29.6.10

Nate + Jen {Stronghold Mansion Wedding}

there's something so familiar
yet so unknown,
the closer we get i swear
it feels like coming home

keith urban - if ever i could love

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It was a highschool afternoon, and I was doing what most bored highschool kids did in 2006.
Xanga stalked.



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I randomly clicked through the colorful and horribly-HTML'ed pages and I came across "Jengal's" xanga.  It was supposed to be Jen Gal, but I always thought it reminded of "bengal" and I thought of football players with tigers on their helmets.  And that, my friends, is completely besides the point.  Jen Gal had posted some news.  She had a boyfriend.  Here is the picture she posted of this boyfriend, and what did she have to say about the relationship? "It's glorious."
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2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 continued to be "glorious" for Jen Gal and Nate Boyfriend.  And it just so happens that they fell in love.  When people fall in love, weddings and marriages tend to follow.
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Jen, surrounded by her favorite girls, slipped into her wedding gown. 
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My goodness, how much she has grown up since those early days of fresh dating.  The little girl has become a woman, a wife.

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Pink smiling emoticons, blue lake backgrounds and eProps have matured, learned and grown into a bride wearing pink lipstick, blue skies and a bouquet of flowers. 
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But I'm happy to report that there is childlike personality in this lady.  She didn't outgrow laughing, smiling and teasing. 



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For example, Jen couldn't help but peek outside to see the guys (er, her man) carry things in.  She'd shriek and giggle and announce "OH! He looks SO handsome! AH!" And she'd sway back to the balcony to peek again.
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Quickly after I arrived, the wedding began.
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Um. Giiiiiirl, can I have yo numba?
What a perfect bride and perfect setting to wait to walk down the aisle, huh? I don't think I could improve the moment one bit.
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Unless you add a Dad and a smile :D
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I say it over and over (and I say that I say it over and over) but the last few seconds on dad's arm as he takes her to her new protector, provider and man... well, it's my favorite.
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I'm not going to lie, they were a touch distracting during the prayer.
They would open their eyes and look at each other, whisper funny little jokes that made each other laugh.  Rub each others hands, lean on each others heads.  I have no idea what was prayed, but I'm sure it was good so "Amen!"
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They legit couldn't take their eyes off one another.  Alllllll ceeeeremonyyyy loooong.
It was quite sweet :D
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This moment was actually precious.
The guests cheered, the sun leaked onto their faces, the music rejoiced and the newlyweds were so happy.
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But as soon as they passed all the people, Jen gasped and threw her arms around Nate.
Cue tears.
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She cried and cried, laughed and laughed and hugged her husband.  And then he kissed his wife. And his wife repeated "I can't believe it, I can't believe it" in-between kisses.
The world vanished and they just loved on each other.  And made their photographer cry :D
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After I pulled myself together, we sailed down the hill for formals.  Jen's sisters all walked with her, sharing their extreme excitement for her.  "It went so well!" "We are so happy for you!"
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Recognize this place?  Yup.  Ryan and Melissa's wedding was here too!
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Even though I ADORE this venue, I was a little worried about shooting there twice in two weeks.
Never fear, I think it was better the second time ;)
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As we happily started taking pictures, I realized one of my favorite "parts" of this couple.
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They are the same with the camera is down.   So many of these pictures weren't posed... (well. Ok. This one was. Ironic picture placement.)
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ps.  This is a new all-time favorite

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Ok, back to them.  I love how consistently "into" each other they are.  All day they were talking, holding hands, catching each others stare.
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This is just how they are together.
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They are REALLY happy. REALLY affectionate.  REALLY passionate.  When I stop clicking the camera, they don't stop smiling and visually showing each other care.
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Jen's veil was magnificent.
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Jen, you are a beautiful, bright woman and your intense care for your loved-ones - be it Nate, family or friends - is so obvious.   You share the love of Jesus blatantly and unashamedly.  You'll be an amazing wife.
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Nate, you are a diligent, courageous man.  You have found a good thing, like Proverbs talks about.  And I think the Lord is well-pleased with you.  You are such an example!
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I couldn't be happier for you both :D
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Aaaaand now it's reception time!
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Brides, you should probably just go ahead and get married at Strong Mansion.  Just saying. 
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They had sitting at the reception a box of their letter to each other over the years.  I love personal touches like that at a wedding!
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Oh!  And they had a fruit smoothie bar!  And live piano music amusing everyone's ears.
It was such a lovely time.

