woodnote wedding albums [what to do with your 700 wedding images]

(Have a look! example of steph + adrian’s wedding day album, a renaissance soho album with the cover material in tribeca leather cement.)

Your wedding day has come and gone.. the food has been eaten and the dances have been danced. Eight weeks of newlywed life have zipped by, and then, your portfolio arrives! Second best day ever! So, you pour two glasses of wine and sit down with your love for a few hours of sifting through the memories. 700 photos is a lot of photos, but you love seeing the faces of your dearest friends and family all in one space, celebrating side by side.

So now what?

You’re glad you have the hundreds of photos to look back on, but you don’t have that much wall space, and you hardly know how to pick any fewer faves than 50. (Or 500, because damn you all looked so good!)

Enter: your wedding album.

Sure, you want to print a few for your house, and pop a few up on Facebook and the ol’ Insta, but creating a tangible expression of your day sounds like the perfect way to let your photos exist as something more than a folder of .jpgs.

Many of our couples opt for this route, and so we thought it might be nice to shed some light on what this process is like, and, show you a finished product, too!

Our most popular (and personal favorite) album is the SoHo flush mount album from Renaissance Albums. Handmade in NYC with a lifetime warranty, these seamless pages provide a panoramic option for fully customizable layouts.. the obvious choice for anyone who is picky about how their photos look and how their story is told. So, once you’ve looked through your images enough to start to pick your faves, you create a folder of ‘hearted’ images in your online gallery and share the link with me. Next, I create a layout that looks a bit like this, and you get to write back and forth with me and give me your tweaks and revisions until you absolutely love the final design. Oh! And you get to choose your cover material then, too. You get to love every detail..!

(Here are a few spreads from Max + Cory’s album)





(and here are a few from Steph + Adrian’s, too…)






Sometimes, couples are happy with the very first layout I send over, and sometimes, it takes a few times to rearrange and play ’til they know they’re 100% happy. Either way, we love the chance to revisit these magic-filled moments, knowing that the albums we create together will be seen by children, grandchildren, and celebrated for the decades to come.

(If you haven’t watched the video at the top of this post, be sure to check it out! 90 seconds, and a quick chance to see the lovely, thick pages and get a sense for what your album will look like when it is all done.) xx

rancho dos pueblos wedding (andrea + tanner are married!) – santa barbara wedding photographers

Before the wedding images begin, a little PSA: Today is a bit of a special day in Woodnoteland. Today is the sixth anniversary of this blog. Whoa, right? We’ve been shooting weddings since 2009, and on this day in 2010, we shared our very first post on the world wide web. We feel pretty sentimental and grateful today. We’ve gotten to hear and witness so many glorious stories in our time, and made lifelong friends in the process, too. There is a heckuvalotta love represented on these pages, and a lot of trials of life, too. Thank you for being along for this journey.

Side note: you might notice ye olde blog got a bit of a facelift today, too! It felt like time. We can’t have images of us from 4 years ago scrolling across the top of the page. So, those images up there? That’s really us. Like, realtime, currently what we look like. Also, yes. Jayden just donated 12″ of ginger locks a few days ago. Anyway. Enough about us!

Now. Andrea + Tanner time. Do you remember their engagement sesh in Chicago back in 2014? It was downright magical to rendezvous with them on the other side of the country for their big day in Santa Barbara. These two love each other with a true and tender love.. just imagine them falling in love over Disney songs [true story], and you’ll get a sense for what it feels like to be around them. It really is unique and completely beautiful to witness! A+T, we miss you guys. Thank you so much for choosing + trusting us! Now, we’ll hand it over to you! xo

We met on a study abroad program in Greece. Our flirtation sparked over the discovery of our mutual appreciation for Disney songs, which our officiant highlighted during our wedding ceremony by integrating a ‘magic carpet ride’ theme into the program. Our wedding was a bigger version of one of our favorite activities – gathering family and friends and sharing great food and drinks in a beautiful setting, creating fun moments and fond memories. The entire day truly felt like a dream, and flew by way too fast, as many others had warned us it would…”

Any advice for future brides/grooms currently planning their wedding? “Invest a substantial amount of your time and effort to find vendors you trust. Being able to work with vendors that you can establish as partners makes the planning process so much more fun and creates a higher probability for an effortless day of event.”



