Champagne is normally used to toast mid-wedding speeches, but for Ashley and her bridesmaids, it flowed early! They made the most of the last few hours at Bella Rose Estate before Ashley was to lace up her dress and exchange rings with her soon-to-be husband Michael, kicking back in satin noir robes while they sipped bubbly, relaxed, and reminisced. Ashley’s lucky to have such a great group of gals to relax with!
She’s also lucky she had that great group of ladies: her wedding dress was a gorgeous graceful ball gown that cascaded over itself and needed more than a single person could do to fluff and fan it: straight-up Disney. Her bridesmaids’ dresses were in stark contrast to it, a royal and romantic plum tone that evoked court dances and elegant love stories without taking the focus off of the bride to be. They all gathered around Ashley as they lowered the dress onto her… it was as if Sleeping Beauty’s fairy godmothers became youthful ladies and magicked the perfect garment for such a sacred occasion. When we say perfect, we mean perfect: it had the fluff, the sparkle, the train, and pockets. Praise every designer that includes pockets. In this case, they added an elegant yet modern feel, bringing the traditional wedding ensemble into the 21st century. Seriously, it was fantastically suited for a Disney fan like Ashley. (We’re a little jealous. Oops. Not gonna lie, though: she rocked it!)
Anne, Ashley’s mom, couldn’t help the broad smile that broke out when she saw her in full wedding accoutrement. No doubt she flashed back to other special moments, maybe Ashley’s first day of school or the moment she started crawling or the first time she got that grin that told Anne she’s in love. This night was to be even more special, of course–Ashley’s wedding day. With the corset tied and the shoes on, it was all so real: she was all grown up and soon to be married, not Anne’s sweet baby anymore. Don’t think we didn’t see you wiping those tears, Anne! (Okay, Ashley will always be Anne’s sweet baby. Just a grown up one instead of chubby-cheeked and tiny.)
After warm hugs and tender kisses, it was time for Ashley to meet up with her Prince Charming for a first touch, an alternative to the first look, every bit as magical. We found the perfect spot for them, with two grandiose doors separating the lovers as the mid-afternoon light cast a warm, dreamy glow upon their faces. When their fingers touched, time seemed to slow down, or even halt. You know that moment when you see two people in love having a special moment? A lot of the time you feel intrusive, like maybe you should avert your eyes or they should get a room; it doesn’t matter if they’re making out or snuggling or just have that vibe. There, though? Then? It didn’t feel intrusive. It didn’t feel like they were welcoming us into their world, either. Instead, Ashley and Michael were a work of art, Grecian statues that were meant to be together forever through thick and thin and sickness and health and everything the world can throw at them. Their love stopped time.
Ashley and Michael didn’t take our breath away.
They did something better: they became something that no human could help but treasure.
Even the best moments have to end, so of course, they let go of each other’s hands. It was okay. They were about to pledge themselves to each other, to create a new beginning. Ashley was rushed to her waiting room, the bridal party organized just after, and then it was time. We watched as the groomsmen and bridesmaids led the procession to the altar, with Michael and his mother following behind them. That was when the tears started. She hugged him, crying happy, and the warmth of their bond made us want to go home and hug our own mothers. (As photographers, we’re really thankful for auto-focus. Snapping this moment would have been impossible through our own tears. It doesn’t matter how many times we do this, we cry every time.)
Society jokes that weddings are all about the bride, and that thought held true here. “A Thousand Years” began to ring out through the hall, the piano melody signaling Ashley’s arrival. It felt like the air got sucked out of the room, everyone’s focus drawn to Ashley and her beaming face. How is it that she was so spellbinding? We’d just seen her a few minutes ago!
Such is the way of fairy tales, we suppose.
Her father Brian and stepfather Steve led her up, each grasping her arm with nothing but pride and joy. Ashley and Michael had tasked Ashley’s uncle Cliff to unite them, making the ceremony something for the entire family to be a part of. We’re glad they had him: he articulated his words with such grace and sincerity, telling us about the uniqueness of Ashley and Michael’s relationship. The wedding was exactly 10 years after their first date. They met online and fell in love, and somehow, their love was every bit as strong a decade later, the couple standing beneath the clear sky, surrounded with family both by birth and chosen.
Michael took Ashley’s hands, hands that will help build their life together and comfort him in times of need just as much as his will her, and though we knew he’d rehearsed his words, it was obvious they came from the heart. They exchanged rings, and as they did, the words bubbled up from within each of them: “I take you for now and for always, for always begins now.”
The words were rehearsed, were ceremonial.
Yet somehow, the were spontaneous and heartfelt and were the truest words Ashley and Michael had ever spoken to another.
The guests took their seats, and as everyone settled in, Brian rose to honor the newlyweds with a speech. He had notes clasped in his hands, paper that had clearly been worn with words of affection, painstakingly chosen. It was clear how much he loved not only his daughter, but also his new son-in-law, as he spoke of the new beginning that came when he and Anne brought Ashley home from the hospital, its mention a reflection of the new beginning that Ashley and Michael were embarking on. Some of our favorite parts, though, were the words he spoke about the future: one day, Ashley and Michael will be just as fortunate as Brian was in that moment, standing in awe of the addition to their families that brought in new members and created families of their own. The toast he finished with was practically unnecessary: his speech was perfect.
With food plated and cocktails iced, there was one last thing that needed to happen, a surprise that not even the bride and groom knew about: fireworks! Like the ones Ashley and Michael felt during their first newlywed kiss, like Disneyland and the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve all at once, these warmed our hearts as the bright colors painted the sky in neon shot right from behind the bridal party table. Disneyland’s had nothing on these; the Mouse may have the glitz and glamor and money, but these glittered with one hundred percent unadulterated love.
Bella Rose Estate was an enchanting venue, but the fireworks were a spectacular ending to a beautiful day as Ashley and Michael and their guests had cake and danced the night away. It truly was a celebration to be remembered.
Ashley, Michael: thank you for letting us be a part of your gorgeous wedding. We wish you nothing but happiness!
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