In this grand year of 2018, I was bound & determined to host a Galentine's Party of my own. Below, you'll find some photos, tips, and thoughts on hosting your own heart's day fête!
"I'm so busy."
This simple phrase appears in almost every conversation I have these days. Every person I encounter seems to be overwhelmed by their every-growing "to do" list, running around from work to errands to events with hardly a glance to their bank teller or grocery clerk. And when we do have a free minute (or hour), they are quickly swallowed up by scrolling through social media, playing mindless games on a smartphone, or watching another episode of the latest TV show.
We began photos at Walnut Ridge Baptist Church, where Danae and her ladies were snacking on bagels, drinking sparkling cider, and getting made up. Knowing some of those women made the morning extra fun for me! Danae had chosen a gorgeous deep purple for her bridesmaids to wear, and I just have to say--this may be one of my favorite color palettes! Not to mention her ring...heavenly. I'm so thankful to have had the time for detail photos, especially the sweet heirloom handkerchief Danae carried!
The Des Moines Christkindlmarket is a German/European inspired Christmas Market! I grew up in Germany, and have distant memories of the real deal. This winter, I finally made the time to hit up this winter extravaganza. Although smaller than the market I've visited in Chicago, Des Moines' Christmas Market warmed my soul and stomach.
Are you looking for the perfect bouquet to carry down the aisle at your wedding?! Look no further! Here are some of my favorite flower vendors in the midwest (Iowa, Nebraska & Minnesota to be exact). You don't have to be engaged to read this post, though. Maybe you've just got a case of the winter blues--these beautiful photos should cheer you up within minutes. Enjoy!
Somehow, miracles happen. Isn't that every love story, in some way? I've always said that it's a phenomenon that two people would push through the awkward of crushes and first dates, break-ups and weird quirks, and decide to spend the next 50+ years caring for another person. Yet, it does happen and we seem to love love quite a lot. ;) And that, to me, is miraculous.
Jan and Grant's wedding day has been eagerly anticipated for years. Because during college, they dated seriously...until they broke up. It took graduating college, multiple jobs, two individual moves to Colorado, lots of teary phone calls with mutual friends Q & Brittney (separately!), prayers and more tears, & finally a risky question and letter from Grant before they began to try again. And WOW. I think they both would tell you it was worth it--hard, and not so fun--but worth it to make it to their wedding day! And what a day it was!
We started off photography coverage at a dear couple's home in Colorado Springs. All the girls were hanging out, curling hair & applying makeup on not quite enough sleep. :) But they looked great! As soon as she was ready, Jan headed out to the backyard for their first look. Grant was pretty amazed by her dress, I believe! This yard has some special memories for them, you'll see that later on. Finally, we headed to the nearby La Foret (in the Black Forest area) for the rest of the day. There was another wedding happening on the grounds, but we couldn't tell...I highly recommend La Foret as a wedding venue in Colorado Springs! Really, really gorgeous.
As you'll see throughout, Jan had many squeals during the day (one of the groomsmen even counted, haha!). The joy these two shared was unmistakeable, and the foundation of faith, trust, and love underlaying their marriage is clear. Grant and Jan, thank you for the honor of being both your friend and wedding photographer! I loved being in Colorado with you--and can't wait to see all the adventures ahead for you both!
These next few photos were taken on the bench Grant and Jan sat on when he proposed! Talk about romantic!
December sparkles with twinkle lights, dreams of snow, and the hope of Christmas. It's arguably the most magical month of the year...so when Megan told me that she and Kelly were getting married on December 1, I'm pretty sure I squealed!
...However, like some dating relationships in college go, their ended. Tears were shed, dreams lost. Both moved on, and both moved. Moved to Colorado, actually. It took a while; months and months went by, until Grand and Jan took a step towards friendship and then dating again! They took their time, and even managed dating "long distance" while living in separate cities in Colorado.
These photos were taken on a super windy and chilly October day in Iowa. The whole Hansen crew managed so well, and Isla even slept through part of our photo session! We had to get some natural light photos (of course) and even snuck into the nursery Scott's mom has made up for Isla.
Lizy and I met just a few weeks into her freshman year at Iowa State, and I remember just how bubbly and sweet she was! (And still is, ha!) Memories were made that year, including dorm room karaoke, which is something I *highly* recommend.
