dustin + cahri ENGAGED!!
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Dustin proposed to Cahri while ice fishing in the middle of January, so when they wanted to come to Custer State Park for their engagement photos, I was happy we could incorporate some frozen lakes! This was the ‘warmest’ day in February, but it was still so windy – making us feel so, so cold (but it was hard to be too mad about it the way the snowflakes swirled around us like nature’s sprinkles)!!

They both enjoy doing anything outdoors, so here are Dustin and Cahri – braving the cold + wind all for the sake of announcing this exciting time of their lives!! Enjoy!

A new goal of mine for 2019 is to show more of my favorite ‘moments’ from each session instead of saving them for the end of the year. Because really, the ‘moments’ are what we hang on to and treasure the most.

For example, the way Dustin looks at Cahri – I imagine he has looked at her this way many times, maybe even making her weak in the knees early on in their relationship. That kind, genuine look of love.

So, Cahri, this one’s for you. I hope that in 30+ years you will look over at Dustin and see him looking back at you this same way. :-)

studio lb BEST OF 2018
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2018 was another year full of sweet, fun-loving couples who savored every moment of their wedding day, and also didn’t take themselves too seriously (my favorite combination).

Every January, I put together my favorite images from the previous year. This January, we were busy with doctor appointments and praying for calm hearts, while preparing to meet our daughter who was diagnosed with Trisomy 18. Then, she surprised us by arriving a month and a half early on February 1st. Our days were filled with so many mixed emotions. Joy that we got to meet her and love on her, sorrow that we had to let her go so soon, and confusion as to how to move on.

During that confusing time of mixed emotions, I received so many lovely messages from the couples I have photographed. I always feel connected to the couples who trust me to document their wedding (we spend a decent amount of time together – bonding is bound to happen), but when they turned to me with their love and support these past couple of months, I felt such an overwhelming sense of love.

These couples I photograph are more than ‘just weddings.’ They are preparing for and celebrating the first day of their marriage. They are lovely human beings who care deeply about their family and friends, and they simply want to gather and enjoy the day together.

My two main goals for my couples is to document their life as it’s happening, *and* to create some lovely portraits for them to treasure and show their children and grandchildren. So here is my ‘best of 2018’ – the moments, the portraits, and everything in between. Enjoy!!

First up, Michael + Rebecca’s first look that lasted 68 seconds. Go ahead, give someone you love a hug for 68 seconds and see how good it feels!!


David + Marcy traveled to the Black Hills for a fun weekend full of hiking, and they agreed to meet up for a second engagement session. So much fun!!


This anniversary session still has me on cloud nine – who wants to hike up here with me this summer?

The way the breeze wanted in on Thomas + Alicia’s snuggle!! Sometimes portraits turn into moments with the help of mother nature. :-)

It rained all day this day, so we got creative and ducked inside any building that had lovely windows. I love this little portrait/moment they had together!

Another ‘portrait turned moment’ – after these two said their vows, we took off for some portraits (which is also great for a bride and groom to focus on each other instead of reception details). We pulled up to the lake and we were caught in an instant downpour!! We waited in the car for it to let up (I told you about that wedding day bonding! ;-)), but as we walked to the water, another little shower came through and created this magic.

And now, we’ll move over to engagement photos. Yes, it’s a time to ‘get good pictures for save the date cards’ but it’s also to showcase a couple in their natural state. Happy, in love, goofy, carefree. I hope you see that in these next few photos! :-)

I told Eric + Brianna to walk to that spot in the sunshine and ‘do a little dance’ – this is what they came up with!! So perfectly them!! Haha!!

Before Lex + Heidi’s engagement session, I asked them a few ‘get to know you’ questions. One was, ‘What quality do you love most about each other?’ Her response was how he made her feel safe and secure. Throughout their session, I kept waiting for this moment to happen naturally – Lex’s arm around Heidi’s shoulders. Holding her safe and secure as they walked along. :-)

Did I mention I like to capture the goofy side of couples? ;-)

The *most* natural they could be – fishing!!

