I actually do not know how Kailee and I first met, but I do know that somewhere along the way, I hired her to do my hair for my wedding ten plus years ago when she was still in cosmetology school and we’ve been friends ever since. (And I still to this day wouldn’t change a thing about my wedding day hair! It was perfection!) In the span of time since then, both of us have had babies and started businesses, me with photography and her with her own salon & spa!
So, just to bring everything full circle, we now get to work together since her and the Eden team do a lot of hair and makeup for my brides and bridesmaids! Anddddd she also cuts my hair so, you know, we have a lot of mutual respect and support.
I was so excited to be able to photograph her beautiful family, but was not even halfway prepared for the location they chose. Isn’t this the most gorgeous spot?! (It’s the family land of one of the massage therapists at the spa!) We had a lot of spaces to choose from and we kept it pretty simple because I know how quickly I have to work when I’m photographing kids and I absolutely love what we ended up with!! For what it’s worth, these girls were so incredibly well-behaved and sweet! Look at these adorable smiles! I love that we could bottle up this space in time for this family because we all know babies grow up.
All weddings have themes of some kind, a core design or color palette that decisions are bounced off of to see what sticks and what doesn’t quite go. So when two people who love all things Disney, even getting engaged at Disney World and taking a Disney honeymoon cruise in a few weeks, start to plan their wedding, the design board is immediately structured upon the perfect fairytale wedding, less Mickey Mouse and more “happily ever after”.
What I love about how their wedding turned out was that it was completely the dreamy fairytale they wanted while also staying true to exactly who they are as individuals and a couple, pulling many personal touches into the design. Ted is an artist and when Shannon told me the best gift she’s ever been given was a large pencil portrait of Walt Disney and her favorite Disney character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, that Ted drew for her for Christmas a few years ago–“It was so thoughtful and perfect, I cried when I saw it. The drawing has been hung up since and we get to look at it every day.”–I asked if she’d be willing to bring a copy of it to the wedding for me to use somehow in the detail photos.
Ted also pulled off the biggest (literally) reception welcome by making a 7-foot-tall hand painted storybook, the perfect custom “once upon a time” nod to welcome their guests to the party. Their cake was so magical it can really can’t be described, a true centerpiece that looked like it came straight from the forest and was decorated by magical little singing elves and woodland creatures with a great sense of style and frosting abilities. And all of that–and the dance floor–was under a sparkling chandelier.
Their wedding rings atop the pencil portrait Ted drew for Shannon.
In high school, she got a part-time job at Fareway, a grocery store. He was working there full-time, on the path to becoming a store manager. They became quick friends and ended up working a lot of shifts together. One Saturday morning in November, she walked back to clock in to start her shift and she saw Ted dropping off an invoice near the time clock. She told him good morning, clocked in, then asked him what he was doing that night. He said he didn’t have anything planned so she asked if he wanted to go out to eat pizza with her family. He had a big grin on his face as he replied, “Yes!” Later that day, he drove over to her apartment and they went to her parent’s home. From there, they drove to meet her aunt, uncle, and cousins for dinner. “He was meeting the whole family on our first date,” she recalls. “He fit right in and those two little boys [cousins] wanted to draw with Ted the whole night.”
It was the first date, that family pizza dinner, that solidified everything for Shannon. “I remember Ted leaving my apartment that night and I couldn’t wait to see him again. The way he was with my family and how well he interacted with everyone melted my heart. We had been friends for a while before our first date and so we new a lot about each other and enjoyed every minute we were together. The Monday after that first date, one of my friends texted me and asked how it went. I told her, ‘I think I found my soul mate.’ I still can’t believe how accurate that statement is.”
These high school sweethearts met all the way back in their sophomore and junior years. She was a grade ahead of him, but was a transfer student, having just moved to the area. She describes herself as being “the shy new girl” and was introduced to Brandan in the hallway on the way to class within the first couple weeks of school. “He instantly caught my eye, but, of course, I kept quiet.” It was later in the winter when they both showed up at open gym for soccer that they finally connected and then, as luck would have it, they took a couple of classes together in the spring semester.
“Our first date was at Pancheros sometime in the fall of 2014,” Brandan says. “I had been trying to talk to her for a long time and wasn’t nervous at all because I have always been able to be myself around her.”
Emma says she thinks she always kind of knew that Brandan was the one for her. “I kept him in the ‘friend-zone’ for about 7 months just to make sure he was actually serious about wanting to date me, but even then I knew he was someone I couldn’t lose. I think I really knew our first Christmas together. I know I was in high school, but my instincts were there. We were sitting in my room in our sweats after a long day of family interactions, relaxing, and watching movies and I just remember thinking to myself that I wouldn’t mind doing this forever.”
