Let me tell you about how I perfectly rang in my 2018: I stood in a grand ballroom, surrounded by people that I, for the most part, had met just a few hours earlier, counting down to midnight with my camera at the ready. As I captured the couple in front of me celebrate their first New Year as a married couple, as well as the following moments of joy an celebration, I felt more loved and welcomed than I have in a long time at a big party.
The experience was all because of the lives and loves Colleen and Noah have curated over the years.
Rewind to months earlier, when I met Colleen and Noah in a small coffee shop in Hartford, WI.
They walked in as a team, and the whole meeting was done with constant consideration for the other person, and a feeling that they were genuinely on the same page. They looked at each other when answering questions, and conferred before responding. I wanted to hug them instantly, but my dad says I shouldn't get too friendly with my clients, or invite them for drinks for a business meeting.
I was mentally hugging them and rejoicing in their relationship.
Over the course of almost a year of planning their wedding, which was to take place at the Chandelier Ballroom in Hartford, WI, I was consistently floored by how generous, kind, and genuine Colleen and Noah are. Even with a failed "confetti picture" attempt at their engagement shoot (those are tougher by Lake Michigan than you would think), the pair carried themselves with a humbleness we don't often see in people.
The day of their wedding came, and I arrived at the Chandelier Ballroom, with a smile on my face and their flowers in my hands. Noah smiled and wrapped me in a hug as we started to chit chat about the day and he walked me through the people he chose to stand up with him.
That's when I walked into the arctic.
While I unloaded flowers, I had noticed a generator and some other equipment on the exterior of the building, and just assumed it was for backup. The frigid air in the main ballroom said differently.
The furnace had basically had a tantrum equivalent to a two year old going on three days of missed naps.
Even though they were blowing hot air in as much as they could, it was still colder than comfortable, but Noah and Colleen handled it with grace and ease, even later in the night, when we intermittently donned our outwear.
As Colleen prepared for her journey down the aisle with her girls, I noted the overflowing number of guests. It is so true that love and kindness beget the same. Hugs and laughter abounded in the pre-ceremony moments.
Then, my favorite moments of any wedding came: one partner anxious coming down the aisle to stand at the front and face their loved ones, and the other slowly coming to meet the first, as they begin the next chapter of their love.
The Fireside Room at the Chandelier Ballroom is breathtaking. Simple candles, a roaring fire, and the people who matter most to you are all you need to make it stunning.
As with the wedding the day before, the outdoor environment was none too friendly for our group. Once again, they all hung in there, as we mentally prepped on the party bus.
We stopped at a beautiful Washington County Park, at the base of the sledding hill. The hill itself is terrifying, even at 32 years old, but proved to be even more challenging when wearing dress shoes, for the guys. All of us ladies were perfectly warm (at least our feet were) in comfy winter boots.
After the county park, we stopped up at a private residence to catch the perfect winter sunset, and a few more freezing pictures of the bride and groom.
As I tend to suggest before heading back to the intense excitement of the reception, we stopped off as a group, to have a drink (and somehow shots got ordered) at Tally Ho Pub & Grill in Erin. Under new ownership, this bar has an amazing coin-tiled bar top, excellent service, and even better food. When the flood of Colleen and Noah's wedding party entered the door, where they had their rehearsal dinner the night before, we were welcomed with open arms.
Back at the Ballroom, Colleen and Noah proved to be the host and hostess of the year.
If you can see it in the last picture, Noah and his brothers are quite overcome with emotion. One special person was physically missing from the festivities: Noah's father, who passed away. I have never cried as much at a wedding as I did at this one. Watching the emotion sweep over Noah's face numerous times throughout the day, and the palpable love and strength from his mother and brothers, hit my heart and soul. He was there though, and even a stranger like myself knew it. Through every fleeting thought of him, he coursed through the evening with blessing and joy over adding another child to their family. I never knew your dad, Noah, but I know he was a great man. I know through the words you speak of him and the bond between your family. What a beautiful gift, to have a love like that, and now a love with Colleen that will only grow as the years march on.
The most touching part of the night, for me, was the bottle of wine. Noah had traveled to Europe to play volleyball right when he and Colleen started dating. He bought her a really good bottle of wine to drink when they were together again, and that bottle remained unopened until their wedding night, after years of living together and truly building a strong bond and life. As they toasted their newly minted marriage, you could feel the room glow with smiles.
Of course, this perfect couple needed a perfect first dance. I was half-hiding under a table with a few of the (what seemed like a million) kids at the party, and it proved to be the ideal spot for amazing shots.
So Cheers, my friends, because I can no longer call you simply "clients." May the world know more of your kindness and light.