One year ago, I landed on Kauai to photograph a wedding and ended up leaving a little piece of my heart there. For those of you that have visited this enchanted, unspoiled piece of paradise, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I was there for my friend’s Kristen’s wedding (who has most recently become my business partner!-but, more on that later this month…). That week, waking up to the waves crashing on the shore, hearing the birds chatter at my window, and seeing the humpback whales breach out of the water, I learned to appreciate a slower pace of life. And, it could not have come any sooner.
Just five months prior, I was at a crossroads with my photography career. I could either plunge forward, or give it up. And, quite honestly, I was tired. If you’re a photographer out there reading, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I was working 16 hour days just trying to keep up with editing, accounting, marketing and all the other minute details that make a small business tick. And, well, in 2010, I was almost out of juice.
But then, enter Kristen.
I’ve known Kristen since 2009 when, as a new NAU Photography graduate, she shoot her very first wedding as my assistant. If you ever meet her, ask her about that night. About 6 hours into coverage, she turned to me and stated, “wow, this is hard!”. It kind of cracked me up, because I remember the first wedding I had ever photographed, and I had similar thoughts. But then she said, “…But, it’s fun too!” It was that enthusiasm and dedication that evening (and many more photo sessions/weddings with her after that) that inspired me to ask her to come work for me. But, alas, Kristen had decided to move to California to chase the dream of being a wedding photographer.
I kept in touch with Kristen and that next summer, I asked Kristen to assist me at a wedding in Lake Tahoe. The evening of the wedding, while we were running along the banks of the lake to get that perfect sunset photo of the bride and groom, I giggled as I tried to keep up. We had a great time that weekend with the couple and mountain biking The Flume Trail. I was excited for her return to Flagstaff.
“Return” you ask? Yes, luck was on my side. Kristen had met J. And J lived in Flagstaff. Yes!! So, a few months after moving to California, J flew out to California and proposed to her. So, in October 2010, Kristen moved back to Flagstaff and she came to work for me.
The first few months of her being with me, I remember her saying things like, “How on Earth did you DO all of this yourself??“. Well, quite honestly, I wasn’t. I had been overwhelmed, and was so tired that I couldn’t even sleep. I barely even saw my husband, much less my friends. Honestly, I was a bit cranky. But here this woman was, tidying all my work, getting things in order and making it seem ‘fun’ again.
I loved watching Kristen plan her and J’s wedding. She and J applied their subtle style to everything. From the handmade napkins, to the awesome seersucker suit of J’s, to the anthropologie inspired decor, it was all so very Kristen and J. But, she was smart. She knew she couldn’t do it all, so they enlisted friend, and wedding professional, Kim of KD Event Designs, to execute the weekend. Kim pulled this tropical, vintage event together with elegant details and delightful designs. J’s brother, Chef Grant Carnes, prepared a local fusion of delicacies that everyone enjoyed.
As the sun went down that evening, I was filled with gladness that I could have been there for my friend Kristen. Now, one year later, I’m happy to be able to relive it all with you all. All that’s missing from this post is the song of the humpback whales. 🙂
Thank you Kristen for your support, your friendship and your infectious enthusiasm for our business. J’s not the only lucky one to have you in their life. I’m so thankful for you!
Happy Anniversary you two; I love you both very much. ~ Melissa
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After this weeks snowy start we were blessed with a gorgeous day yesterday! Melissa & I spent our afternoon on the Northern Arizona University campus photographing college senior Kati for her upcoming graduation. She was such a doll and dealt with the mud and melting snow so well. Here are a few of my favorite photos so far, what a great smile!
We are almost finished editing this gorgeous couples wedding but could not resist showing you a few of their couple photos. Amy and Rick were such great sports which allowed us to take advantage of this beautiful winter evening at Flagstaff Ranch. Check back soon for the rest of their fabulous wedding!
Ceremony Venue: Flagstaff Christian Fellowship
Reception Venue: Flagstaff Ranch
DJ & Lighting: Downtown Browne Productions
Florist: Sutcliffe Floral
Photography: Melissa Dunstan Photography
A big thank you to Beantown Bride for their feature on Leigh & Preston’s Rockport, MA wedding at Emerson by the Sea! This Boston wedding was absolutely spectacular and was an honor to photograph. Take a look at more of their gorgeous wedding below! ~Melissa and Kristen
This August, I headed to spectacular Rockport, MA to photograph my best friend’s wedding. I’ve known Preston since 1989, when I was at the University of Georgia and he was a ceramic student at Shorter College. He was my then boyfriend’s big brother in a fraternity that they created named “Alpha Lamba Epsilon” (which the abbreviation, by the way, obviously spells out “ale”. This was a joke among the brothers as traditional fraternities were not allowed at their small, very conservative college. They thought they were being really funny by spelling out a code word for “beer”) But, those college stories are for another day and time…
As soon as I met Preston, he was immediately my best friend. Preston was always there for me, always. He took me to the airport on my first ever time on an airplane (yes, I was 25, I know…I’m a late travel bloomer:), and met me when I got off the plane and took me for a cocktail to celebrate. He and I have watched every John Hughes made, probably 100 times each. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve quoted this scene from Weird Science. He introduced me to art and tried to teach me how to appreciate it. (Although I think when we were at the Metropolitan Museum of Art I might have started to go to sleep when he was lecturing me on composition) He was always there when I needed someone to listen to me, someone to encourage me and someone to act silly with. We’ve been to at least six Jimmy Buffet concerts together, visited each other in all the different states we’ve lived in and always, always been each others cheerleader. From day one, even when I was just starting out, he encouraged me to follow my heart and become a photographer. He and I recently laughed at just how bad I was when I first started, but he said to me that he saw just how much I loved it and above all, he wanted me to be happy. And, I suppose, that’s what best friends do, they support one another regardless of the odds.
