Firefly Imageworks

Maikel, Jennifer, & My Poor, Misty Eyes

April 6, 2011

Maikel & Jennifer

You might recall that in December, after three weeks of shooting video and photos in Africa, I got stuck in Belgium for four days due to some pretty crazy winter weather. Well, odd as it may sound, this unfortunate delay is where the story of my most recent wedding shoot began, and through a series of unplanned and fortuitous events, that delay inevitably led me to to Ellicott City, MD on a beautiful Sunday in March. Funny how things work out.

My flight had been delayed until the 25th. That morning, I was meant to take a taxi from the hotel Continental Airlines put me up at in Brussels. I’d already felt a bit put out by the prospect of flying home four days late on Christmas Day and missing time with family while in the air, but just to make matters worse, the taxi never showed for its scheduled 8:30am pickup. The hotel Concierge called the taxi company, fussing frustratedly on my behalf in French, but it was no use. With an hour and a half until boarding time, I had no taxi nor any idea how else to get to the airport on the snow-covered Brussels streets.

Continuing to be an enormous help, the Concierge recommended the train station three blocks from the hotel. I picked up my bags and walked hurriedly toward the station, only to arrive and find it seemingly empty and locked. I assumed the train was closed for Christmas and hurried back, worried and completely out of options for getting to my flight on time. Once back, the Concierge assured me the train was indeed running and that the entrance itself may have been closed, recommending an entrance on the other side of the station.

With John & Yoko

With John & Yoko

With an hour left until boarding time and carrying my three-weeks of luggage, camera and video equipment, I sprinted through the snowy streets back toward the station and my last hope of catching my flight on time. To my relief, the other entrance was open and a train was just about to leave the station when I jumped on board the crowded car.

It was blisteringly cold that day and yet somehow I’d managed to work up a substantial sweat. With a smile and a joke about how winded I seemed, a friendly gent – also left to stand just inside the train door – helped me get my bags stacked in such a way that the conductor could walk through the crowded car and check tickets. We struck up a conversation and found out we were both flying to DC that day via the same flight. His name was Maikel, a native Belgian roughly my age, and was on his way to surprise his American fiancé for Christmas.

Maikel and I stayed close through the airport, helping each other and keeping one another company through check in, security, and waiting at the gate. While waiting I shared with him some of the work I’d done in Africa and even managed to sell him on the idea of getting an iPad once he arrived in the States. It was a short time in the airport, but we developed a friendship and even became pals on Facebook before boarding and sitting at opposite ends of the plane.

It wasn’t long into the new year when I saw the photos of him surprising his fiancé show up in my Facebook feed. A month or so after that however, I got a funny message in my email titled “very very random question….(this is really not spam, I swear!)”. That’s is how I first met Maikel’s fiancé, Jennifer.

500 Miles

500 Miles

Apparently, he’d told her a bit about this random new friend at the airport, and well, she wanted me to attend the wedding. They’d set a date for a small ceremony in late March, and he’d be flying back over earlier in the month and have no friends or family of his own in attendance due to the distance, so she wanted to surprise him with the only friend he’d personally made that lived on this side of the pond (and the fact that i was a photographer didn’t hurt either).

The secret held until the big day, and Jennifer’s scheme went off without a hitch. In what could have easily been a, “really? you invited the weird dude from the airport?” reaction, Maikel seem surprised and genuinely happy to see me. The feeling was mutual.

Later, as i squinted though the viewfinder of my camera, watching my two new friends exchange off-the-cuff vows during a ceremony at The Obladi, a Beatles themed hotel, I reflected on all of the unintended twists and turns that led to me being there. The entire thing seemed almost fated – eerily similar to the relationship I sensed between the two of them. The adoration the two had for each other and the joy they took in their journey together was palpable; feelings made obvious in Maikel’s vows of love to his princess, and echo’d in the adoring, carefree intonation of Jen’s rendition of The Proclaimers’ 500 Miles on a ukulele, used beautifully as her own wedding vows. I may or may not have teared up a little.

A Real Good Day

A Real Good Day

Weddings are an odd event in general, so often romanticized into a place in our minds as the romantic pinnacle of our lives. That romanticizing the event itself leads many to develop large, sweeping, elaborate plans for their big day, only to find an uninvited guest – stress over so many perfectly planned details – showing up and crash the party. It’s not a horrible thing, and many beautiful ceremonies result from it, but the care-free spirit Jennifer and Maikel brought to their day put a totally different spin on it. From the hiring of a random dude Maikel met in the airport as the photographer, to Jennifer’s choice of a red-dress (because according to her, 1. white just doesn’t look good on her, and 2. she found the perfect red, fabric on “super-sale”), to many other odds and ins here and there, you could tell that it wasn’t about creating and micromanaging some idillic day. There was an air of freedom in throwing a little caution to the wind. There was joy in seeing what beauty came from the unexpected. For them, their wedding day was so obviously just another step in a long and increasingly beautiful journey for them both. Another step in a life sure to be filled with fun, surprises, creativity, love and beauty around every turn.

