A Moody, Relaxed Styled Elopement | The Ripple Retreat, Indianapolis

Today I’m thrilled to finally be sharing the styled elopement shoot I hosted and photographed a couple months ago. I had a vision to create a moody, relaxed, and laid back intimate wedding/elopement styled shoot and found some wildly talented local creatives to partner with for this shoot.

I seek to serve laid back couples who are looking for authentic and meaningful images to capture their unique day, so when I was putting this session together, I purposely looked for ways to make it feel simple, down to earth, and with lots of meaningful touches.

I found the perfect venue and contacted the owners of The Ripple Retreat, a local Sobro Airbnb which is darling. Rebecca, the host, lives nearby and was quick to help and easy to communicate with for our time at her space. The house felt so calm, simple, and inviting, with beautiful touches of color and natural design elements throughout. (I’m trying to block a time off for my husband and I to stay there sometime for a stay-cation!)

My models are some good friends of ours, who were so down for getting some styled wedding shots, and the bride wore her original dress and the rings were the ones they gave each other on their wedding day. How sweet is that! I wanted to work with a couple so that I could get some real connection between them. Eva and Jeffrey were so wonderful to work with! Fun fact: they run a screen printing business called The Wandering Press, and do live event printing!

The bride’s makeup was done so beautifully by Diana of Simply Blue, who is so kind and is incredibly talented at what she does. Hair, the gorgeous hair, was done by Martha of Vow Artistry, who worked alongside Diana and created exactly the look I was hoping for.

Ok the earrings. You guys, these earrings are some of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Designed custom for the shoot and hand-crafted by Sarah of Chival Jewelry, these pieces stood out so beautifully. Sarah spends hours on each of her creations, and also makes them with love for each person who wears them.

I knew I wanted something unique for the florals, and luckily I was able to find Shila of Wild Clover Floral, who has a passion for creating one-of-a-kind florals. She took my general ideas and ran with them in the most amazing way, creating an installation for the shoot, along with gorgeous bridal florals. She also styled the florals for the table, complete with beautiful candle holders done with greens and water - something I have not seen and am obsessed with now!

I reached out to Kaitlyn DeSpain, a local artist who created not only the stunning invitation suite with a unique design and a piece of art in and of itself, but also supplied a hand-carved stamped tapestry she created with inspired floral prints. The colors fit so well with my vision, and her work is seriously so unique and amazing.

The cake - you guys this cake was everything I’d hoped it would be. Bri Haarer, who bakes as a side hustle was kind enough to make a naked cake for the session, with lemon and berry touches. It brought in such a simple, yet elegant touch to the table as our centerpiece.

The most beautiful thing about this session is all the amazing folks who came together with their creative passions to make this thing happen. I’m all about #communityovercompetition and one of the coolest things is seeing others live out the things that make their hearts light up. The vision I had for this shoot fell together so perfectly, and I feel so fortunate I was able to capture the beauty manifested from the minds of wildly talented humans.

Enjoy the images below, and please go check out all of the artists and makers who participated!! xo

Makeup: Diana, Simply Blue

Hair: Martha, Vow Artistry

Earrings: Sarah, Chival Jewelry

Venue: The Ripple Retreat, Sobro

Invitation Suite and Table linen: Kaitlyn DeSpain

Florals: Shila, Wild Clover Floral

Cake: Bri Haarer

Photography: Leah Rife Photo

Sydni's Senior Session | Broad Ripple, Indianapolis

Ok, so Sydni is pretty much one of the most amazing humans on the planet, and if you're lucky enough to know her, you'll know what I mean. I first met Sydni when we were looking for someone to help babysit our boys, and ever since, I've been constantly in awe of this girl. She is so, so kind. She is passionate, quiet, artistic, talented, beautiful inside and out, and has a heart for others. I see such a spark in her - a love for others and a sense of adventure - and I was so honored to be able to capture some senior photos for her.

We headed to a few spots in Broad Ripple, and basically hung out for a couple hours, talking, taking photos, and dodging the sprinkles that held off enough for us to get some wonderful images. It was kind of amazing. :) Sydni is heading off to college next year and will be studying nursing and is considering studying photography as well. My family and our boys will miss her tons, but I am so excited for her to head off and experience all kinds of amazing things!! 

Enjoy some images from her session below!!


