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wedding

Miracles

September 1, 2018 was a beautiful day for a wedding for William and Victoria! After a very long, dry summer in Central Texas, the area suddenly began receiving rain. Isolated showers were in the forecast and the clouds began to build, but the clouds parted which gave way for the sun to shine brightly for their outdoor ceremony at the Knob Creek Chapel in Temple, Texas.

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Victoria and William met online and had their first date on January 16, 2015 at the Farm House Restaurant in Mexia, Texas. After dinner the two laid under the stars in a pasture as they listened to music and enjoyed each others company.

They continued to get to know each other over the next few months and then something unexpected happened. On July 7, 2015, at the young age of 22, William had a brain aneurysm. He was in a coma for two weeks in the Intensive Care Unity at Temple Baylor Scott and White Memorial. Slowly he healed by the grace of God, family support and the dedication from the medical staff.

After nearly a month, on Victoria’s birthday, William spoke for the first time since the aneurysm. William told Victoria that he loved her! One week later he was discharged to Austin Neurological Rehabilitation where William had to learn how to walk, talk, write and eat again since he lost the ability to do these activities after he suffered multiple strokes from his brain injury.

In October of 2015 William finally returned home. Each day he continues to improve. He now attends Texas State Technical College and is enrolled in the Aviation Mechanics Program. Victoria was inspired to become a nurse so she enrolled in the McLennan Communtiy College Nursing Program. She graduated in May of 2018 and now works at Baylor Scott and White Hillcrest in Waco.

William proposed on June 3, 2017 outside of Leakey, Texas by the Frio River in front of the mountains. Victoria would soon become a stepmother to William’s five year old daughter, Alaya, and she couldn’t wait! Victoria says that Alaya is a blessing to both of them and it is a true blessing to have her in their lives.

William and Victoria continue to further their education and commitment to each other…and to Alaya.

Special thanks to Angela Bailey with Angela Bailey Photography for assisting me in capturing the special details and memories on this extraordinary day!

Names Carved in a Tree

August 4, 2018 was a very hot day, like most days in August in Central Texas.  But this particular day was very important!  This particular day was the day that Kelsey and Hunter would say, "I do," in Palmer, Texas.

Kelsey and Hunter

Kelsey and Hunter

It all started with a simple introduction by Kelsey's sister.  Hunter asked for her number and they began talking.  Soon after this initial meeting, Hunter showed up at Kelsey's workplace one afternoon and said that he wanted to give her a ride home from work.  Kelsey told him that she would like that and she returned to work to finish her shift.  

At the end of her shift, Hunter was there to pick her up.  He said they had to go out to eat dinner first before he took her home.  They had an amazing meal together where they enjoyed each other's company.  After dinner they went to spend some time at Lake Clark, where they continued to learn about each other.

As time went on, Kelsey and Hunter fell in love and continued to visit Lake Clark.  It became "their" spot, which they marked by carving their initials into one of the trees.  Eventually Hunter decided it was time to "pop the question."  But where would he propose?

You guessed it!  He proposed to Kelsey at Lake Clark in front of the tree where they carved their initials.  The same tree where they had their first kiss.  And the same tree where he told her that he loved her for the first time.  It was absolutely perfect!  Kelsey and Hunter were engaged!

When their wedding day arrived, they were both excited - yet nervous at the same time.  Their wedding was simple and beautiful!  But they said the best part of the entire wedding day was relaxing with each other after the wedding was over.

Coslin Wedding, August 4, 2018

Coslin Wedding, August 4, 2018

When I asked Kelsey if she had any advice for couples that were planning their wedding day, she jokingly replied, "Don't do it!  Elope!" as she laughed.  

Plan realistically. Give yourself plenty of time to plan and save.
— Kelsey

Vendors

Ceremony Venue:  J Bar C Cowboy Church, Palmer, Texas

Reception Venue:  Coslin Party Barn

Florist:  Jessica Land (Hunter's sister)

Cake Artist:  Renaissance Cake

Make-Up Artist:  Katie Durham

Hair Artist:  Katie Durham

Bridal Gown:  David's Bridal

Officiant:  Charley David

Stationary:  Cheryl Rogers

Better Today

Zach and Harlee said, "I Do," on July 7th, 2018 in Groesbeck, Texas at the Groesbeck Convention Center on a day dotted with isolated thunderstorms that completely cleared out by the time of their ceremony.

