The Sun was Shining on a Beautiful August Day...

My good friend Ari and I arrived at Sarah's house to photograph the traditional "getting ready" bridal photos. From the moment we walked in, Sarah was beaming from head to toe. The best word to describe the feeling she emanated was JOYFUL. Not that most brides aren't joyful on their wedding day, but there was a calmness and happiness glowing from her beautiful face that made us know instantly their wedding day was going to be nothing short of amazing.

We gathered up the details to start photographing while Sarah put the finishing touches on. We wanted to capture these just in time to see her get into her dress which, of course, was gorgeous!

The Final Touches...

As Sarah's Maid of Honor Stephanie and Bridesmaid Chelsea arrived at her house, the happiness and laughs only grew more by the minute. Sarah greeted them with a huge smile at the front door and they squealed with delight that today was finally her day! Sarah's mom Judy helped fasten her daughter into her dress with a smile so bright. Will's mom Susie helped with the finishing touches and Sarah's best friends watched her as she was about to marry HER best friend, Will.

When Sarah was ready, we headed out into the sunshine and blue skies to take some bridal portraits before it was time to head over to the church.

Before the Ceremony...

We arrived at St. Catherine of Sweden Parish and the guests were beginning to arrive. Due to Covid-19 regulations, the number of guests had been greatly limited. Care was taken to seat people in church, masks were worn by everyone and we all practiced social distancing to the best of our abilities. Over the last few months, Will and Sarah had difficult decisions to make and quite a few obstacles to overcome such as the number of guests (including those coming from out of town), the reception changes, changes in venue, and even the date. They handled each and every change of plan with grace. Nothing seemed make them drift off course in the craziness of these last few months. With God in their presence, they were determined to get married and their focus was set solely on that. I have to admit, I don't envy brides and grooms during this season. I don't need to remind anyone how difficult these past few months have been but Sarah and Will were absolutely wonderful with their flexibility and sudden change of plans.

Will and Sarah decided to have a quiet prayer time instead of a "first look". I thought it would be nice to photograph this final memory of them as "single" people before they became husband and wife. We hid Sarah in the chapel and brought Will in backwards and put him against the other wall. Their immediate family stood around as they had a quiet moment reflecting on the new journey that they would be starting in any minute...asking God to bless them today and always.

The Ceremony...

Ari and I took our was almost time! It's always such a sweet moment to see the groom's face right before the bride walks down the aisle. It's so heartwarming to catch a sweet whisper from one parent to another and to watch them share a quick laugh before the bridal party walks. One thing that tugs at my heartstrings the most is the groom's mom (in this case Susie) look at her son with such love and admiration that only a mother can offer during such a special time in her son's life. And then it begins...the beautiful organ music, the sweet flower girl making her way down the aisle dropping petals along the way, the smiles on the girl's faces before they stand before their friend to witness a joyous occasion. And the moment we were all waiting for...beautiful, joyous Sarah starting her walk down the aisle arm in arm with her father, ready to join Will, the man she will spend the rest of her life with in front of family, friends and God.

The Joy of Togetherness...

There were so many highlights during the ceremony. Will's father gave a little synopsis of Will and Sarah's story of how they met and when they became "serious". I had followed along on their wedding website and loved their story told by them. But when a close family member with an "inside scoop" gives a different perspective it's spoken from the heart.

Deacon Cliff gave excellent insight into marriage being MORE than just a piece of paper that makes the marriage legit. It's about the joy, the tough times, the adventures...everything thrown into the mix to make a marriage what it is...a union of two people that love each other so much, they can overcome anything together. With love, faith and grace, ANYTHING is possible in the eyes of God. I had the honor of watching Sarah and Will together, the smiles never leaving their faces. They had a look of relaxation in their eyes as they finally reached the day that they had planned for so long and it was a wonderful feeling to see such joy!

Let the Fun Continue!

The receiving line was a bit different this time but the happiness radiated as Will and Sarah greeted and thanked their guests for attending. We wrapped up "husband and wife" photos and family portraits as the sun began to sink down over the horizon on this gorgeous August evening. The orange and yellow glow in the sky backlit them in a beautiful way.

When Will and Sarah originally planned the reception, it was for over 100 people with all of the traditional things that a reception includes. When they had to change their plans and decided not to have a celebration beyond the ceremony, Sarah's amazing brother and sister-in-law stepped in and offered their backyard for an intimate family gathering. It was beyond BEAUTIFUL!! The trees were lit with soft white lights. Blue linen tablecloths adorned the few tables that were spaced in the yard. Will and Sarah's family were so creative in putting together this beautiful celebration. Everything about the evening was classy and tasteful. Will's brother Andrew was able to come in from Germany which was such a blessing for Will. Sarah's best childhood friend Stephanie gave a heartfelt speech that would bring a tear to anyone's eye. We witnessed the first dance, the parent dances and the happy conversations that went on during dinner. The cake was so special to the happy couple because Sarah's mom Judy made their amazing wedding cake. And what Pittsburgh wedding would be complete without a cookie table? These delicious cookies were packed and ready to go for all of the guests as they left the church. I'm grateful there were extras because they were SO GOOD!!!

As the night came to a close, if no one knew any differently, no one would have every guessed that this wedding wasn't the one that they had originally planned. I am a strong believer that things happen for a reason. This wedding was MEANT to be just as it was...beautiful and elegant and fun!

To Sarah and Will... I didn't get a chance to write on the "advice card" that was for the guests in the church. But here is my advice: Love each other always. Even on the days when love seems to be the hardest. Let the times that challenge you make you grow closer together. You're better as a team. Cheers to you both and I can't wait to see you soon...this time as husband and wife!!

*A special thank you to Ari Grealish of (Grealish Photography) for helping me capture the memories of the day and to her husband Nathan Grealish for providing video services and live streaming for those family and friends who could not attend.