Some days, some moments, just change you.
August 26, 2017, was just one of those days.
Sherrie and Taylor Miller had been on my radar for years
as a couple I’d love to work with.
When Sherrie contacted me a few months ago and told me they were getting married in August, I was elated and so excited to photograph their Texas Hill Country wedding.

Sherrie chose to get ready at the incredible Eilan Hotel & Spa in San Antonio and then celebrate their nuptials at George Strait’s Scenic Loop Cafe.  The Scenic Loop Cafe boasts a beautiful outdoor garden area, hanging plants and lush foliage.  Guests would sit at rod iron tables, to witness the intimate ceremony Sherrie and Taylor dreamt of.  Having grown up only a mile down the road, Sherrie knew this was the place where she wanted to say “I do.”  She wanted her first dance as Mrs. Miller to be in the courtyard, underneath white string lights, as Taylor spun her around.  Her brother would strum her favorite country songs on the guitar, while she and Taylor danced the night away.

In the days before the ceremony, all eyes turned on Hurricane Harvey, as it made it’s way toward Texas.  Forecasts had it baring down on Texas on Saturday – Sherrie and Taylor’s wedding day.  Having driven almost 5 hours to attend, as I made my way toward San Antonio, I watched the clear skies shift to dark shades of gray.  Friday night, I prayed long and hard for Sherrie and Taylor.  For their family and friends.  For their wedding day.  Mostly, I prayed that they’d find joy through the storm.  That they’d be filled with happiness, that no weather could shake.

And that’s exactly what happened.

Though several curve balls, rain and massive wind gusts tried to upset their day; nothing could shake their joy.  All day long, these two had nothing but smiles and the best attitudes.  You’d never know the day wasn’t exactly as planned.  Watching how they navigated the storm, on their wedding day, spoke volumes to me about their character.  Their love.  And that joy isn’t based on perfect circumstances, but on choosing gratitude.
Perspective:  it’s always a choice.
These two couldn’t have been more grateful for this day, for each other.
To be husband and wife, was all they ever wanted.
That was all that really mattered.
That’s what made for a perfect day.

At one point, I teared up and stepped outside.  I was just so moved by their resiliency and staunch commitment to celebrate, come what may.  Their choosing joy taught me so much.  Life ISN’T perfect.  But we can choose joy.  Thank you, Sherrie and Taylor, for your example, and willingness to run out in the rain with me, to trust me.  And to get wet.  LOL!  It gave me some of the most meaningful images I’ve taken in a long time.
I’m so very grateful.

———

Outside the Eilan Hotel’s Honeymoon suite window.
Due to the wind and rain, they moved the ceremony inside at the last minute.
We snuck outside and took portraits under an overhang.
I just had to get some of the greenery behind them!
These girls were so fun!

I couldn’t stop laughing.
Taylor’s niece wasn’t quite sure what was happening here.

ALL day, I kept praying for a small window of time when the rain would let up, just a bit.
It did!
And these two amazing humans ran outside in the drizzle and crazy winds
(just look at the palms) to capture some portraits.
Taylor, battling the wind to fix Sherrie’s dress.
Millers, it’s #finallymillertime.  🙂
I’m so glad I was there with you through it all.  Thank you for being so amazing!
Blessings and joy, for a lifetime.

With gratitude,

Kate

Click here see Sherrie & Taylor’s amazing sunset engagement session on Enchanted Rock.

Hotel:  Eilan Hotel & Spa
Bride’s Dress:  David’s Bridal
Bridesmaid Dresses:  Altar’d State
Hair:  Ali Lynn at Ami Kristin Studio
Makeup:  Liz Maldonado
Venue:  Scenic Loop Cafe
Catering:  Scenic Loop Cafe
Flowers:  HEB Blooms
Cake:  Nothing Bundt Cakes

I can hardly believe that it’s been almost a year since these two said “I do.”  What’s even crazier to me – is that I never blogged this wedding!  Last year was a trying year for our family personally.  I did my best to take care of my clients, but sadly, things like blogging took a backseat.

Thankfully, this is a new season.  Both personally and professionally.  It’s my heart’s desire to let my couples know how important they are to me – and how much I LOVE telling their story.  So, at last (cue Etta James), here’s Cody and Sarah Goetz’s wedding at The Milestone Mansion, Denton, TX.
Sarah and Cody… you are a stunning couple.  Congratulations on Baby Goetz… can’t wait till he arrives!

