My Favorite Part Of A Wedding Day: Family Photos
My Favorite Part Of A Wedding Day: Family Photos

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The day you get married is really unlike any other day of your marriage. It’s packed full of moment after moment after moment of memories. There are huge swings of emotion and sometimes the most unexpected thing will end up being the highlight of your day. I’m often asked “What’s your favorite part of a wedding?” The reality is, I don’t have just one answer for that. It really depends from wedding to wedding. I can say, that having shot over 400 weddings, a few trends have emerged and I’ve seen some patterns bubble up that I always look forward to documenting and being present for. I’ll be writing about one of these per month and I thought I would kick it off with one you might not expect.

My favorite moment of a wedding day is…. Family Photos!

That’s right, baby. I LOVE family formals. (I even wrote about how to have great formals a few years ago.) These are your people. This is your tribe. These images are so full of history and depth it’s impossible to not love them. This is your chance to laugh and cry with those who have known you the longest. It’s the time all your people look their best and these photos are the ones that will be put in frames and looked at for years and years to come. These are the images that end up on the kitchen counter, in the hallway, and above the fireplace. The thing is, sometimes in all of our planning and prepping for the day, they get overlooked. They become an item in your 76-Things-To-Do-On-Your-Wedding-Day-Checklist.

[ ] 4:30 Bridesmaid Photos
[ ] 4:45 Family Photos
[ ] 5:00 Reception

Just realize that that little block of your wedding day is one that many couples are not present for. I mean, they are there. They show up. They smile, pose, and hug. But, really, they are looking towards the next moment. The reception, the ceremony, the alcohol at the reception. :) They are not fully present and aware of how special these moments can be.

Need proof? Take a look.
This is typically what you think of when you hear family photos.  Bride with parents.  Check. :)

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But, you’ll quickly realize there is so much more happening.

 

1st family photo where all the kids are married.

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That super tender moment you have with your dad.

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A mother who has raised 4 boys into grown men.

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Sometimes things get a bit more fun.
Example: A photo of what this family typically looks like. ;)

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Siblings are the best!

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Sometimes the photos are not even about you.
That moment when a grandkid spits up on your grandparents.

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I LOVE to pull the bride or grooms brother/sister and their family aside.  It typically takes about 30 seconds and BAM!  They get a new photo to hang on their wall.

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How about one of your parents. Who NEVER get dressed up. Who NEVER get photographed. Here they are, looking good and in love.

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Or how about that picture with your grandparents who have been married 57 years and you have not even been married 57 minutes?

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Let’s fast forward to 2020.

 

Six years from now when you go home for Christmas and you have a three your old little girl, she will be at PaPa & NaNa’s house looking at the tree. She will stare at all the gifts under it and then she’ll notice a photo hanging on the wall of her mom in a white dress. She will look at it for a while, then she will ask her NaNa about the photo. And then your mother will tell her all about how beautiful her mother was on her wedding and how wonderful the day was.

 

And THAT moment, in the future, will be magic. And it will all be possible because you took a few moments on your wedding day to be photographed with the people who love you the most.

 

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Belize 2014 | The Photos
Belize 2014 | The Photos

Warning: If you don’t like Belize, my kid, or lots of photos, this post is not for you.  If you only want to see things that might be on Etsy, Pinterest, or Style Me Pretty, then just scroll for a while and you’ll get there. :)

Our trip kicked off with Eli trying to convince me on the way to the airport that he could get small enough to fit into my suitcase.

1. He could.
2. I still didn’t try to.  I think the TSA frowns on that.

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We landed in Belize and got to do those cool stairs off the plane thing.  I always feel like I’m important when I get to do that.  The truth is, it just means I’m in a janky airport.

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This was the church/school we stayed at for the week.

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This was the gecko that greeted me when I went to the bathroom to wash my hands.

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We spent the first night going over our plans for the week and inflating 20+ basketballs.

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Bright and early the next morning, we started mixing concrete and doing construction work.  This is Cameron.  Cameron is a sophomore in high school.  He is a haas.  He is my hero.

