Wednesday, July 2, 2014

What it's like to photograph your brother-in-law's wedding

Photos by Tara Marie Photography, CMo Photography, Amy Martin Photography, and Chad Shoonmacher Photography

In March I had the chance to photograph, along with 3 other helping photographers, my husband's only brother's backyard woods boho wedding. Ben Morris is one of my favorite people in the world. He is a best friend to my husband, always a friend to me when I need him, and a helper to our entire family. When he was single, his main hobby was helping people. Two years ago he met this girl who LOVES helping people and loves Jesus as well, and now the rest is history.

I never thought I wanted to photograph a family member's wedding, but I wanted strongly to help Ben and Jessi out with the photo side of their huge do-it-yourself wedding. I learned a ton in the process, and also got to see weddings from a different side- from a personal, involved side. My daughter was one of the flower girls. My husband was one of the groomsmen.  My son was in the wedding. Even my side of our family (my parents, grandparents, and sister) were there. Everybody who could've babysat my kids was either attending the wedding or in the wedding. So, we all had to pitch in and help with my kids.
She's mine. :)

My very own family!

My girl and my sister.

A lot of Morris Family, including me.

I am SO thankful for the other photographers being there to help me. My husband's cousin from Maryland, Chris Morris with CMo Photography, one of Jessi's best friends, Chad Shoonmacher, a photographer and artist was one, and the third was Amy Martin from Amy Martin Photography. I asked Amy to be the main 2nd photographer at this wedding, because she was unrelated to the friends and family who would be at the wedding. There is no way I could have covered this wedding AND been a mama, sister, daughter, wife, daughter-in-law, niece, and friend to all the other people who I knew there. 
I worry about this girl sometimes. Amy Martin, Amy Martin Photography, Zachary, LA.
Chris Morris of CMo Photography in Maryland -aka to me as my cousin.

The entire wedding was held at Jessi's sister's house on a large piece of land near Clinton, Louisiana, where there was a deer-hunting cutaway in the pine thicket for the ceremony, an open back yard for the reception, a newly-built barn for the food, and a spacious front yard for parking. 

Lots of preparation went into the do-it-yourself backyard wedding, and it seemed like quite the team effort. Jessi's sister and her family and friends put months of work into preparing the yard and house. Ben built the dance platform out of wood. Jessi and her nieces, mom, and sister did thrift-shopping for some decorations and created the rest. Friends pitched in to design invitations, clean things, cook, decorate, coordinate, and even provide the tent, music, and videography. Jessi made all the bridesmaids gifts, and someone made the boutonnieres out of sticks and feathers. On the day of the wedding, my husband went and helped several other men put up a humongous white tent in case of rain. Chairs, hay bales, tables, and quilts were borrowed. Flowers were picked from someone's yard. Ben's aunts decorated for the rehearsal dinner, and many of Jessi's mom's friends even brought homemade cakes for the reception.

On top of a load of bridesmaids, groomsmen, and immediate family, when guests started arriving, they just kept coming! This wedding was HUGE! Ben's family (which are also my in-laws) are not a small crew, and they know a lot of people and have a lot of people who love them. Jessi's family is very large. I think her mom was one of 12 children or something like that, and they have many people who love them too. We think that there were over 500 people at the wedding ceremony and the beginning of the reception.

There were several unique elements to the ceremony, besides the middle of the woods location of it. When Jessi walked down the "isle" (more like the woods path) toward her groom with no bouquet, she walked through a double line of girls who were special to her, but not bridesmaids. Each girl (about 10 total, including myself) gave Jessi a few of the flowers for her bouquet, and at the end, she reached her mother and grandmother, who tied a ribbon around the loose flowers to create a bouquet.

The bridesmaids and groomsmen, instead of standing, were seated on two couches placed around a wooden platform. Jessi, Ben, and the maids of honor, best men, and pastor stood on the wooden platform. The guest were seated in a T-shaped pattern around the platform, and the flower girls and ring bearers sat on quilts around the platform.

When Jessi arrived to the platform and met her groom, the crowd (all 500 or more of them) joined in a praise song led by the band at the side before the pastor began his work. Later in the ceremony, Jessi and Ben gathered beside an upholstered chair and metal washtub to take turns washing each others' feet, and then both sets of parents came to pray over them. 

The ceremony ended with the wedding party dancing out to music, and a few pictures later, the reception began under the dark open sky with dancing and food. Not long after the first dances, however, the rain came in a steady shower for about five minutes- just enough to make some guests leave and everyone else move under the tent. The party continued for the rest of the night under the tent, even though the rain was gone.

Yeah, that best man in the chair belongs to me. He's a little crazy.

This wedding was a unique, really neat one to photograph, and it would've been a great experience even if it hadn't been from a different, closer, more personal point of view. Congratulations, Ben, my brother-in-law, and Jessi, my new official sister-in-law.

PS-Please forgive all the pictures of my daughter, the flower girl. I couldn't help myself. :)

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