Xiyun and Ben’s Botanical Garden’s Wedding

Xiyun and Ben have a remarkable story that spans continents and years.   I feel like I’m more exotic and interesting just by photographing their wedding.  Xiyun and I first started a correspondence back in March, when she e-mail me about her wedding from China. They were living in Beijing at the time, so meeting in person was impossible.  I still hoped to get to know them a little more, so I asked Xiyun if she’d share more about their relationship with me.  She wrote:

“Okay, and now the story of how we met. This is kind of a crazy story, which I’m sure you’ll hear many times over at the wedding. My fiance’s name is Ben Foster. He’s english (tiny little town near manchester), we met in beijing (where I was born and where I grew up until the age of seven) in the summer of 2004 while I was taking a year off from college. Within a week of meeting him, I had these crazy plans to move to Tunisia (another totally long story, which can be boiled down to: I more or less threw a dart at a map). After knowing each other for about two weeks, (I pushed back my original flight a week) he bought a flight to Tunisia to visit me. We had this insane on again off again transpacific relationship between Beijing and Tunis and then Beijing and Rhode Island while I was still in school at Brown. We split up a for two years because the thought of keeping up a relationship while I still had two years left at school was too daunting. But then i graduated, did some traveling around more random parts of the world and moved back to beijing about 3 years ago, and we’ve never looked back. And that’s the short version.”  🙂

So we now live in Beijing, where Ben runs a motion graphics studio (http://www.39degreesnorth.tv/) and I’m a translator/researcher/occasional writer for the New York Times. After the wedding, we’re moving to new york together, where I’ll be starting law school in the fall.

We generally spend our time arguing over books and movies and tv shows (he claims that I refuse to like anything great that he discovered first). I cook a lot and sometimes write about it, so he eats a lot, and we high five each other even more often for being lucky enough to eat so much. We have both traveled a lot separately in the past, but we’ve not been to enough places together, something we’re hoping to remedy in the future. He plays in a band, so I sometimes go to his gigs in an attempt to compensate for my super asian nerdy teenage years.”

That’s the short version. From the stories guests shared at their wedding and speeches from family and friends, the long version includes travel, adventure, and more chemistry than a high school science class.  I feel so lucky to have photographed such an expressive, interesting, and inspiring couple.  Here’s to both of you!  I hope you have many many years of fun adventure together!


Venue: Chicago Botanic Garden

Dress: custom made in Beijing

Hair stylist: Styles down the aisle

Flowers: FlowersFlowers

Lindsay and Matt Married at Howes Memorial Chapel in Evanston

Lindsay and Matt’s wedding was full of International flair and cultural tradition. Their love for travel and learning was expressed through their details.   Guests arriving to the wedding, picked up small blue programs that looked just like a passports.  They were charmed during the ceremony by a guitarist playing one of Lindsay’s favorite acoustic melodies. Family and friends were introduced to a Afrocentric marriage tradition during the Yoruba tasting ritual, representing  four elements of marriage.  The ceremony shows that despite hardships within a marriage, represented as sour, bitter, and spicy, there is sweetness overall.

At the reception, a collection of Brazilian musicians created drum heavy beats for guests to dance too. Above the sambaing crowd, hung rows of white Mexican paper decorations, and  behind the dance floor, a dessert table was covered with an assortment of Italian cookies.  Chiwara figurines, a tradition of the Bambara people of Mali were the cake toppers.  Lindsay’s father hand carved the pair of antelope that represent renewal, abundance, and teamwork.

Lindsay and Matt brought their love for culture and travel to their wedding.  It was truly a distinct, unforgettable experience.  Congratulations to you both!

Also, quick shout out to my second Tom Root.  Thanks for all your help!

