The wind was so strong, it blew the bride’s veil off her head. Her hair became so drenched, it had to be re-done three times.
One of the bridesmaids fell and did a faceplant into the snow.
And yet, they wouldn’t change a thing.
When an unseasonal snowstorm showed up as an uninvited guest at their fall wedding Saturday near Spokane, Wash., Brittany and Sean Tuohy and photographer Jaime Fletcher made the best of a frigid situation.
The photos, meant to celebrate autumn and their love for one another, are more breathtaking than those on any winter holiday card.
“I envisioned a fall wedding,” Brittany said, “and I got a winter wonderland.”
Brittany, 29, and Sean, 32, live in Fort Mohave, Ariz. For their wedding, they wanted to return home to Spokane, where they met 11 years ago, for a fall ceremony.
Brittany remembered a friend’s wedding at Bear Creek Lodge & Event Center, at the entrance to Mt. Spokane State Park, and pictured something similar. Sun in the sky. Temperatures in the 70s. Dinner and reception outside. An open, grassy area with trees in the background as the perfect setting for fall photos.
“I envisioned her wedding," Brittany said. “I fell in love with her wedding.”
After nearly a year of planning, Brittany checked the weather daily over the past few months. It fluctuated between the 60s and 70s.
But about a week before the wedding, she started hearing about storms in the northwest. She first worried about rain, then heard a news report about 18 to 36 inches of snow on the way.
The day of the wedding, snow started falling around 3 a.m. The couple awoke to find snow on the roofs but nothing had yet accumulated on the ground. It continued to fall throughout the day, growing thicker and thicker.
At the time of the reception, there was about a foot of snow on the ground. Before the day was over, it would pile close to 2 feet.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. Spokane’s last recorded September snow was in 1926.
Brittany was prepared for temperatures in the 50s, maybe even the 30s. But it was colder still. Twenty-six degrees, with 30 mile-per-hour winds, according to photographer Jaime Fletcher.
“We haven’t ever seen snow like that,” she said.
The lodge was about a 20-minute drive up the mountain. Trees were down, and about 15 to 20 guests were unable to make it, due to the weather.
When Jaime arrived at the site, she dreaded going inside. Brittany’s maid-of-honor had connected her with Brittany, and they had spoken numerous times over the phone. But this would be their first face-to-face meeting.
“I imagined the bride was going to be in tears,” Jaime said. “But when I walked in, she was laughing.”
Brittany attributed the weather to her bad luck. When she and Sean went camping on their first date, his 4-wheeler broke down and they had to spend the night in the woods because they weren’t sure how to get back to camp. It’s also why they wanted to get married in the mountains. It’s where they met, and they’ve skied there, as well.
She just didn’t expect weather suited for skiing on her wedding day.
The ceremony was moved inside, with guests sitting at the same tables they would have for the reception. An aisle was laid down between the tables.
But Brittany and Jaime still wanted to try to shoot photos of the wedding party outside.
“We have to suck it up for the photos,” Brittany told her bridesmaids.
She got some funny looks, but the wedding party — warmed by beers, Jaime said — took everything in stride, despite the fog, freezing temperatures and swirling winds.
Jaime threw a scarf over her head and cameras and stepped out into the cold. She didn’t have time to change the lighting, since the snow was coming down too hard.
The shoot was over in 10 minutes.
By the end, the wedding party — cold and tired and wet — was joking about going sledding.
“Everybody was just super,” Jaime said. “They thought it was funny. That’s why they’re laughing in all the pictures.”
Brittany and Sean were easy-going and comfortable around each other, Jaime said. They interacted like best friends, Jaime noting how Sean carefully covered Brittany’s hair before she went outside and noticed when she had snow on her eyelashes.
“They were just very sweet and accommodating to each other,” she said. “It was really sweet to see how sweet they were with each other.”
Brittany’s favorite photos are one where the wind catches her veil just perfectly, gently lifting it off her neck, and another shot from behind the couple in the street. Sean likes one where Brittany is looking at the camera, and he is looking at Brittany.
“You can see the chaos in (the photos),” Brittany said, “but how beautiful it is kind of made up for it.”
Brittany and Sean will get to experience the fall weather that escaped their wedding during their honeymoon in Europe. They plan to spend about four days at Oktoberfest in Germany and then a day and a half in London before returning home. Brittany packed a dirndl dress for the occasion. Sean will wear Lederhosen.
As she thought back to her wedding day, Brittany recalled how perfectly everything worked out. The hues of the bridesmaid’s dresses — fall colors, she once thought — blended well with the wintry background. The cowboy boots worn by the wedding party and long-sleeved dresses on the flower girls were equally suited to the cold weather.
It was almost as if she’d planned for it.
“A few years back, I told my friends I wanted a winter wedding,” Brittany said. “A lot of times you don’t get snow. But it turns out, I guess, subconsciously, I planned for it. Mother Nature just knew, and I got my winter wedding."