Woodnote Note: we love sneaking away from the party for a few quiet moments during sunset, and we are super stoked that Andrea + Tanner trusted us enough to know it would be worth missing a few moments of their reception to make these…

And now, back to the party…

“…one of our favorite impromptu moments was when a favorite song of Tanner’s Dad was played towards the end of the evening. Somehow our immediate family all ended up on the dance floor, linking arms and jumping around in a circle to the rhythm of the song. It was such a silly display, but an authentic expression of the excitement felt by both families throughout the celebration.”


Photographer – Caroline + Jayden of Woodnote Photography

Videographer – James Tull

Wedding planner – Donna Romani

Rentals – A Rental Connection

Andrea’s Dress – Monique Lhuillier

Andrea’s Shoes – Badgley Mischka

Andrea’s Jewelry – Headband by Jennifer Behr

Bridesmaids’ Dresses – Camille La Vie

Tanner’s Suit – Balani

Tanner’s Shoes – Bruno Magli

Groomsmen’s Suits – The Black Tux

Hair + Makeup – Mar at Team Hair & Makeup

Flowers – Rhonda Fauci at Command Performance Catering

Caterers – Command Performance Catering

Stationery & paper goods – Wedding Paper Divas

Ceremony/Reception Venue- Casa Grande at Rancho Dos Pueblos

Reception Music – DJ Shammy Dee

First Dance Song – Van Morrison ‘Into the Mystic

how to visit cuba as an american in 2016: our first adventure of the new year

Well hello, hello.. if it isn’t 2016 and the first blog post of the New Year!

I realize we’re putting two travel posts back to back, and the DRCongo and Cuba are gonna be quite different, but we’ve had so many people writing to us with Cuba questions that this post just can’t wait..! So here goes. [This post is gonna be mega!]

On January 1st, while still in a fog from all of the champagne + dancing the night before, we hopped on a plane and headed for Cuba. Its been the #1 destination on our wish list for years now, and what better excuse than having it be the first thing we did in the first hours of the year, and, adding it as my 30th country in my 30th birthday month?! (Can you tell I need to validate adventures to myself? Cuz I do, apparently.)

Rather than write pages and pages of the marvel we found and experienced, I will let the photos do the talking, and will add in travel tips and blurbs throughout the post. It really was a ‘top 5 in the world so far’ experience for both of us, and I absolutely recommend that everyone go. ASAP. Because Cuba is changing a lot right now and you wanna see it while it is still.. this way:


So first up.. the, “but you’re American! How did you get there?” question…

Cuba made a lot of news last year when Obama restored relations with the formerly-forbidden island just 90 miles south of Miami, but travel for American tourists still requires jumping through a series of hoops. When researching online, you will find that “purposeful travel” to Cuba is currently permitted under 12 categories, including things like visiting family, journalistic activity and professional research. We went as journalists, but there is actually no process to go through to gain such a license or visa for travel from the US as of January 2016. The short answer is: The US border patrol said absolutely nothing about our trip to Cuba, and didn’t even ask to see proof of why we were there, even though we had it prepared because that’s just smart. We even allowed Cuba to stamp our passports and wrote that we had been there on our re-entry form for the US, and they didn’t even mention it. Our experience was smooth and easygoing, but it is still wise to have a purpose in your trip so that you can provide proof, should the US request to see it upon re-entry. (Plus, who wants to see the world as just a ‘tourist’, anyway?)

The actual HOW we got to the island is a different story.