Anna and Jordan are native to Minnesota, but they actually both met in college at North Dakota State University! Jordan transferred there after completing his freshman year at Dordt College, where the seeds to connect with a campus ministry had been planted. Eventually, these two became friends through their involvement with The Navigators at NDSU, and through leadership team, campus life, and friends, these two became an item!
Alex and Natalie share a love based on faith, and on serving others. Their engagement photo session in Des Moines was a fall dream-come-true!
This is probably one of my very favorite wedding days. Not because it was the most extravagant (it was wonderfully simple) or some new exotic location (Omaha is not all that new!). Rather, it will forever be a favorite day simply because Naomi is like a sister to me, and James & Naomi have a way about them where everyone feels like family!
Logan is the younger brother of my friend Alycia, and when we were emailing about their fall anniversary photo session, she mentioned her youngest brother needed some senior photos taken! I absolutely love when I get repeat couples, and also when friends and past couples refer their friends and family to me! Word of mouth is the strongest form of marketing...but the one with least control. So, getting to meet and photograph Logan was such a blessing. Not to mention, going in knowing that he's a football-playing, motorcycle-driving guy was just a bit intimidating. However, he quickly warmed up to my camera. After a cloudy afternoon, we had a great (sunny!) evening exploring McHone Park in Boone! Enjoy some of my favorite photos from Logan's senior session!
It's no secret that my favorite time of year is Christmastime! Track it back to my birthday in December, or living in Germany during my early childhood (land of all things magical and Christmassy!!), watching the local Nutcracker Ballet every year, or simply the sheer romance & nostalgia it pulls us all into. (Don't tell me you can't listen to classic holiday music and wish for a minute you lived back in the 1950s!) The winter holidays bring out our biggest hopes & dreams; even with the stress of the end of the year, we each feel like a carefree child for a few moments when we get caught up in the first snow.
During high school, I'd get so excited for the end of the year, that I would break out my Christmas CD's in October. I've matured just a bit since then, thankfully, but November 1 always reminds me that even with the freezing and gloomy weather heading our way, there's something wonderful coming on the coat-tails of the winter winds. Christmas.
I realize we've just welcomed November to the calendar, but I just couldn't wait to start daydreaming about my Christmas (ok, and birthday!) wish-list. Being an adult, though, means that gift giving is actually often more fun than receiving! So, I figured that I'd share some great gift ideas...just in case you get stuck when you start thinking about Black Friday shopping or just Christmas gifts in general.
I don't know a single person who doesn't love a good candle. What I've learned during my few years as a candle connoisseur is that the 3 wicks are generally the best--they allow for more scent to be released! My current favorite candle was a surprise...$8 for a LARGE candle from TJ Maxx! They have a wonderfully broad selection, and often have multiple size options. If you want to give candles as a gift, go here first, and you'll get more bang for your buck than you do at Target.
2. Echo Dot
For the tech person in your life, this would be a fun addition! (Unless, of course, they already have one.) I don't personally own an Echo Dot, but they're fun and useful for checking weather, playing music, or managing phone calls hand free!
3. Art from a local artist
As a small business and artist in my own way, I always try to support local businesses and artists when I can! It can be hard to get off the ground, especially when it seems everyone is so concerned about "cheap art" these days. So, here are a few suggestions for you!
--Lauren of Wild Akers creates all kinds of beautiful lettering and design work. ALSO, she has some sweet custom christmas cards!! So, if you've had someone take your family photos, pick your favorite, and order from Lauren instead of mint.com or something!! Her etsy shop is here. (Bonus points for her super clever business name!!!)
--Amelia M. is a good friend of mine, and she has been pursing her own career in art! Everyone who knows her speaks highly of her character, and her work. She's mega talented, and has an etsy shop full of watercolor prints, and larger paintings! Shoot her an email if you want custom art for your grandma, significant other, or even just for yourself. ;) That's allowed!
--Myself! I won't say much here, but I DO offer Gift Certificates for photography sessions! If you know of a friend or family member who would love a family/portrait/anniversary session, but they just wouldn't spend the money on themselves (or maybe don't have the money to spend), you can purchase a full or mini session for them!
4. A Hammock
Hammocks are super "in" these days. If you have a high schooler or college student in your family who enjoys the outdoors--this would be a GREAT gift for them! I purchased my hammock two years ago, and have loved using it during the warmer months. (Last February, I even pulled it out on the weird 70* day we had!!) For a starter hammock, I recommend checking out OuterEQ on Amazon. I purchased a double hammock so I can share with a friend, as well as straps (not included with the hammock). This brand won't break the bank, and been durable and comfortable so far!!
