On the day of Matt and Amy’s Cape May wedding at the Icona Diamond Beach Resort, there was a quite a mixed bag of emotions. I don’t think Sandi and I said too much to each other on the hour and a half ride down. In fact, I don’t really think that we said anything. This wedding was a little different than all the others. Why? Well, I’m gonna try to explain it the best way that I can. This is my 5th attempt at writing this. Matt also wrote a guest blog post telling the story of their wedding and the journey to get there which you can read HERE.
I’ll start this story off by saying that the bride and groom, Matt and Amy, are our friends. Friends that nearly two years earlier had walked into our studio as complete strangers. They were just like every other newly engaged couple stopping by to speak with us about possibly photographing their wedding. On the morning of October 14th, 2017, as Sandi and I packed the truck to make the hour and a half drive down to Cape May, things felt different. The typical wedding day pressure we put on ourselves was amplified to a whole new level. The two of them had been through a lot over the past year. Amy had gotten sick and life took them on one hell of a rollercoaster of a ride making this day that much more special. Amy is healthy today, as she was on her wedding day, and she looked absolutely stunning. You would have never guessed that she had been through a year of hell leading up to this day. Having grown close to both of them through it all, we weren’t there at their wedding as just photographers anymore. We were also there as friends to celebrate the day with them.
On January 31st, 2016, the day Matt and Amy walked into our studio, we had no clue that these two would have such a huge impact on our lives. None of had any clue that today we would all be really good friends. To give a little backstory, they had found us on The Knot and our work stood out to them. Matt is a cinematographer and a creative, so as you can imagine, he was going to be extremely picky about who they hired as their wedding photographer. During that consultation, the four of us hit it off. I think we hung out and talked for close to three hours that night. Matt explained how he proposed to Amy in Acadia Maine, a place Sandi I have been vacationing to for years. They asked if we would be willing to take a trip up there to shoot their engagement photos if they paid the way, of course, we agreed. We couldn’t have been more excited, and this was the perfect excuse for us to take our 2-year-old son up to Maine for the first time. Little did any of us know at that time, but the photo shoot in Maine wouldn’t happen. Sandi and I would be making the trip without them.
Fast forward a few months, we had picked out dates and paid for a place to stay in Maine. Everything was going smooth and it was pretty much all the four of us had been talking about. A couple months before our trip, I received a text message from Matt asking me to give him a call. Not thinking anything of it, I quickly called Matt, expecting to have him tell me about some new idea he had for the engagement shoot. What followed is something I don’t think I’ll ever forget, and the point at which everything changed. It was a call that left me speechless, as Matt explained that they wouldn’t be able to make the trip to Maine. Amy had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a rare blood cancer. Treatment was going to start soon and the trip would be right around the time of one of her treatments. However, we had split the cost of the house in Maine and we couldn’t get the money back. They insisted we still go and enjoy ourselves, something we originally shot down. They insisted and we went, thinking about them the entire time.
While we were there, we drove out to the spot where Matt proposed and took the photo you see below. A photo that up until this point had only been shared with them. We all made the promise to come back up to Maine to celebrate their one year anniversary and capture the photos Amy had dreamed of. While we were there, I took Sandi and my son Luke to the same exact spot that I had taken a maternity shot of her, creating a very cool collage that we could continue to add to over the years.
OK – back to the wedding day. I knew Matt’s emotions would be running high, and more than likely he would be a mess. Well, a mess he was, and I guess I’ll give him credit, he didn’t hold back in front of me. There was no tough guy act. No pretending that everything leading up to this day was like that of every other couple getting married. It was a long road to get here, and Amy was cancer free! There were tears of joy, tears of pain, and tears that made me well up and cry right along with him. At one point in the day, as Matt read the letter Amy wrote for him, it was only the two of us out on the balcony. I remember he glanced up at me with a look, wiped his eyes, and then looked back down at the letter. Did he want me to stay, leave him alone, or simply put the camera away? Rather than guessing, I just came out and told him to just tell me to leave if he wanted a minute to himself. He simply laughed and told me that wouldn’t happen and that he wanted me there through it all. Something I don’t think I’ll ever forget and it’s because of that moment we have a very unique and close friendship. That day I felt more like a friend than a photographer, and I used that to my advantage with telling their story through my photography.
