New Jersey

Helen's Surprise 90th Birthday Party

Helen’s Surprise 90th Birthday Party | Princeton, NJ | Apollo Fields Wedding Photography

Some of my favorite family photos are the ones that we have from my own Nana’s Surprise 90th birthday party so I immediately jumped on the opportunity to work with this sweet family to capture their own grandmother’s 90th! These events are so special and meaningful for everyone involved and I really believe that 90 is an amazing milestone to celebrate.

Helen and her husband moved to Princeton many, many years ago and have spent most of their married lives there. They have a big family filled with kids, grandkids, and even one great grandson! Helen thought her family was going to do a small and intimate party to ring in her 90th, but they had other plans. Jen is one of her twelve grandchildren who reached out to me to do the photos and it was so fun working with this sweet family to capture this special party.

There was such a light to Helen that I felt the moment she walked through the doors. Everyone was clapping and singing “Happy Birthday” and she just threw her hands up in the air. One of my favorite things about her was the way that she would talk to everybody, by taking their hands into her hands and holding them up close while looking them right in the eyes. It was so caring and really says something about the way that generation connects with their friends and family. She even did that with me as she just kept exclaiming, “This is so much fun! Are you having fun?” As if she was hosting the party instead of being the honoree!

Jen had put together a sentimental video that they played on the projector of all of Helen’s family members sharing their favorite stories and antidotes about her. It was great watching her eyes lighting up while she watched the special montage and I loved seeing the story of their family in the compilation. It really goes to show how one person can have such an impact on so many people and the positive effects that a sunny disposition can have.

I wish this family so much happiness and continued celebrations, it was such a pleasure to work with them & I fully expect to be shooting Helen’s 100th in ten years :)

Event Photography: Heather Huie for Apollo Fields

Venue: Salt Creek Grille, Princeton NJ

Our Mala Bead Ceremony: A Non-Traditional Wedding Idea

Mala Bead Ceremony | Rehearsal Dinner Ideas | Non-Traditional Wedding Idea | Apollo Fields | Yoga Weddings

PSA to all couples who are getting married and looking for non-traditional wedding ideas: do a Mala Bead Ceremony! Originally a suggestion from a close hippie friend of ours (we love you, C!), we decided to do it for our wedding and everyone loved it! It was a heartfelt, engaging experience that was perfect for our rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding.

We first decided to do a Mala bead ceremony because neither of us were raised with any religious beliefs and we wanted to find traditions that resonated with us. The basic idea is this: ask your closest friends and family to obtain beads of any make, whether natural stone, wood, decorative, or otherwise. Then ask them to charge each of their beads with their intentions for your marriage and write them down. When everyone is together the night before the wedding, have each person present their beads and written intentions to you, describing why they chose those beads. Now, one-by-one string them onto your Mala bead necklace, beginning with a guru bead of your own.

The Guru Bead

The guru or anchor bead acts as the center of the necklace just as you will stand at the center of your family and friends during your wedding ceremony. In total, a traditional mala bead necklace contains 108 beads (not including the guru bead). After everyone has shared their beads and intentions, tie off the necklace. This personalized piece of jewelry is now ready for you to give to your officiant to wear during the ceremony.

Heather and I had no idea how our family and friends would respond to the ceremony, but their participation far exceeded our expectations. Our families aren’t particularly open with emotional conversations but somehow the subtlety and genuine nature of the mala bead ceremony created a comfortable space for them to share their feelings (so much feels, so much safe space). Some spoke with tongue-in-cheek comedy, while others stumbled through words that are usually left unspoken, but they all spoke.

They all shared their thoughts on love and what they think makes a good relationship. Unexpectedly insightful and heartfelt, I’d never felt closer to everyone in attendance. It was like one of those icebreaker team-building activities but with more on the line and less bullshit. I can’t recommend the ceremony enough.

Incorporating the Mala into our Ceremony

The day of the wedding we gave the necklace to our officiant, David “Killer” Miller, and he explained the significance of it to our guests while it gently hung around his neck. He also passed our wedding rings around in little nests for everyone to see, feel, and put their thoughts upon. Heather and I really wanted our wedding ceremony to be as interactive as possible because we feel most ceremonies are too exclusive rather than inclusive of those in attendance.

After all, why would you invite all these people to your wedding if you didn’t want them to participate in one way or another. We are the communities we are part of and I’ve never felt more in place than when I looked around at the faces in ours. Let this message be a reminder that your wedding day is whatever you want it to be, even if, especially if, it includes some random hippie ceremony.

The Intentions That Everyone Charged Our Beads With:

  • May you be LOVE (blood stone)

  • May you be LIGHT (amazonite)

  • May you be TRUTH (smoky quartz)

  • May you be COMPASSION (jasper)

  • Live today like there is no tomorrow.

