I'm Hannah Bryerton, wedding & portrait photographer based in New York State. I am a lover of details and story telling- both visually & through writing. Here you will find glimpses of my life as a photographer, wife, dog-lover & Chick fil-A obsessed creative!
Over the last few months, I have sat back and watched the entire wedding industry be rocked by a worldwide pandemic. As a wedding photographer and small business owner, it has given me a front-row seat to the hurt and devastation so many couples have felt, watching their dream days slip away. Cancellations, postponements, decreased guest lists, changed venues & lost vendors. The list goes on forever. I have found myself in a deep, internal struggle of only WISHING I could give more answers and support to my clients who are trying to plan a wedding in such unprecedented times. I have so badly wanted to offer my brides a perspective of reassurance that would help them cope with these circumstances.
Last week, out of nowhere, it hit me: who is the only bride I’ve ever known to have her dream wedding plan altered by shockingly unexpected news?
The sweetest, most loving, gracious + kind soul you may ever encounter, and the very last person to deserve the cards she was dealt with. This bride was faced with absolutely impossible circumstances, and yet somehow took the sourest of lemons and managed to create something that resembled lemonade. I can’t wait for you to hear her incredible story. She is a gift to my life and the friend I never knew I needed. So without further ado, I, Hannah Bryerton, would love to introduce the girl who made two wedding dates cool before everyone else was doing it: my 2018 & 2019 bride, Morgan Monahan Walsh.
Hi guys! I’m Morgan Walsh, and I’m going to attempt to have a mic-drop type of guest appearance on my first EVER photography blog. I am completely outside of my comfort zone, and I’m still not convinced that I belong here. However, my good friend Hannah B thinks I do, so it must be true!
I’ve known Hannah since the fall of 2017, when I was just another one of those bride’s emails that came into her inbox. I was newly engaged and eager to make plans for my DREAM wedding. I had been with my [now] husband for over 6 years, and we thought we knew exactly what we wanted:
A destination wedding. Palm trees, relaxation, sun, the Caribbean Sea, endless mimosas, and one heck of a beach party!
When I originally contacted Hannah I was only inquiring about engagement pictures. However, after sending several emails back and forth, Hannah convinced me that I needed it all, not just engagements! That was just the beginning; the best decision that Joel and I had made for our wedding, and the start of a lifelong friendship that I hold near and dear to my heart.
I could write for hours on how much Hannah has helped me through some of the hardest days of my life, how she always shows up, and how immensely gifted she is. I swear she has more talent in her little pinky than I do in my entire body. (But I’m assuming you already know that since you are here reading this post!) So now that the fangirling is over, it’s time to get back to why I was asked to write this post in the first place.
This phrase can apply to nearly every aspect of life. I’m sure you have either heard it or felt it once before- maybe at school, at home, or at work. It’s a powerful statement; one that can be extremely frustrating, to say the least. Nonetheless, there is so much truth that lies within these four words, especially during a worldwide pandemic.
Given that this is a post for my dear friend Han, I am going to narrow the focus and talk specifically to all the lovely 2020 brides and grooms:
You guys… I feel for you. I really do. And I am so sorry. I understand that you may feel like you have been dealt the short straw at what was supposed to be the most memorable, magnificent time of your life.
I get it because I was in your shoes not too long ago. I was dreaming big and aiming for the stars when I got shot down by what felt like a missile. I quickly came crashing back into the harsh reality of life. It was the farthest thing from graceful, pretty, or elegant. Before I start talking about how our dream wedding changed drastically into our perfect story, I want you to know that it wasn’t always pretty. I promise you I felt all those really ugly feelings, cried the big tears, and turned to my tribe, the people I love the most, over and over again.
It was the summer of 2018. My older sister was pregnant, and my grandfather (Poppy) was ill. Our niece (P) was born seven weeks early weighing less than three pounds. Poppy met his first great-granddaughter in the NICU repping an ever-so-stylish hospital gown while sitting in a wheelchair being pushed by my grandmother.
[ I warned you guys it was a missile]
On Friday August 10, 2018 I was getting ready to leave for work when my phone rang. The doctors had done their morning rounds on Poppy and he was officially diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. Our worst fear. I finished getting ready and drove to work. I tried my hardest to stay and my lane, help my patients, and not break down. I successfully made it to lunch, and it was at that moment that our “dream wedding” began to change. I had no appetite, so I went outside and started walking. I picked up my phone and called my husband, Joel. Now I can’t remember the whole conversation, but what I do remember is this: I had very few words and a whole lot of tears. I don’t even know how he understood me. The key points of the conversation were…
“Hey, you know how we have already made plans to get married prior to our trip (due to legal purposes)? Well since we would technically already have two wedding dates… I want to get married now. I need Poppy to be there.”
To which he responded, “Of course, we can do whatever.” After I hung up with Joel I called my second rock, my mom. I told her about the conversation I had with Joel, and through so many tears she said, “You’re a good girl Morgan, I am so proud of you. We will make it happen.“
Four long hours later, I had successfully made it through my workday and I jumped in my car and headed back to my hometown. It was P’s shower weekend and I had so much to help with. The weekend was filled with warm, tear-filled hugs, conversations, and an abundance of love. Our family had officially claimed our front row seats to watch the circle of life… and it was exhausting. By Sunday we had thrown a baby shower, brought home P and Poppy from the hospital, and had all the wheels in motion for planning what we lovingly referred to as “Wedding .50” [pronounced ‘”point-five-oh,” just for clarification]!
