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Vows in the Park :: Emily + Phil

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Vows in the Park :: Emily + Phil

Unforgettable. Each couple leaves a trace of a sweet memory behind as I leave a bit of myself as well while I document the evolution of their love. It's something different every time, and it's got nothing to do with a favorite portfolio shot, although that's often how those portfolio shots are born - out of that favorite, unique "thing". Each couple is so different, with different venues (or same venues yet a completely different feel), varying budgets, unique floral and table arrangements and tastes, different priorities, lighting, weather, moods, and attitudes. It all flavors and becomes part of their story.

When it comes to Emily and Phil I'll always remember their sweet and intimate exchange of vows in the park, after their first look. They didn't want an audience, they wanted that first chance to really say and really listed to what the other had to say, an elopement before their wedding, if you will. With wedding days packed and eventful, there isn't always time to squeeze everything that's possible in, so choices are made to see what truly matters to each couple. These two really cared about that alone time, and that little moment will forever be something I think about when I recall their wedding day. And, a good day it was. Truly unforgettable, in fact. Congrats Emily and Phil, you two really are an amazing match! -- with love, Ester 

PS. A huge thank you to my 2nd shooter Ivy, for capturing the guys getting ready, and some other fun angles and moments from the day! 

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Say no to rail road tracks - Senior photos with Liz

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Say no to rail road tracks - Senior photos with Liz

Hot diggity! It's this time of year again! Time for all seniors to gather on rail road tracks, stair cases, and bridges! Well, some of that is true... Shooting on rail road tracks is actually not exactly legal, so don't even ask... Not to mention incredibly boring. Liz and I wanted something different. Sure. She wanted some photos in scrubs, documenting the nerdy part of her life as a pre-med student but mostly she wanted to feel pretty. She wanted her photos to have a personality rather than just look at the camera and awkwardly smile. So, we had fun. 
If you want your senior to have some photos they truly feel good about and don't cringe about, forget the standard, overly posed, overly stiff. Let me have at it and see if I can unlock the potential, and truly capture fun expressions, without the cheese. If you (or your senior) is up for playing and some unconventional senior photos, get in touch! - Ester :) 

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Cinderella Story - Lake Vermillion Intimate Wedding :: Hali + Brian

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Cinderella Story - Lake Vermillion Intimate Wedding :: Hali + Brian

How I met “my own” Aaron Rodgers 😉 Well, for the record, as he’s for sure going to want me to clarify — Brian is a VIKINGS fan!! Haha! 

When we first started dating most of my friends and family called him Aaron or A Rodg in conversations with me. If I ever mentioned “Brian”, I’d get a bunch of blank stares back till I could clarify “Aaron” - then they’d catch on who I was talking about. We couldn’t go anywhere without getting stopped on the streets, people yelling out “Hey! You’re on my Fantasy team” or “You look JUST like Aaron Rodgers!”. Brian would get embarrassed by all the attention, but I got a kick out of all of the "discount double-check” jokes at Christmas (especially with my Uncle owning his own State Farm office!!) 

When we met I wasn’t looking for love, wasn’t really interested in dating. I NEVER thought I’d get married or fall in love. And then things happened. I knew right away he was the one. We didn’t intentionally rush things, it was just our pace - a year in we got engaged, we bought a house together 2 months later, and 4 months after that we were married. It’s been a whirlwind, but I wouldn’t change a thing! 

The Cinderella Story — As told by the Bride (Hali), confirmed by Uncle (Chris Toutloff): When I was about 4 years old, back in April of 1993 (best guess), my Uncle Chris (who is also my Godfather) wanted to take me on a little Godfather/Goddaughter date. Seeking out what would be a fun experience for a little girl, he decided to take me to the Cinderella play at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. My mom dressed me up in princess attire - the dress, tiara, wand, and plastic "glass” slippers - the whole works, and dropped me off at my Uncle’s. We went to the Theater and were seated on the upper level, front and center on the balcony. Apparently they were GREAT seats. Chris said about half-way through the show I started to get restless and realized that I had lost my “glass” shoe. I had been dangling my feet over the balcony (really lady-like) and it must have slipped off. We searched everywhere - upstairs, downstairs, even involved the theater usher to help us find it, and eventually I started to get upset and sad about losing my princess shoe. Chris could tell he was losing me needed to save the situation quick! Luckily he had always been quick on his feet and known for his storytelling… He told me the Cinderella story that I half-missed pre-occupied by the loss of the shoe. He said I might have lost my shoe, but just like Cinderella someday Prince Charming would bring it to me and sweep me off my feet. He said my jaw dropped and I got suuuuppper excited that I could be like Cinderella! And just like that  I was fine and said “OK, let’s go!!” He carried me to the car (since I was shoeless) and Prince Charming is all I could talk about the entire drive home. Since then, throughout my childhood, this story would come up - I would still ask if he thought Prince Charming was really coming. It's always been a fun and fond memory of mine with my Uncle Chris. 

