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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It’s like rain on your wedding day
It’s like rain on your wedding day



The best part of my job is the people. I have the greatest couples, and documenting their story is the best because it’s unfolding along the way. Parts of it are already there, but much of it happens “live” and in the moment. This is especially true of wedding days. And, as far as wedding days are concerned, JoDee & Mike had an amazing one.
You may remember them from their super great cooking themed engagement session. (Mike is the Sous chef at Lucia. If you are in the Dallas area, you should go eat his food.)


These two decided to get married at the Inn at BK Ranch just outside of Palestine, TX. It’s a gorgeous location and perfect for a weekend of wedding fun and goodness.



Check out all the wedding pretty.  Doesn’t it all just look amazing?  Every detail has been thought through and planned out.
Enjoy it while you can…. SPOILER ALERT: Not for long.


When I first encountered JoDee on her big day, she was doing what every sensible bride does on a Sunday: picking the winner of NFL games.
(Her mother and sister were also making their picks with input from JoDee’s Grandmother.)


Speaking of her Grandmother: JoDee wore her earrings because she is super sweet like that.  And TOMS because she is super sensible like that.


I adore the faces brides make when they are getting their dress synched up in the back.  Always the best.


Some First Look magic.

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Wait… what… no bouquet?

Why no flowers JoDee?

“No particular reason besides I just find them silly. Like really. Stop and think about it. Why would anyone hold flowers… I don’t even own a purse; let’s just say I’m not a fan of carrying things about. So I opted for the flower crown.”

Works for me. :)


So it started to drizzle at this point. So I said to JoDee, “Do we want to head inside or go ahead and knock out the wedding party photos?”
JoDee looked at me like I was a crazy person and said, “It’s just a little rain, we’ll be fine.”

629 Cool Bride Points earned.

Hey look everyone. Beautiful people, in a beautiful place, wearing beautiful clothing.


JoDee’s dog decided picture time was over.

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About an hour before the ceremony time, it became clear that the rain was not going to pass over. I’ve seen this scenario unfold dozens of times: the will it rain/it won’t rain/please don’t rain/oh crap it’s raining dance that everyone does around the bride. As people tiptoe around the subject ,they try to ask her what to do or what she wants done on her most special day in the history of days.

This was no different. People went to JoDee to find out what she wanted to do and she started thinking through options and opinions. I found Mike and asked him if he wanted to go talk with JoDee and come up with a plan and he said, “Just do whatever she says.”

The thing is, it was not like a typical dude, just deferring to “whatever she wants; it’s her day.”

It was more like:
She is capable.
She knows what to do.
I trust her.
Well the more people asked, the more it became an issue JoDee did NOT want to deal with. So, she passed the decision back to Mike.

Then, as soon as it was in Mike’s court, he took it and ran with it. We are moving it inside. The rain is coming, so let’s get ready.

And just like that, without even realizing it, they did it.

They did one of the hardest things in marriage.

They faced a problem, tossed it around a bit, and then solved it by leaning on and trusting each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Mike COULD have made the decision all along. Yet he was wise enough to respect and love JoDee enough to let the decision be her’s. When JoDee felt the burden of it become too much, she handed it off to Mike, trusting in him to work it out.

Talking through, juggling, and working out difficult decisions are what make marriages stick. These two put on a clinic on how to do it 30 minutes before they were married.

Well, eventually the rains came. In fact, it started to pour. All their friends jumped right in and started moving tables and place settings inside and up stairs. The rain had come and it was here to stay. The outdoor wedding had become an indoor event. A soggy indoor event. But no one seemed to mind. We were all making the best of it and they were still going to get married.

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Then something interesting happened. The clouds parted. (Well, more like it stopped raining.) For a moment, we were golden. We all ran outside and decided to try and do this thing as planned.

Here comes the bride.

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Mike’s father performed the ceremony. And being a basketball official back in the day, he even surprised them with a little wardrobe change.


Then it started raining. Again. Right in the middle of their ceremony.

Someone tried to give JoDee and umbrella, but she refused it. I later asked her why and she said, “If the guests were willing to get wet, so was I.”
821 Cool Bride points earned.

Turns out, rainy wedding days are a bit of a tradition in Mike’s family. Both Mike’s siblings had rain at their wedding. A massive storm blew through the morning of his brother’s wedding and Hurricane Ike caused a ruckus for his sister’s big day.

