Derek + Kayla

It’s really not the fanfare or expense that make a wedding beautiful. It’s not the 5-course dinners or fancy chandeliers. It’s not the perfect make-up or stunning wedding party. It’s not the three pages of eloquent vows. It’s not the venue. It’s not the dress. It’s not even the photography.

Beauty is love unfolded and worn, like an old favorite sweater. Beauty is connection. It’s the art of two people whose arms are empty without the other. Beauty is love that is just honest.

Sometimes standing alone, under a mountain, with no one else to hear the secrets and whispers of two hearts, is the most beautiful thing ever.

Derek and Kayla came all the way to Alaska wearing their hearts on their sleeve. And now they are married.

More than once, camera heavy in hand, I thought that this is everything perfect: two friends, two hearts, choosing, declaring, holding on, never letting go. These two are the real deal.

john + cece

She is a wild ray of sunshine. She kicks her shoes off and runs barefoot on the beach. She throws her head back and laughs with her whole body. Her love is free spirited and life-giving. She can’t stop kissing him. Her smile has no end. This is the happiest day of her life.

He is an anchor. A strong fortress. Her protector. He breaks all the branches so her dress won’t snag. His arms open and close around her like a story that has been written and finally read. It is impossible to miss the deep well of love in his eyes. This is the happiest day of his life.

Cece + John belong together. Everyone knows it. And on a beach at low tide, under the summer beat of sun, they promise to love one another forever.

We are transfixed behind our cameras, soaking it all in: the look in his eyes when he kneels to wash her feet, her hand lifted in worship to the very author of love, to the One who fashioned and formed love in His hands. And its as if the ocean and the sky and the breeze even know it, they shout it out in wind and waves and rush of heat, that love endures forever, that the greatest of these is love.

Alaska Stems – Florals  //  Three Little Birds Home Bakery – Cake  //  Alaska Luxury Adventures – Second Star – Venue  //  Denali North Events – DJ  //  Anderson’s Bridal – Gown  //  Pinja Larme – Coordinator

caitlyn and josh

The wind pushed and pulled around me, a tug of war of pure white as I sat waiting in my car.  I was waiting for Caitlyn and Josh to arrive, my hot coffee beside me, hand and foot warmers heating up, nervous about the weather.  The wind-chill was fiercely cold, and the swirling snow heartbreakingly beautiful. This is Alaska, January 25, on the Turnagain Arm.

When they arrived, Caitlyn rolled down her window with wind and snow swirling in and out beside her- and she grinned.  “This is absolutely beautiful!  What a perfect winter day! We are so blessed!”

We laughed, and froze, and captured the beauty that was already there.  Two souls- ready to stand together and vow to a lifetime of shielding each other from the harsh wind that blows- promises spoken to love, and honor, and protect.

Caitlyn and Josh- we were honored to witness your quiet beginnings.

brenna and noel

The crickets are chirping when we finally leave and we walk back to the hotel under a blanket full of stars. The sound of laughter echoes behind us and we stop for a few minutes, sink into the sand, crack open two cold Corona’s and let gratitude wash over us. We talk about the day, the whirlwind of flights, the jet-lag, the heat, the joy, the tired legs, the vows, the kindness of the family, the beauty of it all. Here we are, sitting hip-to-hip in the dark, the ocean roaring at our feet. Here we are chasing our dreams down, to this moment, on a beach in Mexico.

“Hanna,” you say, “I love you. Can you believe that we are here?” And I know, because I am your sister, that you aren’t referring to Mexico or the beach or the brilliance of it all. You are referring to the trail, to the path we have been given to travel, hand-in-hand, our whole lives through. You are referring to getting lost in the woods and finding our way home. To the hide-and-seek, to the dances and drama, to growing up right next to each other.  You are referring to falling in love, to standing beside one another at the alter, to hearts filling up with hope. I remember when I told you I was pregnant. I was 22. You couldn’t quit laughing, your eyes just danced. You had the same look, a decade later, when the doctor handed you Peter, your son. You were the Northern Lights ripping across the night sky. In life and in death we travel this trail. In heartbreak, you crawl in my bed and cry beside me. In joy, I dance with you like it’s 1999. It’s always been this way. Whether we are 5 and 10 or 30 and 35. We are here. Together.

Life is funny. It throws a lot of curve balls. Sometimes, just when you think you know how things are going to pan out, just when you become sure of it, everything unravels. Sometimes pain is the river that takes you from one shore to another. Sometimes joy is. We have forged through so many rivers, Heidi, and now, tonight, we have washed up on this beach. Who would have ever thought that through all the blood and sweat and tears and laughter and hope that we would we would both fit into this work of artistry and adventure, that we would unfold our lives and wear them in this way?

Sometimes I wonder if it’s the art that I love or if it’s the art with you that I love? I don’t think I could separate one from the other.

The tide rises and we decide to go pack our bags for the morning.

I love you, too.

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william and patuk

Alaska runs deep in our blood and bones. When you are from here, you belong, in the same way that a flower belongs to soil, or roots belong to a tree. She is the hard place to live. But she rewards those who cradle into her arms. Those who seek her, find her.

The helicopter chops through clouds and we spot the black bear with her cub. The glacier groans and creaks beneath us like an old woman who is slowly breaking apart. Rams stand as statues on the cliffside, rivers run, and I wonder, taking it all in, about how love is as Alaska.

Love is the grandest adventure. It’s what you try to grasp onto your whole life, like a slippery salmon in bare hands. And when you have it in your hold, it’s this wonderful, terrifying, mysterious force. It’s the feeling of standing on the tippy-top of a mountain, when you suddenly become so small, in the arms of such a great, wide world. Sometimes it’s the peace of snow silently falling in the quiet forest. Or the rip of thunder across a dark sky. It’s risky. It stands on glass lakes and rides white waters. It makes no guarantee. But still, our whole existence is always struggling upstream, toward one singular purpose: to love and to be loved.

Patuk and Bill hand-picked the spot where they would marry. There is history for them here. And they stand, at the feet of these mountains and promise, with their children as witnesses, to love and to be loved. They choose the adventure. They choose the risk and the reward.

I know I have said it before. But it just never stops coming to me, like a new dawn each day:  I love my job. I love Alaska. I love the deep well of love. Nothing is more beautiful.

2017-12-04_00012017-12-04_00022017-12-04_00032017-12-04_00042017-12-04_00052017-12-04_00062017-12-04_00072017-12-04_00082017-12-04_00092017-12-04_00102017-12-04_00112017-12-04_00122017-12-04_00132017-12-04_00142017-12-04_00152017-12-04_00162017-12-04_0017Florals – Mylords Floral // Venue: Knik River Lodge

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