The story was just a fond childhood memory, and I had no idea that my Uncle and Brian had a little something planned for the Reception. When Chris asked if he could speak at the Dinner, I didn’t think much of it. After all, he was also our Officiant (and did a fantastic job, I might add!!!) The day before the wedding I wrote him a card, thanking him for officiating our wedding, and as I wrote, I thought to myself “How funny that here we are and HE is the one to marry me to my Prince Charming”. When he started speaking at Reception, and brought up the Cinderella story from my childhood, I thought to myself “Awwwww, I was just thinking about this memory!” but when Brian pulled out the silk pillow with the real-size glass slipper on it, I NEVER saw it coming! Seriously amazing! I was so floored!! It was perfect! And, be it just like my Uncle to end the story with publicly thanking Brian for taking all the pressure off him” as Price Charming. So priceless. These two are the best!!! 

Getting married at our Family property on Lake Vermillion  - As told by the Bride: Wedding planning is not one of my fortes. This was not something I was excited about. Neither was Brian. We considered a tropical getaway, whisking away and tying the knot somewhere warm. There was only one problem with that plan. Neither of us is very ”tropical” in nature. We are much more of the “woodsy, outdoors, northwoods” type, especially given our fond memories of a certain fishing trip to Canada, which is where we really fell in love. The more we got into planning of our tropical destination wedding, the less excited we were about it, also realizing how many dear-to-us people wouldn’t be able to make it due to the logistics. That was that! We started looking into a wedding in Minnesota. It was a windy road of looking into various venues that lead us right back… home. We had no attachment to any of the beautiful and intimate places we were looking at, and it wasn’t till we considered getting married in the family property backyard that things just clicked into place. Lake Vermillion, this place, has meant so much to me, coming here all of my childhood. And after Brian entered the picture, coming on several family trips, talking about cabin plans with my dad, this place started meaning a lot to Brian as well. 

Once we came up with the idea to have the wedding at a place we called home, among the pine trees that would be here for years to come as we live our life together, nothing else compared. We kept things small, inviting and involving only the closest family and friends - with my Uncle as Officiant, Brian’s sister singing, etc. Despite the time crunch and the wedding now being more of the DIY variety, the 6 month planning process went surprisingly well. We totally lucked out with all of our vendors - snagged ourselves an uber talented Photographer ;), a super fun DJ, and with Tower being a small community all the local vendors (decor, floral, reception venue, etc.) knowing each other well, they were all amazing to work with! Fun fact: my decorator (Kim Ollila) from Bridal Family Decorating, was a God-send!!! Within an hour of our first meeting I started calling her my “Fairy Godmother”. Little ironic looking back at the whole glass-slipper Reception surprise! 

The most special moment of the Ceremony - The Bald Eagle - This day was truly amazing, and so special to us. Getting married where we did, all the people that helped, keeping things small and intimate, it made for the most amazing day. Still, with as awesome as this day was, one thing gives me goose-bumps and makes me tear up. It’s the Bald Eagle. It was perched on one of the trees near the lake while I was saying my vows to Brian. See, I grew up on Lake Vermillion pretty much. Most of my dad’s side had cabins up here, both sets of grandparents did. My Grandpa “Gordy” Debe (dad’s stepdad) passed away about 13 years ago, and ever since then whenever we see a Bald Eagle on the lake we say “look it’s Grandpa!”. It’s just kind of our symbol for him and a way to still remember and feel connected to him. So when one of our family members told me that they saw the Bald Eagle that day of our Ceremony, I couldn’t help but get happy tears knowing my Gramps made it to my big day as well. 