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Now we have come to the bestbestbest part of the day.
Toasts.  Wedding's tend to have them.
This one did.
Very sweet toasts by Nate's dad, Nate's brother, Jen's sister and Jen's best girl-friend.
Afterwards, Nate took the microphone to thank everyone for coming, and to honor their parents.
"Mom and Dad, Mr. and Mrs. Hoffman,  I don't know where we would be if it weren't for you, but I know it wouldn't be here. Jen and I..." He glances at Jen. "We... just... are so... bles-thank-you... you have been..."  His sentence to wander. But his eyes stayed locked on his wife.  In the midst of honoring his parents, he was completely taken aback by her.  He dropped the microphone down and said "Oh I am so in love with you."


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Jen wrinkled up into his arms, they smiled at each other.  His sentence came back on track and the parents were properly honored.  But, wow, talk about sweet and romantic.
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Jen, you were right, your relationship with him is glorious.  Congratulations!  Enjoy your life together :D


21.6.10

Father's Day {Personal}

Everyone was afraid of him.
Before try-outs, during try-outs, after try-outs.  But no one messed with him.  He could take a room full of twenty teenage girls in sneakers and silence us.  No giggles, no rolling-eyes, no chattering.
My dad was a very focused coach.  
But if there has been ever a man who is good at what he does, it's my dad.  I've never met someone who can do what he does.
Watch someone and see their current skill.
See potential and vision for where they can be.
Build where they are weak, without ignoring where they are strong.
Constantly challenging where they are strong, with out discouraging where they are weak.
He takes individuals and makes them run like a machine together.
He analyzes tactic, technique, personality and character like no one else I know.
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And he is a true friend.  I used to joke with all my teammates/friends that they came over to my house to talk to my dad, not me ;)
Even now many of the girls he coached in highschool still ask him for life advice (ok, who are we kidding... boy advice!), come over to catch up and chat with him at church.

One of my favorite parts of being his daughter is getting to be challenged by him.  
My dad does not flatter.  He calls it like it is.  He tells you the truth, he tells you boldly and he pushes you to push yourself.  Let me tell you though, nothing is more encouraging then supportive words from him.  He really, really means it.

Here's a quick story.
Summer league basketball.  (Summer league, by the way, is such a joke.  Girls are always on vacation, games are late at night, the local schools don't turn the AC on so gyms are painfully hot.  It's a joke.)  
Our five starters, this particular game day, happened to be our only five players. 
In the first two minutes I rolled my ankle trying to get a rebound.  Now, my ankles have always been bad and "a roll" happened almost every practice or game.  It hurt for a few minutes, but I knew the difference between minimal injury and major injury.  This was minimal, the only thing major that had just happened was I got major out-rebounded.  

My ankle did hurt though.  I kicked my legs a few times, took a few steps - I'm sure I grimaced while I half-jogged.  While I licked my wounded wounds, my girl drove down with the ball she rebounded and scored.  

"Sprint, Kristen! What are you doing?!?"
Um. Being tough, Dad.  Most girls would be in a heap like icing, crying little girly tears after that ferocious accident. Jeez.  "I hurt my ankle!"
"Do you need to come out?"
"No."
"Then sprint."
Grimace.
"So what are you gonna do? Quit? Sprint or quit."

I don't know exactly what it was, but I never forgot that.
Isn't that just how life goes sometimes?  
It hurts, it's difficult, it's "eeeeh."  And you can keep going, or you can quit.
And if you decide to keep going, you might as well sprint.
110%.
Pursue excellence.
Why do things hard and well?  To exalt Christ.  To make much of our King.
"But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ"
Sprint in a way that makes the Lord look excellent.

Dad, you have taught me to be serious about God, by the way you have been serious.
You have to taught me to never quit by never quitting yourself.
You sprint, you push, you fight and you are a true man.
I love you :D

18.6.10

Kyle + Ashley {Frederick Engagement Pictures}

At long last love has arrived,
And I thank God I'm alive,
You're just too good to be true
lauryn hill - can't take my eyes off you
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Ashley was the new girl in the neighborhood.  Loving her city-side apartment, Ashley was looking forward to meeting new people.   Work was good, soccer was exciting and Ashley was happy.
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One day, in direct objection to her regular schedule, Ashley took her lunch break at home.  Why? Who knows.  But she did.
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Guess who lived above her.  And guess who had been itching to meet her.  And guess who was "sick" and home from work when Ashley unlocked then shut her apartment door. And guess who heard her rustling around right underneath him.  Guess! Guess!
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Yup.  Kyle had noticed Ashley, and was pretty sure she was pretty cool.
It was the perfect chance to make his move.
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Everyone loves "that" moment.  You have it all planned it in your head, maybe have a conversation starter or two.  You just have a feeling it's going to go smoothly.
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As Ashley walked out of her apartment, Mr. Big+Sauve+Collected made his grand entrance.
By thumping and tripping down the stairs. (I think he secretly planned that.  "I guess Ashley just *fell* for me!")





