Rustic Strawberry Pie and a Mexican Wedding

by Michael on June 30, 2012 · 17 comments

One small warming. This is a very long post delving into our time in Mexico, a wedding and new friendships. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Last time we left off it was all about a cobbler and a destination. Both sweet, but different. And since then time has swept up and away before landing us recently back home, content and happy with memories and new friendships. Yes, there was also plenty of delicious food. But sometimes, especially after a few weeks away, the comforts of home and the longing for time back in the kitchen reel us back in. And just when we get start to get settled, those memories take us back. Over and again.

This is how it all began.

It was a warm morning, some two odd weeks ago. The breeze always feels better in the early hours on the day you`re scheduled to travel south. We were packed since the previous night, which included two weeks worth of clothes and accessories as well as three camera bodies, six lenses and too many other camera-related pieces to share. The drive to the airport resembled a Sunday drive outside city limits, steady with traffic but easy and comfortable. Friday morning was good to us. Rush hour waited its turn.

We made our way through check-in and security quickly, settling in at the gate two and a half hours before boarding. So we took the weight of the bags off our shoulders and settled in. Once we sat down we quickly scanned the people seated, and everyone thereafter who walked in or by. Yes, we were a few short hours before our trip to Mexico to shoot a wedding and get some R&R but we still had to meet a few people. Essential to our trip. Just the bride and groom, and everyone else.

As the time ticked off the clock we grew slightly restless. We were thrilled to be picked to shoot this wedding and equally ecstatic that it came via recommendation from two different former clients, but we were anxious to meet the couple who had the confidence in us to fly us down without meeting first. So we sat and waited until we saw this large group walk in together and noticed the gown in its bag. Then, just like that, my wife noticed the bride’s face and she noticed my wife’s. And in that instant, all fears washed away.

Hours later the plane touched down and we had arrived with the excitement reserved for destination wedding groups. I was palpable. And when we slipped past the sliding doors and out into the fresh air outside the airport we knew we were in for something special. The warm, humid air greeted us on that first step outside and followed us all the way to the bus. It continued that way for the duration of the trip. Hot and humid. We all checked in and settled in. They were all close friends and some family and we were strangers. But that didn’t last very long.

The first full day ended with Mark’s bachelor night. He’s unassuming and soft-spoken, preferring low-key, tight-knit moments to attention-driven nights out in town. So we spent it as one large group out for dinner at the resort and finished in the sports bar near the lobby. Just a dozen guy sharing drinks, food and stories. Mark’s a devoted father of three so I knew after this night just how great a husband he would be and how lucky we were to be there to capture it. He loves his family beyond measure and it shows. It was a pleasure to be invited to share in his evening.

On the second night W went out with all the girls for her bachelorette night. Dinner at the resort and a show club in Playa del Carmen. W told me how fantastic it was and how great all the girls on the trip were. It was evident when the bus pulled in during the middle of the night and all the girls stepped off smiling from ear to ear and showering each other with compliments. W and I headed back to our villa and wondered how we got so lucky.

When the big day rolled around we went through our normal plan of attack. We packed our gear, shot lists and checked the weather outside. It was still early but if it was any indication we were in for a long, difficult day. The humidity was suffocating and the temperature high and uncomfortable. We wore something fitting for the heat and  made our way to the villa housing both the bride and groom.  Luckily the two rooms we were working out of were right next door to one another so it made things easy when W and I needed to communicate or exchange information.

For the next few hours we cycled through the shot list. The details, gown, hair and makeup before the bridal shots with her bridesmaids. Meanwhile I shot details from the groom, shots of him getting ready and a variety of images around our area of the resort, first alone and then with his two groomsmen.

By this time of the week we felt like we fit right in, not just with the bride and groom and their family but with the entire gathering down there. So as we each took the trolleys with our half of the couple and the wedding party it felt like we were on our way to witness and capture the nuptials of old friends. The set up around the gazebo was beautiful, guests were ready in their chairs and Mark and his father-in-law and his groomsman took their place on the right side of the gazebo.