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Eventually the party moved inside. (Sans table linens.)
The rest of the afternoon was spent full of laughter, memories, and toasts from family. Toasts that included a signed photo from Tony Romo. (Although the signature did resemble Mike’s brother’s handwriting.)

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Also, who doesn’t love the Mug Machine?

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Fun Fact: Dude in the jacket in the lower left, split his pants bending over for the photo.


One million thank you’s to you two for letting me share in your day.

Thanks for trusting me with it.
Thanks for braving the rain.
Thanks for showing me how marriage is supposed to work.

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Carny Love
Carny Love

Kaylan & Trent are my favorite kind of people.  The kind who don’t take themselves too seriously.  So when she proposed a State Fair engagement session I was all in.  When she said, she wanted to make sure and get some gross things like old corn dogs in the photos I knew we would be best friends.  AND.  When she told me she is going to have a carnival themed wedding I was like… let’s hurry up and get to the wedding.  :)  Consider this a practice session for the “real photos” to come next month.  You guys were a blast.

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Shelby & Logan | Astin Mansion Wedding
Shelby & Logan | Astin Mansion Wedding


If I had to sum up Shelby & Logan’s wedding day in one word, I would choose “relationships” as their word.  Every time I turned around, it seemed as if these two were deep in conversation or a moment with another person from their story.  Weddings are often a time when the bride and groom are surrounded by their friends and family, but they rush and events of the day make it easy to overlook the people they love the most.  Shelby & Logan spent their day fully present and soaking up every moment.



They were married at the historic and gorgeous Astin Mansion in downtown Bryan.  This place is amazing.  They are also home to Carriage House Floral who brought their A game.  Take a look.

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The ladies spent the morning like all good Aggie bridesmaids… Watching football.



Right before she started getting ready Shelby’s mom gave her a few small gifts from herself and other friends.  Then they sorta broke down.  Just for a minute. :)


Shelby’s maid of honor loved me getting this shot of her brushing her teeth.



I love toasts.  They are super great.  I also enjoy finding the creation of the toast.  So many times I come across that moment, when a mother or father sit down to try and put into a few sentences, what a lifetime of raising and loving a child has meant to them.  It’s rarely an “amazing” or “stunning” image, but so many times they end up being my favorites from the day.

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Shelby’s dad was super sweet when he saw her for the first time that day.



I love how Shelby went all creepy on Logan during their First Look.


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So, somewhere along the day, we got news that the cake had been dropped on it’s way to the venue.  Not cool right?  Of course Shelby responded how every bride should.  She was like, “No big deal, I’m sure it will all work out.” :)


And just like that Shelby earned 387 Cool Bride points.


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Can I tell you a little secret?

Everyone knows you are supposed to look at the bride when she comes down the aisle.  (It’s her day BLAH BLAH BLAH.)

And… all you professional wedding go-ers also know that looking at the grooms reaction is also a golden moment.

The thing is, and due to the angle and location, this is so hard for most of you to see: the mother of the groom is sometimes where it’s at.  :)

All mothers ever want is for their kids to have a fulfilling life.  It’s never about them being successful, rich, or even giving them grandkids.  They just want them to be full.  To know they have a teammate.  So when a mother can see her son, looking at the woman who will be his partner in life, his biggest fan, the one who will hold him, give him comfort, joy, and the security that she has given for all these years, it’s a special moment.  I love that moment.


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Right after the ceremony I heard Logan say, we should take a selfie.  Then Shelby said, I don’t have a phone.  Then Logan said, I don’t have a phone.  Then I said, I have a phone.  Then they selfied on my phone while i photographed them selfieing.

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You’ll be surprised to know that Logan’s grandmother is a fan of watching her grandson dance with her daughter. :)



Sometimes I think the only reasons Aggies get married is so someone will photograph their rings.



Hey, hey.  Guess what showed up?




Not only was Shelby cool about the whole thing, she went over and gave the cake lady a hug and thanked her for making her another cake.

274 Cool Bride points earned.


So many people shared so many great stories about growing up and raising these two.  I would love for you to hear them, but guess what?  I was only there to take photos.  Good news though!

Matt Johnson of FilmStrong was there.  He is a killer videographer based out of Dallas.  You should book him.



Towards the end of the night, Logan surprised Shelby by playing and singing a song for her.  He also made all us other guys look like chumps.  :)


These two ended the night how I believe every couple should end their night: with the dance floor all to themselves.  It’s totally a thing that feels right out of a movie.  I love it every time.


