Phoenix Arizona Desert Wedding Photographer | Justin and Courtney Hale
We are so stoked to share our friends Justin and Courtney’s Arizona desert wedding with y’all today! How many brides do you know would literally wear a trash bag on her wedding day in the name of adventure and beautiful photos? Well, Courtney was that bride, and Justin was the lucky man who got to marry her!
Mike and Justin are friends through work at Racer X Magazines. When Justin told us he and his fiancé were getting married at his folks house in Arizona, we were honored to be apart of it! Mentions of side-by-side rides out into the desert at sunset, a personal chef, and an beautifully intimate setting on New Years weekend had us drooling! These two have one of the most endearing “swiped right” stories as well as one of the funniest first dates! Congratulations, Mr. & Mrs. Hale! We love you guys and can’t wait to see you soon!
Mike and Tay
How did the two of you meet?
Tell us about your first date!
Justin, how did you propose?
How did you guys choose to have an Arizona Desert wedding?
What was the most fun part of wedding planning for you?
What was your most memorable moment from your Arizona wedding day?
What are you most looking forward to in marriage?
If you could pick one word to describe your Arizona Desert Wedding ceremony, what would it be and why?
What advice do you have for couples planning their wedding now?
View more of our destination wedding photography HERE.
Salida Colorado Adventure Elopement Wedding | Andy and Jill Akin
You know those people you meet and have an immediate connection with? For me and Jill, this was the case before we even met! From the first time I heard from Jill via e-mail, I knew we just had to play a part in their story. Her initial message was one filled with love and sincere appreciation for she and fiancé Andy’s long journey to each other. As she described their Colorado Adventure Elopement coming up in just a few short months, her fervor was contagious and we immediately scheduled our coffee date!
I wanted to share our first e-mail, because upon reading our blogs, she knew immediately that we appreciate an epic love story:
“I want to share our story with you because it is a special one. Andy & I emailed on a dating site in summer of 2012. I only stayed on that site (or any other dating site) for 2 weeks & then went back to the real world. We never met at that time, only exchanged emails during the 2 weeks that I was on the site. We both went on to spend the next 5 years happily single & to separately do all of the things that bind us today- hike, camp, kayak, ride bikes, & travel the world. Most of time we were within miles of each other, as we both love our Smoky Mountains & spend much time there. Also in the meantime, in December of 2012, my friend asked me, as a gift to her, to write down all of the things that I desired in a life partner. Being solidly single, I reluctantly did this & then stored that list on a shelf for over 5 years.”
“Five years later, in summer of 2017, Andy shows up at my studio door as a “client.” He’d booked an appointment unbeknownst to me to meet the girl who was still on his mind after 5 years…and in the end we found out why. God had been giving him direction for 5 years, but Andy was following his own will. Until one day when he just told himself, “I’m going to meet this girl just to get it over with so that I can move on from it.” Well, we’re moving on, alright- TOGETHER! After Date #1 (which was 13 1/2 hours, but who’s counting?), I was packing away some items from my bookshelf & ran across the list that my friend had asked me to make. And I got chills as I read the extensive list & realized that I ALREADY KNEW AFTER ONE DATE that Andy met all but 2 of the things on the list. Date #2 sent my heart aflutter because the last 2 items on the list were revealed to me & checked off. This man was TRULY my heart’s desire, the man of my dreams. This was completely unexpected for both of us given our ages & amazing single lives that we staunchly led, but there was no denying that he was designed for me and I for him. We knew that we would be married & that our lives were going to expand in unfathomable & thus far unimagineable ways. We are 37 & 47, neither of us have been married, and neither of us have children. When we told our families & friends that we’d met the person we were going to marry, PURE SHOCK was running loose in Tennessee! No two were more shocked than Andy & I. We still are.”
“He proposed in January, COMPLETELY surprising me! I was so caught off guard that when he asked, even though he was down on his knee (both knees actually!) I asked, “Are you serious?” He WAS serious, and I said, “YES, OF COURSE!” & jumped all around. Now we are simply READY TO BE MR. & MRS. and get started on the incredible journey ahead.”
