As some of you may know, we just recently touched down in NJ back from our official honeymoon.
During that time, I must shamefully admit, it took me a solid four days before I took my first real breath. I now realize, this was my first true conscious breath in over six months. But, isn’t that life? Consuming our waking days with “must-do’s” and seemingly urgent non-negotiable responsibilities … and so breathing falls to the wayside.
C'est la vie.
It was a day or so later that I found myself sprawling my Lay-Day towel beachside, waiting for Parker to paddle out and envisioning a beautiful read while gazing at the surfers (husband included) off in the distance. Perhaps the excitement of indulging myself into a highly anticipated novel uninterrupted got the best of me — but it felt like only moments after I watched him paddle out — he was back; standing over me, surfboard in hand, dripping wet and asking how the novel was coming along. I’m not sure how much time lapsed before I responded. The consuming thought in my mind was — why are you out of the water so quickly? Did something happen? How long have I been sitting here?
It was approx. 90 minutes.
I peered down at the unopened book in my hand and quickly realized, I spent that hour and a half just watching the water — lost in thought, letting my brain breath, letting my thoughts out, letting my consciousness just be.
The world felt lighter, the sky seemed brighter and most importantly the ability to gaze off and just be in the moment and ponder, returned. As I folded my towel and put my book away I looked up at Parker and responded, “I didn’t read at all — I just needed to sit.” With his charming smile he kissed me on the forehead and we headed back to the car.
We were us again — Parker Hilton and Jenelle Kappe Hilton. No itinerary, just a drive to explore and adventure. God-damn, we work well together. No wonder I married this exceptional human being. No matter how tattered and hectic life gets, no matter how task-driven (and crazy) I become, he is always there. We are always able to pick up and return to this — the best part of us. This is why I want to spend the rest of my life by his side.
C'est la vie.
It pains my heart so that life has the uncanny ability to disrupt such beauty. I’m beginning to learn how important it is to break away from work, from the stress, and from the ever consuming gruesomeness this world can possess. And although traveling is a surefire cure for me — I now realize it can’t be the end all be all. I’m in need of a grounding and refocusing method at home. Maybe it’s getting back into riding (horses), maybe it’s as simple as an occasional walk on the beach, perhaps it’s a weekly technology free date-night or some combination of all of the above.
I find myself sharing these erratic thoughts with you today because we learned recently that our wedding (shot by the beautifully unique and sensationally refreshing Oli Sansom) has been featured on Wedding Chicks. With a little Foy Vance and Ben Howard playing softly in the background, I took the time (in the midst of task-crunching) to cruise through the feature. Although I physically was at our kitchen table - I was mentally elsewhere. My heart was warmed to the umpteenth degree. The breath of revitalized air, that I felt on the beach, was brought home.
However, that begs the question of leaving such things unspoiled. I admittedly have an unrelenting fear that words, places and objects will lose their magic if they are spoken, seen, or visited too often. The thought alone of losing the butterflies these things sparked or the flood of passion and the burning of a full heart causes me to forcefully limit my indulgence in these words, places and objects. Well aware that this removes every sense of “living in the present” and “embracing the fruits of life.”
It’s a internal struggle. I limit my exposure to things that make my heart flutter. I limit my bites of good food, I hesitantly say “I love you” and I’ve limited myself to viewing our wedding photos for fear that the next time I do so, they’ll seem dull. Irrationally dreading the day when they won’t mean as much, when they lose the ability to ground me and take a blissful time-out from life.
It’s ludicrous and sharing those thoughts make them feel even more so. But, the fears are genuine and real.
Nonetheless, I remain. A revived an revitalized woman. Knowing that the bites of dessert sometimes need to be guiltless to be experienced, The “I love you”’s sometimes demand to be said if the heart burns to do so, and the photos necessitate all of the views my eyes can bear, if my soul desires to see them. I now know that although the burn out is possible, our lives are bettered by the love and experiences we are hesitant to expose ourselves too —C'est la vie.
if you're interested in reading a bit more about our wedding and how we approached it (similar to what I shared on Wedding Chicks), feel free to continue reading ...
