Friday weddings are my favorite. There’s something magical about getting married on a Friday; like the rest of the world is carrying on and you’ve carved out a little nook all your own. So when Diana & Lee hired me for their Friday wedding, I was excited not only because it was a Friday, but because some of my favorite vendors would be there, their color scheme and design style was going to be stunning, and Diana & Lee themselves are so sweet and I knew they’d be so fun to work with.
Their engagement session just a few months ago was hot and humid (and buggy!), but their wedding was a gorgeous fall day with perfect weather. The day started out overcast (which was beautiful for photos!), but the sun came beaming right during their ceremony and cast it’s glorious warm light all over them as they vowed their love to each other.
When Lee proposed to Diana and they started looking for a wedding date, Lee suggested a wedding this fall, which in wedding terms would be a quick engagement season, but he had a point when he told Diana that he loves her and wants to marry her and, well, why wait? They quickly pulled Jennifer of Harper Hadley Events into the planning equation and she took the reins on helping them bring their vision to life. Diana wanted lots of rich, fall colors, but she also wanted to pull in some food elements into the design. Shelly of Shelly Sarver Designs was the perfect choice to make this happen and the incorporation of grapes and pomegranates and pears and apples made each centerpiece a beautiful creation!
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.
It was so humid the morning of their wedding, we wistfully hoped for just 5 minutes of rain just to ease up the dripping air. But it turned out that by afternoon, though still humid and hot, there was a little breeze and that, combined with the shade and me moving portraits along as quickly as possible, made it bearable.
Kaitlin and Alec are such a fun couple and it was such a joy to meet their friends and family on their wedding day! Back at their engagement session, Kaitlin and Alec had both mentioned how important their families are to them. “Alec and I both value our families a ton and love spending time at each others’ homes. As the first year of our relationship progressed, I found myself feeling like a part of his family and I saw my family taking him in as well. In particular, watching him goof around with my nieces and nephews made me heart melt. We both just settled into each other’s lives like we had been there all along.” Alec echoes this sentiment, saying that he knew she was the one when he had unsolicited approval from him mom. So to be able to meet all of these people in their lives was a treasure!
The ladies were relaxing in a large suite when we arrived. Music was playing, snacks were being consumed, hair was already perfectly in place, and makeup was being applied. It was a fun, relaxing environment to enjoy the pre-wedding moments with your best friends.
Kaitlin has the most exquisite taste and her champagne ballgown was absolutely breathtaking. The mixture of gold in her earrings, white gold in their wedding bands, sparkling heels, deep greens in the flowy bridesmaids’ dresses, blush & bright pinks in the flowers…it all pulled together for the most stunning color palette.
Kaitlin and her dad did a first look. You can just see the pride on her dad’s face!
And right after that, Kaitlin & Alec did their own first look!
I was standing at the back of the church when the priest suddenly, in the middle of the service, stopped and said, “I see you have a photographer here.” He proceeded to ask me to come up to the front and stand right next to him to take this photo, to show them later what his point of view was. I’ve never in ten years had this happen, but it was such a fun–albeit awkward for me as I had no warning of this happening whatsoever–memory for them to have!
What did I tell you about these colors?!?! Soooo beautiful!
Cocktail hour was outside on the Iowa Memorial Union patio overlooking the river.
The sun was quickly sinking so right after they ate some dinner, I pulled them both outside for a few more minutes of portraits.
Kaitlin & Alec, what a joy to get to know you both! And what an honor to photograph your wedding day. Thank you for having me. I hope these photos bring back so many wonderful memories!! Xo!
When Caroline first described their wedding, she said she wanted it to be a fun, Iowa-grown wedding event. They made a lot of their wedding choices with that in mind. Everything from the custom 4-foot metal monogram crafted by a local artist they met at a farmer’s market to the farm-to-table dishes served at the reception to the Iowa craft beers and bourbon to the cake being served on their grandmothers’ and great-grandmothers’ china dish sets to Bryan, the groom himself, making the centerpiece wooden vases to the ceremony being held in the original senate room of Iowa’s Old Capitol building…everything was chosen as a nod to their roots.