Their story truly is an inspirational one and we’re thrilled we got to play a role in capturing their Colorado Adventure Elopement memories! Congratulations, Mr. & Mrs. Akin! We adore y’all and can’t wait to see you in Colorado again!
Taylor and Mike
San Diego Sunset Cliffs Engagement Proposal | Emily and Matt
My best friend, Emily, is an amazing writer. So is my husband, so lucky for you at least one of them has chimed in with impeccable storytelling capability. I’m always intimidated by these two because they’re capable of transparently expressing their hearts in an eloquent fashion. But here’s my best shot at describing one of my favorite proposals I’ve ever had the honor of being apart of…
Emily and I met in college and immediately became best friends. Our similar energy and humor had us rolling on the floor in laughter and immediately creating memories and spending weekends with each others families. I knew she was a special gal and a lifelong friend right off the bat. Emily is also a very private, introverted person. And if you know me, I’m the exact opposite. So…when I got the message, “I just had a really great first date,” I was intrigued, because Emily NEVER tells me about “great first dates” until weeks later. The only the ones I heard about immediately after were the ones that went awry and had some comical relief (see below Q&A).
Fast forward a couple weeks and I received the following: “I feel like I’ve known him for years. I don’t think that’s ever happened to me. We watch The Office reruns together. Taylor, I’m [freaking] flabbergasted. HE IS MY PERSON. IN EVERY SINGLE WAY.” And I knew…my best friend had found her forever person. (And yes, I just sifted through a years worth of iMessages and hilarious selfies to find these messages.)
I’ll leave the rest of the storytelling to my amazing writer friend and the photos, my favorite form of storytelling. Congratulations, Emily and Matt! We love you guys and are so thrilled for this next chapter in your lives.
Taylor and Mike (and Colter)
How did the two of you meet?
What are you most excited about for your wedding day?
Tell us about your first date!
When did you know you wanted to marry each other?
Tell us your Sunset Cliffs Engagement Proposal story from your point of view!
If you could pick one word to describe your favorite quirk about the other, what would it be and why?
Wedding day first look…should you have one?
When Mike and I were engaged, we struggled HARD with this question–should we or shouldn’t we have a first look? As wedding photographers, we thought we knew the sole benefit for having a first look: ample time for more photos. However, on our wedding day (nearly 5 years ago) we learned a lot about why having a first look is such an amazing option for couples and we’re excited to share our experience. And get this: we didn’t even have a first look!
What’s more, some of our wonderful couples were amazing enough to let us have a peek into their intimate wedding day first look and share their experiences with you. Here it goes, our 5 reasons you should consider a first look!
Wedding Day First Look Reason #1: Time Together
The night of our wedding was a blur, as most everyone will tell you. We got to our hotel room, collapsed on the bed, looked at each other and said, “Oh, HI!” You guys, we had just gotten married and hadn’t spent longer than 2 minutes at a time together. Keep in mind, none of that time was private or uninterrupted. Looking back, we wished we had done a first look for the sole purpose that we would have truly been able to spend time together as a couple before the wonderful chaos of our wedding day ensued.
As husband and wife wedding photographers, we so cherish this time for our couples and with our couples. We love setting you up to see each other for the first time in an intimate place, away from the hustle and bustle. We love the emotion and words you exchange when no one else is around. We love gifting you with this time and allowing you to just drink it all in.
“Our first look was amazing! We absolutely loved the intimate moment of being able to see each other for the first time without anyone else around. It allowed us to take in a moment together before the hustle and bustle of the rest of the day. We would absolutely do it again! We were so ready to see each other that day and don’t know if we could have waited any longer. It was such a magical moment and we would never change anything about it. No matter how many times Haydn’s dad joked that it was bad luck.”- Jake and Hayden Crouse
Wedding Day First Look Reason #2: Time for your loved ones
If you’re planning to have a bridal party (especially a larger one with more than 6 people), or have a larger family, one of the best gifts you can give them is a wedding day first look! A lot of your family and friends like to bring a date, husband, wife, kids, etc. to the wedding. To boot, your folks are going to have quite a few family members they’ll want to entertain and visit with. By having a first look earlier in the day, they’re free to go spend time with their loved ones and visit with guests after the ceremony.