Now the waiting. And dealing with the heat. Easily the hottest day of the week, the temperatures reached its peak right before the 2pm ceremony. People were uncomfortable but luckily the bride had handed our fans for all the guests. They definitely came in handy. So there we were, counting down the moments. I kept out a close eye on W because I knew that meant the bride was nearby. We both gathered our places for the shoot, her at the back of the outside path and me just inside the edge of the gazebo. And then it all unfolded.

First the couple’s two young daughters walked down the path throwing small handfuls of rose petals into the air and onto the path, and the bride’s oldest daughter and cousin right behind them. After a moment to catch our breath, she strolled around the edge of the shrubs and just in view of the groom. We snapped away and captured every precious moment. And then she turned for the gazebo and her groom’s waiting eyes. They lit up.

The next twenty minutes went quickly. There were a few moments when the youngest children made an appearance for mommy and daddy but they were swiftly picked up by one of the grandparents. After that moment, which broke the emotional tension, it was all smiles. And one fantastic kiss. Him and Her. Mr. and Mrs.

The rest of the afternoon was a blur. We did a few full group shots before taking the wedding party away for some pictures by the water.  And then we grabbed the newlyweds and took them to some great spots around the property that we had scouted out the days previous. There is something special about the first few minutes a bride and groom have alone after the ceremony so we let them enjoy that time together and give them some space and shoot from afar. Then we bring them back closer and rifle off a series of shots befitting two people in love.

The rest of the night went from a private dinner, cocktail party and then drinks before the nightclub at the resort. We shot and partied until later. And we soaked up every last moment that appeared in front of us. And shot everything as we saw it.  The night ended too soon, although the cold air awaiting us in our room was definitely appreciated.

The last few days with this group was equally wonderful. We shared stories, drinks and food and late evenings together by the private pool. All with incredibly wonderful people. And to think a few short days ago we didn’t know who they were or the names of those around us. But a moment as wondrous as a wedding will bring you all together if you let it. And we did.

It was a sad goodbye when the day rolled around. Wendy and I were booked for another week so we met by the entrance of the lobby to see everyone off. It didn’t take long before tears rolled down her face. And then mine. One couple after another came up and hugged us off. And then the bride and groom and their daughters. I guess we should have warned them that we get emotional. Tight fitting bonds do that. And new unexpected relationships do as well.

It was one of the best weeks of our lives. And most rewarding too.

But when it should have ended it just began all over again. At times we questioned the choice of the second week away at the same resort but now we know it was meant to be. Not for the weather, the food and Mexican people, all amazing by the way. It was because of the people we connected with that second week.

We first met up with a series of English couples, here for two weeks due to the long travel times from across the pond. All unique and wonderful. We met them at the pool, by the bar and just wandering through the paths. Their kindness contributed to our wonderful second week. They were from all over England, different not just be region but by their life stories and jobs back home. Some travelled and worked with oil rigs, some worked in offices and one lad, Shaun, was part of a Coldplay cover band, and successful at that.

Then we met up with two incredible families from Ohio. One loving couple and their best friends who came with their children and daughter-in-law. We spent only a few days near them at the pool but we learned so much. One left a successful career in finance, missing something and searched to find it. He started helping at the church and guiding lost souls. He had wisdom and knowledge and understanding. And he never preached. And his best friend jumped from job to job with the lack of happiness found in most of North America, so he left his job at 51 and went back to college with his 20-year-old son. Bravery by example. Now a happy teacher and volunteer coach, he too showed us many things. And their families as well.  So on their last night we did a series of shoots on the beach for them, families and friends, just as they came.

And then there was Tim and Ben.

They shared a table next to ours outside at a restaurant. We noticed Ben had gotten up to take a picture of Tim at the table. We commented to one another about the trials we always had at vacation, snapping photos of each other but rarely together. So W suggested getting up and helping them so I did. I snapped a picture of two incredibly happy young men having dinner together. I handed back the camera and sat back down. I wondered if they were friends, family or a couple. Wendy knew right away. We waved them off and wished them a fantastic dinner. But things never end like that.

Later that night the resort was holding a white party near the ocean, dipped around a corner on the edge of the property. We decided to go. And it didn’t take more than a few minutes to see this same young couple there. We recognized them and they recognized us. We said hello and chatted. It turned out it was their first trip together and they were madly in love. Only they didn’t have to tell us, it was obvious. We spent that night dancing with them and sharing in another future memory. We stayed until the place shut down. And we told them we’d look for them around the resort, and mentioned the pool area we stayed at.