Meeting you was fate. Becoming your friend was a choice. But falling in love with you was beyond my control.
— unknown

Zach and Harlee met through work.  Harlee told me that meeting Zach was that day was the "craziest thing" since it was during an intubation.  Harlee works at the local hospital and Zach is a paramedic.  After this crazy meeting, she told her coworkers that the she thought he was SO cute!  

Fast forward a few weeks and these two saw each other yet again at a local convenience store.  They talked a little bit and decided to hang out with each other that night - nothing fancy, just sitting around a fire at Zach's house where they literally talked about everything until 3:00 in the morning.  As the night progressed, a horrible storm came in and Zach invited Harlee to stay the night rather than driving home in the storm.  Zach gave Harlee his bed while he slept on the couch.  That morning he woke Harlee up with an amazing breakfast complete with French Toast, bacon and eggs.  

Harlee told me that this "date" wasn't a typical first date, but nonetheless this was their first date and she had a tremendous amount of respect for Zach after this date because he treated her with respect by watching out for her during the storm and taking care of her as well.  

That December Zach proposed.  They went to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas and during one of the days they decided to get on a bus to take a helicopter tour.  The helicopter took them on a trip over the Grand Canyon.  During this trip Zach pulled out his phone and asked Harlee to watch a video.  The video was a video of his three children asking Harlee to be their stepmom.  It was the sweetest thing she ever saw!  Zach then showed Harlee a ring and asked her to be his wife.

Harlee's bridal session

Harlee's bridal session

I first met Harlee at her bridal session where I learned a lot about her, however I did not meet Zach at this time.  I knew he had to be someone special because it was obvious that Harlee adored him!  When I first met Zach at the wedding, he was extremely calm and almost always had a smile on his face.  Seeing Zach and Harlee together was a beautiful thing, but what made it even more beautiful was seeing Zach and Harlee together with Zach's three children.  They each looked at Harlee so lovingly throughout the entire wedding day, especially during the ceremony!  Harlee expressed how much she loved Zach's children when she told me that when when she married Zach she also took on a huge commitment of parenting as well.  She now has three beautiful children that she loves with everything within her!

Mr. and Mrs. Barkouskie with their three children.

Mr. and Mrs. Barkouskie with their three children.

I am always in awe at each and every wedding (and this wedding was no exception).  Every wedding is completely different.  Every wedding has a different feeling about it.  Every interaction between the bride and groom is different.  During the ceremony, Zach and Harlee symbolized their bond with a Unity Braid Cross.  These can be purchased online, however Harlee's father made it for them.  In fact, he made many of their decorations for the wedding.  There was so much meaning behind all the details!

Unity Braid Cross made by Harlee's father

Unity Braid Cross made by Harlee's father

Always keep God in your relationship. Choose to love each other even when you struggle to like one another. Always make time for one another, even when it seems impossible. Surround yourself with friends that will support your relationship and strengthen it. Learn to listen to understand, not just to respond. Put old relationships in the past, and don’t compare it to y’alls relationship. And never keep secrets or lie to one another.
— Zach and Harlee Barkouskie
Mr. and Mrs. Barkouskie

Mr. and Mrs. Barkouskie

Harlee and Zach, I always find a song to dedicate to newlyweds.  Finding your song made me really think!  I wanted to find a song that talked about the love for you two have for each other, but I wanted something that went above and beyond that - a song that could also depict the love that you both have for your children.  I listened to song after song, but none of them felt right until I stumbled upon this one.  It was completely new to me!  I played it over and over, just to make sure that it was "the one."  And it definitely is "THE ONE!"  Harlee and Zach, I hope you always remember that you are each "Better Today" because you have one another in your lives each and every day, and even more so because you are blessed with three beautiful children each and every day.  

Special thanks to Angela Bailey with Angela Bailey Photography for assisting me in capturing the special details and memories on this extraordinary day!

Vendors

Ceremony and Reception:  Groesbeck Convention Center

Coordinator:  Glenda Bennett (mother of the bride that did an EXCEPTIONAL job)

Florist:  Penny Lenamon at Rusty Rose Flower Shop in Groesbeck, Texas

Cake Artist:  LaNei Cadenhead at Butter Cup Bakery in Centerville, Texas

DJ:  Colby Blacknall

Makeup Artist:  Shelby Ellison (sister of the bride)

Hair Artist:  Meredith McClinton, Hubbard, Texas

Bridesmaids Dresses:  Georgio's Bridal

Bridal Gown:  David's Bridal

Tuxes:  Bealls

Officiant:  Clint Mello (ordained/uncle)

Invitations:  Shutterfly and Walmart

Security:  Limestone County Sheriff's Department

This Is It

Keith and Karen said, "I do," on June 16th, 2018 at the First Baptist Church in West, Texas with a reception immediately following the ceremony at Cottonwood Hall, also in West, Texas.  The church was absolutely beautiful, complete with stained glass windows!  And Cottonwood Hall was the perfect venue for the reception with a large dance floor and bar.  

