Jessica + Tyler || Atlanta Wedding

I was speaking to a dear friend this week about my love for photographing weddings. It’s not only because I love documenting rites of passage or pretty things, but because weddings put pressure on normal relationships, and while this sounds like a negative it gives opportunity for those relationships to shine. Deep roots are revealed that are normally hidden under bustle of everyday life, and while it is cliche, true colors are shown. There is always the friend who becomes the ride or die bridesmaid, the one that usually is in the background. But not today. Today, she is on mission and it shines bright. There’s the family member who is stressed about the schedule, the Uncle who brought along his camera and inevitably jumps in front of me during a crucial moment, and of course the wedding coordinator who is either best friend or foe. And then there is the bride looking her best on what is supposed to be the happiest day of her life. But my first glimpse of her is before that. I arrive when hair and makeup isn’t complete, before the layers of lace and finishing spritzes of hairspray. I need to arrive early but even if I didn’t I would want to, because at that moment the bride is simply herself. A transformation is about to happen, but seeing each bride before this occurs reminds me that this is a person who today is a bride, but tomorrow will be a wife. She won’t look like a bride or wear her wedding dress everyday, her character is what will make her truly lovely for years to come.

All of the above describes a typical wedding day, but Jessica and Tyler’s was anything but typical. Rarely have I gotten to walk beside a family so closely in the months leading up to the wedding as I have with Jessica’s family.

Last August my dear friends Jessica and Jeremiah’s sister, Mikela reached out to me about photographing a birthday party. Their mother Jana was turning 60 and all nine of her children were going to be in the same place for the first time in five years and they wanted to document it. Being from a family of ten kids, I loved the idea of capturing such a special day. It was set for September 3 and although I was going to be in Texas that weekend, we came back early to make it work. The birthday party came, and I met Jana that evening. I was immediately touched by her warmth. She graduated with her BSN at 55, and we spoke about my husband Elvis discouragement after failing a nursing school class, and she, laughing, told me how of all the classes she took the one she failed was Obstetrics, after having nine children! I immediately knew she was a kindred spirit. That evening I watched those who loved her most, and saw why.  She sat holding various grandkids throughout the evening, but all of the little people there were like magnets to her. She seemed to be the kind of person who treated children like people, and they in turn respected and loved her for it.

We took photos in the garden during golden hour and it was perfect. Such a fitting backdrop as the fruit of Jana’s life gave testimony in her children. I stayed long after the session was over, watching her open her birthday gifts. I observed the way she paused after each gift to thank the giver and knew that was her way of making each of her children know they were special to her. I visited with Jeremiah’s sister Jessica, was planning her wedding for April, and we chatted about the possibility of me coming to Atlanta to photograph it. When I left they were pulling out the card table for a family game night. I hadn’t ever heard of that game and sent my family group text a quick message on the way home to tell them about it. I remember the drive home vividly. My heart sang all the way as I thought about just how rich that family was and how sweet it was to watch them cherish each other. I told Elvis all about it, and how much they reminded me of my family. We both had six boys, they had three sisters, and we had four. 

September 21
Two weeks and four days later,  I got a call from Jess. I knew something was wrong right away, and I’ll never forget her taking a deep breath and just starting in with, “There’s no easy way to say this...” She went on to tell me that Jana had suddenly passed away. They were working on plans for a service and needed the birthday photos if possible for a slideshow. I was stunned. I got off the phone in tears and went right to the computer. I went back to my original cards and looked at every single one while blinking back tears and thinking about how if it were my mother I would have wanted to see every moment, blurry, or imperfect.

I attended Jana's memorial service that week and watched her children respond in faith. They worshipped despite their grief, and loved well despite pain. I left feeling even more connected with the family. I was pregnant and expecting a baby in late January, Jessica’s wedding date was late April, exactly three months after my fourth born would arrive, and my husband was not sure if I should sign up for it. It would be a lot, flying to Atlanta, taking a newborn, he would be in nursing school finals—there were a lot of unknowns. But in the end I could not rest with the thought of not being there for that wedding. I prayed and prayed and was so thankful to be able to commit to Jessica and Tyler’s day. 

