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Laurel and Mike’s Zhangjiajie Forest Park Wedding Part 3 – The Ceremony

FINALLY. The big day. (Holy sh*it, we were excited!)

After the immacualte welcome BBQ, the rowdy door games, and the amazing breakfast, I was STOKED to get to the main event. Mike and his boys were well into their suits by the time we arrived for photos and were already starting in on their second bottle of wedding wine. If ever there was ever an indication of how awesome this day was going to be, that was it. Their get up gave a nod to traditional Chinese styling and fused the past with the present with slim fitting garments and modern dress shoes. The crazy socks were a must, signaling how wild and wonderful they all felt.

Now, I had heard for months about Laurel’s custom made red wedding dress but NOTHING prepared me for the sheer perfection of it. Her gown looked like something off the MET Gala carpet and I was HERE fot it. Not only did Laurel look stunning, but so did all of her bridesmaids. Their dresses all sported a different cut for each but created from the same gorgeous navy bloe floral pattern. I don’t know about you, but I think this is one of the hottest bridal parties ever!

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The ceremony was held at the Zhangjiajie National Forest park in the Hunan province of China. If this epic backdrop looks familiar, it’s because this is the same spot James Cameron filmed his 2009 epic Avatar. The floating mountains were absolutly breathtaking, I couldn’t believe this was the backdrop for the wedding! Of course, the decor of the aisle and alter matched the stunning neautrals of the fog filled background with an abundance of white flowers, walkways, teraces, and arangements. Watching Laurel stride down the aisle in her electrifying red dress is a sureal and beautiful moment that I will truly never forget. The ceremony was performed in both English and Chinese to accomdate for all the guests and involved traditional Western vows as well as a tea ceremony with the parents of the couple. It was sealed with a kiss, some dancing, and lots of joy!

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Laurel and Mike’s Zhangjiajie Forest Park Wedding Part 2 – Door Games

After recovering from a rowdy late night Welcome BBQ (see the blog post about that HERE) everyone was up bright and early for the Door Games. I had no idea what to expect from this part of the wedding, but Laurel said it was the part she was most looking forward to, so I was definitely stoked to see it all play out.

Door games are a series of challenges that the bride and her bridesmaids put forth to the groom and groomsmen in order to determine if he is, in fact, worthy of his bride. These can range from physical strength competitions to straight up making him pay cash for his bride, as well as anything in between. With Laurel’s insanely fun friends on the stage, I knew the boys were in for trouble. They did an awesome job completing all the challenges and no one died, so that’s a plus! 😉

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THE PRESENTATION OF THE BRIDE (with bridesmaids in matching onesies, no less!)

CHALLENGE #1

There was an attempt at winning the bridesmaids over with cold hard cash but, unfortunately for the boys, they wouldn’t get off that easy.KEC11182KEC11191

CHALLENGE #2

The bridesmaids tried to get the groomsmen to quit by making them wear saucy little headbands and Kardashian level fake butts, but these boys were in it to win it. The next part of the challenge was for the men to show Laurel how much they love her by creating the word LOVE out of their bodies! While it seems like an easy feat, one of the members also had to be inverted throughout. These boys busted out all the stops to impress the girls and give everyone a laugh.KEH20754007Q0579007Q0599007Q0645007Q0640

GAME #3: BALLOON POP

I’ll go ahead and throw this one in under the category of a humiliation ritual (re: hazing). The groomsmen had to tie balloons around their waist and, without using their hands, pop all of the balloons. Needless to say, there was a lot of hilarious physical contact and attempts at smashing in all the wrong places.

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CHALLENGE #5

This challenge was the physical representation of all the feelings of married life: spicy, sweet, bitter, and sour. These boys had to slam some red chilli peppers, whole sweet mandarin oranges, some icky bitter melon, and a shot of black vinegar!

