as a teenager, i was involved with an awesome youth group that was full of incredible leaders. one of these leaders was a girl named amanda — and after i graduated and became a leader myself, we co-lead a small group for girls every week together. i remember those times so well. honestly, with a group of fifteen-year-old girls the biggest topic of discussion seemed to be boys [oh how confusing they were!] and dreaming up our future weddings. bahaha. a guy’s worst nightmare. but, of course, the girls and i especially loved to dream about what amanda’s wedding would be like someday — this girl has always had an eye for style and details.
amanda moved to california a few years ago to attend bethel school of ministry; where she met this great guy named james. they didn’t talk much for the first year of school… really not until last summer, when they started hanging out as friends. good friends, best friends, and before they knew it, whoops! they fell in love with each other like nothing they’ve ever experienced before. james proposed over the christmas break when he and amanda were back in BC visiting family. here’s the real kicker, i shot their wedding four days later — and amanda had no idea she was getting married that day.
i got a call from amanda’s mother the day before: was i up for the challenge of shooting a surprise wedding of one of my old friends? mmm, yep! sure was. here’s how it all went down. james and amanda had talked in the past about eloping — so marriage quite quickly after engagement wasn’t something that intimidated them. james had this brilliant idea of getting married on christmas eve afternoon, with only amanda’s immediate family present — and keeping it a surprise from his bride the whole time. amanda and james were told by amanda’s mom that she had booked an engagement session with me on christmas eve day for a gift. amanda was thrilled & we talked on the phone on december 23rd to plan where to meet.
i suggested milner chapel as a great meeting point; easy to find and a few spots around there i wanted to walk to. amanda and james were thinking a formal-ish theme; amanda had bought a great new dress and heels for the season and wanted to wear them. perfect. we set up a time and the next day, i pulled into the parking lot. amanda’s mom was with her to help carry things for the shoot, etc. also, amanda’s mom had told the couple that amanda’s family would be coming for a few quick family photos [while everyone was dressed up] before their church christmas eve service following the session. so when amanda’s brother and sister-in-law and grandma arrived, she didn’t suspect anything. we spent a half hour taking photos, then we set up “family photos” on the church steps.
it was cold and windy outside, so the family went inside to warm up until i “needed” them for some more poses. next thing, amanda’s brother said he’d love one of just the two of them. james decides to go “check on the family” inside the chapel. amanda and her brother and i are the only ones standing outside of the chapel. we take a few photos and i say, we should go join the family and bring ’em back out. we three walk into the church, and james is standing at the end of the aisle, with an officiant standing right beside him. amanda’s family is seated and her brother hands amanda a bouquet, and the music starts, and down the aisle they walk.
amanda was blown away; immediately tearing up and when james met her at the end of the aisle he asked, will you marry me? today? and she said, yes, of course i will. james had written out wedding vows for himself and then a copy for amanda [in case she was too flustered to speak!] — but the cutest part of the day, amanda started reading the pre-written vows and stopped. james, i don’t need these, and she grabbed both his hands and winged it. beautifully.
ah, it was such a fun day.