We were all praying for a break in our rainy spring and the forecast kept changing in the entire week leading up to Kira & Derek’s wedding. It was supposed to be thunderstorming all day, then only 10% chance, then back to 90%, then, on their wedding day, the skies cleared completely and it was humid and sunny! But despite the weather really showing up for them (which we were all very thankful for!), there were a few other hiccups that none of us could have seen coming.
With Kira’s permission, I’m going to share her own words: “I think we are finally coming down off the excitement of the weekend, and are really enjoying our new titles of husband and wife. As most know already, we had some problems Saturday, including that our broken down party bus was replaced with a semi and livestock trailer (special shout out to our groomsman, Colton, and all the other guests who frantically made phone calls to find a ride for us). Also, my beautiful wedding gown tore while giving my first hug of the day; causing us to spend most of the day trying to keep my modesty and make my dress right. While it wasn’t ideal, Derek insists that I still looked beautiful.
“Despite the bumps in our day, we had so many things that went perfectly. In fact, Derek and I have looked at one another multiple times and said we feel so humbled and blessed. The rain stayed away, and the beautiful sun was shining down on us. Neither of us had cold feet, and we were able to finally say our vows with our faith front and center. We missed our late loved ones, but we had a special piece of each of them with us; our favorite was the quilt block once started by my Grandma Jo and finished by her best friend, Wanda, and my mom, just for Derek and I. We just loved our bridal party! We could not be taking on life as a married couple without all of your support. Thank you for bringing the party!
“And to Derek, thank you for holding my hand, reminding me that the hiccups that happened didn’t ruin our day. We wanted perfection, but perfection isn’t what has gotten us through six and a half years. Trust and faith are our strongest features as a couple, and I know those are the things that will help us through life, along with a whole lot of help from our family and friends.”
They met in downtown Iowa City in a group of mutual friends. “To be honest I don’t think I took her one a real date for a long time after we started hanging out in the very beginning,” Kile said. But it wasn’t for lack of feelings; it was just that it kept happening that they were always together with their friends! “So I don’t remember the exact first date. I do, however, remember the first time we made plans to ‘group hang’ with a couple of her friends and a couple of my friends.” He recalled, “That day I had to drive to Illinois for my dad to pick up a four-wheeler motor. Kaylee had texted me, I think, about trying to meet up at Sports Column in downtown Iowa City. I was obviously excited for that, but knew that I probably wasn’t even going to get back to Iowa until 9 PM. But I told her I could meet up with her at 7 PM or something. Anyways, I was driving back like a madman trying to get back as quickly as possible. I was dressed in my grubby, gross work clothes. When I finally made it there, I met my buddies and we walked into the bar, which was pretty much empty except for a couple other tables. My buddies and I walked in and I saw that Kaylee was actually at another table with some other guys I had never seen before so immediately I’m a little irritated and mad I got there late. One thing led to another, Kaylee came over and talked to me. I just remember being so nervous and not knowing what to say to this pretty young girl (who I knew had a crush on me because her friend told me).”
Fast-forward to last May, years after that first time hanging out in the bar, and Kaylee got home from a horrible day at work. “I cried most of the way home,” she said. “I called my mom to vent and she told me to quit crying because it was going to be a good Friday (it was actually Good Friday that day!). I got home and relaxed on the couch. Kile got home and immediately put music on our speaker. It was annoying and I asked him to turn it off and he wouldn’t. Then he went outside! I was so annoyed that he left the music on inside knowing that I didn’t want to hear it. When he came inside, he put on ‘I Can Love You Like That’ by John Michael Montgomery. He sang it in my ear from behind the couch and when the line ‘you don’t have to wait anymore’ was sung, he came around the couch and got on one knee.” And indeed, in every sense, her terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, was instantly turned into an extra good Good Friday.
I asked them both when they knew, in those early dating years, that the other was one. Kaylee said she knew he was the one when she could be herself and not hide anything. “I remember a day at my parents house that I had on no makeup and I could just feel Kile staring at me. I felt so beautiful.” (swoon) Kile said he thinks he always knew. “I always felt like she made me a better person and I always thought I have been her rock. Her passion for children has always been a big deal to me because I think she will be a great mother someday. But, to answer the question directly, it was probably a little after we moved in together, after the first couple of months getting used to living with someone else and seeing that we could do it and not kill each other, hah.”
Kaylee is gorgeous and strong and, as many women know, it can take years to become fully confident in who you are, but I love that Kaylee told me, “I finally feel confident about my personality. I know my truth and I live it each day.” (I know Kile agrees because he told me that what he most admires about her is passion, kindness, and intelligence. “She’s very passionate about everything in her life. She works very hard to be the best teacher she can be. She loves her parents and her family.”) Kaylee described Kile as being kind, understanding, and funny. “He works for what he has. He doesn’t take shortcuts and accepts if he fails.”