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CHALLENGE #7

This challenge was sort of a two parter. The bridesmaids asked questions about Laurels life, family, favorite things, etc. and Mike had to answer them. He also had to name 8 countries that Laurel planned to visit in the near future. If he got a question or country wrong, he had to hold a Scorpion inversion yoga pose, meant to open the heart, for 60 seconds. Lucky for him, he was able to also ask a groomsman to step up to the plate. One of them even managed to slam a beer while upside down! (And he’s single, ladies!) 😉

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CHALLENGE #8

Where would the fun be if there wasn’t some element that was actually physically painful? The girls wanted to know how tough these boys were, so they busted out the wax strips for a healthy dose of  ‘beauty is pain’. Each one left the game with a fresh bald patch on their leg. Secretly though, I was hoping they’re go for the chest or armpit!

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CHALLENGE #9

This was one of the most fun challenges, of which the boys had been able to practice ahead of time. They did an amazing dance routine to a 90’s boy band song and got everyone to sing and dance along!

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CHALLENGE #10

Last but not least, FEATS OF STRENGTH! The boys were challenged to a pushup contest and a tug’o’war against Laurel’s chosen team of friends. The push up contest consisted of a team of boys doing push ups at the same time with one of Laurel’s friends resting on their back. Laurel’s team kicked butt, groomsmen… not so much. My all time favorite part of this challenge was when, to many people’s surprise, Laurel’s friend Lucia DEMOLISHED Mike’s brother Rich in an arm wrestling contest. I guess all that acro yoga, rock climbing, and aerial silk training pays off!

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And of course, even though the boys got their butts handed to them (real butts and fake rubber ones), Laurel and her bridesmaids approved of the effort and it was time to get ready for the wedding!

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PART 3 – ZHANGJIAJIE NATIONAL FOREST PARK WEDDING – COMING SOON!

Happy New Year!

The new year is here! While I understand it’s simply another Wednesday and nothing has truly changed since yesterday, it feels like a very transformative time; even more so that years past because of the changing of the decade. It’s time to transcend to the next version of ourselves. Today marks the pinnacle of a time of renewal. A time to affirm goals and envision our brightest future.

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For me, that future includes growing my client base as well as my family. (I’ll settle for a small dog or a small human, they will be equally loved.)

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It includes improving my work, challenging myself, and thinking outside the box more often. (I plan on doing lots of personal creative work this year!)

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It includes finding my ideal client and giving them exactly what they want as an artist. (POWER TO THE PEOPLE!)

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It also includes solidifying my personal relationships as well as professional ones and carving out paths that lead in positive directions I haven’t even figured out yet. (2020 includes a LOT of love and adventure!)

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As cheesy as it sounds, today is the first day of the rest of our lives! I strive to remember that this year and treated every waking moment with the respect and focus it deserves. Cheers to a ridiculous growth spurt in 2020!

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Rafael: The Real Life Superman

The Palacios family came into my life for a Give Back Session in the early Fall of 2018 and I am so incredibly grateful to have met them and captured a small part of their journey.View More: https://katherineelysephotography.pass.us/super-familyWhen Jackie first reach out, we spoke candidly about the fact that her strong, hard working, smart, loving husband had just been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. She explained that all the members of their family were scrambling to wrap their minds around it, but that one thing was certain: they wanted to take photos with the entire family right now to commemorate their tight knit bond before treatment started, “just in case”. When someone says “just in case” in a conversation like this, you don’t even have to think. You hold back the tears stinging your own eyes and say, “absolutely I can fit you in, are you free Saturday morning?”.View More: https://katherineelysephotography.pass.us/super-family

