It's a wordy blog post today but bear with me. As a photographer I take pictures. Occasionally I have the chance to give pictures. Over the years I've had the honor to volunteer with Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, Help-Portrait and other charitable and non-profit groups.
I was therefore intrigued to get an inquiry from one of my favorite wedding venues asking me if I might consider photographing an upcoming wedding on July 4th 2014. Renaissance Golf Club in Haverhill, MA has amazing grounds, the ballroom is beautifully elegant and Holly and the whole team make it a joy to work there.
The parent company of Renaissance - Southworth - had reached out to the local Wounded Warriors organization with an offer to host a dream wedding for some local, engaged veterans. They would be donating the venue space and the catering and were now contacting other wedding industry professionals to see if they might want to get involved.
I will admit that I wasn't familiar with the Wounded Warrior Project and my initial thought was "Oh, but I don't work on July 4th!" - for the last 11 years we've spent the day at our friends enjoying lobster, beers, hanging out in the pool at "The Annual Bennett Family" get together. And then I spent a little time looking into the the Wounded Warrior Project - The Greatest Casualty is being Forgotten - whose mission is to honor and imposer wounded warriors. Thinking about the very great sacrifice that men and women in the military make, I figured the very least I could do would be to give up my July 4th hot dog and beer and photograph the wedding of this very deserving couple.
I mentioned the plan on my Facebook page and reached out to a couple of super lovely and talented wedding industry colleagues and friends and was amazed at the response. Before I'd even managed to finish explaining all of the details some of New England's very best wedding vendors had volunteered products and services worth over $30,000! It's a wedding dream team!!!
- Les Fleurs, Andover, MA agreed to donate the wedding flowers - bouquets, boutonnieres and centerpieces
- Soiree, Andover, MA offered to provide the wedding stationery - invitations, programs, escort cards
- Flair Bridesmaid Boutique, Boston, MA were delighted to dress the bridesmaids and flower girl. Rachel just went into the store and the Flair team also provided a wedding gown, veil and accessories!!!
- Cakes of Occasions agreed to donate a delicious wedding cake
- Boston Wedding Films offered to make the wedding film!
But let's back track...the year was 2010, the location was Fort Drum in upstate New York when Mark and Rachel met for the very first time.
They were both returning from serving in Afghanistan – Mark a Cavalry Scout in the National Guard and Rachel an interrogator on Active Duty. Both had suffered injuries and after stints in multiple hospitals overseas, they returned to Fort Drum for physical therapy. Apart from being one of the few females there, Rachel first caught Mark’s eye with her bright pink Nike sneakers – a sharp contrast to the Army grey T’s and sweats they all wore. A courtship ensued.
Now medically retired from the Army, Rachel and Mark got engaged this past summer. As new, full time students with a baby, and because Rachel had dreams of a beautiful, Great Gatsby-themed wedding, they expected to wait a few years before getting married. The plan was to wait and save, so that their dream wedding could be realized.
About the time they got engaged, Southworth (the parent company of Renaissance Golf Club) had reached out to the local Wounded Warriors organization with an offer to host a dream wedding for some local, engaged veterans. When Mark heard about the opportunity through a Wounded Warriors email, he replied on a whim, but thought little of it afterwards. He didn’t even mention it to Rachel. The two were surprised and thrilled to hear that they had been chosen.
I'm so excited to be able to photograph the wedding and a few weeks ago I met up with Rachel and Mark on a VERY chilly fall day to take some engagement pictures. They brought along their adorable daughter Scarlett who joined us for some pictures. I was also. The ridiculously talented Jim from Boston Wedding Films (whose wedding films make me cry even when I don't even know the couple) came along to meet Rachel and Mark and surprised us all with a fabulous little behind-the-scenes video.
Here are a couple of my favorites:
Here's Jim's video - love!!! Click on the little play button in the bottom left:
If there are any other wedding vendors who might want to get involved to really make this a dream wedding - justice of the peace, ice sculptures, espresso bar providers, fireworks team, candy bars, (just brainstorming here!) - then shoot me an email (leah @ leahhaydock.com) and I can put you in touch with the team. And with I'm getting back to enjoying time with my family in the UK for the holidays. I hope you all have a safe and happy holidays - Merry Christmas!!! Happy Hanukkah!! Wonderful Kwanzaa!!! I might have a little holiday message on December 25th...:)