Louise and Alyssa, a Santa Fe Wedding – 02/08/2014

Timeless love, photographed in the village of Tesuque, NM.

February 8th dawned clear and cold. I woke early and dressed quickly, excited to be a part of this wonderful day. Virginia and Matt picked me up from my house, and our journey to Santa Fe began. We were headed to Buffalo Thunder, a place I had never been, despite having lived in New Mexico for nearly five years. The three of us talked easily all the way there, and I found that I could hardly contain my enthusiasm. Growing up in a place where same sex marriage was considered taboo and unwelcome, I was thoroughly enthralled that I was going to be lucky enough to witness the joining of these two loving women. Alyssa Peters grew up in Enid, Oklahoma, and Louise Midwinter in Cheshire, London, England. While this relationship may seem impossibly long distance for some, Alyssa and Louise made it work for two and a half years. They met online, and in Louise’s words was “totally unexpected, but it was and is great.”

We walked through the hotel to the elevators, and I couldn’t stop staring. It was so beautiful here! The whole place was open, with warm sunlight filtering through the windows. The softly muted sound of people laughing and talking together filled my ears as we walked through the lobby to the elevators. When we reached Alyssa and Louise’s room, we knocked on their door and waited. When the door opened, we were greeted by a clearly nervous, but excited Louise. She led us into the room and introduced us to Alyssa. They were both already dressed in their gowns, and looked simply breathtaking.

The original plan was for Alyssa and Louise to get married on the balcony right outside their room, but as Matt was taking a few test pictures, he told them that he thought the space was too small to fit all of us comfortably. Luckily, Louise said that she knew of another place we could do it. Intrigued, we all followed her and Alyssa through the hotel until we came to a huge set of double doors. As soon as Alyssa threw them open, I knew it was perfect. We were standing in a rectangular courtyard, with a breathtaking view of the mountains in the distance. Fluffy clouds dotted the sky, which was a clear and flawless shade of blue. There is no roof above our heads, only crossbeams that the sun peeks through playfully as a gentle breeze whispers all around.

The ceremony begins, and I am overwhelmed by the strength of the love that is flowing through these two people. Their eyes meet, and in that moment, time stands still. There is only balmy sunlight, and the impeccable sky. When they read the vows they have written for each other, the devotion and fondness between them is palpable, and I can feel the warm sting of tears behind my own eyes. After Virginia pronounces Alyssa and Louise partners for life, they share their first kiss as a married couple. The tenderness and sweet affection that is conveyed through this one powerful gesture is awe-inspiring.

I felt so lucky to be a part of this day, to be a witness to the joining of two people who care for each other so much. I know that they will have a long and happy life together, and I wish them the very best.

Blog written by Celebrations New Mexico Officiant, Kayla Holloway.
Photos by Matthew Gustke at Visual Esthesia.
Ceremony performed by Celebrations New Mexico Officiant, Virginia Graumann.

Minister, Virginia Graumann, begins the ceremony by giving the definition of marriage and the significance of the commitment they are about to make.

Minister, Virginia Graumann, begins the ceremony by giving the definition of marriage and the significance of the commitment they are about to make.

Louise shares her very passionate, very personal vows with Alyssa.

Louise shares her very passionate, very personal vows with Alyssa.

Louise symbolizes her vows with the exchanging of this ring, which she places on Alyssa's finger.

Louise symbolizes her vows with the exchanging of this ring, which she places on Alyssa’s finger.

Alyssa places the ring on Louise's finger.

Alyssa places the ring on Louise’s finger.

The big kiss!

The big kiss!

A very excited couple celebrates their union.

A very excited couple celebrates their union.

Playing with shadows on the terrace.

Playing with shadows on the terrace.

A look at the rings, as the couple lounged in the hotel restaurant.

A look at the rings, as the couple lounged in the hotel restaurant.

The lovely brides, pictured at Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino.

The lovely brides, pictured at Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino.

The delicious, red velvet, wedding cake. Thank you for sharing with your officiant!

The delicious, red velvet, wedding cake. Thank you for sharing with your officiant!

