My Mom turned 60 years old today, but really I should be saying 60 years young! She looks great for her age and believe me, she knows it. She’ll never miss the chance to tell you one of her many stories about her customers at the bank who are left in total disbelief after they learn her age. Just last month when we were in Florida together someone thought I was her husband! Surely I’ll never hear the end of that one.
All kidding aside though, the fact is my Mom is just as beautiful today as I’ve always known her to be. Inside and out. Maybe even more so now that I’m grown and able to understand just how selfless a person she’s always been for us.
Happy sixty Mom, we love you. Don’t worry, it’s just a number, you don’t look a day over 30!
Kim and Will got married and it was about as Kim and Will as it could’ve been. Every color of the rainbow, dungeons and dragons lore, all accounted for. They did it their way, and that made it perfect.
So thankful to share their day with them, and for all our days past, and all the ones still ahead.
You forget just how much family you really have until you get them all in the same room. We did just that for my Grandfather’s 86th birthday. All his grandchildren, some of us scattered across the country, came together for him. Can only hope all those years down the road the story goes the same way when it’s my turn.
My Mom’s side of the family got together for us at my Cousin Michelle and Mario’s house too. It was a great time. We ate, we drank, we laughed, and saw lot’s of faces. Some I hardly recognize anymore.
Going back is always a nostalgic flood. A reminder of where I come from. Things get so busy, you almost start to forget. But we always go back. Thankful for a small place in a big world that will always have us. You know what they say, home is where the Italian beef sandwiches are.
Crazy to think it’s been eight months already since I married my best friend. We’ve been holding off on sharing the whole thing until we had all our photos and footage back from our photographer, and till we could organize it all in one big post online. Something we can look back on the rest of our lives. No matter what social platforms rise and fall through the years, or how blurred our memories might get the more we collect, this will always be safe here. For the rest of our days, and the days there after. This took way, way longer than we wanted it to, for a couple reasons, but my God, it’s finally done! The wait has nearly driven my parents to the brink of insanity. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right, right?
A wedding is only a day, but there’s so much that goes on behind the scenes leading up to it. It’s a long windy road made of equal parts, fun, love, and absolute chaos. Guess the best place to kick this off is where we started ourselves. For us, after our engagement, it was venues. We looked at a few, all within an hour of Los Angeles. Some good, some bad, and some ugly. We planned to see a couple more in Palm Springs, but the last one got us. A little place called Quail Ranch. A family owned and worked avocado ranch, hidden on a hilltop in Simi Valley. How Californian of us. We knew this was our one before we even finished walking the grounds. Spoiler alert, there were no quails.
With the venue, came the date. September 1st, 2017. Coincidentally, the same day I moved to Los Angeles, ten years earlier. The Friday of Labor Day Weekend. Also meant we had 8 months till the big day. Planning a wedding is a tall order, but if I’m being honest, I wouldn’t know too much about it. I’d say Alexis planned 95% of the whole thing. Might even be too generous giving myself that 5%. She absolutely knocked it out of the park. We made the big decisions together, and a lot of smaller ones too, but for the most part, she sailed the ship. Can’t imagine if our roles were reversed. Would’ve ended in writing apologies instead of thank you cards I think.
Creating has always been my thing, and really that’s where I helped out. I made a website and all sorts of fun illustrations for invites and signage. I also appointed myself as our Senior-Chief-Budgeting-Strategist. Judging by the final tab though, not sure finance is my second calling.
Those 8 months we had went flying. I was working a lot. Freelance by day, more freelance by night. We were spending and I wanted to balance that. Alexis regularly works long days, which made planning that much harder. It was a busy time for sure, but it wasn’t all work though. Cakes and desserts were tasted. A few weekends were stolen to get out of town here and there. We had our bachelor and bachelorette parties. Really though, those 8 months flew.
Seemed like before we knew it, it was the week of. Vows were being written, out of towners were making their way in, and any loose ends were being double knotted. Everything was pretty much locked down and going smoothly. 95% thanks to Alexis. Even had time to hang with my best man, my brother Joey, who doesn’t live anywhere near us. It was the first time he’d been to Los Angeles. I had avoided the Peterson Auto Museum for ten years so that if I went, it’d be with him. He likes cars a lot and he loved it. Everything was going great. But of course, like any good story, the curve balls started coming.
