July 22, 2021
I’ve been praying a lot about how to tell Clair + Luke’s story. Their day was incredible. From Luke’s Navy dress blues, to Clair’s gorgeous off the shoulder dress and pearl stitched veil, to the traditional Dominican-rite Mass, this wedding was all things classic and timeless. I was in photographer heaven as soon as I walked into the place Clair was getting ready, which just happened to be an historic church turned AirBnB (right?! ).
The plan had been to get ready at the AirBnB, and then head over to Clair’s childhood home so Clair’s little sister, Annelise, could see her in her wedding dress. Annelise had been on bed rest due to some pregnancy complications, and would be unable to attend the wedding. But when I arrived that morning, Clair shared that Annelise was headed back into the hospital. I could tell she was worried, but I knew the Jerge family was deeply rooted in prayer, so I silently joined them as I shot details and portraits before we left for the ceremony.
St. John the Baptist in Front Royal is a gorgeous Church, and the first thing I noticed when I walked in was Luke, in the front pew, quietly praying the rosary. And I knew that the Church would be full of family and friends praying both for Clair and Luke as they entered the Sacrament of marriage, but also for Annelise, her husband, and their sweet baby girl. And as the Mass began, and the High Mass was sung in Latin, I could feel the Holy Spirit moving. There’s a reverence in the Dominican rite that invites you in to the sacred, to the holy, to the divine. Father’s homily centered on three points of marriage—celebration, sanctification, and sacrifice. His words were profoundly true, and Clair and Luke lived them immediately.
I was on the other side of the dance floor when Clair’s dad approached her slowly, spoke to her softy. I watched as her shoulders fell and her breath stopped. I did not lift my camera. This moment felt too raw, too full. She turned from her father as her eyes searched the room, roaming, roaming, looking for her safe place, for the man who had promised to hold her in her hardest moments not 4 hours earlier. She searched, searched, and breathed again when her eyes landed on him.
She moved, graciously spoke to a few guests who stopped to wish her congratulations, and then quietly extracted herself to walk straight into Luke’s arms. I knew then, as he held her—their first cross. Their first grief born together on the very first day of their marriage. Annelise was in labor, and would soon deliver sweet Brenna Catherine Marie, who would live long enough to be baptized and confirmed before going home to Christ.
I think, sometimes, amidst the gorgeous florals, the perfect table scapes, and yes, even the beautiful photos, we forget what a wedding day is. We forget about the marriage. And what is a marriage anyway, at its core? As Catholics, we know marriage to be our path to heaven. We know it to be the beginning of a thousand little deaths to ourselves in service of our spouse. We know it to be our path to sainthood.
Marriage is our cross.
And it includes all the beauty and pain and sacrifice and redemption that comes along with it. Clair and Luke’s day reminded me of that truth. And as Clair so beautifully said a few days after the wedding, she and Luke now get to share their anniversary with a saint, “and what a glorious reunion we hope to have in heaven with her one day.”
Clair + Luke—your day was transcendental. Thank you for living your vows so immediately and immensely. We’re holding you and your family in our hearts, and asking for the intercession of saint Brenna Catherine Marie.