So this is love
So this is love
So this is what makes life divine
My heart has wings
And I can fly
|| so this is love - cinderella ||
In some ways this story begins with two young girls who met their first day of sixth grade and became the best of friends; blonde Charissa and brunette Rebekah. But to fully set the stage you also have to rewind a little further to take note of two brothers who were a few years apart but as thick as thieves. Little did any of them know that one day, their four paths would gloriously collide and they would end up all sharing the same last name. But I'm getting ahead of myself...let's get back to those besties. When Charissa found herself falling for her friend Naomi's brother Andrew of course giggling about it with Rebekah was mandatory procedure. She finally decided she was going to have to arrange for her best friend to meet her crush right away. Though Charissa's plan to bring Rebekah along to hang out at the Wong's house was successful, Rebekah didn't just end up meeting her best friend's crush, and enjoying some pecan pie...Andrew's older brother Samuel had also caught her eye. As the two girls left and began reminiscing about the evening, Rebekah, with views of Samuel's smile and the way she felt admiring his conversation skills dancing through her mind, asked Charissa with all sincerity, "Are you sure it's Andrew you're crushing on? I mean...Samuel is SO much more handsome!" Turns out, she wasn't the only one who had taken notice that night over pie.
That next fall, Charissa and Andrew officially began dating. Often, when Charissa came to visit Andrew and his family she brought Rebekah with her. Samuel always enjoyed talking with the bright, kind, and incredibly pretty young woman his brother's girlfriend was conveniently bringing around. ;) In the meantime Rebekah had been taking notes on Samuel second or third hand from Charissa or Naomi and admired what she heard. As they started getting to know each other first hand they started liking each other quietly. Andrew and Charissa, clearly too twitterpated to notice his brother and her friend growing fond of each other, disguised setting Rebekah up on a blind date by inviting her on a date with them. They told her their double date plan on the way. Rebekah wasn't happy at all and backed out immediately. When Samuel found out he was a little miffed his brother had set someone else up with this fine young woman instead of him!
On the day that marked two months of her and Andrew dating, Charissa decided to bake him a pie: his favorite! She brought Rebekah along to help and as they began the celebratory dessert they were joined in the kitchen by none other than Samuel, bearer of what had become Rebekah's favorite smile and surprisingly a master of pie baking! Rebekah wasn't actually that big of a pie fan at the time but as the kitchen filled with laughter and delicious smells, she watched Samuel do the majority of the baking while Jack Johnson tunes played in the background and she found herself having a change of heart. ;) The spark stayed alive the next few months and Samuel asked her out just after New Year's. They dated and got to know each other intentionally and even through hard times together they fell in love. :)
They began talking about getting married and were looking at rings for two weeks, when they took a trip to visit Samuel's sister. On the way Rebekah suggested they could swing by a pawn shop to be able to browse styles and see if they found anything they liked. Samuel thought the idea was romantic and so when he noticed a pawn shop near the pie shop in Houston (when you start really falling for each other while baking a pie together, it's only right that you have pie shop dates) he suggested they go in and take a casual look. While there they realized the style of ring she had wanted did not actually look good on her finger. But they also found a beautiful ring she and he both loved, that was in budget (1/3 the price of new!), and was made by a reputable company.
One week later, on August 3rd, they started driving towards the mountains and he had her close her eyes. She guessed the first two places he had thought of stopping where they had enjoyed romantic moments so he turned on a side road. Half a mile down he saw the perfect spot, with a working windmill, lots of trees, and a great view. He got her out and had her open her eyes. He read her a letter which had both of them shedding a few tears. He knelt, asked her to marry him, and she said yes! They sealed their proposal perfectly by sharing their first kiss!
You may or may not have seen in this post about how I actually shot Andrew and Charissa's wedding exactly a week after Samuel and Rebekah's! I had such a blast flying to El Paso two weeks in a row and was astonished both times by this incredible view. There being mountains in Texas was something I was always aware of but witnessing them for myself was truly a wonder. They were such a remarkable backdrop for this wedding!
Lovely Charissa when she was still a bride-to-be for a little while longer!
The pride in Mr. Woods' eyes when he first saw his baby girl in her wedding dress was so heartwarming.
And then when he and Rebekah's mom both took a moment to bask in her beauty...tears!
Once upon a time, he probably helped her into little patent Sunday shoes or complimented her frilly dresses....on this day Rebekah's dad was there to help with her veil. It's moments like this that give me chills on a wedding day. ❤️
Ohhh mercy. I still daydream about these flowers. From the succulents to the cream roses to the pinecones (yep. stuck right off in there being awesome)...her bouquet was exquisitely dreamy. *all the heart eyes*
Even against something as remarkable as a mountain range, she was the most radiant, glowing, and breath-taking bride.