Alexis’ Mom, Elizabeth, took a pretty bad spill at the Orlando airport, but she powered through to get to Los Angeles. It wasn’t till she landed that the damage really set in. Walking or even standing on her own wasn’t looking great. After a trip to the ER, turned out she fractured her kneecap. The doctors got her in a cast, and sent her on her way. In between picking up flowers, renting and packing up cars, we were hunting for a wheel chair, a cane, crutches, hot-cold compresses, anything that could help. This is all about 24 hours before our inaccessible, fully outdoor wedding was about to happen. With all we had going on the day before the wedding, felt pretty awful not being around for her more. She’s a lot tougher than the average bear though, and we had good family helping her through it.
It’d been a crazy morning, but we still had a rehearsal to make. We loaded up cars and headed up to West Lake Village Inn, the resort we’d be calling home for the long weekend. Most of our friends and family followed suit. We checked in, dropped off perishables, and headed straight to our venue for rehearsal. Here’s where the second curve balls starts to come in. The mother of them all.
A Heat wave. Slowly but surely one had been scorching it’s way across Southern California the past few days. Was looking pretty bad. At this point, we’d been obsessively checking the forecast every hour, hoping it’d start to break. It wasn’t. Thought maybe we’d see the venue was more shaded than we remembered once we got to rehearsal. It wasn’t. Let me tell ya, I was sweating bullets just standing in a t-shirt and shorts. On the brink of mental meltdown imagining wearing a suit and doing the same thing the next day. It wasn’t the wedding day just yet though, and we hadn’t lost hope for tomorrow. My Mom assured us she was praying.
We headed back to the resort, got all cleaned up and headed over to rehearsal dinner. Had it right there on the grounds. Worked out perfectly and was a big win in a day full of craziness. My parents we’re kind enough to host the whole night for us. We didn’t expect that from the get-go and it was much appreciated. It was really a nice thing to spend some time with the Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins I don’t normally get to see. The real trick was not drinking too much in a celebratory mood and knowing you’re getting married in less than 24 hours. We made out alright though. Even managed to get to bed at a decent hour. Getting to bed and getting sleep, are two entirely different things though. Turns out there’s a lot on the mind the night before you get married.
Regardless how much sleep you get the night before, there appears to be no problem getting out of bed the day of your wedding. Wasn’t long before Alexis kicked me out of our suite anyways to start getting ready with her girls. I passed the hours hanging with my six groomsmen. Gave me a chance to give them the illustrations I made and framed for them. Each one made of memories and inside jokes from our years together. Puts a smile on my face seeing them in their homes now. Eventually, we all got suited up and shuttled over to the ranch. All the while, my Dad is saving the day, running all over town picking up all sorts of orders we arranged for. Later learned he was pretty under the weather. What a guy. Even at 31 years old, I still see him as a superhero.
The girls were already toasting champagne in their suite by the time we got there. The guys spent a little more time together in our own suite. Shooting pool, pictures, and the breeze.
It wasn’t long before I left them behind to meet my Fiancé for our first look. You gotta understand, Alexis is the type that wakes up looking beautiful. She’s just got it. Always has, always will. My point is, when she does get all done up.. well, just watch out. She looked absolutely stunning. Like a dream. Reinforcing my theory that I’m as lucky as they get. My brother asked me the night before just how in the hell I pulled it off. I sometimes wonder myself but I’m sure as hell not asking any questions.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, we must’ve took enough to fill an encyclopedia. Us, the bridal party, family. We wanted to get most of the photos squared away before the ceremony, so we could have more time to just, you know… have fun.
Oh yeah, remember that heatwave? The curveball to end all curveballs? The one we were holding out hope would break by the wedding? It didn’t. It was 106° that day. That’s no typo. One-hundred-and-six degrees. At an outdoor wedding and reception. SoCal heat is a dry heat, but hell, triple digits take no prisoners. That said, we actually got really, really, REALLY lucky with one thing. Overcast. Some clouds settled in that day and lent us with some shade. With that kind of heat, I welcome any shade of grey in the sky over blue. It was hot, but not nearly as bad as 106° sounds. Guess Mom’s prayers came through. Sort of.
