Sierra and John's Wedding at The Sterling Event Center
A Summer Wedding in Joplin
June and July were brutally hot. As September made its appearance, the weather turned into the temperatures we all dream of during summer. A light breeze. Blue skies. Temperatures in the 80s. Sierra and John could not have picked a more perfect day. ❤️ The Sterling is tucked in Joplin, MO’s eastern countryside. A white gravel road leads to the property. Sierra and John planned to spend the day at the venue. The Sterling has two floors. The top floor houses the bridal suite. The first floor contains the groom's suite and the main reception area. When Alex (my husband and second shooter! 😍) walked through the main doors, Lexi, Sierra and John’s wedding coordinator, greeted us. She was so kind! To our right was the guest book. A letter “C” specially made by Sierra’s grandpa for them to hang in their home. Next to the “C” were bubbles and on the opposite wall were the wedding favors. The reception space was almost completely decorated. Tables were set. Appetizers were ready. Family members were busy outside putting the finishing touches on the ceremony space. At that time, the only thing missing was the cake! Everything seemed to be running smoothly ❤️.
Heading upstairs, we entered the bridal suite. Sierra’s hair and makeup were complete. Her bridesmaids wandered in and out. Some put on makeup, others doing their hair. Sierra was all smiles! My first task was to gather up all the special items on her big day. Shoes, jewelry, invitations, rings, flowers, the groom’s boutonniere, and any other special items. Sierra had some of them, but I needed to track down John for the rings 😉. After a couple laps around the building, we found him!!! Gathering the rings and his boutonniere out of the fridge, we made our way back upstairs. The Sterling has a wrap-around deck with multiple entrances from the second floor. One being the bridal suite!! I picked a spot right outside the bridal suite doors and got to work. There were quite a few kids at the wedding and they would pop by to see what we were doing. The most curious one was Champ. Champ is one of Sierra and John’s two children. The second being Isabella. Champ and Isabella are two very special kiddos. They were both officially adopted by Sierra and John this summer. They planned to have a special sand ceremony as an official family during the wedding ceremony. Alex left for a shot period to take photos of the groomsmen getting ready while I finished up the details. Right after I photographed the dress, did a picture with Isabella in Sierra’s wedding gown.
Isabella knew she was going to get to do this special picture. She had the biggest smile on her face! We set the wedding gown out. Sierra, the bridesmaids in the room, and I giggled as the dress sitting on the floor was already taller than Isabella. Sierra picked her up and lifted her into the dress. Isabella stood proudly smiling back and forth until we moved her into a sitting position on the couch. This will be a memory that will be looked back on for years to come!! I loved it ❤️. It was now time for Sierra to get into her dress. The plan was to take bridal photos of her and then take photos of her and her bridesmaids. However, the flower girls were not ready and there were several bridesmaids that still had quite a bit to do. I told Sierra that we might have to plan for her bridesmaids photos after the ceremony, but not to worry at all! We would fit them in when we planned for wedding party photos. I took portraits of Sierra in her wedding gown and headed to get John.
John and all of his groomsmen were ready, except for one. John told me David was running late, but he would be here soon and he was going to arrive fully dressed. Yay! Gathering all the groomsmen, the first task was to put on the boutonnieres. I snapped a photo as each of the groomsmen attempted to pin their own boutonnieres on. Some assistance was required as many of them had pins sticking straight out. A slight safety hazard. 😂 (side note: Roberto, John’s brother, lost his boutonniere by the end of the day, still not sure what happened to it but we might have messed up a bit on the pinning portion. John almost lost his flowers, but luckily his made it through the whole wedding 🤣). While some help was provided, I think this was the quickest I’ve ever seen groomsmen put boutonnieres on and get through photos. David arrived just in time and I snuck him in at the very end. Groomsmen photos were complete!
Their ceremony quickly approached. Alex and I went back to the reception to take some final details shots since the cake had finally arrived. Speaking of the cake…it looked amazing! Drizzled in chocolate and adorned with berries. It was gorgeous!!! As we finished up, a familiar face walked through the door. Amy Wallace, a wedding officiant I’ve gotten to know at Metropolitan Wedding’s networking events, entered the reception space all smiles!!! My husband introduced himself and they chatted for a minute. Amy, I’m so glad I got to see you in action for the first time!!! Amy brought such positive energy into the day, I was excited to see the ceremony.