One thing a lot of people don’t know is that Preston made my engagement ring. One of the reasons that I love my husband so much, is that he’s thoughtful and has always understood my close bond with Preston. Recognizing this, he called up a man he’s only heard stories of, and asked him to design and make my engagement ring. I cannot tell you how much this gesture meant to me, it somehow just can’t be put in words. He came to my wedding as my Brides-Man and stood as witness when I said my vows to Grant on a cold, snowy day. When I asked him to be in my wedding, and if he would feel strange as a bridesmaid, I mean bridesman, he replied, “I’d do anything for you, even wear a dress if you want.” I knew that even though we were joking, I knew deep down he was serious. He would do anything for me.
Preston is a professor at Bridgewater State University now but also finds time to make some beautiful ceramic art pieces. Along the way, he also became a wonderful metal worker. He, of course, made Leigh’s rings with a solitaire diamond surrounded by pink sapphires. Leigh, also being an artist, designed Preston’s ring. I can’t even begin to imagine how artistically gifted their kids will be!
So now that you know a little bit about my friend, fast forward to February 2011 when I got a call that I ultimately knew would come one day. In typical Preston form, he quoted a John Hughes movie, Sixteen Candles, and just said this when I picked up the phone….”Married??!!??“. I immediately knew what had happened. Holy Cow, my best friend was getting married. And, so I responded just like Jake in Sixteen Candles, “Married??” And Preston said, again, “Married!!!!…Gez…!!” It’s a dialogue only best friends can understand. At this point, I had never met Leigh. I had only heard stories about her and watched how my best friend’s eyes would light up when he told me about her. But, it was when they first met when I knew she was going to be The One. Preston called me up and announced he had stopped smoking cigarettes. What!?! I was so happy for him, as I had been hounding him for YEARS to stop. I asked “What changed your mind?” And this response is really what amazed me…”Leigh doesn’t like kissing someone who smokes“. Right then I knew I would like her.
To say I was nervous when I met Leigh would be an understatement. I. Was. Terrified. What if she didn’t like me? What if I messed up the wedding photos? What if I threw up on her shoes? (OK, that probably wasn’t going to happen, but I worry about lots of things…) But, from the moment that I met her I knew why Preston loved her so much. She greeted me with one of those big hugs that I appreciated. It was filled with immediate respect and love. And I loved her from that moment.
Leigh has wonderful style. When I asked Preston what kind of dress she was going to get, all he told me was “She said it would be dramatic“. Now, as a photographer, you never know what this could mean. But, when I walked into her parent’s house, I was floored. I think their kitty loved it as much as I did judging on how he was staring at it. It’s a beautiful Melissa Sweet bustier and skirt. And, it was made for Leigh. She was stunning in this dress. Leigh choose a pallet of pink and black for their day and everything was gorgeous. The flowers, created by artists atThe Sage Florists, were a combination of roses, calla lillies and hydrangeas and they were stunning! I told you that Leigh and Preston were artists and they proved that when they took this design to their cake artist, The Cookie Countess. Details at the reception were delightful. I loved the combination of letterpress escort cards and table markers by Parrot Design Studio. The star gazer lillies were as gorgeous as they smelled. Emerson by the Sea , a lovely historic gem, was once owned by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and is flocked with beautiful quotes about love and life. What a sweet touch for a wedding!
So, here’s a few photos from their day. It was definitely hard to pick my favorites for the blog, but I hope you enjoy them.
