Retzlaff Wedding

A couple of weeks ago, I had the absolute pleasure of photographing the wedding of John Retzlaff and Mackenzie Hawk at the Rollins Mansion in Des Moines.

Click to watch their epic wedding slideshow

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Retzlaff Wedding Ivory House Photography.jpg
Retzlaff Wedding Ivory House Photography.jpg

The weather forecast was grim but the spirits were high. Everyone was constantly checking WHO’s weather map all morning to see when the rain would start. Despite our nervousness, there was one immutable fact that hung in the air with the Iowa humidity: Today was going to be a magical day.

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Retzlaff Wedding Ivory House Photography.jpg
Retzlaff Wedding Ivory House Photography.jpg
Retzlaff Wedding Ivory House Photography.jpg

My first interaction with Mackenzie was a phone call during which we discussed her wedding details, including a rain backup plan. She said confidently that the ceremony was going to be outside, no matter what. “We’re getting married, and we’re willing to get wet doing it.” That’s when I understood this bride’s wonderful attitude, and that nothing could seriously go wrong with this wedding.

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Retzlaff Wedding Ivory House Photography.jpg
Retzlaff Wedding Ivory House Photography.jpg
Retzlaff Wedding Ivory House Photography.jpg
Retzlaff Wedding Ivory House Photography.jpg

And as fairy tales go, not a raindrop fell from the sky until all the festivities were over. This day was truly magical because of the people who gathered and the pure, joyful, overflowing emotion. Oh, and the dancing.

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Retzlaff Wedding Ivory House Photography.jpg

John and Mackenzie are two of the kindest most loyal dedicated people I have ever met. It has been my pleasure to become good friends with them and capture the most magical day of their lives. Thank you for choosing me to photograph your wedding, and for the dance party I’ll never forget!
 

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Retzlaff Wedding Ivory House Photography.jpg

Vendors:
Hair - Alexis Hawk and Kelly Fitch
Makeup - Alexis Hawk and Kelly Fitch
Wedding Dress – Modern Dress in Boone
Groomswear - The Good Fancy
Florist – Originals by Beck
DJ - Tony Bonekamp (ceremony), The Flashdance (reception)
Catering - Delmonico Catering
Chocolate Bar - Beaverdale Confections
Wedding Coordinator - Defining the Details
Venue - Rollins Mansion

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Retzlaff Wedding Ivory House Photography.jpg
Retzlaff Wedding Ivory House Photography.jpg

To the Mothers of Ivory House

The women of Ivory House are intelligent, driven, savvy, and ambitious. But we wouldn’t be who we are today without the love and support of our moms. To celebrate Mother’s Day this year, we want to share our personal stories of what makes our moms so amazing.

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From Rachel...

There is one woman who leads my tribe. I may not always recognize her for it. I know I do not thank her enough. I take her unconditional love and grace for granted. I am selfish in how much I lean on her. This beautiful, powerful woman is my mom.

She is my doppelgänger (I'm finally admitting it). I credit my smile, my long legs, and my laugh to her. But more importantly, I also credit her with my independence, wanderlust, and work ethic. My mom has seen me run away from her more times than I can count. She let me get on a plane to Australia at the age of 18 with no notice of when I would see her again. She has moved me from the mountains to the Midwest and back again. She gave me wings to fly, and also a soft place to land.

My sister and I would not be the women we are today without a strong female figure in our lives. I feel honored to have her as a mother, and I now cherish every second I spend with her. She has raised two strong daughters. She is the kindest grandmother to my nephew. She is lovingly devoted to my dad. She works constantly and tirelessly for the sake of others. She is the epitome of selfless.

Thank you, Mom, for raising me to be a strong woman, a fierce business owner, an outspoken advocate. Thank you for always welcoming me with open arms, no matter how rocky our relationship has been. Thank you for being the strong leader of my tribe.

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From Lucy...

I consider myself lucky to identify with the cliché that my mom is my best friend. But when I think about it, that phrase is kind of missing the point.

