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.
Weddings are complex. Some days I feel like my mind is running a thousand miles a minute. There are so many factors that I need to juggle all at once to stay on schedule, keep the atmosphere light-hearted and make sure the most beautiful images are captured throughout the day. Every wedding is like a physical, mental and emotional roller coaster. At the end of the night, you can stick a fork in me because I’m done. But there’s something about weddings that keeps me coming back for more, and Suzanne and Chris wedding left me more in love with weddings than when I started.
Suzanne and Chris tied the knot right here in downtown Raleigh, NC just a few weeks ago. They held their big day at a venue that’s fairly new -- it just opened last fall. The Merrimon-Wynne House is a renovated, historic home that is just breathtaking. It’s an open, airy space that is a photographer’s dream. There was bad weather looming that day, but I wasn’t worried if we happened to get rained-in because the ceiling to floor windows make for beautiful lighting for portraits.
Even with the glum weather, Suzanne and Chris were in good spirits. (I’m being serious when I say there was a monsoon that day. We barely got the portraits shot outside before the heavens opened.) Amidst the sky dumping buckets of cats and dogs, I couldn’t sense any anxiety coming from the bride or groom. Suzanne was just as calm and generous as ever. And, so funny! Chris stayed positive and kind to everyone. He really made me feel more like a welcomed guest than just another vendor. They laughed and relaxed with their family and friends. They simply enjoyed themselves.
Suzanne lived completely in the moment all day. When it was time for joking, she had everyone in stitches. When she read her card from Chris, she let the tears fall freely. Whatever emotion rose to the surface, she embraced it. And we all got to share in those beautiful moments. It was such a sweet wedding.
It was in the midst of such a beautifully anchored couple that I realized something...it’s their decision to love each other for the rest of their lives that gives me a renewed strength. At the end of the day, when I’m utterly exhausted, it’s the beauty I see in the simplicity of love that keeps me constantly looking forward to the next couple. Looking forward to the next bride and groom I get to witness making the same promise.
Earlier I said that weddings are complex. But, love? Love is simple. Love is radiant. Love is the greatest gift of all.