Cake: Janet Lee, Flour Cake & Pastry –flourcakeandpastry.com/
Makeup/Hair: Angelica Rivera, Tigerlilie Salon-www.tigerlilie.com/
Luciano Antonio–www.lucianoantonio.com/
Felipe Fraga-www.felipefraga.com
Geraldo de Oliveira-www.geraldodeoliveira.com/
Reception: Campagnola www.campagnolarestaurant.com
Second: Tom Root www.tomroot.blogspot.com

Kathlyn and David’s Morton Arboretum Wedding

The first time Kathlyn and I talked on the phone back in the winter it felt like we were old friends.  She is a fellow Missouri Journalism school graduate, so we immediately commiserated over shared stories of the J-slums (dilapidated apartments filled with over caffeinated aspiring reporters and broadcast students) and tail gating. We also shared a love for travel, which lead to the story of her and David.  The two met on the streets of Italy one evening.  David was actually on a  date with a local, when Kathlyn came on the scene.  While the Italian woman was native to the country, Kaitlyn had something that stole David’s attention away-she too was from Illinois originally.

Now the two live in California, but not for long.  but maybe not for long.  After David completes a three-year intensive graduate program in Middle Eastern studies, they may be on the road again. Who knows where they’ll head next!

Wow!  Did I mention how nice they are too?  Their family and friends were extremely welcoming me, making me feel right at home through the entire day.  Thanks so much Kat and David.

Kaitlyn and David's Morteum Arboretum weedding photography by Maggie Rife.

Kate + Tj’s-from the tracks to the beach

Kate comes up my front steps carrying a bag full of clothes on one arm and a bag of shoes on the other.  “I brought options.”

“Wonderful!” I said. “Let’s see what you’ve got.”

I’ve known Kate for a few years now.  She is tall, striking, and fun.  Her fiance TJ is laid back and with all-American features and a Midwestern easygoing nature.

Kate shows me her options and we select a black dress with a slight cowl-neck paired with jeweled flip-flops for her first outfit. For the second, she chooses a grey-blue dress with ruffles that reminds me of the soft tones of dusk and the waves on Lake Michigan.

It’s the part of the summer when nearly every evening ends in warm-golden light. During Kate and Tj’s session, the sun is low in the sky–it cuts through the steel beams of the El and wraps around their figures. It carves out the texture in the bricks and brings out the amber in her eyes. Then later, it softens into pinks, blues, and purples.

They walk together on the beach, Tj’s arm draped over Kate’s shoulder. They move toward the shoreline, where Kate, barefoot, walks carefree through the waves and Tj pulls at his pant legs to keep them from getting wet.

When the sun is nearly set, they sit together in a position of comfort. Kate leans into Tj and their limbs tangle together.

It was a beautiful evening. Thank you Kate and Tj for letting me document it.

Becky + Darnell’s Arlington Heights Wedding

Becky and Darnell were married 30 minutes outside of Chicago in Arlington Heights, IL. I was able to spend sometime with  the couple a little before their wedding during their engagement session. They’re fun, funny, and kind people.  I love Becky’s easy going laugh and Darnell’s quiet sense of humor.

Their day was full of family-including three lovely flower girls who wooed myself and second shooter Tom Root. They were Becky’s little helpers dressed like mini-me’s in layered white fabric.  One of my favorite moments was when Becky captured their attention, and like magic, had them all sitting patiently as she spun them a fairytale-patiently for two minutes, but hey, that’s a lot for a day full of hustle and bustle!

Big thanks to Tom Root who seconded with me on this one!

Caterer: Heba-Hilton Rosemont

Florist: CR Flowers

DJ- Something 2 Dance 2

Nick + Molly’s Trash the Dress

“Do you guys think I should just go for it?” Molly asked her girlfriends, who came to watch and cheer the recent couple’s after-wedding photo shoot.

These were the girls from her running group, the ones whom she’d meet every week downtown to pound miles on Chicago’s asphalt. Of course they said yes.  They were the women who’d encourage her to go for any challenge; who were plotting their next race, even as one was still recovering from a recent injury and was explicitly told NOT to run yet.

“Yes!” They all agreed. “Just don’t jump from the rocks though. Why don’t you wade in?”