Now, I don’t post a lot of detail photos unless I know the meaning or significance behind it… this heart-shaped ring bowl was hand-carved by the groom, and he surprised his bride with it on their wedding day!

On to the wedding day portraits and moments. First looks are always full of emotions, and I enjoy watching each one unfold!!

And then there was this first look with Amy and her dad. I love their identical reactions – speechless, crying, then laughing!

Now, to the next part of the day – bride and groom portraits! I always give my couples plenty of time and space for their first look, because I never want to cut that moment short. So, after I’ve gotten a wave or a ‘so… what’s next?’ we do a few portraits before the family and wedding party join in.

This ‘portrait’ is not a portrait. They eloped last winter in their backyard, and hired me to photograph some portraits and their reception. But I did something a little sneaky. I got a copy of their vows from a mutual friend of ours, and had them re-read them in this storefront (tucked away from the non-stop rain). My favorite line was how they vowed to love each other in sunshine and rain. They read these vows for the first time in the winter, and now again in the rain. (Who’s getting misty eyed? Just me? Sure, okay.)

By the time I’ve walked around with my couples, most of the wedding party/family have gathered for group photos. But sometimes… we wait… Haha!! I feel like Lex and his twin brother have been in this situation more than once in their lives!!

Waiting for everyone to arrive and get organized is also a great time for candids with the littlest wedding party members! :-)

… and sometimes the littlest don’t want to be in any photos…

Then there was that one time I forced a groom’s brother to stand closer than he was comfortable and it resulted in a very awkward, hilarious moment that I hope they all remember forever.

Who tooted? Haha!!!!

Okay, okay, back to some sweet moments! The ceremony always brings out all the emotions!

Yes, this next images is from a styled elopement, and yes Mary Maisey-Ireland is this invested in every single couple I have seen her work with!

After the ceremony, it’s easy to see how relaxed my couples are. The ‘hard part’ (saying their vows out loud in front of everyone) is over, and the rest of the day is just for fun! And, the light is lovely. ;-)

As you can see, portraits can be beautiful *and* fun! Now, moving on to the reception and dance… This little man is the groom’s nephew, and he turned seven the same day his uncle got married. That night was part wedding reception, part birthday party, and it was totally perfect!

I still love that Gina’s grandfather said the meal blessing for both her and her sister’s wedding a few years ago!

Mike + Becca didn’t have a dance after their morning wedding, so after their guests got settled in at the reception, they snuck back outside and danced to a song playing on Mike’s phone in his jacket pocket.

You’re probably thinking, ‘there’s nothing super special about this photo,’ and maybe you’re right, but I love it so much because I have another picture of these two dancing *just like this* at her sister’s wedding a few years ago, before they were engaged.

One thing I love about first dances is how a bride and groom hold each other naturally. They are so wrapped up in the moment, they don’t have time to think about ‘what to do with their hands,’ and it ends up being one of the most beautiful, genuine moments of a wedding day.

…and then there’s these ‘jazz hands’ from when Mike + Becca finished their ‘first dance.’ Hahaha!!

I also love the variation in mother/son and father/daughter dances. Marcy and her dad picked a classic country song, and swayed back and forth on the dance floor, with a few of these spins (just like my husband does with our four-year-old daughter) mixed in.

Brianna Mae and her dad picked a faster-paced song, providing the perfect tempo for a jitterbug and other fun moves. :-)

But this moment will forever be a favorite – Marcy dancing with her dad, looking up to her mother and daughter in heaven. *all the heart strings being pulled*

Heidi said she’s always been a grandpa’s girl, so when I saw them dancing as I was packing up my gear, I knew I had to quickly put it back up to catch this moment!

To all the couples planning their wedding dance, ask your DJ about doing a ‘generations dance’ – each and every married couple gets on the dance floor, and the DJ narrows the group down to the couple who has been married the longest. It’s a great excuse for all those husbands to ask their wives to dance (because they were basically told to ;-)), and it’s a lovely way to honor the couples who have been through ‘for better or worse.’

Dance off!! I’ve never seen a dance quite like John + Natalie’s – so many sweet moves!!

