A beautiful afternoon in Old Town Alexandria with one of my past wedding clients- time flies!
Well, there’s not too much I can say about this wedding except: holy cow.
Mike and Alyssa’s wedding was an absolute dream.
Everything was thoughtfully done and timed.
Everything was in one location and the day seemed so easy and joyful.
This couple is so uniquely wonderful and kind.
They did much of the decor on their own, as they are both graphic designers.
I don’t want to say anything else, because you just need to see this wedding for yourself. Gorgeous.
Venue :: Walkers Overlook Dress :: Claire Pettibone Suit :: JCrew Bridesmaids Hair :: Salon Allure Florist :: A Bloom Florist Caterer :: Renaissance Chef DJ :: Bruce Pike Productions Photo Booth :: Premier Photo Booths
From Alyssa + Mike:
Like most couples, we wanted to invest ourselves deeply into the planning to ensure that our love, creativity, and craft would shine in every detail. Planning our wedding was a great way for us to not only bring ourselves closer together but it gave us a chance to create an experience that could bring our two families together.
It started with the invitations. We wanted to create and set a handcrafted tone because we knew from the start we would be making most of the decorations and details ourselves. Alyssa spent a lot of time designing and laying out the text. She painted all of the details and embellishments that were incorporated in the design. Michael created a wood block carving that we would then ink and run through a hand roller press to decorate the outside of the invitation. Of course the carving included our two cats, Pickles and Stevie.
Our wedding favors were truly something special. Our hobby/small business endeavor Refill Glassworks came much into play here. We have been involved with reclaiming empty wine and liquor bottles from local bars and restaurants. We then take these bottles and repurpose them by cleaning them up, cutting and polishing them and turning them into unique and environmental friendly drink ware. These wine bottle tumblers are great gifts that we have been selling online and at local craft and wine festivals. In creating each favor by hand we found ourselves at a place where our devoted time and craft could become a tangible and personal thank you for each one of our guests.
As far as decor goes we tried to split our duties in half depending on our personal expertise. Michael cut and chopped wood to create handmade chalkboard frames to hand letter the signage for the wedding. Alyssa gathered all of the perfect colors and different flower combinations to create our centerpieces. She wrapped all the vases by hand with jute to add a rustic look to match the rest of the décor. We combined this with raw cut wooden discs that were supplied by a great friend who is an arborist.
One of our most treasured piece from the wedding is the guestbook. We knew from the start we wanted a guestbook, but not one that would get tucked in a closet and never seen. This was a piece that we really wanted to stand out, something that no one has ever seen before. That concept and a lyric “let love grow” would lead us to the idea of a large flower planter that we could have on our porch or deck for years to come. Michael’s best man is a woodworker and after explaining the idea to him he ran with it and built something that truly surpassed our expectations. He made it so the back panel of the planter box could be removed and signed by our guests. After the event we were able to put a clear coat over the signatures to preserve them. We now have exactly what we wanted, a beautiful and unique piece for our outdoor space that reminds us of our big day and the ones that were there celebrating by our side.
This post is written on Rare Disease Day, to honor the memory and family of Ethan. It was written with the blessing of his family, and I hope this post both honors Ethan’s sweet little soul and also brings awareness of a terrible disease. Information on how to donate and help raise awareness is at the bottom of this post.
“Ethan was a boy made out of love and laughter. Arriving on June 12th with sparkling blue eyes and cornsilk hair, he was born into a family that adored him. He was Michelle’s sweet baby, Gordon’s only son, Sara and Amelia’s little doll. At four months Ethan’s unique gift emerged. His little baby body would produce the heartiest belly laughs we had ever heard. Pouring out of his cherubic lips, Ethan’s rolling giggles pulled everyone into his world of delight. Free from the weight of his body, Ethan will live the way that we remember him, in ethereal gazes, during quiet moments, and through unpredictable outbursts of joy. Long may that joy live, and long may we remember Ethan’s unforgettable laugh.”
I wish I didn’t have to write this post. I wish that sweet Ethan was still with us.
“David Ethan Klancnik, 19 months, passed away peacefully at his home in Arlington on January 29th. He was surrounded by his loving parents, Gordon and Michelle, and his wonderful sisters, Sara and Amelia.”
Ethan was born with Tay-Sachs, an always fatal disease.
I have been photographing the Klancnik Family since Ethan’s sisters were little babies. Every fall, I drive to Arlington and capture this family for a few hours- documenting them play, interact, and just enjoy a fall day.
A few months after Ethan was born, Gordon and Michelle emailed me and told me Ethan was very sick. They didn’t have a specific diagnosis at the time, but they knew something was terribly wrong. The day before our fall session, the family was given the awful news that Ethan had Tay-Sachs. I was heartbroken for all of them. During our session, things were different- they had just begun the darkest journey they would ever go on. I made it very clear to them that I would go on this journey with them, if they wanted me to. We discussed doing extra sessions, maybe in the spring and another in the fall, as they knew Ethan would get progressively worse. We’d capture him as many times as we could.
