To be Chosen. To be Loved. To Belong. These are all basic needs that were instilled in each of us when we were created. All needs that were meant to be fulfilled by God and by family. I attended the Women of Faith Conference last year and heard a wonderful testimony from Jen Hatmaker. Her testimony about the adoption of her children is a moving story about unconditional love. They had been foster children in various homes, and always had to worry that their foster parents would send them back because of something they had done.  Every night she had to remind her children that she chose them! They were her children! This was their home. They were never going back to where they came from. These are exactly the same words that God speaks to our hearts, but most of us find them impossible to believe. As Jen told her story, tears rolled down my face. Once again, I heard God’s love for me, but also His desire to take care of these forgotten children who also need to experience His love and support through us. Ephesians 1:5 “His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into His own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. And He did this because he wanted to!”
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First, it was always “When are you going to get married?” Then AT the wedding, “When are you going to start having kids?” Now, I could write an article describing the negative effects and social expectations that result from telling girls and women to get married and have kids right away. But I won’t. These questions used to bother me because I could never see myself as pregnant, giving birth, or taking care of an infant. Don’t get me wrong—babies are cute! I love my friends’ babies. I love photographing newborns. And I’m often complimented that I’m good with babies. But I’m not doing it 24/7.  What I have envisioned is having a toddler or a young child. I’ve envisioned the baseball games and play dates. Teaching them and watching them develop. Sometime after college, I started to feel God’s push, little by little, to consider fostering or adopting children instead of having my own.

When Luke and I became serious enough to have the future family discussion, he knew he wanted a family, but had never seriously considered foster care or adoption. Over the past 5 years, he too has become open and excited about the thought of fostering and/or adopting a child when we are ready. However, neither of us knew much, and we (especially Luke) like to do a lot of research before any big decisions. So I found a few organizations to get involved with in order to start making a difference now, and maybe experience a little bit of the foster care world along the way.

This month we begin working with two non-profit organizations. OC United provides a wide range of outreach services from city-wide clean up initiatives, domestic abuse recovery, homeless initiatives, and their heart and soul, foster care. They provide after-school programs, housing for aged-out youth, and skills workshops. We are incredibly excited for the opportunity to dive in, get to know more and provide awesome media for more fundraising and outreach.
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I’d also like to introduce you to Together We Rise. We will be partnering with them to provide 3 days of family mini sessions. Each mini session will donate a brand new duffel bag—a Sweet Case—to a child in foster care. Many foster children are moved from home to home, and only given a trash bag to transport their valuables.  Being removed from your family is hard enough. Let’s not contribute to the feeling of rejection by forcing them to put the only belongings they have left in a trash bag. We all have an instinctual need to keep possessions of our own. It boosts our dignity and confidence. Joining with Together We Rise allows us boost the dignity and confidence of foster children by helping to provide Sweet Cases for them to stow their keepsakes.  We hope we can be a small part of letting these children know how valued and loved they are.

 

 

 

Let’s work together to provide a duffel bag decorated with love and filled with a teddy bear to hug.
Fullerton:  Friday, April 28th & Saturday, April 29th
Palm Desert: Saturday, May 13th
20 minute session
5 edited downloadable portraits
printing and copyrights included
*family of 5 or less only
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Allison Ward and Jackson Mollin have a glamorous, fun story ideal for a hollywood screenplay.  Every scene is perfect in its own way and builds on the last unexpectedly.  These two were seemingly pulled from the golden era of sweeping romance and dropped into the setting of a quirky chick flick.  Who knows, with Jackson’s dad in the film industry, you might just see it all unfold on the silver screen someday.

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Just as a quirky romantic comedy should, this story began at a college bar while attending Chico State University.  Jackson, just your average Jewish reggae DJ was hanging out with his boys when he spotted Alli across the room.  What else was he to do but to take a chance on the hottest girl there?  Ali’s first impression was that of any sensible woman; “Who is this guy?”  But she gave him a chance, and almost before they knew it, they were managing a long distance relationship.  After a year of remote dating, they both moved to Marina Del Rey, and began to take things a bit more seriously.  And anyone can tell; when it comes to having fun, Jackson and Alli are serious.  They settled in together, Jackson working as a financial analyst and Alli as a private equity administrator.  Their little pup Mack rounds out a happy family.

