Elisha and Brandon. Oh, boy. Where do I even begin with these two amazing humans?!
In Elisha’s initial e-mail to Emily, she described how their wedding day vision began as “big and sparkly,” but changed pretty dramatically when Elisha was diagnosed with a neurological disorder called Chiari malformation (we have learned SO much about this thing we’d never heard of before!). After making it through a menagerie of medical treatments, including brain surgery (brain surgery!), Elisha and Brandon’s relationship emerged even stronger, though their wedding plans evolved to include only their nearest and dearest in an intimate setting.
Emily met these two marvelous people in a coffee shop in San Francisco, where they greeted each other with hugs and spent hours chatting about the wedding, Chiari, and how sad Emily was to already be booked on their wedding day. But I was available, so we set a date for another meeting, this time in Santa Barbara, where Elisha and Brandon, as Emily says, “proceeded to fall in love with Rhianna, just as I knew they would.” Awww. :)
From the bride herself, who has become very passionate about awareness, on her experience with Chiari malformation:
A few months after becoming engaged to the man of my dreams, I was diagnosed with Chiari malformation, a serious neurological disorder in which the back part of your brain descends down into your spinal canal, creating dangerous pressure and, in my case, impairing spinal fluid flow.
My now-husband and I initially envisioned a huge outdoor wedding in Missouri, my home state, but after several months of developing progressively debilitating symptoms, we reluctantly decided the giant Missouri wedding would have to be shelved.
By November 2014, I couldn’t walk without the assistance of a cane due to severe dizziness and impaired balance. We feared that I had grown so sick that I might not even be able to walk down the aisle on our wedding day – whenever that might be. The unspoken fear was that my need for a cane would eventually become a need for a wheelchair, or even worse, and we were tremendously frightened.
I suffered treacherous headaches on a daily basis, my vision was completely blurry more days out of the week than it was not, and I was constantly nauseous, feverish, and growing weaker and weaker by the day. On November 5, 2014, I had brain surgery with the hope that it would stop the damage that was being caused by Chiari by reducing pressure on my brain and spinal cord and restoring the flow of my spinal fluid.
When I woke up from brain surgery, the first thing I noticed was that my vision wasn’t blurry. Then, even with the pain from having my head cut open, I noticed amazing relief of pressure in my brain. The room didn’t appear to be spinning, as it had been for the past several months. By the time I left the hospital, I was walking (albeit very slowly) without the assistance of a cane, because my balance had improved so dramatically!
About one month after my brain surgery, while I was still deeply within the throes of my recovery, we started talking again about our wedding. By then, we had decided to completely scrap the giant wedding in Missouri and opted for an intimate, no-frills, outdoor ceremony in Santa Barbara, surrounded by our immediate families and closest friends.
I contacted Emily and shared part of my story with her, knowing it had to sound completely outrageous. I was amazed when she emailed me back right away and told me she already felt “connected” to my story and Anna Delores would love to be a part of our very special day. For us, it was important we found photographers who understood that our wedding day was more than a celebration of our love – it was a celebration of my continued life. It was a symbol of hope and joy, even in the midst of great uncertainty and profound challenges.
On April 18, 2015, surrounded by incredible beauty, friends and family members who had seen us through the darkest time of our young lives, I walked (nearly skipped!) down the aisle toward my best friend, both of us with tears streaming down our faces, as we knew exactly what it meant for me to be walking toward him. While I still face many health challenges, having brain surgery gave me back a part of me we feared Chiari had claimed forever. We had a new outlook on the fragility and sanctity of life, and our wedding day perfectly reflected that. Honest. Simple. Beautiful. Because of Anna Delores Photography, we have the most magical photos capturing sacred moments from one of the most important days of our lives.
Thank you, Elisha, for sharing and for even inviting us to be part of your story in the first place. Without further ado, here are a few of our favorites from their wedding day, which brimmed with as much emotion, love, and joy as you might dare imagine.
All I wanted was to show their love and their strength. They allowed me to photograph their triumphs, they were real and vulnerable, and I am forever changed because of the time I spent with them.
Brandon and Elisha, thank you for choosing us to help tell your story. It was a beautiful honor and we are so humbled and grateful that we got to work with you. xoxo