I’ll never forget this day, for as long as I live. Katie & Cory will always stay with me.
April 20th I received and email from a woman named Katie inquiring for an engagement session. She and her fiancé had planned their dream wedding for September in her home state of Wisconsin but were currently Fort Worth Locals. Cory and Katie wanted a local engagement session in their beloved city of Fort Worth.
We went back and forth a little about their wedding, ideas for their engagement session & Katie said she would chat with Cory & get back to me. Eight days later on a Friday, I received follow up email I’ll never forget. She started of by first apologizing for the delay but they had just received some upsetting news about Cory’s health. He had just been diagnosed with stage IV cancer and it was aggressive and had spread. He would start chemo Monday, they were to tie the knot in a private ceremony Sunday.
I immediately asked to text and we starting this late night back and forth of planning their elopement. She asked for just an hour of coverage. This was Friday, April 20th. Come Sunday, April 22nd, she planned to be his wife. The Japanese Gardens in Fort Worth the setting, early evening the possible time frame. If life was too crazy to accommodate, she understood and an iPhone would capture the moment. Right then, between her sweet apology for the week after email, during an earth moving time in her life, she apologizes to ME. Can you imagine? Anyone would understand the delay, Katie is just that kind of person; such a gem.
Immediately I made this inner vow to do whatever I could to make this their wedding day. Their elopement day. Their “we are getting freaking MARRIED TODAY!!” day. I said heck yes, we set the time & I got to work. Saturday morning was spent scouring for hair, makeup & a bouquet. I was immediately flooded with people willing to help so last minute and I couldn’t have paired up with a more willing duo. My dear, sweet, always going the extra mile friend Belinda, a pro hair & makeup artist, said yes sooner that I could finish the ask. And a local floral artist, Dafni Gifford responded to a Facebook request for a local florist, able to provide a bouquet with a quickness! Both showed up Sunday at Katie & Cory’s Camp Bowie home & helped create the sweet day that was Katie & Cory’s elopement. What was thought to only be one hour we turned into about four hours worth of memories.
The deep “let’s do this” breath had been had as I knocked at the door. It gently peeled open & I was met by the kindest eyes, Cory welcomed me in. The girls were upstairs. Belinda was already working her magic, Katie’s two friends Diedre & Becca were there, jamming to a 90’s play list, sipping champagne & noshing on some pretty amazing Trader Joe’s hummus & chips. Diedre provided endless stories of her and Katie’s terrible profession dye job or eyebrow tinting experiences, it served as the day’s “maid of honor-trip down memory lane-friends telling crazy story” vibes & in the next room Cory & Rick were hanging waiting for me to snap some shots. I exited their master bedroom, waited downstairs for Cory & the calm about him was soothing. He and Rick spoke in a quiet tone, check on me, made sure I was comfy, offered water & chatted bout his suit. As we killed some time I got to meet their adorable third member of the family, Tex. This pup was the cutest, most gentle friend & you could see the companionship unfold. They took some quite moments together, Tex looked in through the glass as we made our way to the door; giving his own silent send off. Well wishes, I’m sure.
Cory & Rick departed, Katie and I followed behind.
We arrive at the gardens, make our way to the entrance. What was to be a good hour to an hour and half of time together at the gardens quickly turned into 20-30 minutes. After taking a little while to find out where to actually purchase tickets to enter & the pass to shoot; we find out the heart stopping news. There was a Japanese festival at the park that day and they would be closing an hour early & with half an hour to close, they were no longer selling tickets to get in. We could not get in.
All the quick planning, the last minute details, the rapid fire coordinating hair, makeup, florals, time frames. The journey to get there, the desire to be married in their Fort Worth, in a gorgeous setting, to join as one. We could not get in. This might not happen.
Not 3 minutes later I see Rick ask to speak privately to the woman at the gate, Katie was a few hundred yards away hiding without a clue of what was going on because we had planned a first look. She had no idea we couldn’t get in. My heart sank. Rick took charge, next thing I knew our gate keeper walks over and opens the giant, impassible wooden door to the gardens, “you have 30 minutes. Congrats.” Rick, you are the best best man on the planet.
We find a spot. Katie joins the crew. Rick starts the ceremony. This is happening.
Above the pounding Japanese drums in the really close yet unseen distance, in the midst of a ton of tourists, park visitors & strollers. A way was made for these two to become one. Rick, Cory’s brother, led the short but so deeply sweet ceremony, and among the blowing willow tree branches & warm Texas sun, Katie & Cory became Mr. & Mrs. Dardenne.
Such rich time together, such touching & tangible love, real embraces & loving gazes right to the heart. After literally 20 minutes walking around the Garden’s the final calls for closing rang out & we made our way to the exit. Cory was tired, Katie gave me the nod, we were coming to and end & she was looking out for her man. I so admired her strength & poise, her respect for Cory, as her husband & allowing him to lead the moments and time, he’d let her know when he was done, she’d let me know when we were done. She could’ve called it early, to save his strength, mother him even. But she didn’t. She took a step back, lovingly looking on, allowing him to still lead, make the call, direct them both. I took it all in, I watched them ebb and flow together, almost silently speaking to one another with knowing looks, gently touches to the elbow and quite nods to one another. It was like a dance.
My heart has never been fuller after a session with anyone. As amazing as the couples are I am bound to meet & journey with, you can see why I will always carry this day with me. I am forever grateful to Katie & Cory for asking me and allowing me to document this day. This day was not about cancer. It was not about, “hurry up and get married before….” Nor was it about a rushed marriage to check of a box just in case. This was simply about, and in Katie’s own words: “I am looking forward to fully committing myself to the love of my life-in sickness or in health-and taking on whatever comes at us in this life as one unit.”
They’re my heroes. They are marriage goals. They are one. Katie & Cory, we celebrate you guys…cheers friends.
And Cory, you’ve got this.
I present to you, The Dardenne’s.
Location: Japanese Garden’s, Fort Worth, Texas
HMUA: Belinda Garcia (instagram.com/belindadoeshair)
Florals: Dafni Gifford (instagram.com/bonvieflorals)
Photography: Kristina Avila Photography
Fort Worth Based Photographer. Weddings. Elopements. Couples.