October 7th, 2018 was a beautifully sad day. Turns out it would be the very last time that our family was together as a whole, and I am forever grateful for it.
It was the morning of Wedding .50 and the only person I wanted to be with was Joel. I know that tradition says that’s wrong, but at this point, all rules were thrown out the window. Honestly, I was a borderline emotional wreck and Joel is my very best friend. It’s cliche, I know, but it’s the truth. I knew being with him would make me the calmest, and he did just that. We had so much fun! I opened a total of 7 homemade gifts. One every half hour while we toured down memory lane of our relationship. I received everything from a Cape Cod bag of chips, to a plastic lobster, to a stuffed Basset Hound. Gift seven was a rose gold bar necklace engraved with my grandparents’ coordinates (where we were exchanging vows that day) and my new initials on the back.
Wedding .50 was anything but fancy. I wore an amazon skirt and a top from Forever 21. Joel looked dapper as ever in a JCPenney 50% off suit with an Etsy basset hound tie clip. With the help of our friends and family, we assembled a borrowed pole tent in the backyard. I took decorations from my house, as well as my mom and sister’s, and with a little creativity, we turned a driveway into our wedding aisle. My sister and my brother-in-law took over all the coordinating of the appetizers and drinks. (Yes, the same sister whose newborn was less than 3 months old.)
My tribe is incredible, really.
My good friend came over and did my hair and makeup in my childhood bedroom, while Joel played pool with his family downstairs. When I arrived at my grandparents’ with my best friend (who flew in from California, just weeks after hip surgery for the event), I was feeling really good. Immediately, my dad began to try and shield me from the high emotions of everyone around. He was trying to protect me. The thing is… I wasn’t the one that needed protection in that moment. I had been emotionally preparing myself for this for weeks. Remember those big ugly tears I referenced earlier? Those were no joke. They happened daily on my drives to work. Our family needed one last time, and what better reason to give them that?
Nevertheless, the ceremony went off with numerous hitches, my husband thanked my sick grandfather for coming to his backyard to a ceremony that was held in his honor???, and we spent the foggy, gloomy afternoon dancing, listening to toasts that were given next to rakes and shovels in the garage, sharing some much-needed cocktails together, and just loving one another.
Following the event at my grandparents’ home, we went to our local country club where we all ordered off a select menu and our guests paid for their drinks and dinner. It was the farthest thing from normal, but it worked. The restaurant was also open and serving others who happened to be there for the band that was scheduled to play that night (Free live music- can I get a HECK YA!?)
The day was basically over. We were standing at the bar waiting for drinks, and somehow Joel and I were alone with 50 of our loved ones in a restaurant filled with laughter, smiles, and conversation behind us. Joel looked at me and said,
“I would be good if this was all we did. Today was perfect.”
He was right. It was not our dream, but it sure was perfect. It was the kind of perfect that you don’t plan for. Prior to the day of .50, it was the type of situation I would not even wish on my worst enemy. I spent every morning wondering if it would be today, if we would make it to the scheduled .50, or if we were going to wing it in a hospital room. I went to bed every night marking a day off of my countdown… but we did it and it was so worth it!
Following .50, our lives did not get easier. If anything, it got a whole lot harder. For many of my family members the days got longer, family campouts and round-the-clock care started to become normal, and all days consisted of both really sad moments and lots laughter. My grandfather passed away less than a month later on the same property that we were married on. He left behind his beautiful wife, my grandmother, and a large family. We spent the rest of the year learning how to pick up the pieces and celebrate our first holidays with a missing piece of our puzzle.
As the spring of 2019 rolled around wedding 1.0 started to be on our radar, and it was welcomed with open arms. Even though .50 was perfect, we had already had 1.0 planned and paid for so our destination wedding was a go!
Now I know that there are several options for 2020 brides and grooms.
•Get married now party later.
•Get married now and see what life brings.
•Push back everything and reschedule to next year.
Big choices, each with pros and cons.
Remember, fair isn’t always equal. Hard times prove the strengths of relationships. You are trying to plan an already stressful event during a pandemic. This has got to be proof that not all superheroes wear capes! Some, obviously, wear veils and ties!
On the morning of wedding 1.0, I woke up and sat outside my villa in my robe crying in utter disbelief that we made it. Ready to finish what we started. Proud of myself, my husband, my family, and my friends. GUYS. WE FREAKING DID IT! Again, Joel and I shared the morning together walking around the resort spending time with our loved ones. Together, we celebrated our journey, our unity, and the strength of our marriage because, gosh darn it, it was hard.
In today’s culture weddings are huge celebrations, but there is so much emphasis put into the perfect Pinterest wedding that it almost takes away from what’s truly important: the marriage.
On April 15, 2019, our 8th dating anniversary, six months after we vowed to love one another forever, we agreed to celebrate our marriage. The good and ugly. It was just as special as .50; it just had a different flavor.
It was sweet, it was fun, and it was one heck of a party!
So, if you made it this far, you’re a rockstar! Thank you for reading all my thoughts. I hope that in some sense you feel at ease. That you are ready to continue to take on this scary thing called life with your best friend. That you make the best out of every day. That once this is behind us, you can celebrate your big day with your friends and families, no matter what that may look like. Whether you end up with one anniversary or two, I hope you are able to see it was all just a part of your perfect story. That you recognize how much stronger your relationship is, and maybe even see the small blessing that these hard times have left behind. And above all, I pray that you can learn to see the joy in the phrase “fair isn’t always equal,” rather than the frustration.
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