Louise and Alyssa release balloons, which represent the loved ones who could not be present on their special day.

Louise and Alyssa release balloons, which represent the loved ones who could not be present on their special day.

Reverend Kayla Holloway, signing the marriage license.

Reverend Kayla Holloway, signing the marriage license.

Happily married couple, Louise and Alyssa.

Happily married couple, Louise and Alyssa.

The happy newlyweds, sharing a romantic moment.

The happy newlyweds, sharing a romantic moment.

The newlyweds take advantage of the golden hour in this stunning photograph at Camel Rock.

The newlyweds take advantage of the golden hour in this stunning photograph at Camel Rock.

Camel Rock glows behind the happily married couple.

Camel Rock glows behind the happily married couple.

A romantic, sunset silhouette captures the love between these beautiful women.

A romantic, sunset silhouette captures the love between these beautiful women.

A cold but cozy kiss shared outside the Santa Fe Opera House.

A cold but cozy kiss shared outside the Santa Fe Opera House.

A Christmas Eve Wedding — 12/24/2013

I walked into Flying Star, anxious and excited to meet the couple. Vanessa and I had exchanged several emails in the weeks prior, and it’s always fun to put a face to the personality. And when I spotted two lovebirds, cuddled closely next to each other at a corner booth, I knew instantly that it had to be them.

Before one can begin writing a ceremony, they must get to know the couple, and that’s what I was there to do. Sometimes I know within seconds what their expectations are, and in other instances, I must ask a question three or four times before I feel certain I’ve understood their wishes. Javier and Vanessa made my job easy, clearly indicating their must-haves as if they’d known all their lives what their special day would look like.

They went to school together in El Paso, and it wasn’t until many years later that they reconnected on a social media website. I love stories that begin this way, because I, too, found the love of my life online. An entire lifetime had passed since they were in high school, and Vanessa already had a child of her own. Javier seemed to have been waiting, making his way through life, just anticipating the moment when ‘the one’ would finally make her appearance. I didn’t get the impression that either of them expected it to happen this way, but it was oh, so obvious that they were just happy that it finally had.

We went over every detail of the ceremony — the prayer, the exchange of rings. They both wanted to recite their own vows, an element that seemed to mean more to them than anything else. And finally, they wanted a Christmas Eve wedding in Old Town.

Old Town is a very busy place on Christmas Eve, with carolers, a live nativity scene, the midnight Mass, and hot cocoa being sipped on every piece of pavement throughout the plaza. They wanted to celebrate their exchange of vows amidst the glow of  luminarias, breathing in the heavy, winter air, bundled up tight with their love to keep them warm. The only trouble was, none of us, the photographer (Matthew @Visual Esthesia) and myself included, had ever been to Old Town on Christmas Eve. We didn’t know what to expect.

We arrived early to ensure that we found the right spot for the ceremony. By 5:30, the place was already packed. The couple’s ideal space was the gazebo in the middle of the plaza. Unfortunately, carolers had already begun set up for the evening’s performance. We were about to resign to a small, insignificant space on the plaza, when we spotted the tree at Plaza Don Luis. The biggest in Albuquerque, the tree stood at 55′ tall, with white lights and red bows, a perfect backdrop for what would surely be a perfect holiday wedding. We set up in the balcony on the south end of the plaza, top-left in the photo below.

Photo by kevinandamanda.com

The rest of the story unfolds in these photos taken by Matthew Gustke at Visual Esthesia Photography.

RosesED-WMforwebsite

JavierVowsED-WM

VanessaVows

Rings

JavierSignED-WM

VanessaSignED-WM

VGSignED-WM

Manger2

Manger

If you are looking for a wedding officiant for your wedding, even if it’s at a last minute’s notice, please contact me here. Mention this blog entry to be eligible for a special offer of $75 for your ceremony (rehearsal fees, which are optional, are not included, and the venue must be within 50 miles of service area to avoid mileage fees).

Shawn and Marianne’s Balloon Wedding – 10/6/2013

An Enchanting Balloon Wedding It Was

I will always remember the afternoon of Saturday, October 5th. Matt’s mother and sister had been visiting from out of state, and we were winding down after a week full of family activities. Their flight was to leave that afternoon. That’s when Marianne contacted me on Facebook.