Since US websites haven’t caught up with travel restrictions, trying to book flights from US websites ended with a series of dead-ends and ‘this route is blocked’ error messages. In my effort to create a work-around, I tried an array of things, and ended up buying flights from LA to Cancun through a last-minute deal on United, and then booking Cancun to Havana on the Canadian version of copaair.com. (Like I said, there are hoops to handle.) There are charter flights available from Cancun and also Miami, but we booked our trip fairly last minute, so I didn’t have time to explore every possibility with that option.

To get a visa to enter Cuba was as easy as pie.

Literally. A friend had told us that you buy them with cash on your way into the country, so we went with that plan, and bought them for $25 USD (cash) from a guy wearing a ‘CUBA’ tag at the airport in Cancun. Yup, it felt as unofficial as heyyyyll, especially when he hand-wrote our names on the visas with one of those amazing pens that has an eraser at the end of it, but they worked! Just roll with it, y’know?

[Oddly enough, this is my favorite photo from the whole trip. I saw this gorgeous woman in her perfect pink ensemb knock on the door and managed to snap the moments where she waited for the door to be answered. This frame captures Havana so magically, I think.]

Once in Havana–or La Habana, I should say–here is what you should know:

♦ Spanish! Oh my gosh, guys. I can’t stress this enough. English ain’t no thang in Cuba. You’ll want to communicate at least basics, if not more, (because Cubans are amazing and you really just want to chat with everyone you meet) so start practicing with Duolingo now. Or, travel with someone who is fluent. 😉

♦ The packing logistics… Cuba is humid! I wore jeans on the first day and totally regretted it. You’ll want soft, flowy fabrics and comfy walking shoes. We walked about 10 miles every day because we just couldn’t stop exploring.

♦ It also rained randomly! Kinda tropical / rain forest vibe. Pack a tiny rain poncho in your day bag.. that’s one thing we wish we had with us, but just got mega drenched a few times. Ah well! Ya learn.

♦ Nothing is ‘fast’ in Cuba. Including food. Meals take 1-2 hours, so bring snacks. If you ask us? Eat a big breakfast, bring your own snack for lunch, and then eat a big dinner once the sun has gone down. This is another thing we didn’t do, but wish we had.. it is a bummer to miss hours of daylight [ = photo time!] on a meal break.

♦ Take a guide book. Since English is not something you’ll encounter much, and the internet doesn’t exist there, this is actually the only time in our lives we have ever clung to our Lonely Planet Guide like our lives depended on it. Maps.. places to eat.. even what areas to visit, this is absolutely a ‘must’ for anyone going to Cuba. Trust me.

♦ Cuba is 100% cash. Like, I mean it. ONE HUNDRED PERCENT CASH. And getting that cash can be a huge and mega ordeal. Credit cards aren’t accepted, and ATMs almost never work. [We tried both our US and Australian cards a few different times to get more cash out, and none of them worked.] Don’t underestimate how much cash you will need, either. It really isn’t cheap. As a gauge: Jayden and I brought $1000 USD into the country with us, which is technically 1000 CUC$ [the Cuban currency that tourists pay in], but you lose almost 10% in the exchange rate, so we ended up getting about 900 CUC$, and almost ran out of money in our 5 days there. Bring more than you think you’ll need. If we were to go again, we’d bring $150 USD per person, per day. And we aren’t extravagant travelers, either. I should also mention that there is only one place in Havana to exchange your foreign currency into CUC$, and the line is L O N G, and sometimes the bank runs out of CUC$. One of our days there, we were out of CUC$ and the bank was out, so all we could do was keep a sense of humor and focus on doing free things for the remainder of the day.

Example of the line to get money out at the bank:

♦ We adored walking El Malecón – the esplanade and sea wall that runs around 8kms along the Havana coast. It was the perfect time to see cars, people, fisherman and just take in glorious Cuba. We walked it almost every day, in one capacity or another. [Similarly, I did not love Obispo in Havana, which was the most ‘touristy’ street we experienced our whole trip. And that is the only negative thing you’ll hear me saying about Cuba. Ha! Really!]