Who knew that meeting in sixth grade would lead to so much?! A best friendship, falling in love with brothers, being brides 7 days apart, marrying brothers...becoming sisters. :)
This was one of many W's made entirely out of succulents that they grew! Such a unique and beautiful ceremony decoration!
The night before the wedding it was discovered that somewhere amidst the hustle and bustle of pulling a wedding together, they hadn't gotten any programs printed! Andrew and Charissa told Samuel and Rebekah not to worry about it and they, being the amazing and supportive friends/family that they are, stayed up nearly all night designing and getting 300+ programs printed.
And she was just as present and supportive the next day as the hours turned into minutes before it was time to watch her best friend marry the love of her life!
Rebekah's sweet older brother Ryan. :)
These two just couldn't contain their excitement...not only for Samuel and Rebekah, but for themselves as well.
"Our turn next weeeeeek!" ;)
They had everyone in their wedding party read an encouraging quote to them. :)
"Rebekah, I love you.
You are the most beautiful woman I know. Your created beauty is incomparable, as is most exquisitely evident today. And as rich a wonder as this beauty is, I know that it is a worthy, outward expression of your lovely heart. I was aware before I asked you out that the brilliance in your eye was not only intelligence and kindness, but sprung from deep character formed by enduring suffering well. As our relationship grew, I have known you ever more patient and gracious, through injuries, illness, and the death of your beloved grandfather. You have proved true in your life that God is faithful to make over-comers out of those who depend on Him.
And you have loved me well with this proven character. You sweetly, bravely trusted me even when it was scary. You spoke truth I needed to hear even while fearing I might reject you. You encourage me to seek the Lord, and you eagerly work hard to serve Him with me. You have forgiven me, and have received forgiveness from me. You let me care for you and you receive my love for you. And I am in awe. I’m astonished by the beauty of Jesus’s character in your heart.
Therefore, and because I am captured already by the love of your Lord, I will take you, to love you. I will seize this opportunity to be your husband, a minister of Christ’s grace to you. In myself I am unable, but He makes me able to lay down my life for you. You are a matchless treasure, glorified by Christ’s love in you. Like He has done for us, loving us to the point of death, I will love you and lay myself down for you, seeking by any means possible to present you holy, blameless to Him. I will join myself to you in the joys of marriage. And I will faithfully serve you, loving you even through its challenges and through suffering."
Her dad just kept saying, "Wow!" during Samuel's vows. I know he had to just be overwhelmingly thankful to hear and see so vividly how his precious daughter was going to be taken care of and loved beyond words. :)
Needless to say, she had to collect herself after those powerful words. ;)
"Samuel, I love you.
King David of Israel was spoken of as being a man after God’s own heart. The Bible recounts times of his great failures, and yet despite his sin and short comings he loved the Lord. This love he had for God caused him to turn towards Him for grace and mercy, cleansing and forgiveness when confronted with his actions that were against God and His commands. His heart desired and loved the Lord and was soft to His teaching.
Samuel, it wasn't long into our relationship that I could honestly, with the weight the phrase carries, say that you are indeed a man after God’s own heart. You are a man who loves the Lord. Your heart is a heart that has been softened towards God by His grace. You, darling, know what Jesus, in love, has done for you and have responded to His pursing, unquenchable, indescribable love, by loving Him. You take seriously His word, the Bible, and follow His commands in it. You are a man who is ever growing to look more and more like an image of Jesus. Your hands I have seen serve like his hands. Your heart I have seen love like his heart. Your mouth I have heard speak his words and your feet I have seen deliver his message of redemption. You are a man after God’s own heart, and yet this does not mean you are a perfect man. You are a man who loves the Lord, despite sin and short comings, and when you fall you turn to him for grace and mercy, cleansing and forgiveness. Trusting that He loves you and desires your good.
Samuel you trust the Lord in all seasons, in all times. You have chosen to serve Him with your mind, emotions and will. Your faith, and my faith in the Lord whom we love, is why we are becoming man and wife today. We are a cord of three strands. Our relationship is conducted and exist in the context of Him and His love. Without His love filling my heart, I cannot truly love you. For love is not a quick rush of emotion and infatuation, love is hard. Love is messy and gritty and involves sacrifice. Love is the laying down of self for the raising up of another. Without His love flowing through your heart, you cannot truly love me. And yet, here we stand, both truly loving each other and committing to a life of loving each other as He has loved us.
