Announcement: We eloped!

I'm super excited to announce that after eight years of knowing each other, and about seven years of dating, Matt and I eloped this week to Napa, CA!jenniferemerling.comNo, it's not a joke! We really did!And if you're feeling left out of the loop completely, relax!  We actually didn't tell anybody.  Not our friends. Not our siblings. Not even our parents.  That's part of what made it so incredibly fun for us....it was a HUGE secret!And yes, we are very well aware of the irony.  We photograph weddings, but did not take the "wedding route" ourselves.  There were several reasons for this, but I believe the most important was that working in the wedding industry has clearly taught me that regardless of what you do when it's your turn, make sure you do it your way.  Whenever I thought about a wedding of my own, I would get anxious and frustrated. Whenever I thought of secretly eloping, I would feel elated, and excited.  I knew it right down to my core: Eloping felt absolutely right. It was only about two months' worth of "planning", and the only stress I really felt was when we would have to gently maneuver family and social plans away from our travel dates without letting on what we were really doing.  LOL!The only two people on earth who knew about it besides Matt and myself were Michelle my super awesome travel agent, and Jennifer, my friend and masterful photojournalist who drove from Fresno to meet us.  Because this wasn't a wedding, I didn't want wedding-like photographs...I wanted someone who would document it, but who also knew how to take a few portraits as well.All in all, it has been sooooo much fun.  We got up close and personal with some African wildlife at Safari West (seriously, I am such a sucker for activities involving animals), had a hot soak in a mud bath, a little wine time, and a lot of together time enjoying holiday decorations, quaint downtown streets, and the splendor of one of California's most beautiful destinations.  We have been staying at the Avia in downtown Napa and I can't recommend this hotel highly enough. It's beautiful, comfortable, with impossibly polite and friendly staff who, along with our agent Michelle, surprised us with an upgrade to a suite with a fireplace and enormous bathtub. Best vacation ever!We're overwhelmed with all the excited comments we've been getting on Facebook, too. I'm not sure who's more excited...you guys or us!

Sarah & Nate in Napa Valley, CA

Prior to Sarah & Nate's wedding at Hans Fahden Vineyards outside Calistoga, Matt & I had never been to the Napa area before.  I was aware that quite a few wedding photographers from Southern California had held their own weddings in NorCal wine country, and upon arriving, I understood why. It is gorgeous up there, especially in the springtime. We weren't in Calistoga for more than thirty minutes before I decided I wanted to move there, haha!I ought to also give a shout out to our airline, JetBlue. We had a super laid-back, comfortable flight. Low-key Long Beach airport and the über-accommodating JetBlue is what air travel ought to normally be like, or from what I hear, air travel used to be like back in its heyday, before security got tight and First Class was created and luxuries removed from us peons who normally sit in the back.  And it's phenomenally less expensive than other airlines...how about that??But I digress...

^ This is my "Andrew Wyeth" shot.

Such a fun time, and such a beautiful area.  I can't wait to go back!

Chrys & Rick: Dominican Republic wedding

The opportunity that Matt and I had to photography Chrys and Rick's wedding a couple weeks ago in the Dominican Republic was like a total quintuple scoop of madcap fortune. Chrys found me on the internet and was assured by her wedding planner, her friends, and Ricky's Dominican relatives that there was no way she'd find the same kind of photographer in Puerto Plata, where the wedding would be. She hired us after only speaking to me on the phone and as luck would have it, we totally clicked. I couldn't believe how amazingly cool Chrys and Rick are, and to top it off, they have some of the most fun, friendly, and hardcore party animals of friends and family that I'd ever met. When we rolled into Sun Village Resort and Spa, we were greeted with handshakes, slaps on the back, even hugs from total strangers. Matt and I not only made some wicked sweet images that weekend, we also made a truckload of new friends from all over the United States and the Dominican Republic. It was an incredible experience and I am so glad we did it!!

One of my favorite pictures; Wedding day sunset at Sun Village Resort & Spa in Puerto Plata

Chrys & Rick, during a little pre-rehearsal dinner session at the Casa Colonial Beach & Spa boutique hotel.

Really cool tree I saw during a little countryside expedition Chrys & Rick invited us on with the guests.

Rick's family in the Dominican are businesspeople and land-owners and, (unbeknownst to us until we arrived!), relatives of the first freely-elected president of the Dominican Republic. These are some beef ranchers crossing a river on some of their property.

Wedding day!

What do guys do to prep for a kickback island wedding? Soccer and cocktails of course, all before lunch. Image by Matt.

Image by Matt.

Meanwhile...

Chrys lookin' supah-fly!

Chrys was very proud of her shoes. What is it with East Coasters and their amazing shoes??

Rick lookin' pretty supah-fly himself. Image by Matt.

Image by Matt.

The weather was looking pretty grim up until the very minute Chrys walked down the aisle. I think that officially makes her a ray of sunshine, awww!

The wedding day sunset :)

Could this couple be any more fun?

Could their wedding party be any more fun??

Something about this reminds me of Norman Rockwell.

I really, really like this shot, and I can't put my finger on why.

Rick said that when he suggested getting married in the Dominican Republic to Chrys, after visiting Puerto Plata Chrys said, "Well I can see why!"

The reception tent took all day to erect, and was constructed without lifts or ladders. Impressive!

Rick's family invited this *insane* sax player to come jam with the band and the B.J. the DJ, and it was awesome!

Image by Matt

Divy up that cake!Chrys and Rick made us feel more than welcome, we felt like actual wedding guests on camera duty. SO. MUCH. FUN. I wish it was still happening!

Chrys & Rick: Teaser

Last weekend Matt & I had the brilliant luck and unparalleled pleasure of photographing Chrys & Rick's wedding in the Dominican Republic. Destination weddings are decidedly more difficult than local ones, but I can't even begin to describe how awesome of a time we had. Chrys' & Rick's families were open and welcoming, and their friends are all so impossibly cool and friendly that I've half a mind to move to Ohio, D.C., or NY myself just to find more people just like them!I'm hard at work editing through the 4000+ images we shot and I'll be in Napa Valley this weekend for another destie, but for now here's a little sampling of our Memorial Day weekend in the Republica Dominica:

Sugarcane fields

View from our room at the resort

Warm tropical storms at the resort

Workin' hard!

More photos to come!