Ali is not the best at keeping up with sports. Alex having knowledge of this, took advantage of it. He told Ali that his company was doing a March Madness Bracket Tournament like they did the previous year. One day he calls Ali and says he found out the prizes for winning March Madness. He said 3rd place would receive a $1,000 gift card, 2nd place would receive box tickets at the United Center, and 1st place would be given a helicopter tour of the city. Ali quickly responded with enthusiasm about the helicopter ride because she had always wanted to do it! However, Alex stayed calm and said he wasn’t sure he would win.

Weeks went by and Alex called Ali on his way home from work saying pretty much everyone in his office was out of the tournament because their teams had lost. Ali being gullible and not caught up to date with sports was ecstatic! Alex and Ali went to Chicago Helicopter Tours and everything seemed normal. As the helicopter went up in the air Ali had her face pressed to the window in amazement. However, just as they were overlooking the sun setting behind the Chicago skyline, Alex spoke into his headphone.”Alexandra will you marry me?” Ali said YES and there was a whole lot of crying and kissing! Once they landed Alex had a limo waiting for them to take them “somewhere.” Alex told Ali it was a surprise who at this point was in pure shock and hysterics. The limo pulled up to Bull and Bear (where it all began) and Ali and Alex’s family and friends were there waiting to greet them and celebrate! It was a night that neither of them will ever forget. PS- Alex never even filled out a March Madness bracket! Ha!

Ali + Alex are two of the sweetest, most beautiful souls. From our first meeting, to the engagement session, to the boudoir session, to the wedding day – I loved every minute of working with them. I loved them so much, that I found myself celebrating along with them on their wedding day. Laughing when they laughed, crying when they cried, dancing when they danced – all while snapping photos and capturing these moments for them forever.

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VENDOR CREDITS // Wedding Dress Designer: Alyne by Rivini, Eloise, Bella Bianca Bridal Couture | Bridesmaid Dress Designer: Vera Wang, David’s Bridal | Tuxedo Designer: Jos. A. Bank | Hair and Makeup Stylist: Brittany, BM Hair and Makeup Design | Wedding Coordinator: Jamie Bacon, City View Loft | Videographer: George Street Photo & Video | Florist: May Floral | DJ: DJ Intel, Style Matters | Paper Goods Designer: Paperless Post | Ceremony/Reception Venue: City View Loft

Xin Xin + Ryan met five years ago, and last August they got engaged. Here’s their love story the way Ryan lovingly describes it:

“Mutual friends of ours at DePaul introduced Xin Xin and I in the summer of 2012. The first night we met was at The Original Mother’s, an incredibly sloppy, late-night dive bar. Anyone who knows Xin Xin can tell you she’s anything but a drinker, so this was probably the last place I should’ve suggested meeting. Nevertheless, we talked for hours and had a great conversation…”

They obviously hit it off and things went well, because after a few years of dating, Ryan decided it was time to ask Xin Xin to marry him.

“Last August, Xin Xin and I set off for a 2 week Eurotrip traveling through London, Paris, and Rome. I knew far in advance that I was going to propose while we were in Paris, but I didn’t have specific plans for how or when I was going to do it. I was strongly regretting not having the ring on me one day when we were touring the Palace of Versailles and walking throughout this beautiful garden – so I decided I would make an excuse to go back to the hotel so I could grab the ring and propose that evening. We had a delicious and authentic French meal before walking to the Eiffel Tower to take a boat tour on the Seine River. The tour was really beautiful, although I was completely distracted thinking about what I was about to do. It was a chilly night and, after the tour Xin Xin suggested that we take a cab back to the hotel. I insisted we walk and, thankfully, she didn’t resist. As we were walking back I was scoping out the perfect place to propose. We walked upon the Pont Alexandre III bridge (which I remembered Xin Xin was admiring earlier) and, with the illuminated Eiffel Tower as our backdrop, I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me. I could tell right away how surprised she was. She said yes, and we basked in the moment before walking back to celebrate with some champagne and share the news with our families.”

I love sharing the words directly from my bride and groom. Nothing I could ever write or say about them would better tell their story (that’s why I stick to photos!) Their gorgeous wedding at the Langham Chicago was photographed by JTP Team Member, Nicki – and she did an AMAZING JOB capturing every moment beautifully. See for yourselves… congrats Xin Xin + Ryan!

