As we pulled into the driveway of Johnny's parents' house on Saturday morning, you could see something written in chalk under one of the cars in the driveway. If you weren't looking you might miss it. "Welcome Zach and Ali!" it read. I smiled as Zach and I wheeled our roller case full of camera equipment past the pastel greeting and followed an energetic Johnny into the house. It was going to be a good day.
Once inside, you could sense the buzz of excitement filling the house. Johnny's aunts had traveled from out of state and they were chatting with other family members in the living room. The family dog, Hamilton, barked to announce new arrivals. The kitchen started to fill up with groomsmen, each one giving Johnny a huge hug as they entered. Doors opened and closed, the TV hummed. Children played with plastic animals in the entryway, their blissful chatter joining the rest of the happy sounds filling the home.
When Stephanie and Johnny first mentioned that they wanted to add some Lord of the Rings flare into their wedding I'm pretty certain my heart lept with joy! The first thing that came to my mind is the image of Frodo (played by Elijah Wood) lying on the floor of the Prancing Pony. The ring falling back onto his finger. So of course, we had to make our own version of this. Johnny was such a trooper and followed every instruction I gave him. What a guy!
From that moment on, the day picked up with unbelievable speed. After taking some photos of the groom's details - including The Flash cufflinks - Zach and I headed to the Charles L. Bowers School Farm where the wedding would take place. We arrived ahead of the bride so we got to work photographing the bridal details. There are times when I have to be extra creative with locations for detail shots - but let me just tell you, this was not one of those times. The farm is gorgeous. Everywhere you look you see carefully landscaped flowers and trees. Stone steps frame the view of a greenhouse on top of the hill. Horses graze peacefully in a pasture on the north east side of the property just beyond the sunflower field and peacocks roam the grounds, careful not to cross paths with any of the various farm cats that call Bowers home.
As we were finishing up the detail shots, thunder rumbled in the distance. I made a silent wish that the storm would come and go, getting the rain over with before the start of the wedding, which was set to be outdoors on those beautiful stone steps. As Stephanie and her girls began to get dressed, the skies opened up and it not just rained - it poured. A decision was made to move the wedding indoors. Luckily the farm had enough indoor space and with the quick thinking of some family members, a game plan was made. I glanced up at Stephanie to see what she was thinking and even with all of the last minute changes, she still had a smile on her face. That's the thing about Stephanie, she is always positive. She is so warm and caring, and will find the joy in any situation. The rain on her wedding day was no exception. Afterall, what's a little rain when you get to marry the love of your life?
As guests started to arrive and take their seats I took some photos of Johnny and got to spend just a couple minutes alone with him. I peeked through my viewfinder and there was my friend of 5 plus years. The guy who loves Motion City Soundtrack as much as me and has the world's largest collection of The Flash memorabilia, probably. The guy who refuses to let us sleep on the couch when we visit and insists that we take his bed instead. The guy who spent time with Zach and I when we first started dating and made me feel welcome in their group of friends. The same guy who has been a wonderful and trustworthy friend to my husband for years. Suddenly there, on the other side of my lens - was Johnny standing on the edge of the greatest adventure of his life. Five years ago I'm not sure I would have imagined us having this brief moment together - me documenting such a huge day of his life - but I am sure it glad that's where life took us.
After the ceremony and family portraits, we took some photos with Johnny's daughter Layla. Layla was a total rockstar with photos! It was especially sweet to see how much she loves Stephanie. She looks at her as though she is a real life Disney Princess - and well, it's because she is. They are such a sweet little family. I had to keep my squeaks of happiness to myself as I took the photos. They are too precious.
Next I went for a walk around the farm with Stephanie and Johnny. From the sunflower fields to the horse pasture, these two lovebirds soaked it all in, while enjoying a few quiet moments together. I also got to spend time with a special someone, my favorite Bower's resident - Eeyore the elderly donkey. She walked right up to the fence and I'm going to chose to believe it's because she remembers me from my previous visits.
Finally, it was time to party! Stephanie and Johnny went out of their way to make their reception magical! Each guest received a succulent as their place card and the tea lights twinkled in moss lined ball jars, illuminating the room. A popcorn machine popped happily against the far wall, greeting guests with the warm smell of buttery goodness. Stephanie and Johnny opted to forgo a traditional cake and had donuts instead. Yes please! Drinks were cleverly named - a nod to the Lord of the Rings theme.
Following a feast fit for a hobbit - speeches, the first dance and cake cutting took place. Everywhere you looked across the room was someone laughing, someone telling a story, a baby bouncing on a knee ( or some sleeping under tables) - the room was full of joy and love. Just like Stephanie and Johnny. Their wedding was huge success! The dance floor did not empty until the DJ announced he was done for the night. That's when you know it was a good party!
Thank you Stephanie + Johnny for allowing me to be there with you throughout your wedding day. I loved every minute of it, rain included. Sending you lots of love as you embark on this adventure.