Keith and Karen met each other at the beach while they were both on vacation.  They were introduced by a mutual friend, Tina (also the matron of honor).  Neither one was looking for a relationship, but they were encouraged to meet on a friend level rather than a relationship level.  They ended up exchanging numbers and reluctantly arranged a first date hiking and searching for fossils in a creek bed.  It was such an adventure...literally!  They encountered a snake and a hornet's nest complete with four stings on that first date!  Keith asked Karen to go on a second date.  This time they would go...fishin'.  They've been seeking adventures, fishing, and just enjoying spending time with each other every since.  

Exactly one year later, Keith proposed while they were on a family vacation at the exact same beach where they first met each other.  They were surrounded by all of Keith's family.  Keith and Karen were officially ENGAGED!!

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Keith and Karen love spending time outdoors together, going on adventures and fishing.  Their honeymoon was actually a fishing trip to Rockport, Texas where they caught lots of trout and red fish.  That is a trip that definitely fits their personalities!  After all, Keith's ring is actually made with fishing line!

Keith's ring is actually made with fishing line!

Keith's ring is actually made with fishing line!

As we photographed the wedding and captured special moments between them we quickly noticed that they were always surrounded by family.  They have such an amazing support system with wonderful role models!  The way that Keith and Karen look at each other is something from a fairy tale.  It is difficult to describe, but can be felt by everyone around them.  They have so much love and respect for one another.  

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June 16th was not just Keith and Karen's wedding day.  June 16th was also Keith's parents wedding day 45 years earlier!  I was not aware of this until the ceremony when Tommy and Sara were asked to stand by Keith and Karen.  

Tommy and Sara being recognized for 45 years of marriage.

Tommy and Sara being recognized for 45 years of marriage.

Forty-five years!  That is such a commitment of love!  Tommy later told me that they have been through it all - richer and poorer, sickness and health, better and worse - and every single bit of it was (and continues to be) worth it.  Such an inspiration!  Keith and Karen even included them in the reception with a cake to celebrate their anniversary, the original cake topper from their wedding cake 45 years ago, a jar for anniversary wishes, and a special dance for them.  I have to admit, it made me tear up!  

Tommy and Sara celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary.

Tommy and Sara celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary.

You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.
— Desmond Tutu
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Keith and Karen, as I captured special memories of your beautiful wedding day I was deeply touched by the fact that you have an AMAZING family that surrounds you both and supports you both.  While this was beautifully amazing, what was even more amazing was that you both appreciated this rather than taking it for granted.  You truly do have something special.  

A special THANK YOU to Angela Bailey with Angela Bailey Photography for assisting me in capturing the beautiful memories from Keith and Karen's wedding day!  

Vendors

Ceremony Venue:  First Baptist Church, West

Reception Venue:  Cottonwood Hall, West

Coordinator:  Ann Marie Dennis

Florist:  Michele’s house of Flowers, West

Cake Artist: Jennifer Sulak Gerik, Hillsboro 

Band/DJ: DJ Michael G, West 

Make-Up Artist:  Brenna (personal friend), Houston 

Hair Artist:  Basy from Salon Posh, Waco

Bridesmaids Dresses:  David’s Bridals 

Bridal Gown:  JoAnns Bridals 

Tuxes:  Squires 

Officiant:  Shea Gutierrez, Elm Mott

You're Still the One

On Saturday, May 26, 2018, Brooke and James made each other a promise in front of their family and friends - a promise to love each other forever.  

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Brooke and James were married on a rather warm and sunny day in Thornton, Texas at the new Thornton Civic Center.  Their wedding was actually the first wedding to take place there and everything was absolutely perfect!  Brooke stated that the venue was so much better than she expected and I must say that I completely agree with her.  The lighting in the building is incredible!  There is so much natural light that pours in through the windows and completely fills the very neutral colored space.  I LOVE the way the city of Thornton used parts from the old Thornton School building in their new civic center!  

