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Do you remember your first love? You were probably about 14 when you noticed the cute guy or girl at youth group at church. The first time your crush held your hand, you probably felt like your heart was going to beat right out of your chest. For most people, that feeling is pretty unforgettable, but for Lillie and Paul, that first love turned out to be unending and unstoppable. In fact, that first love turned out to be their forever love, and on Friday, they said “I do.”

To be honest, I’ve documented weddings before where the bride and groom were teased about how long they dated before finally tying the knot. It’s not uncommon for honor attendants to tease the newlyweds in their toasts, saying things like, “What took you so long?” and “WE’RE FINALLY HERE!” Last Saturday, even the pastor mentioned how long the couple has been devoted to each other. The difference is that usually the bride and groom aren’t in their early 20s when people tease them about how long they’ve been together before the wedding day. So, yeah, age 25 may be a few years away for this bride and groom, and yet, they’ve already been together for as long as my husband and I have been married.

So yes… When they post Throwback Thursday photos on Facebook, they post their prom pictures… which they attended together. And yet, they already know about for better or for worse; about how love grows and changes; about how you have to adapt, listen to each other, and forgive in order to stay together. They know all about that, and as the rest of their lives stretch before them, I’m really excited for them. They have the potential to be married for 70 years or more. What a gift. So few people get that, and it was an honor to be a part of their day.

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We started at the bride’s house for getting ready pictures. The bride’s sister’s range in age from pre-schoolers to college, and they were so excited to see Lillie in her dress.

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Lillie truly looked breath-taking.

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She made a grand entrance (into the living room) for her bridesmaids and her father. I know they would agree…She really was the most beautiful bride.

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Lillie got a few touch-ups from her friend Darla, who proved to be an invaluable combination of makeup artist/friend/photo assistant/human GPS extraordinaire (thank you, girl!)

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Lille is lucky enough to have two moms. It was happy tears all around on Saturday afternoon, first when one mom zipped her into her gown and again when her other mom saw her in her dress and veil.

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Mom cried. Bride cried. Sis cried. Then we were off to the church!

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I told Paul, who was waiting with his brothers and groomsmen before the ceremony, that Lillie looked amazing. I think the exact words I used were “drop dead, roll around on the floor gorgeous.” He smiled… I don’t think he had ever seen this woman he’s loved for all these years looking quite this radiant before.

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Can I just say that the only thing cuter than a ring-bearer is a ring-bearer in a Batman cape? Yes, yes, I can.

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Lillie floated down the aisle on her father’s arm, and Paul only had eyes for her.

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The ceremony was full of sweet and genuine moments. First, they hugged their parents right when they got to the altar. Then, the bride’s littlest sisters (and flower girls) kept calling out “Yay!” from the front pew. It was the sweetest beginning to a traditional ceremony.

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Imagine… when the pastor began with, “We gather today to unite this man and this woman in holy matrimony,” a flower girl shouted, “YAY!” and everyone cracked up. Especially Paul.

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They were married by a pastor who has known both of them for a very long time. In fact, this is the church where they met in youth group. When the pastor teased them about finally making it down the aisle, a flower girl shouted “YAY!” again, which is just one thing that accounts for Lillie’s grin in the photo above.

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There was so much meaning in every detail. I’ve been calling the bride “Lillie” for this entire blog entry, but actually that’s a nickname. Her given name is Sakura, which means “cherry blossom” in Japanese. I love the cherry blossoms entwined in the aisle decor. That is so not a coincidence.

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Then it was time to exchange vows and rings, before the pastor offered a special blessing. He called for the hand of God to rest upon the couple. Even though the bride couldn’t see it at the time with her eyes closed and her head bowed, her father subtly raised his hand in that moment, sending forth his blessing and prayers over his daughter and her soon-to-be-pronounced husband.

Then they were pronounced husband and wife! It was a happy blur from the big kiss through the receiving line and out the door through what the couple referred to as “a bubble wonderland” in the program.

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I just have to thank the wedding party, as well as some truly enthusiastic and game parents, cousins, uncles, siblings, grandparents and friends. It was a gorgeous July day, but it was so hot. Thank you for sticking with me. I’m so pleased to show you just a tiny sample of the photos we got! THANK YOU!

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At last… cocktail hour!

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So I’ve gone on about Lillie’s beauty and grace on the wedding day, but here’s something Paul did that I just thought was so great. I spotted a mirrored table during cocktail hour, and I thought of an idea for a detail shot of their rings. They had just exchanged them not two hours before, and they were so kind to indulge my creativity and take them off just because I saw a cool-looking table.

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This is the shot I got…

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But when I handed the rings back to the newlyweds, Paul didn’t just give Lillie her rings back. He got down on one knee and very romantically slide them back on her finger. Aw! You guys are going to be so happy. Onto the party!

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I will let the photos tell the story of the reception, but suffice it say, the newlyweds entered to applause and cheers and went right into their first dance. The toasts and parent dances were punctuated with more happy tears before everyone hit the dance floor. The bride then observed a very interesting Japanese custom. Traditionally, Japanese brides change clothes four times throughout the wedding. Each outfit shows off a different facet of her personality. Although Lillie changed just once into strapless mermaid party dress, she was definitely rocking a different look as they hit the dance floor.

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Then it was time to cut the cake, throw the bouquet and toss the garter. They made these traditions their own with the same genuine laughter and affection that filled their day.

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I can already tell your marriage will be filled with many days as beautiful as this day was. May you keep on loving and laughing and living your faith like you did on Friday all the days of your lives. I’m so pleased to have captured these photographs for you to reflect back on in the years to come. Congrats!

Filled Under : Celebration , Wedding