From start to finish, this Iowa wedding, captured by Minneapolis wedding photographer Amanda Marie Schwinghammer (a 30 Rising Star of 2015), was incredibly personal. It was designed and decorated by the bride and her mother, and the family even flew in the bride’s favorite jazz singer from New Orleans to partake in the festivities. But beyond those details, Schwinghammer says, there’s more to this wedding than meets the eye.
You wouldn’t know it by simply looking at the beautiful photos, but this venue has history. The bride’s grandfather purchased the 315-acre Worth County land back in 1964, when her father was just 9 years old, as the bride’s mother told Schwinghammer. The southern part of the land is known as the “ash grove,” named for its forest of ash trees. A river runs near the grove, and across the river once lived a tribe of Native Americans. They left behind several burial mounds by the time the land came into the family’s hands, but they were pillaged by archaeologists in the night after the bride’s grandfather refused them permission. Originally 20 acres of ash grove, it eventually got whittled down to one acre to make room for farming, but friends and family made good use of that acre over the years and camped out on it frequently. Understandably, the bride’s family grew very attached to this land, and especially this ash grove.
Years later it grew thick with feral foliage. The bride’s brothers spent summers cutting paths, pruning and clearing the land, and they eventually built a couple of small cabins on it as well. After the bride and groom announced their plans to marry, the whole family went to work preparing the perfect wedding venue at the ash grove. Schwinghammer says they even bug-bombed the site for three days prior to the big day. “There was not one mosquito or bug during the entire event,” she says, “which most would think would be impossible for a humid August wedding in the Midwest, especially considering the plot of land was along a river!”
As nearly perfect as the day was, Schwinghammer did run into a challenge or two that required some quick thinking and a little scrambling at dinner. “Since we were in a heavily wooded area, I could only see the sun creeping down through the trees, and I knew that I wanted to get Abby and Daniel out into the wide open field at sunset, which would take us getting in a car and driving to it,” she explains. “On a whim, I told them to put their forks down and hold off on eating because we were going to miss the sun.”
Schwinghammer wouldn’t normally interrupt a perfectly good meal in the name of photography but she’s glad she did. They pulled into the field just in the nick of time. “The sun that day was incredibly orange and with the humidity of the day, the horizon of the field gave almost a foggy effect to it,” she says. “That light was almost like something I hadn’t see before, and if we would have been a few minutes earlier or later, I don’t think that it would have been exactly the same. I never like to take my clients away from their meals, but in this case I am so happy that I spoke up. They were more than happy to leave their meals when I mention to them how important beating the sunset was, and I don’t think that any of us regretted it. They simply finished eating once we got back!”
IN THE GEAR BAG
Cameras: Nikon D750, D700
Lens: Sigma 35mm f/1.4, 45mm tilt-shift
Lighting: Natural light for daytime, video light for fireworks, off-camera flash with Phottix triggers for dancing