After finishing this blog post, I realize it is very long; but not without reason. There were a lot of moving pieces in this story and during the wedding day, plenty of amazing people who need to be acknowledged, and parts of Raegan and Zach’s story that I just don’t think should be left out. So maybe grab a snack or a drink if you’re reading all the way through. It was a pretty awesome day, and I think it is worth the read.
Their signature wedding drink was a blueberry margarita, so, logically, when we met for their consultation in April, we ordered just that. By the time we were finished with our discussion, I felt like I had known them forever.
To put it bluntly, Raegan and Zach are just fun people. They are laid back, funny, and easy to get along with. Raegan contacted me over a year before her wedding, asking if I would be their photographer. (Um, yes. Obviously I will!) She is one of those people who has a really artistic eye for everything and knew the aesthetic she wanted for her wedding pretty much right away. Her style aligned with mine so much that envisioning the prospective gallery for them was easy. We created a shared Pinterest board and got the ball rolling for #BecomingBabin2019.
Not only did our styles align, but Raegan and Zach and I die for the same music. I don’t know about you, but my music taste is basically a part of my soul, so if I find people who jam to the same somewhat obscure artists as me, you can bet I’m going to be pretty excited about it. (Ahem – their first dance was to Lady May by Tyler Childers.)
In July, we met in Belfast for their engagement photos. Really I should say I met with them to third wheel on a date (but in the best way). I followed them around town, directing them to brick walls, pretty spots by the water, and an underground cider bar, tucked away between tall buildings and the harbor below. I captured their laughter, their friendship, and the smitten looks they couldn’t stop giving each other.
Want to know why they look at each other this way? Because these two completely, truly accept each other for every peak and valley of their life together –
“Zach is such a caring, hardworking, do-anything-for-you kind of person. This is a trait of his that I admire. He’s a good friend and an even better son, and I think those are important traits when considering a partner. He’s smart, motivated (on every day but Sunday), and a positive ray of sunshine in my life. He supports me in all aspects of my life. Whether it’s coloring my hair purple, my intense dedication to education, or cooking him a shitty meal. He consistently lets me know I’m loved. Like when he brings me a mini candy bar from the candy bowl at work, or tells me to have a good day before he leaves, or when he unconsciously pulls me in tighter at night, or when we squeeze our bodies on the couch so we may properly spoon, or when he brings me a token because he thought I might like it. I feel loved when he holds me a little longer after a hard day. I just LOVE him!!!!!”
In the questionnaire’s I send out to my wedding clients in the months leading up to their weddings, I ask quite a few questions. It gives me an opportunity to get to know more about what matters most to them as a couple. They each receive their questionnaires separately, and answer the questions on their own. My favorite answers aren’t always the longest or the most conventionally romantic; sometimes it is the small details in the shorter answers that really paint the picture. Here is how Zach answered when I asked him to tell me about his favorite memory with Raegan:
“Hard to pick one. But, I would say the weekend we moved into our home after we bought it. We sat around the fire and Raegan played Misconceptions and drank a few beers. Just the two of us in our new yard enjoying the night.”
You know why that was my favorite answer from Zach’s side of their story? It tells you so much about why he loves Raegan and their life together; the stability and comfort of their shared home, her willingness to relax with him and be spontaneous, their mutual appreciation for the outdoors, her general presence near him. Isn’t that all we can ask for in a partner?
The months flew by and suddenly it was their wedding day; my last wedding of the season. As I made the drive out to Unity, my Jeep plunged through a vortex of fall color. The trees were painted every shade of orange and burgundy and green you could imagine. The fog hung low over the fields and raindrops clung to my windows, but there were no showers in the forecast. It was a beautiful moody morning.
As per usual, I listened to music they had referred to in their questionnaires to set the vibe for the day, and rehashed the timeline in my mind.
When I arrived, Zach’s mom, Donyse, met me in the driveway and showed me up the stairs to where the girls were getting ready. She is tall and has one of those welcoming, friendly faces that instantly puts you at ease. Raegan gave me a huge hug when she saw me, and introduced me to all of her bridesmaids.
Over the course of the morning, stories were told, champagne was poured, and hair was pinned up. The girls rallied around Raegan to support her in moments of stress, and encourage her in her anticipation and excitement. Her step-mom, Mercedes, stayed nearby all day long. She reassured Raegan, and made sure she was comfortable. There wasn’t a detail forgotten; Raegan had gifts for everyone. They were little sentimental tokens of her appreciation for those who had supported her and loved her along the way. No one was able to open their gifts without crying.
