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Hannah & Angel

They say that if it rains on your wedding day, that it's actually a sign of good luck, that you can weather any storm that comes your way in your marriage. I like that sentiment. Boy, do I hope it's true! This last weekend, I traveled to Sioux City, IA for not just one, but two weddings. Both had intended to have outdoor ceremonies, and neither remained outdoors for long. I was fortunate enough to have my teammate Max film the wedding of Jessica and Timothy Dunnick, but this story is unfortunately not about them. In fact, this post is about my experience at the wedding I filmed at for Hannah and Angel Jurado at the Marriott Riverfront Hotel.

With the rain at my back, and a river of opportunities ahead of me, I walked into the Marriott early that morning. I had been there once before for another wedding toward the earlier days of my career, and I remembered so many incredible things about the venue. The high glass walls create a very open and bright concept that work perfectly for photographing in. The stairwells and glass railings brag a very modern look while still holding that relaxed, laid back vibe. We would use these features later for capturing the couple together.

I camped my equipment in the reception hall, finely decorated as always with golden art displays, mirrored ceilings, large draperies behind the head table, and the cocktail space ready to serve. I found my way across the building to an elevator that would lead me to the top floor, and from there to room 547. Behind me stood a girl who seemed to be going up as well, so I generously allowed her to get on first. She remarked that she was also going to the top floor, so I pressed the five and the doors closed behind us. I said nothing to her, not trying to be rude, but not having anything important to say. Soon, the doors slid open, letting us both out, and she began down the hallway. I followed close behind, searching for the bridal suite. Finally, she stopped in front of a door at the end of the hallway, room 547.

"I don't mean to follow you, I guess we're just both going to the same place," I joked.

I assumed she might have been a bridesmaid. She smirked at me, and together we walked inside.

Hannah greeted us with a warm smile. The girl smiled back and shook Hannah's hand, stating that her name was Shalee. I immediately realized how blind I had been. Shalee was the photographer. I introduced myself as Shane, and Shalee must have had a similar moment of realization. We looked at each other and laughed between ourselves, somehow, not having realized who we were.

I always find it exciting to see what kind of energy both sides give off. The ladies were gushing over a series of music videos with Harry Styles in them while Shalee and I captured the details and dress. After that, I went down to meet the guys. I knocked on the door and was immediately greeted by Angel, the groom. I was told afterward that the whole shirt and underwear thing is pretty normal for him. His groomsmen... well... I found them in the heart of a Yu-Gi-Oh duel, while another pair finished off a Pokemon battle. These were my kind of people. I stayed with them for a bit while they finished getting ready, and when he was well pandered in his suit, I took Angel downstairs to get ready for the first look with his soon to be bride.

Of course we would have loved to have it outside, but the rain was still fighting us, and we settled instead for a nice open space with great lighting and above all... private. Sometimes when I do first looks, the bridal party will snoop or a parent will try to sneak glances from the sidelines. Not this time. We wanted to make sure that it was just us this time, and I think we were all the better for it. When she approached him, you could feel the atmosphere change. An electricity filled the room, and it wasn't coming from the storm outside. In this industry, there are moments that you can just tell are about to be good, and these two did not disappoint. They read their letters to each other, both barely able to hold it together, and laid out their love for each other without shame or a care in the world. I think it was when Hannah broke that I started to lose it myself. She had been absolutely incredible planning this wedding, so detail oriented, so focused and organized. I think his words to her were the permission she needed to release all of the stress and it came in a flood. None of the four of us had a dry eye to be seen, and when they turned finally to see each other, that electricity cascaded out and lit up the whole world. Shalee and I gave them a moment to be by themselves and we stepped out into the hallway to catch our breaths and wipe our own tears.

