Emily and Garrett planned every detail of their wedding for a year in advance. They planned the perfect venue, flowers, decor, transportation for guests, every detail down to the cute signs for the reception. They invited all of their closest family and friends. One thing they didn't plan for, was the uninvited guest... Covid-19. A true wedding crasher.
Their wedding was planned for May 16th, so with the pandemic arriving in this country mid March there wasn't a lot of time to uproot an entire year of planning to reschedule. Everything was set and ready to rock & roll. For many couples planning a wedding during this timeframe, there was no choice but to postpone their wedding to a later date based on mandated shut downs. But weddings in mid May were on that fine line of the possibility that maybe they could still have their celebration.
So many weddings were forced to shut down, cancel, or postpone and I feel so deeply for those couples. I empathize with their difficult situation that they have been put in. Many couples I was booked to shoot this spring and early summer were forced to make very difficult choices. A marriage should not have to start out with a stressful wedding, so the option to move their special date forward to a time when we can all be more relaxed was their best option.
However, Emily and Garrett chose a different route than postponement and I think it was the perfect choice for them. Their wedding wasn't what they originally planned with a few hundred guests in a large venue, but it was beautiful in every way. Memories were made that will never be forgotten.
A week before May 16th, the county that Emily and Garrett's parents live in went into "Yellow phase" meaning that gatherings were now allowed up to 25 guests. So in one week... Emily and Garrett's family pulled together the wedding of their dreams, in the backyard.
This sign was created for the entrance to their original reception plans, and became the perfect welcome to the walkway to the backyard of Emily's parent's home where they will dance, laugh, and celebrate the night away with 25 guests of honor.
Emily said that Garrett had no prior experience with woodworking, and can you believe it... he built her this absolutely stunning table for his wedding gift to her!? It is amazingly gorgeous, complete with a signature stamp on the corner with their wedding year. I joked to him, "Oh, is this why you couldn't postpone your wedding to 2021!" (wink) lol... he said "well I did have the rest of 2020 since I didn't add the month,but we just really wanted to get married without waiting any longer." It was the PERFECT sweetheart table for Emily, Garrett and their sons to sit for their first meal as husband and wife, and will remain in their home and family for generations of future meals and conversation.
To keep social distancing protocol, I suggested to Emily that we do all of the typical "getting ready" photos outside in the backyard. This meant detail shots, putting on the veil and buttoning the dress up could all be done in open air and not a small room indoors. Maybe its not what we have typically done in the past, but I believe in embracing life's changes and realizing that there is always a silver lining in everything. And truly, there were no compromises here. A wedding dress hanging in a beautiful lilac bush over their sweetheart table couldn't have been more perfect.
The tent was appropriately designed with social distancing of their guests. Tables were 6 ft apart, and many tables of two were set so that only family members who dwell together already will sit together for the reception.
Emily's parent's backyard was a beautiful wedding display if I say so myself. This was the epitome of getting handed a bucket of lemons and turning it into sweet yummy lemonade.
Garrett was unable to pickup his custom suit with wedding date embroidered inside which was the original plan for his attire- due to the shop being closed for business. But Garrett is a police officer, so he decided to wear his formal uniform. Another box checked off in the column for making some lemonade out of lemons!
Garrett's parents, brother and sons were all present helping him get his uniform on and ready to go.
Emily's mother had a family heirloom to give her to wear. Her late grandmother's engagement ring. In fact, her grandfather was present but had to keep a social distance, so he handed her this "something borrowed" across a table from 6 feet away. For a few more special touches, her mother attached her great grandmother's broach to Emily's flowers and a piece of her own wedding dress was sewn in a heart shape into the inside of Emily's dress... right over her heart.
Some close family were not able to be in attendance, but joined from afar virtually. Many facetime calls were made, videos were sent, and as you'll see further down this page... the ceremony broadcasted over zoom. It was the most emotional part of the day for many, but so much love was sent their way even if not via a real hug. You could truly feel the love in the air.
Garrett's family jumped at the opportunity to get technically savvy and broadcast the ceremony to everyone who could not be in attendance. Over 100 people signed into zoom to watch them say their vows and exchange rings.
