Their original wedding date was May 30, 2020. When the pandemic hit, wedding couples everywhere started sifting their way through uncharted waters, making decisions based on moving data and ever-changing information and rules. Jessica & Chase made the difficult decision to move their date to August (thinking, as most of us did, that things will be better by now), but May 30th was special to them and so, even as they announced their date change, they planned a secret backyard ceremony for their original date.
Jessica is not only one of my brides, but first, a personal friend so it was doubly special to me to be part of so many special dates: their engagement photos, a bridal shower, change-the-date photos, a secret wedding, and, two days ago, their big wedding (photos coming soon)! The only people who knew about their May 30th nuptials were those of us who were there. (They made the first announcement to those who were at the rehearsal dinner this past Friday night and then, to everyone else, at the start of the ceremony on Saturday.) I’ve kept these photos hidden for 3 months and I’m so excited to finally share these photos from Jess & Chase’s official wedding date, their first of two weddings in one year!
May 9th was their original wedding date. Because of COVID-19, they were forced to reschedule so they sent out mailings for everyone to save their new date. Early last week, they were notified by their venue that they were going to be forced to cancel the second, rescheduled date. Now anyone who has planned a wedding in regular circumstances may remember how stressful that was. Imagine planning a wedding in the midst of the ever-shifting unknowns of a worldwide pandemic. When Olivia and Malachi were notified about the cancellation and thus having to reschedule to a third date and a new venue, they decided to go back to the beginning and get married on their original wedding date, May 9, 2020.
With the help of Brenda (Town or Country Event Design) and some other wonderful helpers behind the scenes, they were able to pull off a stunning spring wedding on the outdoor lawn at the very place they met and later got engaged, the University of Iowa College of Dentistry. They were in the same class (and just graduated last week!) and were randomly assigned to be partners. Being paired up meant they were each other’s first patient. Malachi says “the rest is history”, but I doubt it’s as easy as doing a dental cleaning and then falling in love. They started dating the summer following that first year of dental school and Malachi proposed last May.
“It was literally the most perfect, planned out day. I had no idea,” Olivia said. “A year ago, the College did a story on Malachi and he told me they were doing a follow up story. The school even emailed me asking to be his mock patient for the interview as a photographer would be there. They added that we could pick any unit, and so we, of course, picked the unit 10 where we first met. We met the photographer, had the unit all set up, and then after a few staged pictures, he sat me up in the chair and was holding the most beautiful engagement ring, telling me, ‘You know how I told that the first person I say “I love you” to, I am going to marry?’ And (that is when I knew) he looked at me and said, ‘Liv, I love you. Will you marry me?’”
Malachi had been planning the proposal for 4 months. No one knew and he designed the ring himself and wanted it to be a complete surprise. “I just kept telling her we would wait until May of our 4th year.” (Which is now when they actually got getting married!) Olivia laughed, “Honestly, I couldn’t pay Malachi any amount of money to use a planner, or even follow a weekly schedule, but he outdid himself planning the engagement.”
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, they had to scale back their guest list. They ended up with less than 10 people in attendance and kept it a complete surprise from the rest of their family and friends. They actually announced it later that night using a few of these photos, like, hey, you’ll never guess what we did today!
Being part of such an intimate wedding was, in short, magical. I love that my job is to preserve the moments for generations to come, but it’s an added level of magic when my job isn’t just to preserve memories, but to provide a way for the many, many friends and family who weren’t there to experience it with them.
Completely unknown to each other, they had long tailgated in the same lot, had a bunch of mutual friends, and grew up going to the same places. It wasn’t until one of Taylor’s friend got ahold of her phone and decided to send a friend request to “a cute guy” on Facebook that their worlds collided. “I was sitting at work when I got a Facebook message saying, ‘Did we meet this weekend in Des Moines and I just don’t remember? I feel like I would definitely remember if I met you.’ I opened that message and was so confused. Who is this guy and why is he messaging me?! Then I saw the notification that said “Stanley accepted your friend request.” My what?! Nooo, I did no such thing!” Taylor says. But despite the little prank of a friend request, they kept the conversation going and soon found out all of their could’ve-met moments in life!
It wasn’t until they had already been talking for quite some time and hung out a few times that they realized they should probably go on their first official date. Taylor describes that first date. “That night, I realized the true depth of our relationship. I knew I enjoyed talking with him, he made me laugh, and I could see a great relationship with him, but it wasn’t until that moment that I realized I truly needed this person in my life. He made me feel at peace with who I was and where our relationship was going.”
“Talking to her and being with each other in the moments came super easy so I was never too nervous after the first time we met so each time after that I just felt at ease and everything came so easily,” Stanley adds. Stanley proposed this past August with a sweet proposal that brought their relationship full circle. “Over the last few years we had started going to FryFest in Coralville on the Friday before the Hawkeyes opening game, so it had kind of become a tradition. On the day leading up to it and on the ride down from Cedar Falls, we had talked a lot about our friends and everyone around us getting engaged lately. I had purposely tried to throw her off the track that I planned on proposing soon. After getting down to FryFest, we went right in and I was somewhat stressed out because we were late getting there.
“So I hurried us around the booths in the convention center and she was starving at the time and needed to get something to eat from one of the vendors outside. After hustling her up to get some food, I told her I wanted to go drive by Kinnick Stadium and take a look. (It was a bad excuse at the time, but I was flustered and just needed some reason for us to go get in the truck and start driving to where I planned on proposing.) She was thrown off by this and confused since the plan was to watch the concert and enjoy the activities surrounding Fry Fest. After getting in the car I drove straight to Myrtle Lot, which is where we have always tailgated and has become a really special spot for us. After getting there I told her I was just planning on turning around in the parking lot and she was getting upset since the people taking money to park in the lot were there and collecting money to get into the lot. I was able to get in and I parked the truck. After driving over to the spot where I had kissed her a few years prior in the very beginning of our relationship, I got out and asked her if she thought this was that spot and she thought it was. So I pulled out a chalk stick and wrote our initials down on the concrete. She thought that it was really cute, but I don’t think she realized that I was about to propose because she had started to turn to head back to the truck so I had to grab her hand and stopped her. That’s when I got down on a knee to propose.”
“I cried a lot of happy, ugly tears,” Taylor says. “But I made sure I said yes through all of the blubbering!”
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.
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.”