Missing only the orchestral theme music swelling in the background, they ran hand-in-hand through the breezeway. Her white pleated dress, flowing behind her, stood out in beautiful contrast to the wood panels and snake exhibits. His grin matched hers; full-faced, eye-twinkling, teeth-showing smiles.
Finally reaching the end of the breezeway, overlooking the lamplit twilight dinner, the bride and groom met her Mom with a massive bear hug. They’d been to the car, surrounded by their extensive group of friends and family, but couldn’t find Mom. So off they raced, running frantically to find her.
And there she was.
I stood watching, my baby sister and her freshly minted husband, saying good-bye with all the bear hugs and happiness due a baby girl and her mommy. For the first time all day, I was without my camera and didn’t take a single photo of that moment, but as I stood there watching that (teary) embrace, I knew I had just witnessed my favorite moment from my little sister’s wedding day.
My camera stayed with me all day during my day as Sisterfriend of Honor at Joanna’s wedding celebrating at Reflection Riding Arboretum in Chattanooga, TN. My shootsac’s black strap may or may not be visible in a family photo or two when I chose not to take it off and lay it in the wet grass. My brother (aka second shooter of the day!) even photographed the moments where I held my bouquet and camera at the same time acting as both photographer and member of the bridal party.
Joanna’s Reflection Riding wedding day dawned gloomy and rainy, gray and cool. We sloshed through mud puddles to decorate tables, string lights, prettify the arbor. We listened to thunder while hanging photos in the treehouse. We ignored the clouds and laughed in the face of a rainy outdoor wedding.
By the time she slipped into her wedding dress, though, the sun was out and the blue skies were singing. As we gathered under the grove of trees to witness their vowing of vows, the horses galloped through the fields we were walking on sunshine. For settling into party mode, we enjoyed a husky twilight, deeply and gloriously magical. To walk through the moonlit woods to the sparkling treehouse, we watched the reflection of the lights in the marshlands below the boardwalk and sighed in complete satisfaction: the magic had happened.
Wedding days may not always be perfect, but they are perfectly imperfect. Like the mud puddles of the morning, the way I had to trot across the lawn to retrieve Dad so he could escort Joanna down the aisle, the time Peter tried to kiss Joanna before Pastor Grady gave him permission. Those imperfect moments are what make a wedding day so memorable.
Thanks to more people than Joanna will ever be able to count (I can only begin to list the gems who jumped in and transported cakes and set out appetizers and cleaned up trash and made coffee by flashlight and cut cakes and served food), we made a twilight, candlit, lamplight wedding evening a magical and stunning success.
It would be a fairly extreme circumstance to ever compel me to do that again: bridal party, wedding photographer, and unofficial coordinator. I ain’t gonna gloss over it; that’s a lot to do in one day! But for my sisterfriend? Worth it. Love you, Joey!
In addition to the spectacular family and friends and bridal party who did all the heavy lifting so cheerfully, we had some exceptionally talented vendors.
Venue: Reflection Riding Arboretum
Catering: Moe’s Southwest Grill
Hair: Amanda of The Blowout Company
Photographer: Jenni Marie Photography
Assistant Photographer: Jacob Pinkerton
Paper Suite: handmade by Joanna
Printing: Aladdin Print Shop
Flowers: Melissa and the Bridesmaids
Nails: Le Park Nail Salon