The new Thornton Civic Center

The new Thornton Civic Center

James and Brooke first met when they were high school students at Groesbeck High School in Groesbeck, Texas.  James was a junior and Brooke was a freshman.  Brooke was dating James's best friend when they first met, however after a few months that high school relationship ended.  James and Brooke soon began dating.  Their first "official" date was going to a high school play that school year.  This date led to many more wonderful dates over the years.

Eventually, James decided to propose to Brooke in the driveway of the house he grew up in at Old Fort Parker State Park.  But this wasn't his original plan.  His plan was to actually propose to Brooke down by the water at the lake, but there was a problem.  There was construction going on at the state park and they were in the process of building a new boat ramp at this time so James had to improvise.  The driveway would have to do!  

James had a white Chevrolet pickup truck in high school and still to this day he owns and drives this truck.  After all, it is his baby!  James picked up Brooke on this particular day and drove to the driveway.  He got out of the truck, ran to the front of the truck and opened the hood.  Brooke had no idea what he was doing so she waiting in the truck patiently for James to finish looking at this truck.  He finally walked back to the driver's side of the truck and leaned over to kiss Brooke...and then proposed!  Brooke was completely surprised and answered, "YES," without hesitation!

From the minute I met Brooke and James, I could tell they loved each other and were completely comfortable around each other.  They were both very laid back and nothing seemed to stress them out at all.  After years of high school and the years after high school, they are still so in love and respect each other.  The way they look at each other is truly breathtaking!

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Love is when you look into someone’s eyes, and suddenly, you go all the way inside, to their soul...and you both know, instantly.
— unknown

Family is very important to both Brooke and James and so it was vital that they were included in the details of the wedding day.  Brooke's mom and cousins made the cakes and cupcakes.  The cake stand was truly unique!  It was a custom, one of a kind, cake stand made from pieces of wood that was built by Brooke's cousin.  All of the wood that was used throughout the wedding (cake stand, guest book, table decor, etc) came from their family land near Bremond and Kosse.  They will truly be keepsakes for generations to come!

Custom wood pieces built by family using wood on their family land.

Custom wood pieces built by family using wood on their family land.

Do what you want. Don’t let anyone tell you that you have to do this or that. It is your wedding day and you can do what you want.”
— James and Brooke Davey

Brooke and James, I have a wedding wish for you.  Love is best when shared.  Together you are stronger because together you are ONE.  Here's to a happily every after!  Thank you for allowing me to capture some of the memories from your beautiful wedding day!

Special thanks to Angela Bailey and Angela Bailey Photography for assisting me in capturing the beautiful memories from Brooke and James's wedding day!

Vendor Credits

  • Venue:  City of Thornton - Thornton Civic Center, Thornton, Texas - Kenny and Pam Capps
  • Cake Artist:  Jennifer Lloyd (mom) and Jamie McCaleb (cousin)
  • Make-up and Hair Artist:  Vanessa Coatney (sister)
  • Bridesmaids Dresses:  Pat's Gowns, Waco, Texas
  • Bridal Gown:  David's Bridal, Waco, Texas
  • Officiant:  Ricky Joe Waller, First Baptist Church, Kosse, Texas

 

...and they lived HAPPILY ever after

I love weddings!  Each and every wedding I have photographed over the past three years has been completely different.  No two weddings have been the same.  The details are all different even though they might be the same in theme.  Each ceremony "feels" different.  I'm not sure how to explain this aspect of a wedding since it's just something one experiences.  Some feel more serious, while others feel more casual.  

I first met Brittany and Andrew in October of 2016 when we met in Hillsboro, Texas for their engagement session.  I knew their wedding was going to be very special based on their interactions with one another at this session.  I'll never look at a fire truck the same way again!

"Burning Love" by Elvis Presley

On October 7, 2017 I photographed the wedding of Brittany and Andrew at The Eagle Historic Warehouse in Hillsboro, Texas.  During the entire event, I couldn't help but smile.  There was so much happiness!  It just felt...different.  As the evening progressed, I had a conversation with the other photographer, Angela, and we actually discussed how HAPPY everyone was.  They smiled...a lot!  They laughed...a lot!  And they loved...a lot!  

The secret to a happy marriage is to choose LOVE everyday.
— unknown
The bride and groom showing off their FUN personalities before their wedding!

The bride and groom showing off their FUN personalities before their wedding!

More laughs by the happy couple!

More laughs by the happy couple!

I absolutely LOVED the cake images!  These images sum up their relationship perfectly!  Always having fun and laughing.

