This post has been a LONG time coming. I first want to apologize to Kara and Andy for the delay on this, but this story needs to be told and it needs to be told just right.
You might want to buckle in as this is going to be a long one.
It is being trusted with and being able to tell stories like this that made me go from being a news photographer to a wedding photographer. Now do not get me wrong I feel everyone has a story to be told, it is just that some stories are more obvious than others.
Kara and Andy live in Kansas City but both grew up in rural Iowa. They are fantastic people with equally fantastic families. I have enjoyed every minute of my time with them.
I had the pleasure of being trusted with visually telling this story. I also had the pleasure of having my good friend Brooks Whittington, a very talented wedding photojournalist from Dallas, with me as we traveled to rural Iowa last fall.
I asked Kara if she minded if I did a blog post on her wedding and her story of her dad and asked if she would not mind jotting down a few facts so I did not screw them up. A week or so later I got an e-mail with her story. I sat and read it and fought back the tears. Therefore I am going to let her tell it.
“My family’s business is farming: about 2,000 acres of corn and soybeans…
My Dad also started/managed a huge chemical business (sales and consulting)
for farm application… now my brother Grant is leading all of this… a
huge amount for a 22 yr old to take on right out of college… his dream
was always to come back and farm with my Dad…
My Dad was a “larger-than-life” personality… he loved to make big
memories for us kids, as well as his nieces and nephews, and friends…. he
always made sure everyone else had a good time… he was the life of the
The night Andy and I got engaged was the best night of my life… It was a
couple weeks before Christmas and I had been planning a 30th surprise party
for Andy… I had invited his whole family, my parents, and his buddies
from back home…
My parents weren’t planning to make it because my Dad had just had both
knees replaced about 2 months prior… Andy had no idea…
Andy and I went out to eat that night and then strolled around the plaza
when Andy pulled off his own surprise… he had picked out the ring himself
– I had no idea! I was SO excited … I knew everyone was waiting for us
and they would have no idea either…how fun!
We got to the venue and everyone yelled surprise, then we did too!The best part was that I looked up and there in the back of theroom, my Mom and Dad had made it down after all!!!My Dad was SO thrilled… in fact they danced the night away and even outlasted Andy and I!
My Dad was so excited to host our wedding, originally set for 09.08.07…
everyone knew him as the premier “host” and expectations for fun were
always high when he was involved… Our wedding was his priority and he was
SO proud and honored to be able to put on this grand party for all of our family and friends.
I remember debating whether to have our wedding in KC or back home when I
realized how much my Dad yearned to host and then there was no choice but
to have it in my hometown – much more personal too, which I loved.
He was involved in the planning, the ideas, the fun of the whole thing…
he even sprung for the extra table linen overlays and chair covers as a
surprise for me on that day (I later found out from my Mom)…
He had also ordered via email (we later found out) the “best wedding toasts
of all time” for inspiration on what I know he considered to be the most
important speech of his life… his toast to his only daughter on her
My Dad and I were the best of friends… he was so pumped to have his
moment walking me down the aisle, as was I to share it with him, the person
I most looked up to in my life….
It was exactly one week before the wedding when I got a call from my Mom
saying my Dad had been in a bad accident… He had been out mowing when the
mower deck hit an exposed gas line… He suffered major burns.
He was flown to Omaha where we met him that night… even in his pain, the
nurses said all he talked about was the wedding the next weekend and how he
intended to be there no matter what… My Mom reminds me that even in the
hospital, he was more concerned about our wedding plans being ruined than he was
about the danger of his injuries to his own body and his pain…
It was very hard seeing him so vulnerable… the person I thought most
invincible… although the doctor did expect him to make a full recovery…
(after a hospital stay of 3-4 weeks)
I remember my Uncle making the comment that we would all get through the
wedding the next weekend and it would be great… when I remember
thinking… ‘no, we are not having our wedding with my Dad still in the hospital, so no choice but to postpone until he recovered…(which at that point we expected to re-plan for later that fall)
The doctor did expect things to go well and things were really looking great…
I stayed at the hospital for the first 8 days and he had made it
through the hardest surgery… things were looking very good…
I was back in KC for 3 days, when I got a call from my Mom the 3rd night
saying things had taken a turn for the worst… My Dad’s heart had stopped
and they couldn’t get it going again… we lost him that night… 11 days
after the accident… totally unexpected and hugely devastating for all of
The next months were the hardest of my life… the timing for me was
Andy was my rock and because our family had always been extremely close,
it’s what got us through… we have a very deep faith and believe that we
will all be united again!
