Lessons Learned
Lessons Learned

Way back in May of 2007, Katy decided to marry a boy named Jonathan. When I was taking photos of Jonathan and his groomsmen, I had them all posed and ready, and then I heard a rumbling. It sounded cool, and I figured if I waited and timed it right, magic might happen. Sure enough… Click.


Dude on motorcycle rolled by and I got a shot that I love to this day. I was just starting to really gain confidence as a wedding photographer, and that shot opened my eyes to something. That no matter how much you plan and prep for a wedding, sometimes those little unexpected, unplanned moments can be pretty awesome as well.

Fast forward two years to June 2009. Katy’s younger brother, Jacob, is getting married. I know them to be a fun group and I have 2 more years of mojo under my belt. So I snap a few photos of them looking all casual. Then we get brave. We talk about it a bit and decide that it would be fun if the guys jumped over the girls. Megan (the bride) agrees to it, but she does not quite trust her groom to make the leap so she has her brother jump over her. Either way…. BOOM!


How amazing is that? A couple of years ago it even became a bit of a Pinterest sensation. In fact some people on wedding sites and boards would claim the photo was fake and the girls involved in the photo would track them down, comment, and vouch for the authenticity of the image.
(Simmer down ladies. Really. It’s ok.)

Anyway. That’s when I realized something else: every wedding is different. Couples may get married at the same places, but their relationships, their friends, their personalities all get mixed in to make that wedding day unique. The more willing and able I was to just let the day happen, the better my chances would be of capturing something unique.

So when Katy & Jacob’s sister was getting married last week, I knew I could not “plan” a specific shot.

I knew it would need to be unique to them.

I could not expect a dude on a bike or a group of guys jumping that looked photoshopped.

Or could I?

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Best. Stone Oak Ranch Wedding. Ever.
Best. Stone Oak Ranch Wedding. Ever.


I don’t even know where to start when it comes to Kayla and Trent. I can honestly say I have never had a couple that was as full of life as these two. Constant laughter, constant energy, constant joy.

Before we get started… there is one detail you should know about Kayla: her mother owns a wedding venue. Not one of those “we have a big house, so we let people have weddings here at times” wedding venues. But, a straight up, legit, killer wedding venue. It’s called Stone Oak Ranch and it’s amazing. I love shooting there and I will link to it like 10 times in this post in hopes of giving them a little extra SEO goodness. Also, when your mom owns a venue and your coordinate weddings out there, you probably have seen and worked with over a thousand photographers. It was a HUGE honor when they asked me to shoot their wedding. Thanks for making me feel good about myself.

On to the day.
Step One: Party Animals.

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Look at all the shiny, shiny-pretty, pretty at Stone Oak Ranch.

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Check out their custom made, super fun invitations made by the Rifle paper Co.

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2 weeks ago I shot a wedding with a tattoo station.  I demanded more brides do this.  BOOM!  I show up and Kayan and Trent have this.  Well played.

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Someone stopped bride-ing and started coordinating as she put her topper on her yummy Chez Bazan cake.

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Hello, my name is Kaylan, and Von Criswell did a killer job with my makeup.


You know a wedding is good when they have a First Look….


and they loved it so much they decided to do ANOTHER FIRST LOOK!!!!
(they blew my mind.)

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That super sweet, tender moment, every outdoor bride shares with her groom as he picks bugs out from her dress.

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Wait what….?  This seems out of place…. Why would anyone have a random carnival cut out at their wedding???


A Touch of Nature did a fantastic job with all the flowers.
(I just love the shot of Kaylan blowing her bang back into place.)

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These two are not only super full of life, but their siblings are as well.  Trent’s sister kept pretending it was her big day, while Kaylan’s brothers made the most of their “formal” photos with her.


Licking your finger and wiping things off.  Such a baller move from Trent’s Grandmother.


Is it ok if I think this is my most favorite photo ever?
This is how you Flower Girl. Maximum extension. Petals high. Feet off the ground. Clear eyes. Full heart. Can’t lose.

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Their ceremony at Stone Oak Ranch was full of laugher, stories, and joy.  As every ceremony should be.

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Of course they exited to “Come and Get Your Love” and had an impromptu dance party.

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I adore moments like this one.
No one around them.
No one posing them.
No one coordinating them.

Just two people who have been married 15 minutes.


