Chanel & Mike | Piedmont Park Engagement

I met Chanel and Mike last year after being connected through their amazing planner, Emily, owner of Stella Harper Events. They are getting married this year at Summerour Studio, which is a wedding venue in the heart of Atlanta, with their closest family and friends. We wanted their engagement session to take place in advance to their wedding, so that they could be used not only to document this precious time of life, but also for their save the dates.

Piedmont Park provided the perfect backdrop while also serving as an ode to their love for Atlanta and where they will be saying their vows this spring. These two live in the heart of the city and have two sweet pups who live with them, and it was so to Chanel for them to be incorporated throughout their engagement photos as they wouldn't be present on their wedding day.

I'm so looking forward to spending time with these two in May. It's going to be so beautiful, and I'm honored to take a part and celebrate with them.

 

Venue: Piedmont Park | Dress: Badgley Mischka | Planning: Stella Harper Events | Photography: Hannah Forsberg

Austin & Eve | Marietta Square Engagement

I met Austin and Eve last year after asking on my Instagram if there were any local couples in the area who might be willing to model for me. My friend, Jenna, of Gold and Bloom had extra florals left over from an Atlanta wedding over the weekend, and I was thrilled when she texted me asking me to capture some of what remained.

Eve had been a long-time follower, and messaged me almost immediately to volunteer, which was such a blessing, due to the last-minute nature of the model call. When Eve reached out, she and I gushed over her relationship with Austin. From our messages alone, I knew that we were so similar and that she would be a long-time friend - and it turns out that she is a talented wedding photographer in Atlanta as well! When we met up in Marietta, it was like we had been friends for years. We talked about our relationships, love for film, and what it was like to be a young entrepreneur. These two have such a sweetness and tenderness for each other that is also fun and playful. Time with them was so precious. I'm so excited that they both are hoping to tie the knot soon and am so thankful to have been able to spend this morning with them. 

 

Venue: Marietta Square | Dress: Asos | Florals: Gold and Bloom | Photography: Hannah Forsberg

A Heart for the Fatherless | My Story (Part 1)

part one / part two / part three

My friend recently learned my Chinese name, Xiaona. I shock them as I tell the story, stuttering a little, trying to dictate the chronological order of events, how my parents chose me, how I struggled. A day or so before, I sit in my bed, send a good morning text and scroll through my feed. It is a terrible habit, but I pause to read a post. November. Adoption month has arrived. I press ‘like’ and move on with the day, but lingering in the back of my mind it hits me again, like it usually does: you know, you’re adopted too.

It has been almost five years since I really spent a significant amount of time to write about my adoption, let alone feel compelled to go in depth about how it shaped my childhood. In that amount of time, a lot has changed. But too, I realize more and more how some of the feelings and effects of being adopted have lingered, manifesting themselves in small ways in my everyday life. Looking back at how things have changed compared to my childhood and adolescence has been a comfort, though, which is a little surprising, shocking even, to write. Perhaps some of the changes have stemmed from a deeper conviction that God is God, being brought to my knees and broken in ways I had never fathomed, but I am a great deal certain that the changes stemmed from prayers over the years for humility and trust and thankfulness…prayers that I would be shaped to become a woman with a heart more tender, more kind, more sure than ever that God is faithful.

I struggle to find the words with how to begin, though I think that is just a characteristic I always have had, a portion of it I think, being influenced highly by the Southern culture, beating around the bush, not wanting to offend – pressure, even, revolving around adoption being perhaps taboo, too sensitive of a topic. But still, like the fifteen, sixteen, seventeen year-old I once was, certain things (like Kung Fu Panda 2) make me cry because it strikes a chord that is so precious to my heart: adoption…the sorrow, the redemption, and grace of it all that makes up my story.  The subject that has kept itself silenced throughout many of the introductions and ‘hello’s’ and periods of life. And as was five years ago, I am often met with blinking cursors and a shabby attempt to word it all. It’s one of these times, where you have so much you want to (and could) say – where you’ve spent so much thought; yet in the midst of all this, so many feelings and unanswered questions intertwine themselves; and as a result, instead of characters and words and flowing thoughts, you have unfinished sentences and a blank page staring back in a loud silence.

My adoption is a story of questions, hurt, grace, and redemption. Like all stories, there is a beginning, and I believe, the beginning is the hardest part.

I was born to two people whom I will never know. On some days, I would wonder if my birth parents truly wanted me in the first place. In the autumn, only a few days after I was born, the police found me, left on a bench, in the shadows of Guangdong, a province in China located in the southern part of the country near Maoming and Vietnam. I was found without a name, without a birthdate, without a family, and had nobody to care for me. I was abandoned. I was a nobody. I was left on my own.

To abandon means to leave completely and finally. The word means to forsake utterly and to desert wholly. To cast away and leave. Whenever I would try to grasp the meaning, the weight of it would crush me. As a child, grappling with the fact that this word was associated with me hurt each time. It brought tears, each time. Not because the meaning is something new, or something that I have not known, but because its honesty, associating a personal pronoun with a definition like that, is something that should wreck a person. And sometimes, the ache is more than what words can describe, often leaving you with overwhelmed by the words that you do not have.

