Back in September I had the honor of getting to photograph a lifelong family friend's wedding. I've known the groom, Jackson, for two decades. Our families became super close friends shortly after my family moved up to Anchorage when I was 6, and Jackson's dad was actually friends with my dad growing up in Juneau, so there's a lot of family history between our two clans. Jackson started dating Jessica in high school, so they've been together for quite some time! They both go to college in Seattle now, so when Jackson finally decided to propose he took Jessica to the swanky restaurant atop the Seattle Space Needle for a delicious date and then popped the question after dinner as they stood beneath the Space Needle. After she said yes, they caught a bus to a secret surprise party he had planned where friends, family, and loved ones were waiting to congratulate them!
Jackson and Jessica didn't have a ton of money to splurge on a huge, opulent wedding, but you wouldn't have known it! It was such an incredibly beautiful wedding, from the location, to the details. Everything was so perfect. When I walked into the venue for the rehearsal my jaw dropped and I did a little happy-photographer dance because I was SO excited to shoot photos in such a beautiful location. Their venue was the Leach Botanical Garden just outside of Portland, which is a super affordable wedding venue. Seriously, so many private wedding venues can charge enormous fees, but because Leach is run by the Portland Parks & Rec they have much more affordable rates. So amazing.
They found their florist on Craigslist (amazing!), a gal named Shaon Harbeck, and she does flowers as a hobby so she doesn't have an actual shop. The flowers were so stunning and Jessica says she did a phenomenal job staying within their small budget. The center pieces were my favorite decorative pieces at the wedding. Succulents, moss, and pretty flowers all tucked inside a log "vase". I almost stole like ten of them to take home with me they were so understated, chic, and matched the location perfectly.
Jackson's Dad spent some time growing up in Hawai'i, so Jackson has lots of memories eating Hawaiian food and I distinctly remember many times dancing the Hukilau along with my brothers and Jackson and his sister while their dad played his ukulele and sang. They had Barbs Catering do a mini Hawaiian meal for their food because of it's sentimental value in Jackson's side of the family, but it was even more special for Jessica because it was the first meal he ever cooked her! To save money they chose not to serve a full meal so having some rice, teriyaki chicken skewers and pineapple were good options for those not wanting pie, which is what they chose for dessert in lieu of cake. All of the pie was contributed by family members that were known for specific flavors, and it was so cool that loved ones got to share a little sweet treat.
I asked Jessica to share her favorite moment from the day and she said,
"This one is really hard to choose! Besides actually putting the rings on our fingers, my favorite moment of the day was waiting to walk down the isle. Jackson and I had chosen not to see each other before the ceremony, and I don't regret it one bit. The feeling of knowing I would see him soon, was one I will never forget. Pure joy mixed with immense nervousness (the good kind) is the only way I can describe it! I wish I could relive that moment again!"
As their photographer I was with her in those moments and it was so special to share them with her. She was doing her best to breathe and calm the nerves and I started singing Miley Cyrus, "Party in the USA" to her because we'd listened to some Miley on the car ride over to the venue earlier that day. "So I put my hands up, they're playing my song, the butterflies fly away..." seemed like the perfect little encouragement in the moment!
Jessica's wedding advice?
"The only thing I can really think of to say is, don't lose focus on what the day is really about. Some things aren't going to go your way, your Mom may put the favor table in the wrong corner, your florist may be late, and your lemonade might not have enough sugar. But at the end of the day you will be married to the love of your life, and everyone that is important to you will get to see you make that commitment. That's what weddings are about!"
I loved Jessica's laid back attitude, even when she was nervous or anxious. Also, I dig a bride who, when asked if she'll take her shoes off and, in her wedding gown, hike barefoot out onto a tiny rock wall in the middle of a stream to get the shot, says, "heck yeah!" So excited for Jackson and Jessica's new life together, and it's so great to have such a great gal as a part of our big framily!