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Ashley laughed, and probably felt bad for him.  Or something.
Whatever had just happened worked, and he officially "caught Ashley's eye" too.
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Soon after, she brought "all her neighbors cookies," which led to staying at a certain neighbors house to eat cookies and watch TV one night.  One night turned into every night. 
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The best part of their day was coming home.  They'd order pizza, put on sweats and wander to each others couch for an evening of talking, laughing and tv-ing.  That casual "hang-out" time was the springboard to actually dating... and ladies + gentlemen, the rest is history.
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When I met Ashley the first time, we talked for almost two hours - and I don't think I even pulled out my little "first time meeting a bride schpeal."  I loved her.  And goodness she made Kyle seem like great fun.  She told me how much he made her laugh.  How much they goof around.  I couldn't wait to meet him and see them together.
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Here's an idea of how they are together:
Ashley: Oh! I brought these apples.  I thought they'd be a cute prop?
Kyle: Oh I'm hungry.
Ashley: Well, you can eat these after we use them.
Kyle: I want a steak.
Ashley: (laughs)
Kyle: (takes a bite of an apple) Mmmmm! Doesn't taste like steak.
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The rest of the shoot was me tossing a joke-pitch to Kyle, Ashley covering-his-mouth/pulling-his-sleeve/giving-him-a-'stern'-face to make sure he didn't say anything "inappropriate."  Next, he'd say his joke anyway, she'd laugh (and apologize to me), then he'd grin like a little boy on a school bus, and then kiss Ashley like a man.  
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"Kyle, Kristen likes us so far!  We have to be nice!  Don't blow it!"
I loved them so far.  And we had only just begun.
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There was much laughing ahead.  Much much much.
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And kissing.  Who can complain about that?!
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After we fully nailed the country-barn location, we changed clothes (er, Ashley changed clothes and of course Kyle had a very witty joke about that) and locations.
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We found ourselves wandering around historic Frederick, making quite a scene.
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Let me know if you ever find two happier people.  Ever.
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"Kyle, are you showing off your muscles?"

"Mmmhhm. Kiss me."
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I don't usually shoot in front of brick walls - I feel like it's kind of cheesy-typical-senior-portrait-y.   But once they were up there, they just were working it!  I didn't want them to move because they kept getting cuter and cuter! 
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THEY ARE SO CUTE!
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And, oh sheesh, the jokes got better.  Ashley's cheeks started to legit hurt.
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While I was setting up this shot, Kyle screamed.  And shrieked.
He ran like a girl, kicked up his feet, flailing his hands. Um. What?





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He saw a bee, and he's - apparently - very allergic to bees.  Swelling, no breathing, anaphylactic shock, epi-pen in five minutes, death... the whole nine yards.  Ashley laughed, so I assumed he was being funny.  He's so so funny.  We assured him that he hadn't gotten stung.  He was just fine.
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"But I felt something guys!"
Turns out he had gotten stung, very small sting, very small swelling and he made it out just fine.  And if we asked how he was doing he'd say "I'm not a punk, I can handle it." hahah
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But the whole bee-incident was very telling.  As soon as Ashley realized it was "real", she turned into "take care of my man" mode.  It was very sweet.  During the shoot, amidst all the jokes and laughing, Kyle took time to tell me about his necklace.  Ashley gave it to him, and it's a compass. He told me - "not to be cheesy, but it's true" - that his life really had direction once Ashley came into it.  He knows where he is going now.  She's changed it all. 
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It's the moments of complete sincerity and romantic description, that make the hours of laughing even sweeter.  These two are sincere, they are real and they are just incredibly happy together.  I'm so glad Kyle tripped down those stairs that day.  What a life he, literally, stumbled into.
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I can't wait for your wedding!  Enjoy the slideshow :D