Raegan had many visitors; aunts, uncles, new nieces and a nephew, neighbors, cousins, friends; the list went on and on. They would pop up into the bridal suite to hug her, bring her water, and remind her to breathe. It was beautiful to see what a community of love she had with her on such an important day.
Raegan’s Aunt Veronica had made her wedding dress by hand. Every detail was customized to Raegan’s vision, brought to life from a sketch Veronica drew up based on Raegan’s description of her dream wedding gown.
She had seen the finished dress before, but when they opened up the bag on her wedding day, it was a whole new wave of feelings.
With a little under 2 hours before the ceremony, I headed over to Raegan and Zach’s home where the guys were getting ready. It was about a 2 minute walk down the dirt lane.
If you are a wedding photographer, you know this transition well. For the most part, it is similar. You go from a bubbly but peaceful environment of dresses and jewelry and champagne, to a loud and boisterous one full of beer and belly laughs and jokes. I welcome the balance and actually always have so much fun photographing the groomsmen, as much as I feel like Chris Pratt in Jurassic Park, trying to tame the dinosaurs and get them all in one spot. The guys were crowded into the house, buttoning shirts and helping one another with their ties, and a playlist including everyone from Flo Rida to Natasha Bedingfield to Rihanna was blasting from a speaker somewhere in the corner.
Eventually I was able to get everyone outside, and we snapped some photos before I (literally) ran back to the bridal suite to photograph Raegan getting into her dress with her girls before the (3!) first looks.
Once she was dressed and comfortable, Raegan made her way down the stairs to meet with Zach’s dad, Mark. All I can say about the first looks on this day is that they were just full of pure love.
Mark looked at Raegan, and Raegan looked at Mark, and they just cried and folded into a huge bear hug. You know how people say “welcome to the family” in wedding speeches? It was so obvious in this moment that Raegan was already family to the Babin’s.
The bridesmaids helped me corral everyone around the corner of the house so that we could get Raegan outside for her first look with Zach. I don’t know why I haven’t gotten past this yet, but every time a couple chooses to do a first look before their ceremony, my heart starts beating so fast during the build up. By this time in our working relationship, I’ve come to know quite a bit about Raegan and Zach, and they feel more like friends than clients. With so much of their work, time, and emotions having gone into planning this day, the anticipation of this moment has grown and grown for the two of them.
I directed Zach to his place and made sure his back was turned, then led Raegan to her spot. Her Maid of Honor, Sylvana, adjusted her veil and train until she felt ready.
If you follow me already, you probably know how this goes; the walk, the tap, the turn around, the reaction. But every time it is different, and every time it is beautiful.
Raegan was holding back tears and Zach was telling her not to cry (likely because he didn‘t want to), and then they just stared at each other, letting it sink in that they were about to be married!
Lastly for first looks, we had Raegan’s dad. Upon seeing Kerry for the first time, it was very clear to me where Raegan got her piercing blue eyes. As I was bouncing back and forth between the bridal suite and the downstairs, grabbing water, photographing the rings, and focusing on groomsmen, there was one constant: Kerry was standing at the bottom of the stairs that lead to the bridal suite, waiting for Raegan. With everything else that was going on, I am not sure how long he stood there, but he was always the closest to the stairs.
Now, at this point in the day, Raegan had already walked to Zach, and the train of her dress was long and hand made, so we decided to have Kerry approach her instead of vice versa.
He had been waiting, turned the other direction, when I gave him the green light to walk to his daughter. Initially, Kerry had been standing back by the car in the background, but while making his way toward Raegan, had to stop (second picture) and gather himself before proceeding.
Then, of course, came the ceremony.
Are these not the cutest little flower people you’ve ever seen?!
As a wedding photographer, I am privileged to witness a lot of really special moments, and this next one is definitely up there. As Raegan walked down the aisle, Zach did not take his eyes off of her. Unable to hold back her tears, she stared right back.
The way they looked at each other tells you so much about the kind of bond they share; the comfort Zach brings to Raegan during particularly emotional times, the absolute love and admiration he has for her as his person, and the friendship. The real, genuine, strong friendship that is at the core of their relationship.
Mr. and Mrs. Babin – In the coming years, I wish you more can’t-move-can’t-breathe bouts of laughter, many nights around the fire with the amazing people who were a part of your bridal party, discoveries of new music that moves your soul, and cozy days on the couch without interruptions from other people. I hope that you always continue to lean on each other the way you do now, and remember all the feelings you felt on this day. I know I won’t forget it.