That carnival cut out makes a whole lot more sense when you realize that they had A FULL BLOWN CARNIVAL for their cocktail hour.  (Like you do.)

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Everyone does the mamba for their first dance, right?


I don’t even know where to start for this reception. It was perfect.

Let’s do this… Let’s start with Otis and the Metro Band. They sang, played, and kept everyone dancing at Stone Oak Ranch for 4 hours.


Everyone loves tattoos.  Buff brides, couples, super cool Grandparents.


What’s left…. Oh yeah… a clown.  Give it up for Kornpop and his perfect balloon animals, hats, and mistletoe.


You know a reception is great when the flower girl grabs on to a post and holds on tight as she is being carried out.


There are no words.

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Who doesn’t love a face full of lavender?

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Thank you guys for a perfect evening at a perfect venue.  Let’s give it up one last time for Stone Oak Ranch and for Kaylan and Trent.


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Hilary Loves Kirk
Hilary Loves Kirk


Such a perfect day.  I love when I leave a wedding and feel, “it would be impossible for them to have had a better day.”  That’s exactly the feeling I had at the end of Hilary and Kirk’s wedding.

It kicked off at the Magnolia Hotel in Dallas.


This is Hilary and her sweet mother. Everything I have ever achieved or will achieve is due to the connections and opportunities this lady has given me.  Thank you. ;)


Last year, I photographed Hilary’s brother’s wedding and took the image on the left.  Fast forward to this wedding… As a bridesmaid was handing Hilary a bite of food, it’s like I was suddenly in the Matrix.  I could not believe it was happening again and that I was given the perfect photographic bookend.


On to the venue.  The Trinity River Audubon Center in Dallas, TX.

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Kirk was on the phone, when someone came in to pin on his boutonniere.  He asked me if he needed to put his phone down.  I said no, then he proceeded to big shot all of us and started yelling “BUY BUY BUY!  SELL SELL SELL!”


Of course they had a First Look.

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It’s always great when a bride chooses me to document their day.  It’s even greater when families have me back for another wedding.  Thank you so much Loyd’s for having two awesome kids, and letting me take photos of you and them, the day you handed them over to another.  That is an honor and a privilege.  Your kids ROCK and that means that you guys are pretty swell parents. ;)


Here comes the bride.

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Hilary and her father took dance lessons and came up with a choreographed father daughter dance.  I know I was supposed to be watching and shooting them, but I kept being drawn to her grandparents who just kept cheering and clapping during the whole dance. :)


I don’t even know why Bridesmaid # 1 is poking Bridesmaid # 2 in the mouth while #2 spills her drink as Groomsman #1 creeps in the background but I felt it was worth documenting.


Couples take note.  THIS is how you stand next to your wedding cakes.

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Rings are fun.  Mother’s dancing is more fun.  Pouty flower girls  are fun to make fun of.  Half eaten wedding cake is the most fun.

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To Hilary & Kirk:  Thanks for rocking my socks off.  You guys were amazing.

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Jennifer Really Loves The Parador (and Ryan)
Jennifer Really Loves The Parador (and Ryan)


Having gratuated with a major in architecture from Texas ATM, you knew Jennifer would look for a super cool place to get married.

When she came across the Parador in Houston, she knew she had found her spot.


Also, because Jennifer spent most of her engagement session and bridal session telling me about the architecture of the locations we were in, I figured I better get a ton of photos without people for her. ;)


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This next one is my favorite…. So timeless.  Notice the lines.  The architect was really working on a whole other level at this point…


I noticed that Jennifer and every one of her bridesmaids were iPhone users.  As a fellow blue bubble person… it warmed my heart.


I love a giddy bride on the way to the First Look.

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I really enjoy taking those formal family shots.  So much history and depth there.  Think of the hundreds, maybe thousands of times, that these sisters have been photographed together.  But NEVER like this.


Time for a break before the ceremony.

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Ryan had a killer cake done by Cakes by Gina.

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Pro Tip: Brides and Grooms usually don’t get to eat a lot.


By FAR, my favorite part of Jennifer and Ryan’s wedding day was the anniversary dance.  (All the married people dance and the ones who have been married the longest win.)

Ryan’s grandparents crushed the competition and after winning took a bow.

Overpriced wedding photographers, fancy venues, and killer cakes are nice, but staying married for over half a decade requires none of them.