My mom has always been a consistent presence in my life. An advocate, a nurse, a therapist, a living Google Maps, a back-tickler, a comfort blanket, a load-bearing wall. And occasionally, when I needed it, she was also a driver, maid, loan officer, and Kleenex-retriever. We even had a special code word for when I was invited to a party or a sleepover that I didn’t really want to go to, and she’d pretend I was grounded and that I wasn’t allowed to go. No one else appreciates a thunderstorm, or a hotel bar, or the sound of a train in the distance quite like my mom does.

They say friends are the family that you choose, and those friends are always there for you through boyfriends and breakups and college parties and late-night pizza parties. And it’s a very special thing to be able to put your mother in that same category. Truthfully, though, moms are so much more than that. I love my friends dearly, but my mom belongs in a category of her own. Cheers to you, Mom. Thank you for being so much more than a best friend.

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From Megan...

When we were younger, my sister Natalie and I took dances classes together. When we would get home, our mom would turn on music and continue the dance party with us. This is one of my favorite memories of my amazing mother.

She consistently shows up for me as a cheerleader and confidant. Who better to talk to about your love life or best friends than your mom? She is always there for everything. For every request, every favor, every ride to school. Every time, no questions asked. Thanks for making me beautiful, not only with your great genes, but also because you always like to take care of me, making the time to style my hair or wax my eyebrows. In so many ways, I am who I am because of you.

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From Whitney...

Someone was recently surprised to hear that I'm a cryer. It's true, ladies and gentlemen: I cry quite frequently. It’s rarely over the small things, but sometimes life hands you a big ol’ pile of big things to get upset about. Being a single woman who also owns a small business can frequently be daunting. All of the freedom is mine, but so are all the decisions and all the risk.

No one knows this journey of heartache and triumphs more than my mom. She is the person I call at 6am when I wake up after a night of anxious dreams. She's the person I cheer with when my success is so visible even I can see it. She is my source of strength, my foundation, my muse, my inspiration, and my saving grace. Because of her, I am not in this alone. Because of her, I have the confidence to take huge risks, knowing that I will eventually succeed but with the security that if I falter or fall, she is there ready to lift me back up.

Happy Mother's Day to the strongest woman I know. Because of you, I am resilient, I am a warrior, and things will work out for me.

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Finding Stories in Woodland Cemetery: A Walk with Buz Brenton

Woodland Cemetery Des Moines

Today I took a tour of one of the most historic places in Des Moines: Woodland Cemetery. I was joined by my mentor and friend, Junius (Buz) Brenton. Currently 83 years old and thriving, Buz is responsible for initiating some pretty amazing projects around our city, such as the revitalization of the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden and the Brenton Arboretum. He is passionate about history and passing along knowledge to the next generation.

One of his current passion projects is restoring the headstones in Woodland Cemetary to their proper upright position. This cemetery was established in 1848, before Des Moines was even the state capitol. This makes it the oldest cemetery in the city, and as a result, parts have fallen into disrepair. Many of the deceased no longer have relatives routinely checking on their gravestones. The ground has also shifted over time, causing some of these stones to lean and occasionally tip over. Buz commented that after five generations, there is usually no family left who are connected to the namesake. 

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Buz believes in the legacy of Des Moines in both big and small ways. He is also interested in dendrology (the study of trees). In fact, he loves trees more than anyone else I've ever met! While touring around Woodland Cemetery, Buz pointed out his favorite tree to me. He described this particular tree as "flamboyant but modest." Its sturdy trunk rises and splits evenly into beautiful, even branches that reach upwards as if honoring the people buried beneath its canopy. We stood marveling at its complexity and symmetry, the beauty of its branches dividing into themselves in some effortless, majestic pattern that only nature can accomplish. As Buz dove into the topic of trees, he anthropomorphized them, talking about their longevity, their lack of frivolity, their ability to weather the storm. "Trees embody so many qualities that men should, but so rarely do." 

