The father-daughter dance at a wedding reception is notorious for making everyone teary-eyed.
But for one bride-to-be and her beloved dad, this tradition was even more of an emotional experience than usual. Their special moment didn’t take place on the dance floor — or even on the bride’s wedding day. It happened in the backyard of the house the bride grew up in, and it was beautifully captured by professional photographer Bonnie Turner.
Like a lot of engaged couples, Becky Carey and her fiancé had been planning their wedding for several months. They also tried to arrange an engagement photo shoot with Bonnie Turner Photography, but it hadn’t happened yet, due to uncooperative weather. In a story submitted to Love What Matters, Turner said she was “constantly in touch” with Becky because they “connected so well.”
A Heartfelt Request
Bonnie then received an email from Becky with what the bride-to-be described as a “huge ask.” She revealed that her father, Tim, had been fighting prostate cancer and that he was about to go into hospice care. The favor she wanted was for Bonnie to use the deposit the groom-to-be, Matt, had given her to do a family photo session instead of an engagement shoot.
Pressed For Time
Becky explained that the couple would worry about their engagement photos later because time was of the essence.
“We haven’t had professional family photos taken since my brother and I were little, and this would mean so much to us,” she wrote. “Of course this is a very difficult and dark time, but I know how you feel about love and capturing it so beautifully and meaningfully.”
Photos At Home
Becky told Bonnie that they had managed to arrange for a videographer friend to visit her parents’ house in Woodbridge, Virginia (where she grew up) that weekend.
“My dad and I are getting dressed up to film our first dance so I can have it at my wedding,” she explained. “Dad is getting weaker by the day, and unfortunately, we have to do this as soon as possible […] We are throwing this plan together really fast because we don’t know how long we have before he won’t be able to.”
First Dance Photographs
It was a request Bonnie couldn’t refuse, and she joined the family at home in Virginia in November 2018 for a very special photo shoot. Becky and Tim had their father-daughter dance in the back yard, and the photographer captured the moment in a series of stunning images for them to treasure forever.
Moment Of A Lifetime
In her Love What Matters story, Bonnie described how much the photos mean to the Carey family.
“These photos are near and dear to this family and most of all, special to [Becky],” she wrote. “She knew [her dad] possibly wouldn’t make it to walk her down the aisle or share that father-daughter dance on her wedding day. So she took it upon herself to scratch those engagement photos for a while and share that father-daughter moment in the back yard where she grew up.”
Memories To Treasure
Five months after the shoot, on March 29, 2019, Tim died.
“My heart is heavy today as I have been informed of his passing,” wrote Bonnie. “He fought so hard for a very long time. Photographs and memories are EVERYTHING when they are all you have left.”
Outpouring Of Love
Bonnie shared the photos of Tim and Becky’s first dance on Facebook together with Becky’s email to her, and it quickly went viral. People from all over the world liked, shared and commented on the images, expressing their sympathy for the Carey family.
“We cannot thank you all enough for your love and outpouring care,” Bonnie wrote. “The Carey family is overwhelmed with so much right now and their hearts explode from all the kind words and prayers.”
Bonnie also set up a GoFundMe page for the Carey family to raise money for Matt and Becky’s wedding, as well as medical, funeral and home expenses.
“Tim and Becky shared those photos together for 5 months until his passing on March 29, 2019,” the photographer wrote on the fundraising page. “Any help will be appreciated to this amazing family. Thank you for your sweet words, love and sincere hearts.” To date, The Carey Family Memorial Fund has received more than $2,500 in donations.
Touching So Many Hearts
The love for the Carey family continues to grow as more and more people learn their story and see Bonnie’s powerful images across the internet.
“You guys, this story has touched so many hearts,” Bonnie wrote on Facebook. “Thank you all for the kind words and continuous love for this family as they go through this hard time.”
Another Sweet Story
Another wedding Bonnie captured recently was that of Lauren and Cullen, who have known each other since they were kids but didn’t fall in love until 2017. From early on, the couple knew what kind of wedding they didn’t want.
“Since before the proposal Cullen and I knew that a big wedding wasn’t really what we had envisioned,” said Lauren. “We wanted to plan something that felt adventurous and unique. We knew we didn’t want a courthouse marriage but we also didn’t want a giant field party wedding either. So we settled for an elopement.”
Going With The Flow
Lauren and Cullen originally wanted to get married on a cliff side in Shenandoah National Park, where they had hiked before, but on their chosen date Cullen had to leave for an Air Force training deployment.
“So we decided, why not just do it before then?” Lauren said. “The problem was that it was February and 20 degrees outside, so a mountain top wasn’t happening!”
Lauren still wanted the location to be out of the ordinary, so she contacted Shenandoah Caverns in Quicksburg, Virginia, and arranged an elopement.
The Right Photographer
When it came to their wedding photographer, Lauren, a photographer herself, knew Bonnie was the right choice.