Even though the seamstress was not open to do final hemming on the matron of honor's dress... she got an amazingly stylish mask to complete her look for the church :)
It didn't matter if there were 10 or 200 people in that church... Garrett only had eyes for Emily when she turned the corner to come down the aisle.
Fixing the train and veil are often the job of a bridesmaid who stands by you at the alter. True. And its a sad reality that Emily and Garrett didn't have the opportunity for a bridal party at their sides. But the silver lining in all of this is that they really only needed each other. And they enjoyed that ceremony to the fullest. They missed valuable friends and family who were not present, but they couldn't be happier at the same time. There will be a small number of people who can say that they had a wedding during a pandemic, and truly understand what it felt like - the pendulum of feelings between happy to be married and sad that so many were not able to witness it with their own eyes. Most of us will never know that feeling. But they were there, together, and that is all that mattered. Plus, Emily's father did an amazing job of fixing that train on her dress! I would have thought he had prior experience! That was a unique moment for me to witness, as a photographer, something I've never seen in my fifteen years photographing weddings. And I think it was adorable, special and sweet.
Emily and Garrett's three siblings scattered about the pews in church to social distance...but also "fill" the church as if there were rows of guests all around them.
Emily had a grandmother not able to attend the wedding, but lived close by in a retirement community. They made time after the ceremony to visit her so that she could see them. She was waiting patiently on her porch, perfectly wrapped wedding gift in hand. It was one of the sweeter moments I've ever witnessed at a wedding.
They reached out in air-hugs across a distance of 10 feet. Shouting I love you's and congrats to the newlyweds.
Emily and Garrett asked me where I thought we could go to take some intimate bride & groom portraits after the wedding, and without a doubt I suggested the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve. It is a location I shoot at often and so near and dear to my heart. It was well worth the trip from Greensburg to Latrobe. These were their first moments alone as husband and wife.
Their faces didn't lie. Their happiness was beaming.
Their ringbearers were extra special guests. Garrett's sons and Emily's new stepsons, Colton and Tucker, were with them every step of the way... and extremely excited about their first trip in a limo.
Emily's "something blue" was also borrowed and old... A beautiful broach that was her great grandmothers, attached to her bouquet which was handmade by her family since the florist was not yet open for business.
The portraits were finished and it was time to party so everyone made their way back to Emily's parent's home. Their original plan was a larger venue that would have had over 150 people there waiting to greet them with hugs and celebratory dancing, but their announcement was just as special. No matter what, this was their first moment being announced to the world as Mr. & Mrs. Someday soon hopefully they will get that reception with all of their friends and family.
The pool deck was a perfect dance floor for their first dance as husband and wife. It wasn't in a ballroom with a chandelier above their head, no... But this wedding was all about embracing the changes and finding silver linings. Instead, this dance was on the deck of the pool where Emily spent many many years making memories with family. Now, she was able to make a memory that might just top them all. A slow dance to a special song, with her husband. A dance she had dreamed of having her entire life... right here in her own backyard.
A special dance with dad followed.
And of course, a special dance Garrett shared with his mother.
No wedding is complete without traditions like cutting the cake, or my personal favorite ... a champagne toast. There is something very special about hearing your closest loved ones say a few words about the happy couple. I've seen hundreds of toasts in my lifetime, and each one is as special as the last in their own unique ways. It is also very often the time of the wedding we get our best facial reactions of guests... laughter, tears, and genuine smiles galore.
My title for this blog comes from a sign I saw during their drive by parade after toasts. As family and friends drove by, they honked horns and waved arms. Some handed flowers to the bride, and some had signs made from their original wedding invitation. I recently even saw on Garrett and Emily's facebook pages that some friends who watched their ceremony via Zoom even dressed up in gowns/suits at home to show their love and support for the couple while watching in their living rooms. I was blown away by all the love from their family and friends, and felt it in my heart as well. There was something so very special about their wedding, that is hard to put into words.
I know so many couples who planned to get married this spring did not have the option for a wedding at all. For many, their choice to cancel or postpone was the only option. Some couples have very large families and the size of 25 & under just wasn't feasible either. But for some people, who decided that they just can't wait for a new date available at their venue (which for some was more than a year into the future), the downsized wedding was the right choice for them. Yes, of course, it may not be quite what they originally had planned for their day. But to Emily and Garrett it was still - the best day ever.