Lastly, something a little ‘new’ – some family photos I’ve had the honor of being a part of this past year. I don’t really consider myself a newborn or family photographer, but it’s so heartwarming to see my brides and grooms become parents and experience a new kind of ‘best day ever.’ For example, watching a ‘bride and groom’ hold a newborn and watch their toddler find joy in throwing rocks into a stream on a cool summer evening. Doesn’t that sound like a ‘best day ever’ kind of day to you?

Skinny newborn legs in daddy’s hand!

Mama snuggles are just the best.

Going through my favorites from the past year – I clearly have a thing for baby toes!!

Lastly… Walter the cat!! I’ve been to his house a few times, but I hadn’t actually seen him in over a year. When he came out from his hiding spot, baby Freya and I were both so excited!!

Whew! I think that’s all… for now… I had such a hard time narrowing these down! There are so many more sweet + funny moments from 2018, I’ll probably share more on my Facebook or Instagram accounts (because as anyone I’ve ever photographed knows, when I say I’m done, what I really mean is I’m not done and I just can’t help myself when it comes to good photos)!!

best of 2017 MOMENTS!!
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Engagement sessions and wedding day portraits are the perfect time to make some gorgeous photos, but the moments that happen unprompted make those memories that last forever. Those moments bring tears and lots of smiles and laughter.

These moments often don’t make it on the blog because the lighting isn’t perfect, or the background is too distracting, or the moments themselves could be downright embarrassing for some. But here, in this yearly roundup of ‘best of 2017 MOMENTS’ writeup, anything goes!!

From sweet mother-daughter moments like this…

… to this special moment in the groom’s getting ready room…

… to my all-time favorite first look reaction…

… and this moment where we weren’t sure his ring was going to fit…

… and this ‘Lady Marmalade’ dance off…

… to this “Harry, your hands are freezing” moment… Enjoy my favorite moments of 2017!!! :-)

Another sweet mother-daughter moment – after buttoning up the dress, Ashley’s mom brushed her hands over her shoulders to smooth her dress before helping her daughter into her wedding shoes. Imagine all the times she helped her daughter get dressed as a baby and little girl. Now here she is, helping her ‘baby’ get dressed one last time before she marries the man of her dreams! *cue the waterworks!!*

Jake was the joking-est groom I’ve ever met. Seriously, what other Jake would Megan get earrings and a love note from on her wedding day?! Thanks for the clarification after the signature… ;-)

This photo doesn’t look like much, but the groom had secretly borrowed the bride’s shoes the night before and wrote “Ms. Fladeland in the morning” on one shoe and “Mrs. Lucich in the evening” on the other. This was her first time seeing his surprise, and I love that he thought to do this!

Earrings can be tough to get in sometimes. ;-)

This’ first touch’ was a first for me and I loved it! They didn’t want to see each other before the ceremony, but they wanted to have a special moment together before the ceremony. This was so beautiful and perfect and I only cried a tiny* bit behind my camera.

*tiny as in I had to keep shooting even though my vision was blurry – thank goodness for auto focus!! 

This bride wanted to have a first look with her father before going to see her groom.

SPEECHLESS!!! This is actually the moment *after* he first saw her. I suggested he see the back of her dress – the first thing he finally did say was “mmhmm.”

This first look was a bit more humorous – I was a ways away so I can only guess what kind of (maybe inappropriate) commentary was happening over the walkie-talkies. Haha!

I love thoughtful gifts! This bride wanted to somehow incorporate the groom’s brother who had passed away into photos. We bounced some ideas around, and this photo pin that he could wear on his boutonnière over his heart was the perfect way to have his brother there at his wedding!!

Ready for some cute kids? Tickle time!!

Snuggle with mommy time!

Twirling time!

Play in the grass while waiting patiently for photos time!

Make friends with the photographer time!

And a few ‘formal portrait’ outtakes. There’s always that one groomsman, right?

I love a good candid photo of parents – that right there shows me that the groom was raised in a fun, loving home!

