These two.. these Liz & Derick characters (picture me so playfully shaking my finger at them both).. they had it out for my heartstrings on their day.
They were going to pluck em like the Rocky Mountain String Band, and boy had I wished I would have doubled up on the emotional armor the morning of their wedding.
I don’t know when I began getting so involved with my couples and their lives. They were always great friends- yes, most definitely, without question. Some brought me into their own homes, and I met their families on days other than their weddings. Some often invited that boy toy of mine and me to double dates. I. AM. LUCKY. to have such awesome clients around.
I think the biggest emotional connections I have found with clients have resulted from photographing their engagement sessions.
Liz & Derick’s engagement session was one of those great ones. We laughed, and I learned about their love: about their first encounter as unwilling concession stand volunteers, about their last-minute decision to grab a bite to eat together that sealed their fate, and about Derick’s heated car seats that doubled as brownie points for Liz.
(I must admit fellas, heated car seats for a lady in winter is like the new dozen roses at the doorstep. I’d much rather have a cozy tush than a bundle of red buds any day. TMI??? Good.)
I learned about things they didn’t say. I soaked in the way they interacted and the love that got them to where they were at that moment.
I see all kinds of love every day… young love. fun love. sensual love. old soul love. playful love. laughing love. serious love…It makes me realize how big this world is and how many types of it exist- how no one’s is the same and how everyone’s is incomparable…about how our relationships are all as unique as we are.
In an awesome Bill & Ted sorta way, let’s hop on that crazy time machine and fast forward to their wedding day.
Off the coast of Georgia, St. Simon’s Island is a picturesque community. With pastel oceanside houses, people on bikes pedal on with friendly waves that make me appreciate my surroundings. Its beaches are beautiful. Its ocean begging you to take a dip. Its salty air reminds you of why you went there in the first place.
Its calming aura pulling some crazy osmosis and making even the most high-strung person a holder of a fruity drink topped with an umbrella.
It makes you breathe. (Btw- Thank you Liz & Derick. I needed this so much!)
Beth and I arrived at their rented beach house, a four story sky blue house on stilts, and reminded each other to pick jaws up off the floor every time we rounded another staircase.
I’m a small town girl… gawking at seaside life like a 5 year old who just got her first glance of Sleeping Beauty at Disney World. I couldn’t stop wanting to hug every beautiful display of wall art and stare at every unique piece of furniture. Similar to seeing a cartoon celebrity, I was speechless. My childhood excitement fluttered. I was in a photo dream world with nautical blue-striped curtains and floor-to-ceiling windows that sang to me like sirens from the sea.
Ever seen What Dreams May Come? The beginning with Robin Williams’ watercolor world? I was there. If you haven’t seen it, watch it. True love at its finest in Hollywood.
Liz was sitting on a cream-colored, beautifully crafted ceramic stool of sorts. Her toes prettily painted as she laughed and commented on how she now realized how movie stars felt, her southern charm seeping through her in the most endearing way. Her weeklong extravagant stay was a gift she treasured, not letting the excitement or potential stress distract her. She remained humble.. a country girl just living in a dream world.
She soaked in her own watercolored world of sorts.
I photographed her details… her shoes, her rings, her amazing dress draped in lace- every inch a piece of fabric art.
The family moseyed around the house. Florida and Tennessee natives, they played in the fun of this seaside euphoria with us- a beautiful playground for the intimate number of people that comprised her wedding party and family. Even though our bodies were covered in camera equipment, Beth and I felt as relaxed as the ladies lounging on the living room couches below and the fathers looking out the window reflecting on their lives and their children.
As Derick dressed in the downstairs room, he buttoned his shirt and tied his tie. The look on his face mirroring that lady’s only a few floors above. While he dressed, Liz’s sister, Kat, delivered a small box with a note. I photographed him reading. I studied his face as his voice flowed over every word like it was the most precious she had ever written to him, and it was.
He opened the box to find a small token of Liz’s affection. With an inscription on the back forever sealing their fate, it was a testament that was just as strong as the bond they would soon be forming.
We awed at this moment and watched it sink in. He placed his gift on the table, and reached for a box which he handed over to Kat with the greatest of care.
It was large in size: a square card catalog housing four drawers. It’s rusty appearance and beauty in perfect reflection of Liz’s love for vintage ( that’s my girl!).
Before the present arrived, I hurried upstairs to see Liz & her grandmother seated in front the window holding hands and talking. Liz led her over to the wedding dress and showed her the heart that had been sewn into the bottom of her dress, the shape snipped out of a bright crimson handkerchief belonging to her late grandfather.
I watched as her grandmother saw this for the first time. I watched as her grandmother remember her husband of 60 plus years, and saw her granddaughter begin on that same journey.
*click. A latch in that armor unlatched. I teared up.
Words can not explain this moment more, and I won’t begin to do so. It’s beauty best displayed for its unspoken meaning.
Liz’s present was delivered, and she too read her letter aloud in the same way Derick had read his own. She opened each drawer to find another treasure waiting for her, and her tears were punctuated by bursts of laughter at his comedic undertones.
She dressed with the help of the ladies in her family, and she began the hustle and bustle that would lead her to the altar. While surrounded she stopped, like a still image in the fast-paced moving world of a wedding day, looked back at me and said “I’m so glad you’re here.” Then she let out the sweetest smile and stared at me for a moment longer before being hurried off to begin her day.
My little sentimental heart skipped a beat, and I can’t even begin to tell you why. I guess it was feeling the importance of being involved in such a beautiful day, of a love that was being celebrated by such a small group of people.
We ventured to the ceremony location, storms rolled in but everyone seemed the least bit worried- the momentous occasion too important to be bothered by a little drizzle. We found a window of time when the storms broke, and they wed under a gazebo while it rained slightly around them. Their family and friends were seated closely around in as intimate a way as the whole day symbolized.
After the wedding, the clouds parted in the most jaw-dropping kind of way. The sun came out, and if you were to look at their wedding photos- it seems as though their wedding lasted over the span of a few days than just hours.
We laughed as we walked out to beach on Jekyll Island. Beth and I couldn’t believe our luck. Perfect weather .
Our location was comprised of large driftwood and sky that could make Ansel’s eyes water. Storm clouds created the most beautiful mixed light, and the day seemed quite storybook.
Their fairy tale ended at the same place it began, the dream house with an intimate dinner- the perfect ending to a watercolor kind of day.
I wanted to share this story on my blog in as much detail as possible. In truth, it is on the lengthier side of most the wedding stories I write. I wanted to show my compassion and special appreciation for both Liz, Derick, and their families for bringing both Beth and I to this destination wedding.
Like I mentioned before, we are both just some small town girls and getting an opportunity to photograph a destination beach wedding has been such a huge gift for us both. We appreciate their time in helping us plan our travels, and we are truly thankful for their trust in us for documenting their day.
I wish my words could better describe my true gratitude to the both of them for believing in me and my work, but as I can imagine it would fall short.. I wanted to tell their story in full and in the best way I knew how. With all my heart, thank you both so much for letting me into your lives. I wish you both the best, and may your lives together be filled will all that special old soul love that I’ve been so lucky to see you share.