And just like that, Molly was in the water…Lake Michigan water. At the very beginning of June. Did she complain about the frigid temperatures? Not once.

Nick followed suite.  After rolling up his pants high-water style, he went after his bride…A sign of years to come? If so I think they’re in for a lot of adventures!

The Outtakes

Molly and Nick’s Nebraska Country town wedding

Over a year ago Molly visited her fiance’s (now husband) hometown, Avoca, Nebraska.  During her stay she had a vision of a country wedding in the middle of the town park.

There are not many Nebraskans who know where Avoca is.  If they do,  it’s probably because they visited for the Annual Quack-Off duck races. Yep, it’s true, this town hosts such an event each year drawing big city folk from Lincoln and Omaha to come place bets on the oh so exciting, never a dull moment, nailing biting competition.

Outside of Nebraska you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who’s familiar with the town.  Here’s what came up when I googled “Avoca, Nebraska”:

Population in July 2009: 262. Population change since 2000: -3.0%.

Molly saw something very special though on her trip and she wanted to share Nick’s old stomping grounds with the rest of their family and friends.

She imagined an event with diy details-Wine bottles with lace trim, a clothesline adorned with photos from throughout the years, mason jars with lemonade, classic coca cola, popcorn and caramelized pecans. She pictured carpenters lights strung above picnic tables, a buffet of comfort food, homemade pie along with an assortment of desserts. With her family, friends, and a U-hual truck full of supplies driven eight hours from Chicago, she arranged a true backyard wedding.

I’m completely blown away by the attention to detail, patience, and creativity given to this wedding.  Molly, Nick, friends and family, you all did an amazing job and I am so grateful to have photographed the occasion, and been able to be a guest at the end of the night.

Hilary Schwartz of Estera Events Portrait Session

“I love your hair!” I called over to Hilary at an event earlier this summer. “You could totally rock this cut” she said in response, or something along those lines.  At the time I didn’t know “Hilary” was her name, or anything else about her, other than she had great style.  After a quick introduction, I discovered she is also an alumni of the University of Missouri and involved in the wedding industry. We exchanged cards and planned to meet again soon.

The next time we did, it was one of those amazing late summer nights where everyone in the city is vying for a patio spot.  I was able to snag a table at Rockit on Clark where we both ordered salads the size of our heads. So much for healthy eating with portions that size! We spent two hours talking like old friends, sharing how we each started our business’ and how we approached our work. With a background in interior and graphic design, a side talent for flower arranging, and a fine-tuned sense of what looks good, Hilary’s a natural candidate for wedding and event planning. With a generous smile, down-to-earth nature, and love of health food products and wine, she’s an instant friend.

http://www.esteraevents.com/ and http://www.esteraevents.blogspot.com/

Portrait of Chicago Wedding planner Hilary Schwartz

Portrait of Chicago Wedding Planner Hilary SchwartzPortrait of Chicago Wedding Planner Hilary SchwartzPortrait of Chicago Wedding planner Hilary Schwartz

Portrait of Chicago Wedding Planner Hilary Schwartz

Portrait of Chicago Wedding planner Hilary Schwartz

Hilary Schwartz, owner of Estera Event Company, poses for a portrait.

Erin + Jim= St. Mary’s of Angel’s Church Ceremony and Adler Planetarium Wedding

Erin and Jim’s wedding was a stunning production.  On my first visit to Chicago when I was in high school, my aunt drove me along 90/94 toward Lake Shore Drive to show me the sites of the city.  Along the way I had my first sighting of St. Mary’s of Angle’s Church in the distance.  The church took my breath away then, and I longed to see it in person.  It took my breath away, as did Erin and Jim’s reception at the Adler Planetarium.  It was a gorgeous occasion and a pleasure shooting.  Jim and Erin are a sweet couple who really compliment each other.  It was a pleasure documenting their day.  Thanks Steve Koo, whom I photographed this wedding with!