I absolutely LOVED the cake images!  These images sum up their relationship perfectly!  Always having fun and laughing.

It's official!  Game over.

It's official!  Game over.

Special thanks to Angela Bailey with Angela Bailey Photography for assisting in capturing the memories of the Raley Wedding.

Jessica and Matt's Love Story

Jessica and Matt...soul mates.  

Some people believe in love at first sight.  Others believe in the idea of soul mates.  Jessica and Matt are soul mates.

Jessica and Matt

Jessica and Matt

I've photographed their family on multiple occasions over the past few years and when they asked me to photograph their wedding on August 12, 2017 I was honored...and surprised!  Surprised because I honestly thought they were already married!  

Jessica and Matt's love story began with an online dating service, Christian Mingle.  Matt's profile said he lived in Waco, Texas and he caught Jessica's eye.  She's been hurt in the past so she was cautiously, yet optimistically, looking for her Prince Charming.  They began talking on the phone and she realized that he did not live in Waco after all, he was actually living in Wisconsin where he was born and raised.  Jessica admits that at that moment she thought to herself, "Great, I finally meet someone that seems nice and normal and I've actually been catfished."  But Matt was not being deceitful.  In fact, he said he lived in Waco because he was moving to Waco in the near future as he already put in a job transfer to the Waco area.  He originally wanted to move to Waco to be closer to his two daughters.  Meeting Jessica was just one more reason to make the move.

Before Matt was transferred to Waco, he spoke to Jessica daily for several months.  Both of them explain their relationship as a "good friendship."  

Matt eventually moved to Waco and Jessica helped him get situated into his new place.  She helped him unpack and get him settled into his duplex.  Jessica even showed Matt around Waco.  She took the time out of her day to make sure he knew how to get to his office, as well as other places he would have to go to.  Matt admits that he couldn't believe how thoughtful she was during this time.  He found himself not being able to take his eyes off of her.  She was absolutely beautiful and he was mesmerized by her gorgeous smile.  He knew he was starting to fall in love.

Over time, Matt earned Jessica's trust and friendship.  Eventually he also earned her heart.

As time went on, Matt knew he wanted to ask Jessica for her hand in marriage.  He asked her three children for their blessing and with their approval, he began planning.  During their family vacation in Wisconsin, Matt would put his plan into action.  He gathered all the children onto one side of his parents house and he got down on one knee.  They all called for Jessica and when she walked to the side of the house, she said, "YES!"  

Jessica and Matt decided to take the engagement slow.  Neither one saw a need to rush into marriage.  That is until Jessica became ill.  She was hospitalized and Matt was her angel through the entire ordeal.  She realized that Matt was her Prince Charming and she didn't want to wait any longer to become Mrs. Leonardelli.  They began planning their perfect wedding.

The details of the wedding were absolutely stunning!  Everything was so thought out.  Jessica planned out everything meticulously and credits Google and Pinterest for all the ideas.  Everything worked with the venue, Castle Heights Bijoux Events Center, perfectly!

Jessica's favorite part of their wedding day was having her dad there to walk her down the aisle and hearing the vows Matt wrote to her, as well as saying her vows to Matt.  Matt's favorite part of their wedding day was also the vows.  

Quotes From the Bride and Groom

Ladies, wear waterproof mascara! You WILL cry!
— Mrs. Jessica Leonardelli
There’s a belief that soul mates are tied together by a cosmic string. One way or another, they will always find each other. From Wisconsin to Texas, our string pulled us together.
— Mr. Matt Leonardelli
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Special thanks to Angela Bailey with Angela Bailey Photography for assisting in capturing memories at Jessica and Matt's wedding on August 12, 2017.

Wedding Day Photography Timeline

We have several upcoming weddings and with that comes many questions from the bride concerning the timeline for certain photographs during the day.  So here it is....

How much time do we need for wedding day photographs?  Here is a rough guide to answer this question. 