Guests started to take their seats. The ceremony space was in full sun. I took my position near the front and waited for the music to start. I soon spotted Amy walking down the aisle. I whispered “ is she coming?” Amy whispered back a confirmation. The processional began. Family followed by a wedding party. Champ proudly walked down the aisle with his ring bearer box. After Champ, flower girls arrived. Typically, flower girls walk down as a group LOL, but these three flower girls all walked down separately. First Ariana. The oldest of the group. Confidently walking while lightly dropping flowers. Next came Isabella. She made her way all the way to the front following Ariana's lead. In the rear was Leslie. She was the youngest and did not quite make it down the aisle without support 😂. Behind Leslie, Sierra appeared with her father and grandfather. As the music changed, Amy announced “ please rise for the bride.” I swung my camera around to take a photo of John who was all smiles. Sierra’s father gave her a hug and took a seat. Sierra and John joined hands. Amy began the ceremony by focusing on Sierra and John’s story. Talking about what they loved about each other. After, Sierra and John each read their own vows. As Sierra began to read, tears started to form and lightly feel across her cheeks. She made it through. John, smiling brightly through each word he read during his. The ring exchange followed the vows and then a sand ceremony as a family. Isabella and Champ hopped out of their seats to join their mom and dad in this special event. A jar surrounded by four cups of sand. Each cup contained a different color. Blue. White. Black. Green. Each of them took a cup and began pouring into the jar to signify their official joining together as a family. As the jar filled to the top, the kids did not want to stop. 😂 Champ and Isabella continuing to ask to pour “just a little more.” Once the lid was on, Isabella and Champ sat back down while Sierra and John stood at the altar once more. Amy pronounced them “husband and wife” and they sealed their marriage with a kiss.
After the ceremony came the family photos. It took a bit to get started as the family continued to wander away 😂. This is not an uncommon event at weddings. I often prep brides that this is the case. Followed by wedding party photos and then just married portraits of Sierra and John. By this point we were ahead of schedule and Sierra and John joined their wedding party again for the big introduction into the reception. Alex and I waited near the DJ in the reception space. Guests eagerly waiting for their arrival. The DJ came back inside and the excitement in the room increased. The music turned up. The wedding arrived. Some danced their way in while others raised their hands in the air. Last came Sierra and John. John spun her around and ended their entrance with a kiss. They went straight into their first dance. Followed by father-daughter dance and mother-son dance. Next came the food. Some of Sierra’s family made the main meal and John’s parents made the appetizers. As Alex and I made our way over the food, we got to chat with Katia and her husband Donald. She was raving about the Peruvian dish John’s parents made. I am so sad we didn’t get to try it! We got so full on the main course that we missed out on this component. Sierra and John, I need to make that happen someday. I watched one family member take a whole plate of that dish home with him. It must have been amazing!!!
As the sun lowered in the sky, the dancing began. A mixture of latin music combined with traditional American party music. I may be biased….but I love latin music!!! Brings me back to my time in Costa Rica 😍 Someday I am going to go back, but I might have to put Peru on my list first 😉. Sierra and John danced the night away with their friends and family. Dancing was interrupted several times by fun games. The shoe game and then the anniversary dance. Last came the cake cutting! Sierra and John carefully sliced a large slice from the bottom tier of the cake. Before John knew it, Sierra had smashed a large chunk of icing and it got smeared all across his face 🤣. But afterwards, they both gently fed each other a small piece of cake. After cake cutting, it was time for sunset photos. Due to cloud cover, a traditional golden hour didn’t make an appearance, but it still was a beautiful light!! I knew I also wanted to make sure to get a signature drink shot . Macadoodles, the bar service at the wedding, was so kind! They filled up Sierra and John’s Mr. and Mrs. glasses with their signature drinks. Sierra had a vodka and cherry limeade. John had a rum and coke. Carrying the glasses carefully, I grabbed John and Sierra and we made our way outside.
We wandered our way across the property. From the altar, to a field, and back to the front of the venue. I learned that Sierra and John were planning on honeymooning in Vegas! However, this was not the original plan. They had flights to California that were just recently canceled on them. Unable to re-book tickets, they had to shift gears. Even though it was not what they had originally planned on, I know these two will have a blast!!! Have an amazing time you two!!! The sky became dark and guests began to say their goodbyes. Sierra and John decided not to do a bubble exit, so I decided to bring them out for one final shot of the night. A final picture to commemorate an amazing day. John and Sierra, I wish you both the best!!!
John + Sierra
Venue: Sterling Event Center
Flowers: Little Shop of Flowers
Suit: Men's Wearhouse
Gown: Sara Loree's Bridal and Formal
Hair: Essence of Beauty
Photography: Christina Zapata Photography
Officiant: Amy S Wallace Ceremonies and Coaching