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As we walked underneath the tree, it struck me how true these words were. Underneath the ground, the roots of this tree and others nearby had been growing together for decades, sharing nutrients in the warmer months and standing solidly through the colder ones. It's something similar to a community: On the surface, we are all individuals living our own lives. But underneath, and where it really matters, we hold each other up. We share resources and depend on one another. We shape the landscape. 

As Buz and I strolled around the cemetery, he explained that most of the trees in this cemetery were planted at the same time, which you can see by their similar size and shape. He also pointed out the oldest stone building in Des Moines: the cemetery's Receiving Vault, where the city stored the remains of those who passed away during the winter when the ground was too frozen to bury them. He pointed out the gravestones of prominent Des Moines leaders of the past. Familiar names like Savery, Hubbell, Frankel, Crocker, and Sherman are scattered across the 69-acre plot. The people who built Des Moines, who started this journey and laid down the foundation for what has become such a vibrant city, are lying so close to us, and I feel like I know so little about them.

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I am guilty, as many of us are, of being obsessed with the grind, the trends, the latest events and social gatherings. Of being "in the know," of knowing the people in the know. But how much do we actually know? Where would we be today if these brave men and women had only forged their own paths without regard to where their city would be in 100 years? And is that any less important than understanding where we were 100 years ago?

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This trip to Woodland Cemetery with my dear friend Buz opened my eyes and my heart to the rich history that's often lying right under our feet. It's a privilege to live in a city with so much to learn, and it's our responsibility to take an interest and pass on that history, these feelings, and this knowledge to future generations. 

Dress for Success: The Gift of Confidence

I am so lucky. 

This is what I kept repeating to myself all day on Sunday, March 4th, 2018. 

I am so lucky to have this team of talented, generous people showing up to donate their time and talents to Dress for Success clients. I am so lucky to have a job and the flexibility to give my time and passions. I am SO LUCKY that I've never experienced true hardship. My privilege. 

Recognizing that, I jump at any chance of passing that luck and privilege on to others who might benefit from it. This event was one small way of providing confidence and support to women in our community who may not have always been so lucky. They say that when you can give a piece of yourself to someone else, it comes back to you tenfold. Never have I found this to be more true than with these portraits. I feel the love from that day every time I look at them, and I hope the feeling continues for a long time to come.


A note from Lucy, Ivory House Photography's Studio Manager: 

The day began the way I expected: rushing to set out snacks and bottles of water, unlocking the doors, answering last-minute emails about the event. What’s the parking situation? Which street is the door on again? The stylists arrived with their ring lights and curling irons. Is there another outlet in this corner? No problem, I’ll set up in the kitchen. Jody White, Executive Director and Co-founder of Dress for Success, was all smiles as she introduced herself to everyone, warmly thanking each person for donating their Sunday to a great cause.

 The Glam Teams, clockwise from top left: Ashley Maree Harvey (hair), Violeta, Natalie Gendle (makeup, ACADEMIC Lash & Beauty); Ivy Boyd (makeup, Ivy Boyd Makeup Artist + Beauty Blogger), Africa, Stacy Syroka (hair, Elevencherry); Desi Thompson (hair, Desi at Dolce), Jenny, Natalie Gendle (makeup, ACADEMIC Lash & Beauty); Kelsey Ziemann (makeup, Kelsi Ziemann Artistry), Jasmin, Kearra Chester (hair)

The Glam Teams, clockwise from top left: Ashley Maree Harvey (hair), Violeta, Natalie Gendle (makeup, ACADEMIC Lash & Beauty); Ivy Boyd (makeup, Ivy Boyd Makeup Artist + Beauty Blogger), Africa, Stacy Syroka (hair, Elevencherry); Desi Thompson (hair, Desi at Dolce), Jenny, Natalie Gendle (makeup, ACADEMIC Lash & Beauty); Kelsey Ziemann (makeup, Kelsi Ziemann Artistry), Jasmin, Kearra Chester (hair)

Whitney’s idea for a campaign to benefit Dress for Success originated before I came to work at Ivory House. Selling discounted headshots to her regular clients seemed like a great way to generate revenue that would allow for her to donate portraits to the clients of Dress for Success, an organization that empowers women to thrive professionally. She first mentioned this undertaking in my job interview back in January. Hearing her talk about the importance of elevating every member of the community made me realize that working at Ivory House was going to be much more than a nine-to-five job. Coming fresh from the corporate world, this was very appealing to me. 

