Ali & Paul | The Marian House
Cherry Hill, NJ
I am fairly certain that our lives are pre-written journeys and we are chosen to walk paths and meet certain people based upon what we are made of, what we lack, what we can offer and what we need. This could be why more than not, we see that the “opposites attract” theory holds true in many relationships. It can also be why sometimes when we meet someone, we just feel connected right away and everything seems familiar.
I know that for Ali and Paul, being together has many times been proven to them that their union was meant to be. It was a match premeditated by the universe or some higher power. They make one dynamic pair, and I fell in love with them as people and friends <3.
Thanks to social media, somehow I found Ali online and saw that she and I had a common friend. I wrote her a message and let her know about my wedding photography. I received a kind message in return that this newly engaged couple wasn’t yet at the planning stage. About a year later, this very familiar looking girl walked up to me at a Bridal Show and said “ we’ve talked before!”. I remembered her smile and eyes right away and was so happy to meet her and Paul. We talked only for a few minutes but it really felt like seeing two friends I haven’t seen in years. From then, we stayed in contact and talked over the phone about their wedding day plans!
I had so much fun photographing their engagement session late Summer at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City. We laughed the entire time and these two adventurous souls were up for anything! Ali is by nature a bubbly and energized person. Paul is kind, patient and has the best humor! They both wear that child-like, smitten smile when they look at one another. It is infectious! I was so excited for their wedding, and had a strong feeling that great things were going to happen for them.
Ali and Paul’s wedding day was nothing short of magic and happiness. Emotions were high, laughter was loud but they two of them were 100% cool and collected. No nerves at all. Perhaps because this was actually their second round of vows to one another. Wait, What? Spoiler: Before their wedding day, they were already married!
About a month or so before their planned wedding day, life decided to mix things up a bit for these two. I spoke to Ali and Paul on the phone about planning their day-of timeline. She had said to me that she was absolutely not too concerned with everything wedding-wise at the time because she had just found out that she has Cervical Cancer from a routine check up result. I took more control than normally for her planning and concluded the timeline planning on my own to let her have one less thing to worry about. Her world was turned upside down at a time where she was supposed to be happy and carefree, she and Paul were now facing real life which was handing them a test that was anything but carefree.
Ali needed to get onto Paul’s insurance right away to begin treatment. There wasn’t time to wait for the big fancy wedding day to begin their life together. Life was happening and it was very real. Before Ali arrived home from her doctor’s office, Paul was on the phone finding out how to get their marriage license expedited. I could try to tell their story but I think its best in Ali’s words which she posted for all friends and family to know, the day after their planned wedding:
”…If you’ve ever gotten married in NJ, you know there’s some hoops to jump through to get your paperwork - including a 72 hour wait from the time you apply for your license. Paul and I found ourselves sitting in front of a superior court judge, 1.5 hours since I heard from my doctor, asking for a waiver to get our license the same day. None of if felt real. I stayed totally silent and cried while the judge started talking to Paul. He stayed calm and explained the situation clearly. I remember thinking, “Wow, he’s so good at talking to grown ups.” My whole life I’ve had to speak for myself, prove that I was able to handle everything thrown at me and be strong when I actually felt like crawling into a hole (as a side note, this is when anxiety and depression usually start to speak up as well). But there, in my most vulnerable moment, Paul looked and me and said, “You can trust me. I’ve got this.” The judge granted our waiver. We got our license that day. My person took care of me. The universe had our back.
The next day, with our parents and best friends, we said our legal vows at the court in Bedminster. I had no idea what stage of cancer I was in and wouldn’t until a few weeks later. Paul Piano married me not knowing if I would be able to work, be able to have children or even be alive in the next few years. He promised to love me exactly as I was, whatever that meant for our future. The amount of love and goodness my husband holds in his heart is immeasurable. I am honored to call him mine.
…A cancer diagnosis changes your life. I feel a deep love for things that have never crossed my mind - love for the wind on my face, for every sunrise, for simple frustrations that have now been put into perspective (I still hate traffic). If we haven’t spoken in years, I love you. Nothing in this world is worth resentment. Life is too short.