Typically, what takes about 45-60 minutes to do after the ceremony (bridal party photos, family portraits, etc.) can sometimes be done in half that time when done before the ceremony. This is purely a numbers (and hunger) thing! When there are less guests and vendors earlier in the day needing your attention, there’s less distraction and more time to get your formal photos finished. And, when everyone isn’t hungry and running to get to the bar, your chances of having a more cooperative bunch of well fed and relaxed friends and family is much higher earlier in the day!
“Our first look was at one of our favorite spots in the Botanic Gardens, the moon gate. After the whirlwind of getting ready, we were excited to finally see each other and officially start the festivities. It was a very special moment because after over a year of planning, we were finally seeing each other on our wedding day and were about to be man and wife. When the first look moment finally came, Luke was speechless and Annie was radiant. It was everything we could have hoped it would be and set the stage for an incredible day and celebration.”-Luke and Annie Cerbin
Wedding Day First Look Reason #3: Time to enjoy your vows
Before Mike and I were at the alter, we once again thought we knew what to expect. We thought it was just another formality we needed to do before the relaxing part of the day. Boy, were we SO WRONG! Coming down the aisle in and of itself is a surreal experience. There’s nothing that can take away from that moment, not even a first look. However, once we were at the alter together, we both froze. We stared at each other and blacked out a little bit (we have a tendency to do that at major events in our lives). Eventually we started talking over our officiant (sorry Mat!) because we genuinely wanted to calm each others nerves and know how the others day had been.
When it was all over, we turned to the crowd and realized that that was the first time we had looked at anyone else but each other. We were so glazed over from such an out of body experience at the altar that we weren’t able to be fully aware of what was happening in the crowd. Our couples who have had a first look have unanimously stated that they were actually able to enjoy the ceremony and their vows, and appreciate everyone in attendance. Since they already had time together, they were able to soak it all up.
“Our first look was incredible! I tapped him on the shoulder, he turned around, and it was a surreal feeling as we spent that quiet moment together seeing each other for the first time right before our ceremony. It made all of my nerves go away and everything was perfect. He was so darn handsome too! We would definitely do it again!”- Jared and Elizabeth Zinanti
Wedding Day First Look Reason #4: Time for drinks!
Cocktail hour, anyone? One of the things we hear most from couples is, “We really want to just relax and enjoy cocktail hour!” And we get it! Y’all have a lot of people to see on your wedding day, and we respect that. Anytime our couples tell us this is important to them, we talk them into having a first look. For obvious reasons, having your first look totally frees up your evening after the ceremony to do whatever you want. Care to grab a drink and hit up the photo booth? Go for it! Want to hang with me and Mike and go on a hike for some awesome photo opportunity? Absolutely! The evening is yours to spend however you like. Your guests will be giddy with excitement when they see you walking into cocktail hour to hang out with everyone and share in the festivities!
“Our first look was the perfect way to kick off our wedding celebration with just the two of us. We would definitely do it again!”
–Brian and Maggie Leslie
Wedding Day First Look Reason #5: Time for sunset and reflection
As we mentioned earlier, having a first look truly frees up the rest of your day after your ceremony. One of our favorite things to do is steal our couples throughout the evening for small increments to get different photos at different times of the day. When you don’t have a first look, you’re bound to having your portraits captured quickly and in a small amount of time immediately following the ceremony. There’s typically less of an opportunity to leave later on in the evening. However, it just so happens that the best lighting is usually during dinner. If you’ve already had a first look then leaving during cocktail hour and dinner for a few minutes isn’t a big deal or time sucker. And most importantly, you get time to look back at your wedding reception and once again, take it all in. Our couples who do a first look tell us that their second favorite part of the day was when we stole them at sunset to get a few photos with the perfect lighting and to give them a chance to regroup and see all of their family and friends having fun at their wedding.