I just loved spending time with them in Iowa City for their engagement session! It’s one thing to see a couple’s love written on paper, but it’s ten thousand times better to witness it firsthand while also being able to photograph it! On the day of their engagement session, it had rained all morning, but the skies cleared to overcast in the late afternoon and we made the call to go ahead. We were battling lots of pedestrian traffic (it was the university graduation weekend and high school prom night) and the obvious street parking everywhere, but it made me think extra hard for every shot and I’m so so proud of how their images came out! (I’m also especially proud of this blossoming tree because I knew Kaylee wanted photos with a blooming tree and we made this one work, even getting a little help from a passerby!)
We’ve had a strange spring this year wherein it could be 70 degrees one day and 30 the next. Coats got put away, then pulled back out. Maybe you’ll need rain boots? Maybe you’ll need sandals? Maybe shorts? Maybe winter hats. So in the week leading up to Tarrah and Jacob’s wedding, it was rainy and cold, but the forecast for Saturday had stayed surprisingly consistent, sunny and 60s. (I kept checking it every day.) So when Saturday morning dawned, sunny and beautiful, we all breathed a sigh of relief and rejoiced that it was a glorious day to get married indeed.
Tarrah and Jacob had their wedding at Bella Sala with the ceremony outside by the fountain and the reception directly inside, but perhaps the most fun and unique part of their day were the handmade outdoor games they set up during cocktail hour and the reception. Because the weather was so perfect, the patio doors just stayed open all night and their reception ended up being a perfect flow of inside to outside. Maybe dance a while, then go play a round of human-size checkers, then dance some more, then grab a drink and sit on the lawn. It was, I think, exactly the relaxed, family atmosphere that they had hoped for.
After spending time in Santa Cruz, we headed away from the ocean and in toward the mountains. The drive from Santa Cruz to our Airbnb in Oakhurst, just outside of Yosemite, was about 3 hours, but we had some time to spare so we stopped for lunch and then later stopped in another town to grab groceries for our kitchen. (We made breakfasts at home every morning and then packed lunches as well.)
One of the things we didn’t fully understand going into this trip was that, even though we were staying just 13 miles outside of Yosemite, it took about 30 minutes to get to the entrance of the park and then it takes a full 30+ minutes more to get from the entrance down to the valley. We got used to that hour+ drive pretty quickly as we did the roundtrip 3 times! Thankfully, Kevin did the driving because those tight, hairpin turns were so tricky, especially in the dark, fog, and rain!
We arrived at our house in the afternoon and unpacked, then Kevin happened to look up the drive time to get to The Majestic Yosemite for our anniversary dinner reservations that night and we realized we needed to leave much sooner than we had thought since the 46 miles to get there would take an hour and a half to drive (it’s way down in the valley)!
On our drive in to dinner, we were greeted with our first breathtaking sight of Tunnel View:
Dinner that night was so delicious! (I had the rotisserie chicken, which had to be some of the most amazing chicken I’ve ever eaten. I imagine that’s what Queen Elizabeth II also ate when she was there.) When we were done eating, we wandered around the hotel for a while too (it’s so beautiful) and it was completely pitch black when we left, meaning our first drive out of there was dark and foggy.
The next day was our first full day in Yosemite and I had done some research beforehand for trails to hike. One of the ones that was listed as “strenuous”, but also an iconic Yosemite trail not to be missed was Four Mile Trail, which is estimated to be a 6-8 hour hike roundtrip. In my research, it is closed over the winter, but is usually open in April. Obviously that was the hope, but when we pulled over by the trailhead to park, we saw that it was closed.
Yosemite had had a really bad winter, including a storm in February that brought over 2 feet of snow in just 2 days, causing trees to topple, power outages, road closures, damage to the park campgrounds, and evacuation of many of the residents (one of whom was our server at the restaurant that previous night). That, combined with the 34-day government shutdown in December-January that had put the national parks department behind in winter maintenance, meant that in April, when trails normally start to open, many were still closed because of snow and trees covering the trails. And when I say “trees”, I don’t mean branches. I mean, we literally had to assess our every step and shimmy, climbing over enormous trees that were uprooted or simply snapped at their bases like toothpicks. Then we had to try to find the trail again, which was never clearly marked, in part because of the debris of fallen trees everywhere.
So, after coming back to the trailhead of Four Mile Trail (we ventured in just to see how far we could go, but it wasn’t very far at all; it was gated off), we went with plan B and decided to hike the Valley Floor Loop, which was supposed to be an “easy hike.” Unfortunately, again because of the rough winter storms and government shutdown, the trail was really hard to follow and was covered with fallen trees. We did manage to hike several miles before coming to a dead end in the form of a river. We couldn’t figure out any way to get around it or across it and, because the trail wasn’t well-marked, we couldn’t find a continuation of the trail anywhere around. We had left the physical map in the car and phone service in Yosemite is nearly nonexistent, so what little bits we could pull up of the map on our phone wasn’t helpful enough to get us anywhere as it indicated you cross the river, but there was no bridge and I wasn’t about to dive in and swim across that current.
