At first, I thought this would be a hard one to write about.
But it didn’t take long to realize that no, it wouldn’t be hard to write about at all.
Brooke and Levi’s first Skype call with me was great. They were joyful, full of smiles, super excited for getting their friends and family together in one place for their wedding. We talked about their background a bit, how they met, their travels together, and their eventual founding of Digital Detox and Camp Grounded. Their travels and observations of simpler cultures led them to realize the harmful effects of digital isolation that humans can experience, and they did something about it. They created summer camp for adults! Their reception was FULL of people who’d benefitted from their efforts.
But back to the Skype call. At some point in the conversation, Levi told me that he had a brain tumor. I don’t remember the exact details, but they got the point across that he’d had a lot of treatment and it wasn’t ultimately working – it was getting worse. They were fast-tracking the wedding – at this point it was September and the wedding was planned for roughly one month away at Levi’s parents’ home in Shell Beach.
Fast forward one month to the wedding day. When I arrived at the AirBnB they’d rented in Shell a few blocks from Levi’s parents’ home, Brooke was upstairs getting ready with a few friends. As she got ready, more friends started flooding the home, until eventually there were maybe 20-30 people just hanging out, having a great time, sandwiches and La Croix’s being passed around. This was what they wanted – to spend the weekend with as many friends and family as possible in a house at the coast, walking down to the cliffs above the ocean and having a beer, just being around each other as much as possible.
When Levi arrived, and they saw each other for the first time all dressed up, those friends and family were up on the balcony above, and gave hearty cheers as the two of them stepped out from under the balcony and gave them a wave. Brooke and Levi and I walked down to the ocean for a few portraits (oh btw, the rain cleared just for us) and then rejoined everyone.
The rest of the day was marvelous. They all walked over to Levi’s parents’ house, and guests gathered in a tight group around a table where Brooke and Levi signed their Ketubah. Singing, clapping, bells on sticks being rung with enough abandon that the rabbi had to calm the crowd. Then the beautiful Jewish ceremony, then they were husband and wife, and then…the skies opened up! Pouring rain, guests under umbrellas and tents and easy-ups, but it didn’t matter. Nobody minded getting wet as Brooke and Levi made the rounds to greet people, hug, laugh, and drink.
At some point, someone started playing music. I think it was the melodica and guitar first, then a guest in an orange velvet suit with a violin, then a tambourine. More instruments joined, and more singing, and some dancing, and then, YESSS!, the band of friends started moving, made their way to the driveway, then the street, and the WHOLE CROWD of guests followed. Yes, an entire set of wedding guests, in an impromptu parade down to the cliffs above the beach (btw, yet again, the rain stopped for this). Brooke and Levi brought up the rear but quickly ran to the front, and everyone sang and danced to songs we all know and love as they made their way down to the beach.
People came out of their houses. Cars stopped to watch. Nobody minded – everyone was so happy. Every unsuspecting observer I saw was ear-to-ear smiles watching this parade, headed by a dancing band and Brooke and Levi and a ton of drinking, laughing, dancing, singing wedding guests.
We eventually arrived at the park overlooking the beach, and it all continued there. People were having so much fun and it was SO fun to be able to shoot all of this as it happened. The first image (above this text) is my favorite from the whole bunch – just a single frame of Brooke and Levi in the middle of it all, their faces saying all that needs to be said.
After many songs on that cliff above the ocean, we all started making our way back up to the reception. From that point it was a phenomenal dinner, toast after toast of people who loved Brooke and Levi, and cheer after cheer from guests having the time of their lives. The Horah was crazy – I may have feared for my safety a few times, but it isn’t a proper Horah if you don’t fear for your safety at least once. After that was Brooke and Levi’s first dance, their dances with parents, and from that point on it was just a crazy, happy, electric dance floor for the rest of the night fueled by an amazing live band.
Levi passed away on January 11. I can’t begin to understand the heartache that his friends and family felt and still experience. But I’m really glad to be posting this blog post, and writing these words, because they’re visual evidence of how significant Levi is to all of the people in the photos.
Levi and Brooke had an INCREDIBLE wedding day full of all the right things and I’m glad to know that you, after reading this and seeing these photos, know about it too.