To say the least, I was honored to be swept up in and allowed a small part in their tale. I look forward with excitement to see where it takes them, and look forward to the friendship that’s been born of it. Congrats, guys.

  1. How intersting… the blog, the pictures, but even more-so that whole set of circumstances! A great little story and pictorial that left me feeling close to / fond of these folks… neat people! Good work!

    Comment by don glisson | April 6, 2011 at 6:12 am
  2. Fantastic! We love it all — the pictures, the story, and your joining us to tell the tale. — carolyn and jeff

    Comment by Jeff & Carolyn | April 6, 2011 at 8:16 am
  3. I would like to thank you for this beautiful story and pictures. Jenny is my younger cousin and due to my two little girls being very ill, I did not get to make it to the wedding. You helped me feel as though I actually did get to attend. You gave me back a little piece of my family that I sadly had to miss. Thank you again for your beautiful pictures and beautiful words.

    Comment by Jessa | April 6, 2011 at 11:09 am
  4. Aww… I think that’s the best thing this lil blog could’ve ever done. Very touching comment. Thank YOU.

    Comment by DJ Glisson II | April 6, 2011 at 11:17 am
  5. DJ, reliving the experience through your eyes was incredible. Almost as wonderful as being there. thank you for capturing the moment, the experience and the love that was so obvious between them.

    Comment by Tab Crooks, uncle | April 6, 2011 at 6:53 pm
  6. Big surprise. I cried when I read the story…almost as much as I shed tears of joy at the wedding. The pics are fabulous! thanks!!! colleen

    Comment by colleen sulava | April 6, 2011 at 7:24 pm
  7. DJ, just when I thought this wedding couldn’t get any better…I read your story and relived the tale. Beautiful photos. PS, I have a great shot of you in my pics!

    Comment by Maryfrances Sulava | April 6, 2011 at 8:45 pm
  8. What a nice pictures ! I feel i was there to enjoy the moment. Job well done!
    from a belgium freind…

    Comment by Angelo Allary | April 7, 2011 at 1:33 am
  9. DJ, it was so nice to meet you at the wedding. Your story and pictures took me back to that special day and made me smile.We love Maikel and Jenny and will miss them.

    Comment by Linda Sulava | April 7, 2011 at 6:43 pm
  10. I’ve been friends with Jenny’s mom for over thirty years, and I’ve enjoyed going to Jenny’s plays since she was in high school. Jenny’s such a special woman, just like her mom. Carolyn and I are also in a book club together, and the book club is waiting for the book/movie to come out about this great romance. I think you just wrote the last chapter!

    Comment by Barb | April 7, 2011 at 6:52 pm
  11. What a treat! Jenny, after watching some of your other performances, you’re perfectly suited for this one. I’m so happy for you both and your happiness radiates from this charming story. What a wonderful loving way to share with the world. Wishing you all good things in great abundance! your friend at the FCC — Susan

    Comment by susan k | April 8, 2011 at 5:21 pm
  12. It was wonderful to share in the beautiful story of Jenny and Maikel. The pictures were beautiful, as well, with the love Jenny and Maikel share radiating in each photo. I wish them a lifetime of love and happiness, just as they shared on their wedding day!

    Comment by Carol | April 13, 2011 at 9:09 am
  13. I’m so happy to have seen these photos as I was supposed to be at the wedding and was unfortunately sick. The pictures are absolutely lovely. The blog you wrote captured the genuine person that Jenny is and that I will miss here in DC. Thank you for describing the wedding, being there to capture it and posting it for us all to see! What a fortuitous turn of events for everyone! I was looking forward to meeting you after Jenny told me this story. Another day hopefully. Thanks again.

    Comment by stephanie | April 19, 2011 at 5:22 pm
  14. DJ, This comment is a very long time in posting but I just went back and reread this after having settled a bit here in Belgium. Each reading and viewing of the pictures brings a smile and a lovely reminder of a perfect day. Thank you so much for being a such a huge part of our story and this very special day for us, filled with so many special moments and you managed to capture every one of them. We count ourselves lucky for not only having a talented photographer capture our wedding but also as a friend. Thank you again and again, Jenny and Maikel

    Comment by Jenny | April 20, 2011 at 4:48 pm

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