In southeast Minnesota, there is a hidden jewel called Whitewater State Park. On route to the park, it seemed like my husband and I were driving in endless corn fields and farmlands. Merely turning one corner, however, we were immediately greeted by lush rolling hills, rocky cliffs and cedar forests. With foothills on either side of us, we drove down a dusty gravel lane, crossed a bridge over the Middle Fork White River, and hidden in a hallow between the forested hills, we entered the emerald beauty of the group camp area of the park. In the hallow, there are eight rustic cabins, and it is in these cabins that Joshua and Katie's family and closest friends stayed for the weekend of the wedding. On Friday night, after the rehearsal and taco dinner, some people went on hikes, some played yard games like corn hole, and others just sat around the bonfire, cooked s'mores and enjoyed each others' company.
At seven a.m. on Saturday morning, in the misty woods, Joshua and Katie started their day by just being alone together. As they headed to a secluded spot, I quietly walked behind them and took a few photos from a distance; but I soon left so that they could actually be alone and enjoy this time together--their last engaged moments together before they would finally say their vows and become husband and wife.
Using the word "finally" in the previous sentence was not done without meaning. As Katie attended college in the Twin Cities, and Joshua was at college in downtown Chicago, this couple has spent a huge portion of their relationship long distance. They were so ready to say goodbye to saying goodbye and finally say "I do." On their wedding day, their love could not have been anymore transparent. Sweet tears filled both their eyes throughout the day, but especially during their ceremonial moments. They read their affirming covenants to one another from hand-written notes, and every word they spoke was in the deepest sincerity imaginable. I've never witnessed a couple more audibly or visually in love. The emotion of these moments were contagious; Joshua and Katie's compassionate, wildfire like affection filled my eyes with joyful tears, as well as most of their guest's.
Avoiding the common traditions, Joshua and Katie only incorporated things into their wedding day that truly meant something to them; each and every detail was chosen thoughtfully and purposefully. Traditional wedding things like the unity candle, cake cutting, bouquet and garter toss were not part of their day; it's not because these things aren't special in and of themselves, but because they aren't special to Joshua and Katie or unique to their relationship. They chose pussy willow boutonnieres because both Joshua's grandma and Katie's grandma love them. Katie wore pearl earrings that her mom and older sister wore on their wedding days. The ceremony arch was handmade by the groom's dad. The original and unique programs were designed by the groom and the hand lettering on them was crafted by the bride. All of the ceremony music was preformed live and in a folk style. And because they both love art, they decided to paint on a canvas during the ceremony. Their painting was in Hebrew letters, of the ancient Hebrew word "Hesed." It's a word that's meaning is so deeply divine, so rich and so powerful that we don't actually have a word in English to describe it. Just scratching its surface, it describes an indescribable love--the faithful, loyal and unconditional love of God that brings his people back to him; and it has this same meaning between people. Joshua and Katie painted this word as a reminder of what they want their love to be for one another. They keep the canvas beside their bed so that it's the first thing they see when they go to sleep and the first thing they see when they wake up.
If you'd like to see this precious couple's engagement story, you can do so here.
After the ceremony, because hiking is one of Joshua and Katie's favorite activities to do together, we climbed the steep Dakota Trail straight up to Eagle Point. At Eagle Point, there is a flat limestone rock face that overlooks the valley below. Joshua and Katie climbed on top of the limestone and after a few shots, I directed them to sit down. This was the moment that they needed. Their wedding had already been everything they dreamed about, but they were still tired and just needed a few moments in serenity. They sat in peaceful embrace and enjoyed the lofty view. Before we went back down, we hiked the ridge for a little while. The trail led us into one of the most whimsical woodlands we had ever seen. The forest floor was completely covered in soft green, mossy grass. It felt like we walked into a storybook fairy tale. Again, Joshua and Katie sat down. As I took their photos, the happiest laughter from their guests rose from the valley below and filled the trees with the celebratory music of their new wedded love.
Photography: Eastlyn Bright Tolle and Joshua Tolle.
Videography: Laura Nickel
Officiant: Pastor Conner Cabalka
Live Music: Mimi Genheimer, Dara Coker, Karin Canakes
Florist: JT Floral, St. Charles, MN
DJ: Jason at Black Tie Sound and Light
Caterer: Karen Connelly, St. Charles, MN
Groom's Apparel: white shirt from Calvin Klein
Bridal Second Gown: Wendye Chaitin via Macy's