Salty sea air, humid breeze and ocean spray. When I close my eyes, I transport immediately to my favorite place on earth. Since childhood, Nags Head North Carolina near Kitty Hawk and the Wright Brothers Memorial has become one of the places I associate with the word “home.”
My Papa and Grama lived there in a beach house on stilts for over 30 years, creating a soul soothing haven for all who visited. And let me tell you, there were many. They knew the art of kindness. And even though they’re no longer here, I can’t help going back as often as possible.
It was a girlish dream come true when my best friend and soul mate, proposed to me alone on the sand dunes at sunset November 24th while we were there for a family Thanksgiving. I literally day dreamed of this as a little girl and believed there could not be anything more romantic. It was that much more special when I learned my Mom and Grama played a role. I love envisioning how they orchestrated the privately reserved table at the restaurant for us later that evening, and went shopping for a bouquet of two dozen roses to have waiting at the table when we arrived. Sometimes magic is created simply. Sheerly out of thoughtfulness.
We were married March 12th 2011, back home in the Shenandoah Mountains of Virginia, close to all our friends and family.
Naturally, shortly after our wedding, I was nostalgic to wear my wedding dress again. It’s the most gorgeous gown I’ve ever owned! It seemed tragic I’d only wear it once. I decided to someday take photos in it again on the spot where Kent proposed.
When I saw Pinterest inspired photo shoots of brides “trashing” their dress post wedding in commemorative, artsy and messy ways, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. From brides on horse back in a country field or a woodsy creek in a fairyland theme looking like a nymph, these photos inspired me. I even contemplated a photo shoot on Skyline Drive or a park we strolled through while dating, but none of these seemed as perfect as the beach.
Our first few anniversaries flew by and this concept didn’t seem possible until two years ago after my Dad’s death. Mom was moving to a new home with new memories and she had been reading “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art” by Marie Kondo. Purging my million stuffed animals, doll houses and tea sets was necessary. As well as my wedding boxes. This prompted Kent and I to get serious about doing a special photo shoot in my dress. The more we talked about it, the more I knew we had to do it at the beach. It was a place that was significant for both of us.
We found Ginger, an amazing local photographer. She and I talked about my vision for the photo session beforehand. I loved that Ginger sounded nearly as excited as I was for this “wreck the dress anniversary shoot” to happen! We planned it for a late afternoon during a huge family trip that also turned out to be my sister’s destination wedding! After her wedding, hours of swimming, my birthday and more family fun than a person should be allowed to have in one week, Kent and I snuck off. Getting all dressed up, we slipped away for one of the most magical and fun things we’ve ever done together since our own wedding and honeymoon.
It had been blistering hot the two days before and the forecast called for rain. In the early morning hours it thundered and stormed with torrential downpours and window rattling thunder and lightning. The kind that keeps you snuggled under your blankets in cozy awe of God’s creation but also kind of makes you scared.
I was actually truly scared for a bit that our photo session might be canceled. Up until the last-minute I needed to start getting dressed, thunder was still threatening in the background and Ginger and I went back and forth about whether it would work. Thankfully, Kent was truly the optimist and encouraged me to keep getting ready. We all realized an overcast sky could be so much better, but little did I realize the stormy backdrop would be so breathtaking!
We stuffed myself, skirts and all into the rental car and picked up my Aunt Grace. She couldn’t make it to our wedding in 2011 and this was the perfect opportunity to make it up to her. I honestly don’t know what we would have done without her there to help carry my sopping wet skirts, hold my lipstick, rearrange the veil and such. She was a sort of stand in bridesmaid for the afternoon and I’m so thankful!
I’ll never forget wearing my wedding dress for a second time. For being reminded I am my husband’s bride now and forever, not just on March 12th. Without the excitement and hustle of a wedding, Kent could fully appreciate again the dress Mom and I picked out and had the bust altered to resemble Belle from Beauty and the Beast.
We got to play the best kind of dress up, really. Giggling over making romantic poses look natural. Nervous laughing as thunder and lightning still shook in the distance. It was quite an adventure. And Kent found it especially funny when I screamed in excited surprise as the first waves crashed over my gown.
This photo session wasn’t without some bittersweet emotion. Papa had passed away before our wedding, but before he went, I’ll never forget one of the last, truly lucid, conversations he had with me in the middle of his failing memory. He told me he was sorry that he would not be around much longer, that he loved me and all of us children. I reminded him of all the wonderful times we’d had because of the home he and Grama made at the beach; that made him happy. He told me he was proud of me, that I was blessed with so much love and family. And lastly, that he truly hoped I would continue to come to the beach and treasure it even when he’s gone. I can’t type those simple words without getting teary. My Papa who held my hand on walks, pointing out bunnies, turtles, pelicans and patiently sat at my many exclusive tea parties, left me with one more treasure. As I stood on the edge of the outgoing tide in my wedding gown that Papa never got to see in person, I remembered him. For a moment, a part of this was for him and his request. I bet he could see me.
I know Grama would have loved these photos as well. I can hear her exclaiming “that’s neat!” as she did over exquisite things.
For one more day, courtesy of GingerSnaps Photography, we got to make more dreams come true.
Marriage is a gift. I’m not being trite. For it’s not without trials and tribulations, tears and disappointments. But if loyally committed to with faith and kindness, let’s not forget, it’s all worth it. I also know that…
Once in a while, we are allowed a fairy tale day.
Photos are courtesy of GingerSnaps Photography. Please do not copy or download images for privacy purposes.