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Meet Crystal & Zach.  They have been married about 2 months and instead of spending their money on a honeymoon, they came to Belize to build a basketball court and teach kids about Jesus.  They are my heroes.

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Once we arrived in Belize, we found out there is a concrete shortage in the city, so we would not be able to finish the court.  We went ahead and put up a goal anyway in the back just to have something to use for the week.  It was heavy.  Rather than try and lift it, I stood off to the side and took photos of those men lifting it.

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At nights, our team would play a charades game of sorts where they told Jo the movie and he would act it out.  I’m not sure what movie this is.  His hands are up in the air… My guess would be Leap of Faith but that’s probably not it.

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These next two photos/moments might be my favorites from the trip.

It was our first full work/VBS/basketball camp day.  We had already finished the work portion and were having lunch around 1:00, when Cassi & Colton received the news that their great-grandmother had passed away.  They were super close to her and it really shook them up.  They spent about an hour or so crying / talking / grieving together.  When it came time for us to head to do the VBS/basketball part of the day, they joined back up with our team.  No one forced them or made them join in.  They just did.  I looked over and saw Colton leading a group of about 15 boys in the story of when Jesus calmed the storm.  I broke down crying at how perfect this image was.  Colton might have been the only person those boys would have sat and listened to that day, and he could have easily stayed back in the room.  Yet here he was.  Teaching them about a man who did something so many years ago and also just minutes ago in his life.  Those boys had no idea the pain Colton had just been dealt, they just know he was there loving them.

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This is Cassi (right). she played college basketball and was in charge of setting up all our drills, stations, and groups for the week.  She also had every right to be in her room grieving about her great-grandmother.  She could have chosen to be alone.  She could have chosen to hide.  Instead she chose to do what she came to do.  She came to love kids and teach kids.  So here she is; two hours after learning of her loss, full of life and joy and being re-energized by serving others.

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If there is one thing that made those little kids from Belize happy, it’s crushing us in soccer.

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On one of our outings, we passed through an Old Order Mennonite community.  It was like traveling through time.

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Mennonite Home Depot

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Once you hit the pink, yellow, and orange laundry, it means you are out of the Mennonite community.
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Almost everywhere we went, Jo felt like he should be in front of the group.  Which is interesting, because he is the youngest and typically had zero idea where we were going.
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Sometimes I see signs that make me laugh and I take of a photo of them like a 7th grade boy would.

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We climbed this Mayan ruin.  It was steep.
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This one was less steep.  I was still tired at the top.

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It does not matter if you are in Haiti, Belize, or America, kids are super cute.  Take a look.

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Once we realized the court was not going to get finished, we headed to a hardware store in town to get supplies to build some soccer goals.  The owner of the store got excited about the project and offered to donate these super sturdy goals when the court is complete.  That was a huge deal.

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I also met this girl who is getting married next year.  She wants me to be her wedding photographer.  I did not have a business card to give her.

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This is my friend Beckie.  Her thing is going around the world holding tiny humans.  She is good at her thing.  She is my hero.

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This toe belongs to Abby.  She probably broke it playing soccer the second day on our trip.  She still loved on kids and never complained all week long.  Abby is my hero.

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Our last day was a beach/play day.  We headed out to a little island.

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Remember my friend Beckie who likes to hold tiny humans?  She apparently also likes to sit in the back of the boat and get pelted by the waves. :)

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This is Jo’s victory cheer when he had a hamburger after a week of less than his favorite food.

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Our trip leader Irv.  He spends his days holding hands with his wife while walking along the coast and… being held in Spongebob’s arms.
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Our group went snorkeling… more details to come….
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Hashtag island life.

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So Beckie, the tiny human holding one, did not want to snorkel, but wanted to conquer her fear of it.  So she tried it anyway.  She jumped in and swam around for about 45 minutes.  All the while clutching her father’s hand with a death grip.

Jo, also did not want to snorkel, but we decided to try it anyway… after about 10 minutes, he still didn’t want to and it was clear that the situation was not going to improve.  This is us swimming back to the boat.

