milner chapel wedding: amanda&james

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.

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  1. Ahhh, sigh. That is the sweetest story. I love how you captured all the emotions of it during the ceremony. The last couple portraits are my faves!

  2. Rebecca Siewert says:

    Oh my goodness!! I love this!!!! How beautiful!

  3. Naomi says:

    Oh WOW!!! Good job all – and lovely photo’s, Jamie, as always. :)

  4. Lena says:

    I love this!
    Everyone looks soooooo happy in these pictures, especially Amanda!
    Can they make a movie out of this? haha… so sweet!

  5. Aniela says:

    amazing…simply amazing!!! the story and the couple and the photos!!!!genius

  6. Catrina says:

    Oh my goodness. How perfectly beautiful! And that they were up for that? Wow. Beautiful pictures Jamie.

  7. Sarah Der says:

    Such an awesome story and a really lovely couple! I definitely teared up. :)

  8. Hannah says:

    this is something crazy. gorgeous photos, Jamie!

  9. That is crazy. Crazy amazing. Love the portraits outside, too :)

  10. Carmaleta says:

    I love love love this!

  11. Wow. What a story! Beautiful pictures …

  12. Laura says:

    So sweet and amazing story. Beautiful portraits!!

  13. Jessica says:

    I’ve been a long time lover of your work – and this tops it. What an incredible story and you captured the whole day beautifully! Marriage is a beautiful thing.

  14. Olivia says:

    Wow. What an amazing and perfect way to get married! They are so so cute together! You did a wonderful job capturing their love for each other!

  15. Hayley says:

    I love these shots! Great job! (:

  16. SO CUTE!! How fun is this!? Great job Jamie! I love the one of her heels off the ground outside the chapel and the one of her with her grandma, among others. What a memory!!

  17. Laura Eliza says:

    Lovely images, and such an incredible story! What a sweet day!

  18. Andrea says:

    A-mazing Jamie. What a great story, and beautiful wedding. Love, love, love it.

  19. Kandise says:

    What an amazing story!

  20. Carmelle says:

    Wow! I love how you captured the emotion and told the story through the photos. What a neat story!

  21. Kelsey says:

    jamie! you sneaky lady! we had coffee that morning and you told me you were doing a session at milner chapel….i never guessed anything like THIS! haha! soooo great! woohoo amanda & james!

  22. Emily Ruth says:

    This story is beautiful, and the photos are stunning!

  23. Holly says:

    well…THAT was exciting!!! :D what a story!

  24. Lupe Ruiz says:

    wow, these are amazing! I love her hair and how vibrant it is in the photos!!!

  25. Susan brides mom says:

    Thanks for using your camera to tell this story of love and marriage so well!!!
    It was such an awesome day for James and Amanda. I love every picture !!!
    Thanks for your part in this great event.

  26. Hannah says:

    this is one of my favorite posts! love their story, and gorgeous pictures.

  27. Jamie says:

    Beautiful ! They are such a sweet couple.

  28. I'm Kristen says:

    eh. amateur. these’ll do.

    (but seriously. so so gorgeous, jamz.)

  29. Caroline C says:

    I started to tear up with great everlasting JOY!! What an amazing surprise.. I love how the pictures capture these wonderful sparkles of light around you two… I think its Jesus!!! <3 love Caroline

  30. Magnifique séance ♥

  31. Nichole says:

    Hoe neat!!! Great pics jaim!! And I love her shoes!!

  32. SarahM says:

    You are so blessed to have this experience!!! This is one of the reasons why we are photographers. We are the witness that perpetuates spontaneity and serendipity. :) :) Blessings on Amanda and James!!

  33. Lydia says:

    Jamie… I am subscribed to your blog, your inspirations,your walk with Christ. I am always uplifted by your words and your work. This wedding by far, hands down is my favorite story OF ALL TIME!!!! What an incredible testimony to what Love is really about. The Author of love is the Almighty and many rich blessings on this beautiful couple :)

  34. Mikaela says:

    oh my goodness this is incredible!! what a story. completely romantic and beautiful…and beautifully documented.

  35. What a sweet couple!! So touching!!

  36. Beautiful wedding! Very sweet surprise for bride.

  37. augusta says:

    Holy goodness that’s amazing. Makes me think…would I want a surprise wedding? Haha, it’s kinda early to think about it but that’s super fun! Love your shots from this, Jamie.

  38. Jenn says:

    I am bawling my eyes out! What a beautiful love story! Such a gorgeous couple :)

  39. Kate says:

    This is amazing. The story, the images, all of it! Truly magical!

  40. April P. says:

    HOLY COW. Normally people tell me how much they loved our elopement, but I have to say this is just the most wonderful, romantic love story… what a wedding. What a man. What a beautiful bride! Congrats and many years of happiness to you. -April, Denver CO

  41. Brielle says:

    Thats such a sick idea!!!! So cute!

  42. AH! This is too sweet for words. What an amazing day for them!

  43. marsha says:

    I found you through a blog and I am absolutely blown away with your work! You captured their story beautifully! Lovely couple!

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I’m Jamie! I capture joyful wedding and portrait photos that feel like you—through easy, natural posing. Since 2008,  I've photographed over 270 weddings and nearly 300 family sessions and it’s a joy to spend my career capturing natural, joyful images!

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