  • Getting Ready:  30-45 minutes with both the guys and the girls.  I always stay with the bride and the second shooter always goes with the guys.  Some choose to skip photographing this time, but you can really get some great shots with lots of emotion!  
  • Bride and Bridesmainds/Groom and Groomsmen:  30 minutes, before the ceremony if possible.  Again, this is just one chunk of time since there are two photographers.  This time is great for getting many of the wedding party shots out of the way so guests don't have so long to wait for your arrival to the reception.  
  • First Look:  30 minutes with just the bride and groom, typically right before the ceremony begins.  The first look is completely optional.  Some couples like to keep things traditional and not see each other before the ceremony.  Either way is perfectly fine...it's YOUR day!  If you do decide on a first look, I highly recommend keeping this to just the couple.  Use this time to enjoy each other before the wedding ceremony.  The actual first look only takes about 10 minutes so you'll have plenty of time to have other photographs taken of you two as a couple.
  • Whole Wedding Party:  30 minutes if you've already taken the bride/bridesmaids and groom/groomsmen photographs earlier.  If not, you should plan for about 45 minutes here.  Again, this varies based on the number in the wedding party as well.
  • Immediate Family:  15 minutes, but this can vary based on how many groups you want to have photographed.  It typically takes one and a half minutes per small group and three minutes per large group.
  • Details:  Detail shots are taken throughout the day so we don't actually "plan" for those.  We just work those in as we can.  Often times we do these if we finish early with the getting ready photographs or even during the reception.

Now knowing this, when should you ask us to arrive?  I suggest you figure out what time the ceremony will start and then work your way through the suggested timeline above to ensure you have enough time for us to capture all the moments you'd like photographed on your wedding day.  Most of our clients opt for a "fake send off."  They are able to have the send off photographed, but then come back into the reception to continue enjoying the company of their guests.  This saves them money by not having a photographer stay the entire length of the reception, but ensuring that they capture all the big events from the day.  

Slow down and everything you are chasing will come around and catch you.
— John De Paola
Going To The Chapel Of Love By: The Dixie Cups

 

 

Meet Mr. and Mrs. Jackson!

Meet Spencer and Cheyenne Jackson.  They tied the knot on January 7th, 2017 at the historic Allen House in Marlin, Texas.  The Allen House was built in 1911 by Dr. Walter Hanz Allen and his wife Nettle Falconer Allen.  Today the house operates as a civic center and provides a unique atmosphere for weddings, receptions, retreats, and many other functions. If you'd like to learn more about the Allen House, you can read more here.    

The historic Allen House in Marlin, Texas.

The historic Allen House in Marlin, Texas.

Spencer and Cheyenne met at his brother’s wedding in 2015. A little over a year later, Spencer popped the question on a cliff at Circle Point in Cameron Park in Waco, Texas.  Cheyenne excitedly said, “YES!”

They had an eventful first date in Waco as they began to get to know one another over dinner, followed by a movie.  They ended their night with a little game that’s native to Wacoans – tortilla tossing off the suspension bridge at Indian Springs Park. 

Spencer and Cheyenne decided to have a small, intimate wedding on the front porch of the historic mansion lit by candles.  The wedding was at 6:00 pm so it was very dark outside, but the lights from the candles and porch lights cast a very romantic, candlelight for the ceremony.  Did I mention it was FREEZING?  It was seriously like 25 degrees outside!  The fact that it was so cold seemed irrelevant because the ceremony was so beautiful…a true love story.

Spencer and Cheyenne's wedding on the front porch of the Allen House.

Spencer and Cheyenne's wedding on the front porch of the Allen House.

A happy marriage is about three things: memories of togetherness, forgiveness of mistakes and a promise to never give up on each other.
— Sarabhi Surendra

I wish you both the very best!

5 Ways to Blend Families With Children at Weddings

Blended Families. Woven together by choice, strengthened together by love, tested by everything, and each uniquely ours.
— unknown

On November 5, 2016 I had the pleasure of photographing the wedding ceremony between Robert Hickman and Brandy Vincent.  This was much more than a wedding ceremony between a man and a woman that completely and utterly adore each other - this was also a union of a blended family.  

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You see, Robert has one son from a previous relationship and Brandy has two children, a daughter and a son, from a previous relationship.  I have known Robert for several years.  We first met when his son and my son played little league baseball together in Mart, Texas.  I later met Brandy through Robert at...you guessed it...through little league baseball!  From the very minute I saw Brandy, Robert, and the three children interacting, I knew they had something very special.  Something that not every blended family has - unconditional love for one another.  

blended_family_mart_texas_wedding

At the wedding rehearsal I wasn't shocked that their children were involved in the wedding ceremony.  Their two sons were groomsmen and their daughter was a bridesmaid.  But something else that happened made this a very emotional event for all of them!  During the rehearsal Brandy told her two children that THEY would be walking down the aisle to give her away during the ceremony!  I can't even begin to explain the emotions!  There were plenty of happy tears and even more hugs.  This very moment was the highlight of the entire wedding rehearsal.  

