To say that Josie and Jake's wedding was just what I needed in the middle of an Iowa winter is an understatement.

Have you ever met someone and immediately known that you were meant to be best friends? That was what it was like talking with Josie for the first time. She shared that like so many other couples, they had expected to get married a few years prior with a large wedding and guests galore, but the pandemic squashed those plans. Instead of feeling crushed about the turn of events, it gave them the opportunity to reflect on what they really wanted on their wedding day—a chance to focus on how their relationship is strengthened by their relationships with friends and family. After getting to know their priorities for their wedding day—"I just want to hang out, drink, and look good," Josie poetically mused—we set a plan for an untraditional day centered around friends, family, and laid-back vibes.

We met at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden on a Wednesday at sunrise—which, in January is only 8:00am, so we sound a lot cooler than we actually were. Josie and Jake had their first look and private vows nestled amongst the tropical plants, making the winter chill feel hundreds of miles away. (One of the reasons the Botanical Garden is one of my favorite venues in Des Moines—it's like a jungle vacation but you don't even need your passport.) Their ceremony in the main atrium was surrounded by close friends and family, how they had always wanted it.

Following the ceremony guests headed to Americana, one of Jake and Josie's favorite spots, to celebrate over brunch and cocktails. I snuck off with the bride and groom for some portraits around the East Village, Downtown Des Moines, and the Des Moines Sculpture Park, braving the cold and keeping each other warm with lots of snuggles and laughter. We met up with the rest of the crew just in time for a costume change from the bride, giving everyone yet another opportunity to tell Josie how freaking fabulous she looked.

After to-go boxes had been packed and hugs good-bye were had, we looked around the room at those of us left and asked the only question we could: anyone want Das Boot? Our small group hitched it over to Hessen Haus to finish the day with beer, speeches, stories, shots...and did I mention beer? We shared stories, shared one too many phone photos of dogs, and flicked a boot (or six).

Eventually I pulled Josie and Jake away for some alone time and a few portraits nestled into a corner booth and as I sat down to reflect with them on the day, Josie mentioned the booth we were sitting in was the exact spot she and Jake ever met. It was one of those moments that—as cheesy as it sounds—makes me feel grateful that I get to share these incredibly special moments with my couples. Taking pictures isn't just a nice way to save memories, it's a way to tell full stories. And being able to tell Josie and Jake's was truly a pleasure.

Groomsman helps groom put on tie in DSM Botanical Garden atrium.
Mother of the groom looks proudly at her son
Rings stacked on a large palm leaf at the Great Des Moines Botanical Garden