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India & Chris's Flint Hills Wedding

I'm texting with India a couple weeks before the wedding, and she sends me the location of the ceremony; it's coordinates. Just coordinates. With a simple message: "Look for the balloons."

The adventure photographer in me is giddy at the prospect of driving out in the middle of the Flint Hills, and on April 13, I find myself winding down a lot of country roads and passing through very small towns. I'm not sure why Google Maps chose to take me on that route, but I'm glad it did.

As I get closer to my destination, I start realizing how windy it is. And then, I see the balloons.

As I step out of the trusty Prius to snap a photo, my hair shoots straight up from my head and whips around in the wind gusts. I get back in, tie my hair up, and make a right down the hilly gravel road.

Chris and India are getting married on her father's land, and in my opinion it is the ideal Flint Hills wedding location. He will tell me later as we stand by the creek that when he bought the land decades ago, he knew he wanted to keep it as wild and natural as possible. Other than the mowed areas for getting ready, the ceremony, and the reception, it is just that; wild, natural, and absolutely beautiful.

I park in a small area next to two large trailers hooked up to generators. The bride and groom are getting ready in each, and as I check in with India, she reveals that the air conditioner is unfortunately not working. Her bridesmaids and mother are unaffected, instead finding as many windows to open as possible, holding open the door to let the cross breeze in through the screen, and getting to work fixing India's hair and getting dressed.

There were two possible paths to take from the getting ready area to the ceremony, which was up on a hill. Chris and his groomsmen would walk the trail that led from the staging area, a narrow path that cut through a wooded area, crossed the creek, passed by a small cabin made of stone that India's father had built by hand, and led up a steep climb to the reception area. From there it was another short path cutting through stubby grass and wild plums to reach the spot on the hill with the giant tree, where the ceremony would take place.

Chris would lead, followed by his groomsmen who walked in pairs, holding hands. The bridesmaids followed suit. It was a sweet, sincere processional, that set the scene for a spiritual, emotional wedding.

Their son, Asher, was the ring bearer. It had been a big day for him already (not to mention the reception the night before), and as he walked down the aisle, he eventually dropped his basket and decided he would be happier in the arms of his parents, who would alternate holding him throughout the ceremony.

When it came time for the hand-fasting ritual, to symbolize the binding of India and Chris's two lives together, Asher happily went to sit down. And there, in front of the old (and presumably very wise) tree where India and Chris fell in love, they had their first kiss as husband and wife, accompanied by a roar of applause and cheering.

After a 90 degree day with whipping winds and very little shade, everyone was happy to be at the reception. Tables were draped with vibrant yellow tablecloths and everyone settled in to drink a cold beer and grab a plate of potluck items. Throughout the reception there were toasts, a first dance, a pretty hilarious garter toss, and a Father/daughter dance which paused soon after it begun so India's dad could untangle a stick from her dress with the kind of gentle caution that only a father can.

As the reception calmed down and people began heading to their camping spots, Chris and I met India down by the creek for some portraits of the couple. As we hiked down the slope, strains of 4 Non Blondes' "What's up?" followed us from the reception area, and we howled the chorus together. It was nearing golden hour, and India looked absolutely ethereal in the shade of the trees. There, away from the crowds, having a quiet moment to themselves (and me), it was apparent how deeply their love runs. These are not just two people in love, these are best friends. And really, isn't that what we all are hoping for in finding our person?

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