"We got engaged in Kauai - it was sunrise and we had just awoken cliffside overlooking the Waimea Canyon. Both being wedding photographers and having shot over 30 weddings together -- we knew the smart choice was to enjoy being engaged and not to get wound up in wedding planning too quickly. So, we promised to enjoy the rest of our holiday in Hawaii and not talk about wedding plans until we got home. Parker abided — I tried.
We did, however, agree that on the plane home we would take 10 minutes to individually write down our ideal wedding. No cheating and no worrying about what the other was writing. After the 10 minutes had passed we would share what we wrote, combine our ideals and desires to create our perfect wedding day.
When the timer buzzed we traded lists and to both of our amazement there were VERY little compromises and adjustments necessary. On the top of the list was our desire to have a multi-day event (preferrable a week) filled with our most important people. Giving us the chance to actually spend time with all of our guests. No brainer there. As we all know, wedding days go 1000x faster than any other day and as the bride and groom you rarely get to truly socialize with your guests.
Next up, we knew we needed to be selective. Ensuring that we surrounded ourselves with the people in our lives who inspire us the most. The people who inspire us to create, inspire us to love, inspire us to live. These are the people who make us thrive to be better humans and who make us, us. And so with that in mind, the main focus of our week long celebration was honoring those people in our lives. As our first gesture of gratitude, we included handwritten notes within our invites telling each guest how they inspire us.
The location choice was easy. I (Jenelle) grew up vacationing in The Thousand Islands. It’s a region on the St. Lawrence River, splitting upstate NY and Canada. I was less than a week old when my parents first brought me there and we continued to return annually for the past 34 years. That location feeds my soul and it warms my heart till this day that Parker recognized this and suggested that we get married there.
My connection to the Thousand Islands goes so far back that I fondly remember, as a very young teenager, seeing a wedding at Boldt Castle (a historic castle on the New York state side of The Thousand Islands) watching through wide eyed wonder and saying to my mom “I want to get married at Boldt Castle one day”. It was a fleeting thought as my mother promptly questioned “who would drive all the way up here for your wedding?” Good point - thanks Mom.
Lucky for us, a couple decades later, distance was no match for the 120+ glorious souls that joined us that week.
We rented the most beautifully quaint and rustic cabin on Lindsay Island for only us (the bride and the groom) to stay in and have our reception at. This would be the epicenter of it all. We both believe that experiences outweigh possessions so for us, it was incredibly important for our guests to have an experience they wouldn’t quickly forget.
We considered it our mission to have our guests mingle together, get to know one another and become friends. Why you ask?!?! Well for the simple reason that all incredible people should have incredible friends. Which is why we tirelessly worked to convince more than half of our land-loving guests to rent houseboats as their accommodations. Those ten boats inevitably rafted together to form a makeshift flotilla where all of our favorite people shared bunk space with individuals they’d only met a few hours prior. I remember looking out from our cabin windows Friday morning thinking “holy $hit. We did it!” Other guests camped out on a nearby island, while the remaining crew stayed on the mainland.
We wanted everything to be very intimate, personalized and sentimental, so every guest received a customized welcome bag with a little welcome note and all the necessities; a hand drawn map of the area, a custom woodblock print of our brand, suntan lotion, SPF lip-balm, water guns, Clif bars and sunglasses.
Being so close to the Thousand Islands I was eager to show it off, having years of experience on the St. Lawrence it felt unfair to have our favorite people here and limit them to our wedding island. Some of our guests were able to spend the entire week with us allotting plenty of time to explore and adventure while most were only able to join us for a limited amount. A Welcome Dinner Cruise was our compromise to ensure everyone experienced at least a portion of the magnitude and beauty of this place. It would take our guests on a three hour cruise hitting most of the key areas of the region, including Boldt Castle.
