I received a call from our destination bride Amber that both shocked and devastated me. We cried on the phone together for over an hour as she went on to tell me that her dear father suddenly was diagnosed with brain cancer. She kept me posted as to the progress and decided to do a ceremony at home. She had booked a room in her condo and invited her near and dearest to witness her father walk her down the aisle. As the day arrived, it became more clear that this may not happen. Michael and I drove to Newmarket and witnessed one of the most humbling events in our lives. Their ceremony was performed in the hospital room with family and bridal party watching on. It was all I could do to keep it together. I had never done anything like this before and they were looking for guidance as to where to stand, what to do. It was I afterall, who had pushed to be there to document the ceremony, even though Amber was dealing with her own feelings about her dad's ill health. It was my mom who convinced me that I should gently suggest to go ahead with the photos. She told me that she would do anything to have a photo with her dad again. I mustered together all my nerves and treated it like I would a regular wedding day. I passed Amber her flowers, situated the bridal party and snapped photos, all the while trying to be discreet and hold back my tears.
I wasn't sure if Neil knew what was happening. His head was lowered and eyes occasionally opened. At the end of the ceremony when we were taking photos, I decided to go for it. I quipped in my awkward, nervous and pitchy voice: "Neil, can I see you smile?" Oh my God! He lifted his head and gave the biggest smile! Indeed he knew what was happening. I brought my polaroid and took photos and he has them taped to his bed in the hospital room. When everyone left for the reception, Neil said three words: That was nice. Amber handed me what looked to be cash....for parking she said. Ummmm. No thanks. But that is the kind of person she is. Thinking about others even in her own pain.
The reception was beautiful and quaint. The celebrations will take place in Costa Rica in March, and we were able to meet all the amazing friends and family that will be attending. My heart ached for Amber. I could see the conflict in her face. At times she was laughing and celebrating with friends, and at times a look of anguish would wash over her. I tried to put myself in her shoes, and thought about the party taking place just a few short blocks from the hospital where Neil lay in his bed. The family rocked it out to Bruce Springsteen's Glory Days, one of his favourite songs. It was both a celebration and tribute to him. We stayed until the wee hours of the night before we headed back to our hotel. We watched as all her friends feverishly put away tables and cleaned up the room. What a special group of people.
Her maid of honour told her that it was no coincidence that God chose us as her wedding photographers and I believe this to be true. When we were sitting together in that Burlington coffee shop, going over the details of the resort and wedding party, God had other things in mind. He knew what the future would hold and that we would be equipped to handle documenting this journey.
We could not be more honoured and humbled to be part of this. Below are the words from Amber and a video I made from last Friday's wedding. Please take the time to watch it, appreciate what you have, and love the ones you're with.
When little girls dream about their wedding day, I’m pretty sure most girls don’t picture their ideal venue as a sterile hospital room. But then again, most girls I know didn’t find out their dad had terminal cancer six months before their wedding.
On April 26, 2013, I got engaged to my soul mate. It was the best day of my life. We quickly planned our dream wedding in Costa Rica, March 2014. On September 5, 2013 my dad had a seizure and that same day was diagnosed with brain cancer. It was the worst day of my life. My dad is a retired firefighter, a world champion curler and the absolute best role model my younger brother and I could ask for. In October, we celebrated my parent’s 37th Wedding Anniversary with a lovely dinner in the hospital lounge. My mother-in-law says life is beautiful…but it’s not fair.
After a whirlwind of brain surgery, chemo, radiation and three hospitals in two months, my perspective on my wedding has completely changed. We kept our plans for our beautiful beach wedding in Costa Rica because we will not give up hope that my dad will be there to give me away before 50 of our closest friends and family.
When my dad was at St. Mike’s Hospital he told me that he wasn’t afraid of what was inevitable but was sad because of the things he still wants to do in life and might miss out on. When I asked him what he still wants to do – through tears he could only point at my engagement ring. I think it was at that moment I knew that the only thing important about my dream wedding was that my dad was there to share it with me.
On November 15, 2013, my fiancé and I got married at Southlake Hospital in Newmarket, our home town. The decorations were from my best friend’s bridal shower 8 years ago. My mom dug them out of the basement that morning. My dad woke up on the morning of November 15 for the first time in 5 days. I thought we were going to have to say our vows with him in a mild coma…not knowing if he would ever wake up. For us, this was a miracle. It might not have been what I pictured, but it was the most precious day and I will cherish the memory forever.
To all of the other brides, please take it from me – the flowers, the cake, the dress, the extra 10 pounds, the pomp and circumstance – all of the things that seem so important...don’t really matter. All that really matters is that when you say ‘I do’ to the love of your life that you are surrounded by love. I am lucky because in that plain little hospital room I got to marry the man of my dreams, my dad was there to witness it and the room was absolutely bursting with love…and hope.
You can see the events in both photo and video at this link: (Please note I am not a professional videographer and did not have intentions of taking video this evening, but I thought it important to include, even despite the amateur camera shake)