After portraits, we were all sitting in the girl’s suite, cooling off in the AC while our guests started making their way in and getting settled. We invited about 140 people and 81 made it. Our wedding was only about 45 miles North of where we live in Los Angeles, but it was a destination wedding for the majority of our invites. We have no family anywhere remotely near us, just the friends we call family. Of course you wish everyone could be there, but there’s no question it was a long ways for a lot of folks to come and we knew that from the start. In the end our humble size made things just that much more intimate.
When our coordinator told us it was time, the whole gang walked together to our entrance point. A long stairway that overlooked the whole ceremony. Everyone was there. We were waiting at the top, hidden behind some trees. I was in front, and feeling my nerves a bit. But then I heard the band playing our entrance song and I couldn’t help but smile.
Sleepwalk by Johnny and Santo.
The kind of smile you couldn’t hold back even if you tried. I straightened up, looked forward and made my entrance. For whatever reason, I do remember trying to keep a straight face, maybe to look cool, I don’t know. Anyhow, that smile broke loose, and I could feel everyone smile and cheer right back at me when it did. It was awesome. I took my place and watched our bridal party come down the steps one pair after the other. Alexis’ brother Tony, looped back around so he could walk her down the aisle. She looked so beautiful. Never took my eyes off her the moment she came down those stairs.
We joined hands and stared into each other while our Officiant Elizabeth led the ceremony that the three of us built together. I tried to completely quiet my mind. To hear, see, and feel the moment as completely as I could. And that’s when it happened. Looking into her bright brown eyes, I felt… A stinging in mine. Naturally, I blamed it on the Sun. We read our personal vows to each other. First hers, then mine. Be it the sweat, or the vows, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Our Officiant pronounced us Husband and Wife and we sealed it with a kiss. And just like that, we were married. They played our walk off song, and off we walked.
Be My Baby by The Ronettes.
We were showered with petals on our way out and no kidding, right in that moment, the clouds opened up and the Sun got to see what the fuss was all about.
With the help of our coordinator Stephanie, our officiant Elizabeth, our photographer Casey, and I have to assume by the grace of God, we managed to get a group portrait of everyone all together all at once. It was something we really wanted, and we’re so glad to have it.
And with that, it was finally time for a drink. Hallelujah. We had cocktail hour in the open lawn in front of the ranch house. The two-piece band played on, drinks were flowing, and the photo booth was open for business. It was probably the dizziest part of the day. So many hellos, congratulations, smiles, hugs, handshakes, and pictures. It’s a lot, and blurry all at once, but you get your bearings and everything comes back into focus after a bit. Alexis and I made a goal not to get too separated that day, no matter how crazy it got. It’s easy to get pulled one way or the other, in this conversation or that. If you’re not careful, you’ll look up to find you’re missing the other half of you. We did pretty good in the end.
Once we drained the last few minutes of the hour, everyone started finding their seats for reception. We attached names and table numbers to little terrariums with air plants to take home.
Once everyone was settled, we made our entrance for our first dance and were announced as Mr. and Mrs. Kyle and Alexis Smith for the first time. We danced to Pigeon by Tennis. One of our favorites that goes back a long ways for us.
With dinner getting underway and the sun fading, our photographer snuck us away for a few more portraits while we still had light.
We headed back to reception for maid of honor and best man speeches. Alexis’ sister Elizabeth was first. She asked her not to wing it beforehand, and naturally, she opened stating she’d be winging it. Worked like a charm though. She spoke from the heart and really that’s all it takes.
Next was my brother Joey. Was a little nervous for him. He’s as quiet as they get, so this wasn’t exactly in his wheelhouse. Gave him a chance to get out of it if it was asking too much, but he wasn’t having that. In the end, he rose up and beat something that scared the hell out of him, just to make me smile. That’s why he was my best man. He did amazing.
Lastly, we got a surprise speech from our friends Mike and Christina. These are some of those friends we happen to call family. When the two of them go for something, man, they really go for it. Their speech was no exception. Smiles all around.
Your wedding is almost as big a day for your parents as it is for you and your love. I knew I wanted to have at least one moment with just my Mom. Her and I danced to Landslide by Fleetwood Mac. Thing was, I wasn’t familiar with the live version of the song our DJ played. It opens with Stevie Nicks saying “This one’s for you daddy!” So that was an interesting moment. Really I was just hoping there wasn’t a surprise 5-minute guitar solo somewhere in there.