In congruence with our uncanny desire to have all of our friends become friends we had our guests play a game upon boarding the cruise ship. Parker and I dealt out a card to each and every one of our guests. It didn’t matter if they came with a date or not, they each received a card. This card was a puzzle they needed to solve in order to figure out where they were to be seated for the night. We asked — politely — that people didn’t cheat and that they not sit with their date. A kind way to force people to meet one another. Upon finding their seats, they were greeted by a welcome card that gave them a hint as to what was happening the following day — our wedding day. Ironically, we had 120+ guests that traveled all the way to Canada, from all over the world, without any clue as to where the ceremony would be or how they were getting there. And so the note read:
Tomorrow's the big day, it's finally here
the reason we all gathered is oh so near
As excited as we are to say “I do”
we realize that going forward, most of you haven't a clue
You have no knowledge of where or how this is happening
Please calm your nerves, this is why we're babbling
There's only so much that you need to know
and those few little details are covered below
An early rise is due for the morning
Go light on the booze, consider this a warning
Come ready in your bikini and trunks for tomorrow
Dress beachy for the “I-do's” - there's no swimsuits to borrow
No fancy attire needed, you could get wet
You may think we're joking, let's make a bet!
Our ceremony may seem a bit unconventional
but we promise you, this was all very intentional
We're so incredibly grateful that you came
we promise this weekend will be anything but lame!
Parker & Jenelle
Little did they all know, early the next morning -- approx 9am -- we had canoes, kayaks, paddleboards and a hand-full of motorboats awaiting for them. As a group they would take the 30 minute paddle/boat ride to the ceremony location. It was a small little inlet called Half Moon Bay on the nearby Bostwick Island. Ironically, Bostwick is a significant name in Parker’s family and his father’s middle name — so it would only be fitting that we’d have the ceremony there.
Before guests were to arrive, in the wee-morning hours, Parker and his brother, Pete, rowed out solo to Half Moon Bay. Having lost their father to cancer two years prior it was important to Parker to have that time with is brother. Privately they held a small ceremony, honoring their father by spreading his ashes on his namesake island.
Meanwhile, back at Lindsay Island everyone had boarded onto some version of water transport and began the journey to Half Moon Bay—miraculously no one fell in. The only ones left were my father, Emma (our Mini Australian Shepard —and Maid of Honor) and I.
I remember the morning being so emotional in the most beautiful way. There are parts of me that wish that boat ride with my Dad was longer, only so I had to the time to breathe and truly relish in that private moment with him. My youngest brother, Tom, was awaiting us right outside the cove. He was to give the “ok” for us to come in once he knew everyone was in the cove and situated. I remember my heart racing, seeing the “ok” handwave from my brother and looking over at my Dad. He said, “are you ready.” I don’t think I verbally replied— I think he just knew. I hit play on the ipad and we made our way into the cove. It was like a fairytale. I honestly couldn’t believe everyone had made it. I think I may have shared glances with perhaps 4 of our guests when I looked up at Parker. He immediately started to cry and I suddenly acquired tunnel vision. There was no one else I could see — only him.
We had a few significant people play a part of our ceremony, the officiant, Rocio, is one of my best friends from high school with just the perfect amount of heart and witticism for the task. However, it was my “cousin Bobby” (as we called him) who began the ceremony with a Native American ritual blessing and smudging. Right before we were to read our personal vows to one another, Mark, one of Parker’s close friends from college, shared the reading of Desiderata by Max Ehrmann — one of Parker’s father’s most treasured poems. Having no idea this reading was coming it was a powerfully emotional moment. Upon the conclusion of the ceremony we were adorned with cracked corn thrown by our guests as Parker and I left in the old vintage wooden sidewinder.
The cruise back to Lindsay Island was one of my favorite moments of the day. Parker and I had a brief moment to ourselves -- ecstatic with life and what had just happened -- and were quickly joined by all of our guests who paddled up in canoes and kayaks congratulating us. I must say, it was the best receiving line I’ve ever seen.
