“Being married is about being yourself, only with someone else”
Kristen and Carter got married at Willow Brooke Farm in Huntsville Arkansas. This is a venue just outside of the Bentonville area and it's nestled deep into the countryside. It reminded me of a lot of venues near the Springfield area, but the difference was that there were rolling hills as far as the eye could see. It was absolutely beautiful! Their wedding day was a mixture of overcast skies and downpours of rain. When we arrived it was already lightly raining, but luckily the rain cleared off for a while. This gave me time to do detail photos, their first look outside, wedding party pictures, and family pictures outside! We all felt pretty lucky for timing the weather just right for their big day! 😍
While I worked on the detail pictures, Alex popped in and out helping me collect things and organize items, but he would also spend some time with the groomsmen. The groom’s suite was super fun. It had these large layback chairs that were unbelievably comfy and then there was a TV in the corner. They had lots of snacks and I might have eyed the Starbucks coffee that was sitting on the table. It looked delicious. I think by the end of the day, Alex had made friends with all of the groomsmen. There might be an honorary reception photo in their full gallery with Alex and all the guys 🤣.
Kristen was getting the final touches of hair and makeup done. Her bridesmaids were all in matching pajamas and she was wearing a pair of white pajamas with her initials embroidered into the corner. Before getting into her dress, we took a large group photo of her and her bridesmaids and then they went to go put on their gowns. I absolutely loved that Willow Brooke designed their ready room with photography in mind. What I mean about this is that it was actually two rooms in one. There was a door to separate two separate spaces so theoretically you could hide all of the stuff that you don't want in pictures in one room and take photos in the other. They also had hooks over the door because they know the bride needs a place to hang her down. I've been dreaming of taking a beautiful gown shot in front of a window and Willow Brooke has the perfect window for gown shots. I just love how it turned out. Kristen had her mom and her sister Karis help her into her gown. She sat in the corner to put on her shoes and jewelry. The last final touch was to put on some perfume. This was a gift she received for Christmas with the intention to use it on her wedding day. I love when brides choose a perfume for their big day because it's the smell that will always bring them back to this moment. Before opening the doors to where the Bridesmaids were hanging out, Kristen requested a reveal. I prepped the Bridesmaids and we opened the doors that separated the two rooms. She had the best bridal party. They were so excited for her and I could feel the joy in the room.
Kristen requested first looks with both her dad and with Carter. Something we talked about before her wedding day were portraits of her on the entrance staircase. We decided that on the way to her first look with her dad we would stop on the staircase and do some portraits of her. I hid Carter and went to go get her dad and put him in the spot for their first look. As we made our way down the staircase we took some photos and then headed out to the patio for her to see her dad. Alex was in deep conversation. Kristen’s dad was just the kindest person and we could tell he had the biggest heart. When he saw Kristen for the first time he was in awe. His face lit up with the biggest smile and he walked in a full circle around her to get the grand effect. Off to the side were Kristen's mom and sister. They were in tears. Happy tears! It was a special moment.
Kristen headed back inside and we went to go get Carter. Carter had requested that the first look be by this pond on the property. I was actually really excited that the skies were overcast because it allowed shooting next to the water to be so much more beautiful. Placing Carter in the perfect position, we went back to get Kristen. Her mom and sister carried the back of her gown while they made their way down the hill to the pond. Kristen went and touched Carter's shoulder as he turned around to see her for the first time. His eyes filled with tears, but like her dad, his face broke out in the biggest smile. You could tell he loved Kristen so much. I think that's what I loved about their wedding day the most. The genuine love that everyone had for each other and that they were truly celebrating the joining and beginning of Kristen and Carter's family. After their first look we did marathon pictures of the two of them. We knew we didn't have very much time and we definitely wanted to do wedding party photos and family photos before the ceremony. We managed to get them all in and we were right back on track with perfect timing. Once family photos were done Kristen went back to the bridal suite to get ready for the ceremony.
