Celebrating a remarkable milestone birthday

Pagenkopf's 21st B-Day Bash_11 copy

“You have to have a Jell-O shot! Come on, it’s just one!”

Such is life when you’re photographing a 21st birthday party. I chuckled and politely declined to a chorus of bemoaning. This quickly changed to laughter and I had to laugh as well.  The laughter just filled the air. It traveled from room to room, from indoors to the guests outside. Everyone from all ages was festive and mingling and why not? The guests of honor were a set of triplets, Aaron, Natalie and Jessie. Friends, family and extended family were there to bid a happy 21st to these remarkable siblings.

I felt so honored to be able to capture moments from this special day. I’m friends with the family and this came about after discussing individualized portraits for the siblings. In the meantime their birthday party was approaching. I was invited and upon leaving for the party I thought to myself, “I should bring my camera just in case.” When I arrived I told their father, Kirk, I brought my camera with me. He was thrilled. I set up immediately and with a smile (I’m like a kid when I have my camera in my hand) I started snapping away. Renee, their mom, saw me with the camera and was just as thrilled as Kirk.

The atmosphere at their home was wonderful. The setup for the party was a mixture of both indoor and outdoor settings. Throw in a gift from Mother Nature in the form of a beautiful Spring Saturday and it was just perfect. I photographed friends who had grown up with the siblings. Immediate family and extended family were also part of my captures. All with great stories about each of the siblings that were both funny and enlightening.

Have you ever been inspired to be a better person after speaking with someone? This applies in many ways to Aaron, Natalie and Jesse. The three are close knit and very supportive of each other’s endeavors. All three are in college and all three are pursuing their own paths in life.  With their drive, confidence and youthful excitement upon knowing them you have no doubt they will be successful in whatever they pursue. Renee and Kirk just beam with pride as they look upon their kids. It’s as if all of the sacrifices, support and most importantly the love for their children was evident in the day’s celebration.

As more and more guest arrived it was time for the festivities to pick up. Food, beverages and decorations were all set up for those in attendance. There was a perfect decorative backdrop announcing the big 2-1 milestone. Renee also baked individual “21” themed birthday cakes with each being a different flavor. Once the first guest lined up for food…the party was on.

A great opportunity presented itself. While the guest were eating and socializing I was able to get Renee, Kirk, Aaron, Natalie and Jesse together for an impromptu family portrait. This was unplanned but boy was it fun. The siblings where horsing around. Kirk was being a jokester and an expert photo bomber. While Renee kept jokingly saying she was messing up the photo op (she looked just fine).  I was able to capture the family in a great moment. I was also able to get the siblings together as well.

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Pagenkopf's 21st B-Day Bash_53 copy

Once we finished up we returned to the party. The siblings each had their own guests to acknowledge and of course some…ahem…beverages needed to be consumed. Did I mention the Jell-O shots earlier? Before long it was time to light the candles for the cakes. Once they were brought outside the triplets each gathered in front of their own cake. The crowd applauded and shared in the joyous moment. Kirk gave a moving speech about how proud he is of his children and how honored he is to be their father. Renee also gave words of love and encouragement. The siblings just beamed while gazing upon them. Then others joined in and spoke about the character of each of the three while wishing them the very best. As happy as an occasion this was, it was hard to keep a dry eye witnessing the collective outpouring of love and appreciation being shown for Aaron, Natalie and Jessie.

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After the candles were blown out the party continued. Now this was a 21st birthday party after all. The newly minted 21s were having well deserved fun. Later in the evening when I stepped inside with the camera I joked about taking shots. I meant with the camera but all that was heard was “shots”. Hence the offering of the Jell-O shot I mentioned earlier. I politely declined and I had to head home.  Plus, you can’t have the photographer hungover waking up on the couch the next morning with camera in hand can you?

All jokes aside, it was a perfect day for a great celebration of three wonderful young people entering a new chapter in their lives. Aaron, Natalie and Jessie are remarkable individually and collectively. It was great being a part of their celeberation.


Check out my previous blog post: 10 things I’ve learned in photography

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