One thing the Midwest does well is autumn. And when you combine Iowa autumn with Katy’s parents’ wooded yard, it makes for the most stunning wedding backdrop.
As with many weddings this year, Katy & Chris’ wedding plans changed due to the pandemic and, when the idea came up to go forward with the wedding, but make it much smaller and move it to her parents’ home, she was most worried that it would stress her parents out trying to get everything ready. Thankfully, her parents were completely on board with it (even while blissfully unaware that a derecho would hit in the meantime and force some major cleanup). The week of the wedding, lots of winds hit, prematurely forcing a lot of leaves to come down, but it made for the most quintessential fall crunching underfoot. On Sunday morning, I woke up to the sound of rain and my first thought was, “It’s okay. Rain now and get it over with.” The rain cleared up by noon and everything could go forward as planned; even the dirt path down to the ceremony spot was dry enough to make for easy walking! It was chilly–the warmest it got was 41 degrees–but the sun even popped out later in the afternoon.
It was such a joy to meet Katy & Chris’ families and friends and I’m especially grateful to Katy’s family for being such gracious and kind hosts and giving me complete trust and access to their home and land, allowing me to capture the pieces of the wedding day that can remembered forever.
Katy & Chris, I’m so happy for you both! Your happiness and love is evident to anyone who is around you and I am so honored to have gotten to witness it and celebrate with you!
It was no surprise that October 10, 2020 would be a big wedding date since it landed on a Saturday and I was thrilled when Amanda & Tyler booked me for their wedding at Bien Venu in Cedar Falls. They are both originally from Iowa, but when they booked me, they lived in Utah and, since then, they’ve moved to Kansas City. We were able to sneak in their engagement session a few weeks ago when they were back for some wedding planning and we instantly clicked. I knew their wedding day was going to be so much fun and filled with so much joy.
As far as weather goes, October is typically gorgeous, but the actual temperatures can vary a lot. Two weeks ago, we had a solid 7 days of 50s. Then last week, we had 80s again. Saturday ended up being perfect. Warm, but not hot; sunny and clear.
I arrived to find a large room for the ladies with lots of natural light (praise!) and Amanda had all of her details organized in a box for me, which is always so appreciated! This color palette is so beautiful and I had so much fun putting all these shots together, the combination of the colors and beautiful natural light inspiring me!
Amanda and Tyler chose to do a first look and, let me just say, photographing first looks never gets old. There’s always this moment just before where nerves get a little overwhelmed and excited and then that moment, that moment of seeing your love on your wedding day, emotions burst–whether laughter or tears or beaming smiles–and it is so much fun to witness.
Just down the road from the venue is a beautiful park and so, after their first look, we drove to the park for their photos and then the bridal party joined us there as well. The autumn colors weren’t playing around!
On August 6th, Taylor emailed me to let me know that after a lot of tears and research and hugs, they were going to reschedule their wedding to next year because of the coronavirus. But then in her next paragraph, she said, “September 26, 2020 date has such a special place in our hearts and so much meaning so we are going to still be married that day! We have not decided where or how, but we’re going to work on that this weekend and we will let you know ASAP!”
And this is how, in just seven weeks, they planned the most beautiful backyard wedding at Stanley’s parent’s property in Parkersburg. I was so honored to be part of their wedding day this past Saturday and am equally excited to be part of their rescheduled, larger wedding next year!
The weather was perfect for an outdoor wedding day. It was a bit breezy, but cool with the sun dancing in and out of clouds. It rained all day following their wedding, but as for Saturday? It remained dry and clear!
We started the day at Taylor & Stanley’s home in Cedar Falls, where we were lucky enough to have a whole room open and clear for detail photos. While the bridesmaids mingled and chatted and snacked and got their hair and makeup done, we were able to set up shop, as it were, in another room where we could stay out of the way.
After Taylor got ready, we all headed over to Parkerburg for her and Stanley’s first look (my favorite!) and the rest of the day. As an aside, I love a good outdoor, tented reception, but they are, admittedly, a lot of work so I don’t have many of them. You have to think of power (generators), restrooms, and literally every detail that needs to be brought in to create a reception space out of a plot of grass. Thankfully, Taylor & Stanley had an incredible support team of family and friends and vendors and this, THIS, was pulled together in 7 weeks.
It’s mid-September and the weather has been absolutely perfect; crispy in the mornings and evenings and comfortably warm during the days. This past Saturday was just that, a dream of weather cooperation. We got to the church prior to the bridal party so we were able to scope it all out before things really got busy, which is always the best way to start a wedding day. It was just cool enough that I remember briefly thinking that I should’ve packed a sweater. (I forgot about it once things started rolling!)
When Sara and her friends arrived, we quickly shifted into details mode and, as wedding days go, once the gears start moving, time flies! Sara and Josh were married in this beautiful brick church on a gravel road in the country, a church that Sara attended as a child and that other family members have been married in. And though 2020 hasn’t brought about much in the “easy” department for wedding planning, Sara and Josh tackled every curve in the road, including actually, moving their ceremony to this church, with grace and determination. Sara’s dad joked later in the evening in his toast that they had a long engagement and could’ve gotten married last year, but, no, Sara wanted to wait until 2020 and, well, look at how that turned out. But really, it did turn out perfect. Maybe not in every way they had dreamed of–one of Sara’s bridesmaids couldn’t attend due to a positive COVID-19 exposure and it was heartbreaking–but in many of the ways that matter, it was perfect.
