There is something special about the way Michelle & Jeff share space. Shoulder to shoulder, facing the world together. Partners.
Wrapped around one another, great enveloping hugs and a stillness when they meet. A momentary reminder of solidarity.
As is often the case, I met Michelle & Jeff in person for the first time a few months after they hired me as their wedding photographer. Because I get to live day to day in one of the most stunning places in the world, people actually travel to where I live to get married! It's pretty fantastic really. I get to meet super interesting people from all over who have warm fuzzy feelings about each other and getting married in the Traverse City, MI area. Since I too have warm fuzzy feelings about life here, it's usually a love fest once we get talking about their wedding plans. We talked summer wedding goodness in the wintery cold of March and chatted over cups of steaming java with the clang of barista's working in the background and the thick smell of fresh roasted beans hanging in the air. Thanks to Higher Grounds for the sensory heaven.
I don't think he lead with it but fairly early on, Jeff said something along the lines of "I am NOT excited about all this picture taking". But the thing is, even thought we had just met, I could already see that he WAS excited about getting married to Michelle.
As we continued to talk about their plans for an outdoor wedding at the gorgeous and historic Cathedral Barn and the sort of casual, classy vibe they were hoping to create, I couldn't help but notice, these two are the perfect compliments to one another. The give and take is subtle and easy. There is a respect and calm about how they explain their plans. They quite simply want to spend a glorious day celebrating and eating. Drinking and dancing...and just being...with one another and all of their favorite people in the world. While they think tradition is lovely, there are things that they don't feel committed to do just for the sake of tradition. The wedding they plan is truly their day.
And what they planned is what they got. X100.
After a beautiful blue sky morning spent apart, preparing for the day ahead, they were both excited and a bit anxious to be together once again. As they saw one another for the first time, they fell into one another and locked into an embrace. A few weeks after the wedding, I asked Michelle about her favorite moments and I was not surprised that they revolved around the moments when they shared space.
"At our first look. While that seems obvious, it was so incredible to come together after all the planning, setup and getting ready and have a moment to ourselves alone with no one else around to just take in the gravity of the day, the strength of our partnership, and all the joy that we felt. We had made it! Plus, Jeff looked pretty damn handsome! I also felt a sense of relief and calm after seeing him for our first look. He tends to have that effect on me."
We spent the next few hours taking pictures by the blue, blue of Grand Traverse Bay and the Commons in the shade of ancient hardwoods, surrounded by the beautiful white wrap around porches and stunning architecture of the old State Hospital grounds. Finally, the bus carrying the wedding party arrived and the excitement doubled as we finished wedding party pictures and guests started to stream in.
And so did the misty rain and threatening clouds. Ah, Northern Michigan weather. The bad news is that it changes quickly. The good news is that it changes quickly.
My hats off to Stephanie Wiitala, the venue manager and planner at S2S Events! That girl (and her trusty assistant Kayla) has some hustle and keeps an even head when decisions need to be made and 200 people are looking anxiously at the sky. Thankfully, moments before the wedding was scheduled to begin, the light rain passed and the outdoor wedding went on perfectly!
As the ceremony begins, the dramatic walk from the barn to the ceremony site on the lawn really gives everyone a minute to take in the moment. Michelle said that she felt a complete sense of joy seeing Jeff's smile as her dad walked her down the aisle. After heartfelt vows, including some laughter and tears, they were officially husband and wife! Whoohoo! While we got some fantastic group portraits, guests mingled and enjoyed the beautiful venue, drink in hand, laughter all around.
Fairly quickly, we gathered in the Barn to continue the celebration. Michelle & Jeff cut into the cake made lovingly by a family friend and heard sweet toasts given from full hearts. Michelle's mother did a fantastic job keeping herself together as she read a special letter from Michelle's brother and sister in law who couldn't be present for the best possible reason, a new baby! There was not a dry eye in the house after that outpouring of love! We all enjoyed a seriously delicious dinner catered by Crystal Lake Catering Company followed by cake OR for the true Northern Michigan wedding experience, a cute little Moomer's ice cream cart scooping up the best flavors! Wedding ice cream, yes please!
As Jeff & Michelle took the dance floor for their first dance, they locked into that embrace again, that moment of total joy and contentment wrapping around them. I can see them still dancing this way in 50 years...just maybe a little slower;)
The rest of the night passed in a happy blur of dancing and laughing. We snuck away to take some pictures in the softness of sunset, allowing them to have a moment of quietness together. There is a special calm about the way these pictures feel, a real connectedness and intimacy that feels different somehow. Michelle says she felt "blissful, grateful, and just utterly at peace".
I can't imagine a better way to start your married lives together. Shoulder to shoulder, facing the world together. Partners.
Congratulations Michelle & Jeff...may your marriage by as happy as the day on which it began!
(I mentioned some of the folks who made up team Michelle & Jeff but should add many thanks to Hooper's Farm Gardens for all the lovely blooms, Allure Salon for beautiful bridal hair and Brian Alvarez of DJ Just-B for providing professional DJ service!)