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Theirs is a story straight out of a movie script.  A concert with friends led to a kismet meeting between the two groups, and more so between Elise & Dan.  An after party at what they thought was a mutual friend’s house, turned out to be just random for them both.  And not just random, but also rather seedy and possibly dangerous.  Finding themselves surrounded by characters they could usually only imagine, conditions that were far below the acceptable nature of even the lowest of roach motels, and circumstances they could only see combining in disaster, they escaped.  They ran, they laughed, they survived.  At dawn they parted ways, grateful for a fresh new day.  The weeks that followed found them messaging back and forth about their shared experience that night.  It’s been said that stressful situations have a way of bringing people together.  It’s true, and though theirs might not have been a plane crash or something that dire, it did the job just the same.  Elise found there is no one she’d rather run away with than Dan.  And Dan found he would prefer to spend all his madcap nights, and the calm ones too, with Elise.

         

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They met among the rolling hills and endless roads of a group bike tour in Estonia.  He had a gentle nature she appreciated, she was full of wit and maybe a splash of sass, which kept him on his toes.  They were both connected back in Chicago; to other loves.  Friends they became, and pedaled on through the years.  The time wore on and still finding themselves gliding past one another on bike trips that require passports, feeling the fine breeze in their faces, and the long nights of wine and conversation surrounding them; circumstances had changed.  He wondered if she was really interested, and available.  She flirted with the idea that he was, and tried to leave the option on the table.  And then there was the night when her travelling friend went to bed early, and there was some wine, and the cool night air, and the stars overhead, and a kiss…

   

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She’s my Mini because she looks just like me. She acts a lot like me too. I get dejàvu sometimes watching her – and flashback to a memory of my own childhood. Something I said or did, playing out in front of me again, with a different soul.  At other times I’m struck by how much she reflects Hubby.  She’ll smirk or throw her head back exasperatedly and suddenly she’s his Mini too.

She has so many awesome qualities, such a big personality, such out-of-place maturity, such independence. She’s a dreamer, a negotiator, a do-er, a creative. She’s strong-willed, curious, stubborn and confident. Almost everything that makes her so incredible is also what makes her tough to parent. It’s a fine line between molding her into an awesome human and not stripping her of such wonderful qualities.


In less than a month, she’s off to Kindergarten. We will no longer be the only ones who shape her world.  This scares me endlessly. We’ve worked so hard to give her a world  that is full of endless possibility, no boundaries and firm ground.  I’m not ready for her to feel differently about it, or herself.  I know it’s just Kindergarten, but it’s the first moment of letting go and it’s going to hurt. I’ll mourn the loss of my endless time with her, lunches with her knock-knock jokes and seeking answers to her endless questions.  It will be joyful too though, as she embraces it with the verve that only she can.

(photos by Melissa Schollaert)

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They met by chance online.  She was swayed by the friendly looking guy clutching a football.  He was taken by the brown-eyed beauty with the engaging smile. Christine knew there was a reason she was drawn to Minnesota, and as it turns out; it was to meet her husband.  What they both got when she met him at that bar was much more than a romance, than a relationship.  They doubled their families, doubled their love, and doubled their fun.  Christine’s the only bride (in 10 years!) who I have seen cry during an engagement session.  And it was all because I asked Matt how he knew she was the one.  His answer involved how she fit so seamlessly into his family, how is parent’s loved her, how his sister loved her – instantly.  Cue the waterworks.  Their wedding day was a wonderful celebration of that feeling – of finding your spot, your people, your family.

