Vows for A Vet: Chris + Samantha’s Dream Wedding

“a hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”

Chris was an ordinary guy. He was a Marine serving in Afghanistan in 2012 when his life would take a drastic turn. It was while in Afghanistan bravely protecting our country that he stepped on an IED and lost both of his legs, leaving him a paraplegic. It was a long and dark road for him from that moment through surgery and recovery; learning how to go on with this new life. But in spite of the overwhelming obstacles he faced, he persevered an endured and to us he is a hero.

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The military and military weddings are near and dear to our hearts. Marcella grew up in a military family with her dad being a Marine for 30 years and remembers growing up being stationed overseas and living on base. Her brothers followed in their father’s footsteps and represent all branches of the armed forces. She knows what it’s like being on the end of not knowing where in the world they are, sending care packages with the basic essentials, waiting by the phone for calls and trying to pick up the pieces when they return.

So when an incredible organization came to us with an opportunity to photograph a gifted wedding to a combat veteran’s dream wedding we couldn’t say yes fast enough! The Vows for Vets program is a charity organization, started and run by a retired Marine colonel and his wife that gifts a dream wedding to a combat veteran every year. A Wounded Warrior himself the couple wanted to give back to the brave men and women who have served our country. Every part of the wedding from the flowers, food, cake, music, linens, everything is generously gifted.

We were honored to be a part of Chris and Samantha’s big day last April and are so excited to be sharing some photos from their day. Warning yo now there’s a lot of photos…. we couldn’t just choose a few! You an also check out photos of their engagement session here

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Their wedding colors were neutrals with pops of color. Sage green, burgundy, cream/nude, gray and navy with a very bohemian feel to it.

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Chris and Samantha got married at the beautiful Paradise Falls Wedding Estate in Oceanside, California. From the lush landscape to the waterfall feature and all the trees made for a gorgeous ceremony location.

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We’ve said it once and we’ll probably keep saying it the moment the bride is walking down the aisle and the groom sees her is one of our favorite moments to capture. Whether they get teared up or are beaming, like Chris was, it makes us get the warm and fuzzys.

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Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Van Etten!!!

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How Chris and Samantha met is something that only Hollywood could dream up. After Chris’s surgery it was a long and dark haul through the recovery period, basically learning how to do everything again and how to go on with this new life. He decided to start going to the gym to help with his recovery and it was there that resulted in him being chosen as a Jockey underwear model for their “Show ’Em What’s Underneath” campaign, which focuses on sharing inspirational stories. The gym is also where he found the love of his life.

Samantha was working as a trainer and saw Chris doing pull ups with his prosthetic legs. She mentioned to a friend that he was going to be her boyfriend someday. And someday was right. The two began dating and about a year later they were engaged and then on April 1st, 2017 were married.

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Their ‘Dog of Honor’ Miss Harley Van Etten was Chris’s bomb dog when he was stationed in Afghanistan. After he was sent back to the States, Harley continued to serve our country as a bomb sniffing dog. She was retired as a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps and eventually reunited with Chris.

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This venue is one big photo opportunity! Every turn is a stunning area for photos. It’s a photographers dream. From the landscapes to twinkle lighting, so beautiful!

Pin SITE IMAGE________Okay everyone, we see you! While we love the totally mismatched bridesmaid dresses trend we kinda love this one even more! Same color, just different styles! Let’s make this a trend! And gentlemen, looking shhhharp!

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So fun fact Chris actually got into a pretty bad motorcycle accident before the wedding. He actually had broken his hand and had just gotten the cast/brace off for the wedding. He loves riding so they used a motorcycle as their guestbook! How cool is that?

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Loved the oversized farm table sweetheart table with the macrame tapestry from Rickety Swank Vintage Rentals!

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Wondering how you can incorporate green or the greenery color into your wedding without feeling like the Grinch? Have neutral linens with a pop of greenery with a napkin! And how pretty are these gold candelabras and florals from Heather Christian Designs? They add the perfect finishing touch to the tables.

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Every couple gets a letter from a very high official in the Marine Corps and the founder of the Vows for Vets program, Colonel Al Ransom (pictured) awards each veteran with it!

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Chris and Samantha were super fun and laid back. So as a joke the wedding planners/coordinators decided it would be good fun to pretend to drop their “wedding cake”, a fake cake with whipped cream. We were lucky enough to capture it as it happened and see their faces as it happened. It was all in fun and Chris and Samantha were good sports about it!

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 Instead of a traditional wedding cake they decide on a wedding donut since they both are donut lovers and for guests they had a dessert bar from Elegance on Display with cupcakes, donuts, and mini desserts galore!

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The last dance of the night before the grand exit!

We are honored that we were able to be a part of this beautiful day and be a part of this awesome organization! Thank you so much Chris, Samantha, Vows for Vets and Paradise Falls for letting us be a part of your special day and congratulations to one year and here’s to many, many more!

Vendor Credits: 

Venue: Paradise Falls | Photographer: Leah Marie Photography | Videographer: Carry On Studios | Rentals: Rickety Swank | Florals: Heather Christian Designs | DJ: Pro Sound DJs | Hair & Makeup: Beauty Bar | Cake & Desserts: Elegance on Display | Dress: Hayley Paige | Suits: Men’s Warehouse | Rings: Brilliant Diamonds & Tacori |

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