We spent the next few hours jumping from couple photos and videos to the bridal party and finally their families. Everyone was so fun to work with, and I only had to threaten my dad jokes two or three times to a few bridal party members who couldn't quite find a candid smile. After we finished, we set up for the ceremony which was now in a neighboring ballroom. It was a simple set up, but nothing could have been dull about it with the music that we got to jam out to. Our DJ, Alex with Nota DJ had arrived on the scene!

Now let me tell you quick about Alex! I've had the opportunity to meet him a few times at several bridal shows in the area, and he has always been fun, kind, and great to talk with. His set up is just the right size of impressive and oh so cool, and I had heard that he was a master on the mixer. When I heard that he would be our DJ for the night, I was way too excited.

The room filled with people anxious for the couple to enter, and some for the food that we could smell coming from the kitchen. I'll let you decide which side I was on. And then, finally, they were there. Angel took his bride by the hand, and I noticed something almost immediately. He could not let her hand go! I know that to some that might come across as a red flag, but that's not what I mean. I mean, you could tell that she was his rock, that despite the wind outside, as long as he held on to her, he would be anchored, and he couldn't let her go. Later during the toasts, this point would actually come up, much to the embarrassment of both Angle and Hannah. After a reading from Colossians 3:12-15 from Angel's mother, and another emotional reading of vows, the Jurados were married, and the party began.

Immediately, Alex got to setting the mood in the reception hall while the bridal party got wild upstairs. I met a few guests downstairs, enjoyed some appetizers, and captured a few more details while we waited for the grand entrance. Finally, the moment came, and one by one the bridal party entered the room to thunderous applause. Each one of them was throwing t-shirts out into the crowd, which I knew would be interesting as every table had water glasses and candles on them. Then, Angel and Hannah walked in, and once again, electricity filled the room. They cut the cake right away, said a few kind words of thanks, and then prayer was said for the meal.

We enjoyed absolutely incredible service from the waiting staff as we dived into a fresh salad, loaves of bread and butter, chicken, beef, pork, potatoes, and veggies. Everyone was so kind and thoughtful, and for once, I got to actually sit with both the photographer and DJ for supper. That usually doesn't happen. Right after we finished eating, some of the family brought in large tubs draped with towels. I asked what they were, and to my delight, I discovered that we were having a churro bar complete with caramel, whipped cream, and frosting. Just... yum!

And then, it was time. Shalee and I took the two love birds outside for sunset photos. The rain had finally stopped and we were treated to a nice warm sunset on the clouds overlooking the bridge that lead back into downtown. We played with some new pose ideas, and I took out the drone one last time to get some overhead shots of the two. Shalee had several creative ideas to include. I think she had been really waiting for that moment all day long, so I really got to see her shine. When we finished, we all went back inside for speeches, dances, and games.

We played an impressive scavenger hunt, pulling in almost $2000 for the couple in the end, and the girls took the grand prize: a chance at $1000. That is... a $1 scratch off card provided by Alex with a max prize of $1000. When the time had come, he lit up that dance floor and even opened it up with my one request of the night: September by Earth, Fire, and Wind. I stepped out to grab several interviews with the guests after boogying a little too hard, and was astounded to discover a crowd of people ready to say something, anything on camera for the couple. When I finished, I came back in to pack up, but first... one last game.

It's called La Vibora De Le Mar or "The Sea Snake". During the game, the bride and groom will stand on two chairs and be held up by their bridal party members, their friends, and their family. Guests will link hands with each other into a long snake, first with the women, and then the men. While music plays, the snake of people race around the room, weaving between chairs and tables, and underneath the couple, all the while doing their best to knock them down off the chairs. It sounds violent, and... it kind of is, but Alex explained it to me like this. The game represents life, and that things are going to come your way and do their best to knock you down. In the end, it's the ones we love who help hold us up, and they will always support you.

Vendor Contacts

Marriott Riverfront Hotel - 402-494-4000

Shalee Mccullough - S&Lee Photography LLC - 515-215-2017

Alex Mauricio - NOTA DJ Services - 712-790-7798

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