Answers to other questions you might have, plus random tips:

♦ Internet / wifi is not a thing in Cuba. This makes it difficult to pre-book your accommodations and plans there, and just stay connected while you’re there. “Technically” tourists have access to wifi, but I wouldn’t count on it. For example, if you go into the big tourist hotels, they will say they have wifi. You pay around $7 for an hour, and maybe get one Instagram photo or email to load. It’s more frustrating than it is efficient, really. Short answer? Put your away message up on your email and do not waste your beautiful time there trying to be connected online. It ain’t worth it. We have Verizon and could get roaming, which was nice for peace of mind in the event of an emergency, but even then, texts are 50 cents each and phone calls are around $2/minute, so again. Not worth it. Just tell yourself you’re really traveling back in time and bask in the weird, kinda awesome experience of being unplugged.

Crime is almost nonexistent in Cuba. The few people we talked to said that there are more police than civilians, and punishment for committing a crime is intense. Even going out late at night, we felt totally safe. Someone swiped a tourist’s phone late one night at a cafe we were sitting at, but a local Cuban guy chased down the phone thief and came back about 5 minutes later holding the phone. Cubans overwhelmed us with their warmth and kindness, and I could tell numerous stories where the locals went out of their way to welcome us and truly ensure we were having the best experience.

♦ While we had every intention of traveling to Trinidad while we were in Cuba, we didn’t actually have enough cash with us to go once we got on the ground. We had planned for about $100 CUC$ each way in a taxi to get there, (since buses are slow and often over-booked or cancelled at the last minute) but couldn’t find a driver to take us for less than $200. Y’ouch. We happened to go during peak season, so this might not be a problem during a different time of year, but again. Bring more cash than you think you’ll need. And, don’t underestimate how huge Havana is. We spent 4 of our days there and didn’t even see all of it.

♦ Cigars! The most common ‘scam’ (although it was pretty harmless) we encountered had to do with people wanting to sell us crummy cigars in the street or from their home. i.e. they were homemade and wouldn’t smoke the same way as a true Cuban. Stick to buying Romeo and Juliets at hotels or the airport, and you’ll be good to go.

♦ Food Faves: Our very favorite meal in Old Havana (by far) was Doña EutimiaOh yes, my friends. You must go. They require reservations — usually days ahead — so go as soon as you arrive and then book as often as you can. Ha! I mean, really. Just trust me. Another fun experience was Bodeguita del medio, also in Old Havana, and El Idilio in Vedado.

♦ Live music is all around you. Always. And it will make you so happy. Lots of locals will invite you to purchase expensive tickets (i.e. $30) to see a live show that involves a/some member[s] of the Buena Vista Social Club, but the free music you’ll hear at bars every night is just as good. And you’ll get to hang around locals, too. (Locals would never go to something that costs more than a few CUC$.) One night, we went to a spot called La Zorra y El Cuervo to hear jazz, and it was dope. Get there early — around 10:30, I think, to ensure you get a table. It is a tiny little intimate spot, entrance is $10 and includes 2 drinks. You walk in through a red phone booth. Need I say more?

Also, go to Fabrica Del Arte – a gallery / club way ahead of its time.

Check the hours of the places you want to go as soon as you arrive. Opening / closing days and hours change all of the time, and we found a lot of places were closed Mondays, especially. Sometimes other random days. So just plan ahead to avoid missing out on that thing you want to see/do most cuz it is closed.

Cubans are the kindest, loveliest people. We would constantly stop to chat with people, and photograph them, too, and they were consistently warm and wonderful!

♦ Cubans are so into sports and being active, especially when it has to do with boxing and baseball. We tried to go to a baseball game, but the team was playing games in other cities while we were there. We did happen to pop our heads into this boxing gym, and just loved watching the coaches/trainers for awhile.

Cuba has plants + house plants everywhere.. and I was especially in love with their attention to details like this!