She was responding to an ad I’d posted on Craigslist, where I’d offered my wedding officiant services free of charge. Marianne and her fiancé, Shawn had recently purchased a home, and they were on a tight budget.  Still, they wanted their ceremony to be special, with just a small gathering at their home in Tijeras the following week. A week’s notice? No problem!

I was anxious to see more about the couple, so I clicked over to Marianne’s Facebook profile. Pictures of her and Shawn showed that they were obviously very much in love. I was anxious to talk with her more about the possibility of officiating their wedding ceremony. But just before I clicked to message her, I noticed the most recent post on her wall. It said that she and Shawn had just won a free balloon flight at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, and it would take place the following morning.

My mind got to wandering, and I couldn’t refrain from asking… would she and Shawn like to have a balloon wedding? I knew it was a long shot, considering there was less than 12 hours to prepare, but it also seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up. I messaged Marianne with my proposition, and waited for her response.

It was late that same evening when Marianne notified me that she and Shawn were delighted at the idea of having a romantic, balloon wedding. With much excitement, I got to work planning their ceremony. We spoke over the phone, we emailed back and forth, and by 11pm that night, I had gotten their approval of their ceremony, the details of which I helped them personalize down to the very last word.

Without any time to spare, I printed off passes to the Balloon Fiesta, and Matt and I got a few hours of shuteye before waking at 3am.  Dressed warmly and with his camera in tow, we headed off toward Albuquerque. We didn’t know until arriving at 4:30am, but Shawn and Marianne were to be a part of the Dawn Patrol. The Dawn Patrol is a group of balloons that take off before sunrise, and fly until it is light enough to see the landing sites. They would be among the first to fly that morning, so we couldn’t risk being late. We rushed to find the couple amidst the hundreds of balloons and thousands of spectators.

Once we’d found them on the field, we wasted no time. Fortunately, Shawn came prepared with a flashlight by which I was able to read, and Marianne’s son (and ring bearer) held it for me so I could read their vows. It was cold and dark that morning, but as they repeated their vows to one another, the light and warmth of love came over us all. It took a while before others around us realized what was taking place, but the moment I announced ‘I now pronounce you husband and wife,’ cheers erupted from the many onlookers.

Virginia Officiating the Balloon Wedding

First Kiss as a Married Couple

Tears and hugs were to follow, and I could have stayed forever to watch the two of them, their faces glowing beneath the light of the hot air balloons. But again, we were pressed for time! The gondola was still resting on its side, so we seized the opportunity to commemorate the signing of their marriage license upon it. Shortly after, the gondola was raised, the couple climbed aboard, and they flew off into their new lives together.

Signing the Wedding Certificate

Getting Ready for Takeoff After Their Ballon Wedding

Lifting Off Into Their New Life Together

Each and every wedding I perform holds a special place in my heart, but this one will undoubtedly be remembered for the utter spontaneity with which it came together. In under 12 hours, I was able to turn Shawn and Marianne’s last-minute wedding at their home into the dream balloon wedding they deserved at the 2013 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. And best of all, the price was just right for their wedding on a budget.

If you are looking for a wedding officiant for your wedding, even if it’s at a last minute’s notice, please contact me here. Mention this blog entry to be eligible for a special offer of $75 for your ceremony (rehearsal fees, which are optional, are not included, and the venue must be within 50 miles of service area to avoid mileage fees).
All Photography Copyright 2013 – Visual Esthesia Photographic Arts / Celebrations New Mexico – All Rights Reserved

Jordan and Christina Wedding – 11/12/13

When Jordan and Christina were not getting the necessary follow-up from their planned wedding officiant, Jordan’s mother, Alexis, reached out to me. It was a week before their planned trip to Albuquerque, and she was frantic.

“We’re flying to Albuquerque from San Antonio for their wedding, because Texas has not legalized same-sex marriages. Are you available?”

They had to leave their home state to get married? They wanted a 11/12/13 wedding? How could I say no!? Shame on you, Texas.