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Thank you guys for an amazing day full of laughter, friendships, and all around Aggie coolness. ;)


P.S.  You know what else was at their wedding?  The Mug Machine.


Check out my 10 favorites from the night.


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Beth & Tim | My Perfect Couple
Beth & Tim | My Perfect Couple


When I got home from this wedding, I Instagramed a photo of these two and said this: “I have photographed hundreds of weddings. I have never seen a groom be more tender towards his bride than Tim was towards Beth.”

As I edited and looked over every image I captured that day, I still feel that to be an absolute truth.

The depth and richness of their relationship seeped through every aspect of their day.  I felt so honored to be there.  I felt like I should be paying them.  Then I was all like… wait.  My kids need to eat.  Nevermind.

Beth and Tim were married at Stone Oak Ranch in Athens.  It’s a Top 10 venue and I love shooting there.  Also Moss made the whole day explode with floral goodness.


Beth knew exactly what she wanted in a dress.  But, unlike her groom, she could not find it in one place.  So she had one commissioned, that combined 3 different dresses on Etsy. :)


Every time I turned around, these ladies were laughing.  About everything and nothing, all at once.


Tim wrote in a little journal for her and as she was reading it she was tearing up, and then chuckled a bit.  I later asked her and she said that he had misspelled a word. :)


Beth and her mom shared a super sweet prayer before the day really got rolling.

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I told you Moss killed it with the flowers!  Call and book them! 903.787.8821

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This is when I started noticing Tim’s attention to detail.  When he opened the gift Beth had for him, he looked over every part so carefully.  The card, the box, the small stuff we tend to glance over.  He even flipped through and read every page in a photo book she had made for him.  I was standing there photographing him, waiting for him to go to the next gift, but he just kept looking at the photo book.  Page by page.  After a minute or so, I began to worry because I saw that there was another book.  A longer thicker book.


Sure enough, he opened this one to the table of contents and started looking over it.
(At this point I kinda freaked out in my head.  We are on a schedule bro.  I only allotted 5 minutes for “gift exchange” and you are making me nervous.)


Then he went to this pose.  He settled in.  He got comfortable.  I think he forgot I was there, and we were there, and he was getting married.  He was so engulfed with the perfect gift that Beth had selected that it was threatening to ruin my day!!!


He finally put the book down and we moved onto the business of this ever important “formal photos.”  This is Tim and his brother being “formal”.


Tim also picked out bow ties for each of his guys.  (I’m scared to know how long that process took.)


Boom!  Tim’s brother strikes with a perfect photo bomb.


Beth’s sister made these.  Because she is awesome.


Wedding time rolled around and I was waiting for it to start, when all of the sudden preacher man started talking.  I figured it was the usual, silence your cell phones, no flash photography announcement.

Wrong again, Alex.

Beth and Tim asked him to speak for about 5-10 minutes on what marriage is.  What it means.  What we strive for and commit to when we enter into this covenant.  And they asked him to do it BEFORE they came out because they didn’t want any of his words to be missed by the distraction of them, and their closest friends being up there.

They just wanted a not so subtle reminder for them and their guests that marriage is legit.

You don’t jack with marriage. (My words, not his.)

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Beth finally came out.  Tim cried.


When she got to the front, they spent some time just hugging and holding each other.  Because why not. :)
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While at the back, I saw this.  It has nothing to do with covenants, or marriage, or the sacredness of the moment.  But you can’t NOT photograph dinosaurs.  Right?

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After I finished their photos, I encouraged them to just take some time alone before heading back towards the wedding party and reception.  I looked over and found this.

Hello perfect moment.


I love it so much.  It totally captured their day and relationship.  It wasn’t a kiss.  In fact, I would not even call it a “hug.”  It was more of a “hold.”

As in, I’m here for you.  I’m supporting you.  I’m committed to you.  I’m in this moment with you and will be in so many more moments for years and years to come.

Marriage is hard.


All of these things are a part of it.

None of them are inherently bad.  But boy, do they sometimes feel like they are pulling you apart.

Knowing your spouse is committed.  Knowing they are there to lean on.  Knowing that you can always walk into a room and hold each other, regardless of whatever is spiraling out of control around you, is what keeps marriages together.

I loved getting to capture their first “hold” as a married couple.


I always like when this happens during a First Dance.

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And just when I thought I had seen it all…..  They go and give me a Marriage Monday quote on the side of their car.

“It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer


Thank you two for an amazing day.  I love you.

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