This past March, I had the ultimate privilege of traveling to Italy for the first time with my dad, stepmom, and husband. It was a 3 week whirlwind trip around the entire country. We started in Venice, then went through Bologna to Cinque Terre. We spent a few luxurious days exploring Tuscany (Florence, Cortona, and Montepulciano), and ventured down the Amalfi Coast. We ended our trip in Rome, and by that time, I was experiencing travel overdose. I was filled to the brim with beautiful sights and historic facts, and it was challenging to receive any more information at that point.
Even though I was overwhelmed I fought to receive and experience more of Rome because I knew I would regret not living life to the fullest when I returned to my normal rhythms. One of our last days in Rome, we were walking through Piazza Navona...I remember the scene like it was just yesterday, my attention was pulled to all the architecture, entertainers, fountains, smells, noises, and herds of tourists. At the peak of my personal chaos, I happened upon an elderly man who was sitting on a step taking in the sights with not a care in the world. It was in that moment that time stood still, and I felt at peace to just Be. To stop trying to retain everything, to stop trying to make a moment out of something that was not, and to allow myself to slow down and savor. It was in my lack of Be-ing that I recklessly consumed the beauty of Rome without actually tasting the beauty. This image is a beautiful reminder for me to slow down, to savor, and just Be.
Girl grows up down the road from Guy. They know each other but their relationship is never anything more than casual acquaintances. Guy moves across country with the military. They have no reason to see each other again. So, it seems like the end of their story.
But, as fate would have it, Girl’s best friend starts dating Guy’s younger brother. They plan a cross-country trip to visit older brother and invite Girl along. On that trip, Girl and Guy start to have feelings for each other. They fall in love and eventually get married. Girl’s best friend also married Guy’s younger brother. And, they all live happily ever after as the Two Brothers who married the Best Friends.
Sounds like a great basic plot for a romantic comedy, right? Only this story isn’t fiction. It’s actually a true story, and I got to be one of the characters in it.
Miranda and Andrew are real people who are the leading roles in the story I just described. They really did grow up right down the road from each other in a town called Apex (just outside of Raleigh, NC). Andrew joined the Marines and became one of The Few. The Proud. The Marines relocated him to California. Then, Miranda’s best friend started dating Andrew’s younger brother. The couple really did take a trip to California to visit Andrew taking Miranda along. Love bloomed between Miranda and Andrew, and I got to play the role of Crazy Wedding Photographer at their recent wedding. ...And it was a blast!
They tied the knot at The Oaks at Salem -- a beautiful wedding venue located in their hometown -- which made me immensely happy. I love shooting at The Oaks because (weather permitting) the ceremony is held under this majestically ancient-looking oak tree. Oak trees are my favorite to photograph. From the outside, their dense foliage invites you to come explore the secrets hidden underneath. Once you cross the threshold of their canopy, it’s like being transported to a world that’s wholly your own. Twisting branches. Gnarly bark. The sound of rustling leaves and the smell of moss remain present in every photo. (Did I mention shooting weddings at The Oaks makes me happy?)
After the ceremony, we moved from underneath the oak tree to a tent attached to the stately, white home that’s on the property for the reception. There was a nice southern elegance to the decor. Burlap and lace. Not too much, but just enough to make you feel like you were in NC.
Miranda and Andrew were an amazing couple to photograph. Miranda was like the ultimate, stress-free bride. She really savored her wedding day and was so gracious to me. She made sure that I knew she was thankful that I was a part of her wedding day and gave me creative liberty to pursue my vision for her pictures. That love and trust really made me soar. I feel like I got to briefly experience the kind of support she’ll give Andrew for a lifetime.
And, Andrew? He is hilarious! His dry sense of humor had me laughing through the whole wedding. He was also excited about pictures (something I don’t always get with grooms) which made photographing him loads of fun.
Most of the groomsmen were fellow servicemen, except his brother and Miranda’s brother. From my experience, military weddings actually tend to be the most carefree and fun. Those guys are hardcore when it’s time to be serious. But when it’s time to play they really know how to let loose and have a good time. Miranda’s girls were also a blast. They were sweet, sincere and go with the flow...just like Miranda.
Both sets of parents were so welcoming and gracious to me. Miranda’s dad was very quiet and reserved for most of the day. But once the band kicked in during the reception, he transformed into the life of the party. I loved seeing him cut loose on the dance floor. Plus, it was his birthday, and everyone sang to him during the reception.
At the reception, all of the guys shed their suits and jackets and donned t-shirts that were specific to them. Andrew’s brother (Best Man) and Miranda’s best friend (Matron of Honor) gave a heart-warming co-speech. They had everyone laughing and Miranda even shed a few tears -- the only tears of the entire day.
Going where I list, my own master total and absolute,
Listening to others, considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.
I inhale great draughts of space,
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.
I am larger, better than I thought,
I did not know I held so much goodness."
Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road