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The first thing Nikki said when she got out of her car was – “I’m SO nervous!” I can’t tell you how many times I hear this from couples (I’ve had a few couples take a shot or two before coming – I don’t hate that idea!). But really, you have NOTHING to worry about. As long as you like hanging with your fiance – and you probably should because he/she is your fiance – everything will be juuuuuuuuust fine. Two minutes later, Nikki + Grant learned that lesson. I coached them through everything, got them comfortable, and from there – the genuine smiles just came out. And they look beautiful, don’t they?! I think so 🙂 Nikki + Grant, I had a blast with you guys! I don’t shoot around the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum often – but I might have to make it one of my regular spots. The light, all that nature, the crazy squirrels, and THAT red dress. It was all perfect. Loved getting you guys behind my camera – can’t wait for the wedding in November!

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Three years ago I photographed Kailey + Rob’s Engagement Session. Two years ago, I photographed their wedding. This year, we went back to the Adler Planetarium (where they got married) and I photographed their Maternity Session. They’re expecting a Baby Boy this October (names still to be decided!) and it really was SO special to see them again, catch up on life, and help document this next phase in their lives. Being with couples throughout the milestones of their lives is so important and meaningful to me. It’s the part of this job that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Kailey + Rob, you’re going to be great parents – I just know it 🙂 It was so much fun spending time with you again – best of luck to you with the baby boy – he’ll be here soon!

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As most of you know, last week I was went on an Alaskan Cruise with my boyfriend’s family. His grandmother brought us all on a cruise with her to experience one of her and her late husband’s favorite adventures. This was Granny’s FOURTH time cruising through Alaska and this time, she brought the entire family with her (20 of us could make it, and we missed everyone that couldn’t be there!). Hence the name and t-shirts ‘Cruisin’ with Granny.’ I’m so thankful that I was included on this trip, as you’ll see in the photos (and video coming soon) it was a BLAST. Thanks, Granny and Bo!!

We started with a day in Seattle. I’d never been there as an adult – and I really wanted to explore the Public Market. We did the Savor Seattle Tour, which I HIGHLY recommend. The market gets super crowded, so the tour was perfect as we got to hit all of the best stops, cut the lines, and get a small tasting of everything rather than having to pick one or two spots to taste. We got to try: hot cinnamon donuts from Daily Dozen Donuts, delish greek yogurt from Ellenos (I know you might be asking yourself, how good can greek yogurt really be? But this stuff is no joke. It is SOOOO good and healthy. It was so good I questioned it being healthy. It could’ve been a dessert. Try it.), cherry treats from Chukar Cherries, some reeeeeeal good cheese curds/cheese and crackers/mac and cheese from Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, THE BEST CLAM CHOWDER EVER from Pike Place Chowder (seriously, this was delicious. And I’m not even a huge Chowder fan. But this place won 1st place in the chowder competition so many years in a row that they were banned from participating for a few years so that other people had a chance. If that doesn’t convince you how good it is, I got Dan to wait in line for 45 minutes the next day so we could have it again – and if you know how much Dan hates lines, you know the chowder must be good), Russian pastries from Piroshky Piroshky (I’m sure these were delicious and I ate them, but by this point I was starting to enter my food coma and also couldn’t stop thinking about that chowder that I couldn’t focus. Dan really liked them though), Crab Cakes from Etta’s Seafood Restaurant, and finally salted caramls from Jonboy Caramels. Sorry there aren’t any pictures of the delicious food – I was too busy eating to have my camera out 🙂 Seattle was a blast, we even had an Uber driver that sang and gave us a puppet show – if you missed the videos on my Insta story… ask me the next time I see you – oddest experience ever.

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After a quick day in Seattle, we left Sunday for the cruise. It was my first cruise ever, so I was super nervous about being seasick the whole time. Once I got over that and got my sea-legs though, it was awesome. Our first stop was Ketchikan where we did the Deadliest Catch Crab Tour. This was really cool as we got to take in the views, learn about crab fishing, hold Box Crabs aka Transformers, and we saw 4-5 eagles fly around and dive down/catch fish. Pretty cool stuff.

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Next we cruised towards Juneau as we explored the Tracy Arm Fjord that was filled with glaciers and towering cliff walls. We also go lucky the entire trip with clear weather as we were able to see the tops of the mountains, which usually aren’t visible.