With love and gratitude,

Kate

Hair and Make up:  Shelby Vest
Florist:  Mary Frances Wagnon, BellaBloom Couture Florals
Cake:  Selina DiCesare, Sweet Expressions
Dress:  Maggie Sottero
Bride’s Shoes:  Nina

After a crazy couple of weeks of shooting, back to school and busy family life activies, I told J all I wanted to do this Labor day weekend was rest.  Let’s do nothing – cookout.  Have kids over.  But all week long, J and I had watched, with the rest of America, while our Houston neighbors lost homes, pets, businesses.  Lives.  We’d donated, like so many, but both of us had been feeling like we were to do something physically.  We just didn’t know what.

Early Saturday morning, on Facebook, I saw a friend from church post that she was taking down supplies to friends and family in a community near Cypress.  I commented and told her how proud I was and that I wished we were there too.  She simply replied:  then come!  I looked at J, he looked at me.  A thousand thoughts ran through our heads:  Who am I?  Would we be in the way?  So last minute – shouldn’t we leave this to the professionals?  Yet, news reports showed that government workers can’t get to all the work.  They need citizens, working with Churches and volunteer organizations, to step in and help.  Houston was only 3.5 hours away.

In about 30 seconds, we made the decision.  We were willing, able.  Friends of ours in Austin would not only host us for the night, they were willing to watch our son and dog so we could take the girls and show them what it meant to serve others firsthand.  I looked online, found what donations were truly still needed, sent out a quick message to neighbors on our street telling them what we were doing.  Several donated money and supplies.  I went to local stores and cleared the shelves of underwear and socks.  Cleaning supplies and hygiene items.  And we headed out.

As a Photographer, I felt the importance of documenting our journey.  We’ve all seen many negative reports – but I had a feeling this wasn’t the real story, the headline story.  Sadly, there are people who will take advantage of brokenness, but MOST of us will band together and help.  My primary objective was to work and respect the individual privacy of those who’ve suffered.  So, I used my iPhone and an old camera, taking only a few images to share the story we experienced.  What we found encouraged our hearts and told the truth about the American spirit.  It’s alive.  Well.  And thriving in Houston.

On our way!

Her heart is a lot like her Mommas.  Burdened by need.

We were told most of the water has receded.  But this was what it still looked like Sunday morning in between Katy and Cypress.  Side of the highway.

When spent the morning helping a local school organize donations for a school that had been flooded.  We donated most of what we’d brought here, as the families and teachers needed to start over from scratch.  It was such a flurry of activity, car after car pulling up and dropping off donations, that I didn’t photograph here.  It would have felt disrespectful and dishonoring.

That afternoon, we joined a local church, The Met’s Hurricane Harvey Relief team.  We were so incredibly grateful to the Pastors and Staff that let us fold right in to their group.
What a fantastic church and group of servants!

Neighbors and strangers, serving elderly home owners.  Bringing cookies and food.  Banding together.  Young, old, every color – every religion (we saw Mormons, Sikh’s, Christians working side by side).  None of that mattered.  People, were helping people.  Smiling, laughing.  Caring for one another.
Y’all – this is the real America.
A lifetime of acquiring, spilled out on lawns.
Again, trying to respect privacy, I’ve blurred faces.  But I had to document, the yellow shirt gentlemen were a part of a Mormon Church that had brought in a van of helpers.
We saw them literally pull onto a street and pile out of a van asking home owners if they could assist.
This type of help is happening everywhere.
Outside of the home we worked in.  The owners had sustained heavy damage on the first floor.  Almost everything was lost.  Floors and walls were ripped out 3-4 feet high.
The homeowners were so wonderful.  For the first time in my life, I experienced what it felt like to interact with strangers with walls down, doors open.  We walked up, shook hands and entered into their home after a brief introduction.  I embraced the homeowner and she smiled warmly sharing how after years of helping her elderly neighbors, she now was the recipient of strangers helping her.  And that she wished she had something to offer, to give back in return.  Her husband shook my husband’s hand and told him, when we are ever in crisis, he’s coming up to help.  Smiling now, not even knowing their names, this opportunity did more for our hearts than any gift ever could.
Everyone is doing something.  Houston is hot, humid.  These sweet Girl Scouts walked around handing out popsicles to every home.  For free.  (I did get permission to take these photos.)