Our adventure companions Liz + Ben of Sseko Designs came from Portland to rendezvous with us in Cuba. Liz is 4 months pregnant and was a total trooper in keeping up with us as we walked 10 miles a day.. and even let me put her in my clothes while she modeled for a lil shoot. 😉

♦ We loved visiting old buildings — like the Hotel Habana Riviera. It hasn’t really been updated since the mid ’50s, so just walking around feels like magical time travel is taking place. A lot of American mobsters used to gamble and hang here, so I stood at the three story diving board at the pool for an age just trying to imagine a scene from the ’50s where Nat King Cole was taking a dip. Literally the best thing.

One of my only regrets was that I hadn’t spent more time researching Cuban history and/or watching Cuban films before we went. Being there definitely sparked that interest so that is happening now — but I was walking the streets in the city wishing I had a better sense for what happened where, and what these areas used to look like in the early ’50s.

(In contrast.. lots of empty pools around Havana..)

♦ Accommodation: stay in casa particulares instead of big touristy hotels. Basically, it is like a homestay where you’re getting to be in a Cuban home and interact with the folks who live there. Just amazing! We had the best experience.

We tried to book before we got to Cuba, but as you’ll find, most places don’t have websites, so we thought we had booked a place and got an email the day we were flying to Cuba saying, “So sorry for the late update, but we just read your email and don’t actually have a place available on the dates you’ll be here.” So, we landed in Havana. Got a taxi to Old Havana ($35) and looked for places that had “the Casa sign” on the door. The symbol looks like this, and basically means that you can knock on that door and ask if they have a room. Like I said, it isn’t going to feel like modern travel, but it is amazing. Just roll with it. Be spontaneous! We paid 60 CUC$ a night for our room, and then breakfast was an extra $5.

If this idea of planning your own trip and ‘winging it’ like we did doesn’t float your boat, Collin at Cuba Educational Travel was incredibly helpful as a resource as we planned our trip and I would absolutely recommend you reach out to plan your trip through them. Another friend we met on our travels had booked their adventure through Havana Holdings, and also said they were having a fabulous experience having had locals organize things for them on the ground before they landed in Cuba. Again, if the spontaneous “we’ll figure it out as we go along” route doesn’t sound fab, hire these guys to book things for you before you get there. They’re on the ground and can work around the internet-less world of incredible Cuba.

(Here’s a little mini shoot we did in the Casa Particular we stayed in, (called Casa Vitrales).. it happens to feature a soon-to-launch collab between Elephant Landing + Sseko! Can you guess what the product is?)

♦ As an American, my idea of Cuba has always been this forbidden fruit.. but the picture in my mind is a magical land of urban decay. Until I got there, I never ever had connected with the reality that Cuba is a tropical wonderland with Caribbean beaches that are better than you’ve ever seen before[!]. Seriously. The best. We took a day trip (a taxi was around 30 CUC$ each way, and he just waited for us all day while we were there) to Playa Santa Maria and hung out in an abandoned area surrounded by banana leaf umbrellas and a guy in a tiny little stand selling rum-filled coconuts and beers for $2. Um, yes. So much yes.

Strolling Cuban minstrel walked in on our shoot and insisted Liz play and sing. She did. Bliss moment right here.

Also: found pineapples strewn across the beach. No idea where they’d come from, but it sure gave an extra sparkle to the experience.

Ummm.. best timing ever?

If you can’t guess already, Liz spent many moments being photographed by me. The occasional passer-by would jump into the photos, like this. Always inducing shared laughter and joy… really, the best. Also: cigars at 10am? Always a good idea.

Your best, most authentic and wonderful experiences in Cuba will be the unplanned ones. The ones you couldn’t imagine in this instant if you tried. Where you stick your head into what looks like an abandoned building and find a group of dancers practicing, or someone singing while a band is playing. So go. As soon as you can. The country is changing a lot at the moment, and it won’t feel ‘like this’ for too long. Go get lost, my friend.

You’re always welcome to write with questions — and/or write when you go and share your own stories! We’d absolutely love to hear about them. Bon voyage! xo

February 18, 2016 - 5:03 pm

Caroline Hi, Rosie! I think it is pretty relaxed at this point, so you shouldn’t need to get a visa to go. Keep checking on things before you go, as things change a lot during transitional phases, but I’d say you’re good to go. Enjoy!

