As we pulled up to The End of the Road Retreat after a long scenic drive, the little red cabin seemed like an old friend who would invite you in for a warm cup of coffee and a good chat. Nestled deep in the tree covered mountains of Mariposa, I instantly knew the intimate venue was the perfect setting for Cole and Abigail's wedding day. I was first greeted by Abigail's father who immediately warned me he was a "hugger." I was happy to hear this because I'm a hugger, too! This, I decided, was going to be a day filled with nothing but love. The tone of the morning was casual and carefree with a hint of excitement in the air. Cole and Abigail's family bustled throughout the house finalizing all the last details of the day while the two got ready. Each of their friends and family played an intricate role in helping the day come to fruition, which in my opinion, made it all the more special. As they got ready in separate parts of the cabin, Abigail and Cole both possessed the kind of ease that only comes with a sense of certainty. The only thing they both seemed ancy about was the anticipation of getting to see each other for the first time.
As I walked Abigail to where Cole was waiting for their first look, her face lit up like a star to see him there waiting for her. I had them stand back to back holding hands, savoring the anticipation before the moment they would remember the rest of their lives. When they turned around to see each other, Cole's hand rushed to cover his heart and he literally almost fell to his knees. I may be wrong, but I think he muttered something like, "You look so friggen beautiful." I could tell he meant it from the bottom of his soul in a way that was referring to, not only her physical beauty, but her spirit as well.
The ceremony site was a bohemian dream. Each table was covered with a wildly patterned linen that added beautiful pops of color amidst the greenery of the landscape. The centerpieces were styled with succulents, wildflowers, and repurposed wine bottles. A different photo of the couple throughout their years together rested on each table. Mexican blankets were set aside for the guests to wrap themselves in amidst the crisp, Fall air. Perhaps one of my favorite features from the day, however, was the handmade alter. It seemed to fit perfectly with the theme of the wedding so I was shocked to discover Abigail and Cole had found it lying in the woods near the lake when they arrived to the house. It was probably left there from a previous wedding, but I like to think it was a beautiful gift from the Universe.
As a wedding photographer, I am frequently lucky enough to witness beautiful moments. Photographing Abigail's dance with her father may be one of the most emotional and unforgettable moments for me thus far. They danced to "Always On My Mind" by Michael Buble and, as the notes of the piano began to play, I watched a wave of sadness rush over her father and a pain filled his eyes. He leaned in and whispered to Abigail, "I'm gonna cry." The lyrics echoed through the air as they swayed with the breeze:
Maybe I didn't treat you Quite as good as I should have Maybe I didn't love you Quite as often as I could have Little things I should have said and done I just never took the time You were always on my mind
Maybe I didn't hold you All those lonely, lonely times And I guess I never told you I'm so happy that you're mine If I make you feel second best Girl, I'm so sorry I was blind You were always on my mind
Then I lost it and started to cry, too. His sadness wasn't that of grief or disappointment, but the kind of sadness only a father could feel when seeing his little girl in her wedding dress and hoping he did his job right. The kind of sadness only a father could feel when he's spent his life raising a child and now must trust she will be taken care of by another man. The sadness of letting go.
Watching Abigail and Cole together, I know that Abigail's father won't have to worry. Their love is the stuff movies are made of. The kind of love you only find once in a lifetime. They had their first dance to "Only Love" by Ben Howard. A song about always being one in spirit. A song that I felt defined what their entire wedding day was about...only love.
Press play and enjoy!
Venue: End of the Road Retreat | Bride's dress: Free People | Bride's Shoes: Chinese Laundry | Bride's Hair and Make Up: Ruth Stanke | Groom's jacket: Asos | Groom's tie: Etsy | Catering: El Cid | Second Photographer: Tiffany Gentry