These two photos are what parenting is about.  It’s about knowing your kid and knowing when to push them and holding on to them and encouraging them to keep pushing through.  It’s also about knowing when to bail on an idea.  Knowing when something is just “not for us” and being willing to back out.

This will look different for every family and each kid during various stages of life. But the sooner we figure it out, the easier our job becomes.

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A little while later the boat drove us to this spot and they said… “We are gonna toss out food and sharks and sting rays are going to come.  You can swim with them if you want.”

Yes, please.
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Remember Cassi?  Last year she gave Jo the nickname J-Money.  It’s how he introduces himself to people on mission trips.  All I can do is shake my head.  Thank you for that Cassi.  Thank you.

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My favorite part of heading home is counting down the minutes till we are greeted at the airport by my people.  I always miss my people.

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Part of the reasons I love taking Jo on these trips is to show him how much bigger the world is.

That the world is not just Playstations, Lego sets, and Tolkin books.
That the world is full of beauty and hurt.
That there is sadness and joy in unexpected places.
That the world is bigger than the next Marvel movie.

The thing is… every trip Jo has been on, he has turned around and shown me how much bigger he is.

That he has a heart that can love a stranger.
That he can do work I assumed he was too small for.
That he is bigger than Playstations, Lego sets, and Tolkin books.

Every time we’ve gone somewhere together, I leave thinking I’ll be so proud of what we do, but I always return more proud of who he is becoming than anything else.

I can’t wait to go back.

I can’t wait to take him with me.  He is my hero.

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249 Years of Marriage
249 Years of Marriage

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I almost didn’t blog this wedding.  It was beautiful.  It was full of Pinteresty things.  It was at one of my favorite places to shoot.
(Shout out to Stone Oak Ranch in Murchison, TX.)

So why not blog it?  Simple.

Nicole is a super young bride.  I’m not a huge fan of young people getting married.  The odds are never in your favor.

Marriage is hard.

Very hard.

Nicole is 21.  A child.

You know who was 20 when she became a wife?

My bride.  That’s right.  Danielle was 20.  Even more of a child!

Seeing Nicole and Tyson interact throughout the day brought back so many memories.  I watched them interact and saw their commitment to each other.  I can see how Tyson respects Nicole.  But it’s not just them.  I saw their support system.  I met their families.  And when I saw their families… I knew these two will do great.

We’ll get to the good stuff later, for now though… how about some eye candy.  Take a look.

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These two met on twitter.  Yeah, that’s right.  Twitter.  Welcome to the future.

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They had a super sweet First Look.

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Sometimes I let the moms creep during the First Look.

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This is where this post starts to get good.

These are Nicole & Tyson’s parents.  They have each been married 25 years.

25 years.

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The ring bearer was great, but when your Aunt gets to be your flower girl… it’s hard to top that.

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Nicole’s grandfather married them.  He opened by telling Tyson that he will stay committed to her or “the hunt might not be over.”

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I love when couples write their own vows.

“I promise to be the best hunting and fishing partner you ever had. I can’t promise I won’t catch the bigger fish.” – Nicole

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For so many brides this is the goal.  The finish line.

When you kiss and are “husband & wife.”  Nicole & Tyson are one of the few couples that realize this is the starting line.  This is where the race begins.

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Papa & Mimi 48 years of marriage.

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Pa & Granny 50 years of marriage.

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Papa & NeeNee 44 years of marriage.

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Tataw & Nanaw 57 years of marriage.

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I’m telling you right now.  It’s up to Nicole & Tyson to stay married.  Their grandparents’ and parents’ marriage will not keep them married.  They will have to do the work.  It’s on them.

But, I’m also telling you to stop and think about that legacy.  These two have grown up in homes where healthy marriages have been modeled for 25 years.  Their parents grew up in homes where marriage is something to be cherished and committed to.  That is a HUGE head start for them.

Take a look at these photos….

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They are standing next to 249 years worth of marriage.

Those people have 90,885 days of practice living with another human.

