One word kept running through my mind all day at Shannon and Ryan's wedding: Heritage.
It starts with a wedding on a family ranch right in the heart of the Brazos Valley, surrounded only by the closest family and friends. When I arrived and began to shoot the bride's details, I was treated to the story of a small heirloom bible that Shannon was going to carry down the aisle. Ryan's Grandma began the tradition, signing the bible on her wedding day in 1955. Following are the next 3 generations of Hardin brides, with Shannon's name to be added at the end of the day. It was an honor to get to thumb through the bible to find Ephesians 5:31 to use in a photograph with the wedding rings.
As I walked to the clearing in the trees that served as a reception hall draped in cafe lights, I saw a tree that had been decorated with wedding photographs of siblings, parents, and grandparents. More reminders of the generations of love that ultimately led us to this day. I got a bit sentimental thinking that just perhaps, an image that I captured on that day would be decorating a similar wedding years down the road.
Shannon's sister and mother helped her get dressed, and then we rode around on a Kubota to find the best field of wildflowers on the property for her bridal portraits. I may have had to straddle a few ant beds, but the results were so worth it. After Shannon's portrait session, I joined the groom lakeside while he and his close friends shot clays and laughed at a labrador (one of several dogs running around that day) who tried retrieve the remnants before they sunk.
The ceremony took place at sunset by a pond, with guests sitting on benches that the family had made. If you take a peek at the ceremony photos, you will notice two officiants. That is because the father of the bride and the father of the groom presided over the ceremony, taking turns asking their children to repeat the vows.
Tearing up yet? I was.
The reception that followed felt like a chilly spring evening spent at a family cabin. Which of course, it technically WAS. But what I am trying to impart upon you is that it felt that way not just to the family, but to me as well. Everyone was so welcoming, and I enjoyed chatting with guests as they had a melt-in-your-mouth brisket dinner. The first dance was held fireside, with Opie (the best dog) looking on. I was even offered a glass of champagne to partake in the toast! And no, I did not accept it (someone has to photograph the toasts, after all).
If I had to sum up this wedding, I would simply say this: It felt less like a production, and more like 2 families who came together to celebrate and unite a couple.
Shannon and Ryan, thank you for inviting me to spend the day with your families and be a part of a very touching wedding.