5. Coffee (or coffee related items!)
It's hard to go wrong with coffee. Check out a local store for some beans (Sidecar in Cedar Falls, Burgie's in Ames, and Horizon Line in Des Moines) or if you aren't sure what they like, buy them a mug! You really can't have too many, and who doesn't love a mug from their favorite shop!? Even better, purchase a handcrafted, artisan mug from a potter! Need a few suggestions? Erin Carpenter lives in Ames, look into the gift shop at the Cedar Falls Hearst Center, or look around online. (Shopping for a tea lover?! Check out Gong Fu Tea in Des Moines!!)
If you know me at all, you knew this had to be on here someplace!!! ;) A few great reads (or wanna-reads):
--Katie Davis Major's latest book, Daring to Hope
--It's What I Do, an autobiography by Lynsey Addario, an amazing woman and war photographer
--Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. I'm behind on reading this, it seems, but it was amazing!
7. Local Wine or Beer
For the 21+ friends in your life, gift them something local! In the central Iowa area, I suggest a brew from Alluvial Brewing or Boone Valley Brewery, or a quality wine from Prairie Moon Winery.
I rarely do sunrise sessions (mainly because I feel bad making people get up so early, ha) but it's ALWAYS worth it. Always. And I think you'll agree with me after seeing Kat's photos!
Amelia Renee is a Des Moines senior photographer, also serving Ames, Cedar Falls, and beyond.
The most common questions I get from people is, "How did you get started in photography?" and "When did you start a business?". Since I haven't been very regular about blogging personal or business things of late, and now that winter is on it's way and my sessions will *theoretically* slow down, I wanted to share some of my story!
Elizabeth and Chris's wedding day threatened to rain. I'd been checking the Des Moines weather throughout the previous week, so that was no surprise to me. Still, nobody wants to have their wedding day shuffled by unexpected rainstorms! Thankfully, the skies were dry when everyone arrived at the church. After Elizabeth finalized her makeup and jewelry, she headed to a nearby barn for her first look with Chris! It was such a sweet moment, and they chatted for a good few minutes before starting more portraits. The sun even peeked out during bridal party photos! We wrapped up family photos (a part I rarely blog, but that is just so important during a wedding day) and drove back over to the church. Not long after, rain was pouring down outside!!! Everyone kept marveling at the miracle that the weather held while we were outdoors. Amazing!
The ceremony was held inside the new sanctuary of the Saylorville Baptist Church. It was simple and sweet--and I loved the foot washing portion of the ceremony! There were tender tears and huge smiles during the ceremony, especially as they were pronounced man and wife! On to the reception (with a few more portraits, because why not?!) and more tears, more laughs, and wonderful words said. Elizabeth's best friend gave a sweet speech, Chris' brother's toast made more than one person cry...and the "mad lib" game answers shared were HILARIOUS. Can I request all my couples do that instead of having glass clinks for kisses?! The Wagners' day was beautiful, and I was thankful to be part of such a wonderful wedding day!
People, and new friendships, are some of the very best things about life. (I'm also an extrovert and suuuuper people oriented...so that's probably why!!) It's been so fun for me to get to know Emily and Rich over the past 3 years. They are servant-hearted people, generous givers, and so kind! As I've gotten to know them and spend more time with them, I've also been able to watch their family grow. Last year, they added the cutest (and strong willed!) little girl into their family. It's been amazing to watch her change and grow, both physically and in personality! She definitely wasn't sure about the camera (or me, for that matter) but we still managed to capture some fun family photos!
It isn't too late to schedule a family session this fall! I have a few spots open yet in November, so shoot me an email via the contact page above if you want some updated family photos for your Christmas cards!
Ashley and David have become good friends to me over the past 6 years. Although I can't remember the first time I met them, I knew they were cool older college students, and yet I somehow scored an invitation to their wedding! It was a gorgeous day, and a sweet memory. Just a few years after that, they came to work at Iowa State...and I've been able to spend lots of time with them, through work and fun. David has introduced me to my favorite game (Codenames, seriously, you need this in your life!) and Ashley mentored me last year over lots and lots of coffee. It was SO fun to find out this spring that their family is expanding, and "Lil' Party" will be joining the crew in just a few weeks! We cannot wait to meet her (& find out her real name). These two will be fantastic parents, & it's going to be a sweet new season of life for them!