Nichole and Tyson have about 4 days worth of practice.

This is a challenge to them and to all of us.

Find people who have been married a long time.

Befriend them.  Ask them for advice.  Learn from them.

Then go and stay married a long time.

I know Nicole & Tyson plan to.

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Belize 2014 (The Video)
Belize 2014 (The Video)

Jo & I had the privilege of taking a trip to Belize last week with some friends of ours and their church group.  Our goal was to love on some kids by doing a little Vacation Bible School, building part of a basketball court, and teaching them some basketball skills.  I took 3.8 million photos and made a little movie.  The photos will be ready later this week, but the video is ready now.  Enjoy.

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Red, White, & Blue and I Love You
Red, White, & Blue and I Love You

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When you get married on the 4th of July and have a family full of service men, you know it’s going to be a great day.  I was giddy that this next image was one of the first I fired off that day.

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Sarah & Caleb said their vows at the fantastic Lake Tyler Petroleum Club. (A fantastic venue with lots of options for your wedding day.)

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Family, history, legacy.  These are all things that Sarah values.  (It’s part of what attracted her to Caleb.)  Much of her jewelry belonged to her grandparents and her friend even MADE her this frame.  How incredible is that?

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Basically every wedding has the same story.  Boy & girl like each other.  Boy & girl get married.  It’s the easiest story to tell, see, and document.

The thing is, sometimes that’s not the most interesting story of the day.

I love getting to know my couples in a way that helps me figure out the part of their story that they value the most.  What’s really important?  Is it the flowers?  Is it the dancing?  Is it the vows?

From my first phone call with Sarah, I was able to pick up on her commitment to Caleb.  But when she spoke of his daughter she spoke with a sense of respect and love that made it very clear:  She is joining both of them in life.  They are becoming a family.  She is aware of the impossible yet very tangible dynamics of becoming a mother.

All throughout the day, I found little moments where Caleb & Sarah gave time, space, and respect for Savannah to soak in the moments.  Not to force the day and union on her like two grown ups in charge.  Instead they welcomed her into their day.  They asked for her to be a part of it.  At times they literally held her hand as she navigated this emotional day.

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I love seeing a groom’s reaction to his bride.  The next best thing though is seeing a father look at his baby girl.

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Yes please.

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Go team America.

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Hey you know who La Tee Da is right?  They kinda kick butt at making flowers look fantastic.

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I caught Caleb having a little chat with Savannah right before the ceremony.  My heart turned all mushy.  I love it when dads “gets it.” When they realize that no matter how hectic and crazy a moment is, the main thing our kids need is us to connect with them and let them know we are with them.

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Then Savannah came out and Caleb went to meet her and walked her down the aisle.  (Because he wanted everyone to tear up a bit.)

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Right when Sarah was about to walk out, it hit her.  Sometimes this happens to brides.  And I’ll be honest.  Sometimes it leads to brides just crying all the way down the aisle.  I love everything about these shots.  I love that Sarah is completely overcome with emotion.  She is fully aware of the moment and understands how amazing their story is and that this is happening.

Her father gets it.

Her father knows his daughter enough to know that right now she needs him to look at her and reassure her.  That no matter how hectic and crazy the moment is, the main thing she needs is him to connect with her and let her know he is with her.

Caleb gets it.

He knows his bride so well.  He knows that she is full of emotions and he never once took his eyes off her.  He was locked in, he was steadfast, he was fully present.

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When you marry a military man on the 4th of July at the lake, and a boat drives by during your vows with “I’m Proud to be an American” blasting front the speakers, all you do is smile and know you picked the right day.

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Sarah’s brother was deployed 2 days before her wedding.  It was a tough break for their families, but it’s also what they do.  They serve.  They answer the call.  They go.

(They also Skype.)

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The Fatt Apple makes yummie food.  Need proof?  Look at how happy these kids are.

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The rest of the night was filled with people saying wonderful things, lots of dancing, and expositions in the sky.

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Thank you two for letting me be a part of your day.  I left with a full heart.

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