To Preston and Leigh,
Thank you so much for allowing me to be your photographer on your wedding day. I can’t even begin to let you know just how much it meant to me to watch you start your life together. I hope you love the photos half as much as I adore you both. Love and hugs to both of you! ~ Melissa
It’s been a while since I was a bridesmaid, but last month, I had the privilege of being a bridesmaid in two of my dearest friends wedding. I was elated, overwhelmed with love and was absolutely bursting with happiness. For those of you who know me, you know I’m a crier, and I mean the sobbing type with mascara all over my face. It’s definitely not pretty. It took everything I had not to burst out in tears during their vows. I kept pinching myself over and over. I’m absolutely amazed that I didn’t have myself covered in bruises by the end of the ceremony. These awesome photographs were taken by my friend and partner, Kristen Carnes. Thank you Kristen for documenting this day so beautifully for two amazing people! When T.C. told me he was going to propose to Carrie I made a comment to him that I was going to give a speech at his wedding, to somehow convey to him just how happy I was for the both of them, and what joy was in my heart. Yet, when the time came, after the Maid of Honor’s and Best Man’s speech was completed, I could not. Their words were so perfect, so filled with love, appreciation, and so eloquently spoken, I knew I couldn’t even muster one word out of my mouth. So, I let the time pass by. Now, one month later, I want to complete my promise and humbly offer my speech that was written with love, but never spoken. So here goes…
I met T.C. about ten years ago and our friendship grew easily. He is the kind of guy that you can just pop in and hang out with, enjoy a beer, or talk into a bike ride after work. He’s honorable, dependable and one of the sweetest souls out there. One such example is when my dog, Ginger, was diagnosed with cancer and given less than a week to live. T.C. came by my house, sat lovingly on the floor with my pup and gently said his goodbyes. The day she passed, T.C. showed up at my house with a tree. He planted the tree and announced to me that this was a way I could remember her by. In that moment of gentleness, I saw his love and compassion. Now over four years later, when I look at that tree, I remember not only my sweet dog, but also my sweet friend.
Another such example was my wedding day. I choose to get married in March…in Flagstaff… outside in a meadow. Now, we all knew how this was going to end….of course it rained and snowed the week of my wedding making the meadow soggy and a big muddy mess. T.C. knew how important the meadow was to me, he knew this is where I felt most at peace, and I desperately wanted to say my vows under the great open sky, even if snow flakes were falling. So, being the dear friend that he is, T.C. went to the hardware store, bought lots of plywood, and built me a aisle to walk upon. A couple months after our wedding, T.C. bought a house down the street from Grant and I. We were elated! This meant our best friend would only be seconds from us, 32 seconds to be exact (on a bike). He got two new roommates, named Carrie and Kate, and they moved in.
Fast forward a few months, and T.C. and Carrie were dating. (That story actually involves the plywood from my aisle, and how it became his garage roof with the help of Carrie, but the maid of honor told that story beautifully at the wedding!) I got to know Carrie more and more, and I absolutely fell in love with her. She was just as caring and sweet as T.C., and quite frankly, I adored her. I should mention that T.C., up until this point, called me the “Chick Whisperer”. He would consult me from time to time for sage advice on women, and what to do in a relationship situation. Being that he was solid in his relationship with Carrie, he switched from relationship advise to present purchasing advise. One such day, he was contemplating a present for Carrie for Valentines Day. I suggested the usual…dinner at a nice restaurant, perfume, a nice box of chocolate, roses, etc. I’ll never forget when T.C. said, “I’m thinking of getting her an automatic car starter”. I remember staring at him and thinking maybe that wasn’t such a great, romantic gift, but he proceeded anyhow. Carrie’s birthday is about one month after Valentine’s Day, and he came to me once again. “I think I’m going to get Carrie some white leather Reebok’s”.
Now, by this point, I was deep into my master plan, which was to make Carrie one of my Best Friends Forever, and quite frankly, I thought T.C. was ruining it for me. Surely, he was going to chase off this fantastic girl by giving her such practical gifts. But low and behold, her birthday came, and she pranced proudly over to our house to show us her new awesome shoes. I knew they were meant to be together when T.C.’s birthday came around in August and Carrie wanted to hide his present in our garage. She had purchased him an air compressor.
I remember exactly the moment when I knew T.C. was in love. Rewind to when Carrie first moved into T.C.’s house….and T.C. showed up at my door for some Chick Whispering. This time, his question was “Chop (my nickname), I’m thinking about asking Carrie, my roommate, out on a date”.
There was a pause from me while I digested this information. I finally replied with, “Well, it can go one of three ways…
1. You can ask her out, she says “no”, and it’s awkward for a long time in the house
2. You can ask her out, she says “yes”, you date for a while, it ends and she (and her roommate/best friend) moves out, or
3. You go out, you fall in love and live happily ever after”.
I looked at him and asked, “Do you think it’s worth it?”.
Now, this is the part that will always stick with me, the moment when I knew my best friend was head over heels in love.
T.C. paused, looked me square in the eye and replied, “Yes, she’s definitely worth it”.
So, T.C., here’s to you not taking my advise, and to a lifetime of love, happiness and really, really practical gifts.
Your best friend forever (to you both!),
Ceremony Venue: Riordan Mansion
Reception Venue: High Country Conference Center
DJ: Jam N Sounds
Ceremony Music: Aly Jay
Dress: Mia Solano
Make Up: Amee Byers at About Hair & More
Floral Designs & Centerpieces: The Bride & Mother of the Bride
Photography: Kristen Carnes of Melissa Dunstan Photography