My role on Sunday as Whitney’s studio manager was to manage the flow and make sure everyone was getting what they needed. I was anticipating a fast pace and lots of last-minute problem-solving, but as soon as the women began to arrive, it was clear things were going to go much smoother than I anticipated. The "Glam Teams," compromised of incredibly talented hair and makeup artists, were matched with a Dress for Success client. As anyone who’s been to a salon can attest, once the women were seated in their chairs and the pampering began, their stories began to pour out. 

There was Violeta, a legal assistant at Drake, who told me about the lifelong romance with her husband that started in their hometown in Mexico and brought them all the way to Des Moines.

 Violeta

Violeta

There was Sharon, who works in the crafts department at Walmart and who boasted that she has 13 great-grandkids. She honors the memory of her late husband, her sweetheart and the love of her life, by wearing their wedding rings around her neck. 

 Sharon

Sharon

After 10 years in school while also raising three kids as a single mom, Jasmin is going to graduate next year with her master’s degree in social work, and is currently working as self-sufficiency counselor.

 Jasmin

Jasmin

Kimberly brought so much attitude and energy to the day. She kept us laughing the whole time, and her confidence shone through in every single photo that we took of her.

 Kimberly

Kimberly

Angela, who I told that I would definitely ask for her ID at a bar, told me she’d been married for 14 years and has nine children. (Angela also told me an incredible story about her dog Capone, who’ll be receiving a medal of bravery next month.)

 Angela

Angela

Africa opened up about her history of domestic violence and the strength it took to take her children and leave her husband to start over in a country where she barely spoke the language. 

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Our interactions were brief, but the energy in the “glam room” was that of support and love. 

In the studio, Whitney was working her magic with each woman, making them feel confident and beautiful. Your hair is flawless! Oh my gosh you have the most perfect jawline. Yes, those eyes! You’re killin’ it! It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for her when it comes to shooting any client who walks through the door, but today was different. These women have overcome obstacles and carried weight on their shoulders that we don’t know about, that maybe is only seen in their hesitance to meet the camera’s eye. Whitney took the time to make them feel beautiful, radiant, and cared for, and the proof is in their stunning images. The person who entered the studio was not the same person who emerged. 

The day came to a close with smiles and hugs of gratitude, exchanged phone numbers, and more than a few happy tears (my own included). Giving the gift of confidence to these women who have overcome so much in their lives, and providing them with a gorgeous portrait that they can share and keep forever, means just as much to us as it does to them. It's unbelievably rewarding when we're lucky enough to have the opportunity to share our skills and talents with others in the community. I'm so grateful to be with a company that values lifting each other up whenever we're able. As our stylist Kearra said, it's why we're on this planet.


We couldn't have done this without the support of our amazing collaborators:

Jody White and Nicole Roe Sickels of Dress for Success Des Moines

The Glam Squad:
Kelsi Ziemann with Kelsi Ziemann Artistry
Ivy Boyd with Ivy Boyd Makeup Artist + Beauty Blogger
Natalie Sanger Gendle with Academic lash & beauty
Stacy Syroka independent stylist at Elevencherry
Ashley Maree Harvey independent hair stylist
Kearra Chester independent hair stylist
Desi Joelle with Desi at Dolce

And our kind and patience videographers (video to come): 
Caleb and Joe Stevens

And lastly, a huge thanks to the Ivory House team: Megan, Rachel, and Lucy.

Shane Hefty: Your Designated Dapper Dude

Meet Shane Hefty, Your Designated Dapper Dude

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I met Shane the day he walked in for his photoshoot. I was so impressed by how prepared he was for the experience, especially given the lack of resources I had provided. He brought several suit and tie options that fit his personal brand and business goals. He had a fresh haircut and neatly trimmed beard.  