When we met that morning I was blown away by the smiling and laughing faces before me. There was no moping and no sadness, just endless love and appreciation for their patriarch and everything he’s done for their family. Jackie and Raphael have 4 amazing kids and a whole gaggle of adorable grand kids. He was very recently blessed with an additional granddaughter that he was able to meet and enjoy. I relished the experience of seeing Raphael interact and draw strength from all the joy he was surrounded by. He was definitely a fighter, and his whole family would be the team he needed to get him through this. They constantly assured me they’d be right there with him every step of the way. View More: https://katherineelysephotography.pass.us/super-familyIt came as no surprise to me that Rafael is affectionately nicknamed “Superman” by many of his friends and family. Even before his diagnosis he was working out, giving back to his community, and overall living life to the fullest. It is with a heavy heart and tremendous sadness to have learned of his passing over the past weekend. He was in hospice at home, surrounded by his beautiful family, and I know he felt loved and treasured in his last moments with them.View More: https://katherineelysephotography.pass.us/super-familyIn hindsight, the nickname Superman seems to have come with a purpose; to be a reminder of his strength in all of life’s challenges. Rafael was Superman and Superdad and no one will ever forget that. If you’re wondering what you can do to celebrate Rafael’s life, take some time to give to The American Cancer Society and/or attend their fundraiser, Relay for Life, this coming Saturday. Please also send all of our thoughts and love to the Palacios family during this incredibly difficult time. Rest in Peace Superman.View More: https://katherineelysephotography.pass.us/super-family

George & Elisa’s Rainy Day Wedding in Livermore California

Imagine this; it’s three days before your wedding and the skies are pitch black. Rain is pouring down and there’s no sign of it stopping. Your venue, an exclusively outdoor historical site, has just informed you that you need a special permit to put up tents for your event. The permit will take weeks to acquire. Imagine switching venues for your entire event that same afternoon and imagine handling it with such grace and charm and humor that guests wouldn’t even know it it all happened just a few days before your wedding, save for the call informing you of the new location.

Elisa and George were THAT couple. Along with their planner, Kelsey at Avida Bridal, they were able to find a solution within hours and move everything around. Their acceptance of the situation and roll of their eyes at the twist of fate before them was right in line with their incredible character. They are kind and lighthearted and full of love for each another, which in no way was dampened by the stormy weather. They were lucky enough to still be able to get ready at and do their first look at the Ravenswood Historical Site in Livermore, where they had originally intended to do their entire wedding. The covered wraparound deck was the perfect spot for an intimate and tearful; first look. It’s always beautiful to watch the raw emotions unfold between a couple so in love. After braving the rain for a couple of fun group portraits we headed over to their new ceremony site, The Barn in Livermore.

Their beautiful lavender laden arch looked perfect against the rustic aluminum siding of this rustic indoor venue. Their purple table linens and pops of color in the flowers throughout brought a cheery disposition to an otherwise gloomy day. There was a very sweet walk down memory lane in the form childhood photos interspersed with sweet treats to snack on while viewing. Of course, the rain let up directly after their ceremony for just enough time for us to head outside and get some beautiful couples photos. Even mother nature wanted to give these two a break on their special day.

One of the most exciting parts of their day was when they did a long held German tradition called a log cutting ceremony. The couple uses a traditional two-person saw to cut through a large log. The tradition aims to symbolize the first challenge the couple will face as husband and wife. George and Elisa may have had a slow start, but they got their rhythm and ripped through their log in a little less than four minutes. With a solid high-five to seal the deal, this couple had officially passed the first test of married life!

Along with being fantastically fun people all around, Elisa is also an incredibly talented musician. She showed off her skills and intertwined a violin performance with her deep love of George. The couple then shared a sweet first dance with a couple of twirls and a lot of smiles. The epic party came to a close with a ribbon wand exit as these two headed out into their future together. I’m so happy I was the one who got to capture their day, it was such an honor to be there!

Congratulations George and Elisa! ❤

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Meghan and Kyle’s Blooming Spring Wedding at The Gardens at Heather Farm in Walnut Creek California

As wedding season gets into full swing, I often find myself grinning at memories of past events and daydreaming about what wonderful memories I’ll get to capture in the upcoming year. I met Meghan and Kyle last year when we booked their engagement session and we were instant buddies. We chatted wedding plans over countless glasses of wine, shared belly busting laughter over memes and videos, and even snuck in a family photo session for Meghan in the Fall. All the way up to their day, they were nothing short of gleeful and great to be around. I was super pumped once their wedding finally rolled around in March!