At this point, wasn’t anything left to do other than have a good time. So we opened up the floor to everyone and got it going. This is when Alexis and I were able to cut loose and have the most fun. We danced, drank, laughed, sang and drank some more for our last few hours. There was a cake cutting somewhere in there, but most importantly, I got to eat all the donuts I wanted. We celebrated the best way we knew how, and I have to say, we’re pretty damn good at it.
Shout by The Isley Brothers.
Desserts were ravaged, the bar was closing down, and there were more than a few barefoot ladies about. It meant our time was coming to an end. Not before we blew out one last song on the dance floor though. It could be none other than “Shout”. Call it cliché, but man, that’s always the one to go out on.
It was a great end to a great day. Thing is, 10pm is a little too early to be calling it for the pack we run with. So we piled into our shuttle and headed to the after party with anyone and everyone feeling up to it. It was still a pretty good crowd. We reserved space at a little bar called the Tipsy Goat to keep it going.
Gave us a chance to slow down a minute and catch-up with friends. To share some candid moments with the ones that mean so much to you, but that you hardly got talk to in the craziness of it all. It was a perfect way to close it out. They tell you it goes by in a blink, and believe me, they ain’t kidding. It’s a full day and a fuller night and If you’re not careful, you just might miss it.
So just like that, we got married. It was really something to look around and see all those smiling faces, and to know they’re all there just for us. Whether they had to travel a few miles or a few thousand of them. A group of people that’ll likely never be in the same place, at the same time, ever again. Just for us. It was the best day of my life, and all I could’ve ever hoped for. I know you’re supposed to say that, but really, it’s the truth. Sure there was a curve ball or two, or maybe three, but who wants a perfect story anyways. That’s just plain boring.
Everyone asks how it feels, if it’s any different now. We’ve been married eight months, and the years I’ve loved her stretch back much further than that. So if I stopped there on the surface, then no, I don’t feel any different. What is different is knowing that this beautiful girl with her own personal hopes and dreams for her life, decided to put all her money on me. Every last dollar. I really don’t mean to spoil the ending here, but believe me, I’m gonna prove her right.
To everyone who shared our day with us, we give our thanks and love. And I must say, even in 106° heat, you’re still a pretty good looking crowd.
Though we got married in September, we held off on our honeymoon until December. We did lounge about Palm Springs for a few days and nights right after the wedding, but we wouldn’t call that our honeymoon. More of a quick getaway.
We decided on Belize. It was tropical, english speaking, and the travel was nothing too brutal. Especially since we were already coming from New Orleans instead of Los Angeles. Above all else though, it’s a place that just suited our personalities well I think. It was a home run.
Made a little edit of our week there. Unfortunately, we have no pictures or footage from the more adventurous parts of the trip. Fortunately, those parts are usually the most memorable on their own. Guess that’ll happen when you treat a new camera like a newborn baby. It was a great end to a great year with my love by my side.
We did it. We’re married!
Don’t want to say too much right now, going to save the whole story for when we get all our pictures back from our photographer and do it right. Just wanted to share this one.
To think I’d ever be able to share such an image in this place, with the exact person I always wanted to end up with, just blows my mind. Don’t think many people really understand how far back it all goes but here’s a glimpse. Really, I am the luckiest person I know.
That’s it for now, more to come.
One day my friend Drew told me he wanted to move into a new place with his girlfriend Kelsie. They really hadn’t been dating very long at all, and the new place was a pricey two year lease. There was never a thing not to like about Kelsie, but I still owed it to one of my best friends to warn him he might be rushing into something here. He agreed he was rushing in, but rushing into the right thing, so why wait. I remember thinking it to be pretty bold.
Turns out, they just signed a lifetime lease, and tied the knot. They married near Palm Springs on April Fools, because well, it’s Drew and Kelsie we’re talking about here. It was a beautiful Saturday.
The ceremony and reception took place at the Lautner Compound near Palm Springs. There are only four rooms on the property, and Alexis and I were offered one. Had to be the most stunning room I’ve ever stayed in. It felt so open but at the same time totally private. Couldn’t help but feel pretty cool even just standing in it, and the entire grounds followed suit. Was really a sight.