On top of being organized, he knew exactly what he was looking for in a successful photo, and together, we achieved his goals. When I started designing a Men’s Style Guide, I knew Shane was the best choice for advising on men’s fashion. The following pages are filled with great advice, not only on how to prepare for your headshots, but useful knowledge on where to get started in the wide world of men’s styling. Happy reading!

A NOTE FROM SHANE

People often ask if I own any clothes other than suits; many can’t recall ever seeing me in anything else, and in a number of cases close friends are shocked the first time they see me in a pair of joggers. A large part of my personal brand is being suited up at all times; even though I may be over dressed more often than not. My mantra when it comes to my personal attire is, “Dressing like the place you’re coming from or going to is more important than where you currently are.” 

Regardless of your profession, you need to look like you’re the best at what you do, whether it’s a server at a restaurant or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. For some, that simply means clean clothes that fit well and are in line with the dress code of your employer. For others, that means a suit and tie, and for a broad swath of people, it’s somewhere in between. 

In the coming paragraphs, I’ll share a few key items every man should have in their closet, some grooming and tailoring tips, and finally, what you should wear to a headshot session with Whitney. Let’s get started!


10 Closet Essentials

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A Navy Suit

Navy suits are a great alternative to traditional black and are perfect for everything from job interviews to dates. Bonus: It’s versatile enough, you can wear the jacket as a sportcoat or the pants without the jacket.  

A White Collared Shirt

You need one perfect dress shirt to go with your perfectly tailored navy suit. If you’re of average build, always get a slim fit shirt. I buy most of my dress shirts online from Charles Thywhitt – great prices, quality and fit.

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Brown and Black Lace-up Dress Shoes

You can buy the same shoe in different colors.  Brown will go with your navy suit and the black are more formal. This is an opportunity to invest, as well-made shoes can be repaired and last decades. I suggest leather soles and sticking to a classic style like a cap toe or wing tip.

Dark Blue Denim Jeans

Dark denim looks great with sneakers or dress shoes, t-shirts or dress shirts, cardigans or sport coats.  I prefer J. Crew’s or Levi’s 513 jeans – good quality, great fit, and they’re not $300. 

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White V-Neck Undershirt

If you’re wearing a dress shirt without a tie or a polo shirt, select a v-neck tee.  The sleeves should hit your mid-bicep – if they don’t, it will affect the fit of your shirt. 

A White Pocket Square

A white pocket square is conservative and simple, but also shows that you pay attention to the details.  YouTube has great tutorials showing how to fold it in a square.  

A Grey Tie

A grey tie goes with everything from your suit to your jeans; it works for weddings and job interviews or on a first date with your white button down and dark jeans.  

A Gray Polo Shirt

A gray polo shirt is the short sleeve version of the white button-down shirt – it goes with everything.  You can dress down your navy suit or wear it to Sunday brunch. Try to find one without logos and try numerous brands on until you find one that fits perfectly.  A good fitting shirt hits mid-bicep and if you wear it untucked, it should hit just below your belt. 

Jack Purcell Sneakers

Jack Purcell was a badminton star who had his own converse sneakers, which looked similar to the ubiquitous Converse All-Stars.  The difference is the “smile” on the toe of the shoe.  These sneakers are simple and incredibly comfortable.  The colors are fairly subdued, so you can get them in navy, white, and grey.  I like white or grey, as they provide a nice contrast to the jeans or the navy suit. 

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A Cardigan

You can wear a cardigans like a coat in the spring and the fall.  It’s like a sweatshirt, but dressy; if you get hot, it’s easy to take off.  It’s also a great substitute for a sport coat.  

Leveling Up: 

Invest in tailoring. I can’t emphasize this enough. It will make your investment in the suit and shirts that much more valuable. A good fit just as important as good quality material and construction. I recommend building a relationship with a tailor. J.D. at Frederick’s Tailoring in Clive is the best.  Tell him Shane sent you.