Again with that one groomsman… a special Titanic-style moment. :-D

While this may look like a staged Pinterest-style photo (which it is), what you don’t know is that I jokingly told the couple looking away to smile… and they did! Haha!!

Photobombed by a turkey!

And some deer! Which is more of an inside joke because of a sweet thank you card the bride had sent after engagement photos. On the cover was a lovely painted deer wearing a flower crown, and on the inside she had written something about ‘wouldn’t it be neat if there were deer at our wedding?’ AND THEN THERE WERE DEER AT THEIR WEDDING!!

Pre-ceremony prayers.

Pre-ceremony high fives.

Pre-ceremony meltdowns.

I was so focused on the bride and her dad, that I almost missed the groom’s reaction!

Vows are hard to repeat sometimes. Especially long sentences. This one of Jordyn strongly annunciating fragments of her vows still gives me the giggles!

This couple stole a kiss during the sign of peace, before they were officially pronounced husband and wife!

Often times, when a couple walks away from their ceremony, they just keep walking. It’s a beautiful moment. It’s their first walk as husband and wife, and it ALWAYS brings out the most pure body language! Arms intertwined and the biggest hugs you ever did see. :-)

Receiving lines are a great way to say ‘hello’ to everyone who came to the wedding, but my favorite part is when the parents can’t wait to congratulate their sons and daughters on officially becoming Mr. and Mrs.!!

Reception mingling time! My husband’s and my grandparents passed away long before we got married, so I really treasure (and envy) moments like this!

This bride and groom walked hand in hand, table to table, greeting their guests.

The mother and sister of the groom having a moment. I love looking around at a reception and seeing what is going on between the guests. This moment was sweeter than I could have expected!!

FUNNEL CAKES!!! I’m sure the logistics of purchasing and operating a funnel cake machine at their wedding was more work than most would ever choose to endure, but this was really the coolest thing to happen at a wedding. By far.

This moment when the bride was surrounded by her mom and sister during their slideshow just makes me melt!!

How many grooms take the time during their reception to go over and give their mama some love? (Answer: grooms that also know that funnel cakes are worth having at their wedding. These are good people, I tell ya!!) ;-)

Doin’ what her papa taught her. ;-)

This next one is from a morning wedding – all the kids (and there were a lot) at this wedding were suddenly ready for naps at the same time. This sweetie and her mama made me want to go home and snuggle my own babies – which I did, as soon as I got home that day. :-)

You’ve all seen the reception game where a couple from the crowd has to show the bride and groom how to kiss, and then the b + g have to replicate it, right? Well this couple added a twist. Before showing the bride and groom how to kiss, they first gave a bit of marriage wisdom. Some were sweet, some were funny, and all were straight from the heart!

The bride’s life story sung to the tune of “Goodbye Earl” (their favorite song from when they were younger) was a highlight for the year. Something about moving to Florida and getting a cat? Not all of it worked perfectly, but that’s exactly what made it a perfect memory.

This reaction to the bride’s dad’s speech – so good. Jokes about their age difference (they started dating when he was a senior and she was a freshman in high school) a plenty! We all knew it was coming, but his delivery was just that good!

Huge props to a maid of honor who can embarrass a bride, then make her cry in the same speech. 

This is the same joking groom who clarified he was the soon-to-be-husband in the love note earlier. After thanking all the guests for coming, he said something like “We’re really surprised anybody showed up. We picked a holiday weekend a long ways away from our friends, thinking everyone would want to be anywhere but at our wedding. So, thanks, I guess?”

Mid-dinner massage time!

Who needs to stretch before their first dance as husband and wife? This guy.

Okay, so maybe it was good that he stretched for this. Haha!!

Loosen up those joints!

Make room for Jesus!

Switching back to some super sweet moments… the photo on the left I love because both the bride’s and groom’s dads are in the background watching them dance. The photo on the right, the groom is watching his bride dance with his father. Love love love!!!

This bride’s father introduced this song as one that he used to either sing to her or play for her when she was a baby. Can you imagine all those memories swirling around in the heads of these two during this dance? This moment is what waterproof mascara is made for!!

