“The reason that I’m holding on”, he said to me “is that I want to be here to see you and Stephanie get married and be happy.”

On a Monday evening in October of 2008, less than a week before my wedding day, I rode beside my dad in an ambulance and walked beside him as they wheeled him though the emergency room doors, a tradition that had become familiar as he battled cancer. The next morning, we met with his oncologist, who told us that while he’d be back home with us soon, that no more could be done and that he only had a few short weeks left. My mom made plans to get the entire extended family together for the holidays, and to make Dad’s final days as joyous and filled with love as we could.

Late the next night, a nurse woke me up from the hospital couch where I’d fallen asleep. My dad had taken an unexpected turn for the worst. The next 24 hours were a blur – and a testament to the fact that God had given me the most amazing woman in the world. As we were walked outside, hoping to clear our heads and get some fresh air, she said “I think that we should get married in the hospital with your dad. It doesn’t feel right to do things any other way.”

Instead of the huge wedding we’d spent months planning, we were married in Room 6 of the ICU, with only our pastor and parents present. My dad was in and out of consciousness and heavily medicated, and I wasn’t sure that he knew we were there. As we recited our vows, I held Stephanie’s hand in my right and his in my left, and as we were pronounced husband and wife, he gently squeezed my hand — and I knew that he was letting me know that he understood what was going on, and that he was happy. When we walked out of the room, married, the entire ICU staff had gathered outside the door and were applauding.

Stephanie and I spent our first night as a married couple sleeping on a couch in the ICU. Early the next afternoon, with my mom and siblings gathered around his bedside with us, my dad passed away.

Friends and family were beginning to arrive from all over the country for our wedding and had no idea what had happened, and so we made the difficult decision to move forward with our ceremony the next day, with a candle lit in remembrance of my dad. And although that night was beautiful, it’s all a blur. Looking back on it now, all of the decisions we’d spent months agonizing over — centerpieces, bridesmaids dresses, making sure we stuck to a timeline — just faded into the background. What was truly important, and what I feel blessed beyond belief to have been given, was the ability for Stephanie and I to have spent one of the most important moments of our lives with no distractions at all, surrounded only by those nearest and dearest to us, and fully focused on what truly mattered.

I’ve been a wedding photographer for almost a decade now, and I’ve been blessed to have photographed hundreds of weddings in breathtaking locations all over the world, always with one goal in mind — to give my couples the gift that I was given: the ability to relive their wedding day with the focus on what’s truly important. My couples put love and thought into every detail of their wedding day, and they’ve chosen to work with me because they believe, like me, that their beautiful wedding gowns, stunning floral arrangements, and breathtaking venues aren’t the stars of their wedding day, they’re the supporting characters. They come to me because they know that their love for one another and their relationships with the guests that they’ve invited to celebrate that love alongside them will always be the focus of the story I tell.