dan + chanda MARRIED!! Sylvan Lake elopement photography
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“Real but also silly.” My favorite kind of people, and those are exactly the words Chanda used to describe herself and Dan! They brought their parents and their daughter to the Black Hills to witness the first moments of their marriage, then they all went out for some old-timey photos. A pretty great blend of ‘real and silly’ if you ask me! :-)

They started off their elopement with a first look, giving them a chance to soak it all in and enjoy the beauty of the Black Hills (and each other). ;-)

Since their little girl was all smiles, she joined in on the little love fest for a few family photos before the ceremony.

Mary Maisey-Ireland of Your Joyful Wedding does a fantastic job organizing and creating the most personal ceremonies!

Dan + Chanda’s heartfelt vows had us all a little misty-eyed!

After exchanging vows and rings, their little girl joined in for a feather ceremony, which Mary put together the most beautiful words for:

“Feathers have been used in our homes and on our bodies since we first caught birds. They decorated our hair, our garments, our hats. They warm our bodies in the form of down jackets and soften our beds as pillows, mattress toppers and comforters. Some of the world’s greatest literary works were penned using feather quills.

“For some cultures, feathers represent our connection to the spirit world. Native American tribes believe that hawks and eagles carry our prayers to the Great Spirit. The Iroquois used feathers to express gratitude for the bounty of the earth. Christians imagine that angels’ wings are made of feathers.

“Feathers can be about inspiration, about surpassing our limits, taking flight as it were. They can be used to tickle, and they can even remind us to take ourselves lightly.

“All of this symbolism is so fitting for a family. May you use your love to warm and comfort one another, to inspire each other, to give thanks to each other and for the gifts in your life, to exceed any self-limiting beliefs you may have about yourselves, and to remember to always find something to laugh about.”

All of the beautiful-ness you see here was put together by Sarah from The Vintage Lease – she brought the food, arranged the table, and put together the bouquets (and even had extra raspberries just for Dan + Chanda’s little girl while they enjoyed their breakfast/scenery).

*clink!*

Soaking in that Black Hills view!

cody + justine ADVENTURE!! Custer State Park anniversary photos
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Cody + Justine had planned to go on a hiking adventure while they were here in the Black Hills to celebrate their second anniversary. Mother Nature had other plans. Just days before they arrived, we had 24+ inches of slushy snow, and the trails were still covered in ice by the time we had planned photos. Since we didn’t have any ice cleats with us, we opted for an adventure with less hiking, but we still had a great time!

Since Cody + Justine were nearing their second anniversary, I asked them to dance and asked what their ‘first dance’ song was. It took them a beat to remember, but it all came back to them and Cody even sang part of it to Justine.

We wanted to get some glow-y sunset photos (at the top of the hike that didn’t happen), and the sun was already much further North than I had expected, so we literally chased the light and scrambled up a hill to catch as much glow as we could!

Lastly, Justine brought this balloon ALL THE WAY FROM MINNESOTA for some special photos. Turns out even the slightest breeze makes photos with a balloon pretty tricky. And hilarious. ;-)

Cody + Justine – I hope the rest of your time here in the Hills was wonderful and that you got to do a bit more adventuring despite all the weather-related issues! I had a wonderful time getting to know you, and my husband and I have already adopted your mozzarella cheese analogy.

ALSO, thanks for being kind enough to entertain my trials as a videographer.

everyday adventures PART II
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It almost feels like we’ve been given the gift of time. If we don’t celebrate and cherish our lives together now, when will we?

To sum up my last blog post… losing our daughter, Cecilia, has opened our hearts to the fact that our time here on earth is so precious (and short). So, we’re living out the adventures we’ve been meaning to do, and savoring the smaller, daily adventures in a new/refreshed/heartfelt way.

Now, what does this mean for you?

I still love documenting love. I’m still photographing weddings, elopements, engagements, and life in general. 

I’m also finally taking the leap in to creating videos. It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for a while, and even though parts of it still scare me, I’m willing to lean in to the learning curve in order to document honest, authentic, everyday adventures in a new-to-me way. While this process (and end product) won’t be perfect, they will definitely be memorable – and that’s what good adventures should be, right?

So, tell me! What does your everyday adventure look like? Hiking a new trail on your day off? Chasing toddlers around? Do you have a garden of your own (tell me your secrets)? Do you love making dinner together? I want to help you document that! (And then stay for dinner, if what you love is to cook. ;-)) Think of it like a home video that you and your loved ones all get to be in.

One of the sweetest couples I’ve had the honor of photographing let me follow them along as they went kayaking on their favorite Black Hills lake – Center Lake in Custer State Park. Here is the video (and some photos, because I will never stop photographing) from that afternoon. 

Enjoy!

everyday adventures PART I
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Towards the end of last year, I knew 2019 was going to be different. We were expecting our third child, and I didn’t have many weddings booked. I sort of shrugged it off, and figured God must want me to spend a lot of time ‘just being’ with the kids.

Then, in November, we found out that our growing baby had Trisomy 18 and wasn’t going to be with us for very long. All of a sudden, the only thing I wanted was to ‘just be’ with the kids. I didn’t care about how empty my calendar looked or what was happening on social media. All that mattered was our family and how we were going to get through this together.

Cecilia’s birth and death were very sudden, and while I mourned, I was so thankful for the support system around us. I felt like that dolphin whose baby died, and she and the rest of the pod took turns carrying it as they kept swimming. I didn’t have Cecilia’s body to hold, but our friends took turns carrying that weight of sorrow and walked alongside us as we moved forward.

“Yet something astounding happens amid this turmoil… our lives continue. Moments pile into a day, days into a week, and our lives continue on. There is a mysterious, unassuming tenacity to hope that lives beneath the rubble. This tenacious hope is Spirit-filled. God has placed this power in the depths of every human heart.” -Sr. Maria Kim Bui

The death of our child is not something we will ever get over. Cecilia is as much a part of us as any big life moment we’ve had together – meeting in college, moving to the Black Hills, getting married here… every moment we’ve had together, big or small, has made us who we are.

Losing Cecilia has made me want to be a better mother to our kids here on earth, a better wife to my husband, a better friend and person overall. I want to soak up as many moments with my family possible. I want to share the love we were given with anyone willing to receive it. I want to go on adventures instead of just thinking about them – even if they’re just small, everyday adventures.

So, what does all this mean for us? As of right now, we’re maximizing our time at home, preparing for our garden while catching snowflakes on our tongues. (Yes, it’s snowing in May. We’ve learned to appreciate what we are given on a daily basis.) We are also planning a bunch of family day-cations, making our weekends a bit more exciting.

The most obvious adventures for us are enjoying the outdoors – rain or snow or slush or sunshine!

Not-so-obvious adventures, like comforting each other in public restrooms, and cheering each other on while mastering new skills, make me a proud mama.

We almost always notice the dinosaurs when we’re in Rapid City, but one Sunday after church, we went up and met each one personally! It was such a fun adventure that the kids keep asking when we can do it again!

More indoor adventures… relaxing in a tote box, climbing at the Custer State Park Visitor Center, getting dizzy on a sit-n-spin, and nap-time bed head from adventuring so hard.

One of my highly-anticipated adventures: gardening!

Keeping Cecilia in our hearts and on our minds as we celebrate each day.

We wouldn’t be the adventurers we are if we took life too seriously!

And finally, what does all this adventuring and free time on my calendar mean for you? Stay tuned…