#BourdainDay - Reflecting on the man who taught me to circle the globe swearing, laughing, and experiencing everything I can.

Today is Bourdain Day. I was lucky enough to wander the very tall, incredibly moody cliffs of Lima on this drizzly winter morning to reflect on the gifts I got from a man I never met - how very fitting, how very lucky I am.

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My wanderlust was sprouted from watching No Reservations as a young teen, my travel compass was forged years before I ever got my hands on my first passport. The hustle, the blood/sweat/tears/theft, the beartbreak, the moments darting across bustling thoroughfares, the hangovers, the language barriers, the gruelingly long layovers, the tiny golden connections of human interaction and the big breathtaking moments that're burned in to the back of my skull are all concepts I was as absolutely ready as I could possibly be for when I ran in to them at a breakneck speed. I can thank Uncle Tony for that.

Anthony Bourdain was delightfully and doggedly human. He battled with addiction and mental health. He died by suicide. He was constantly curious. He was about as sardonic as you can get, but he was always undeniably himself. He was real, he was raw, and he put a few toes past the point of brutal honesty sometimes, but through everything, he maintained a solid sense of humanity and humility. Anthony had the ability to reach through the television and shake the shit out of people drowning in the quintessential American Apathy And Desperate Need For Convenience™ that convinces you Epcot's version of countries is more than enough. He opened so many eyes to the United States' complicity in war and famine, and the spoils of colonialism, how to shoulder this knowledge and to do better for it while shaking hands and breaking bread with the people directly impacted by our gains. He invited, no -- he challenged everyone to reach across yards and communities and states and countries and religions and genders to just sit down and open up over a meal. We are never too rich, too poor, too smart, too stupid, too creative, too broken, too whatever to get out in to this world and really, truly experience it. Put down your preconceptions and your pretension, and get going. Unless you're eating your steak well done, then you deserve all our collective scorn.

Peru is the 25th country I've visited in just over four years. Majority of my travels have been by solo. I've been alone, but I've never been lonely - I've had folks back home cheering me along, new friendships forged along the way, and always, the wisdom and wisecracks of Anthony Bourdain constantly chirping at me in my head.

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I'll leave y'all with three things:

1.) Get out there and put yourself in an uncomfortable place to build a bridge to someone who is vastly different from you. Maybe it's a work colleague you've never said much to, a neighbor down the road who you've been meaning to officially welcome to the community, or a total stranger who looks like they could use a hand or a few kind words today.

2.) “Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind." -Anthony Bourdain

3.) If you need it, please rally your strength to reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 // En Español: 1-888-628-9454 // Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889 // or the Crisis Text Line by texting 741741. You are deeply loved, incredibly important and capable of amazing things. However long you walk in darkness, whatever you do to lighten it, wherever you go to outrun it, you are not alone. 💛

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KATIE + TYLER || PAGOSA SPRINGS, COLORADO - ADVENTURE ELOPEMENT WEDDING

Oh. Maaaaaahhhhh. GOODNESS. THIS. FREAKING. ADVENTURE. YOU. GUYS. There isn’t enough caps lock in the world to express all the magic and excitement I have for y’all with this one, so let’s just jump right on in (and I’ll try not to over capitalize too much. no promises, seriously. you’ll understand).

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Let’s start with a phone call I got in summer while lounging by a pool, and then I’ll get in to why there’s cats in a car, okay? I got a jingle from some sweet friends very politely asking if I’d be “up for” a wedding in Colorado that was a-total-secret-so-shh-but-also-it’s-gonna-be-somewhere-we-don’t-know-quite-exactly-where-yet-and-it-might-be-a-sunrise-thing-or-maybe-at-night-maybe-under-the-stars-maybe-on-top-of-a-mountain-or-a-forest-or-something-we-aren’t-sure-yet. Up for? UP FOR?! Yes, I was sure to emphatically emphasis that this is literally a dream job proposal being tossed my way, yes yes YES YES YES. (damn, there goes my promise to not caps lock so much…). I hung up the phone and promptly proceeded to do a front flip in to said pool because I was so all about this.

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Fast forward to November 2nd - I’m only slightly jetlagged (shoutout to Aer Lingus for bumping my flight home from Scotland a full 24 hours and giving me a whooping day and a half to be home and prepare for this next adventure), but mostly just holymoly so excited to be in Colorado for the first time and trucking south from Denver with Katie and Tyler, and Sam and Bella, who weren’t too terribly upset by my presence in the backseat.

I believe I said “woooOOOOooooOOOooooOOOOooow” about a hundred thousand times in the 6-ish hour drive because, y’all, Colorado is stunning. And I know I’m late to the bandwagon and you probably already know this but holy crap! My jaw was on the floor of the car, all the while I was getting more and more excited for the potential of the magic we’d be making for Katie & Tyler’s I-Dos.

