My first day of summer break was spent road tripping down to SoCal to celebrate Josh & Tracy's wedding early last month! I've known Josh since I transferred to Berkeley at the beginning of my junior year. We met through InterVarsity and both ended up joining a yearlong small group called Life Discipleship (LD). During our senior year, we would meet up at the corner of Channing and College to walk to our Psych 126 (Psychology of Perception) class...that is, if Josh didn't choose to sleep in that morning. Clay has also known Josh for even longer than I have through their Unit 2 small group freshmen year. We have definitely all come a long way since those college days. Clay and I are both thankful that we have been able to keep in touch, especially through all of Josh's prayer updates during his three years away at seminary in Boston. It's been fun sharing life updates with each other and kinda funny that I ended up in seminary as well.
Anyway, Josh, it was great being able to see you come full circle, becoming a pastor at the very church where you grew up...and then getting to witness your marriage union there as well. Thanks for taking the time to webcam with me and Clay amidst all the busyness just two weeks leading up to your wedding day! We really enjoyed taking you and Tracy out during the middle of your reception for a quick 18-minute photo shoot! (I looked at the time stamp - it was from 7:48pm to 8:06pm if you guys are curious, haha.) Even though our first visit to LACMA turned out to be way more chaotic than we expected (with all the tourists, photo bombers, & that group of singers that serenaded you guys), I think we ended up with a pretty good set of photos to add to your wedding day album! (Major props to Clay for photoshopping all those people out in several of these pictures.)
One of the major reasons why I love shooting engagement sessions so much is because it gives me the opportunity to witness and celebrate my couple friends during such a special (yes...sometimes super stressful, but still very special) time of their lives. I not only get to capture how far they have come in their own unique relationship journeys, but also the ever-growing love that continues to move them forward to their wedding day. It's my way of helping them highlight the joys of that season and cheering them on to the even more exciting days ahead!
That is why I am so excited to share these photos of my dear friends, Nick and Grace, who have been on quite a journey of their own since they started dating almost six years ago! I've known Nick for a long time since we grew up at the same church (everyone in his family is pretty much like family to me). I remember during group sleepovers, it'd always be fun to (get hyper/ridiculous) and pester him about his love life...staying up to question him over and over again if he liked anyone...even though absolutely no information whatsoever would ever come out of it. Summer of 2011, it was quite obvious that that had changed when he suddenly started organizing several different events at church, one of which was this super awesome Nagashi Somen event where we ate noodles, oranges, and other fun things as they slid down...a rain gutter?! (Here is a photo of Nick and a photo of Grace from that afternoon.) At the same time, I was moving to Berkeley for school and getting to know Grace, who instantly became one of my most reliable college girl friends amidst a time of transition. I was very happy for Nick to have found someone as sweet and as kind as Grace. Over the years, Clay and I have had lots of fun with these two. A couple of my favorite memories with Nick and Grace include playing Dance Central together during a sleepover the night before Grace's Raging Water birthday party and when we decided to try Kula Revolving Sushi Bar together so we could eat yummy Japanese treats from a conveyer belt! Clay and I also enjoyed helping Nick when he planned an elaborate Bachelor-themed proposal and Beauty & the Beast-themed engagement party for Grace last December (you can read more about that here on How He Asked).
A couple months ago in January, on a rainy day morning, my dear friends Kirstie (my birthday twin!) and Jeff got engaged! These two have a truly special relationship story that started over ten years ago during their high school days. Jeff had actually asked Kirstie to his prom by taking her to a local park in Cupertino and giving her a booklet that he had illustrated and put together. Even though they went their separate ways after graduating high school and college, God eventually brought them back to each other when Jeff moved back to the Silicon Valley for work. When the two finally began dating last year, I could not have seen this girl happier. Any moment, I could always expect a very excited text update about something fun and encouraging that was taking place in their quickly-growing relationship. And I was certainly not surprised at all when Jeff decided to create a new and updated volume of his illustrated booklet to ask her to marry him at the same local park from back in high school!
Here's a little bit about my friendship with Kirstie. She has been a close friend of mine since we started sharing the same home church and college. In fact, when I transferred to Cal and hardly knew anybody, she immediately welcomed me to InterVarsity, our Christian fellowship. My first semester there, she also picked me up after class on our 20th birthday so we could buy each other lunch from Gregoire's and cupcakes from Love at First Bite. And since then, every year we have managed to get together on our/around our birthdays to share a special dessert and celebrate each other. Of course, I was more than happy to help when she asked me if I would be interested in photographing her and Jeff. These two smiley love birds made my job super easy. Even though it was a cold and rainy Sunday morning early before church (and everyone was getting sick), we were able to semi-spontaneously find a nice spot along the coast at Marine Fitzgerald Reserve. Fun fact: The three of us decided to step over a fence and stand right at the edge of a cliff for 85% of these photos! Another fun fact: You may have noticed that I was very intentional about incorporating negative space in my photos this time. That was done per the request of Kirstie, who I have officially deemed the queen of negative space.
Our honeymoon to the Big Island of Hawaii was one of the most fun-filled, adventurous, yet relaxing trips I had ever been on. Getting to explore all over the island was truly the best way to spend our first two weeks of marriage together! We loved that the Big Island had an abundance of nature and tons of good food to offer. And it was less touristy than we expected (so much less busy than Oahu)! Our top three favorite things about this island were: 1) colored sand beaches, 2) the Mauna Kea Observatory, and 3) Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (of course!). We also loved getting acquainted with Kailua-Kona and Hilo, the two main areas on the island where we stayed.