Indianapolis senior photography | broad ripple
Indianapolis senior photography | broad ripple

Lynn & Marcus Married - Marion, Indiana

At the end of June, on a hot but beautiful summer day, I had the honor of photographing Lynn and Marcus' wedding in Marion, Indiana. I met Lynn through a mutual friend last fall and we grabbed coffee to talk wedding photography. She struck me as being kind, genuine, and laid back, and I knew that working with her would be a great fit. She was just as laid back and kind on her wedding day, and it was obvious that she and Marcus loved each other deeply and were so excited to be getting married.

The day was hot, but the bridal party and bride and groom rolled with it and we got some gorgeous shots on the grounds of the venue, Hart's Celebration Center. We had so much fun, and the entire day was full of joy, celebration, and love. Love between the bride and groom, love from their family, and lots of love from their guests and friends. What a beautiful day it was!

I feel so lucky that I got to be a small part of their day, and I wish Lynn and Marcus so much happiness as they start their married lives together!

xo Leah

Venue: Hart's Celebration Center

DJ: DJ Krazy K - Kenny Williams

Tuxedo: Louie's Tux Shop

Rings: Helzberg Diamonds

Bartender: Joe Reel



Motherhood Series Wrap Up

When I decided to work on a personal project at the beginning of this year, I knew I wanted to work with mothers. I wanted to hear their unique stories, take photos of them in their own spaces, and share their beautiful stories with others.

This project has been nothing short of amazing to be a part of. It has changed my perspective, and I hope it's helped change the perspective of my readers as well. Motherhood looks as different as each mother, and the stories are endlessly unique and beautiful. I believe that sharing different perspectives can help tear down assumptions, judgements, and break down molds of "shoulds" and "normal" because every person is different and every story of motherhood is different. I also believe listening to another perspective can help foster empathy, draw lines of connection, and help one realize that we are all humans and all in this together. The more we are present and connect with others who are not like us, I think the more beautiful this world will be.

I reached out and asked for a few mamas to interview, and I was blown away with the response I got. Ten beautiful mamas participated in this project, and I have had ten amazing experiences. I can't thank them enough for opening their homes and lives for an hour so I could peek in and listen. Friends, this sort of work is so beautiful and sacred to me. The "everyday" and the "ordinary" are so incredibly beautiful.

I couldn't think of a better way to wrap up this series than picking some of my favorite answers to the questions I asked each woman. So with that, I'll share some of the answers that stood out to me from each mama. Thank you for following along with this series and this journey. I hope it's touched you in one way or another.





Tell me one thing you love about yourself as a mother?

“I feel like I’m very passionate and I have a lot of compassion.  I feel like, for the most part, I’m not quick to anger. I try and work through things many, many times with my boys just trying to take the moment and really help them learn from it, and not yell and send them to their room. Although that happens too some days. But just trying to really, maybe the better word is have empathy, and just kind of get in their shoes and try and see things from their perspective and take that step back. And be the all-giving mother - to step back and not yell.”





What’s something you wish all mothers would truly take to heart?

“When I make a new friend, I want them to come over when my house is messy. If we’re going to be good friends, then my house is going to messy. We always think that every mom is judging us for everything we do or say, but in all reality, they’re not. I mean, our kids are alive, and they’re happy, like I said before.”




What is the best piece of advice you have ever gotten about being a mother?

“So I consider Glennon Doyle to be my spiritual mentor. I just love everything about her and what she has to say. She is just it in life. And one of the things she talks about is her response when she found out that her husband had been cheating on her their entire marriage. She was obviously devastated initially, and then her next thought was to worry about her kids. Ultimately, she said she viewed that as an opportunity to help her children walk through the fire, and how in life, they’re going to go through fire-like situations, and that will continue happening for the rest of their existence on this earth. She said that any time her children feel like they need to step out, she’s tells them to get their asses in the fire and that she’s going to step in there with them and help them get to the other side. She said that if we don’t teach our kids how to go through tough stuff, we’re going to help them grow up to be incomplete people.

Her words helped me to invite my child into the fire with me and to teach him that we don’t shy away from life’s problems. I’m trying to teach him that we hit problems head on, together.”





What's something you wish all mothers would truly take to heart?

“I’m a big fan Brené Brown. I found out she is a Texan too, so that made my heart a little bit happier. So I was a reading one of her books and she said we’re just all trying to do the best we can. And I feel like that should be the motherhood anthem: don’t judge and everybody is just trying to do the best that they can. Every time I find myself judging myself, I think of that. Just try to do the best that you can because you’re a hot mess too.” 