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When we arrived in Juneau, we hopped on a quick bus to the Mendenhall Valley in the Tongass National Forest to canoe 2.5 miles to the glacier for the hike. This was my favorite excursion of the trip – the canoe was beautiful, fun, and a total team effort; and the hike was pretty cool, too! If you follow my blog, you know that I hiked the Tasman Glacier in Mt. Cook, New Zealand earlier this year – but this was a totally different experience and cool in it’s own unique way! Thanks to our guides, Josian and Micah, with Liquid Alaska for being fun, informative, and for keeping us safe 🙂

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And then I had the BEST CRAB LEGS OF MY ENTIRE LIFE. One leg per person was enough to fill you up (I probably could’ve eaten two if I had to). How insane was that?? At $25/leg, I thought it was a little pricey – but after realizing how much meat is in one leg, it’s totally worth it. Worth the wait in line. Worth going to Juneau for. Tracy’s King Crab Shack, you’re doing it right.

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After a long day in Juneau, we set out overnight to Skagway. We didn’t spend much time in Skagway though, because as soon as we got there we took a ferry to a small fishing town nearby, Haines (45min trip). If we just took the ferry and back I would’ve been happy as the views were beautiful. Haines might have been my favorite little town we visited. It wasn’t super touristy, and it felt like the real Alaska. We went on a fishing tour with Heather and Asanti of Skagway Salmon Fishing (yup, that’s them on the homepage of their website). They were AWESOME. I highly recommend finding them and hanging out with them if you’re anywhere near Haines. They spend their summers in Alaska and winters in the Bahamas doing fishing tours. They live on the boat we fished on. They are the real deal. Good times. Great people.

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Looking for Mountain Goats…

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Probably my favorite picture that I took on the trip – if you know Chip (my boyfriend’s Dad), you know how much this photo sums him up.

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I caught a little baby salmon (above) compared to the one Rick caught (below)…. fishing is a team sport though, right?!
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On our way out to go salmon fishing, we also through some crab pots in and caught a few on the way back! CRABS CRABS CRABS!

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Picking wild raspberries on the way back to the ferry.

JillTiongcoPhotography-ChicagoWeddingPhotographer_0055.jpgSwitching things up a bit…
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This is granny!

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Family picture time on formal night… this was fun 😉 Despite all the amazing things we did on the excursions, some of my favorite moments were spent on the cruise ship with the family. Hanging in the hot tub/pool, playing cards (who knew Oregon Trail was a card game now), gambling in the casino hitting 24 three times!, hanging at dinner and sitting with someone new every night, happy hours with alaskan mudslides, seeing the cruise band Starship play while I guzzle down another Passionada, eating ice cream/pizza/burgers/chicken sandwiches at all hours of the day and night, watching Alice play piano at the lounge with the piano guy – just spending time with family and getting to know everyone was really special.

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They showed movies under the stars on the cruise ship – Guardians of the Galaxy 2 played so we HAD to watch it. I AM GROOT!

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Cruisin’ with Granny t-shirts! These babies got us lots of attention the entire trip. Thanks again, Granny – I had a blast!

It was the two year anniversary of Tori + Ryan’s first date. They had originally planned to go to the same restaurant (Cooper’s Hawk) – but first Ryan took Tori back to her old apartment complex. Sounds random, but it was the first time he saw her. Two years prior, he had gone to pick her up for their date, and when Ryan pulled up, Tori was outside playing with her new puppy. It was in this spot that he met the love of his life, and this very same spot is where Ryan asked Tori to marry him.

Tori + Ryan, I’m so glad I had the opportunity to not only work with you – but get to know you better. From our first meeting, to the Engagement Session, to the wedding – it was all a pleasure. I loved seeing how much you both love each other through it all. The excitement to marry each other was evident in BOTH of your tears throughout the day. Your love for each other even made me tear up a little bit behind the camera 🙂 Thanks for choosing us to capture your wedding day – we love how the photos turned out and hope you do, too!

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VENDOR CREDITS // Wedding Dress Designer: Winnie Couture | Bridesmaid Dresses Designer: Bebe | Tuxedo Designer: Formally Modern Tuxedo | Wedding Coordinator: Kacie Benjamin, The Pavilion at Orchard Ridge Farms | Videographer: ojo Creative | Florsist: Erin Stoffregen, Event Floral | Cake Artist: Terrell Cole, Dark Horse Pastries | DJ: Frankie Novak | Paper Goods: Wedding Paper Divas | Ceremony Venue: Church by the Side of the Road | Reception Venue: The Pavilion at Orchard Ridge Farms | Caterer: Henrici’s Catering | Photo Booth: Luxe Productions