 

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Sometimes, it hurts to realize that I was left completely and finally. Forsaken utterly. Deserted, and cast away. It’s saddening to realize that I was left before my birth parents got the chance to know me. Not a single year goes by without the days where I find myself wondering “why?” Why was I abandoned? Why was I left? Why didn’t they want me? There are days of grief. Days of heartache. Days of feeling rejected. Days of sadness. Days of just realizing the reality of the truth that can hurt the most, leaving the deepest of wounds and scars.

It is not easy to believe that my birth parents loved me. I find myself often tempted to counter the thought of their love with, “If they loved me, would not they have kept me?” I imagine that perhaps they did love me, or held some sort of affection, but I will never, really, ever, experience that fact for sure.

Love is an action, and to comprehend the possibility of “being abandoned in the name of love” is a difficult, upsetting thing. It’s hard to fathom that someone out there who gave me life, loves me, without knowing where I am or what I look like or what my name is; let alone the fact if I am even still alive. Here I am growing up; having the same nose and the same smile and the same laugh of someone I will never, ever know…Of someone who decided to give me away before they knew me…Of two individuals whose names will forever be mysteries and whose faces I will never remember. (An excerpt from what I wrote years ago.)

 

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I grew, daily wrestling with the difficulty that lingered as I tried to forgive and love two strangers that wounded my heart so deeply. For many years, I did not want to, saying things I should not have about individuals I’ve not known – individuals that God had made in His own image, and whom He loved, too. Through most of my adolescence, my definition of love and forgiveness was flawed, a counterfeit, insincere. But through the years, my understanding of forgiveness was shaped and molded, as I learned more about grace and redemption and the gospel – what had been extended to me in the times that I deserved it the least and needed it most. I saw that there was purpose in being left and clung to knowing that Jesus was abandoned on the cross for my sake, too, and that, He must have felt the same way, too. I saw that abandonment was not because of a lack of love, but one of the deepest loves – and how that was mirrored so beautifully on the cross.

I saw firsthand how The Father, truly does have a heart for the fatherless, and how the gospel is for people who have nothing to offer, nothing to give, for those who are messy, broken, and at the end of themselves. I understood more and more how precious His children are in His sight, how deliberate He is in all of his dealings, how there is hope in Hebrews 4:15: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet he did not sin”, and how there is comfort in knowing that all things work out for the good and salvation of those who love Him (Romans 8:28 and James 1:12).

But even more so, I grew to understand that I was not abandoned to be forgotten, but rather, to be found. To be redeemed, healed, and made new…to be given a life that I did not deserve, to receive a love far sweeter than I could have fathomed.

(to be continued)…

Caroline + James | Athens Founder's Memorial Garden Wedding

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The story behind this is one that's near and dear to my heart. It is a little bit different, in the sense that it was my desire is to have the entire day to 'feel' like it could be an actual southern garden wedding in Athens, a celebration with the closest family and friends. As a photographer, I often have the opportunity to go to Atlanta and Athens for weddings each year and I am always so inspired by the venues I get to visit during my work. The University of Georgia is such a gorgeous campus, and I almost went there to study graphic design and business in undergrad. Throughout the years, I've had the opportunity to visit The Founder's Memorial Garden and I knew that I wanted to create something beautiful on its premise. Perhaps maybe have my own wedding there one day, too. 

I reached out to Rachel Slauer to help style and design this summer day and after going back and forth, she and I both agreed that we wanted to create an editorial that had more meaning and a story behind it, rather than doing something just for the sake of being pretty. We felt as if it was necessary to use this time to honestly and sincerely illuminate the weight and depth and joy every couple makes to love, serve, and cherish one another on a wedding day, and to accomplish that, we wanted to showcase a day that looked just like that: a classic, southern wedding day. 

We hoped that our images conveyed a sense of sincerity, allowing whoever views them to think either about their own vows that they have made in the past, or think forward in anticipation to the day they stand at the alter. Various shades of blue, lace, and fruit were all incorporated throughout the design and details, as well as thoughtful odes to wedding traditions and religious themes, which are so often present. Hair and makeup artist, Erin Ryser, dolled up our bride with a dewy, natural look, with loose curls that fell gracefully and gently going perfectly with the delicate lace gown provided by Fabulous Frocks of Atlanta.

The ceremony was small, with only a select few in attendance. During the ceremony, our bride and groom washed each other's feet, which couples often do to symbolize outwardly humble themselves and show their commitment to serve each other. It's Christian tradition based off John 13:1-17, where Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. Afterwards, we followed with moments showing Caroline and James exchanging rings (which were provided by Goodstone Inc) and reading aloud handwritten vows created by Maia Wong from Quill & Co, all held in handmade vow books provided by Wedding Story Writer

As with most wedding celebrations, a reception followed! The idea behind creating the reception table scape was for it to feel like it could almost be a fellowship potluck after church on a Sunday under twinkling lights. After the ceremony, guests were invited to gather in the courtyard to talk, mingle, and pray together. From the fruit to the taper candles, the entire look was brought together with a centerpiece created by Jenna of Gold and Bloom.

See more of this feature on Trendy Bride Magazine.

Photo: Hannah Forsberg | Styling and Creative Direction: Rachel Slauer Weddings
Floral: Gold and Bloom | HMUErin Ryser | Gown: Fabulous Frocks of Atlanta | Tux: Modern Gent | RentalsOconee Event Rentals | Rings: Goodstone | Vow BooksWedding Story Writer | Calligraphy: Quill and Co.