How do you describe #thisismotherhood in your own words?

“It’s a beautiful, beautiful life. It’s all-consuming. It’s heart-wrenching. It’s exhausting, and it’s challenging. And yet, at the end of the day, I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”





What’s something you wish all mothers would truly take to heart?

“I think that it’s ok to take a break, and to have a messy house. Something I struggled with when I first started staying at home was thinking that it’s ok to still have a weekend. I felt like I needed to be doing something all the time. It’s important still to stop and be ok with not doing anything, and trying not to feel guilty about that. I think slowing down and knowing things only last for a certain amount of time, both the good and the challenging.”





What makes motherhood beautiful to you?

“I love being the center of their world. Being needed is nice. Like when they fall and they come running to you to make it better - there’s no greater feeling than that. And as they get older, watching them master things they’ve worked really hard for, just the pride that rises in you is so unexplainable. But they’re my world.”




What’s something you wish all mothers would truly take to heart?

“ I think maybe self-love as a mom after kids. I think that’s kind of a topic that gets brushed under the rug based on expectations of how we expect to be perfect and bounce right back after having kids. And I was never real thin to begin with so for me it’s not as big of a deal, but I think just loving your body afterwards is so important. Because you’re going to teach your kids that. I’m big on that. I’m big on ‘It’s ok that mommy has cellulite and stretch marks, and it’s ok. This is your wonderful mama, and hopefully one day you’ll love a woman and you’ll love her for whatever shape she is.’ I’m not going to engrain in my kids that women shouldn’t look this way.” 





How do you describe #thisismotherhood in your own words?

"The good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m not sure those are my own words, but it’s relevant. It’s not just those picture perfect moments, but it’s also not just the bad stuff. It’s the messes, it’s the tired, it’s the beautiful, it’s the when things go right, it’s when you’re kid has been having an attitude all day and that night tells you he loves you. It’s all of that."





What is one of the things you love most about being a mother?

“I love seeing the world through my daughter’s eyes. I love seeing the wonder in her eyes and seeing how she sees things at face value. She doesn’t have the background or hate of anything bad in the world. She sees everything for good, and I love that about her. And I love that seeing that in her reminds me that there is so much good in the world.”


Thank you so much to all these amazing women! If you would like to check out their stories, you can find them each here.

HannahLindseyKatieKristin  ErmaColleenErinPrisCynthia, & Sharon.

Sharon's Motherhood Session

Hello friends! I hope you have been enjoying this series on motherhood I've been working on. When I decided to work on a personal project, I immediately thought of working with some local moms because I have a dear place in my heart for mamas. I wanted to use this space to hear different perspectives on what it's like to be a mom.

I'm involved with a local group for moms, and one of their hashtags for this year is #thisismotherhood. I loved that line so much, and have been honored to be a part of a group of moms who embrace their differences, embrace each other, accept each other just as they are, and our group is really a non-judgmental place for moms to get together. I reached out in my group to see if anyone would be interested in sharing part of their motherhood journey, and I was blown away with the responses I got. I have been able to start meeting with the moms who I'll be working with, and I get to sit down with them for an hour, take some photos, and listen to them share. It's been so beautiful and such an honor for me.

Because I'm sharing parts of the stories of different women who have voluntarily sat down with me, I'd ask that you approach reading these posts with respect and an understanding that these stories are sacred. Please honor this space. The moms I'm interviewing all have a unique and different story of their journey to motherhood. No two will be alike, and that is so beautiful to me. Please honor these women and listen to their story free of judgement, assumptions, or negativity. We deal with enough of that already, right? 

Please accept these stories as parts of the bigger picture of being a mother and being human, and recognize how rich that makes this world. Thank you for taking the time to read and listen. 

With much love,




Sharon lives in McCordsville with her daughter, Elly (3). She is a teacher in the IPS school district, working as a Special Education Specialist. 

Sharon was so kind and open as she shared part of her story. It was obvious how much she loves her daughter, and I appreciated how honest she was. We talked about the fears that come with being a parent, the importance of being present with your child, losing a spouse, and the need for having a village. I hope you enjoy her story below.



Tell me a little bit about your journey to motherhood.