Samuel, I vow to love you until death separates us. I vow to love you faithfully on days that couldn't get better and on days that couldn't get worse. I vow to respect you and honor you. I will be your constant friend, lover and companion in all the seasons of life to come. I will stand by your side through hardship and suffering. I will share your tears and I will share your laughter. I will pray for you and I will support you growing into the man that the Lord has planned for you. I will give you fully my heart, my mind and my body without reservation. All that I am and all that I will become I commit to you in love and service.
And so in His strength, and in my mind, will and emotions,
I, Rebekah, take you Samuel, to be my wedded husband. To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, 'till death do us part. And hereto I pledge you my faithfulness."
Just as the thankfulness in the heart of Rebekah's parents shone on their faces during Samuel's vows, so too did that of Samuel's parents while Rebekah recited her vows. What a blessing and joy it must be, having raised children in the Lord, to see Him provide them with spouses that will continue leading them onward to Christ!
Rebekah's cousin Elise and Andrew lead the congregation in a hymn and it was a beautifully moving time of worship.
M A R R I E D!
After only a short while at the reception I checked the schedule and realized they had planned to leave at 7 for their portraits. They had chosen an orchard with the mountains in the background not too far away and the plan was to get there about 7:20ish so we would catch amazing golden hour lighting and finish up with sunset shots. The only problem with that plan was the sun was actually going to set at 6:15! And it was almost 5:40! Once I noticed that, we had to move quickly! They completely understood and slipped out as soon as possible. But we were on an intense time crunch!
Trevor and I jumped in the car with Naomi who was going to lead the way since she said she knew the quickest way to the orchard. The newlyweds followed diligently behind with only minor distractions. ;)
After hitting a patch of traffic as the sun sunk lower and faster I finally made the decision that we had to pull the plug on the orchard idea. "Naomi, think of the closest park and take us there. We have to start shooting now or we're doomed." (Hashtag drama.) She sped forward and found me "a park." As we pulled over and got out of the car she said, "Oh I'm so sorry! Maybe we can find another park. This is horrible!" It was a pretty bleak sight...a basketball court, a small area of grass, green metal trash cans everywhere and a community building. (Behind the scenes picture included to give you an idea of why we all mutually had a brief moment of panic.) But the light? The light was perfect. I knew we couldn't risk losing that just to try to find someplace prettier. So what did I do? I created some of my favorite portraits that I am fiercely proud of and thankful for. With a bride and groom this stunning, having to do mostly closeups is not that bad of a dilemma after all. ;) Thank you Lord for creativity and for allowing an almost disastrous situation to become gloriously wonderful!
Rebekah describing Samuel and what she loves about him:
"Samuel is amazing and I couldn't adequately put into words what he is like. Most importantly he is a man who loves the Lord. His heart and life are both fully submitted to Him. I love that Samuel will always love Jesus more than he will love me.
Samuel has a compassionate heart. He cares for others around him. He is a servant hearted man for sure! Samuel is patient, in the small things and in the big things. He is patient explaining things and he is patient and loving with people. He is kind in his words and actions.
I love the man who Samuel is and I love the man that God is growing him into. More and more I see God growing and changing Samuel into an image of His Son. I love him and I know I will only grow to love him more."
Samuel describing Rebekah and what he loves about her:
"Rebekah is sweet, beautiful, intelligent, and godly. She has the emotional intelligence, empathetic insight, wisdom of practical persistence, and love to pursue relationships deeply and for the edification of both parties.
She is fun and also hard-working, gentle and also courageous. Exquisite as she is in appearance, her astounding internal beauty is irresistible and of a kind that will deepen and blossom even more with age. I love that she frankly, trustingly depends on God in every part of her life. I love that she trusts the work of Jesus Christ to be sufficient for her flaws, weaknesses or failure in the past, present, or future.
I love that she is affectionate, affirming, and has responded romantically to my gestures of love. I love that the beauty so unmistakably evident in her will surely remain, since it is the expression of our Savior's glorious work in and through her."
Dear Wongs, in the most honest, non-cliche way possible you are truly a beautiful couple inside and out. God made you for each other...that fact is so astoundingly evident and it encouraged my heart to see and photograph. I pray the Lord has richly blessed these past eight months of marriage and that it has been just the tiniest glimpse of all the great things He has in store for you yet. Thank you so much for having me be a part of your story, for affecting me with your kindness and generosity, for convicting me with your passion and devotion to Christ and gentleness with each other, and for becoming my friends, not just my clients. That is all I could ever want and more in a bride and groom!