Throughout the entire wedding ceremony the children were included and I personally feel that including the children in the process helps them feel like they're part of the new family that is being created through the marriage.  Brandy and Robert did an excellent job at planning their wedding.  Everything was absolutely beautiful!  But the one thing that stood out to me was the way they used this ceremony to create a new family by including them in the blending process.  I came up with 5 ways to blend families with children at weddings.    

1.  If they are old enough to do so, let them help with the planning.  One way you can let your children help with planning the wedding is by letting them help pick some of the music for the reception.  Kids LOVE music!  Many girls also LOVE crafting!  If they do, let them help assemble decorations.  There are a gazillion ways your kiddos can help when it comes to planning the wedding.  You know your kids better than anyone else so give them a "job" and let them run with it.

2.  Let your children invite some of their friends to the wedding.  Being a part of a wedding as an adult can be stressful.  Being a part of a wedding as a child can be stressful as well.  If you let them invite their best friend, they will have their support system right there.  Obviously this is also dependent upon the age(s) of your children.  Having a friend there gives them someone to feel comfortable with...someone to talk to...dance with...and laugh with.

3.  Include the children in the actual wedding ceremony.  As I already mentioned, Brandy and Robert included all three of their children in the wedding ceremony.  It made them feel as if it was a family event rather than an event between the adults.  

children_giving_the_bride_away_blended_family_wedding

4.  Create an event during the ceremony that includes the children.  A popular event during the ceremony that includes the children is a sand ceremony.  Robert and Brandy chose to do a candle lighting ceremony which involved the children.  Creating an event during the ceremony that includes the children is in essence sharing the vows with the children.

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5.  Give the children a REAL role in the wedding ceremony if they would like one.  I touched on this point earlier when I discussed how Brandy asked her children to walk her down the aisle and give her away during the ceremony.  Depending on the maturity level of the children, allow them to have a REAL role if they'd like one.

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Celebrate the presence of children at a wedding where families are being joined and blended. Remember, you’re not just getting married and perhaps gaining some new children in the process or bringing a new spouse into your life — your children are gaining a whole new family through your marriage.
— S Malone
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The First Look

Love is when you look into someone’s eyes and see everything you need.
— unknown

A wedding day can be described as beautiful, timeless, romantic, fun, exciting, precious, emotional, traditional, and memorable.  Some might add that a wedding day can be chaotic, stressed, busy, frantic, and nerve-wracking.  And for that very reason, some couples choose to partake in a First Look Photograph Session either before their wedding day or on the day of their wedding.  

On October 1, 2016 I had the pleasure of photographing the wedding of Kenley Crowe and Joanna Richardson at Common Grounds in Waco, Texas.  They opted for the First Look Session before their wedding...and it was an amazing experience!  Seeing the look on both of their faces as the anticipation built as Joanna slowly walked to meet Kenley was priceless - almost as priceless as seeing the look on his face when he saw Joanna in her beautiful wedding dress for the very first time.  So much emotion.  It was just those two...at that moment...on a day when so many others would be around them on their special day.  

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Some might say that a First Look Session ruins the anticipation of the groom seeing the bride for the first time as she's walking down the aisle.  However, I can attest that this is not the case.  Even if the groom sees the bride at a First Look Session, he is still overcome with emotions as he watches his bride walk down the aisle on her father's arm.

I decided to compile a list of the five reasons couples would choose a First Look Session.  Keep in mind, these are just a few of the reasons why some choose this type of session.  Ultimately, each couple knows what they want on their wedding day.

1.  Convenience and Time.  Traditional weddings usually do the bridal party photos, as well as bride and groom photos, right after the ceremony.  They are often rushed as they don't want to keep their guests waiting too long to begin the reception.  The First Look Session allows the bridal photos to be taken before the ceremony so guests do not have to wait for the bridal party to arrive at the reception.

2.  Alone Time.  Wedding days are filled with friends and family members surrounding the bride and groom.  The First Look Session gives the bride and groom a small amount of time to just be with each other before the ceremony begins. 

3.  Reception.  First Look Sessions allow the wedding to run smoothly from the ceremony to the reception.  There is not any downtime due to bridal photos.  This is more pleasant for guests.  Traditional weddings typically have guests waiting an hour or so while the bride and groom are having bridal portraits taken.  

4.  Better Photos.  As a photographer, I feel that First Look Sessions allow me to spend more time with the bridal party.  Therefore, the photos are not as rushed which in turn makes for better portraits.  