When Sara and Josh first began talking, she was going to grad school in Lincoln, Nebraska and he was working in Columbus, Nebraska. “I remember him saying he was from Iowa and I couldn’t believe our home towns in Iowa were an hour apart!” Sara was really busy in grad school so they continued talking, but didn’t go on their first date for another two months. They ate at Applebee’s–both say it was the best restaurant option Columbus had–and then went back to his place to watch a movie because “my home theater system was better than the Columbus Theater,” Josh said. They discovered early on that they both love watching movies and still, six years later, say they do a lot of dinner-and-a-movie dates, which probably works out well with social distancing, I suppose. Dinner to go and a home theatre? Winning!
I have a lot of couples ask if they can do some pictures with their dog(s) on their wedding day. I end up photographing a lot of pups (both at engagements and at weddings!) and yet, ironically, I don’t have any pets of my own! When it comes to photographing dogs, while I don’t have any experience as a pet owner, I do have a lot of experience as a photographer and I rely heavily on that to get the best reactions from both the animal(s) and the humans.
Here are 5 tips if you plan on having your dog in your engagement photos:
1. Be realistic. What I mean is that animals are similar to children; they have short attention spans and are usually really excited to be in a new place (grass! trees! water! new smells! adventure!) with new people (me…with an exciting “toy” that I’m looking through that makes clicking noises…and with your family and friends and lots of attention). Expect that the first few minutes will simply be letting your dog explore a bit and get used to what is happening. Your dog may not look at the camera. Your dog may not want anything to do with your beautiful family photo. And that’s okay! Those happen to be my favorite photos! Play with your pup and let me capture real life for you. The imperfect is what makes it perfect.
Chase proposed to Jessica last year in Italy and when she said yes there on the Amalfi Coast, they never knew all that would come up before their wedding date arrived. Whew. They started planning their wedding for May 30, 2020 (see their engagement session here) and when the pandemic hit, they had to start reassessing how they wanted to proceed. In the end, they decided to go ahead with a secret backyard wedding on May 30th and reschedule their big wedding to August, thinking and hoping that things would have returned to normal by now. (Haha, we were all so hopeful back then, weren’t we?)
I was so honored to be able to photograph their secret wedding and everyone there was able to keep the marriage a secret. Jess and Chase announced it to those who were at their rehearsal last Friday night and then at the start of their ceremony on Saturday, Jessica’s brother, serving in his role as officiant, announced it to all the guests. The delighted gasp that rippled through the crowd was so fun to hear. In her toast later that night, Jessica’s best friend said, “It’s very on brand for Jessica to have not one, but two weddings to the same man…in the same year.”
Truly, Saturday was so perfect and beautiful. It had been scorching hot in the days leading up to it and then Saturday’s heat dropped by over 10 degrees to a mild and lovely low 80’s. All the stress of the pandemic, having to change wedding dates, then having to move venues, being without power for almost a week thanks to the derecho, and endless reworking of plans thanks to the ever-changing COVID-19 mandates (masks, no alcohol service after 10 PM, etc.) and yet, thank the good Lord, it was perfect. Jessica was first my friend before becoming one of my brides and so it made it extra special for me to be part of her day, to be trusted to document it, and to celebrate in every step along the way.
Jessica and Chase met back in 2009 and one of their first official dates was a concert at the Iowa State Fair. When he asked her out that night, she actually initially said no. “I thought we didn’t need a label; it was just going to be a summer fling. Whoops.” But that very same weekend, she realized he was the one. “We were supposed to go to his grandparent’s home in Missouri and I thought we should still go. We went and had a great time, however, I got a kidney stone and he had to take me to the emergency room. On the way there, I kept screaming in pain and he looked at me and said, ‘You probably have a kidney stone and if you puke from pain it’s okay.’ I claimed I wouldn’t do that, but within seconds, I threw up all over his new car.
“After 3 hours in the ER, they finally got me back to a room where they officially diagnosed me with a kidney stone. The doctor asked me who Chase was and I went with ‘my boyfriend’ to avoid any awkwardness but he went and ahead and said, ‘Oh really, that’s new.’ So it was awkward either way.
“We left the hospital with meds and went back to his grandparents. We were suppose to go to the Cardinals game the next day and I insisted I wanted to go so he took my drugged-up self to the game and I don’t remember anything but the hot dog. I realized on the way home that he was a pretty good guy and we should date, but I also realized he was the one. If I could puke all over his new car, at his grandparent’s place 7 hours from home, and he still took me to a baseball game… He’s amazing.”
As for Chase, he says he knew pretty quickly. “Pretty early on I knew it was possible. It was more of a question if she could stand me long term than the other way around. I’m pretty easy-going.” They are yin and yang. When Chase listed three things he cannot live without, he immediately said: guns, dogs, fast cars. Whereas Jessica’s answer was: batons, kiddos (my dance students), and pictures! And when I asked what they would do on a date (anywhere in the world, do anything you wanted, for any amount of money), Chase started out by saying, “Mine will be completely opposite of hers.” (He would choose to go somewhere completely secluded like a backwoods cabin in the mountains or in Canada; just be together and go fishing, hunting, hiking, boating. She would choose a trip to New Zealand or Australia and go deep sea fishing, snorkeling, holding a koala bear, seeing kangaroos, eating good food and drinking fun drinks.)
But the beauty of opposite personalities is how well they balance each other out. She describes him as hilarious (“he’s constantly making me laugh and I would love to know where he come sup with half the stuff he says.”), hardworking (“he put 100% into everything he does. He is a determined man and whatever he is working on will get done and get done correctly”), and passionate (“the things he does love, he puts time into”). Jessica adds, “I love that we are opposites because I think that is what makes us work out so well. He teaches me how to take time off and relax when all I do is run around. He shows me the positive in every situation no matter how frustrated I am.”
Chase agrees, “She’s the opposite of me. She cares what people think and she works harder for everyone even if they probably wouldn’t always work harder for her in return. She will quit, but it doesn’t take much to get her back up and going. She hasn’t quit anything for good since I’ve known her. She’s always happy and always sees the best in people.”