It was afternoon by this point–we had already eaten lunch earlier as we stopped along the loop to see Bridalveil Fall–and I was tired, but maybe mostly disappointed that two of the trails I had really wanted to hike had proven to be impossible. To save us some hike time and difficulty, we walked back to our car following the road rather than take the slow, tedious trail over and around fallen trees. It still took a while–we did have several miles to walk after all–but we eventually made it back to the beloved sight of our rental car and that night we grabbed take out pizza in Oakhurst, which was either exceptionally good take out or we were just really that hungry.
Despite the disappointing hikes that day, the views of Yosemite were, as expected, exceptional. April was a great time to visit as the falls were in full swing, melting loudly over the rocks. The weather was cool and sometimes rainy when we were there and we were glad to have brought layers as well as winter hats. We were also both glad to have it be slightly chilly and not humid and hot like it is during the summer (and also, not crowded!).
There were many things we loved about Yosemite, but I’d be especially remiss to skim over the stunning granite of El Capitan. We had just watched “Free Solo” as well as “The Dawn Wall” a few weeks before traveling to Yosemite so the sheer massiveness of seeing El Cap in person was a little bit mind-blowing. The last day we were in Yosemite, we finished it out by parking our car by the road and making our own path, hiking up to the base of El Cap and touching the granite ourselves, which can strangely be described best as a bit silky. Standing at the base, I tilted my head up and all I could see were low-hanging clouds of dense fog covering the top, which just made the massive rock seem even more breathtaking.
Last month was our 10-year wedding anniversary so Kevin and I had planned a trip out to California. While we spent most of the time in Yosemite, if we were going to be that close to the ocean anyway, I wanted to sidetrack to it. It’s bizarre; having grown up in the Midwest, there’s no real reason that the ocean calls me so, but for some reason, things seem so much better, everything makes more sense, the world is calmer, by the waves. Does anyone else feel that way?
They met within the first couple of days of college and, due to some mutual friends, instantly ended up in the same friend group. First semester ended and Christmas break happened and it wasn’t until they reconvened back at school for second semester that they sensed a shift in their feelings. “I knew I wanted to ask her on a date and I was pretty confident she would say yes, but I was still pretty nervous,” Bryce said, with Kristin adding, “I remember being pretty nervous, but because we had been friends within the big friend group for a while, we did know each other already so that was nice!”
I asked them both when they knew the other was their one. Kristin responded, “For me, there wasn’t necessarily one exact moment when I knew Bryce was the one. It was more the fact I simply loved spending every second with him that I could, that he treated (and still treats) me respectfully and as I should be treated, and he is someone I became totally and utterly comfortable with very quickly. I just knew that I didn’t want to let him go. Our relationship also began as just friends in a great group and flourished into one where we knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together and I think getting to know each other one way and then another way helped us both to see that we fit really well together.”
Bryce agreed in that there wasn’t a specific moment of epiphany. “It just slowly grew from ‘I like hanging out with this cute girl’ to ‘I could see Kristin being the one’ to finally ‘I can’t imagine my life without her.’ She was supportive of me. She was encouraging. She was a Hawkeye fan. She liked sports. She liked tacos. She was liked ice cream. She checked a lot of boxes!”
Bryce said the day he proposed was the best day of his life so far. “I had had the engagement ring for about four months and was just waiting for the right time. I knew we were going back to Luther for homecoming and figured that would be the perfect time; the place where we started our journey together seemed like the right place to begin forever together. It was one of those situations where I knew she was going to say yes, but I was still incredibly nervous.
“We went out to eat at one of our favorite restaurants in Decorah for a nice brunch. I wasn’t hungry as my nerves had the best of me. Then Kristin suggested we get mimosas, and, not wanting to come off as something being up with me, I agreed. I had to really work to get that down along with my whole breakfast because I didn’t want to tip off that something was going on. I had the ring in my pocket (it was in it’s box) of my coat the whole time and I purposefully had that pocket away from Kristin the whole time so she couldn’t see it.
“As we left the restaurant and were driving home, I suggested we go to Phelps Park to a lookout area that we had gone to lots of times to have life conversations while eating ice cream; it was one of our favorite spots in Decorah. I figured we had spent enough time in that spot that it should be where we also got engaged. I kept conversation going for a little bit and it was some of the lamest topics ever, but I was nervous and wanted to ease into what I was going to say.
“A lot of times, we took a picture when we were up there, so I suggested we do that. But this time I turned on my video camera and set it up and began talking about all the things that being back at Luther had reminded me of, and one of those was falling in love with her. That’s when I got down on one knee and asked Kristin to marry me. I got her whole reaction on video!”
“Of course I said yes,” Kristin added. “Only getting a tad emotional, mainly just like omg-omg-omg and so excited inside I didn’t really cry.”