Not only would I make myself available, but I was also able to help them for half the cost of what the original officiant was charging.  And in an effort to make things extra special for this couple, I baked their cake, picked up some champagne, and after a Skype conversation with the two of them, set out to write a memorable, personalized ceremony.

With the help of Alexis and some offline scheming, we had planned to surprise the couple with flowers in their room. To add a bit of flare, I included some New Mexico wine, chocolates, and a fruit platter for them. Jordan and Christina flew in on Monday, the 11th with Alexis and Jordan’s sister, Erica. Boy, were they surprised! A SUPER huge thank you to Allison and other staff at Hotel Parq Central for being so helpful. And my most sincere apologies to housekeeping, who was undoubtedly responsible for cleaning up those petals.

Hotel Room Decorations

Hotel Room Decorations

My honey, Matthew Gustke (Visual Esthesia Photographic Arts), is normally happy to help with photography for my ceremonies, but he was busy at his day job. Thankfully, he loaned me his camera so that I could snap some shots from the day.

Here are a couple shots from the hotel’s gorgeous lobby:

Hotel Parq Central Lobby

Hotel Parq Central Lobby Chaise

The morning of Tuesday, November 12, 2013 was brisk and beautiful. We worried that the wind might affect their outdoor wedding, but the Sandia Mountains kept us sheltered, and we were able to remove our coats for the duration of the ceremony. Tears were shed, hugs were shared, and after several years together, a happy couple was finally able to legally marry. Here’s a look at the happy couple:

Jordan and Christina Wedding Pose

Jordan and Christina Wedding Pose - Sandia Mountains

Jordan and Christina Wedding Pose

Jordan and Christina Wedding Pose

Jordan and Christina Wedding Pose

The rings were especially gorgeous. One had white diamonds, the other, black diamonds, and they were each engraved with the date of the occasion: 11/12/13.

Jordan and Christina Wedding Rings

Jordan and Christina Wedding Rings

After the ceremony, the family celebrated with a bottle of champagne.

Jordan and Christina Wedding Setup

Jordan and Christina Wedding Champagne Explosion

Jordan and Christina Wedding Champagne Toast

Jordan and Christina Wedding Champagne Toast

Jordan and Christina Wedding Moment Alone

Family photo shoot! Talk about a beautiful bunch of ladies!

Jordan and Her Mom

Jordan, Mom and Sister

Sisters

Mom and Christina

Mom, Christina and Erica

Christina and Erica

All Smiles!

The Four Ladies

Jordan and Christina Wedding Party

Jordan and Christina Wedding Party

I joined the family at Civic Plaza in downtown Albuquerque, where we signed the certificate, just before they had it notarized at the County Clerk’s office.

Signing the wedding certificate

Signing the wedding certificate

The mom, their witness, signing the wedding certificate

The sister and witness, signing the wedding certificate

Virginia Graumann, Ordained Minster and Wedding Officiant, signing the wedding certificate

Back at the hotel, Jordan and Christina were in for more surprises! Alexis and Erica put the final touches on the cake I made and set up this beautiful display inside Hotel Parq Central’s Apothecary Lounge.

The Couple at Hotel Parq Central's Apothecary Lounge

The Cake Table at the Hotel Parq Central's Apothecary Lounge

Love Birds at the Hotel Parq Central's Apothecary Lounge

Cutting the wedding cake at the Hotel Parq Central's Apothecary Lounge

Eating cake at the Hotel Parq Central's Apothecary Lounge

Eating cake at the Hotel Parq Central's Apothecary Lounge

Here, the couple lights their unity candle, demonstrating the end of their lives as separate individuals and the beginning of their lives as one.

Unity Candle

Unity Candle Lighting Ceremony

Unity Candle Kiss

Jordan and Christina flew back to San Antonio the very same afternoon, with plans for a honeymoon in Jamaica starting the following day. Here’s hoping their honeymoon is off to a great start, but more importantly, that their lives together has had the beautiful beginning they deserve. Congratulations, ladies!

If you or someone you know is looking for a wedding officiant in the Albuquerque Metro area or Central New Mexico, please click here to request more information.