The day itself couldn’t have been better! It was hot, certainly, but we have lucked out so much this summer with weather! I knew of some locations that would provide beautiful shade and a cool breeze and we utilized that to keep everyone comfortable.
When Caroline & Bryan thought about what they were looking forward to most about their wedding day, both said spending time their their families and friends, “the people who have made me the person I am today. And creating amazing memories!” As you scroll, I hope you will enjoy seeing all of the memories they were able to lock away as they began their marriage!
Caroline’s mother, Jennifer, did all the designwork for the invitations. They chose the typeface as a tribute to a late 19th century calligrapher, much like is found at the Old Capitol. The envelope liner is a scene from Iowa in its territorial days, original art by Jennifer created for a fire screen at Plum Grove Historic House, blending the history of the Old Capitol and the pastoral Iowa setting of the Celebration Barn.
The handkerchief was a gift to Jennifer, Caroline’s mother, and Caroline carried it on the wedding day. It was stitched by a distant cousin in the 50’s-60’s who was blind from birth and made her living making intricate embroidery designs.
These were the gift bags for the guests, welcoming them to Iowa City and filled with so many thoughtful treats!
Caroline’s gown was stunning, but the best part was that it was chosen specifically to go with her veil, an heirloom Brussels Lace veil worn by her great aunt in 1951. The lace was brought from Belgium by her great-grandfather after serving in the medical corps in WWII. The ballgown silhouette had layers of airy English net over silk taffeta. Caroline says that her gown is a love note to tradition.
The menswear was all from Ewe’s Men’s Store, owned by the bride’s father and in the family for over one hundred years. It’s also located directly downtown, right across the street from the Old Capitol!
Bryan & Caroline shared a first look and it was so sweet to witness them seeing each other for the first time on their wedding day!
Caroline wanted lots of summer flowers and natural greenery and Julie did an amazing job pulling it all together!
This was my first wedding in the Old Capitol Museum and I instantly fell in love with the space! It is so rich in history and so elegantly old without being gaudy, the perfect, upkept vintage!
If you recognize Caroline’s grandmother, it’s because I shot another family wedding in June, Caroline’s cousin! There were a few photos of her at that wedding that I just adored; she is so beautiful, yes?
They got to sign their marriage license in the governor’s office, complete with a special feather pen.
The reception was held at the original Celebration Barn, also a first time for me shooting there! It’s clear that it’s very much in the family of the Celebration Farm, but still completely unique and the outdoor space–as you’ll see in a bit–is simply magical!
The sun was setting quickly so I snuck them out at the end of cocktail hour for a few more portraits.
Caroline & Bryan, thank you so much for letting me be part of your wedding day. I hope these photos capture the love you share and the detail that went into making your wedding so magical. Xo, Emily
The day of the wedding started out gloomy and cloudy with unseasonably cooler temperatures, a twist from what we are used to in July in Iowa. By noon, the sun was shining and the breeze rustled the leaves on the trees with the temperatures still only rising to a comfortable mid-80s. For a couple who lives in Pheonix, Arizona, I’m sure it felt great.
When we arrived at the Celebration Farm barns, the centerpieces were being arranged, the bridesmaids were snacking on lunch, and the general hustle of a wedding day was just started to pick up pace. Just a few quick hours later, Eva & Aaron pledged their faithfulness, love, and friendship to each other for the rest of their lives. Their ceremony was filled with their overflowing love of Jesus and centered completely on Him. Since Eva’s family attend the same church as us, I knew many of the people there, which is always fun.
Eva & Aaron first met at college in the fall of 2016 and their first date was shortly after. “I remember I really enjoyed being single at the time,” Aaron recalls, “But I knew I’d be the biggest idiot ever to pass up a chance to take this girl on a date. So at this point, we both knew we liked each other and planning that date was something I was admittedly a bit nervous about.” He decided they would go to his favorite restaurant and then meet up with some good friends of theirs to go to a pumpkin patch & corn maze. “The date was great and I was hooked,” he recalled. “My love for singleness was thrown out of the window and I knew that something in me had changed.”