Also, how scenic of an emergency pull-over-and-pee-here spot is this?

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Once we arrived in Pagosa Springs, we quickly ditched our bags and regrouped - there wasn’t a selected spot for the nuptials. We knew:
1) it was going to happen during sunrise
2) it couldn’t be too far away
3) there had to be water of some sort.

Okay, easy enough? Ehhh. If not for the help of the concierge at the Springs Resort, we’d have been honestly clueless. She suggested a pond right in town that was cute enough, but Katie and Tyler weren’t sold on it, and we sort of desperately took her advice to explore the reservoir in nearby San Juan National Forest.

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Things were getting a little panicked, and a pinch desperate. It was getting dark, and the ‘half hour’ drive to the supposed reservoir had us hunting for small peaks we could hike up early in the morning, but we kept driving on.

We were definitely in the National Park, which was heartening, but the winding, dark roads made for slow going. Finally, just as we had to launch in to Bride Calming Mode, we got there. And this? This calm expanse of water with snow-capped mountains in the background, where the sun would rise perfectly up and over? This was it. As with all good things, this was so worth fighting back that mounting panic and stress.

We headed back to town, grabbed a few adult beverages and snacks to nibble on and got to enjoy soaking in the hot springs that Pagosa is known for. That was certainly relaxing, but it was back to prep mode for the rest of the night. Because this was truly such an intimate group, it was all hands on deck. I am only slightly remiss that I didn’t think to take a picture of myself clambering through the foliage outside of our hotel rooms to gather greenery for a bouquet and a boutonnière. It’s not every wedding your photographer gets to take credit as a stand-in florist and hair dresser, but I was more than excited to help. We braided and pinned hair, arranged florals, and hustled on in to bed for a few hours of sleep before a very early morning wake up call.

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Groggy, but deliriously excited because IT WAS SNOWING (!!!!!!!), we had a sweet little first look within the springs. I can’t tell you how much I love that deliciously moody mist, mmmm-mm!

We piled in to the SUV and headed northwest with a much better idea of time + distance, but also with a great spot to hop out and get a photo under the truly incredible night sky. Even with a waning gibbous moon hanging in the sky, there were plenty of sparkling stars on this cold, clear morning.

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We got to the reservoir with plenty of time to settle in and further plan. Thanks to my handy-dandy tripod, there were lots of photos making the most of the first hints of morning sun.

Intimate was the name of the game. It was nearly silent on this morning, and though there may have only been five of us physically present, we posted up a framed photograph of Katie’s brother Harrison beside the water line and had more than a few precious moments to reflect on the fact that he was undeniably swirling about in all of this joy and excitement, and was absolutely felt by all of us. Thanks for the good vibes, H.

“Was it time?”
”No, not yet.”
”Okay, let’s take some pictures here…”

“How about now?”
”Mmm, not quite.”
”Okay, no sweat! Come stand here, this view keeps getting better by the second…”

“Uhh, I think there’s a snow rolling in from the north…”
”Perfect! It’s definitely time.”

Cue me internally screaming with joy at how amazing and adventurous these guys are.

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With the snow swirling, we hopped to - we cried, we laughed. In a perfect measure of brotherly love, Harrison decided to faceplant his frame midway through Katie and Tyler’s softly exchanged vows.

It was short, it was sweet, it was…cold. Tyler had to steady his shaking hands so Katie could slip his ring on. And that was that, inside of this silvery swirling snow globe, they were married!

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And suddenly, the clouds broke a bit, and this most glorious deluge of color flooded the sky. Thanks for celebrating with us, Mother Nature!

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I shooed Katie and Tyler back in to the car to warm up while I stood agog at this scenery. Truly spectacular - I couldn’t have dreamed up a more beautiful place.

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I had also decided to play caterer as well, and while not entirely able to sneak a wedding cake in my camera gear, mini donuts and champagne are one hell of a way to celebrate this wildly successful morning.

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While I know I was hesitant to leave this idyllic spot that had served us so well, there was an entire national park at our fingertips, so we headed off to make some more morning magic in the newly risen sun that was oh-so-warm to us little chilly revelers.

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Where there had been nothing but a slight dusting on one of the far off mountain peaks the night before, the fresh snow was truly a wonderland to hang out in. Did I mention Katie had on hiking boots and tights under her dress? That’s a badass bride move if ever I’ve seen one - she had zero issue with stomping through knee high snowy grass for shots.

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We had some serous off-roading moments to get in to some gorgeous backdrops - big ups to Tyler’s fearless driving skills, and strong choice to avoid knee-deep puddles .

