Bobby and Nicole. I met this couple during a wedding in St. Augustine, Florida. The bride and groom were mutual friends of all three of us, however, this was the first time we actually had all hung out together. Bobby and Nicole were introduced only because they were looking to carpool together down to the wedding from Bloomington, Illinois. That 17-hour drive turned out to be the best decision they ever made. Through conversation, music, and humor they started to realize with each passing hour the growing connection. That drive led to an inseparable 8-day vacation in Florida to celebrate their friends’ wedding and soon thereafter they returned home as a flourishing new couple.
Over the next few years, Bobby and Nicole began their journey together. By August of 2015, they were celebrating their official dating 2 year anniversary by seeing their favorite band, The Foo-Fighters, at Bobby’s favorite place in the world, Wrigley Field. Before the concert started they went to take a picture in front of the iconic marquee. After a few normal photos, Nicole turned to see Bobby down on one knee. Nicole said “Yes!” and the crowd around them began to cheer. The sold-out concert was the perfect place for them to celebrate their engagement. There may have been 45,000 people watching the show that night, but it felt like Dave Grohl was singing just for them.
Here is where things take a fun turn. Nicole is the event coordinator in Bloomington, Illinois for The Castle Theatre. She is there almost every weekend helping other brides make their day perfect. I actually work with her quite a bit at these weddings and we have become great friends through this industry. Nicole had originally planned her wedding for this May 2017 at the Catholic Church where Bobby grew up and the reception at The Castle Theatre where she works. A few months ago, I arrived at The Castle as normal for a wedding, and Nicole approached me with an idea. She said, as much as she loves her job, she was starting to feel like planning her own wedding was just another wedding job similar to the ones that she does all the time. She explained that she wasn’t as excited about the planning process as she wanted to be and she was thinking about just eloping because, in the end, all she wanted was to be married to Bobby and have a big party to celebrate at a later date. Although surprised, I completely understood where she was coming from. Enter next surprise element: She and Bobby wanted to come to me for the elopement! I live in relatively small, old industrial town in the Southeast corner of Iowa… so my first thought is “Are you sure?”. She explained that she just wanted to go away somewhere easy and what better idea to be able to get photographs of the event than to come to me in the middle of winter when both our seasons are slower. My answer, “Fuc* ya, let’s do this”
So, here we are to the wedding. Nicole literally left everything up to me and genuinely expected nothing. I, of course, saw this as an opportunity to do things crazy different than usual and was bursting at the seams with excitement. I live in an old eclectic downtown that has a lot to offer with amazing people. The next details were pulled together that week leading up to the event. First, venue… I called on my friend Tyler French at downtown’s hottest music venue, The Washington. The Washington is an old renovated Elks Club. The second floor still oozes with 1950’s charm and elements such as original retro pendant lights, red velvet wallpaper and original silhouette decor on the wall of people dancing and hugging. It is truly one of a kind. Next, flowers… I called my favorite girl, Jen, at her shop Clara’s Garden. She immediately jumped on board and delivered the most kickass wild floral arrangement full of deep rich color. Next, hair… My personal stylist, fabulous friend and favorite person to work with, Landon Minnis at Dana’s Total Image. You haven’t lived if you have never had a Landon blowout. Not a morning person, he agreed as long as we brought him a strong black coffee. He delivered all his greatness above expectations and Nicole left there feeling like a hair model. All of this complete with a smoking hot Burgundy colored dress with a deep plunging frontline, fur coat and black suit for Bobby.
They finished getting ready at my place and the ceremony was about a 2-minute drive a block away. With the help of my incredible boyfriend and Tyler, we set up the scene in about 5 minutes. Bobby waited on stage as Nicole walked in so gracefully to an acoustic version of “Everlong” by The Foo Fighters. They both held back tears as Bobby extended his hand to help her on stage. Wendy, the officiant, lovingly said some traditional wedding vows then Bobby and Nicole both read their hand written vows. At this point, tears could not be held back. It was simply awesome.
Just like that, the ceremony was over and Nicole’s only request was to have shots of Patron waiting at the end of the “aisle”. Then, another hearfelt surprise. Bobby’s parents were informed that the two would be eloping to Iowa. The few days before they arrived, his parents sent me hand written notes to give to them as soon as their vows were finished. They each read their personalized letters and we all lost it. After signing the marriage license, we used the venue to capture some dramatic sexy portraits of the couple. My adrenaline at this point just bursting because I knew every shot was just insanely great. Afterward, we walk across the street to Krafted Bistro. Again, more awesome friends and owners of the restaurant, Jared Kaulukukui and Bryan Knapp came in during non-business hours to help me create a special lunch setting for the newly married couple. In this intimate and relaxed setting, we ate great food, drank champagne and took shots of Patron.
We finished up after lunch, champagne still in hand, and walked around the dirty bitter cold alleys of Burlington, Iowa to get some of the last shots of the day. At this point, bride and groom are feeling “warm” with booze and created such a fun vibe through the photographs. As I set them up against a backdrop, my friend, Karmen, was taking the garbage out from her work. I quickly grabbed her to help out by throwing a bag of confetti in the air during a few shots while Nicole didn’t hesitate to show her enthusiasm for the day by taking a long pull from the bottle of champagne.
To say this day was amazing is an understatement. It was beautifully unconventional and full of wonderful people coming together at the last minute to put on an unforgettable day for two strangers. It was a confident couple throwing out the ideals of tradition and making their day 100% their own. It was raw, passionate, fun, emotional and full of amazing teamwork. It was one of the best weddings I’ve done in 12 years.
Nicole and Bobby: Thank You for trusting me to capture this day for you.
Venue: The Washington, Burlington, Iowa
Floral: Clara’s Garden, Mediapolis, Iowa
Hair: Landon Minnis, Dana’s Total Image, Burlington, Iowa
Lunch Venue: Krafted Bar & Bistro, Burlington, Iowa
Want to elope? Contact me and I’ll help you plan every detail! Stay updated with more weddings by following Brandy Swartz Photography on Facebook and Instagram // www.brandyswartz.com