Inspired by Alix Strauss’s article where wedding photographers shared their favorite wedding photos, we asked readers to submit their own candid, unscripted photos from their special day. Here is a selection of their cherished moments (all from weddings long before social distancing was upon us). From an explosion of laughter at the altar, to an unexpected trash the dress (and tux) session, these photos prove that the best moments are sometimes unplanned.
1. The Closeness of Love
Uncle Jack was more than a surrogate grandfather, he was also an amazing friend to me. He and Aunt Joan married when both were 20 or younger — they fell in love when he was at basic training on the way to the European theater in World War II and she a teenager living in Beloit, Wis. They were married for more than 60 years and genuinely in love the entire time. Our wedding in 2013 was their last trip together as Aunt Joan died about a year later. And this very well may have been the last photograph of the two taken together. It shows them sharing an intimate moment, nothing different than they had done tens of thousands of times before. The closeness and love of their relationship is aspirational and it was beautifully documented at our wedding.
Matthew Meyer, North Garden, Va.
2. Explosive Laughter
We were married by a dear family friend. As we were being pronounced husband and wife, she stated she was vested by the American Management Ministries instead of the American Marriage Ministries. An explosion of laughter ensued.
Molly Jo Scott, Raleigh, N.C.
3. Four-Legged Wedding Guests
We went to visit our sheep just after our wedding ceremony at our farm. It’s impossible for me not to greet our sheep whenever I see them, so I bent down for a moment to be at their level. One of our month-old lambs quickly took an interest in my flowers. I didn’t expect that, but who can blame her — it was a gorgeous bouquet!
Carrie Wasser, Gardiner, N.Y.
4. Ski Lift Love
Jesse and I had just done our first look near the top of Vail Mountain in Colorado. We’d already gotten several beautiful posed photos with the mountains in the background. As we hiked up to the top of the gondola, which would transport us down the mountain to our ceremony, we noticed a small, old chairlift that happened to be running. The lift operator was happy to let us take a ride. It was a wonderful chance to just sit together, the two of us, looking out at the beauty around us and taking in this special moment. Our photographers were sitting on the chair in front of us and unbeknown to us, snagged this candid shot — which ended up being one of our favorites from the whole day.
Stephanie Margulies, Vail, Colo.
5. Hand in Hand
Our photographer grabbed this photo after some formal family group pictures before our ceremony. As the only grandparent from either side in attendance at our wedding, Buba was a guest of honor, and I love that this picture captures a private moment between grandson and grandmother.
6. The Calm Before the (Wind) Storm
We had just finished taking our portraits and were walking back to the cabins to prepare for our ceremony. The wind started blowing in exactly the right direction at exactly the right time to lead to this dramatic, romantic photo. My veil blew off my head approximately 10 seconds later.
Kaia Mattioli, Somerville, Mass.
7. Grandma’s Victory Lap
Grandma Alice is no shrinking violet. This photo perfectly captures her irrepressible, playful spirit. It was taken just after the bouquet toss. Grandma lunged, snatched the bouquet, and fell over. There was an audible gasp from the crowd. Thankfully, a bridesmaid caught grandma before she went all the way down. This is the victory lap.
Emily Billings, Takoma, Washington, D.C.
8. Savoring the Moment and Sisterhood
My maid of honor and I were holding hands and savoring the moment of my wedding celebration, together. Except neither of us has any recollection of this moment existing, and would never have known about it, had this picture not been taken. We were doing what came so natural to us in our friendship that our brains didn’t think to catalog it as worthy of saving in a day full of remarkable moments. And yet it’s one of our favorite pictures of the day.
Oyin Hansmeyer, Memphis
9. ‘Flat Sara’ at the Ready
We were sad to learn that my husband’s sister, Sara, would be deployed to Afghanistan weeks before our wedding, and worked to come up with ways to include her in our celebration even though she couldn’t physically be with us. Ultimately, my husband and I had a life-size cutout of Sara in her Air Force fatigues made so that we could include her in family photos. Sara also wrote a beautiful letter that our priest shared during our ceremony. Because of the time difference and uncertain internet service in Afghanistan, we weren’t sure if we would be able to speak with Sara on the day of the wedding. She fortuitously called in via FaceTime right as the rest of the bridal party began to take photos with “Flat Sara.” Our photographer snapped a photo of my mother-in-law showing Sara her doppelgänger over video call. It remains one of my most treasured memories of our wedding.