The next day and the ones that followed involved hanging out with the boys and my wife at the pool, listening to the story of how they met and where they’re headed in life, together. We shared some breakfasts and lunches and lots of drinks in the lobby at the end of each night. We heard Ben tearfully describe Tim’s first dolphin experience, and how happy it made him. These two were special. Are special. And we soaked up our time with them.

Tim and I met early in the morning on our last full day, standing in line for tickets to the big beach BBQ that night. We grabbed four sports to share our last dinner with them. Hours later they we were, all four of us sitting in this makeshift Mexican BBQ area surrounded by strangers and enjoying the company. Wendy adored them, I did too. They were great to be around, mature beyond their years and loved life. We were so thankful to meet them, share some of our time with them that we didn’t cut the night short. We soaked in the atmosphere at dinner, had drinks outside listening to music and ended by the pool for a cool dip before bed.

W and I strongly believe that love knows no boundaries. Nothing will get in the way of two people finding love with each other. Not colour, race, sex. And these two men define that. Nothing can keep them apart. They are the perfect fit, perfectly right for the other one. And we were better off for meeting them and sharing in their time, especially on their first vacation.

That next morning, our last, we begrudgingly packed up and left for the lobby. We lined up our suitcases and waited. Tim and Ben had come to spend our last hours together. We told them they didn’t have to, that they should be off enjoying the weather. But they wouldn’t have it. They waited and said they’d miss us. Little did they know just how much we would miss them. And then the bus arrived. We hugged and said our byes. And boarded the bus. From our seat pressed beside the window we saw Ben consoling Tim who was crying.

So when the time finally arrived for our own departure we were relaxed and ready for the comforts of home. Nothing quite beats your own bed and pillows and the food we were so desperately used to eating. It didn’t take long for me to head to the market, grab these incredibly juicy strawberries and make this pie. It’s exactly what I was missing for those two weeks. Time in my kitchen and local goods combining to make this.

We are incredibly blessed individuals. We have had the pleasure of crossing paths with genuine, loving people. Inspiring individuals. And we will always be thankful for these gifts of life. It has only made us better because of it.

From my home to yours,



Rustic Strawberry & Lavender Pie

(adapted from Martha Stewart’s Strawberry Icebox Pie)


  • 1 and a half cups graham crackers, finely ground
  • One third cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • half teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 cup fresh strawberry juice
  • 4 cups strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced (set a half-dozen aside for garnish)
  • 1/8 cup cornstarch
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp. dry lavender, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp. icing sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 375F degrees.
  2. Mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar, melted butter and cinnamon until blended . Press mixture into an 9 inch pie plate.
  3. Bake  for 7 minutes. Cool. Set aside.
  4. While the cake is baking start on the filling. Using a medium saucepan combine the strawberry juice, half of the strawberries, cornstarch and salt. Smash up the berries and raise heat to a rapid boil. Reduce and simmer until thick, stirring often. Remove and let cool.
  5. Stir in the rest of the strawberries and the lavender and combine. Pour into the pie crust and place in the fridge for 4-6 hours.
  6. Meanwhile, using a large bowl, beat the cream until you have soft peaks. Add in the sugar and beat until those soft peaks return. Spread over top of the pie, leaving an edge. Top with remaining strawberries for garnish.
  7. Serves 6-8



Below are some of our shots from the wedding in Mexico, plus some additional shots from the TTD session. Enjoy!

Also, to see my more on this trip visit the site of my wife here.



And the TTD photos…


Leave a Comment

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Maryea @ Happy Healthy Mama June 30, 2012 at 6:58 am

You make me wish I was at that resort with you, making new friends. Beautiful story and gorgeous photos.


Brian June 30, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Mike… Wow.

Sorry to skip straight to the wedding and ignore this stunning pie, but I just can’t help myself. First off, they are a stunning couple. I mean… stunning.

And you captured the whole experience beautifully. I adore that ring/beer shot too! How clever :-)


Gwen June 30, 2012 at 9:19 pm

Beautiful post. And the pie sounds yummy!


