My family is a very large, loving, fun family. I know others that dread spending the holidays with their families, but I’ve never had that problem. I love huge family gatherings, and my family never disappoints. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and I’m now able to appreciate my family, but we always have so much fun. There is always some unknown person at our holiday gatherings. Sometimes it’s a friend who just didn’t have anywhere to go, sometimes it’s a random guy that shares a dorm with my cousin and couldn’t afford to go home, and sometimes it’s a new boyfriend or girlfriend. But it doesn’t matter who it is – they’re welcomed with open arms. And teased. Because really, if you’re not teased at one of my family holiday gatherings, my family doesn’t like you. So when they tease you, smile. Grin and bear it, it means you’re one of us!

I had assumed Thanksgiving 2009 would be the same as the previous year, spending time with Tom’s family, and my family. No worries, right? Then Tom’s mother informed us that his cousin would be getting married the weekend after Thanksgiving, and they wanted us to go to El Paso. Texas. For Thanksgiving. Yikes! I haven’t been to El Paso since high school, when I was on a mission trip. I hadn’t really considered going to El Paso for a holiday, because I’ve never had family in El Paso until now. So we got up before the sun was up – which for anyone who knows me knows made me OH SO VERY happy – and set out on our 12 hour trek to Texas.

I wish I was one of those people who could just get back in the car and go to sleep, but I’m not. So instead, I took pictures. Through a very dirty window I might add, Tom you might want to wash those. The sun rise really was beautiful, we saw it as we drove through Pueblo.

I expected more of a desert drive through New Mexico. Ya know, cacti and scorpions. After all, that’s what they showed in Outrageous Fortune! Oh wow, does anyone but me remember that movie? Shelley Long and Bette Midler, in glorious 80’s styles… Anywho I digress. So yes, New Mexico – cacti and scorpions. Although without the scorpions, because they have more than four legs, and I don’t like creatures with more than four legs. But the drive was actually very pretty. The gorgeous clouds definitely helped though!

We spent time with family in El Paso, enjoyed a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner, and I met a lot of Tom’s extended family for the first time. His aunt has three beautiful daughters, and I caught this picture of them with their grandmother, all dressed up to go to the wedding!

We went outside to take some pictures, and Tom grabbed this one of me, I really like it! It might even have to go on the website. Excellent shot Love!

The bride’s mother reserved a limousine to take us all to the ceremony.

Kaden was SO excited to ride in a limo. He was convinced he was QUITE the stud, particularly because he was surrounded by all of these gorgeous girls who thought he was cute!

I haven’t been a guest at a wedding since I started my business, and I wasn’t really prepared for something that came up. It was VERY VERY VERY VERY hard for me to just sit there, as a guest, and not move around as a photographer to get the shots I wanted. I got a few dirty looks from the actual photographers, and I finally just had to sit down and shoot from my seat. Very VERY difficult. Is it just me, or does anyone else experience this too? I mean, I have a camera, I can take pictures too right? Don’t worry, I left the photographers alone. I kept thinking about my photo karma – I wouldn’t want a guest to get in my way, so I sat down. Sometimes that Golden Rule is so damn hard!

I’ve never been to a Catholic wedding before, it was really beautiful. The traditions really add to the ceremony, and it got me thinking about what I want to do in our ceremony. I’ve explained them as I remember them, although here is my disclaimer – I could be completely wrong in the meanings. I think I got them right though.

The priest asked the guests to give any dimes they had to the bride’s mother, to give to the couple. This handful of dimes was to symbolize constant financial prosperity for them in their home.

Another tradition they incorporated was to have the maid of honor and best man surround them with a special rosary. It was explained to me that this is similar to the unity candle – two becoming one. Another really cool tradition, I liked this one too.

I think my favorite though was this one. All of these were extraordinarily hard to capture from my seat, but I hope this photo will show my explanation well. The priest invited the parents up to place their hands on the couple’s heads, and said a prayer for them. I thought it was so cool to invite the people who probably care the most for the two of them to bless their marriage, and to say a little prayer for the both of them.

Sometimes I think the neatest wedding photos are the ones that aren’t planned – the stolen moments, that even the couple won’t remember entirely until they see the photo.

Jeanette was gorgeous that day! I don’t know her very well and only met her a couple of days before the wedding, but she seemed to be glowing on her wedding day, and so happy.

Her mom was entertaining the two little ones – Kaden and Bridget – with her fabulous dancing! Okay so maybe it wasn’t entertaining JUST the kids… we all thought it was pretty funny too!

The flowers were beautiful, even after the long day!

We danced almost all night – first Tom and I, then Kaden and I, and then the dollar dance started. I’ve seen this before, but never with this much enthusiasm. EVERYONE wanted a dance from the bride and groom. The line was SO long! I think the funniest dance was when the best man wanted to dance with the groom – it was hilarious! Kaden all of the sudden turned on his shy (where the heck did THAT come from?) and didn’t want to dance with the bride, but wanted to give her the dollar. So they pinned it to her, and he walked away, super proud of himself.

He said later that he only wanted to dance with Mommy. Who can argue with that, right? It doesn’t matter how old he is, he will always be my baby!

He is such a happy little boy, I am so blessed and thank God every single day for my family. We had an amazing Thanksgiving, spending time with family we already knew, and meeting new family. I know that it’s 2011, and this is reaching back to a year that is now gone, but these memories are a reminder to me, of how blessed I really am.