Wedding days are amazing in so many ways. They are marked with joy and smiles, family and friends, moments of bliss and happy tears. I absolutely love capturing the timeless images for happy couples that create their memories for years to come. To say that brides and grooms are elated on their wedding day is an understatement. They are so full of life and hope for the future that it's easy to stand next to them and watch them promise to "love and honor as long as they both shall live."

As much as I LOVE weddings, there is something SO INCREDIBLY special about being asked to photograph a vow renewal. Especially a vow renewal for a couple that has been married 57 years. 57 years!! Let that sink in.....

I can't even begin to imagine the love that has flourished over the last 57 years for Ron and MaryLou. But as I stood there and listened to their family and the pastor and watched the sweet glances they exchanged during the ceremony, my mind couldn't help but wander to what their lives have been like. They have been in love since high school! Having never met them before, I got a unique glimpse into what love TRULY is...and how theirs has stood the test of time.

The Hartwood Restaurant was the absolute perfect setting for this intimate occasion. I got there early (just like on a wedding day) to start with the details before the guests arrived. The tables were adorned with bright and cheerful flowers and amazing cookies (yay for that Pittsburgh tradition!). The cake was amazing. I took an extra few minutes to look at Ron and MaryLou's photo topped cake. The "then" photo on the left and the "now" photo on the right with the "57 Years" in the middle portrayed their youth, their growth as a couple, and everything they have been through in between.

As the guys were getting ready, they all looked so handsome that we had to get some of them together. The smile on Ron's face was contagious as he added the final touches to his suits and helped his sons and grandson do the same. They had some good laughs as they waited for the bride to arrive.

As the guys finished up getting ready, we waited for Mary Lou to arrive. It was the sweetest thing that Ron held true to tradition and didn't want to see her before the ceremony. We watched the door and sent him to his "hiding spot" so that when she arrived, she had a few moments to get ready before the ceremony. Mary Lou was guided back to the sunroom where the light shone on her veil and made the sparkles on her dress glisten like the sun. To her surprise, her daughter handed a gorgeous bouquet of roses, baby's breath and bright greenery. She exclaimed "I didn't expect it to be so much!! It's so big!" The ladies put on their beautiful wrist corsages that matched the bouquet. She had a few minutes to take it all in....Mary Lou sniffed the flowers, closed her eyes, and if I had to guess, had a quick reflection on the past 57 years.

Before we knew it, the ceremony was about to begin. Everyone took their places in front of the fireplace. Their best friends and immediate family sat patiently waiting for the lovebirds to reunite. I caught a quick glimpse of Ron and waited for the look on his face as he saw Mary Lou for the first time that day. When all eyes are focused on the bride, it always warms my heart to steal a look at the groom. The look on Ron's face when Mary Lou took her first steps out of the sunroom was that of pure happiness.

The ceremony was short, sweet and emotional. There was not a dry eye in the entire room as we listened to the pastor read personal stories and popular readings. He focused especially on the reflection of their time together over the last 57 years. He wished them hopefulness for the future as they carry on the love that has gotten them through these last years with grace, peace, forgiveness, and kindness. Of course it wasn't without a few laughs as well. At one point, he began reading the "Love is patient, love is kind" scripture. Look carefully at the photo below. Mary Lou is giving a wink and a smile to Ron, for she knows all about the words brought to life in that reading.

The pastor then brought out a very large, very shiny "diamond". He went on to say that he stopped into a jewelry store and asked the clerk what it was worth if it were real. She said something to the effect of over 100 million dollars. His point in the story that while beautiful, shiny and bright, the price of the diamond doesn't matter because you can't put a price on love. It's everlasting and it's REAL.

We certainly couldn't have a vow renewal without some traditional "bride and groom" portraits and Ron and Mary Lou were MORE than good sports about it! They even threw in a few smooches without me even having to prompt them! And their hand placement for the "ring photos"? Well they were pros. They grabbed onto one another and I'm now calling it their signature pose to use for future brides and grooms! They made the portraits easy because they have a natural love for one another. They've been there, done that, and got the tee shirt on this crazy ride we call life and these authentic smiles portray just that!

The rest of the evening was full of entertainment and laughs. The "newly renewed"couple visited every table and had a few laughs with friends. One of my favorite parts was when Mary Lou held out her hand to her friend from high school and showed off her new ring. I could only imagine her younger self doing the exact same thing 57 years ago to that very same friend.

They gathered around their cake for the traditional cake cutting and tasting and it was so sweet to watch. They decided against feeding each other but I could guess by Mary Lou's spunky personality that Ron may have gotten a bigger taste than he bargained for! And let's not forget that a good wedding always ends with a garter toss! Mary Lou said "well it IS my something blue!"

Ron and Mary Lou's vow renewal was a good reminder of how love and kindness through the years leads to wonderful things. They have a family who loves them more than anything and it seemed like everyone played a part in making their day so very special. Cheers to their last 57 years and cheers to 57 more!! Congratulations Ron and Mary Lou!!