Here is a list of all the places we visited (with some notes!):
-Mauna Kea Visitor Center and Summit: Dress warmly for some evening star gazing! They set up telescopes outside the visitor center after the sun sets, so that you can get a better look at the visible planets. We got to see Saturn, Mars, the Andromeda Galaxy, and the Milky Way! They also have scheduled star tours. Our star tours guide helped us to identify so many constellations, including Hercules, the Square of Pegasus, Corona Borealis, Scorpio, Sagittarius (the teapot), and Delphinius.
-Hawaii Vocanoes National Park: Make sure to have some sturdy hiking boots, long pants, and plenty of water if you want to embark on the 10.5 mile hike to see red lava! This was for sure one of the most unreal, yet memorable hikes we had ever been on. It was amazing getting to walk on rugged volcanic terrain (towards the end of the hike) to see lava pour out into the ocean - even if it meant trekking through rain and steam! But even if you're not up for a five-hour hike, the park is definitely still worth visiting. You can go see the Kilauea glow over at the Jaggar Museum and walk through the Thurston Lava Tube. There are also lots of steam vents and craters to check out!
-Papakolea Green Sand Beach (3-mile windy hike to the beach)
-Punalu'u Black Sand Beach
-Kekaha Kai State Park - Mahai'ula Section (rugged unpaved drive)
-Kekaha Kai State Park - Manini 'owali Section (good for sunbathing)
-Hapuna Beach (famous white sand beach / umbrella & beach chair rentals available)
-Carlsmith Beach Park (lagoons in Hilo)
-Kahalu'u Bay (where we saw sea turtles for the first time while snorkeling!)
-Mauna Kea Beach (very good snorkeling among the rocks) - Kim's favorite snorkeling spot!
-Big Island Divers (we went on a manta ray night snorkel excursion with them!)
-Fair Winds Snorkel Cruise (to snorkel Captain Cook Monument and Kealakekua Bay)
-Rainbow Falls (Lookout)
-Boiling Pots & Peepee Falls
-Akaka Falls State Park (short loop to see one of the island's highest free falling waterfalls)
-Waipio Falls in Waipio Valley (need a 4WD to go down to see this one)
National Historic Parks:
-Pu'uhonua o Honaunau (City of Refuge National Historical Park)
-Kaloko-Honokohau (Hawaiian fishing ponds)
Other Points of Interest:
-South Point Cliff Dive (only if you're brave & crazy like Clay)
-Kaumana Caves (but be careful not to bump your head like Kim did)
-Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
-Pohoiki Warm Spring (don't go there! it's just a small warm pond)
-Ahalanui Park (don't go there! it didn't seem very sanitary to us)
-Waipio Valley Lookout
-Historic Honokaa Town
-Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitor Center
-Basically Books in Hilo
-Hilo Massage Center Spa Vive
Where to Stay:
-Aeolani - Panoramic Views/Pool Airbnb in Kailua-Kona
-Ka'awa Loa Plantation Bed & Breakfast in Captain Cook (yummy Hawaiian breakfasts!)
-Hale 'Ohai Monkeypod Tree House Airbnb in Pahoa (neat architecture, loud crickets at night)
-Dreamy Tropical Tree House Airbnb in Fern Forest (dreamy indeed, but very off-the-grid)
-Glorious Ocean Views and Breezes Airbnb in Kapoho Beach community
Where to Eat in Kona:
-Umeke's Fish Market, Bar & Grill
-Island Lava Java
-Sundried Specialties (we went twice for poke & lobster crab cakes!)
-The Coffee Shack
-Kaaloa's Super Js (authentic hawaiian food - they're known for their laulau)
-One Aloha Shave Ice
-808 Grindz (one of our favorites - we got the kalua pork benedict and steak & eggs over fried rice)
-Broke Da Mouth Grindz (another one of our favorites - we got pork adobo, garlic furikake chicken, & spam musubi)
-Chirashi Sushi Don By Jiro (very delicious chirashi bowls & shrimp tempura!)
-Kope Lani Coffee & Ice Cream
Where to Eat in Hilo:
-Puka Puka Kitchen (breaded and deep-fried shrimp)
-Hawaiian Style Cafe (great for some breakfast or lunch)
-Poke to Your Taste
-Kawamoto Store (Japanese grocery store that sells okazuya box lunches)
-Just Cruisin' Coffee
-Pineapples Island Fresh Cuisine
-Lanky's Pastries (coconut & custard pastries)
-Kaleo's Bar & Grill
-Le Magic Pan (crepes)
For Next Time:
-Kapoho Tide Pools (snorkeling)
-Two Step (snorkeling)
I truly could not have imagined a more wonderful afternoon with the most dearest girls that God has placed in my life. I have so much gratitude for my amazing bridesmaids and lovely girl friends for throwing me the ultimate alice in wonderland shower! Everything was more than I could ever have dreamed of: all the crazily creative decorations, the extraordinary wonderland-themed table centerpiece, the homemade photo booth props + backdrop, the delightful afternoon tea party, the fun and fitting bites to eat (those purple cupcakes!), the games with just the right amount of silly (Alice Coop!), the once-in-a-lifetime experience of playing backyard croquet with flamingos, the generous gifts and cards, the much-needed prayer in the form of a beautiful fabric bunting, and most of all...just being surrounded by so many of my favorite faces. I was so tremendously blessed by the presence of each and every one of my lady friends who have done so well to encourage me in my relationship with Clay the past 3+ years and to share in all my excitement for this next stage of married life with him.
Also, a BIG thank you to my talented photographer friend, Ronnie, for helping me capture my experience in wonderland! You can see more of her wonderful photography work here! :)
Just capturing as I go.