Holly & Chris, Part 1

Today’s wedding graduate post is in two amazing parts. It’s the story of balancing an elopement with family needs, of a simple last minute at home wedding service, and of the sweeping vistas of Yosemite. It’s about amazing photography and simple intimate loving moments. So let’s start Holly’s story (Holly is, by the way, an excellent photographer in her own right) on a farm in Florida, with her family gathered round. Here is The Wedding Day, Part I:

This is the story of how we ended up getting married twice in one week. Once on a family farm in Florida and the next in the middle of a valley in Yosemite. Two weddings never was part of the plan – that would just be crazy! But that’s how it ended up happening. And we wouldn’t change a thing.

Chris warned me within the first twenty minutes after I accepted his proposal that our wedding would have to include “everybody or nobody.” He comes from a large family, has never been married, and has tons of friends, so naturally everybody wanted to celebrate with him. Our main concern was how on earth we would pay for such a soiree. In talking about the type of wedding we envisioned, we both imagined having a more practical affair. So that’s what we set out to have…

A widowed mother of a preschooler, I am currently working as a self-employed photographer and he is a marine biologist…which basically means we’re not at risk of being wealthy anytime soon. But we are very much in love and were determined to have the wedding of our dreams within our budget, which was essentially nothing. Working in the wedding industry, I knew what things cost and how quickly things add up.

I made budgets, spreadsheets and guests lists for seven different weddings, and for one reason or another none of them would work. Wedding planning was taking away from time that I should have been spending with my young daughter and when I should have been up editing other people’s weddings or sleeping at night.

Frustrations grew and every day elopement looked to be a better option. Finally, one day, we used our airline miles to book two tickets to California and announced to our families that we were going to elope in Yosemite seven months later. The announcement was met with a mixture of happiness and disappointment. Happiness because they knew that was what we wanted, and disappointment because everyone wanted to be there to share in our day with us.

As the time grew closer, our families had a harder time talking about our wedding. I knew in my gut that I would never forgive myself for saying “I do” without my daughter, Charlotte, who Chris is going to adopt, there with us. And I knew that our families, though they would never say it, would always be hurt that they weren’t there to see us. I wanted Charlotte to hold our hands as we promised our lives together as a family. And I had no idea what we were supposed to do about it at that point. The idea of bringing her with us on a plane to California and then dragging her along for ten days sounded absolutely miserable and was out of the question.

Our first idea was to hold a surprise wedding with our parents in my backyard the night before we left for California. We got so far as ordering a few tables before we realized it was a horrible idea. I was photographing several large events that week and couldn’t handle anything else. And what if the surprise backfired somehow? I’d been sneaking around, trying to coordinate everything and keep secrets for over a month, as well as keep my business running and deal with what seemed like a constantly sick child and then sick fiance. We decided that the only thing to do was to tell our families.

I’ll never forget that phone call. Chris was in bed with a fever and I was so stressed out I couldn’t stop sobbing. We talked it over with my mother and then called his mother and told her that we’d like to get married on his grandmother’s farm. In nine days. Once she got over her shock she wept tears of joy. We’re not entirely certain what happened beyond that…all we know is that phone call set off a chain reaction unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

There were people gardening, decorating, making barbecue, pressure washing, hanging lanterns, baking… It was a whirlwind of activity all around us. All we had to do was tell them when we wanted to do it, and approximately where we’d like to do it, and show up. We didn’t care that the date we chose happened to be Friday the 13th—we weren’t superstitious and by that point all we wanted to do was get married. We kept our plans a secret from even our closest friends and planned on telling them after the fact. Sadly, because it was so last minute, some of our immediate family was unable to make it.

There were just a few of us there that evening on the farm. Charlotte and I wore white cotton sundresses and stood hand-in-hand with Chris. When she wanted to climb on me we let her. Our friend, Amy, who has known Chris since birth, married us as the rain came down. My friend Kirsten did my hair and makeup, and Chris’ sister Jami slaved in the heat all day to make the place look like something out of a movie. Patrick, who I work with, came to photograph the whole thing for us. Our mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, all came together to toast us and celebrate us. We were officially a family, united in front of our family…

(Next Up… the Wedding Day, Part II)

Photos by: FRSHNK Photography

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