I say all of this to communicate the context for these photos. Had I simply waltzed in that morning, having not walked through the above last fall I would have missed so much. I wouldn’t have known that the bride’s sister in law and brother were the officiants. I would have overlooked the significance of her older sister and Jana’s sister giving her away. I wouldn’t have been watching for the emotion in these relationships, and I would have been unsure sure how to respond to the joy and the tears that flooded the entire day. I wouldn’t have known the reason behind the butterflies tucked into the flowers. Seeing them there wouldn’t have brought back memories of the memorial where I listened to an original song written by Jana’s daughter-in-law in memory of her. I wouldn’t have thought to take a photo of the siblings as each of them came up in birth order to dance with the bride in lieu of her parents. But I did know, and I cried with them.

When I arrived that day to begin photographing, Jessica was fresh faced, hugging her maternal grandmother while clutching a box of tissues. I’ve seen many brides on many wedding day mornings, but she was truly radiant in character. She faced the day with strength and selflessness. She loved fiercely and all of the relationships that are normally highlighted on a wedding day were brought to light through tears and laughter—grief coupled with great joy.

"O Joy, that seekest me through pain,

I cannot close my heart to Thee;

I trace the rainbow through the rain,

And feel the promise is not vain

That morn shall tearless be.”

Jessica and Tyler, I pray that these photos be a reminder to you throughout your marriage, of the strong foundation it was built upon, that they encourage you to keep building upon it, through each storm and each joy. Thank you for the honor of photographing it. Tyler, your love for your sweet family and your care for those around you was so evident, I am so happy for you both. May God bless you both.

Sarah + Alex || Wedding at Brookside Farm

"As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
    so will your God rejoice over you."

        Sarah and Alex's wedding at Brookside Farm was absolutely dear to my heart from the first moment to the last. I knew this was going to be the case from the initial email inquiry I received from Sarah. Every detail of the day was perfect and displayed not only the love that Sarah and Alex share, but their mutual love for Christ. With twenty-four wedding attendants, the day is sure to be fun, and everyone was super happy to be there, even on a hot summer day! 
        Some weddings I enter as a stranger and exit as a friend. These are always my favorite, and this one was no exception.

Sarah and Alex, thank you so much for trusting me with documenting your wedding day. It was such an honor and I loved getting to know you both and your families! God's blessings upon you both as you begin you new adventures together! Felicitari! 

Sophie + Jason | Bohemian Wedding - Ft Worth Botanical Gardens

"It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.”
                                                         -Vincent Van Gogh

Sophie and I have been friends since we were born, and ever since we were planning our future weddings while watching Star Wars, in between our misadventures where I usually got us both into trouble, I knew that her wedding was going to be something special (Fun fact: Sophie has always threatened to be a bridezilla, but just as I expected, she wasn't deserving of the title in the least). And it certainly was. Sophie and Jason's day was absolutely lovely, complimenting their personalities perfectly. Sophie is a textile artist, and she wove the beautiful backdrop for the ceremony (Follow her on instagram to see more of her beautiful work!), after seeing it in person I decided that I need a piece of art like that in my life. It is absolutely exquisite! And speaking of exquisite, let's just talk about her gown for a moment, shall we? Her custom Game of Thrones inspired gown was probably the most unique wedding gown I have ever photographed. Their day was full of sweet details that were meaningful to their relationship. They both wrote their own vows, and Jason's vows were absolutely tear-jerking. I loved watching Jason interact with Sophie throughout the day. It was evident to everyone just how much he cares for her. 
 A lot of photographers prefer not to photograph weddings of those closest to them, but I must say that this sort is always my favorite. Every time. Without fail, these weddings are dear to my heart, their images resonating in ways that never fail to catch me off guard. And for that reason, remind me to start packing tissues in my lens bag. 
Sophie and Jason, thank you both so much for allowing me to take part in your day, and thank you for being SO patient to finally see these! I hope you love them as much as I do, and I hope that they will be a reminder to you throughout a lifetime of good and not so good days of the sweet beginning you shared. May God bless you both as you begin this next big adventure! 