You might not expect the average joe who picked up the beauty queen at a bar to turn out to be a well-traveled and refined renaissance man, but that’s where the plot takes an unexpected turn.  The second act sees the quirky fun give way to timeless romance as the proposal takes center stage.  (Gentlemen, you may want to take some notes, because—spoiler alert—Jackson absolutely nails this.)  Jackson planned his proposal for a full year.  He made sure to take Alli on a handful of decoy dates to make sure she didn’t catch on, but in June of 2016, it was time.

Jackson brought Alli and both families to the family vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.  Alli had been a bit upset with news of other couples getting engaged or married, so Jackson took her for a walk, with their faithful companion Mack trailing behind.  They just happened to be walking along the beach in front of the Kennedy estate—perhaps one of the most iconic and classic locations in the country—and he knew the moment would never be any more perfect.  Jackson proposed to Alli with a ring he had custom made out of Alli’s grandmother’s diamonds.  When the tears had begun to subside and the smiles had only just begun, he led her farther down the beach to meet the whole family for a celebration.

Three-thousand miles later, Jackson and Alli now share an amazing townhouse in Venice Beach, California.  When we met them for their engagement session, it was just another typical, classy, glamourous Wednesday for them.  We arrived early to get our bearings and form some ideas for their engagement session.  But it turned out that all we needed to do was follow Jackson and Alli along in their daily routine.

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We got a tour of their townhouse, and then went down stairs to walk along the Venice Beach canal towards the beach.  Jackson’s parents live in another condo right on the beach, and they make the short half-mile walk almost daily, enjoying the coastal breeze, the conversation, and the companionship with Mack.  There were so many wonderful nooks and crannies that we wouldn’t have discovered without our hosts, and the atmosphere suited their laid back lifestyle perfectly.  When we arrived at Jackson’s parent’s place, we did a quick wardrobe change, and headed across the sand to the surf.  And as they had on Martha’s Vineyard, once again, they walked along the beach together, hand-in-hand.

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As the sun set, we headed back to grab dinner together at a delightful tapas bar just off of the beach.  We discovered that we shared a love for tapas, and we loved the conversation we shared even more.  There are few things more special to us than becoming friends with our clients.

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The final act of their story is scripted to play out on November 11th at Indian Wells Country Club.  Jackson and Alli’s wedding promises to be the culmination of their cinematic romance.  They’ve described their big day to us as an event that will be relaxed and romantic, extravagant and vintage, but above all, inclusive.  Their bridal party consists of over 20 close friends and siblings, so we think ‘inclusive’ is putting it mildly.  But with a story as diverse, fun, and timeless as theirs, we expected nothing less.  We can’t wait to see the perfect end of this chapter and the perfect beginning of their life together.

And we’re sure the happy couple will walk off into the sunset together.  Probably along a beach.  With Mack happily trailing behind.

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Meet The Villas!

If you’ve been following our adventures, then you may have already met Erica Parras and Frnch Villanueva.  No need to engage your spellcheckers, Franchel writes his name shorthand and without a vowel.  In a funny way, that’s somewhat indicative of Erica and Frnch as a couple—together, they’re short and to the point, but unique and whimsical as well.  On March 11, 2017, we were excited to see all of their unique characteristics converging on a wedding day we knew would be one for the ages.

We often ask couples to describe their ideal wedding with a small handful of adjectives.  Erica and Frnch seemed to have a bit of trouble narrowing it down.  As creatives, we understand how difficult it can be to distill all your hopes and dreams into a small set of words.  They wanted a wedding day that was at once romantic and trendy, entertaining and heartfelt, soulful and simple.  Designing an event with that much intimacy that still provides a lot of memorable ‘wow’ factor for family and friends is no small task.  But if you ask us, they pulled it off beautifully.  Their wedding maintained focus on the friends and family that matter most, yet it involved enough elements that were creative, fun, and different to ensure that no one would ever forget it.