In mid-January, only seven weeks after our last session, I got another email. Ethan was already short on time. They asked if I could come soon, in the next few days. Of course I could.
On that drive to their home, I drove in silence. I thought about the Klancnik Family. How unfair it was. I wondered how Ethan’s older sisters were handling things. I wondered how strong they were. And, selfishly, I wondered how I’d document this family again, at such a difficult time and what I’d feel. I’m usually photographing smiles and silliness. This time, I was tasked with photographing the last days of their youngest family member. I reached out to other photographers I knew who had done similar work- I drew strength from them. They told me to trust my gut- to serve the family by following my heart.
Ethan had many family members at his home with him. His parents and sisters, both of his adoring grandmothers, aunts and uncles, godparents, and cousins. They were all there to say goodbye and help this family through an unimaginable time. I wasn’t sure what I’d photograph when I walked in the door, but as soon as I entered, it was easy: love. I’d photograph love.
I wrote this in my journal after the session:
“I have been documenting this family for over five years. They are some of my very favorite people on the planet. Ethan’s mom and dad had me come to the house and document the family once again today. They knew his time was very, very short.
It was the hardest photo assignment I’ve ever done, and one of the most difficult situations I’ve ever found myself in. To keep myself composed and focused on my job as I watched a family witness their baby slip away is not something I would wish upon anyone. So many tears and difficult moments.
Yet, as I wrestled with my own grief and the sadness of witnessing the grief of another family, I was also deeply honored and humbled to be called upon to do this job; the most important I’ve ever done. I felt like I was in a very holy space. Their house was a beautiful, sacred chapel that day.
I love this family. I love Ethan.
After a few hours of documenting Ethan’s life, I kissed his forehead and toes, knowing full well this would be the last time. I prayed over him silently, hoping for a peaceful transition.
So many tears. I tried hard at first to not cry, but after being there only minutes, I knew that was impossible. Tears flowed freely from everyone in the house. I’ve never sobbed behind my camera. I did today.
Ethan, you are so loved. You are a wonderful little brother, a perfect son. You will never be forgotten.”
Two weeks after our session, Ethan earned his angel wings. When someone passes, you want to reach out and help. There’s only one thing I’m very good at, and that’s documenting families. So I went to the memorial service and documented the love in that church. It was packed- not a single empty seat. I was crying so hard during “You Are My Sunshine” that I couldn’t even pretend to mouth the words. Children made cards for Ethan and his sisters. Some brought mementos. Others came with sincere hugs and words of comfort for the family. All I could do was bring my camera.
My favorite Christmas song is kind of strange. Even though I am not particularly religious, I’ve loved it since I was a child, but now that I am an adult, I realize that the song, “In the Bleak Midwinter” is more than a beautifully sweet melody. It is a call to action. A plea for all of us to do what we can- to use our talents and gifts, whatever they are, to serve others.
What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
yet what I can I give him? I can give my heart.
I humbly lay my gift for documenting families down in this moment. To this family. To the other families and organizations I will likely serve in the future. It’s my gift, and I want to use it for good. For change, to help those who suffer, to support those in need.
Seeing my photos of this family printed and posted around the memorial service made my heart heavy. So very heavy. I am honored to have been able to take these photos for them. It was an absolute privilege. Yet when I think about our session this coming fall, I feel incredibly sad that one important person will not be there. Sweet Ethan.
And now I’m asking my friends, family and clients to help me honor Ethan. His parents have started an organization, Tay-Sachs Awareness and Prevention. Please donate to their cause if you can, but more importantly- read up. Learn about Tay-Sachs. Read about the myths surrounding the disease and who is a carrier. Share this with others. Get tested to see if you or your partner is a carrier.
Dustin + Allison are married!
This was such a fantastic fall day, full of laughs and lots (and lots!) of love.
These two have known each other since elementary school, and it shows. Their sweet bond was so wonderful to document and the amazing details from their wedding just added to the day.
Venue :: Holly Hills Country Club (Elizabeth O’Connell) Tent :: Tents LLC (Brian Armacost) Invitations :: The Organized Bride (Tara Franklin)
Event Styling :: 2 Hands Studio (Ally and Jill)
Flowers :: Blossom and Basket Boutique (Rene Bonde Shiffler)
Photo Booth :: Picstacheo (Seth)
Sparklers :: Zambelli Fireworks (Kris Lindberg)
Band :: Bachelor Boys Band (Thai Matus)
Videography :: Buerhaus Design (Matt Buerhaus)
Wedding Dress :: J & B Bridal, Chambersburg, PA
Groom/Groomsmen/Fathers’ Suits :: Jos. A Bank
Hair :: Amanda Stick
Transportation :: On the Town Limousines, L.L. Trolley Express
Since Allison got ready in her childhood room, space was tight.
So when Allison came down the stairs with her dress and veil on, well, as you can see, it turned into such a lovely moment!
Three generations of rings- so sweet.