Brandan agrees. “I knew Emma was the one not long after we started dating because we always make each other laugh and are very comfortable with each other about anything.”
Brandan proposed just before Christmas this past year when they were on vacation with her family in Punta Cana. “My mom had planned family photos on the beach, which wasn’t out of the ordinary because we haven’t taken family photos in a while. So, we got all dressed up and I remember feeling bad because Brandan isn’t the biggest fan of photos and he had mentioned a few times that day that his stomach was hurting (turns out, it was the nerves). We went out around the resort and to the beach and Brandan was cracking jokes left and right, which isn’t like him during pictures (again, nerves). Once we got to the beach, Brandan got down on one knee and asked the question with my mom’s old wedding band that I have been obsessed with since I was 10 years old! It was all the emotions at once and so so beautiful! I love that our experience was so unique and special.”
“I was very nervous all day,” Brandan says. “Even though I didn’t think I would be, but I was starting to get a little jittery when we were going through the photo shoot with her parents. But then once we got out to the beach, I was not nervous and knew what I wanted to say.”
They met in Iowa City during medical/dental school–she’s now a surgeon and he’s a dentist–and they have family close to the area so even though they now reside in Texas, where Maria is doing her surgery residency, it made sense for them to come back to the place where it all started for them, right downtown in the heart of the university campus.
It was just a week after they first met that Austin says he knew Maria was the one. “I knew I loved her after a week. And when she stuck around after that, I knew she wasn’t going anywhere. Every day after that, she has shown me more and more how she’s the best person for me and we are meant to be together.”
Maria doesn’t pinpoint a date, but says it was a lot of little things that added up. “How he’d pack my lunches and leave little notes inside. How well we agreed on big things like our values and how we would want to raise kids. How well he supported me when I was upset. A big thing for us is how well we communicate; so I think how well we work through disagreements or difficult times in our relationship has made us both very confident that we’ve each found the one.”
Maria’s aunt is Brenda of Town or Country Event Design & Coordination so planning a wedding from out of state was a complete nonissue as every final last detail was planned and thought out. (My organized self loves working with another organized soul like Brenda Strief!) We knew we had very little time to photograph the details on the wedding day so we flew in and barely caught our breaths before taking as many shots as we could. Thankfully, Brenda had everything ready for us, including these gorgeous florals, and we worked like we were in fast-forward. These ended up being some of my favorite detail shots to date.
Aside from her scalpel skills, Maria is also a talented artist and made this beautiful map for their guests, including some of their favorite dining spots, the ceremony and reception locations, parking, and the medical and dental schools.
When we arrived at the church Saturday morning, it was overcast; a lovely respite from the intense heat in the weeks leading up to their wedding day. But the overcast clouds quickly darkened into rain that kept coming and going, not a downpour or enough to really water the parched grass, but just enough to cause me to look around for some backup locations for photos. Thankfully, Kaylee and Kile are two of the most relaxed and trusting people I’ve encountered and they were not even worried one bit. (I had a taste of this at their engagement session as we roamed around downtown Iowa City. It had been a rainy day and we were trying to decide if we should reschedule or not; we didn’t, and we had the best time!) As luck would have it, we had a few minutes of a break in the rain for their portraits and then it started sprinkling again just as we started bridal party photos so we buzzed through those faster that I could even talk. After heading back to the church for shelter, the rain cleared again and we were able to go back outside for family photos! It all ended up working out, including that the rain completely dissipated and out came the blazing sun for the rest of the day!
Kaylee and Kile had such a beautiful, family-oriented, faith-filled wedding and it was so much fun to celebrate with them! Kaylee’s gorgeous shoes (those block heels!) and mixed-metal rings (white gold engagement ring and yellow gold wedding band!) were some definite highlights, but nothing could outshine these two out in the wild flowers field! *swoon*
Anyone who has hung around here long enough knows that I have a special love for Friday weddings. Maybe it’s that I got married on a Friday or maybe it’s just that Fridays feel like special weekday-pre-weekend days that sort of make their own category, but, regardless, I love shooting Friday weddings! When I photographed Catie & Justin’s engagement session this winter (remember this magical snowy session?!), we joked that we’d be having the exact opposite weather on their wedding day and it was true! (Thankfully though not quite a hot as the weekend before!)
We arrived at the Celebration Farm before the hustle and bustle began; it’s a secret treat to be able to start detail shots before the bridal party arrives because we can dive right in quickly and then have more time to chat when they arrive! Catie and Justin had the most beautiful details for their wedding day, from their custom ring dish (a gift from a bridesmaid!) to their gorgeous invitation suite to Catie’s stunning unique gown with a detachable train. It was all so perfect and perfectly them.