Groom Prep went as expected at the beautiful Icona Diamond Beach Resort. It was filled with plenty of laughter and tears, but it wasn’t long before it was time to head out to the beach for Matt and Amy’s ‘First Look’. As I walked Matt out to towards the water to get him ready to see Amy for the first time in her wedding gown, I could tell I was losing him. I could see his mind was somewhere else as he slowly stared out into the ocean. I could slowly see his demeanor changing and his eyes already starting to swell, filled with a mixture of emotions that I didn’t even try to understand. He was only moments away from getting to see his beautiful and healthy bride in her wedding gown, a day that at one point I’m sure he was worried would even come. I didn’t say much in those moments, in fact, I had stopped talking at some point as we walked down the beach towards the water. My cameras were at my side and I wasn’t a photographer, I was simply a friend at that moment. I thought of distracting him, but instead, let him enjoy each and every memory that I’m sure was coursing through his veins. I adjusted his tie, fixed his jacket a little, looked him in the eye and simply said thank you (as my eyes quickly filled up with tears of appreciation.) I thanked him for giving me access into his life, into his relationship with Amy, and more importantly for his friendship. As I watched Amy slowly making her way down the beach, I smiled and told him to turn around. I’ll let the photos tell the rest of how that went.
The ceremony was tough, I’ll admit, there were a lot of times I found myself struggling to see through my viewfinder because of the tears blurring my vision. The most difficult part was when it was time for them to exchange their wedding vows. Nothing fancy or handwritten, just the typical wedding vows. I’ve probably heard them recited hundreds of times by now, including when I said them myself over 12 years ago. I’ll admit, I don’t put too much thought into them while photographing ceremonies, it can feel more like a scene from the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray. Thinking back to my own wedding, all I can remember was being focused on not fumbling the words too badly. They were simply just words that I repeated back, excited to finally be marrying the girl of my dreams.
However, on October 14th of last year, those traditional wedding vows sounded different. It was as if I was hearing them for the first time, and the meaning behind them was as thick as the mist that filled the air. The promise to “have and to hold through sickness and in health” is one of those vows that most grooms, including myself, try not to put much thought into. It’s something that we tell ourselves we might face one day, just not anytime soon. Who wants to think about that on their wedding day? Most grooms hadn’t been through what Matt had been through, or had to care for their sick fiancé to the point of not knowing if the wedding day would even come. As the officiant spoke those words to Matt, I could see his eyes fill up with emotion as he choked back tears, trying his hardest not to let his emotions get the best of him. He paused for a moment as memories from two extremely difficult years ran through his head. As I watched him struggle, I hid behind my camera to hide my own tears. He took a deep breath, pulled the strength together and got those words out. The rest, as they say, is history.
This summer the 5 of us will be heading up to Maine for that 1-year anniversary shoot, something we are all extremely excited about. We’ll finally get to capture those epic photos of Amy and Matt in Acadia like they both had so badly wanted for their engagement shoot. I’ll also get to capture the third photo in the Mother and Son series that I started 3 years ago, which was made possible from the trip that Matt and Amy had insisted that we go on. Here is the BLOG post of our trip to Maine that year, with the photo that goes along with this one from when Sandi was pregnant with Luke.
I apologize for the long post, but this was a story that needed to be told. Amy was one of the most beautiful brides we’ve ever had the privilege of photographing. Sandi totally killed the bride prep which she had been extremely nervous about, and we ended the night by capturing our most favorite night shot we’ve ever taken. Just a few days ago, the two of them came into our new studio and got to see their photos for the first time on our big projector screen. Matt cried again, and again, and again. Ok, maybe it wasn’t that bad, but talk about an emotional guy… big baby. I at least went and hid in the kitchen each time my eyes filled up watching the slideshow, haha. At the bottom of this post there is a timelapse video we shot of them as they seen their wedding photos for the first time, don’t miss it!
FYI: You will see some inconsistencies in the editing of these photos, but for good reason. A good amount of this wedding was shot on film as requested by Matt, which was developed and scanned by Goodman Film Labs. The digital photos mixed in are shot with my Leica gear and Sandi’s Canon.
TIMELAPSE VIDEO & PHOTOS
PHOTOS FROM THE REVEAL PARTY