                                                                               

The Credits:
Planner: Tailored Engagements
Ceremony Venue: St. John’s Cathedral
Reception Venue: The Pfister Hotel
Florals: Feisty Flowers
Cake: The Cake Lady
DJ: Double Platinum DJ 
Makeup: Creative Beauty Talent Agency
Hair: L. Hiatt
Gown: Essense of Australia
Bridesmaids: Sorella Viata
Suits: Jim’s Formal Wear
Shoes & Jewelry: Kate Spade
Bagpiper: Rob McWiliams
Linens: BBJ Linen
Stationery: Emily Hawkins
Ice Sculpture: Art Below Zero

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When you are in high school, getting the attention of the guy is a little round-a-bout.  You flirt, you take the long route, you find ways to be where she might be.  You plan outfits, figure out ways to be interested, choose just the right hair style to appear effortless.  Only to have it all fall apart with some teenage misstep that leaves you vulnerable, exposed and embarrassed.  That is pretty much how it went for Casey and Jake.  They intersected and flitted around each other for awhile in school.  Each aware of the other, possibly interested, not sure how to make it known.  And then he invited her to his father’s house for a get-together.  She arrived in her parent’s car and promptly got it stuck in the snowy driveway.   As in, “hey, I need some help from a tow truck” stuck.  Casey’s cheeks had to have been flushed at the mistake.  I mean here she finally had Casey’s attention and she’s gone and beached her car.   Lucky for Casey, Jake found the whole ordeal charming, and still recounts the incident as his favorite memory of her to this day.   And so, the two high-school sweethearts are tying the knot, building a home, and starting a new life together.

           

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He had recently put the finishing touches on his lake home in Lake Beulah.  It was exactly as he wanted it, and he stood out on the peninsula that jutted out into the waters, looking at the lakeshore surrounding him, the sun getting lower over the treeline, surveying his handi-work. The breeze whipped past him and swayed the hammock a bit.  Across the lake, she gunned the engine in the boat a bit, impishly looking back towards her daughters to see if she had caught them off guard.  They paid no attention and were instead ensconced in the love of extended family members snuggled around them, hair whipping into their faces.  It was a celebration for her Grandmother’s birthday, here at her lake home.  There wasn’t a better way to remember that woman than to spend time on these waters, she thought to herself.  She swiped a tear from her eye as she looked across the lake in front of her.  The peninsula with the big blue house came up on her right, and she started to turn around it, hugging into the curve.  Just as she rounded the bend, the engine killed on the boat.  She looked down perplexedly.  Checked her gages but found no answers.   She turned the key, and then turned it again.  No luck.  She looked up and saw one of the empty docks on the peninsula.  A tall and lean man was walking towards them, waving his arms. “Hey, you need help?” he yelled.  She laughed, looked back at her boat full of people.  Cupping her hands around her mouth, “Yes, I think so!” She lobbed back.  He hit a trot down the dock.   Her aunt chuckled, taking up a spot next to her at the wheel. “Well, this just got interesting, didn’t it?”

      

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I met Dave first.  I was a bit reluctant to, actually.  He was one of the trainers at a gym I belong to, and his profile picture was a little….scary. After one workout, I came to understand the picture was actually funny, as he’s a kind and thoughtful person who really enjoys helping people.  He was also someone who in the early years I knew him always declared he’d never be a parent.  I remember finding that surprising in my mind, as it was clear he’d be a great father.  Melissa is a fellow photographer who I knew “online” first and then started sweating along side her at the aforementioned gym.  We quickly bonded over our shared profession, motherhood, and workouts.  Fast forward several years later and suddenly life has taken a fun twist for these two.  Melissa’s living a healthy lifestyle she adores, thanks to Dave.  And Dave finds himself filling a “Man Mom” (as Melissa dubs him) role, and simply loving his life with two young ladies and their wonderful Mom.

It’s funny how the road changes, isn’t it?

When Melissa asked to do a photoshoot to commemorate Emma turning 13, and maybe also capture some “new family” photos, I jumped at the opportunity to document friends, their bonds, and this chapter in their lives.

                      

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I had a mother of a bride, who on the morning of her daughter’s wedding made an odd request.  She asked me not to photograph her.  At all.  I’m sure the shocked look on my face was unchecked.  I immediately responded with a smile, “But you are part of the story today.  Of course, you will be in the pictures.”  To which she went on to explain that she always hated pictures of herself, that she never liked the way she looked, that seeing herself in pictures made her feel like the ugliest woman in the world.  Yes, she used those words.