They both knew pretty quickly into their relationship that they were in this forever. Eva says she knew around 6 months in and, ironically, they both said their I-love-yous at the same time. “At the end of June in 2017, I took Eva on a date to a Mexican restaurant and then we walked around a park. It was that day I was going to tell Eva I loved her, but just two minutes before I was going to do so she asked me if I loved her! So of course I started laughing because that just seems to be typical of our relationship. But it was about a month before that when I was sure she was the one. Towards the end of May when Eva was in Iowa and I was back home I knew for certain. We volunteer with the elderly and one elderly lady once told us that distance makes the heart grow farther and that long distance relationships fail. I love that lady, but she is crazy! Ours wasn’t really even long distance since it was only a month apart from one another, but it was during that month that my heart certainly grew fonder and I knew that she was going to be my wife one day.”
And finally that day arrived! Eva & Aaron, I’m so honored to have witnessed the start of your marriage and I wish you all the best as you start this beautiful journey together!
Eva recorded a video message for her dad before their first look. Her sisters, Rachael & Mary, played it for him and there were tears all around.
Meanwhile, Aaron was finishing getting ready to see his bride for the first time that day.
Their joy was absolutely contagious!
After dinner, we snuck back out for a few more minutes of portraits and they were absolutely breathtaking!
We had a trifecta of elements working against us, all of them out of our control: downtown Jazz Fest traffic, construction road closures (including a major bridge between the ceremony and reception venues), and intense heat & summer humidity. But I promised Brooke you wouldn’t see any cranes in the background of her wedding images at Hancher and the spot that I picked for their downtown images was easy enough to shoot around the pedestrians. The heat? Well, we worked fast. At one point, Brandon asked if there was any way to get out of those outdoor photos and I promised him that I would be faster than he imagined. And I think I surprised all of the guys with how quickly I got them back into the air-conditioning.
I hope that looking back on the day, no one remembers the heat or the uncomfortable shoes or the tight timeline to get everything done. I hope all you see is the beauty of a perfect day for the beginning of a marriage. Brooke and Brandon have been a joy to work with; both filled with such fun and laughter and Brandon especially cracking jokes from start to end.
When Brooke describes Brandon, she says she admires “how hard of a worker he is and how he can just befriend everyone he talks to.” She also said that he is positive, energetic, and dedicated. He said he admires “her drive towards being a teacher and helping kids learn” and that she is caring, loving, fun and adventurous, and persistent. In the short time I got to know them both, I would complete agree!
Back before their engagement session, I had asked them both what they looked forward to most about their wedding day. Brooke said, “I’m looking forward to celebrating with all of our closest friends and family. Also, I’m excited to get to start our new life together and become Mrs. Smalley!” Brandon added that he was also excited to be “celebrating with friends and family about finding the perfect partner and combining our lives together for the best future!” And truly, it was such a joyous celebration that I believe their wishes came true.
Brooke & Brandon chose not to see each other before the wedding, but they did want to exchange letters so they did a “first touch” outside the church. It was a tender moment that had them both in happy tears.
The u-shape of First United Methodist Church lends itself to the most beautiful photos. It also provides really great access to photograph different perspectives fairly unobtrusively.
My absolute favorite thing about these exit photos–which I didn’t even notice until I was editing them later–is both of Brooke’s grandmas beaming at them as they came out of the church.
Brooke was living her Cinderella dream all day. She looked like a princess.
You’d laugh if you knew the struggle we had with this stunning veil. I love long veils and they are usually so easy to photograph, but the wind was working against us so much during all of these pictures. I was determined to get at least ONE photo showcasing her gorgeous veil–and I did–but we had to work pretty hard to get it!
This cake was just as delicious as it looks. I joked that I chose my profession based on the cake, but, really, it is an excellent perk of the job.
It was getting dark quickly, but we ran back outside to grab some evening photos (the sun had already dipped so we missed “sunset”, but just look at these and you’ll know why I’m not even a little mad about it)!
It was the weekend before July 4th and Brooke and Brandon decided to surprise their guests with a fireworks show! I had never photographed a couple with fireworks before–and told them that beforehand–but I did my research and ended up getting a great assist from the videographers and I love the images I was able to get!