Meghan got ready at her sister’s house with her BFF’s while watching a rotation of wedding themed movies (i.e. – Bridesmaids, 27 dresses, etc.) Kyle was busy attempting to stay as sober as possible while his guys enjoyed some beers at the local pub. (He did a darn good job around those crazy dudes, if I might add!) Their wedding took place at the ever stunning Gardens at Heather Farm in Walnut Creek, California. Nestled in next to a man-made pond and a natural lake, the garden and fields all around the venue always have something blooming. The ceremony took place under a beautiful vine covered pergola with purple flowers all around. Kyle was nothing but smiles as he watched his beautiful bride walk through the garden and down the aisle to him.

After ending the ceremony with a big smooch and an excited hurrah, we wandered into the Garden to find a private spot for Kyle and Meghan to read each other their personal vows. Although we couldn’t hear them, we could feel the strong impact their words had on one another. It was a truly beautiful moment. After vows we squeezed in some sweet couple photos right at the golden hour before heading inside to their awesome reception.

Megan is the baby in her family, so the wedding was a big deal for everyone on her side. Her dad gave a hilarious toast involving stories of her as a child, including an heirloom stuffed bear that spent the rest of the night next to the wine glasses on their sweetheart table. Where you usually expect the brother of the groom to embarrass his older brother to no end, Kyle’s brother’s toast was incredibly thoughtful and tearful. I doubt there was a dry eye in the house after his kind words. Of course, it was all balanced out by the best man and his antics afterward. 😉

Once toasts were made, dances were had, cake was cut, and the bouquet was thrown, it was time for one of the crazier dance parties I’ve ever been apart of. Highlights include the best man splitting his pants wide open during the very first song, Meghan spinning around on the dance floor like a princess who just discovered pop music, and myself getting commandeered mid-photo and twirled around the dance floor, cameras in hand by an enthusiastic guest. All in all, their entire day was one I won’t forget any time soon.

Working with couples like Meghan and Kyle makes me take stock of my life and remember how impactful and fulfilling my job is. Not only do I get to be a part of so many big days, but I get to be the one to help people relive them for years to come. It’s an unbelievable joy to do what I do and I feel just so insanely lucky to do it.

Cheers to the Degoey’s, the radest couple around. 🙂

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Photos: Katherine Elyse Photography // @LoveKEPhoto

Wedding Planner: An Everlasting Moment // @AnEverlastingMoment

Venue: The Gardens at Heather Farm // @GardensHF

Hair and Makeup: Madame Me Makeup & Hair // @MadameMeBeauty

Floral: The Bloom Bar // @TheBloomBarCo

Entertainment: Eric Marquez (DJ Eric M)

Catering: Havana // @HavanaCatering

Eryka and Neil’s Chic Loft Wedding in Downtown Los Angeles

Usually I’m an outdoor wedding kind of gal. I love me some tall grass and golden sunsets. But when Eryka said the words “LA loft wedding” I couldn’t say “I’ll DO IT!” fast enough. Eryka and Neil have been together forever. I remember them being deeply in love all the way back when we knew one another in college at Chico State. They’ve since traveled the world together and lived abroad, raised perfect baby frenchies, and made all of it look effortless and exciting.

I was thrilled when they asked me down to LA to shoot their incredibly sheik loft wedding. The Hotel Indigo was the perfect compliment to their urban loft space, with tall open windows and modern accoutrement throughout. Of course, Eryka couldn’t get ready without her dog of honor. That little one totally stole the show! After a sweet first look in the lobby, it was off the the gorgeous loft for group photos and meeting up with the rest of the bridal party. Their ceremony was filled with gut busting laughter and sentimental tears, making it all the more obvious these two sweethearts are totally meant to be. The night continued in a joyous fashion with hilarious toasts, a romantic first dance, and a truly one-of-a-kind (almost) cake fail. The couple laughed and danced all the way into their happily ever after, which is exactly the way it should be.

I’m super stoked for these two and I wish them all the best in their marriage. May it bring love, laughter, and (hopefully) more furry friends. 🙂

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