If asked, my friends and family would likely tell you that I am a big proponent of online dating and dating apps – it’s how many of my closest friends have met their now spouses and significant others, and it’s also the route I’ve used often when personally dating. So when Elise and Michael first told me they had met through Match, I immediately wanted to know more – what was their first date like? How soon did they know?

While they told me about having met through Match when we first met over coffee, it wasn’t until their engagement session that I got a chance to hear more about how the two of them became, well, the two of them. They laughed as they told me about their first date that lasted multiple hours because they both were enjoying their conversation so much, about their mutual love for Harry Potter, and about how they both knew from that night of their very first date that this was it. After seeing them together and watching them interact throughout their session, it completely made sense to me – they’re gentle and thoughtful with one another, yet also playful and quick-witted when the moment calls for it. As their session went on I watched them completely fall into their groove – they mentioned a soundtrack they both enjoy, and I put on some music as they sang, and swayed, and did their thing while I no longer had to give any direction. And this is all I hope for in a session, really – that you just be you, together, and I’m there to capture it.Pin itPin itPin itPin itPin itPin itPin itPin itPin itPin itPin itPin itPin itPin itPin itPin itPin itPin itPin itPin itPin itPin it

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As much as I love words, one of my very favorite things about a wedding day is unspoken stuff, and oddly enough, sometimes it’s even the things I don’t get a chance to photograph. Allow me to clarify.

Amanda and Clint began their wedding day with breakfast together on the porch of the guest house of Walnut Grove Farm. Jan, the farm’s owner and long time friend of Amanda’s family, made bread pudding, which they ate that foggy morning together before parting ways to get ready. Amanda beamed as she recounted it for me later, and the quiet and calm and perfection that encapsulated her description of that experience made me strangely happy that I hadn’t been there to document it. (I may firmly believe in documentation, but I also believe that sometimes we all need moments that belong solely to us – this was one of those.)

Amanda and Clint are two people with an essence about them, which was reflected immediately in watching them with their friends during the getting ready process. Amanda is collected and thoughtful and maintains this intoxicating mix of slightly unpolished grace, which may be the best kind of grace of all – she carries herself in a way that feels effortless yet poised, and then will follow it with a high five, a goofy dance move, and the wittiest banter. She and her girls spent the morning drinking mimosas and helping each other with hair and makeup in the guest house, and it was about as perfectly personal as getting ready can be. She had organized a scavenger hunt for Clint to get his gift from her that morning (with the help of his groomsmen); the guys joined in on the fun and helped Clint along the way, while he happily played along and laughed at his future wife’s plays on words within each clue. The guys got ready at Zach’s house, which is equally important to Clint – he lived with Zach in past years, and found himself putting on his shirt and fastening his wedding day suspenders in his old bedroom. Clint’s personality is equally as infectious as Amanda’s – he’s just as thoughtful and enthusiastic and charismatic, and these qualities spread across the home as the guys scavenger hunted and tied their bow ties and had such a great time together in the process.

There are so many more things I could tell you all about their wedding day, because there is something quite special about these two, and everyone who was present at their wedding knows it, too. Their wedding vows, which they wrote themselves, expressed the things they love about one another, and how they promised to forever work to live up to one another’s greatness. And as beautiful as their words were, the expressions on Clint and Amanda’s faces when they’re around each other say just as much – they light up to the point of nearly glowing, and their eyes are filled with an understanding and admiration and respect that goes beyond what my words can describe. And as I looked around at their friends and loved ones and listened to their conversations and toasts, I realized that they looked at Amanda and Clint with another version of this expression – because Amanda and Clint are the kind of people whose kindness and goodness fill a room, whose mere conversation makes others’ hearts feel full and loved, and who make those of us who know them simply feel fortunate to be in their midst.

Venue + Flowers: Walnut Grove Farm
Dessert: Uncle Billy’s Bakery
Dress: Cloud Nine Bridal
Catering: Hy Vee & Two Tomatoes
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Brittany and Matt’s wedding day started how so many of my spring weddings days have started this year – with a daunting forecast of rain and gloom. It poured on my drive from Chicago to the hotel in East Peoria where the girls were getting ready that morning, and I did what had become the norm that season – I mentally rehashed the rain back-up plan, and I grabbed my umbrellas from the trunk upon arrival. By then the rain had settled to a sprinkle, but I have learned never to underestimate how quickly things can change. I entered a room full of chill bridesmaids and an equally chill bride, and besides the girls making sure to grab their own bag full of umbrellas, there was no mention of rain or weather.

As the day went on, the skies cleared, and the forecast found a way to surprise all of us – the weather app I check frequently on wedding days now showed mere clouds with no rain, and from that moment on, I didn’t think about the weather for the rest of the day. Instead, all I noticed was Brittany and Matt – beaming at one another, singing along together to every song on their party bus wholeheartedly, and soaking up every single second of their day. This is the second wedding I’ve had the honor of spending with them, as they were both in the wedding party of Brittany’s sister Katie’s wedding – and I can assure you after observing and getting to know them over these past few years, this is exactly the kind of people they and their loved ones are. They’re happy and loving and kind-hearted and so freaking fun, and they’ll make you feel like you’re part of it all, too.