After the bride danced with her new husband, she danced with her father. After she danced with her father, she walked over and hugged her mother…

… and all there of them watched her husband dance with his mother. #familygoals

Now lets get this party started! Before the bride was done dancing with her father, this kid was ready to jam out!

Pop that hip!

Another sweet grandma moment! :-)

Parent of the bride cutting a rug! And someone taking a photo of a moment I missed. I love seeing people take pictures at weddings! I can’t capture every single moment. I try, but I just can’t. So thanks to all who love to take pictures at weddings alongside the hired photographer!! #captureallthemoments

The flower girl that didn’t need to duck to get ‘a little bit softer now’ and also the guy who is almost completely parallel to the floor without actually laying down. 

Oh, did you think that weddings are the only time that moments happen? Think again. ;-) Mike shows his true feelings towards snuggles…

Whisper something dirty into her ear… “mud.”

Walking is hard sometimes…

When you go in for a cute piggy back ride and end up choking your fiancee… so romantic. ;-)

Tell me how you really feel about being up at sunrise to take pictures…

Puttin’ the moves on her man!

More whispers – I love prompts that create all kinds of different reactions unique to each couple. Giggles are by far my favorite. :-)

Thanks so much for following along! 2017 was such a fun year. I hope you enjoyed my favorite candids/outtakes/moments/memories! :-)

joseph + victoria MARRIED!! Custer State Park elopement photography
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Joe + Victoria escaped the hustle + bustle of New York City to get married in the middle of Custer State Park in the middle of winter with only their immediate families in attendance. They got ready mostly by themselves in a small cabin (which ironically was larger than their NYC apartment), then had a romantic first look filled with lots of hugs and a twirl. Next, they had planned lots of time for photos so that we could go for a little drive to find some dramatic scenery before their sunset ceremony near the State Game Lodge, followed by some hors d’œuvres, mingling, and an intimate dinner.

Victoria had a vintage locket with photos of her grandparents on their wedding day which she wrapped around the base of her bouquet. Little details like this are some of my favorite!!

Also, some of my favorite details are bouquets from Jenny’s Floral in Custer. Never have I ever photographed a bouquet of hers that I didn’t love!

After hiding out in separate rooms in their cabin, I brought them outside for this sweet first look. Joe’s smile plus the excitement all over Victoria’s face are perfect!!

“Hi! You look so good!!!”

*snuggle snuggle*

But wait, check out this dress some more!! ;-) I love how Joe can’t keep his eyes off his beautiful bride!

Victoria planned for cold weather and brought an assortment of ‘cover ups’ to keep warm. This was one of my favorites! Part jacket, part cape, all beautiful and cozy!!

One of my goals for 2018 is to share more ‘moments’ for each wedding instead of saving them for the yearly ‘best of’ blog posts. Joe escorting his parents up the aisle was a favorite because 1) Joe can’t stop smiling – he’s moments away from getting married!! and 2) his parents are clearly just as excited for him!!

And Victoria’s parents were super sweet as well. I LOVE when both the bride’s parents walk her up the aisle (and I honestly don’t know how anyone keeps it together – I’m tearing up just thinking of walking my own babies towards their future spouses!!). Plus, those stolen glances get me every time. I want to know exactly what they’re thinking!

Oh, Joe. The way you look at Victoria is everything. Even after having a first look and traipsing around in the freezing snow together, the excitement and emotions these two wore on their sleeves was simply beautiful.

One more favorite detail: when Mary Maisey-Ireland does weddings. The way she gets to know each couple and customizes their ceremonies is so lovely, but the way she delivers all the text that has been thoughtfully curated is even lovelier. 

There goes Joe again, giving Victoria that look! ;-)

Victoria was nodding so hard to all her promises she vowed to keep, her veil fell out before she could even say ‘I do.’ In the background, you could hear giggles from the mothers, and as I took another step to the side, I caught Victoria’s father wiping away a tear.

Putting a ring on it!!! :-D

Cheers to a long and happy marriage!!!