“I had so many friends who are amazing photographers it was really tough,” she said. “But Cullen and I wanted someone who I knew would see my vision and understand what I wanted. We also wanted to choose someone local, and who I felt would be a friendly face. [Bonnie] fit right in with our crazy, awesome families and put my anxious heart at ease. Our wedding day was perfect, small, quiet and laid back.”
Sometimes, the mere mention of a lost loved one can be enough to reduce a wedding party to tears. That’s exactly what happened when Todd and Tamara Rakow said their vows at their 2014 wedding. Todd promised his bride that he would “be the man your father would have wanted you to marry,” and the moving moment was captured by photographer Bethany Carlson.
Tribute To Mom And Dad
Of course, wedding photos can be anything you want them to be. Sisters Lindsay, Becky, Kelly, Cassie, and Jamie — all née Walitsch — didn’t all get married on the same day, but they put their bridal gowns back on for a special shoot to pay tribute to their parents and thank them for supporting their dreams — and paying for their weddings. This special shot was snapped by photographer Rachel Blackwell.
The sisters posed for the surprise shoot with the San Francisco-based photographer only a week after the last of the sisters, Jamie, was married, in June 2014. Blackwell captured the love between the five sisters in a creative series of shots, which included the women holding framed photographs from each of their weddings, and taking a walk through the Northern California countryside.
“[Cassie] pitched me the idea about six months before Jamie’s wedding, and we put the shoot on the calendar for one week after, like the day after she came home from her honeymoon,” Blackwell told BuzzFeed. They wanted to move quickly, because the chance of none of the five sisters being pregnant at the same time was pretty slim — and in fact, Blackwell revealed that four of the five of them did get pregnant in the months following the shoot.
Recreating A Special Day
Before he moved out of the house he once shared with his late wife, Ali, Ben Nunery paid tribute to her memory in a creative way. With the help of his 3-year-old daughter, Olivia, he recreated the photographs taken in their home on the couple’s wedding day. They had bought the house in Cincinnati only the day before the wedding, so it was still empty — a blank slate for their stunning images.
A Family Effort
With the house empty once again in preparation for the imminent move, Ben and Olivia recreated the sweet moments shared by the newlyweds, with the help of Ben’s sister-in-law, professional photographer Melanie Tracy Pace of Loft Three Photography, who shot Ben and Ali’s original wedding photos in 2009.
“I was just really looking for a way to say farewell to the house, and have some things that Olivia and I can have to… remember the house,” Ben told Today.com.
Ben described how special the photo shoot was.
“It immediately brought up memories of being there the first time,” he said. “They were really good memories I cherish and want to remember. In a lot of ways, it felt like Ali was there, and doing that with Olivia I felt a closeness with both of them.”
Melanie also felt a closeness to her sister during the shoot.
“It’s almost like she was nudging me along as I was shooting, telling me which places to go and what to use as props,” she told Today.com. “It was a very overwhelming feeling to have her so close even if she was not physically there.”
Moving On Without Mom
One sweet picture shows Ben and Olivia playing on the stairs — the same stairs Ali walked down toward her new husband in 2009. When the images from the shoot were shared online, they created a huge buzz, which Ben found heartening.
“I hope that people can see it as evidence of a love that Ali and I shared that is still very deep, [and] that love carries on, and it doesn’t die,” he said. “People who don’t know us personally but may have experience with losing a loved one can see that as an example of healing and life moving on. It doesn’t mean that we forget our loved ones, but find ways to remember them and keep that memory going.”
A Special Tribute
Another wedding photograph guaranteed to create a lump in the throat is Pulitzer Prize-nominated photographer Brandy Angel‘s very moving image of Anna Bozman Thompson, her husband Travis and their three children, including their son Lake, who had died of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) six months before the wedding and only weeks before his ninth birthday.
“It’s one of my favorites of all time,” Angel said of the image.
Paying It Forward
In a post on a Facebook page set up to support Lake during his illness, Anna wrote, “[The photos] turned out beautiful and thanks to my amazing photographer she was able to get some special edits done. I needed this picture more than she or anyone could ever know. THIS is my family. And we will be together again.” The Thompsons and Angel continue to support other families through difficult times and raise awareness and funds through the Brandy Angel Foundation and United for a CURE.
When Kirsten Mundell got married, her dad wasn’t there to dance with her. Pierce County Deputy Sheriff Kent Mundell was killed in the line of duty in 2009 when Kirsten was only 16. Six years later, at her wedding, she was walked down the aisle by Detective Don Jones. Jones later asked Kirsten to share a father-daughter dance — but he wasn’t the only one. Four officers, all former colleagues of her father’s, did what they could to fill the fallen deputy’s dancing shoes.
Feeling His Presence
Photographer Angie Lyons captured the heartrending moments on the dance floor and other touching elements of the day that paid tribute to Kristen’s father. The bride tied her wedding gown with a blue lace to represent the thin blue line that commemorates fallen law enforcement officers. During the ceremony, a chair in the front row bore her dad’s jacket and photograph. “It’s his chair and he’s there, but he’s not,” Kristen said. “It meant a lot knowing that we were able to save a spot for him and knowing that I felt him there I knew he was there.”