Emotional Destination Wedding
I’m pretty sure I will always be a hopeless romantic. As I’m writing this, next year I will celebrate 20 years of marriage to my very favorite person in the whole world. I will probably cry at your wedding. I will do this both because it’s so moving and because you’re crying, I have a lot of empathy and that alone makes me cry at least 3 times a day. 😉 It doesn’t take much for me to see the ‘bright side’ of life and I am mostly an optimist and tend to see things in cinematic form.
I also am a somewhat jaded wedding photographer. What I mean is that I’ve, to some extent, seen it all. This is actually a great thing for you because it means even though this is most likely the first time you’ve planned a wedding, it’s not mine and I can see all the curveballs coming your way… Spoiler: There will be curveballs. 😉
The wedding that I’m sharing with you today was a wedding that was completely unexpected. What I mean is that I personally didn’t see this one coming. I knew I loved the family, and I had had the opportunity to photograph another beautiful family wedding a few years before. I knew they were special people who loved each other deeply. But this one? Oh, it’s a tear-jerker. This wedding is one I will never forget.
Amanda is from South Florida and her now-husband Brent is from South Africa. Amanda is witty and sarcastic and never misses a beat, Brent is just as quick in response and truly was so in love with his bride it brought our whole team to tears (multiple times) during their emotional first look. When I first talked with Amanda she shared her vision for her wedding day. She cared about her family, she cared about the celebration. They had been in mourning for so long after losing her sister to a brain tumor and countless medical challenges, they wanted to truly have a time of pure joy.
They chose to only have nieces and their son as attendants because they knew how much it would mean to the kids. A brilliant move by the way. Seriously, is there ever a time as a little girl that you want to be in a wedding more than when you’re 10?!? The couple wanted to honor both his family (who would be flying in from South Africa to meet Amanda’s family for the first time the week of the wedding) and Amanda’s family that was such a deep part of their everyday lives. You have never met a more family-centered couple.
The brides family had been through more than any family should have to go through losing their other daughter just six months earlier in the year after a battle with a brain tumor that lasted for years. When she passed away she left behind both a daughter and a son. Her daughter lives with her dad and (adoptive) mom and two sisters now, all of whom are an extremely close and important part of the family. Amanda, raising her son. As an adoptee myself and the mom of an adoptee just being in a room filled with so much unconditional family love and acceptance was truly moving to the point of tears (you’ll start to see the pattern of crying shortly!).
Amanda wore her sister’s veil and took a moment with her niece (her sister’s biological daughter) to tell her that it was her mother’s veil and someday she too could wear it on her wedding day. I will never forget the expression on that little girl’s face. As her niece beamed with joy at the idea of something so tangibly representing her mother at the wedding, the bride’s mother was on the other side of the room quietly crying both out of joy and grief watching it all happen. It felt as though time has stopped, and all the wedding decore in the world suddenly didn’t matter nearly as much as these three people.
It’s funny when you start wedding planning it can become so overwhelming, all the details, the sheer amount of stuff that needs to be decided on and executed. Sometimes it’s easy to lose the ‘why’ in it all. This wedding was about the ‘why’ more than probably any wedding I’ve ever had the privilege of photographing.
Their first look was magical, to see the sheer joy on Brent’s face was just incredible. He kept saying, “this is my wife, I get to marry her”. Truly what these moments are about.
But the absolute most perfect moment of the wedding was the first dances. First was Amanda and Brent, their moment was romantic and tangible. Dancing under the trees in the courtyard of their venue (the rain held off just long enough!) it was exactly as the first moment as husband and wife should be. Next Amanda danced with her father, she started with a typical dance and then to the surprise of everyone stepped back and began to speak the song to him using American Sign Language. There wasn’t a dry eye in the courtyard, including his. From there Brent danced with his mother which was a beautiful emotion-filled moment all on its own. A mother, so happy for her son and all the emotion on her face. But last Amanda danced with her son, and this was the most moving moment of all.
As we were driving for sunset portraits she told me the story of the song she’d chosen for him. They were driving along on a typical day, and she looked up as he in the back seat, 4 at the time, told her to “listen, mama, it’s our song” this was only shortly after he began calling her mom. The words to the song go like this:
“I never saw it coming⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
And one day all of a sudden⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
There was you, you, you, you⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
I don’t have to live without you anymore.”⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
At 4 years old he knows that his biological mama lives in heaven now, and his mama’s whole world changed in the very best way when he came home to her. As they danced together he collapsed in her arms, sang this song out loud to her, and wiped the tears as they fell from her eyes with his little hands. I’m pretty sure I was literally sobbing behind my cameras.
This wedding was about more than a bride and groom, about a beautiful setting, or even a lovely couple. It was about legacy, about family… which I’ll add can look so many different and beautiful ways. It was about appreciating the moments you have with each other.
It was about a beautiful bride with a huge heart, an amazing new dad, and a little boy who saw it all. Even before the grownups did.
This was a wedding I will forever cherish to have been a part of. Amanda and Brent, thank you for allowing me to stand with you during one of the most beautiful wedding days I’ve ever seen.