And I’m telling you – the woman that stood before me was none of those things.  Far from it.  She was lovely, and in so many more ways than just conventional beauty.  It broke my heart a little to hear her say this.  She wasn’t fronting, she had thought about it and planned to tell me this, that was clear.  As we had this conversation, on the other side of the room were several of her children – women themselves.  They were gorgeous, beautiful souls.  They were full of confidence, intelligence, boldness, kindness, and grace.  These were the women she raised.   I turned to look at them after this conversation and wondered how someone who felt that way about herself could mold women like these.

There were no words I could offer this Mom in that moment to assure her that she was indeed, beautiful.  I was at a loss for what to say.  As the day wore on and I sought to include her in pictures and capture her reactions and moments that swirled around her – she would tsk at me and shake her head no in admonishment whenever she saw my camera pointed her way.  Times when she should have been so wrapped up in the moment and living it, but instead she was policing the capturing of her likeness.

What I came to want to say to her was this:

I’ve spent the day with your daughters, your sons, your husband, and your friends and relatives.  I’ve heard them speak of you.  I’ve heard their words, watched their faces.  I’ve seen the look on your daughter’s face as you walked into the room dressed for this special day.  I’ve heard your new son-in-law tell stories about you.  I witnessed multiple toasts that reflected on your kind heart, your efforts, your love for your family.  I’ve seen you through the eyes of those who love you.  And I want you to know something.

You are the most beautiful woman.

They see none of your so-called flaws.  They look at you and see only your love for them.  They see the Mom who dried their tears, who created imaginary worlds to play in, who propped up their dreams, who helped create the day you are living now.  I wish I could show you how they see you.  I might, if you let me.  They see nothing but your beauty. Because your beauty isn’t in the physical things you are dwelling on – it’s in your actions.  To them, there are no double chins, no thick arm, no sagging skin, no wrinkles, no gray hairs.  Only you.  And you are beautiful beyond measure.

So be in the photographs.  You are a huge part of their lives and a huge part of this story.  To look back and not see you present in the collective memory of this day would be such a crime.  In fact, be in all the pictures, every day.

    

**Moms included in this photo collection are for illustrative purposes only, and this story isn’t about any of these ladies pictures here.  In fact, though it is inspired by one Mom I met, it is shared because after over 300 weddings I’ve found this isn’t an uncommon occurrence.  It doesn’t matter who it is about – just a gentle reminder to give yourself some grace, try to appreciate how others see you, and love yourself enough to be included.**

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Whenever it gets quiet over here on the blog, it often means I’ve been shooting and shooting some more, which means I’m then editing, editing, and editing some more.
Such is the case now, but I had to share this little ditty from my editing desk today.  I hoped for a shot like this on Christine & Matt’s wedding day.  Mr. Brown is a bit of a wiseguy – cracking jokes and sidestepping tearful moments masterfully with laughter.  But there’s this sweet little vestibule at St. John’s Cathedral where a bride and her Dad wait for their cue.  It’s a spot where I knew he wouldn’t see me watching, and sure enough….there was this.

 

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Kim has a habit of making friends, pretty much wherever she goes.  So it’s really no surprise that Sri fell into her friend net one day in London.  He was the friend of a friend, there were drinks one night and then they went on their seperate paths.  Years later, that same friend posted a picture of a trip with Sri and who should see it but Kim.  She sent him a friend request, he accepted, they met for dinner and they’ve been together ever since.  Some would say facebook brought them together.  Others would credit that mutal friend.  I’m saying it was Kim.

                                                       

Credits:

Wedding Planner: Dare to Dream Weddings
Ceremony Venue: Milwaukee Hilton
Reception Venue: The Grain Exchange
Florals: Jane Kelly
Makeup: Vanexa Yang
DJ & Lighting: Milwaukee Airwaves

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