The DYI Projects:

  • The Prep, The Property - I owe the biggest kudos to my dad (Dave) and my step mom (Michelle) for opening up their property and hosting the Ceremony. The worked their tails off prepping the land, building the arches, cutting logs, setting up the decor the morning of the wedding. Just everything… They thought of things I wouldn’t have thought of, or ever asked for. I’ll mention a few examples. The land sloped towards the lake, and that wasn’t good enough for my dad, so he brought in an excavator and trucks full of sand to level it off so we had a flat surface for the guests to sit on. He brought in blue gravel so it would be firmer and easier for guests and myself to walk down the isle on. They spent hours cutting dead trees and brush that had fallen in a big storm the year before so the site was more tidy and nice to look at. My grandpa helped a lot with this, and even Brian’s dad made a trip out to help with the cleanup despite it being far out. My dad even had a telephone line, that ran across the top of the lot, removed because it interfered with the view. We are so lucky, they went above and beyond to make an already beautiful lot even more perfect for our big day. From the bottom of our hearts - Thank you! 
  • The Arbor / Arch / Logs - I was really drawn to the rustic / romantic / whimsical theme, and had found a birch arbor idea on Pinterest that I fell in love with. My dad wasn’t satisfied with the design, so he improved it to make it more sturdy, and he and my step mom built the most beautiful arbor and arch to decorate the Ceremony. Thank goodness for this design forethought, because the original would have never withstood the crazy winds we had the day of!!!! The wood for the isle decor and the stand that Brian and I combined the sands on came from an already-fallen tree that my dad and Grandpa “Toots” spotted on the property. As the DYI projects commenced we jokingly called it “the wedding log”. 
  • The Heart on the inside of Dad’s Jacket - I have always been 100% daddy’s girl and wanted him to have something close to his heart, knowing it would be an emotional day for both of us. I found a heart-shaped patch from 3starmillitarymom on etsy, that said “Daddy, I loved you first. Yesterday, today, always, and forever your little girl. Hali 06-10-17”. Now after the wedding my dad still has it on his visor in his truck so he can see it every day. 
  • The Handkerchiefs - The Father of the Groom gifted a handkerchief to my dad (the one he was wiping his tears with during our first look) after going through his two daughters’ weddings he knew my dad would need it. 
  • The Glass Shoe - www.disneystore.com - it was personalized with “Your Prince is here!” by my uncle Chris. 

List of the amazing Vendors that made our day so special: 

  • Reception - Fortune Bay Resort and Casino, Woodlands Ballroom
  • Chair Rentals - Rudy’s Event Rentals St. Paul MN
  • Photography - Ester Knowlen Photography (with Nicole on 2nd shooting) 
  • Florist - Silver Lake Floral - Virginia MN
  • Makeup - myself (I was a nervous wreck attempting this one on my own!) 
  • Lash Extensions - Lashes by Anna St. Paul MN
  • Hair - My bestie from Highschool and personal attendant - Cassi Dick
  • Cake / Cupcakes - How Sweet it is, Duluth MN
  • Caterer - Fortune Bay Resort and Casino
  • Wedding Gown - Oliva by Modeca (with custom sweetheart neckline) from Posh Bridal in Wayzata MN
  • Guy’s Suits - Wedding Shoppe, St. Paul MN 

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All About the Details :: Ilaria + Geoff Somerby Wedding

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All About the Details :: Ilaria + Geoff Somerby Wedding

How do I get so lucky connecting with these dream couples of mine??! Ilaria and Geoff are a couple of the sweetest people I've met, and their wedding was full of laughter, goofiness and lighthearted fun! Ilaria got ready at the Sommerby Club while Geoff at home. I swooned over the details ALL MORNING! I mean, talk about my happy place! This gal is a gal after my own heart! She had all kinds of things saved for me to use for photos and enough time reserved for me to play. I believe I was all smiles the rest of the day, and so was the bride, full on anticipation to see the photos! (I tortured her with a sneak peek as I hopped up and down so excited over the Sommerby carpet! Yep. That's how I roll! LOL ;))
We met up for the first look at Sommerby and had just enough time for some cute photos before it started raining. Umbrellas came in handy! The crew was up for getting a bit sprinkled on and none of this put a damper on the party. The ceremony went off without a hitch, although I kept worrying that I'd somehow accidentally end up in the baptismal fountain. Thankfully no photographer dunking excitement took place that day... We drove off in wedding limo style, and lo and behold, the sun came out just in time for us to have some more photo fun back at the venue!!! There was the adult version of cake smashing, the cutest honey pots for guests, as everyone cheered and danced into the night. Overall a great day! And... a huge things to my 2nd shooter Nicole for dividing and conquering the day with me :)  --- Ester

Wedding Locations: 
Getting Ready & Ceremony (first look, couple's photos, wedding party photos) - Sommerby Golf Club in Byron
Family Photos & Ceremony - Church of the Evangelist, Rochester

 
 

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Lucky Warm Winter Wedding :: Christen + Mark