The bride and groom have a lot of gravity in my life, and it meant a lot to me to stand up with them on their day. It’s the only wedding I’ve ever been in. Another first they’ve given me. They do that a lot. During the ceremony, I remember watching them, and watching Alexis, and wondering to myself, just how in the hell I got here. How did I get so lucky to have this family. It was a weird feeling. Like a wealth of time and memories, all converging to a single point. I don’t know that I’m explaining it right, but I do know I couldn’t stop smiling. Really, my face was starting to hurt a little.
We set their union in stone the best way we know how. By partying. We danced, we drank, and we laughed the night away. I can’t imagine they could’ve wanted anything more. It was a great day and they’re gonna do great things together. I’d wish them all the good things there are to wish on their journey, but they don’t need anything besides each other, and they’ve already got that.
I asked the girl I’ve been crazy about (and driven crazy by) since the day I met her, to marry me. How we got from there to here is a long story. One that I’ll save for another time. But today, I want to tell you about the best day of my life.
A few days earlier we started to plot our weekend, and talked about spending the day together. No friends, no family, just us. The weather was shaping up to be nice, so I suggested we go downtown to layout at Grand Park. I knew this is where I wanted to propose.
There’s been plenty of opportunities to propose in more exotic, adventurous or even stereotypically romantic places, but Los Angeles is where it was meant to be. It’s always been the backdrop to our story. It’s where we found each other. It’s where we fell in love. I also knew how much this city means to her as an individual. She moved around a lot growing up, and Los Angeles is the first place she’s ever called home and truly meant it. I figured what better place to propose than in the heart of LA, in a sprawling park overlooked by one of the city’s most iconic buildings.
I usually have a hard time getting out of bed, but on this particular day you’d have thought I spent a lifetime in the military. I left Alexis in bed and got breakfast started for us straight away. I had some time sensitive plans in place, and I wanted to get ahead of the day. Thank God she still wanted to go to the park.
We got ready, packed a bag and headed over. When we got there, we found a blaring children’s dance festival of some sort taking place. It was loud and it was weird. Not exactly what I expected. Thankfully, it’s a big park and where we were headed was on the opposite end. It was a hot day, really hot, but we found some shade under a tree to lay our blanket across. We sat down and talked a bit while I doodled the iconic LA City Hall building across the park. I gave up after a few minutes and told her I was going to just draw her instead.
I repositioned myself so she couldn’t see what I was drawing. I lifted my eyes from the page every few minutes to examine her features, all the while she was doodling too. After a few minutes, I said I was done. My heart was racing and was hoping she couldn’t hear it in my voice. With a worried face, I warned her not to be mad, since the portrait didn’t really turn out that great, and didn’t quite look like her. When I spun my sketchbook around, she found the words “Will you Marry me?”
Her eyes lit up and moved from the page to me, back to the page and back to me again. As she stared at me with wide watery eyes, I took the ring from my pocket and offered it to her. I told her I loved her, that I always had, and that I wanted to spend the rest of my days with her. We kissed and held each other. After a few beats… I had to remind her she still had to give me an answer. It was a strong yes, and I finally put the ring where it’s always belonged.
Once our nerves settled, I pointed to a man that was hiding out behind some bushes. His name is Archi, and I hired him to photograph the moment. He’d been there the whole time. We all finally made eye contact and laughed. Honestly, I didn’t even know where he was for a while. True mark of a pro. We spent the next half hour or so taking some photos with him. Some in the park, and some across the street in front of the LA City Hall building. It’s was just too beautiful a building to pass up with a professional photographer on hand. As we were walking up to City Hall, I joked to Alexis that I was really just trying to fast track this thing, and get the papers today.
We wrapped up with Archi, and I suggested we go sit down somewhere nearby to grab a drink and call our families to break the news. I think both our nerves and minds were still buzzing, so a drink sounded like a great idea. And let’s not forget, it was still REALLY hot out. There’s a little dive bar called La Cita that our whole group of friends has been making memories at for as long as I’ve known them. Seemed fitting to make it a part of the day.
We got there and headed straight to the back patio to find some margaritas, but instead we found 24 of some of our closest friends, waiting to surprise Alexis and celebrate with us.
