we are fighting against frost bite. With only a 20 minute window before frost bite sets in (and a 2-minute window before miserable cold sets in), I had the choice of either working completely inside or strategically and quickly capturing some of the magic of the snow fall.

I knew Emily & Derek would be game since the day we took their engagement photos last winter was nearly as cold as their wedding day and not even as pretty (i.e. no falling snow). So with safety as our first priority, we took about 5 minutes of quick photos outside the hotel before heating back up inside and then gathering the bridal party for photos on top of a nearby parking garage. (Yes, a parking garage! It was absolutely perfect!) Thankfully, the DoubleTree connects to a parking garage via a skywalk. The parking garage also has indoor stairs & elevators so we could gather inside while I took the bridesmaids out, then back in, the groomsmen out, then back in, the whole bridal party out and back in. The key to photographing in either extreme cold or extreme heat is to direct efficiently and shoot quickly. Working with a great wedding party makes it all so much easier and I have to give so much love to Emily & Derek’s group of friends for braving it all for me and, ultimately, for them. The memories they all created together are going to be more special as time goes on.

Emily & Derek, your dream winter wonderland wedding was perfect. I’m so excited to show these images to you and how they give you the best memories of the most magical day.
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Their first look was so sweet and beautiful.
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Look at all that falling snow! It was crazy outside!! And so so so beautiful!
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They don’t even look cold. How awesome is this crew for braving the freezing outdoors?!
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The couple’s kids were in the wedding as ring bearer and snowflake girl. Ainsley thought the wedding was hers–naturally–and was so thrilled to wear her beautiful wedding dress.
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Emily’s dream of a winter wonderland (not Christmas) reception was beautifully put together with sparkles, candles, and lots of contrasting blues and whites. It was beautiful.
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Photography: Emily Crall Photography

Wedding Coordinator: Abby Dean

Videography: Diamond Label Films

Florals: Toni Horning

Cake Artist: Classic Cakes by Design

DJ: DJ NYJ

Makeup: Lindsey Coblentz

Hair: Groovy Katz

Paper Suite: ClearyLane

Bridal Gown: Essence of Australia from I Do Bridal

Maids’ Gowns: Jasmine B2 and Belsoie from I Do Bridal

Suits: I Do Bridal

Venue & Catering: The DoubleTree by Hilton

Caitlin & Brad’s wedding day was so classically beautiful. I love how they pulled in so many traditions, while also making it perfectly them. Two of my favorite traditions that they incorporated were being married in the church that Caitlin’s family has long been married in (her parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents) and carrying the Bible that has been carried by so many of her family members, all with their names and wedding dates inscribed in the back.

It was a blisteringly hot day, which is hard to recall now that it’s 20 degrees outside, and we worked incredibly quickly for the outdoor photos so that everyone could stay healthy. I love these two and am so happy they’ve been featured (for the second time; previously, they were featured on Wed Me Pretty) on Savvy Deets Bridal.

Melanie & Dan’s stunning Indian fusion wedding at The Celebration Farm has been making the rounds online, being featured on The Big Fat Indian Wedding, Baubles & Bowties, and today, on Maharani Weddings! Most weddings are lucky to get one feature, so to get three is an enormous honor and a true testament to how unique, beautiful, and vibrant their wedding was.

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In the Maharani article, Melanie says, “The most important thing to Dan and I was to make the entire wedding weekend an extension of our personalities. Down to the decor, the ceremony details, the outfits, the food and drink, and the music, we had a big hand in it all to make it as personal as possible. We wanted an explosion of color wherever we and our guests looked which was exactly what the day turned out with the beautiful flowers, lights and amazingly colorful Indian outfits we all wore. Since this was a fusion wedding, we wanted a mix of American and Indian culture, so we offered both cuisines at our reception so everyone could enjoy their familiar foods but also try something new! Dan and I have a common love of dancing and so we knew we wanted that to be a major part of our reception and so we mixed some Bollywood in with all of our favorite songs. Dan and I brainstormed to make it all lively, colorful and most importantly really represent us! Our family and friends told us they loved all the personal touches which made it all the more special for us!” 

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Melanie & Dan put so much thought, consideration, and personality in their wedding day and I couldn’t stop smiling their whole day. The colors were so vibrant, the food so delicious, and the flowers so fragrant. And yet, the only thing we could all see was their love shining bright for each other. It was truly a blessing to be part of such a lovely day with the loveliest of couples. I’m so thrilled and honored that their wedding is being featured on Baubles & Bowties!

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