Oh, those misty eyes as they are pronounced husband and wife. LOVE IT!!!

Even though we had plenty of time before the ceremony for photos, I loved having a few minutes with Joe + Victoria while their guests made their way to the reception. Also, how awesome is Victoria’s cape?! It’s a vintage nurse’s cape and it went perfectly with the red + navy colors for their wedding! And yes, I am now trying to come up with a reason of why I need one in my closet as well. ;-)

As the sun dipped lower and lower, the sky glowed pink and for a moment I felt all warm and fuzzy even though it was *really* really cold out.

THOSE RINGS!!!!

With their small guest list, they were able to have dinner in the original dining room at the State Game Lodge. 

Joe + Victoria – THANK YOU SO SO MUCH for daring to trek through the slush and ice and snow on your wedding day. I hope these photos were worth it, and I hope that they bring you all kinds of happy memories for years to come! :-)

best of 2017 WEDDINGS
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Bride + Groom portraits are my favorite time to be around a couple on their wedding day. It’s just the two of them walking, hugging, swaying and soaking in every single emotion that the day brings!

Before the ceremony, it’s a lot of nerves about the ceremony combined with a relief of seeing each other finally, plus a huge dollop of excitement to get married and spend the rest of their lives together.

After the ceremony, the emotions are a bit more relaxed and carefree, with a huge wave of WE’RE MARRIED!! Finally!!!

This year, I photographed a few more elopements than I have previously, and I loved how there was so little stress and so much time to wander and soak in those ‘wedding day feels!’

Side note: this years brides + grooms all wore something that made them feel comfortable and confident and it TOTALLY showed in the way they carried themselves all day. Shoes are probably the biggest factor in killing your comfort level on a wedding day, and I was thrilled to see so many grooms wearing their own shoes instead of rentals, and lots of brides opting for a comfy pair to slip into for walking around for photos and dancing. 

Evan + Megan’s fall wedding day was overcast and cold and drizzly all morning and afternoon. When we walked out of the church after their ceremony, the SUN WAS SHINING and I couldn’t help but put a bit of sun flare in most of their post-ceremony photos because look how warm and cozy they look! They literally have that ‘just married glow.’ :-D

When I ask couples to ‘do a little dance’ during portraits, it rarely turns out like this – but this is totally Jayson + Jordyn’s personalities! I love how simple directions can yield such different results from each and every couple!

Still awe-struck over the spontaneous snowfall on Matt + Ashley’s wedding day. And his grandpa’s car. Coolest, chic-est wedding of 2017 right there!

I’d like to interrupt these sweet, fun-loving couples to introduce you to a few wedding parties – the people that surround the bride and groom with support and big laughs. As much as I love elopements, I also love seeing couples’ personalities mirrored and multiplied in their closest friends.

Okay, back to the snuggles for a bit! ;-) I still can’t get over the view from Evan’s parents’ back yard! Their ceremony was one in a million.

Alright, alright, Chris + Kelsey’s view was pretty spectacular, too! I love that you can see the ‘aisle’ she walked up, and their family and friends were scattered along the rocks on either side for the ceremony. The most natural outdoor spot to get married!

Silhouettes are always a fun image to grab, but the birds flying past in this one make it a favorite!!

Does it get any better than being carried off into the sunset on your wedding day?!

And now for a little preview of the next ‘best of 2017’ post – MOMENTS!! The candid, unscripted events as well as outtakes are the heart of every wedding. Sure, portraits are lovely, but these photos are what bring all those great memories come flooding back year after year!!

First look feels:

Ceremony love:

Reception magic:

Ashley’s dad shaking her newly-minted-husband’s hand as they switch from ‘first dance’ to ‘father-daughter dance’ – I can’t believe I wasn’t crying throughout this whole wedding dance (probably because all the tears dried up half-way through the first dance). ;-)

Ok, never mind, crying again now. Love this family SO MUCH!!!

If you enjoyed my favorite portraits from this year, plus the sneak peek of candids, be sure to check back next week for the full ‘best of 2017 MOMENTS’ recap! :-)