It was just one month before they were to be married when James and Melissa contacted me about photographing their wedding. In spite of my busy summer schedule, I happened to have their date free! I’m so glad I was available to capture this amazing couple’s special day! Besides their previous photographer cancelling, their hotel also closed, and they had to shorten their guest list by over half of the original expected attendees. They had already changed their wedding date because of COVID, now they had to scramble to get everything re-planned. They were overwhelmed. The tears, discussions, frustrations, and fears, felt at times, unsurmountable. Melissa was starting her first year as a principal and could not imagine postponing her wedding for a whole year. Who knew if next year’s situation would be any different? They took a risk to move forward with their plan, and are so glad they did. With Ben Reeder Photography providing a live stream experience for their guests watching from home, James and Melissa felt like they could go on with their planned festivities. I’m so happy they did… it was an incredible day!
Melissa and James met 5 years ago when he graduated from the State Police Academy with her cousin. Later, James saw her on Facebook and decided to ask her out. They had their first date, and never stopped after that. James says that the best thing about Melissa is that she’s selfless…which is an obvious gift as she pours her life into her students, teaching for years and now as a school principal. She loves that James is a good listener, amazing gift giver and loves to surprise her. He gave her the best surprise last year, when he popped the question in Antigua! Talk about a dream enagement! After long commutes, job changes and struggling through COVID, they finally got to say “I do” at Stoltzfus Homestead and Gardens.
Stoltzfus was the first venue they visited. Wanting their guests to have a truly unique experience, they knew this was the place for them. The beauty of the property and all of the exclusive spaces for each part of the wedding was perfect. Along with fun things like a photo booth, lawn games and a fire pit, they could not have asked for more. Melissa said the kindness of the owners, Brian and Dawn, was touching. They seemed like family right away. Their kindness, encouragement, prayers and flexibility are a memory James and Melissa will cherish forever.
The day of the wedding finally arrived. Melissa says it was the “most amazing day ever”. The ladies started off at Darla’s Hair Care and Spa. And it was a fun group! Out of the 8 bridesmaids, 7 of them had been high school friends with Melissa! Determined to make the most of the changes, and not think about all the original plans, Melissa made sure to soak up every moment. Getting ready with her friends and family was wonderful. She had a few special moments with her mother and grandmother, James’s mother and grandmother, and a few of her aunts. She felt relaxed and full of joy and wanted the day to last forever.
Meanwhile, James and his groomsmen were getting ready. Out of all the weddings I’ve ever photographed I don’t think I’ve ever had two groomsmen open their garment bags to reveal the wrong suits…but that’s exactly what happened just an hour before the wedding! What could have been a moment to totally freak out, was instead just an eye roll, and gave them all a good laugh. I was amazed at how well they handled it, and didn’t seem to be upset at all! And, you can barely tell in the photos! Since that was the only thing to go wrong the entire day, it ended not being a big deal, and will be a funny memory for years to come.
The wedding ceremony was just beautiful. James’s facial expressions was priceless when he saw Melissa coming down the aisle! He was awestruck by the beauty of his bride. I love that they did an Ecclesiastes knot during the ceremony. By taking 3 cords and braiding them together, this symbolized the verse from Ecclesiastes 4:12, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” It will make a unique keepsake for their home and is an incredible way to view the sacred vow of marriage.
After the ceremony, and the bridal party and family photos, they had a beautiful and lively reception in the Grand Barn. Dinner, dancing, and heartfelt speeches made it a night to remember. Guests were able to wander around the grounds, play games and relax by the fire. After months of planning, uncertainty and changes, it ended up being the best they could have ever dreamed of. They spent their honeymoon in St Lucia, relaxing and enjoying the breathtaking island as husband and wife. Congratulations, James and Melissa! It was an honor to capture the memories on the most special day of your lives
Photographer | John Malloy Photography
Florals | Pearls and Petals Designs
Bridesmaids Gowns | #LEVKOFF
Groomsmen Attire | Indochino
Hair and Makeup Artist | Darla’s Hair Care and Spa
Caterer | Catering by John Lowe
DJ | Portable Soundz
Videographer\Live Streaming | Ben Reeder Photography