There are times as a photographer that I am able to join couples on days that are both joyful and bittersweet; on wedding days that are just a bit more layered than two people getting married. Today’s Kalmia Gardens wedding photos show one of those kinds of wedding days.
The reason this wedding was a little bittersweet is that the couple and the bride’s family had to adjust their expectations about how the day might have happened due to the loss of a family member. Now I know I often write, blog and post about only joyful moments, sweet memories or perfect days, and I hope that today’s post doesn’t seem any different from those. This Kalmia Gardens wedding day was joyful. It was sweet. It was perfect.
So while you go through a few of my favorite images from Claibourne and Matt’s Kalmia Gardens wedding, you will see quite a few emotional moments from the bride, the groom, and their family. Tears and hugs shared between those who have lost so much but still share even more.
How I Met the Bride and Groom
I first met Claibourne two years ago at her sister Halli’s wedding (I photographed the whole beautiful day, go see it HERE). I got to know Claibourne at the wedding a little bit, and we became friends on social media afterward. We stayed in touch that way over the past few years. Then one fateful day, I saw a post from Claibourne about a boy named Matt (aka #BaeRay at the time). I was overjoyed to see the sweet friend I had gotten to know so happy.
Next thing I knew, I was on Facebook one day and saw the announcement and photos of Matt proposing to Claibourne. Not long after their engagement, Claibourne contacted me and ask me to photograph her wedding. Obviously, I was overjoyed she had asked, and not long after, with the help of her mom and sister, started planning the wedding photos at Kalmia Gardens!
Beautiful & Bittersweet
Throughout this entire process of both Claibourne booking her wedding with me and Halli’s wedding experience, I’ve gotten to know the Crouch family and each of its lovely members on a personal level. I even had the extreme honor of getting to know Miss Laura Crouch, Claibourne’s mom. In fact, though I didn’t blog about it at the time, I joined Claibourne, Matt, and the Crouch family at Miss Laura’s hospital for Claibourne and Matt’s first marriage ceremony a few months before this wedding day!
Miss Laura’s doctors had given the family confirmation that Claibourne and Matt’s April 2018 date was too far in advance to ensure Miss Laura being able to witness her last little girl married off. So, to ensure Claibourne’s mom and the Crouch family could witness Matt and Claibourne get married together, they held a little ceremony in the hospital’s meeting room. Not long after that, Miss Laura left her earthly body.
In Honor of Miss Laura
That’s where the bittersweet comes in. Today I’m showing images of the wedding day where the bride and her family had to adjust their expectations about how the day may have gone due to the loss of a such an integral part of their family. You’re going to see emotional moments and quite a few tears throughout this selection of images. I hope you soak in each moment. I thought about not even mentioning much of the story behind the emotion of this Kalmia Gardens wedding day, but I knew it would be a disservice to Miss Laura’s memory and the true beauty of Claibourne and Matt’s wedding day.
Because, sometimes, beauty is not just found in flawless wedding days where everything went perfectly. True beauty is found in real emotion, loss, grief, and the joy someone can feel even amongst all of that. So, please enjoy these Kalmia Gardens wedding photos, and I hope you feel the emotion of this day as you scroll through them!
Claibourne now proudly wears her mother’s watch every day, and her rings were a gift from her grandmother! I love how family-centered everything about Claibourne and Matt’s wedding was. They know what’s important to them, and it shows.
Claibourne’s two sisters, her best friend, and Matt’s mom helped her into her beautiful gown at a hotel room close to Kalmia Gardens in Hartsville, South Carolina.
Claibourne asked to have a moment with her daddy before the ceremony, and it was a sweet one. Cue the tears, everyone.
Then the couple asked to be able to read letters to each other back to back and have a moment together, but still not allow Matt to see Claibourne to preserve the ‘reveal’ moment for him.
Claibourne asked nine of her closet friends to join her as bridesmaids on her wedding day, and they all looked beautiful in these baby blue dresses!
When Matt held out his bow tie, he told me his late mother-in-law wanted him to wear it on his wedding day, and right then, a photo of the bow tie changed from just a detail shot to a memory.
Claibourne’s grandmother and an empty chair for Miss Laura at the front of the ceremony…
Congratulations Mr. & Mrs. Ray!!
After the ceremony, we took the time to photograph a few portraits of the wedding party and the couple amongst the gardens at Kalmia Gardens.
Ahhh, I love the way they look at each other…
Then it was time for the party!!
After the couple’s first dance, Claibourne and her dad shared an emotional dance in memory of her mom. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house!!
After a few emotional dances, it was time to PARTY!!
The couple finished up the night with a kiss under a shower of bubbles!
Kalmia Gardens Wedding Photos
I hope you loved this selection of the many beautiful Kalmia Gardens wedding photos from Matt and Claibourne’s wedding day! I know I was moved to tears many times during this wedding day while photographing it of these moments. And I hope they resonated with you, as well. Not every wedding has to be the perfect fairytale day to be beautiful and poignant. This gorgeous day is proof of that!
And to Claibourne and Matt, thank you for sharing your memories with me. Thank you for opening up your most intimate moments of both joy and loss for me to share with you in. I’ve never photographed a wedding like yours, and I don’t think I ever will again. Not because your story is that wild or unique, but because YOU TWO are unique and special beyond measure. Claibourne, thank you for recognizing our kindred spirits before I even did and reaching out to me in friendship. Matt, thank you for your tearful chat on your wedding day; I’ll never forget you telling me how much I and the images I’ve created for you all meant to you and your family.
Matt & Claibourne
I write this little ‘thank you’ with tears in my eyes, you two, because you have deeply touched my heart. Photographing couples like you two and stories like yours are WHY I do what I do. My purpose is found in experiences like the one we have shared throughout your wedding experience. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I feel as though I’ve gained more from our time together than I could have possibly given.