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Lucky Warm Winter Wedding :: Christen + Mark

Boy did we get lucky with the weather?! I mean, there are not many January weddings where it's so warm everyone wants to stay outside! And... speaking of lucky, the day might have involved winning a meat raffle. Kid you not! Only in Minnesota LOL! :) 

We started out getting ready at the Embassy Suites by Hilton nearby the Earl Brown Heritage Center (where Mark and Christen had their first look, family photos, and wedding party shenanigans commenced). The Ceremony took place at the Holy Family Catholic Church. Theodore Wirth park hosted some of our golden hour photos, and said meat raffle was won at a random bar I googled on the way. So, I guess I'm was part of the "luck" in this "lucky day". 

About the day overall - Christen and Mark are some of the sweetest, kindest, and down to earth people. These two really belong together. Their passion for the outdoors, ball games, fishing, hunting and all kinds of easy going hobbies brought them together, and their wedding was just that - down to earth, filled with love and everyone happy to celebrated with them. Their crew up for anything, their family full of pride and support. It really was pleasure photographing these two, their love, and getting to know them better. Until we meet again, I'm told I'm getting invited back when some beautiful babies are born! ;) -- Ester

PS. Lovely side shots and groom getting ready shots by my 2nd shooter Joe :) 

Wedding Locations: 
Getting Ready - Embassy Suites by Hilton Minneapolis
Early day photos and Reception - Earl Brown Heritage Center
Ceremony - Holy Family Catholic Church
Golden Hour Photos - Theodore Wirth Park

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Everyday Moments :: Colt Lifestyle Newborn

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Everyday Moments :: Colt Lifestyle Newborn

Who knew climbing the countertops to eat dried mango, and finding plastic lunch in mom's old school lunch box were this exciting! Some of those precious everyday moments are what I live for! And, the house, where all the toys are, familiar and cozy, is just the perfect place to capture not just the arrival of the new baby, but the family dynamics that you might want to look back at. Precious time in life meet what you see every day, a story told with a fresh eye at the place where you call home. Snuggly, familiar, comfy. Check out this cute lifestyle sesh as the Lindbergs welcome Colt as a new bundly addition to their now family of five. 

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Intimate Elopement at the Blaisdell :: Alyssa + Blake

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Intimate Elopement at the Blaisdell :: Alyssa + Blake

When planning of a wedding is too much, and the day seems to be getting farther and farther away, an elopement might just be the way to go. Alyssa and Blake got in touch for a 2019 wedding and after doing some soul searching decided on a smaller and more intimate gathering at the Blaisdell Mansion, about 2 weeks later... And... it couldn't have been more perfect! Surrounded by the closest family, it was romance, love, and the most important thing of all - getting to at last start their journey as husband and wife. Cheers! Congrats on taking the plunge! Wishing I had gone the same route as you two and eloped with my babe (skipped the whole hassle, and too much left-over cake). If I had a do-over, that would definitely be the plan... Who knows. Maybe... vow renewal?! Shhh..... let's not jinx it ;) Anyway, congrats to the freshly baked - Mr and Mrs Anaya!

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Joy, Laughter, and Magic at Table 11 - Urban Wedding :: Meggan + Joe

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Joy, Laughter, and Magic at Table 11 - Urban Wedding :: Meggan + Joe

Some of the best desserts I've ever tasted. 
A speedy turtle most joyful bride that lit up a room with her smile.
A loving groom, quite frankly infatuated with his girl. 
Vegetarian meets Pork lover. 
Ehm, BEST freakin' Butternut Squash Ravioli ever served at a wedding! 
Mouth watering desserts! 
THE BEST group of peeps, that could pull off the 'cast of Downton Abbey' look like no one's business! 

Just a few things that come to mind about this beautiful March in Minnesota wedding at Minneapolis Grand Event Centers! Joe and Meggan made this day awesome, and it was a pleasure capturing every unique atom of their joy-filled relationship, surrounded with amazing people full of support, respect and love. I felt like one of the crew! Couples like these make my wedding days something smile about every time I see the pictures :) Cause yes, these guys will end up on the walls of my office, as a reminder of why I do what I do.  Love, Ester

PS. Groom getting ready and a few lovely side shots by my 2nd shooter Nicole :) 

Wedding Locations: 
Getting Ready, Ceremony and Reception - Minneapolis Event Centers
Couple's Photos and Golden Hour Photos - Saint Anthony Main 

Also check out this lovely video by Dan West Films!!!! - Meggan + Joe Wedding Video