My sweeties.  Gloved up and going in.  Even with two of the same glove.  Lol!

Post demo.  We’re now nail removing pros. 🙂
Many thanks, again, to The Met Pastors’ Christian, Brad and Scott who let us join their serve team.  If you are local(ish) to the Houston area and want to help, please visit their website and sign up to serve.  You can access that link here:  Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts.

If you are looking to donate items, I’d highly recommend checking with local sources first.  The needs are changing hourly.  Most churches, shelters, etc., are no longer taking water and clothing – due to the overwhelming generosity.  Gift cards are extremely helpful.  As of today, this article still had relevant information, but I would recommend doing online research prior to donating specifically to an organization:  The Texas Tribune.

Texas natives:  we weren’t born here, but we’re so glad we landed here.  We love being Texans.  We love your heart, spirit and how you care for one another.  The Panza’s are so very glad and grateful to call this place home.

With gratitude,

Kate

SOME Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts & Places to Donate:
The Met Church, Cypress, TX
The American Red Cross (or text HARVEY to 90999 to donate $10)
Texas Workers Relief Fund
Samaritan’s Purse
Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund
Michael & Susan Dell Foundation | Rebuild Tx Fund

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of touring a new venue in Northeast Dallas:  The Grand Ivory.  The beautiful new white barn venue, offers Couples a variety of options for their wedding day nuptials, unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

–  A separate chapel, with removable windows, which overlooks a picturesque pond.
–  A barn reception area, large enough to accommodate 275 guests.
–  An Ivory archway, for stunning outdoor ceremonies.
–  A string light courtyard, perfect for cocktail hour or that last private dance.
–  A stand alone Bridal Cottage, with pond views.
–  A stand alone Groom’s Cottage, with a tv, pool table and comfortable seating.

This beauty sits nestled on gentle rolling hills and spans 18 acres.  On the day of our tour, the owners, Parker & Ashley, were watering foliage and caring for the grounds.  Ashley was warm like sunshine, introducing herself and extending arms for a hug.  I could tell right away, this was more than ownership.  This was a dream, lovingly curated to life.  Take a look below, for yourself.

The barn.
The chapel.
Chapel doors.

His perspective.
Ashley, guiding beautiful Bride to be, Krystina, and her Mom, Rhonda to the Bridal Cottage.

I adore this porch swing!
Inside the Bridal cottage.
Her view of the pond.
The Groom gets a place all to himself!
The barn!
Love is always found in the details.
Table for 2.
Can you imagine the possibilities for florals here?!
This is a narrow view of the oversize covered porch off the left side of the barn.  Perfect for cocktail hour!
New gravel is going down in the string courtyard,
along with 4 additional posts, for added ambiance and a perfect backdrop.
  If white barn weddings make your heartbeat faster, I’d highly recommend touring The Grand Ivory.
Click here to set up a private tour.
With gratitude (and love for white barn weddings),

Kate

Sorry, not sorry:  this will probably be a long post.  You see, I dove in completely to rest during our vacation this month.  Unplugged, put my camera down and away (although the following would make it seem I didn’t ;).  My batteries were recharged, y’all.  I fell in love with my people all over again… and with picking up my camera.  I’ve had such joy editing these images and hope they’ll fill you with joy, peace and rest.  Wherever you are.

Here’s a look at the lovely home we stayed in for the week.

I can never get enough of seeing my children sleep.
At some point, it will be weird and awkward (they are growing up),
but for now, my guy still smiles when he sees Mommy there in the morning.

This is the view from the crow’s nest.  The sound alone was amazing.
But the view… sigh.  I spent several hours here each day.

Days were spent driving around in a golf cart.
That was probably one of the most charming and unique things about this little community.  You take a golf cart – everywhere!

This day we checked out the pier…

The beauty about staying so close to the beach, we could easily come and go when someone needed a break.
We could change suits and eat at “home.”  It truly made this trip so restful!

It was BRIGHT this morning.
We spent all day collecting mussels.  We collected thousands of them, loading buckets and watching them move about.
At the end of the day, we set them free.
This was our first family vacation to a Texas Beach.
Port Aransas was lovely and was just what we needed to rest and reconnect.
We loved it.

If you’d like to stay in the same lovely home we did, click here.

With Gratitude,

Kate