“I’ve always known that I wanted to be a mom. From a young age I always played house and wanted to be a mom. I realized early on in high school, I wanted to be a teacher and work with kids. But always, my ultimate goal was to get married and have a family.  When Brad and I got married, we knew that we wanted to have a family. For some health reasons, we knew we might have a little trouble conceiving, so pretty early on, we started working with fertility doctors, and it took us a little over a year to be able to conceive our daughter. My pregnancy was great with no troubles and on November 1, 2014, I became a mom. 

We actually went through two additional rounds of fertility treatments and weren’t able to conceive after trying again, and then my husband passed away. It’s kind of a blessing in a way that I wasn’t able to conceive a second time, but at the same time it would have been really nice to have another baby and have my husband here with us.”


What is one of the things you love the most about being a mother?

“I love seeing the world through my daughter’s eyes. I love seeing the wonder in her eyes and seeing how she sees things at face value. She doesn’t have the background or hate of anything bad in the world. She sees everything for good, and I love that about her. And I love that seeing that in her reminds me that there is so much good in the world.”


What has been one of the hardest things about being a mother?

“The hardest thing for me was losing my spouse, because it was so completely unexpected. We were both really careful when we were dating, because we both come from families of divorce and we were both kids of divorce, and getting divorced was a non-negotiable for us. We were committed to being together and committed to going through the ups and downs and raising a family together. And that’s exactly what we did. We worked really hard to raise our daughter together, even little decisions we would talk them through together. So the hardest thing was losing him, losing my best friend, but also Elly losing her dad. Another thing that is hard is learning to grieve myself, but also learning how to support her when she’s grieving. A child grieving is completely different than an adult. Hers comes in fleeting moments, and some of those moments I’m really strong and I can help her through, and some of those moments I break down with her. I think it’s really good for her to see both, but it’s still really hard either way.”


How do you maintain a sense of who you were before you had kids?

“I read that question, and I don’t even know if that happens or if that’s real. Because I feel like as we grow and change and go through different stages of our life, it changes who we are. I feel like becoming a wife made me a little bit different, and then becoming a mom I changed again, and then becoming a widow and then a single mom. And so at this point, I’m still trying to figure this all out. I don’t even know where life is leading me, or where God is leading me. I definitely see his hand in it though.

I feel like with the unexpected loss, it rattles you to your core and it makes you question who you are. And now I have to rebuild and figure out who I am now, because at the moment I don’t have any idea.”


What is something that makes your motherhood story unique?

“I think just the fact that I am a very young widow with a very young child. I’ve been searching for different avenues of support with this grief and there’s not a ton out there for young widows with young children. I think that definitely makes my story unique. People tell me I’m very strong and I guess to some point I agree with that. I mean, I’ve sold a house and bought a new house, all by myself, which I feel is very big. I do have an amazing support group and an amazing life group; I have a village to help me and that’s been pretty amazing. I feel like my support network is pretty unique and a lot of moms don’t have that network to rely on when they need it.

Even before I think I was pretty honest and genuine, but since Brad passed, I don’t have the energy to sugar coat things or to beat around the bush, I am real, I ask for help and rely on others. People in my life are so genuine and so gracious, and it’s been so amazing to feel their support and love.”


What is one of your biggest dreams that has yet to be realized?

“I feel like honestly my dream was to be a wife and a mom. And yes, I was a wife and I am a mom, but I loved being married. And I hope that someday God will bring someone else into our path and that I can be married again, but I really wanted to grow old with my husband.  That was one of our biggest dreams.”


What would you say to your younger pre-motherhood self now if you could?

“Before I got married, I struggled with some self-esteem and confidence issues and such. I would say that getting married doesn’t take those issues away necessarily, but I think I would tell my younger self to take care of me first rather than take care of everything else around me and make sure that I am strong.  I’m definitely a lot stronger now than before I met and got married to Brad, but I would say to worry less about others and make yourself strong.”


In what ways has motherhood changed you?

“I feel like in almost every way. Because I have to be almost completely selfless for her wants and her needs. It’s made me more real and vulnerable. It’s definitely made me stronger. I think it’s definitely made me more sensitive. I feel like as an educator, this being my 13th year of teaching, there’s definitely a difference between me as an educator before I had Elly and me as an educator now. It definitely has changed my perspective on life and on what’s important in life.”


What’s something you wish all mothers would truly take to heart?