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Before long, the quiet desert getaway became a hubbub of makeup application, decor assembly, and small boys trying to put on small suits.  When everyone had arrived, there wasn’t as much time to utilize the grounds like we’d hoped. But with great views wherever we looked, it wasn’t hard making the most of what we had right in front of us.  Erica and Frnch enjoyed a few quiet moments away from the commotion when they saw each other for their First Look.  She was breathtaking in her dress, and he had to try really hard to stay cool.bride, wedding dress, groom, groom attire, groom suit, wedding portraits, couple portraits, Palm Springs wedding, Palm Springs wedding photographer, morongo valley

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We hid Erica away and made our way to the ceremony lawn, nestled into a hill behind the estate.  Ascending the wooden steps, we emerged through the flowered archway to find the guests all settling in for the ceremony and admiring the beautiful surroundings.  Pair-by-pair, the wedding party followed us and took their places on either side of an excited Frnch, still trying to stay cool.  Erica’s twin boys led in with a hand-made “Here comes your bride” sign, and finally Erica and her father stepped through the arch onto the grass and toward her groom.  Their ceremony was full of personal touches and meaningful moments.  Erica’s brother officiated, offering heartfelt sentiments and memories illustrating just how suited they are for one another.  He led them through the vows they had prepared, and they watered a plant together, symbolizing their new life and growth.  When they sealed it all with a kiss, it was a fitting end to a perfect moment.outdoor ceremony, desert wedding, here comes your bride, wedding party, ceremony locations, ceremony venue, wedding venue, Palm Springs wedding, Palm Springs wedding photographer, morongo valley, joshua tree, estate wedding, backyard wedding

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After the applause and the recessional, the guests all made their way down to the patio where an array of hors d’oeuvres were waiting, along with a lemonade stand serving assorted varieties of tequila-infused refreshments, and a photo booth complete with a vibrant homemade backdrop full of quirky knickknacks.  Already, we could smell the mouth-watering aromas wafting from the tacos being made around the corner at the reception lawn.

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But before dinner could be served, we all had to wait for the happy couple’s big entrance.  The wedding party was introduced and began to fill the air with bubbles waiting to great the newlyweds. Erica and Frnch stepped onto the lawn to have their first dance, sung by Erica’s sister. For a moment, though they were watched by two-hundred smiling eyes, there was no one else around.

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As the sun began to slide behind the hills, we seized the opportunity to steal Erica and Frnch away for some twilight portraits overlooking the valley.  Hiking up onto a ridge, it became clear what lengths these two will go to for fun, originality, and romance.  They enjoyed the serenity in the cool evening air, hovering above the lights and the sounds of their party down below.  Amid the chaos of the wedding day—even right in the middle of a reception—this peaceful interlude seemed to last for hours.  We did our best not to disturb them.  Hopefully the memory will be as idyllic for them as it is for us.  It certainly provided us with a chance to capture some breathtaking images.

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But what goes up must come down.  We practically slid back down the hill in the dark and fell straight into a flurry of festivities to end the evening.  They kicked things off with a money bucket race.  Rather than a money dance, they each held a bucket and as their buckets were filled with cash, they stepped forward.  Erica won by a landslide.  Next, all the single ladies had their moment to fight over the bouquet.  And Frnch put on quite the show sliding in to steal his bride’s garter.  But the clear highlight of the reception came last.  In keeping with their fun, romantic, trendy, and heartfelt vision, Erica and Frnch led their guests in a lantern release.  It was simultaneously inspiring and comical.  Lighting the lanterns did not proceed as smoothly as anticipated, as a couple of them caught fire and disintegrated.  Still others were released a tad prematurely, sending a handful of guys out into the desert to catch the low-floating lanterns wafting into people’s cars and saving the dry brush from being lit on fire.  Yet, after the humor and mayhem had passed, there remained a handful of bright lights slowly drifting off into the tranquil distance.  What an incredible metaphor for a wedding full of gleeful commotion punctuated by joyful serenity.

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And then they danced the night away.  Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Villanueva!

 

Wedding Vendors:

Ceremony and Reception Venue: Yester Estate

Day of Coordinator: Friend

Floral: Groom’s Aunt

Hair and Makeup: Friends

Cake & Cupcakes: Pastry Swan

Tacos: Los Tio’s Tacos 760.449.6995

DJ: MixMarkie

Photography: Jennifer Yount Photography

Officiant: Bride’s Brother

 

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