This was all part of the plan, and I knew it was coming, but man, even I was stunned when we stepped out on the patio and heard everyone’s roar. She was completely surprised, even more so than when I proposed I’d say! Good job guys. To top it off, we were immediately each handed a margarita and a beer, because that’s what true friends do.
People hopped on planes, some spun their odometers, and some took off work just so they could be there for us. We even had a friend there by complete happenstance. We thought he was still living out of state, but he moved back to LA two weeks prior and just happened to be at the bar. What are the odds?
I always knew that no matter how I chose to propose, I wanted to involve our friends somehow. Alexis draws her energy from those around her, and shines her brightest surrounded by the people she loves. For most of us out here, our friends are the closest thing we have to family for a few thousand miles. They say you can’t choose your family, but it’s just not true. Friends are the family you do get to pick. After about an hour of hugging, shaking hands, drinking, and laughing, the whole gang migrated over to Hollywood for dinner.
The spot was Delancey, a little Italian place, known mainly for their pizza. Alexis and I have been coming here for as long as we’ve dated, and it’s quite literally one of her favorite restaurants. It’s a small place and we were a group of 26, so when I spoke with the manager ahead of time, I was beyond excited that they’d accommodate us. They even opened up a little bit early for us. We ate, drank, laughed some more, and Alexis’ brother Tony gave an impromptu speech from the heart to top it all off.
We closed out after about two hours, and all started walking down a few blocks to Hollywood Forever Cemetery. In the summer time they project films on the side of a huge building that overlooks an open lawn. It’s one of our favorite LA pastimes.
We setup and sprawled across the lawn, chatting and drinking for about an hour before the movie. Thanks to our army of friends, we had lawn chairs, blankets, desserts, 120 beers on ice, and the equivalent of four bottles of wine in the form of two beautiful boxes. Even had a custom “She Said Yes” banner setup, thanks to Christina. I really leaned pretty heavy on some folks to pull this part of the night together, and I have no doubt it would’ve been a mess without all their help.
That night they were screening Sabrina, an old Hollywood classic starring Hepburn and Bogart. Alexis and I have always shared an affection for the music from that era. Under the stars, surrounded by the towering palms and our LA family, I just knew it’d be magic. And it was.
By the time the movie ended, it was already 11pm and had been a long, full day. I knew some people would wanna call it then and there. What I didn’t know is how Alexis would be feeling. Lo and behold, onward she said. Cue the karaoke.
An added surprise was Michelle and Stuart made it out all the way from NYC just in time to meet us for karaoke. They were originally planning on being part of the surprise at La Cita, but got largely delayed at the airport. Glad they still got to party with us a bit.
Now, I know they say time flies when you’re having fun, but man, time really flew by at karaoke. We sang and danced for a couple hours, but I swear to you, it felt like no longer than fifteen minutes to me. Tops. Might have had something to do with drinking for nearly twelve hours. I was told that amidst the dancing, I lost my footing for a moment there, but luckily my fall was broken by John. Sorry and thank you John. Needless to say it was a blast. Our friends Drew and Kelsie were sneaky and incredibly kind to have picked up the entire tab for everybody too.
It was last call by the time we sung our last tune, and the remainder of our party started to part ways. However, no night in LA after 12 hours of drinking is complete without at 2am trip to Denny’s. Thankfully, there was one a few hundred feet away. Afterward, we said goodbye to our last three standing friends, and called it a night ourselves.
And that was that. My only regret is not having asked sooner. Can’t say thank you enough to everyone involved. It was the best day of my life, and Alexis was shining brighter than the diamond on her hand to say the least. And that diamond is pretty damn bright.
Video compliments of Duncan, thanks bud!
My Dad, manning the grill, next to the pool, under the Florida sun. Following his dream of getting his family the hell out of the Chicago winters.
Here’s to him, and my Mom, for showing me what it means to take a chance and follow a dream, and for always encouraging me to follow my own.
My Aunt Janet. She’s been so involved and supportive in just about everything I’ve done in my life, every step of the way. Seen me fail, succeed, short and tall. She is a person in my life that truly cares for me. Could never thank her enough for all that she’s done. Over the years, she’s taken me to see and do so many things that I otherwise may never have experienced. I wouldn’t be who I am without those experiences, and I wouldn’t be who I am without her.
Happy Birthday Aunt Janet.