Once in a while we have the great fortune of photographing a wedding that becomes a classic for us; one that stands out in our minds when we think back at our decade-long career as wedding photographers. Kelly and Ben’s 20 year anniversary / vow renewal in Kauai was destined to be one of these classics for us. It combined everything we love photographing most: families, stunning landscapes, low-key vibes, and so much love.
We were just a few months shy of celebrating our own 10 year wedding anniversary when we travelled to Kauai to document Kelly and Ben’s vow renewal, so we were already in the mindset of appreciating the effort that it takes to make a long-term relationship work. As much as I enjoy weddings, vow renewals can be a deeper, “truer” celebration of a commitment that has already been tested over and over again. It’s part promise for the future, and part celebration of a great accomplishment. Add to that the unpredictability of having kids in the mix and everyone being on vacation mode, and it’s just the best, really!
We’ve known Kelly and Ben for several years; they actually took a private workshop with us in their home state of Arizona when our son Max was just a baby. They are amazing wedding photographers in their own right, and I’m a big fan of Kelly’s documentary family work, particularly her images and stories of their “gender creative” son Karson. In fact meeting Karson and Kolton was like meeting celebrities since we’d followed so much of their lives online! As a passionate supporter of authenticity in all its forms, I was thrilled to get to photograph a woman (and family) that shares their truth so openly online. I seriously believe that people like Kelly who dare to be real online are the most underrated heroes of society today. But I digress!
Our 3 days on the stunning Hawaiian island with the Koller family were really about the little moments of connection that make family life so special. Ben fearlessly sported a rainbow speedo that both embarrassed and delighted the boys, Karson rocked a rhinestoned face for the beach and made sure to bedazzle his dad’s torso too, pre-teen Kolton needed his parents’ snuggles after a disagreement, and Kelly and Ben proved that they still “got it” after 20 years of marriage! They’ve always been an inspiration for me as a married couple, but witnessing them as parents over these few days just solidified this for me. The way they respect their kids and their emotions and opinions is something that all parents should take note of. The boys are free to be who they are, and this true unconditional love and support is the greatest gift a parent could ever give their children.
We were joined in Kauai by Kelly’s sister and brother-in-law, fellow wedding photographer power couple Tara and Matt Theilen, their daughter Zoe, and my good friend and documentary photographer extraordinaire Kirsten Lewis (so no, to answer the question you’re asking yourself, we felt absolutely no pressure at all!). They all assembled on the beach for a quick ceremony and then we put our cameras down (mostly) to enjoy an amazing meal, drinks, and company at a local tiki bar themed restaurant.
The next day Kirsten volunteered to order room service and watch movies with the boys while we took Kelly and Ben all over the island to LITERALLY chase waterfalls and rainbows (despite what TLC warned us not to do in the 90s). Mother Nature celebrated Kelly and Ben’s anniversary by gifting them sunshine and rain simultaneously, and the most breathtaking double rainbow any of us had ever seen (we think this one was a gift for Karson). I could not think of two more deserving individuals for these most rare and precious gifts.
I just cannot say enough wonderful things about this experience. It was a chance for us to do what we humbly believe we do best, and what makes us feel most alive, and we could not be more grateful to the Kollers for bringing us along on this adventure. Here’s to another 20 years of marriage!