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Thank you two for such a fun day.  It was an honor to be there.  Look me up in 2065 around your 50th and we’ll do a vow renewal. ;)

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The Cruise
The Cruise

So, this post began sometime back in 2013.  At our house, we do a little thing called “Spending Day.”  Every other month, our kids are allowed to spend their allowance.  They plan ahead and get to go purchase what they have been saving towards.  Sara was great at saving, but never could quite find anything she wanted to spend her money on.  She started saving towards some larger American Girl purchases, but once she got to 30 or 70 bucks she would then say…. “Wait a minute… I don’t want to spend 28 bucks on a Beach Chair, much less 85 dollars on a Sunset Sleepover Tent.”

So we suggested for her to save up for an experience or a trip of some kind.  One thing led to another and she found out she could go on a 5 night cruise for 300 dollars.  The girl was locked in.  She was on a savings mission.  Every other month, she would go on the spending trips with the family and watch her brothers purchase something.  She would bank her money and move on with life.  Some Spending Days were harder than others.  But overall, she was super determined.  We made a little chart to fill in for every dollar she saved, and after about a year and a half of extra jobs, birthdays, savings, and chocolate chip cookie sales, she had reached her goal!


Danielle was not interested in getting on a boat, so I was awarded the honor of being cruise parent. (Try not to feel to sad for me.) From the beginning, Danielle and I knew she would love it. It would be a trip she would remember and cherish forever: that one time she got to go one a week long cruise with her dad.  I could already envision her coming home from college one Christmas as we sat around the fireplace and talked about it.
This was the first cruise for Sara and I so every little thing was a treat.

Made Beds
Lounge Chairs
Bath Robes

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One of the things we both were looking forward to the most was free food.  Anytime.  All the time.


Boats are long.


Out favorite parts of the trip, were waking up each day and watching the sunrise on the ocean.

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Sara very quickly realized, this was the life she was born to live.


Danielle was a little nervous that our diet over the course of the week might not be the healthiest.  She may have been right to worry.


The boys were so sweet and surprised Sara with a lego set to build and play with while on the cruise.  She was super giddy.

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Mine. Mine. Mine.


Our stop in Progreso was a blast.  Sara had her first experience with the fine art of haggling.  She could not believe that the bracelet that she liked went from 35 dollars down to 11 in about 18 seconds.


Also in Progreso,  Officially Licensed Disney products.

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The ship had a spa where you could get a pedicure, manicure, eat ice cream, and look out on the ocean all at once.  Sara would have been content to stay there the rest of the trip.

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Wait… you can pick up the phone and they bring you free dessert 24 hours a day?  Done and done.


I mentioned that Danielle was nervous about our meals.  We decided to document everything we put into our mouths.  We ate like kings and queens.

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Remember that time that we went snorkeling in Cozumel and I found a super nice girl that braided Sara’s hair for me?  Thank you sure nice girl from Dallas.


These are fish we never saw while snorkeling, but were given a photo of.






Our favorite times were really in the morning while most of the boat was sleeping.  So quiet and peaceful.

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Our best friend on the boat.


Of course Sara loved all the little towel animals. (I didn’t take a shower all week because she would not let me undo any of them.)

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As we pulled back into Galveston Sara got her sad face on.  He dream week was coming to an end.


Over the course of the week I realized something: I thought I was taking my little girl on the cruise.  Somewhere along the way, I realized that I don’t have a little girl; I have a young lady. Sometime between 2005 and 2014, Sara has grown up. She was more mature than I realized. I was prepared to make dad jokes all week to make her laugh, but her wit and humor kept me in stitches. I was ready for her to miss being home, but her sense of adventure is what helped get me through the week. She didn’t really grow up over the course of the cruise; she has been growing up all along.  But something about getting her away and alone, made me realize just how much of a young lady she is. Everyone who I spoke with before the trip just keep gushing over and over about how special it will be for her. Just how much she’ll remember it forever. How lucky it is that she’ll have these memories.

What I have since realized is that I’m the lucky one.

I’m the one who is treasuring that week.

I’m the one that will remember it forever.

I’m the one who will one day hold a grandkid in my lap and talk about that one time their mother took me on a cruise.

And, if I’m too old to remember the stories… I’ll turn on my vintage iPhone and show them this little movie.

The Cruise from Alex Maldonado on Vimeo.

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