They chose to have their ceremony on the patio of the venue. It was a compromise between having an outdoor ceremony and an indoor one. The best of both worlds. I think the intention was more to keep people out of the sun in case it was too hot, but in today's case, and one they might not have anticipated, to keep everyone dry from the downpour of rain that surprised everybody. The ceremony started and the skies were overcast. No rain. The wedding party lined up in front as Carter waited for Kristen and her dad's big entrance. Kristen and her dad arrived at the altar. Her dad shook Carter's hand, gave Kristen a hug, and sat down as Kristen joined Carter at the altar. Kristen and Carter had a wonderful officiant. He was well spoken and very expressive. I was often captivated by what he was saying! One of his biggest messages today is that he wanted the ceremony to also be a sermon. Halfway through, we began to hear raindrops on the roof. Suddenly, the rain came down so hard that we could no longer hear the officiant. The DJ did his best to crank up the volume, but this will be a memory for sure! The rain didn’t stop these two though. They exchanged rings and tied their unity cross. Shortly before their kiss, their parents came to the altar to form a circle and pray for them and their marriage. They sealed their marriage with a kiss and headed down the aisle. Two guests were in charge of the bubble guns and they took their job very seriously. They activated the bubble guns and all the other guests scrambled to pick up their bubble wands to participate in the fun. 😁
Right before they entered their reception, they met with their officiant to sign their marriage license. I learned at that moment that in Arkansas, no witnesses are required, they just need an officiant signature. They entered the reception and went straight into their first dance. They choreographed this dance themselves but I think it photographed beautifully. The more and more I photograph first dances, the more I love when couples add elements that show movement in the photos.Their first dance was followed by Carter's mother-son dance and Kristen's father-daughter dance. After the dances, Kristen's dad said an opening prayer and Carter took the mic to thank everybody for coming. Dinner was now served. As Kristen and Carter finished their first meal together they started to make their way around the room saying hi to each and every guest. Part way through the tables, it was time for speeches from the best man and maid of honor. We got a pleasant surprise after speeches when Kristen and Carter decided to cut their cake! When I met with them earlier in the week to discuss their wedding timeline, the cake cutting was originally scheduled for after the time I would be there. During the meeting, I proposed moving it earlier into the reception. Kristen told me they ordered a custom sign that had the "order of the day" engraved on it! It turned out beautiful. Even thought they wanted to try and stick with that time, I think on the day of there might have been some pressure from guests to cut the cake early as they had decided to cut it early 😂❤️. They cut their main wedding cake and then they chose to cut Carter's superman cake. Two cake cuttings in one!
The sky outside was getting darker. I closely watched the time because I knew we were going to take a few more photos before we were completely out of light. I felt so bad because I interrupted Kristen and Carter as they had almost made their rounds to each and every table. They only had one left, but I knew we needed to take advantage of the light. Kristen and Carter promised the table that they would be back inside and we headed out to take our final photos. I wanted to make sure I got one of them in front of their venue. You can't not have a venue shot! 😉 As we made our way back towards the reception, we gathered all the guests to head outside for their bubble exit. Originally there were two bubble guns, and I don't know what happened between the ceremony and the reception but one of the bubble guns no longer worked. You would never know it though because bubbles filled the air. Kristen and Carter got to run through twice before heading back inside! They ended their day with some dancing and lots and lots of group photos! It was a fantastic day and I wish we could do it all over again. Kristen and Carter, thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to capture these memories for you. We wish you all the best as you begin your journey of marriage.
Kristen + Carter
Venue: Willow Brooke Farm
Catering: Marketplace Grill
Dress: Lulu's Bridal (Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX)
Hair and Makeup: Northwest Arkansas Occasions
Bride’s Engagement Ring: Underwoods
Bride’s Wedding Bands: JCPenny
Groom’s Ring: JCPenny
Officient: Pastor Billy Raies
Photography: Christina Zapata Photography