"I've got a plan... and I need your help. Don’t tell Katherine."
Dana called me a few days before the ceremony to fill me in on what was bound to be the cutest wedding interruption ever.
“We’ve talked through the ceremony with Christina (the officiant) and decided we’re going to cut out the call for witnesses part. What Katherine doesn’t know is that Christina is going to ask anyways. And at that point our dogs are going to come tearing around the corner.”
Dana told me how Katherine is usually a rock, that it was she, Dana, that gets emotional. I can relate, I tear up at nearly every wedding. But that by having the dogs run up that maybe, just maybe, Katherine might get a little teary.
I’m always game for a secret mission, so I agreed to help in any way I could.
The ceremony was scheduled for a warm, sunny morning in June at the Church of the Immaculata in Cincinnati. It’s on Mount Adams overlooking the Ohio River that marks the border between Kentucky and Ohio. This is especially symbolic for them as Dana currently lives in Ohio and Katherine in Kentucky and they've spent much of their relationship commuting back and forth between the two states.
I told Katherine I’d be there an hour beforehand to help set up and get some photos of her in her dress. What she didn’t know is that I was scheduled to meet Dana an hour BEFORE THAT to fine tune the details of our plan.
Dana arrived with wedding nerves firing. She ordered champagne and a triple shot of espresso, excitedly telling the baristas that she was getting married.
“I never thought this would happen for me” she told me as she had her espresso, and then her bubbles. She described how a friend had taken her phone and then swiftly grabbed her index finger to unlock it, downloading a dating app. Dana gave it a shot but no one really interested her. She even deleted it once or twice and then reinstalling it.
She saw Katherine. Her photo popped up and she clicked favorite or like or super like or whatever that particular app calls someone saying ‘hey there, I like what I see!’
At that very moment Katherine was sitting with a group of friends, also getting frustrated with her dating app options. She picked up her phone, ready to delete the app.
And that’s when the notification from Dana popped up.
Seconds later and they likely wouldn’t be getting married.
I told Dana that I loved this story because it was like the modern-day version of passing someone on the street. The right time, the right place.
And that perfect timing was what led to us having coffee and champagne and planning the great dogscapades of 2018.
Dana had her dogsitter go and pick them up and the plan was for me to start taking photos of Katherine and not, under any circumstances, let her walk around the back of the church once the dogs were there. This wasn’t too hard since Katherine and Dana wouldn’t be seeing each other until the start of the ceremony, so I just told her that Dana was in the parking lot.
Katherine and Christina stood at the front of the church and Dana came around the corner. The beautiful thing about elopements and small ceremonies is you get to see how a couple really is with each other. Katherine adjusted Dana’s hair. Dana brushed grass off of Katherine’s shoes. It was a sweet beginning to watching these two commit their lives to one another.
Then, moments later, it was time. I had stepped out wide enough to see the dogs patiently waiting on the side of the church. We had been worried they would bark and give it all away.
Not a peep.
It’s like they knew how important their job was.
I heard Christina call for any witnesses. I saw the look of confusion on Katherine’s face. And then I watched that transform to joy when Dana called for the boys and they came running full-speed around the corner.
They jumped and barked excitedly and everyone laughed and Katherine even had to wipe her eyes a little. It was every bit as awesome as I thought it might be.
After some dog hugging and celebration from Dana for pulling off the stunt, it was back to business. I watched them exchange rings and vows and thought how amazing it was that we could be here on this stunning morning doing just this.
There was more champagne and hugging and laughing after it was over. They were both completely glowing with happiness and we relived the moment the dogs came running around the corner at least five times. I watched them continue to gently care for each other just like at the start of the ceremony, brushing hair out of the way here and wiping a brow there.
And when I finally left I didn’t feel just like I was a photographer taking photos. It felt like I was a witness, myself and the dogs, to something extraordinarily special on the steps of the Immaculata, overlooking the river where Kentucky meets Ohio.
Scroll down to see some of the highlights from their morning…