Michele + Tom – Married at Embry Riddle Chapel in Prescott Valley, AZ

My wedding couples are all so different. And perhaps that is because I photograph people who value other people. So they don’t fit into a box of qualifications, Rothy’s shoes, and snapchat filters to make them look alike.

But when I tell you this one was different than all the others, it was because I’ve never documented the start of a marriage for anyone else whom I’ve known for more than half my life. Whom I lived with during college. Who I saw become a mom, a wife, and a widow in a very short period of time. Who amazed me with her strength and determination to not only continue through college, but put herself through law school. And then after a decade and a half of practicing law, decided to switch professions and earn her Ph.D. in psychology before moving across the country to teach. Michele is one of my dearest friends, trusted advisors, staunchest encouragers, and has an amazing ability to make me laugh at any time, even in the midst of tears and despair.

So when she told me she was getting married, I knew that she had found an equally amazing and strong individual to share her life with for decades to come. They are perfectly matched introverts who create safe spaces to be themselves. To have and to hold. To love. No matter what comes their way.

It had been just over two years since I had seen Michele and that was when I had flown to Tampa to photograph her girl child before Cecelia graduated from high school and Michele moved out west. I was at the Grand Canyon for two days before driving out to Prescott Valley and meeting up in this little salon where Michele was getting her hair done. I followed her to a grocery store for bananas and berries (brides, don’t let your blood sugar drop…it’s easy to forget to eat on wedding days and you don’t want to pass out in the middle of it!) where we annoyed other shoppers with our enthusiasm for the day. Which might be typical when we’re together.

Hair spray misting through the air onto bride's finished curls.

Normally, I’m looking for ways to document wedding days without being seen in mirror reflections…but, well. You already know this wedding was different from the rest.

When we arrived at the Embry Riddle Chapel overlooking the dells, Tom was still setting up chairs.

I tried to follow her into the stall, but she shut the door on me for being obnoxious. This may or may not have been the first, or maybe tenth?, time she’s done that to me.

Cecelia did Michele’s makeup. Next to a suicide awareness plaque. Because the mental health services on the campus shares the chapel space.

College daughter doing her mom's wedding day makeup.
College daughter doing her mom's wedding makeup.
Bride adjusting here boobs inside wedding dress while daughter and friend look on.
Bride smiling while her best friend is adjusting her hair.
Turquoise high top Converse wearing bride.

Cecelia walked Michele down the aisle to Tom. Before the shortest wedding ceremony ever took place. Seriously. It was 37 seconds long. Start to finish.

Yep. They high fived each other after being pronounced married people and kissing each other.

There were shenanigans during formals.

Budding photographers.

And then this happened when Michele asked me to hand off my camera and be in photographs with her. It’s ok. My camera isn’t the easiest to figure out. Plus having an officiant who also photobombs people, well that’s an added level of fun.

When a wedding photographer hands off her camera to be included in wedding formals, this is the resulting out-of-focus photograph
Bride and groom figuring out where to sign the marriage license.

Their friend and officiant was a perpetual photo-bomber.

And Michele’s father-in-law of two decades wanted to make his own photographs of her alone after most people had stepped away. I love Bill’s love for Michele and Cecelia.

Once the chairs were all stacked and put away, only a handful of people remained in the chapel before heading into downtown Prescott Valley and the rooftop bar for the late lunch reception.

Tom was waiting at the top of the stairs to greet the folks who didn’t take the elevator inside. He looked so cool standing up there in the sunlight.

Not a bad view up there, right?

Michele’s best friend Sam gave the most thoughtful toast. Recounting years of college when Michele helped her through a tremendously rough patch of time and school. And focusing more on love and what Michele and Tom share, likening it to the carefulness with which one would hold a bird.

Wedding day toast with champagne glasses raised.
Two brunette best friends hugging each other and smiling.

Michele + Tom. I am wishing you two all the best in life and marriage. And not just that, but also in finding and creating the best in the challenges life throws at you. May there be many wonderful adventures and times of happiness as you both deserve so much of the goodness in life!

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