After the ceremony we had a quick photo session with the magnificent Oli Sansom and then joined our guests at the houseboats for an afternoon of swimming and BBQ’ing.
We were exceedingly lucky to have some of our guests come back to the cottage later that afternoon to help set up cocktail hour and the reception. A little DIY mayhem. A few guests pruned trees and went island hopping finding flowers for the centerpieces and decor, others laid tablecloths, some organized place settings and helped my mom line the pathway to the reception with photos of Parker and I growing up. There is no way any of it would’ve happened if we weren’t helped and surrounded by the extraordinary individuals who joined us that week.
Guests were dropped off near the boathouse, for the reception, which was about a 6 min walk from our cabin. Once they disembarked their boat shuttle they were greeted by my parents with a custom mug (for their keeping) filled with either champagne or sparkling juice (guests choice) and sent on their journey towards the cabin. Along the way there were framed photographs of Parker and I growing up hanging on the trees. It was a project inspired by my Mom that set a beautifully delicate tone to the evening.
We had a small “cocktail hour” while we waited for all our guests to be shuttled from the campsites, houseboats and the mainland to Lindsay Island. Followed by an extraordinarily delicious buffet dinner by our amazing caterer who did an incredible job accommodating our strict diets while still creating a fantastic menu. There was no assigned seating as it was important for us to have our friends sit with the new friends they had just met the night before.
At sunset Parker and I found ourselves sprinting to different corners of the island for a portrait session with Oli. Guests watched the sunset on a dedicated point of the island eventually making their way back to the reception area just as the band, Josh Turner’s “The Other Favorites” started their set.
One of my more prideful projects was the wall of photos we had in the cabin. There was a framed photo of every guest invited with either Parker or I (or both) spread around a custom made sign we had built. It read, “ the best things in life are the people we love the places we’ve been and the memories we’ve made along the way”. We have each traveled extensively, both as individuals and as a couple. We share the sentiment that everytime we have traveled, be it near or far, we’ve met some of the most remarkable people and created some of the most fantastic memories along the way. And isn’t that what life's all about. Surrounding yourself with the people you love the most, doing the things you love to do the most and truly living life to its fullest? Those framed photos were a take home gift to our guests -- hopefully seen as a testament to just how meaningful they are to us and a homage to how lucky we are to have them in our lives. "
A HUGE A SPECIAL THANKS TO OUR AMAZING FRIENDS, FAMILY AND VENDORS. THERE IS NO WAY WE COULD'VE PULLED IT OFF WITHOUT YOU!!
Wedding Invites / Guest Welcome Map: Tammi Heneveld
Woodblock Print (gift to guests): Stephanie Somers
Hair + Make-up: Amanda Rae Negro
Wedding Reception Caterer: After 8 Catering - Michelle Stewart
Rehearsal Dinner Cruise Centerpieces (islands): Rob Rodgers
Ceremony Location: Half Moon Bay
Gift Bags for Guests: FreeSet Global
Towels/Blankets - Gifts for “Bridal Party”: LayDay
Bug Spray/River Wash/Lipbalm Sunblock/Sun Tan Lotion (gift to guests): All Terrain
Snacks - Clif Bars: Clif Family Winery
Rehearsal Dinner Jumpsuit: Mara Jumpsuit by BHLDN
Earrings: Aha Crafted
Rehearsal Dinner Cruise Centerpieces (islands): Rob Rodgers
Wall Sign “the best things in life ..”: At The Wood Pile
HouseBoat Rentals: Houseboat Holidays
Ceremony Sign (no cell phones): Gloria Lenore
Welcome Dinner Cruise: Kingston 1000 Island Cruises + Trolley’s
Music for Dinner Cruise: Masha Nazina
Pink Love Balls: Big Love Ball
Reception Napkins + Table Cloths: Linen Tablecoth
AfterParty Dress: Solana by Anthropologie
Reception Port-a-Potty: Luxury Porta Party