Debbie + Mike
What’s better than love? Love that grows.
Debbie and Mike seemed destined for each other. They have known each other for 16 years. In the beginning as business colleagues at separate advertising agencies, then as friends. Eleven years ago, tragic circumstances happened at Mike's agency, Debbie reached out to offer her condolences. A few weeks later, Mike reached out to her and asked if he could join in on a run with a group she’d formed at her agency. Both Debbie and Mike are committed to health and fitness so of course she said yes. Mike had been a runner for a long time. Her, not so much but was learning. A few months later and after many more runs, they both realized that they were falling in love. Though they still hadn't been on an official date, the attraction was strong. They realized they had so much in common, talked about everything and both laughed at the silliest things.
So, after 11 wonderful years together, Mike asked her to marry him. Debbie said she was surprised when he sort of, popped the question. He asked her when they were at Debbie's beach house in Foley, Alabama… well, kind of asked her… ‘I was wondering, if I asked you to marry me, would you?” She responded, ‘Well, are you asking me? Because if you are, you have to do better than that.“ And of course, he did….he asked her over dinner at their favorite beach restaurant, Jessie's.
I love their romantic story. And I love these words from the bride:
"We made a commitment early on in our relationship that if it was important to one of us, it would be important to both of us. I love Mike’s kids and he loves mine. We don’t take any day for granted and live each day as though it is our last. We love to travel. We both care deeply about other people. We love our life together. We are both giddy happy and can’t wait to be married. We really have quite a fairy tale life."
Instead of posing for the camera, Debbie and Mike wanted me to capture the moments as they unfolded, along with the emotions and moments that made their day unique. I had the pleasure of capturing a natural and candid representation of their big day.
But first—the Welcome Party. Hosted at their favorite hometown restaurant in Decatur... Sprig. Debbie and Mike hosted their families who came from near and far for this celebration. Most of the family members hadn't met each other before this event, but quickly become fast friends before the evening was over. It didn't hurt that Debbie and Mike hired a party bus to move guests from the hotel to the restaurant and to ceremony which kept the family festivities going! (Great idea!!)
Home, sweet home.
The nuptials and celebration that followed matched the previous night’s soirée focusing on love and family. There's something incredibly intimate and special about a backyard wedding. The idea of gathering with loved ones in a familiar and comfortable setting that you created together is truly magical. For Debbie and Mike, their home is their relaxation, their calm, their happy place. So it's no surprise that they chose this location for this ultra special day.
Their backyard was the perfect setting for this type of celebration. The couple had set up a small seating area and decorated it with flowers and greenery from the well known Atlanta florist Carithers.
As the ceremony began, I could feel the love and emotion in the air. The groom was accompanied by his daughters, and the bride with her granddaughter and sons. The ceremony focused on tradition, meaning and family. Debbie and Mike's nuptials included traditional Christian and Buddhist vows, heartfelt readings from family members, and the meaningful Celtic Handfasting tradition. This ceremony involves the binding of the couple's hands together with a ribbon or cord, which is usually wrapped around their hands three times to represent the past, present, and future. The cords had prayers said over them by each family's loved ones, to further wish the couple the best of luck in their lives together. The couple's hands are then tied in a knot, which symbolizes their commitment to each other. This is a special ceremony for Debbie and Mike had such a special officiant, Jemelle Wooten. The love that the couple had for each other was unmistakable, and it was clear that their families were thrilled to be a part of this special moment.
After the ceremony, the couple and their guests enjoyed a small reception area set up in the sun room. The couple had chosen to focus on simple, elegant touches that reflected their love for their families (and Mike's love of basketball). Elegant centerpieces from Carithers decorated the tables with amazing dishes from caterers Figs and Honey. The cakes from Confection Perfection were personal to loved ones ranging from a rainbow cake cake showing their support to the LGBTQ+ community, a gluten free/vegan cake and a dairy free cake. Again, so personal. There was no need for elaborate decorations or fancy place settings – the beauty of Debbie and Mike's home and surroundings spoke for itself.
As the day went on, the guests shared stories and memories with the couple. The families became even closer and soon enveloped Jemelle and her wife into the family. The atmosphere was relaxed and joyful, with everyone feeling like they were part of something truly special.
As a photographer, it was a joy to capture the special moments of this backyard wedding. The love and connection between the Debbie, Mike and their families was so evident in every aspect of the celebration. It was a reminder that love and celebration don't have to be extravagant or over-the-top to be meaningful. At its heart, a wedding is about love and family, and sometimes, the most special moments in life are those that take place in the simplicity of our own backyards.
As the day came to a close, the guests hugged and said their goodbyes, and the couple walked hand-in-hand back into their home to prepare for a special trip back to the beach house where Mike "sort of" proposed and to that favorite restaurant where he got the proposal right. It was a beautiful and touching moment. Thank you Debbie and Mike for allowing me to be part of this wonderful celebration.