February 18, 2016 - 5:02 pm

Caroline Hi, Sezgi! I used a Canon 5D Mk III and a 24-70mm along with a 35mm. The 50mm will probably be perfect for you, though! What a gorgeous lens. Have a great time :)

February 6, 2016 - 10:42 pm

Rosie Hi Caroline,

Thank you so much for sharing this information, it’s so helpful! I’ve dreamed of going to Cuba for as long as I can remember and this post has really lit a fire under my butt. How would I go about getting a journalistic license? Do you think Instagram posts will count if I don’t have an actual blog?? Thank you again!! Your photographs are GORGEOUS and really capture the people and the soul of Havana! xo

February 3, 2016 - 5:45 pm

Sezgi Olgac Hi Caroline! I will be in Cuba in March and I’m super excited about this. Thank you for this amazing post which is very helpful in many ways. I absolutely love all the photos! I was wondering which camera and lens/lenses you used there? I’m thinking about changing my gear (Canon 650D + 50 mm 1.8) and I’d love to hear your favorites. Thanks in advance!

February 2, 2016 - 11:25 am

Caroline Hi, Erika! So glad to hear you’re gonna make it to Cuba! You will love it. $150/day does include lodging, but not at a swanky hotel.. only at a Casa Particular. Meals are around 8-11 CUC$ each, but you can find rad little shops that the locals go to where you’ll get a very simple sandwich for about 2 CUC$. Beer and other cocktails are divine.. around 3 CUC$ each, and the sangria was always my fave! xx

February 1, 2016 - 8:29 pm

Erika Oh! One thing I forgot to ask- does that $150 per day you suggest include lodging? Also, how much would you say your average meal cost? Typical beer? Was there good street food? (Ok, so I have a few questions…)

February 1, 2016 - 8:02 pm

Erika Thank you SO much for sharing this! I’ve been dying to go to Cuba for years and will hopefully make it there this you. You provided so many answers to questions I wouldn’t have even thought to ask! Thanks again.

January 25, 2016 - 8:55 am

Cuba Travel Tips for Americans from Woodnote Photography – Anne Sage […] with a spring in their step, a zillion gorgeous photos on their memory cards, and a slew of useful Cuba travel tips for […]

justice rising in the democratic republic of congo: the peace movement

I’ve been in major stall mode with this blog post. Every time I go to write it, I end up a weepy mess and decide to try again later. Since it is the last day of 2015, the time is now.. so here goes, tears and all.

Earlier this year, in the middle of summer and our busy wedding season, we journeyed to Africa. When you receive an invitation to partner with a nonprofit in the Democratic Republic of Congo, you just say yes. Or we did, anyway.

Justice Rising is made up of a team of incurable optimists working tirelessly with the vision to see every war affected nation restored to peace. They currently have projects in Kenya and Somalia, but their main focus is the eastern part of the DRCongo. Their mission includes educating children at risk, creating sustainable jobs and developing community leaders, which is no small undertaking in a country still affected daily by war.

Visiting a place with a reputation like the DRC was a bizarre experience. Reading statistics before meeting faces creates a cloud of expectations.. UNICEF reports that this is one of the top three most dangerous places to be born in the world.. so what is that going to look like? What will it feel like to be there? Will we be ok? But off we went, questions and all..

First came visas. Then required vaccinations. And then the 40-ish hour journey from the US to Rwanda, where we then took a car for the last leg of the trip from Kigali, Rwanda to Goma, DRC, and crossed the border on foot.