Shawn June 30, 2012 at 9:37 pm

I am thrilled everytime I get an email notice that you’ve posted…this one was so beautiful! I hung on every word… I loved hearing about Tim & Ben and hope someday you’ll meet up again to continue on with their story…
Your photographs are always gorgeous and I dream to be able to photograph like the two of you!
Thank you for sharing,


Rosie @ Sweetapolita July 1, 2012 at 7:26 am

A post filled with so much beauty (and one very tempting pie!) and steeped in emotion. Incredible wedding photos. They’re such a gorgeous couple, and you both captured the essence of “them”–their personalities and connection radiate straight through the images. So glad you & W enjoyed your time in Mexico and met so many wonderful people. Welcome back!


Martha in KS July 1, 2012 at 5:28 pm

Welcome Back! The bride & groom and daughters are a beautiful family. And the photos – breathtaking.


Cookin' Canuck July 2, 2012 at 3:05 pm

I read every word of this post, Mike and felt as though I was right there with you and Wendy. It is people with open hearts that attract other people with open hearts. Your experiences happened because of the people you are.

Your photos are stunning…absolutely stunning. And I don’t want to gloss over that pie because it has a beauty all its own.


Aggie July 2, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Your photos of the wedding are absolutely stunning. And your words very touching. Such a rare & special event to meet and connect with other people like that. Just fills ya right up!!


Jessica @ How Sweet July 2, 2012 at 8:53 pm

absolutely stunning shots! you guys have such amazing talent it blows me away. love.


Meeta July 3, 2012 at 4:57 am

First you make us drool with a luscious pie and then make us all wish to marry again … & you photograph it! Lovely, breathtaking ans simply awesome!


Shayna & Mark July 3, 2012 at 6:08 pm

WoW Michael!!!! :) Thank you soooo much!!! Mark and I are so grateful for you and Wendy coming into our lives. I knew as soon as I met W it was meant to be :) I couldn’t have been more right!! You 2 fit in so perfectly as soon as we met in the airport an were an awesome addition to our group. You guys exceeded anything we could’ve imagined with the photos you took, captured all ye amazing moments that we would slowly forget about as time went on. Not only have you guys created amazing memories for us forever, but we also agree we’ve found lifelong friends, BFF’s as Wendy and I would say, lol. Thanks again for everything, we are so grateful to have met you guys and love thr you’ve so quickly become part of our close circle of friends, and already invited to family BBQ’s haha. I can’t wait to enjoy your cooking and hang out with you guys. And now I’ll have to make a request for strawberry rhubarb pie because it looks AMAZING!!!! Miss you guys already :( xo
Shayna & Mark Thompson


Sharon July 3, 2012 at 10:06 pm

WOW…Michael! Your blog definitely captures the amazing week we had. I had tears in my eyes reading your words about what a devoted Dad Mark is & how he loves his family beyond measure. You really did get to know him well! You & Wendy are fabulous people and we are all blessed to have met you. Truly an amazing time!


Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul July 3, 2012 at 10:54 pm

Wow! Stunning captures! I am in awe looking at your pictures (including the pie!). You and “W” sound like my kind of people. Thank you for sharing your experiences including the great people you met.


Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen July 4, 2012 at 5:58 pm

What a series of wonderful experiences, and the images are beautiful. I love the last shot of the happy couple soaking up the sun after the festivities.


Winnie July 5, 2012 at 8:21 am

Gorgeous pie, but these wedding shots? Breathtaking. What a beautiful couple, and what a tremendous job you two did capturing the sheer joy in this event.


SMITH BITES July 5, 2012 at 1:06 pm

my god Mike – i don’t know but this may be my favorite post you’ve done; i love ALL your work – and Wendy’s too but there is just something about this one – maybe it’s Tim & Ben’s story or just the fact that you and Wendy met some amazing people – both the wedding party as well as those in the following week, i don’t know. but this just tugs at my heart and fills my eyes w/tears. really, really happy that you and Wendy had this experience – and that you have shared it with us – it made my day


Lynn @ I'll Have What She's Having July 6, 2012 at 10:10 pm

What a beautiful wedding!


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