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Our stomachs were all audibly rumbling after being up and at ‘em for so long with only tiny pastries and bubbles and excitement to sustain us, and while I stomped on my own toes to resist the urge for yet another “okay, this is the last spot, I promise!” - we really had one last stop. You can’t hate on a dramatic cliff top, even when you’re starting to get hangry.

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We all devoured a huge breakfast, then took delicious naps, hung out in hot springs, and then ran around sleepy little Pagosa Springs that night to celebrate over beer and pool and Mexican food. Conventional? Absolutely not. AmazingstupendouswowowowIdon’tevenhavethewords? You bet your sweet patoot.

I spent exactly zero seconds not appreciating how enormously perfect this had all been. Stars had aligned, snow had flaked, clouds had caught light. Truly, we were so lucky to have this weather, this scenery, and most of all, this love that brought us all together on this monumentally adventurous wedding day. All the congratulations and love to Katie and Tyler - thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for sharing this all with me. I am so thankful to have been a part of all of this magic. -MEJ

SEE KATIE + TYLER’S FULL GALLERY HERE

Venue - San Juan National Forest - Williams Creek Reservoir || Lodgings - The Springs Resort & Spa

ALI + LOUIS || STONE TOWER WINERY, VIRGINIA

Okay, y’all. Buckle up for this one, because it’s nothing short of…well, everything. Ali and Louis had a wild, winey, and absolutely, blissfully wonderful wedding weekend that had something to geek out about for literally everyone.

First things first, we started with a rehearsal at the venue - Stone Tower Winery. Driving through the winding hills dotted with equal parts forests and grazing pastures, the grounds seem relatively tame, as they’re hidden behind the imposing buildings that make up the winery itself. Walk in through the gates, however, and it’s an entirely different story. I audibly gasped and just about tripped over my own jaw when we rounded this corner, and it’s pretty self explanatory why.

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This? This is a photographer’s field day. Plus, you know, wine. Yay!

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After becoming acquainted with the grounds (and more wine!), it was time for a delicious barbecue dinner, which was followed by a cheery and beery casual welcome party.

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Louis is an avid wrestling fan, and avid is an understatement. Naturally, he received a pretty rad gift - a Hulk Hogan shirt, ripped right off the icons chest a fair few years back. Lou was pretty excited, but things got even more ridiculously cool when another wedding guest casually shot his neighbor, Mr. Hulk Hogan himself, a photo of the giddy groom. Chalk that up to things you never expect to happen on the job, but are utterly delighted to see play out!

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The next morning dawned cold, grey, and rainy, but by the time the day really started ramping up, we had bright sun and milder temperatures. 

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It’s amazing how quickly the day runs from calm bubbling giddiness in the prep time in to a nonstop galloping stride of events. We started that great momentum off with three first looks back to back - bridesmaids (props to Brooke on keeping a firm grip on her drink!), Mr. Mac, and finally, to Lou! 

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Did I mention how breathtaking this scenery is?! And these two?! Oy. I’m dizzy just looking at these pictures. 

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After the first look, we had some time before the I Dos to explore the grounds, and then, of course, some vino!

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A perfectly timed and positioned ceremony to take full advantage of the October light, Ali and Louis giggled and teared up and oh! guys, more wine!! 

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Oh, p.s. - I got to do the writing on all the glass + mirrors for the big day, and it was such a fun stretch of creative skills. I’m pretty dang proud of how they turned out ;)

Anyways, back to the wedding goodness!

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In the last few moments of sunlight, we grabbed some more portraits, and then headed in to seriously celebrate. Pro-tip: if you ever see a McIntosh in the wild, dance with them. They’re a party and a half on their own, but when you get them in a group? It’s game over. See also: this evidence from Ali’s brother Tyler and his wife Megan’s wedding last year

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Okay, soooo caricature artist! How cool is this!? What an awesome memento for guests, who wouldn’t want to remember this viking throw down?

Wait, vikings?! Yes, friends, vikings. Didn’t I tell you there was something to tickle literally everyone? Viking dance party, y’all.

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Thank you to Ali and Louis and their friends and fam for including me in this incredible weekend - what a fabulous adventure! Congrats, y’all! -MEJ

WANT MORE VIKING VINO HULK HAPPY SPARKLYNESS? CHECK OUT THE FULL GALLERY HERE!

Still lookin’? Check out Ali + Lou’s engagement session here!

VENDORS || Venue - Stone Tower Winery | Ali’s Dress - Essence of Australia from Wren Bridal | Lous + Crew’s Suits - Menguin | Hair + Makeup - Vintage Veils | Florals - Eight Tree Street Florals | Catering - Purple Onion | Coordinator - Kim Newton Weddings | DJ + Sound - Derek of Black Tie Entertainment | Signage - Miss Design Berry