I met Sami in high school. I was shy and stuck closely to my friends - usually sneaking my lunch past the guards in my camera bag determined to spend my lunches in the dark room of the photography department. Sami was the opposite of shy, even back then. She was bubbly and outgoing and didn't know a stranger. We didn't have many classes together, but even passing her in the hallway she smiled at everyone, even me. Someone she hardly knew. Some things never change.
Awhile back I found myself scrolling aimlessly through my Facebook feed. Sami had posted a gorgeous photo of her property. I stopped mid scroll and couldn't help but smile. The country sunset illuminating two horses as the dog looked on in the driveway. Some places in the world are just begging to be photographed and this was one of them.
Months passed and there I was, selecting my produce at the grocery store when I heard a familiar voice behind me. I turned around to find Sami, pushing her shopping cart and just as bubbly as I remembered. She told me she was looking for a photographer for her wedding. Flattered, I couldn't help but eagerly ask questions about her plans for the big day. She shared with me that the wedding would be on the property of the home that she and Ryan share. The same house where that photo was taken. Funny how things work out.
Sami and Ryan's wedding day was one for the record books.. or perhaps the story books. Everything was perfect. The ceremony space stood in the far corner of their field. White fabric blew loosely with the breeze. Blue and brown bottles danced in the wind - hanging from tree branches. Their happy clatter sending a faint melody across the field towards the house as if to welcome guests to the space where Sami and Ryan would soon say "I do." Sami and Ryan's good friend Brooke had worked tirelessly to help make their big day special. Her creativity knows no bounds and there was proof of that all over the wedding. A photobooth tree hosted empty frames and props welcoming guests to commemorate the day with silly photo evidence. Wooden signs decorated the property - all hand painted by Brooke. Every little detail was thought of - proof of how much Brooke loves and cares about Sami and Ryan. So cool.
Inside the house a flurry of excitement and energy buzzed about the living room where Sami and her girls were getting ready. Mirrors propped against the walls and clouds of hairspray lingered slightly before disappearing into the sunlight spilling in through the large picture window. As Sami's mom helped her into her dress the room fell quiet - each girl watching as Sami transformed into a beautiful bride. This moment was extra special. As Sami's mom zipped her into dress, she was helping her daughter put on the very same dress that she had worn at her own wedding. I couldn't help but wonder if when Sami's mom walked down the aisle- a young bride herself - that she could have imagined having such a wonderful daughter that would someday be wearing that same dress. Sami and her mom had worked with a designer to have the dress altered a bit to fit more of Sami's modern style, and it was stunning! Long in the back and short in the front - it came up just enough to show off Sami's cowgirl boots. It was perfect.
Ryan and his guys were cracking jokes all day. They've all been friends forever and it was easy to see. Ryan is a quiet guy, but let me tell you - he was awesome about taking photos. I'm sure it wasn't his favorite part of the day, but I could tell how much he loves Sami because he went right along with it. What a guy!
The day had been fairly overcast - threatening rain at any moment. But it never came. In fact - as Sami walked down the aisle toward her groom, the sun came out, illuminating the entire ceremony. Everyone in attendance smiled as we all watched Sami and Ryan become Mr. and Mrs. Gaskins. There wasn't an empty seat available! So many people came out to celebrate the love of Ryan and Sami. I'm not surprised. They make such a good team and know how to make the most of life! Their reception, under a giant tent in the field, was a perfect example of that. Their DJ, Dan Hiles, and his wife kept the music going and everyone had a blast. The photobooth tree was a huge hit! Some guests started a game of football in the field while others chatted with one another. Everywhere you looked you could see joy - which I know is exactly what Sami wanted for her big day.
As the stars came out Sami and Ryan danced together, hand in hand. Their friends and family surrounded them. As I packed my bags to head home for the night I watched them laughing with their loved ones. Sami and Ryan are expecting their first little one. Soon they will be parents and their lives will change. But as Ryan put his arm around his bride and pulled her close, I knew with certainty that they will handle this adventure together well. Balancing each other out as they go. Ten years ago Sami was just a smiling face in the hallway at school. But today, as I type this, I am smiling because now I get to call her my friend and celebrate along side her as she starts this new chapter. Funny how things work out.