Samantha Winter McAlpin, Tempe, Ariz.
10. A Moment of Rest
I love this picture of us on our wedding day because it perfectly captures what was and continues to be our relationship: full of hard work and lots of laughter. We were exhausted after a long day, but having the best time of our lives. When you’re blessed enough to marry your best friend, every moment is a special gift.
Niksha Davis, Union, N.J.
11. When Marriage Gets Muddy
Our spring wedding on May 13, 2017, was a cold, nonstop downpour from morning to night. My husband and I headed to the photo booth inside our tented, outdoor reception, where the grass was already an unrecognizable mud pit, thanks to the rain. As our photographer snapped away, I thought my husband was trying to dip me in a romantic fashion, only to find that we were actually both slipping uncontrollably on the mud. And yes, the dress was irretrievably ruined. Best memory of the night.
12. Two Families Become One
My husband and I had two weddings — a Hindu ceremony in India and a backyard wedding in California. A Hindu wedding celebrates not only the coming together of two people, but also two families, and our Hindu wedding included many rituals involving our families. My husband and I often remark that our mothers must be distantly related because they seemed to instantly connect despite being from two very different cultures. At our California wedding, our amazing photographers captured this sweet, candid moment of our mothers holding hands as they exited our ceremony. For both my husband and I, it’s an image that so perfectly represents not just our love and union, but also that of our families.
Molly Doctors Rajashekhar, Orinda, Calif.,
13. Captured by Google
After getting married in the Tuileries Garden, we wandered around Paris in our wedding attire for fun. It felt like the entire city was celebrating our wedding day with us. Everywhere we went we were greeted with curiosity, smiles, and well wishes. And to top it off, the Google Street View car passed by us on our way to Montmartre. We found the pictures in Google Maps after arriving home a few weeks later.
Donn Denniston, Brooklyn
14. A Sentimental Moment
My husband and I take my great-aunt to dinner for our weekly family dinners with the extended family. One of things I love most is chatting with her about how we both miss my grandmother, who passed away way too soon. I wasn’t aware when this happened, but I’m so glad our photographer captured my great-aunt admiring the photo of one of her dear friends (my grandmother), who we both wished could have been there that day.
Connie Wong, London
15. In Over Their Heads
My veil took up the whole bridal suite. As my bridesmaids were helping unfurl it, I turned around to see all six of them lifting it up above their heads and laughing, like it was one of those parachute games from elementary school. This was right before the ceremony, so we were jazzed up and a little silly. After a round of “Super Bass” a few minutes later, we were good to go.
Georgia M. Brodsky, Milton, Mass.
16. ‘Crazy’ Tired
My 4-year-old nephew spent my entire wedding day asking me, “When are people going to go crazy?” every 20 minutes. The party was all he cared about. I promised him it would happen after dinner at the reception. He was so excited. Then midway through dinner, we turned and saw this. Right in the middle of the loud ballroom. Alas, he was taken back to his hotel room to bed and missed the “crazy.” It still makes me laugh … poor kid!
Erin Frey, Cincinnati
17. A Walk in the Woods
We were married just outside Yosemite in a redwood grove and I let my fringed train drag behind me on the bare forest floor when I walked down the aisle. When our parents greeted us at the end of the ceremony the fringe had been up and down the aisle and had gathered pine cones aplenty as well as small tree branches! I’m the kind of New York lady who doesn’t need help from nobody, but our parents, step parents, and my husband grabbed my dress and together started returning the forest to the forest from my train. This photo with everyone’s hands on my gown shows a level of spontaneous cooperative support from our families I never knew I wanted, at a moment right when I needed it the most, when we had just been united together.
Sosia Bert Graham, Brooklyn
18. Won by a Nose
The families of the bride and groom perform a series of rituals on their way into the Hindu wedding ceremony. In a playful, fun tradition, the mother of the bride welcomes the groom by trying to grab his nose. The gesture is a reminder to keep the groom humble, to avoid “having one’s nose up in the air.” In our case, my overeager mother Loretta Chiavetta let her competitive nature get the best of her by grabbing the groom’s, Sagar Parikh, nose a bit too quickly. This photo captures the groom’s mother Rina Parikh’s shock, she was thoroughly impressed by her son’s new mother-in-law!
Diana Adele Chiavetta, New York