Melissa + Alex got engaged along the gorgeous tree-lined path along Lake Michigan/in front of the Field Museum/Shedd Aquarium. What better place than that to start our Engagement Session than to take it back to where it all started. It’s a meaningful place to them, since they live in the area, and have walked the trail a few times. It’s one of my favorite views of the city, as I shoot there often – but I love finding new nooks and hidden gems that I’ve never photographed before. This time, the path along the Shedd/garden area was my favorite. We started along the north side of the Shedd/Field Museum – and walked along the lake, all the way to behind the Adler Planetarium to the hidden beach that is quickly becoming a hot spot (it was filled with people and I’ve never seen that before!). Melissa + Alex, I had so much fun with you both during the session. I loved getting to know you, chatting about life/grad school/traveling, and watching you get more and more comfortable throughout the session. You’re going to be pros come wedding day – and I am so excited for you to see photos from your session – but even more so I can’t wait for the wedding! See you next year 😉

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Amanda + Ryan’s story follows an interesting timeline of events. They first met at a “Throw Back to College Years” birthday party about 8 years ago. Even after a couple jello shots – there weren’t any sparks, and it seemed they were going to take the road towards friendship. Fast forward 6 years, and Ryan moved back to Chicago after playing professional baseball in Florida. They both had mutual friends, so their journey started with a solid base of friendship. Then, at 13,000ft in Breckenridge, CO – something clicked, timing was perfect, and everything aligned for them.

The following year, they were in Park City Utah. After scouting the mountain for 2 days and snowboarding with a ring in his pants, Ryan found a scenic woods setting to take their annual handstand picture. After the final picture and wipe out, Amanda stood up while Ryan stayed in the snow …but this time on one knee – asking Amanda to marry him.

Their wedding was the perfect Sunday Funday. Their friends and family gathered for an early afternoon ceremony/cocktail hour/lunch reception at Ovation. A lot of the details were DIY, and I’m talking GOOD DIY. They designed their own logo, created all the signs, made all the centerpieces full of greenery and palms, made the place cards… and they even built the structure at the front of the ceremony. But my favorite detail was that they brought all their plants from home – it was such a personal touch! They had fun, showed their love for each other, drinks were flowing, and the after-party continued at Fifty-50. After spending the day with them – I now LOVE the idea of a Sunday Wedding – it was perfect 🙂 Amanda + Ryan, all the best to you guys – and I hope to continue running into you at the Windy City Smokeout for years to come!

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VENDOR CREDITS // Wedding Dress Designer: Justin Alexander, Weddings 826 | Tuxedo Designer: Adrian Park Custom Suits | Hair Stylist: Amanda, Blohaute | Make-up Artist: Joey Claeyssen | Donuts: Glazed and Infused | Ceremony/Reception Venue: Ovation | Caterer: Catering by Michaels

I met Winelyn + Marco for the first time just outside Olive Park, right before their Engagement Session. Within minutes, we were talking and laughing like old friends – and they opened up in front of my camera to be their adorable selves. They were a little nervous – as are most couples before the Engagement Session – but they soon realized how much fun we were going to have together. Once I showed them one of the photos taken about 5 minutes in, they were sold. They let their guards down and just let the session flow. Winelyn + Marco don’t get to see each other too often, as they live about an hour apart and are both nurses. However, when they do – they love to meet in Chicago to walk around and find yummy places to eat – Chinatown is one of their faves (I need to get there more!). Winelyn (or Kaye as her friends/family call her) + Marco – thanks for choosing me to photograph your engagement! I had a blast with you guys – and I hope to work with you again soon!

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Alison + Brandon met in college. Alison played basketball, and Brandon was her off-season trainer. I assume there was always a little crush there 😉 because Alison says that as soon as Brandon stopped running their workouts, he asked her if she wanted to hangout! Maybe he always knew, maybe he didn’t. But fast-forward to a New York trip and a surprise private garden proposal later – Brandon and Alison started planning the rest of their lives together. Alison + Brandon, you two are one of my favorites. You were both so sweet, caring, and treated us like we were friends or family. That is something that doesn’t go unnoticed and is DEFINITELY appreciated. You are attentive to each other, so much fun to be around, and your friends and family love you both – that is clear. Thank you for hiring us to be there to photograph your wedding day. The memories in these photos are documented forever, and we’re so happy you get to enjoy them for the rest of your lives! All my best to you both 🙂

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VENDOR CREDITS // Wedding Dress Designer: BHLDN | Bridesmaid Dresses Designer: Iva Crepe by Jill Stuart, BHLDN | Make-up Artist: Lia, Nika Vaughan Bridal Artists | Hair Stylist: Terri | Florist: Revel Decor | Cake Artist: Sweet Mandy B’s | Band: Blue Water Kings | Invitations: Wedding Paper Diva | Venue: Gallery 1028 | Caterer: Calihan Catering