“I was thinking about this one, and I really think it would be to take advantage of the time you have with them and to really be present. I mean there are a ton of times, and we all do it, where we’re not present and we get so busy. Especially with losing Brad so suddenly, it made me realize how fleeting time is and that every day is a gift, and that every moment with my daughter is a gift. So just I try and take advantage of all the time I have with her.”


What is one thing you expected to be true about motherhood but turned out to be different?

“I think one I thing I didn’t expect was how much you worry about every little thing. How much you worry about every choice and experience. I just never thought I would think about this kind of stuff, how things would influence and impact her life. Especially being in education, I know how the young years can really set up that good foundation for further learning, and if kids don’t have that I see how it impacts kids later on. I do worry how the grief will impact her later on in her life. I know she’s super young, and people say kids are so resilient, but still it worries me a little bit.”


What’s something about motherhood that you wish everyone would be honest about but maybe not many people talk about?

“How hard it is. I think I’ve learned a lot through MOPS on how to be genuine and how to have that support group. But I think a lot of moms out there don’t have that system and don’t have that place where being not ok is ok. Because it is hard and it does take a village. I don’t think a lot of moms recognize that.”

What is the best piece of advice you have ever gotten about being a mother?

“I think just being real. Just enjoy the time we have with our kids, and being present. I’m definitely struggling with grief and depression, and there are days where I physically don’t want to do anything, and I feel terrible that she goes and plays on her own. But at the same time, I’m thankful that she is able to play on her own so I can have a little bit of time to myself on those days. But I know that it’s important to be with her, and she always makes me feel better.”


What is your favorite way to wind down after a long day with your kids?

“It’s so cheesy, but literally just watching tv. I don’t really drink, except an occasional beer every once in a while. But I like to read or watch tv to relax.”


Tell me one thing you love about yourself as a mother?

“I feel like I love my daughter well. I feel like I’m very in tune with how she is feeling, naming those feelings and responding. Or preparing her for things that will be coming up that could be scary to her or new for her. I feel like I love her well.”


Tell me one thing that scares you about being a mother?

“At this point the fact that I am now a single mom, everything is on my shoulders. Everything is on me. Yes I have a village, and yes I have family, but ultimately everything is on me, and that’s terrifying. I have to make all the decisions and I have to make sure we’re both safe and all of that, and it’s just terrifying.”

What would you do if you had a whole day to yourself?

“I thought about that and was like ‘I don’t even know.’ Right now my goal is trying to be better about self-care. I’m in talks with some good friends about maybe taking a night or two away. I’ve only spent maybe two nights away from Elly her entire life. Trying to see if I can get some time away would be really nice and trying to do that on a regular basis. Someone offered to watch her for a few hours so now I’m trying to figure out what to do with even three hours by myself. Go get a pedicure maybe? I have no idea.”


Who has been your biggest inspiration/mentor/go-to someone as you have journeyed through motherhood?

“Brad and I were in a life group for about 5 or 6 years and there’s a core group of 4 or 5 families that have been together for a long time. I really feel like the moms in that group are who I go to. We were the last of the group to have kids, and we were the young couple without kids while everyone else had kids. So the moms in that group would be the ones I would call about any questions with my daughter. I really feel like we are doing life together, we are a village. They are the ones I call in the middle of the night. They are the ones I called when Brad passed away and we were at the hospital all I had to say was ‘Go get Elly.’ And they got her and kept her all day. They’re the ones I go to.”

What are ways you find time for yourself?

“Well right now, I work, so that’s time away from Elly. Then I think it’s just little moments like with MOPS, and mom’s nights outs. Sometimes with life group we’ll do a girls’ night, but that’s really it.”

How do you describe #thisismotherhood in your own words?

“It’s real, it’s messy, it’s beautiful.”


What makes motherhood beautiful to you?

“Elly’s laugh and her smile. Seeing the world through her eyes, and reliving things from childhood that you didn’t even remember. She how she interprets the world, it’s pretty amazing.”

A very big thank you to Sharon for sharing and allowing me into her normal. You can check out the other posts in this series here: 

HannahLindseyKatieKristin  ErmaColleenErinPris & Cynthia.

Sharon's story is my final motherhood series post. I will be doing a wrap-up post soon, but my heart is so incredibly grateful for all the mamas who chose to help with this project. I've loved each and every moment listening to some pretty beautiful stories.