The sun ended up coming out that afternoon while we were taking pictures, and as I watched them drink beers and joke with their many best friends and marvel at the sunshine, I felt extra thankful to be with them there in those moments, and to have clients who not only become friends, but also make everyone around them feel like family.

Reception Venue: Par-A-Dice Hotel and Casino
Centerpieces: Create A Scene/I Do Events
Cake: Le Bakery
DJ: Extreme DJs and Lighting
Ceremony: St. Vincent de Paul Church
Dress: David’s Bridal
Tux: Jos. A. Bank

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After growing up and going to college in Illinois, Sarah eventually made her way out to Colorado, where she took a position as a food and beverage manager at Devil’s Thumb Ranch. While gradually meeting and making new friends with co-workers, she eventually met Andrew, a chef who originally hailed from California. When I asked her how the beginning of their relationship actually started, she laughed as she explained how it took some prodding from a fellow co-worker to get Andrew to realize that Sarah might possibly be interested in him.

It’s funny to imagine Sarah and Andrew like this – in the beginning stages of a relationship, unfamiliar with one another’s quirks and intricacies that one only gets to know once two people spend more time with one another. I say this because when you now meet Sarah and Andrew, you simply can’t imagine them apart. Their jokes bounce off of each other seamlessly, and they give each other knowing looks, and each one of their loved ones who spoke during their reception made a reference to these two being one another’s best friend. Since they both live away from home, their families and friends both got to know them as a couple from a distance – and even through these brief visits back together and the FaceTime calls, they could already see how the presence of this new person made their child a better version of himself/herself.

Sarah and Andrew’s wedding day was fun, laid back, and full of love for the people they surround themselves with in life – which was perfectly fitting for a couple who fully embodies all of those same characteristics, and who exude it with each laugh, and every single knowing glance.

Venue: The Chateau Bu-Sche in Alsip, IL
DJ: Precision Sound
Flowers: Sass & Class Flowers
Guitarist: John Mikuska
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I thought I knew what rainy wedding days were all about before Sandra and Johnny’s day. After photographing weddings for seven years, I was reasonably sure I had seen it all in terms of bad weather on a wedding day. I, of course, was so wrong.

I try not to be too hyperbolic when talking about how disappointing it can be for a couple when it rains on their wedding day – after all, it’s just one day, right? The thing is, it doesn’t feel that way when you’ve been planning this day for months – when you’ve been scheduling and emailing and pinteresting and planning your face off for a singular day, it’s tough to not have expectations of how it will go. While I’ve never planned a wedding myself, I know this simply because this job involves me being in on those emails, and the timeline scheduling, and the planning with them. I talk with my couples for months leading up to their day, and by the time it gets here, honestly, I think I want that ideal vision for them almost as badly as they do. I want this day to be everything they imagined it would be, and then some.

So when the “rain” on Johnny and Sandra’s wedding day turned out to be a nonstop torrential downpour, I felt my heart start to quiver a bit for them. Their wedding guests scurried from one building to the next, trying to get in and out as quickly as possible. The rain pelted the roof of the pavilion their ceremony took place within, making sure we didn’t forget its presence despite being indoors. This was no ordinary rain, and I became nervous that they would be disappointed by these dark skies, sidetracked by the pelting and the cold. That they would, in short, let it get to them.

The thing I didn’t think about in this moment is that Johnny and Sandra are no ordinary couple, either. One of Sandra’s matrons of honor, Liz, spoke in her speech about Sandra’s determination and drive – in work, in grad school, and in life in general. She went on to talk about how both Johnny and Sandra lost their fathers when they were younger, and how strong and resilient they both have become in the process. These two have not only been through some hard life stuff, but they also get each other on a certain level because of it – and now, they get to tackle the hard life stuff with one another at their sides.

So by the end of this evening, these two had a way of reminding me: what’s one day of rain in the grand scheme of life? Sure, it poured rain from mid-morning until late into their reception. They didn’t get sun-drenched moments walking around the beautiful winery where they held their ceremony as they had hoped, and they had to haul umbrellas and extra jackets and even threw clear shower curtains over their hair that had been done ever so precisely. But as Sandra’s other matron of honor, Erika, mentioned in her toast, the craziest thing to think about is that this is just one of so many incredible days they will have together in the future. There will be new moments that eventually feel bigger than this, happier than this, more surprising than this. So yeah, sure, sunshine instead of torrential rain would have been really great – but something tells me that these two will continue to have even greater days, and that the sun will be shining so hard on them. And as for the future days when it isn’t? Well, I don’t know any other couple that would possibly be better at getting through the dark skies together. And not only getting through them, but also coming out on top – smiling and dancing and just as in love as they would be in the midst of sunshine.

Ceremony Venue: Kickapoo Creek Winery
Reception Venue: Kewanee Dunes
Decor: Heaven on Earth 
Florals: Lauren Luecke Floral and Event Design
Bride’s Dress: Country Bride
DJ/Lighting: Tony Westefer
Cake + Cakepops: Tina’s Cakes, Galva, IL
Cupcakes: Paxton’s Corner Coop

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