Yellowstone National Park Photographer
We aren’t sure how it’s happened, but we’ve managed to travel to Yellowstone National Park after almost all of our major life events. For our one year anniversary in February 2013, we headed to Jackson, Wyoming to rent an adorable cabin and snowshoe. The day after Mike asked me to marry him, we packed up my Corolla with the dogs and all of our camping gear and headed north to Yellowstone through Idaho. After shooting Mallory and Steve’s Montana Wedding, wildfires redirected us to the park on our motorcycle during our last couple months of pregnancy (so, our baby moon!) It was actually in Grand Teton National Park that we decided we were going to name our son, “Colter”, after John Colter . Naturally, when the opportunity presented itself in 2018 to return to Yellowstone with our son, we couldn’t pass up a couple free weeks in July to head back to one of our favorite parts of the country!
Camping with a 7 month old has it’s challenges, but we were so proud of our little goober. He slept like a champ, played in and ate so much dirt, and his chill little personality made driving and camping for 10 days so much fun! Honestly, the hardest part was that he was so excited to be sharing a bed with Mom and Dad (and Mason and Copper) that he didn’t want to fall asleep! PARTY TIME started as soon as we all climbed into bed with him in our little camper.
We hope you enjoy some of our favorite shots from our trip of beautiful Wyoming and Montana. The Grand Tetons and Rocky Mountains in this area are so rugged and intimidating, and we hope we captured their essence.
And a couple cell phone shots 🙂
Ouray Colorado Family Photographer
I’m not going to lie, when folks book their photo shoot with me nearly a year out, I get so excited! When Lauren reached out last year to say she and her sister were surprising their dad with a Ouray Colorado Family Photographer session while on vacation, I could not wait to meet them. Lauren, her husband and their two boys, her dad, and her sister, Courtni, and her husband were all traveling to Ouray, Colorado from the midwest for their annual family vacation. When we got to Top of the Pines, Lauren informed me that her fathers house is filled with family photos covering the walls. Nothing warms my heart more than knowing that family photos grace the walls of folks homes. Social media is great and all people, but prints are purely magical. They’re tangible and nostalgic.
Now, I have found that by making farting noises, most boys warm up to me quickly. However, these boys needed a little more persuading for their sweet smiles. So, when all else fails in the fart-noise-making department, letting little boys jump off things is a sure fire way to win their hearts. Within minutes, Lauren’s boys had sticks in their hands and found a big wood pile. With a simple countdown and enthusiastic, “JUMP!” the boys immediately became starry eyed and game for anything we wanted to do for their family photos. And to boot, these two kiddos were some of the most affectionate and loving kids I’ve ever met. Their adoration for both mom, dad, Grandpa, auntie and uncle was so endearing. At any point, you would find one of the boys holding someones hand.
In true Colorado form, we were graced by Mother Natures beautiful lighting with a diffused and golden sunset. I can honestly say that I’m counting down the days when Lauren and Courtni and I can get together again when they’re back in Colorado! Thank you guys so much for having me capture this time for you!
For more information about your Ouray Colorado Family Photographer, check out our Family Portrait Gallery!
Planning your Ouray Colorado Wedding? Check out our Wedding Gallery!
Sawmill Reservoir | Breckenridge Colorado Family Photographer
I was ecstatic to shoot this family session at Sawmill Reservoir, a hidden gem and easy hike in downtown Breckenridge. Shooting extended family sessions is one of my favorite things to do in the summer. There’s something about the WHOLE family coming together on vacation to have this time documented. Audrey messaged me to say that she, her husband, her parents, two siblings, 3 year old son, 3 nieces, 1 nephew, brother-in-law and sister-in-law were all going to be in Breckenridge for their family vacation. And they wanted this special time, celebrating their parents 50th wedding anniversary, captured! Did I mention she was pregnant with triplet girls at the time, too?