  • Trust yourself to do the right thing!

  • Be truthful and honest in all that you do!

  • Have faith in yourself because you’re a good person and can solve anything that you encounter.

  • May you appreciate and encourage one another.

  • May you realize every moment is a gift.

  • May you have an open heart and therefore, an open mind.

  • To cherish your creativity and originality. It is hard to get it back (unicorn bead)

  • To live healthy and balanced. Everything in moderation (heart bead)

  • To be resilient at all times. Like a dragon (dragon bead)

  • To continue adventuring, thriving, and having a good time (flower bead)

  • The football shaped bead is pretty and reminds me of Heather

  • The barrel shape: Keep laughter in your lives. “A barrel of laughs”

  • Round cherry: From a necklace Heather made me. I wish you many happy days in your future

  • Yellow bead: Mom, Nana, and Pop all have this same bead to represent the strength in family

  • Stay classy

  • Be kind before being nice

  • Rosary Bead: May the breeze blow new strength into your beings

  • White Rosary Bead: May the moon softly restore you both by night

  • Brown flower bead: Was picked by me in a bead ceremony to represent RESILIENCE

  • Red squiggle bead: Keep traditions + make new traditions. It’s a Christmas bead. Believe in order to receive.

  • Strength: Although the nuts are individuals, they are strongest when they come home and are joined by the bolt.

  • Longevity: The darker nuts are from my fathers tool box. He understood partnership. M & D celebrated 66 years together last year.

  • Happiness: It has many components – Humor, Honesty, Humility

  • Growth: You are just starting your journey. You may need a bigger bolt as you grow more nuts!

  • Red beads from a necklace Heather made me. Makes me think of a ruby, represents my love for you both.

  • Teal bead: From a necklace Gram gave me. My intentions to keep the Girls Club alive forever.

  • Yellow bead: Dad, Nan, and Pop have this same bead to represent the strength in family.

  • Oval Silver: From a bracelet Heather made me. Silver represents sophisticated and modern, riches and wealth. May you have it all.

  • Black bead: Keep negative energy out of your life.

  • Yellow bead: To show strength in family.

  • Lead barrel: Like a bullet with gunpowder, continue to chase your dreams.

  • Black and white: Remember there are many other colors in the world.

  • For Nature

  • For Passion

  • For Play

  • Take time to listen with the mind and the heart

  • May you have patience with each other through the hard moments.

  • I will ALWAYS remember that I am strong and have the support of my extended family (we love you guys)

  • I will not do hard to others and accept the moment for what it is.

  • I will not end my day on an angry note; I have much to be grateful for.

  • I will have the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

  • I took this from Nana’s necklace. Like Nana, always find goodness in all people (Turquoise and Silver)

  • Pop, your father, and mom have the yellow bead to represent the strength in family.

  • This was from a necklace Heather made Nana. Hold the memories of both Gram and Nana (Teal)

  • Keep a transparent window of your future (Glass Bead)

  • What ever your wishes are!

  • Go forward.

  • My mom’s love of family.

  • Honeymoon Acres.

  • For memories.

  • For love.

  • To hold space for love even if it is small.

  • For a long, happy, ever-growing bond that gets stronger with time.

  • For you to find the joy even when you have to look for it.

  • For you to keep your uniqueness as individuals and as a couple.

  • May you have kind words, a loving heart, and good intentions.

  • May you take time every day to sit and quietly listen.

  • May you live in a constant state of amazement.

  • May you march to the beat of your own drum.

  • Winter – Teamwork. It takes two to build a snowman (snowman bead)

  • Spring – Pace, don’t rush through life like a speedy bunny. Slow down, enjoy the moments (bunny bead)

  • Summer – Freshness, a happy and fulfilling relationship (strawberry)

  • Fall – Harvest, enjoying the benefits of a long commitment (yellow tube)

  • Jade Tear: Jade is for luck and fortune.

  • The Bull: Bulls are strong. Willed with stronger personalities. Be mindful to see the bull in yourself and moo-ve on :)

  • The Frog: Frogs, while seemingly adaptable, are in reality quite fragile. Remember to nurture your relationships so it doesn’t dry out and be willing to shed your skin and try new things.

  • Flower on a White Background: This was the first bead I chose. It reminded me of traditional European embroidery motifs, which makes me think of our families as they have moved across this world, allowing for so many things, like you two getting to meet. Flowers make me think of spring and regrowth. The blank background is for possibility. I hope only the best in your new family, and everything that will come from it.

Venue: Honeymoon Acres, Private Farm | Ramsey NJ

Officiant: David Miller

HMUA: Jennifer Belle // Sandra Wittner

Photography: Alexis Cohen shooting for Apollo Fields