5.  Family and Friends.  The First Look Session allows the bridal party to spend more time with family and friends during the reception since they aren't missing out on this precious time after the ceremony taking bridal photos.  

I'd love to hear from you!  What are some other pros of having a First Look Session?

- Special thanks to Kaitlynn Phillips with Kaitlynn Phillips Photography for assisting with the Crowe-Richardson Wedding -

I Love Weddings! Top 5 Reasons Why I Love Weddings

I just love weddings!  Plain and simple.  It seems almost everybody loves weddings and many people have their favorite parts which are their favorites for very different reasons.  Weddings are incredibly emotional and bring out so many emotions in each of us. 

I recently photographed a wedding in Groesbeck, Texas and as I worked through the images I felt an array of emotions which compelled me to write this list...The Top 5 Reasons Why I Love Weddings!

1.  LOVE!  I love weddings because there is so much love and happiness all around!  The bride and groom are happy.  They are filled with a tremendous amount of love.  The family and friends are also happy - happy for their loved ones that will soon be united in marriage.  At this wedding, the venue changed slightly due to flooding in the area.  The wedding was supposed to be outside, however the grounds were very soggy and the weather on March 19th was pretty windy and chilly as well.  This caused the wedding to move inside a small building.  To some this might have caused the bride to become upset, however Courtney had a carefree attitude and was determined to make the small room absolutely beautiful for her wedding day.  When I showed up the day before to look at the venue, she was super calm and just told me, "When you get here tomorrow this room is going to look so different...it's going to be crowded, but it will be beautiful."  When I showed up on the wedding day and saw the small room, I was honestly shocked!  I NEVER would have imagined it would have looked so amazing!  Love kept her calm.

The Visitor's Center at the Historic Old Fort Parker site in Groesbeck, Texas was a wedding venue.  The wedding had to be moved indoors due to recent flooding on the grounds.

The Visitor's Center at the Historic Old Fort Parker site in Groesbeck, Texas was a wedding venue.  The wedding had to be moved indoors due to recent flooding on the grounds.

2.  THE DRESS!  I love seeing the bride's dress at a wedding!  There are so many beautiful dresses out there that and bride's look absolutely stunning in them!  Courtney wasn't any different!  The look on the groom's face when he sees his bride in the dress is priceless.  Many people don't notice this since they are all looking at the bride as well.  Seriously, how can you not look at her as she's coming down the aisle?

A beautiful bride in a beautiful dress!

A beautiful bride in a beautiful dress!

3.  DYNAMICS!  I'm a people watcher.  Everywhere I go, I watch people.  I am intrigued by the way they interact with one another.  As a photographer I get to watch people and photograph them interacting with one another.  I can honestly say that in two years of photographing families, I have yet to find two that are the same.  They might look the same at the surface, but their mannerisms and behaviors towards one another are completely different.  This isn't a bad thing at all!  Imagine how boring this world would be if we were all the same?  This wedding was not only a union of a couple, but a union of a young family.  Courtney has two children that Dustin married as well.  Watching him interact with those young boys melted my heart.  They are so lucky to have a man in their lives that cares for them that much.  It is obvious just how much those young boys are loved by their parents, family, and friends. 

The first family photograph!

The first family photograph!

4.  KIDS' REACTIONS!  Look at the photograph above.  The look on the boy's face says SO much!  Again, I'm a people watcher so I love watching facial expressions.  This image cracks me up because the young man looks like he is telling the world, "This is MY mom and I will ALWAYS be here for her!"  His mouth is clenched and his eyes are almost glaring at me.  Either he really dislikes me (which I doubt because everyone adores me (: ) or he's giving the world a secret message that he protects his mom.  I'm pretty sure she feels the same way about him too!

5.  THERE'S ALWAYS ONE IN EVERY CROWD!  At every wedding that I have attended, there is always one guest that is the entertainer.  I LOVE watching them!  They just have a fun attitude that draws attention.  Well, this wedding there were TWO entertainers!  Courtney is a lucky lady because she both of them as dads!     

When Courtney danced with her dad, they had an upbeat song which was fun to watch them dance too. 

When Courtney danced with her dad, they had an upbeat song which was fun to watch them dance too. 

Courtney's dad striking a pose.

Courtney's dad striking a pose.

Two fathers, both with big personalities!

Two fathers, both with big personalities!

I am sure you have your own top 5 reasons why you love weddings and I'd love to hear about them!  Feel free to comment below.