Our community was outstanding with the offering of help and time… one of
the best parts of coming from a small town… because it was harvest season
when my Dad passed, there were 2,000 acres of corn and soybeans to bring in,
so the community put on a “harvest bee”… over 50 local farmers all
donated an entire weekend and their own equipment to bring in our family’s
crop… it was amazing to see… it was documented by local newspapers and tv stations…
Andy and I received many opinions in the days to come about how to move
forward with our wedding plans… in the end, I asked my Dad…
I could just hear him saying, “K, I want you two to have your wedding when
your hearts are lighter, when you’re able to focus on the joy of the day… ”
Andy and I realized that our original wedding plans had been the plans we had always wanted…
also the plans that my Dad and family had helped us create for the 9 months
leading up to it…
it would be crazy to do anything but… so it was settled… same plan,
same place, etc.
I believe that my Dad was right there with me when Andy and I experienced
our special day. And even though I didn’t get to physically see his overflowing pride and love, I felt it.
I think we all did. I can’t tell you how much it would have meant to me to
be able to hug my Dad, dance with him, walk down the aisle with him… my
greatest admirer and greatest admiration… truly my best friend…
In the end, the only way to describe it is ‘bittersweet’…
I’ve learned through this loss that relationships with loved ones don’t
just end… they are just different after they pass…my Dad will be a
source of love and grace and admiration for the rest of my life…
It’s also fused the four of us (Mom, Grant and Park) so tightly together
that I can’t imagine many other families even knowing what that feels like
Overall, having the wedding has resulted in tremendous healing for the four
of us (especially Parker)… it demonstrated to ourselves and to everyone
present that we are still a family and will celebrate as a family, grieve as a family,
and do it with dignity, pride and the deepest love!!”
The family mailbox marking the road to the Wells house.
The support I witnessed for Kara by her friends was incredible.
I really enjoyed watching Kara and her mom all day. They had a roller coaster ride of emotions. Her mom had total joy when she watched her daughter get her dress on.
Which turns emotional quickly. I am sure this was a bittersweet moment for Kara.
More support from her close friends.
Another wonderful moment between Kara and her mom as they make their way to the ceremony.
This is one of my favorite images of the day. When I am shooting there is no better feeling than being able to silently share a moment with my subject. I could just feel what Kara was feeling as she stood in her childhood living room looking in the mirror reflecting.
Finally, on the way to the church.
Kara told me in early meetings that she wanted to see Andy before the ceremony. She had a good reason. Not for pictures to keep a schedule. She just did not know how she was going to be that day and wanted the option to have Andy help her if in need. One thing for sure in her mind is she needed time alone in the balcony to reflect and watch the beginnings of the ceremony from afar. In the end she decided not to see Andy.
Kara’s dad was present all day. Earlier in the day Kara attached a tiny photo of her and her dad to her bouquet.
The emotions turn to excited. (photo by: Brooks Whittington).
Andy at the end of the aisle.
Love this moment. Kara’s brother walked her down the aisle. They carried a candle lit for their dad.
The family then met at the end of the aisle and stood together and lit a larger candle for dad.
The kids in and outside of the church were so fun to watch and brought a wonderful energy to the day.
Mr. Wells seemed to be on everyone’s mind.
The balloon release exit. Love this shot by Brooks.
Leaving on an emotional high. (Photo by Brooks).
I loved all the signs around the house that told wonderful stories.
So Brooks has a really cool thing he does called the unportrait. 7 min to make an unusual portrait. This one included a trampoline.
A little time alone before the reception.
Kara is a very talented graphic designer and made all of the programs and table cards.
The entrance to a very packed reception site.
Wonderful shot of Kara’s mom’s speech. (Photo by: Brooks)
A slideshow of Kara and Andy’s lives were put together.
It seemed a bit bitter sweet. (Photos by: Brooks)
Kara showed strength in giving a wonderful speech about her dad. Here her friends share in the emotion.
I found this to be amazing. Everyone stood to honor Kara’s mom.
An emotional first dance. (Photo by: Brooks)
Kara’s older brother walked her down the aisle. Her younger brother took over on the father/daughter dance.
Then the roller coaster ride went to pure party mode.
What a wonderful way to end it! (Photo by: Brooks)
Thanks for sticking it out through this long post. Thanks to Kara and Andy and their families for the trust and for letting us in. I will never forget it.