Once in Goma, all preconceived ideas and expectations faded away. The main roads in Goma abruptly create an off-roading experience, because they sit on top of raw volcanic rock – amazingly, traffic tolerates this 24/7! Anyone curious enough to put two-and-two together, quickly notices that Goma has an angry companion in the form of an active volcano called Mount Nyiragongo, that violently erupted as recently as 2002, spilling a 6 foot deep, nearly mile wide lava lake right through Goma! It even glows red at night[!]. So THAT’s why the roads are rocky! In complete contrast to this, we were soon greeted with endless waves and shouts of, Mzungu!” and the most welcoming, joy-filled faces you could imagine. Street vendors selling a bounty of fresh produce, colors blazing. Women walking, talking and laughing together, skillfully balancing what looks like an uncanny load of food, water, laundry, firewood (or whatever!) atop their heads. Tiny barefooted children carrying even tinier barefooted babies on their backs without complaint. A sharing culture that wants to take care of each other. As an example (and since we are so passionate about seeing children cared for in India), we asked if there were any children living on the streets in the DRC. We learned that there are almost no homes for children. It turns out that people in the DRC take in children who have been abandoned or have lost their parents — a common-sense form of adoption I suppose, but nevertheless, a major act of responsibility and beautiful example of the true heart of DRC. How amazing is that?!)

Justice Rising has a number of schools in the DRC, but we spent our time focusing on the ones in Goma and a tiny village called Kalembe. In the DRCongo, only half of all children have the opportunity to attend school, and of those that do, most are boys. From that group, only half of them will make it past the fifth grade. That’s 25% of the nation graduating secondary school. Justice Rising is a huge part of changing those numbers dramatically, and we were humbled to get a glimpse of what their work is creating in children and lives around the DRC.

To witness this movement of change and see these tiny faces of hope.. well, there are no words, but I’m in tears again, so I’ll let them show you through these images:

(This was the cinema in Goma, you guys! I am still in awe every time I look at this photo. Seeing little kiddos peeping through cracks in the walls was beyond endearing.)

From Goma, getting to the village was a 7 hour journey on unpaved roads (read: 7 hours of jostling and being thrashed around because ‘unpaved road’ doesn’t do the reality justice) to the most picturesque, prehistoric-looking jungle we had ever seen. Mud huts scattered amidst dense banana and palm trees and rolling mountains, and children running around in little packs together. No running water, no cell service or internet of any kind and no power lines to mar the skyline, this truly has to be one of the last places on earth that is still so ‘unplugged’, and it was breathtaking.

Visiting the littlest class of youngsters in the village is a sound and sight that will never, ever leave us.

I asked the Justice Rising team if the kiddos in this class had a scholarship sponsor yet, and was told they did not. Very short story shorter, we now have a direct deposit set up through Justice Rising — only $35 a month not only covers half of the entire class’. (There are a few students listed on the JR site that still need sponsors, and some of them would be the other half of this class! Please do consider joining us in creating a scholarship for these little gems.)

This little one. Oh man. She has a special spark. From the minute I met her, I was smitten. She is learning French and is a perfect student — you should hear her recite her exercises, your heart would melt. In Swahili, her name means ‘Answer’, and I have a sense that her life truly is a living Answer.

I think of her joy and her innocence and beauty every single day, and hold her in hope, along with her classmates — that they may know a country and future of peace and justice.

Cass, the founder + heartbeat of Justice Rising. This girl has lived in war zones of Africa since she was 18, and exists in such a desire for Justice and Peace that she seems to know no fear. She’s negotiated with war lords and escaped raids, and is the first to visit an area when it is under attack. With her flawless French and Swahili, too, she is respected and loved by everyone we saw and met in the DRC. (She may have even saved our life once, too, but that’s another story for another day.)

It was an honor to witness her passion as she worked tirelessly. She is being change in the world in all that she does, and she will leave the world better than she found it. Cass, we love you so, so much.

As we close 2015 and look into the New Year, I invite us all to take a stand for Justice in our world, and be a part of seeing new patterns created in education and peace. Join us in our efforts by donating once, or even monthly — as little as $3 a month makes such a difference! See more of what Justice Rising is up to here, and if education isn’t you main interest, perhaps you will find inspiration in one of their other efforts and jump in on that, too.

A heartfelt cheers to 2016, friends! May your world be filled with peace, both within your home and beyond. We’ll be back with more stories soon!

