It was just two weeks after they first met that Austin says he knew Maria was the one. “I knew I loved her after a week. And when she sticks 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.”
As for Maria, she 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 insides. 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.”
Austin proposed nearly two years to the day after their first date. He was planning on proposing while they were Texas, but Maria had absolutely no clue. He had told her, “I’m not going to do it in Texas” and, because he’s so practical and she figured he’d worry about losing the ring during traveling, she definitely believed him. About that, she was right. “I was a nervous wreck,” Austin says.
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!
Leading up to the wedding, we had been having some typically brutal summer heat here in Iowa. But that Saturday, the heat lifted and we were blessed with high-70’s and a little breeze. It was exactly what you’d wish for on a wedding day, especially one in the summertime.
Sally & Erik live in Colorado, but they met at the University of Iowa so it was only perfect that they get married back here where it all started for them. They had mutual friends and had been introduced briefly one time, but they didn’t first actually meet until New Years Eve. Sally says, “I was going to Chicago with some girlfriends to celebrate downtown and heard that some of our friends from college would be joining. My girlfriends and I had booked a room at a hotel for the night and decided everyone in the group would meet there first and then go out to the celebration. I’ll never forget when Erik walked in the door with his friends. I was instantly curious about him and wanted to get to know him more. He was wearing a black suit and looked very handsome.
“After Erik and his friends (some of whom were mutual friends) arrived, we were all reintroduced and decided to head out to the event which was being held downtown. I’ll never forget how cold it was that night! When waiting for a car, Erik offered me his jacket which I was giddy on the inside about. What really stood out to me that night was how polite, kind, and gentle Erik was. He took the time to open doors, listen and ask questions about where I was from, and find out what my interests were.”
At some point during that evening, they strayed from the group to find a quiet corner to talk. Those initial moments gave way to a real relationship, a mutual move to Minnesota (where he proposed), and another move together to Colorado last year. They’ve been planning the wedding long-distance, though Sally had the best help with her family living here in Iowa City and her cousin, Julie, being both her matron of honor and her wedding planner.
Everyone who knows Sally & Erik says they are both so giving, so selfless, and incredibly loyal. The toasts that were given later in the evening included genuine and beautiful stories of how they’ve blessed the lives of those closest to them and it was such a joy to see the start of their marriage, a union of two kind and generous people.
The ladies arrived at the church, hair and makeup done, but in their comfortable street clothes and ready to place a lunch order for delivery. Meanwhile, I grabbed all of Sally’s bridal details to photograph them, along with her stunning Bella Bianca gown.
Before getting into her gown, Sally read a note that Erik had written to her.
A quick walk up the street to the Pentacrest was the perfect spot for photos. Sally & Erik shared their first look and then we breezed right into the rest of the photos before the ceremony began.
He pulled her in and whispered something in her ear and I care about nothing but her amazing reaction to whatever he said.
I adore this color combination and their bridal party made for the most wonderful photos!
Sally’s grandfather walked her down the aisle and it was the sweetest moment to start the ceremony.
After the ceremony, we headed over to the new Hancher Auditorium for their reception. The space is beautiful, a stunning feat of architecture, and it made for the most wonderful views. I will always and always take floor to ceiling windows, white walls, and beautiful architectural lines.
The reception was held on the second floor, but before guests went up for dinner, they enjoyed cocktail hour down below.
I pulled them out of the reception for a few minutes to both grab sunset photos as well as some extra photos of them outside of Hancher.
Sally & Erik, it was an honor to spend your wedding day with you. I hope these images provide you with the most beautiful memories of the happiest day of your lives.