One of the first couples I ever had the pleasure of photographing in 2007 were two lovely people named Natalie and Nathan. I was 25 at the time and had been married for three years, so I was young and still in the honeymoon stages of marriage. I still believed that weddings were fairy tales, full of glitz and glamour and the happy ending that came at the end of the day. When Natalie, the spunky red headed bride stepped in front of my camera, I was beyond excited because she was so beautiful.
And then, at the end of 2016, Natalie lost an incredibly brave fight with leukemia.
She was the mom of two beautiful girls, a cherished wife, and a precious daughter. When I posted the photo below, her mom responded by saying that she wasn’t sure she had ever seen this photo of her daughter. That night I prayed that this photo would bless her mom and her daughters during their grief and sadness.
One day I’ll be brave enough to write about the anxiety and fear that well up inside of me when I think about leaving this world and not being here to raise my kids. When Natalie left this world, my twins were turning four. At that time, it felt like we had had them our whole lives and yet, not nearly long enough. If people who have twins tell you the first few years are so incredibly hard, they are right. But we were finally at all the good stuff; past the terrible twos and the threenager stage and so very grateful for the stage of life we were in.
In the weeks following Natalie’s passing, I photographed many families who wanted to document the love they shared at that stage in their life. I photographed dads giving their daughters away and moms holding tightly onto their sons as they enjoyed a dance with their boy, who had somehow become a man. I witnessed celebrations with families who had traveled long and far to fill the room with love, and brothers and sisters who gave THE very best toasts.
You see, when my kids were born, I realized weddings are not about the gorgeous dress or the floral centerpieces or even the cake. Weddings are about family.
Every time I photograph a groom watching his bride walk down the aisle, I sneak a photo of his mom too, because he’s her baby. I think about the emotions I would have watching my son crying with joy or smiling giddily. Every time I snap photos of a bride coming down the aisle with her dad, I grab a photo of her mom too. I think about how much overflowing love I’d have in my heart knowing that someone loves my daughter almost as much as I do.
Losing Natalie was a gentle reminder of how fleeting moments are with the ones we love.
In my 12 or 13 years capturing some of the most important days of people’s lives, nothing has changed more than my heart for protecting the moments we have with our babies. I’ve seen much of the life that happens after the wedding: fathers pass away, moms forget who they are, grandparents who once held our hands, suddenly slip away. So if I photograph moms and dads like there is no tomorrow, it’s probably because sometimes there isn’t.
I’ll never be able to watch a Father/Daughter dance without tearing up, no matter how many times they dance to “I Loved Her First.” I can’t help but see all the hope in my five-year-old daughter’s eyes as she beams at my husband when he takes her to the Daddy/Daughter dance. Every single time they take to the dance floor, I remember that the bride is someone’s everything in the shape of a daughter. The man dancing with her once carried her home from the hospital, driving 5mph in order to get her there safely.