And farewell for now, Beautiful DRC.. you have changed us forever. You are not forgotten. We will be back. xx

colorful rustic fall wedding (kelsey + michael are married!) – camp pendalouan wedding

Hello, Hello, Friends! Happy Friday! It sure has been awhile. Since we last wrote, we’ve been around the world..  like, literally. Can you believe it?! India + Australia and the adventures / shoots / weddings that have happened over the past month have been marvelous, and we have so many new stories to share.

But in the meantime… we have some fabulous folks for you to meet today!

Kelsey + Michael were first introduced at a party, and during their very first conversation, Kelsey gave Michael relationship advice that concluded he should break up with his current girlfriend. (Bold move, Kels! We like your style.) Little did they know that over 5 years later, she would be his girlfriend! They always had similar good friends, so once the stars aligned and they both became single, Kelsey says it was like, “Hey, why did I never think about dating him before!?”

Their wedding was filled with personalized details, DIY’d everything, and all element of the experience were intentional. They remember their wedding as, “a weekend long celebration of love filled with all of the people and things we treasure most in life.” Sounds about right to us! We loved every moment of it, and only wished we could be there for more than just one day! (PS: K+M? We miss you two. Let’s hang the next time we’re in the same state at the same time, plz?!)

We wanted to let them tell a bit about their own day, so here are some questions + their answers, too!

Any DIY projects you were especially proud of? “Yes, so many! The pallet bar, Michael built. The indigo tablecloths I dyed. The apple butter and applesauce favors. Really every detail was collected, grown, designed, made, and done by us, so I’d say our biggest DIY was pulling off an entire weekends’ worth of our vision. We couldn’t have been happier! Not that this was a DIY, but one thing we were super excited about was having the Tintype Photobooth. It was a last minute decision to include it, but it was definitely a highlight of our day and of our guests! It was such a magical process and I was glad to introduce many of our guests to something they had never experienced before.” (You guys are right. It was SO cool.)

Any advice for future brides/grooms currently planning their wedding? “Make it as personal as possible. This day is supposed to be a celebration of you two, so the more personal it is, the more special it will be to you and your guests. Also there will always be some stress, just embrace it because really what they always say is so true. It’ll all be worth it in the end!”

(Fun fact: this gorgeous wedding has been published on the Wedding Chicks + you can see the full feature here!)


And finally.. just a *few* favorite frames from their day… xx


Michael’s favorite moment of the day… “Seeing you [Kelsey] the first time on the day of the wedding in that sanctuary. I was blown away!”

Processional song“La Vie En Rose” by Louis Armstrong. “I have very fond memories of growing up listening to old music with my family. So when I started to listen through some of my old favorites and heard that part a few minutes in when the trumpets start and pictured myself at the top of the hill looking down on the person I love the most, tears streaming down my face, I knew that was the song.”

“Literally there were so many perfect little moments of pure joy that weekend. Like when we got to just be by ourselves for a while after the ceremony and before the reception. When it was quiet and we looked over the lake and just marveled at how beautiful that moment was.”

First Dance – “Take Care” by Beach House. “There have been some really perfect moments in our lives, where we have felt so full of love for each other that it is just overwhelming. This song has played during many of those moments.”


Photography – Caroline + Jayden of Woodnote Photography

Wedding Coordinator – Heyday Event Lab

Kelsey’s Dress – BHLDN

Kelsey’s Shoes – Steve Madden

Kelsey’s Jewellery – J Crew

Michael’s Suit – H&M

Michael’s Shoes – Kenneth Cole

Bridesmaid’s gowns – all different (ASOS, Nordstrom, Mango, Steven Alan)

Hair + Makeup – Salon Re in Grand Rapids

Flowers – Friend (Ashley Keys)

Stationery + Paper – Kelsey!

Ceremony + Reception Venue – YMCA Camp Pendalouan

Music – DJ Adrian Butler

Wedding favors – Mugs by Continental Specialty Co., + applesauce and apple butter made by Kelsey + Michael