Naturally, most families have a little reservation, nerves, and questions when wrangling 13 people together for an extended family session. But let me tell you, you really can’t not have fun at these sessions! My goal at these sessions if for everyone to have fun. Being from a family of 8 (which is growing yearly), I totally understand the pressure and stress of getting a lot of people together and happy all at the same time. So, trust me, as a mom, daughter, and photographer, I feel you when you’re organizing outfits, food schedules, nap schedules, etc. Once you get everyone to the session, it’s up to me to take over and make it a fun experience and capture those truly candid and hilarious moments. Even if those moments include one little brother spitting at his sister!
What’s more is there’s truly nothing like watching big family dynamics. There’s inside jokes, allies, and love––so much love! When Audrey told me that she was pregnant with triplet girls, her sister, a mother of twin girls, looked at me and said, “Yes…she’s been trying to outdo me her entire life!” I never feel more at home than when I’m with a big family cracking witty jokes at one another. Meeting Audrey and her family, and celebrating her parents 50th wedding anniversary, was truly an honor and I can’t wait to see how this family continues to grow! Thank you so much for having me capture this time for you all!
For more information about our extended family sessions at Sawmill Reservoir in Breckenridge, Colorado, visit our family gallery page!
Rocky Mountain National Park Elopement
Rocky Mountain National Park Elopement | Adam and Jhori Rippy | Trail Ridge Road Elopement
I’m not going to lie, my photography wanderlust has been driving me to shoot an intimate Rocky Rocky Mountain National Park Elopement for quite some time now. So, when Jhori e-mailed and said that she and fiancé Adam were still working out the details of their intimate Colorado wedding, I was hooked. She let me know that while they didn’t know all of the details just yet, they knew they wanted to work with us. Naturally, my heart fluttered and I melted. We chatted for a couple months about location ideas for them to say their vows. However, without a doubt, these two were set on having their portraits taken on the ever lusted after Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. I would later learn (at 10,00ft) that Jhori has an insane fear of heights. So picture it…a windy, daunting, and intimidating 12,183ft above sea level as a storm rolls in. This isn’t a likely spot for portraits for someone with a fear of heights! Nevertheless, Jhori did say that her friends and family would be so proud of her when they saw the heights she was willing to summit in the name of beautiful portraits! And girl, it totally paid off!
With their three kids and closest family members in tow from Indiana, everyone headed west for Jhori and Adam’s beautiful wedding ceremony. It was truly one of the most magical days I’ve had the honor of being a part of. With close family, raindrops, elk, incredible 14,000ft mountains surrounding them, and in true Colorado form with storm clouds chasing us, could it have been more perfect? I think not! Plus, a bride who wears Birkenstocks under her wedding dress so we can hike, is my kind of gal!
Congratulations, Mr. & Mrs. Rippy! I am so thrilled you invited me to be a part of your incredible and intimate wedding day. We can’t wait to see you again in Colorado!
Highlands Ranch Mansion Wedding
Highlands Ranch Mansion Wedding | Kevin and Katie Lewis
We are so excited to share Katie and Kevin’s Highlands Ranch Mansion Wedding with y’all today! I think if one of our brides was my spirit animal, Katie would be it! In all honesty, we adore this couple from the bottom of our hearts! From the first time we met Katie, her mama, and her best friend/MOH Chelsea, we were totally drawn in. Her energy and zest for life was absolutely contagious. Not to mention, she was excited about everything we talked about: her Pomeranian puppies, she and Kevin’s relationship, our then pregnancy…Katie was truly a special gal, and we were so thrilled for the opportunity to be apart of their story.
Fast forward a couple weeks to when we got to meet Kevin, a start contrast from outgoing Katie. Kevin was quiet, charming, and undeniably adored his adorable bride. Their engagement shoot at our ranch was a whirlwind of excitement, puppies, and laughter between these two. Needless to say, Katie and I developed a friendship that I cherish over the next year as she planned their wedding. The day they said, “We do” was one I shamelessly cried at and felt so much love from everyone there! Mr. & Mrs. Lewis, congratulations you two! We adore you both and are so excited to see where your love takes you!
How did the two of you meet?
Highlands Ranch Mansion Wedding Vendors
Flying Horse Ranch Wedding
Flying Horse Ranch Wedding | Austin and Katelynn Blasi
Mike and Tay