I am still scared but I have decided on two things - I will live and I will live joyfully. Cheers to 2019; the best is yet to come…”
This is love. Love is not able to be measured and can only be felt and shown in ways that mean the most. Gestures of love are selfless and real and that is what Paul was and is for Ali. Their planned wedding was absolutely a fairytale but it was one day. The pair were just as giddy and happy to be in love at the courthouse. The foundation they had and strength they are together is what makes their marriage boundless. Ali holds her promise to herself, and I see her just about everyday on social media living her life. She is owning that bucket list and is inspiring a lot of people to just live happily.
Ali is a warrior, Paul is a hero.
December 30th, 2018 was a day of celebration. So many elements of their day made it unique! I was in awe of Ali’s gorgeous details and Lazaro gown which made her look like a Disney Princess “Frozen” bride. She told me that she had TWO gowns to wear on this day and that the second was a Mori Lee rose gold dress. Drool! I couldn’t wait. Her two best friends and Mother helped her get ready in her childhood bedroom after enjoying her morning sipping on Mimosas with her bridesmaids. Once she was all ready, she and her Father had a private ride in a Historic Rolls Royce to their church ceremony.
Paul was also surrounded by love and support with his parents and groomsmen as he got ready at The Crowne Plaza. His brother and best man was home from serving our country over seas to see him marry the woman of his dreams. Paul knew this day was special and couldn’t wait to celebrate their union. He would first see his bride at their Church.
I stand at the front of the alter with the groom to capture the bride coming up the aisle at each wedding. James , my second photographer stays in the back to capture the groom’s reaction as he watches the bride walk toward him. From where I stand, I get to be very close to the groom, bride and parent that “gives” the bride away. At this alter, I was fortunate enough to be close to capture such raw emotion. This traditional gesture between Ali’s father and husband meant more than anyone in attendance even knew for the circumstances that they were going through. Ali’s parents were putting their faith into Paul that he will without hesitation, care for Ali…their child - a parent’s reason for being. They knew he would, and Ali knew he already was. Capturing such true emotion is what makes a photograph. It is such an honor to see these moments through my lens.
At almost every Catholic church ceremony, the bride and groom offer flowers to the Blessed Mother statue as they kneel and say a prayer. Ali is no typical bride, so she decided to use her angelic voice and sing the Ave Maria at the Blessed Mother. She said it is like an out of body experience, and it brings her peace when she sings. I was so moved and proud of her!
After the ceremony, Ali and Paul brought their lively and supportive Bridal Party to Downtown Haddonfield for photos! This was a large crowd and everyone showed so much love for these two. We explored this quaint area, a place that the two like to spend time together a bit more with just Ali and Paul before celebrating at The Marian House all night.
Everyone had to keep their tissues handy for four meaningful toasts. Ali’s father said a few touching words that meant the world to them both and their friends promised to support and protect them both in life, always.
It came time for Ali to change into her gorgeous Mori Lee Rose Gold gown and serenade her groom. With a little help from his groomsmen acting out the lyrics, Ali gave Paul a surprise performance!
Everyone remained carefree all night and enjoyed dancing and toasting to the new Mr. and Mrs. Piano.
After their wedding, and before treatments began for Ali she wanted to be photographed in her Mori Lee gown one more time. We set aside a day for just her and her gown. I absolutely fell in love with this type of session and think a bride’s gown choice says so much about her. Both Ali’s white and rose gold wedding dresses were remarkable and sparkly. They were both show-stoppers and very well detailed and memorable. Just like our girl Ali!
I am forever thankful to have connected with both Ali and Paul, and to have been a part of their wedding journey. Both of their smiles are so bright, even on dark days in life they will keep one another looking ahead.
Congratulations again #PianoManandWife
White Bridal Gown : Lazaro
Rose Gold Gown: Mori Lee
Tuxes: Men’s Warehouse
Hair: Happily Ever After Hair
MakeUp: I Do Hair and Make Up
Video: Above and Beyond Wedding Studio
Catering: Sensational Host
Entertainment: James Gallo True DJ Entertainment