Meggan + Iosif | New Jersey Wedding

"As I slipped into my wedding gown and readied myself to walk the aisle, I let my eyes wander out the window of the Victorian sitting room where I'd been getting ready. I'd noticed him then, walking across the street, nervous joy filling his face. He didn't know I saw him, but it was this moment that filled my heart with utmost gratefulness. To be his wife would be my greatest honor and covenanting my life to him before God, our family and friends, both here and abroad, would be my deepest joy. My heart was at peace as I slipped my arm into my father's hold and walked the dew laden grass to meet my groom. To become one with this man, my dear husband, is now my lifelong joy."

The history that precedes Meggan and Iosif's wedding day is not only beautiful, it is dear to my heart, as it rings closely to my own. Meggan and Iosif met in the hills of Northern Romania. She, a missionary caring for orphans and young mothers, and he, a pastoral student at the Romanian Baptist University. All of the right boxes were checked for an obviously perfect love story except one. Iosif didn't speak english. Needless to say, that didn't stop him from being captivated by Meggan's authentic beauty and infectious laughter. And it didn't stop Meggan's heart from skipping a beat when his eyes met hers either. Fast forward a few months, and they were inseperable, communicating better than could be imagined through Iosif's budding english skills and Meg's knowledge of the Romanian language. Although their wedding took place near Meg's home in Bordentown, NJ, their love is ultimately rooted in ministry to the Romanian people. Their day embodied the simple, classic beauty that Meggan exhibits daily. Meggan is an artist, the type of person that sees and grabs hold of beauty around her, simply yet purposefully. Her day was nothing short of this. It was not only a joyful celebration, but a celebration highlighting and cherishing simple joys, found in life, and in the details. 

Meg si Iosif, nu am cuvintele suficient pentru iubere tale. Multumesc, a fost onorarea mea sa fii cu voi pe ziua voastri special! Eu, si familia mea vrea tot binecuvatarele pentru familia voastra! Suntem bucurosi ca sunteti prietenii noastri. (Am scris asta fara ajutor de la Elvis, si woooow, tre sa fac mai mult practica! Tre sa venim la Romania, nu?) Va Iubim, si Dumnezeu sa va binecuvinteze casa voastri, si familia noa voastri!

Venue | Private family estate - Bordentown, NJ
Floral | Jenna Rayesky Floral Studio
Gowns | BHLDN
Groom's Suit | JOS A. Bank
Food | Rosa's Catering
Cake | Nino's Pastry Shop
Hair | BloOut Lounge
Makeup | Brianna Amantia
Wooden Doors/Table | Matt Thomas


Nikki + Steve | Royce City, Texas Wedding Photographer

On April 8, 2017 I had driven to Dallas to photograph a wedding that I knew would be dear to my heart. I have known Nikki probably since I was in 7th or 8th grade. She has always been a joy to call my friend. In fact, it was Nikki who really influenced my love of portrait photography when I grabbed her camera to take a photo of her at a homeschool banquet. (See that photo HERE in my story!) That image I took of her is largely what propelled me into a decade long love of portraiture. For that, I owe her a great many thanks indeed. So, when she contacted me to photograph her wedding, I was absolutely on board. Nikki is a sign language interpreter for Dallas Community Colleges, and just another fun fact, she doesn't care for shoe wearing and lives life practically shoe-less. So when I asked her what kind of shoes she was planning on wearing, she laughed and said, "You know I'm not going to be wearing shoes at my wedding!" And she didn't. Nikki honored her grandmother by wearing her original wedding gown, and it was absolutely stunning! Steve and Nikki also constructed an AMAZING book arch, which I may very well steal from them at some point. Their day was lovely, full of genuine smiles, people, and love. It was a day full of people who cared for them both, the perfect beginning.
Nikki and Steve, it was such a blessing for me to be with you on your happy day. And it was just that, a happy day. I don't know when I have seen such unabashed joy between a bride and groom together. It was positively contagious. God bless you both on your new adventure!