Archive for February 9th, 2011


if you’ve tuned in to the blog in the past week – you’re familiar with this mini-series of blogposts we’re doing featuring some of our favorite couples who have stayed in our lives since we first sat down with them to plan their wedding photography. you can either scroll down to see our first story of jenni and tim, or you can click here. today is tell the story of sarina and john and how much they and their family have come to mean to me.


as I stated in jenni and tim’s story – I was a nervous wreck at my first official wedding show as gillette portrait arts. fortunately, I had my mother who was a marketing guru and as outgoing as they come with me. so when I noticed certain couples who I knew would be fun to work with, I would give mom a little nudge. such was the case with sarina and john – as you can see from the photos, they are a gorgeous couple but what struck me was their amazing energy and love with each other and that they were both in all black. all black says one thing to me - city folk and I wanted to work with some out of towners! like jenni + tim, sarina and john signed a contract before leaving the show. what I learned about them at the show was that they were from philadelphia and getting married in dewey beach delaware because they love the beach. back then I didn’t know some of the important questions that you should ask and as a result I had NO idea the size of this wedding until I rolled up to their hotel on wedding day. there was literally a bus waiting for us to gather up all of the females (18 in all) who were going to the salon – which by the way was completely rented out specifically for sarina and her bridal party. nor did I know that it was going to be a cross-denominational ceremony with a rabbi and a priest, under a chuppah, on the beach with 40mph winds. to be honest, I’m kind of glad I didn’t know because I would have been scared out of my mind. this was only my second wedding as gilletteportrait arts and it taught me more on one day than 15 workshops and seminars combined!  sarina even had 2 maids of honor – her best friend jen and her sister helana


the wedding was also the first time that I met sarina and helana’s parents, sam and jackie – these are 2 of the most amazing people I have ever met and I fell in love with them as soon as I met them


sarina was my first bride-turned-mother and when she was in the final stage of her pregnancy, I drove to philadelphia to shoot her maternity session. we also had a session at her parents house for the “furr-babies”



pregnant with first child gavin on the left and gavin years later as an amazing big brother to baby johnny on the right


sarina and john with baby gavin at the beach




when sarina was pregnant with her second child sydney we weren’t able to do a maternity session because my father had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and all available time was spent with him. 2 days before  I was to shoot the wedding of one of sarina’s best friends meghan, I got the call to come to my father who also lived in philly. my father passed away at 2am on meghan’s wedding day. as I walked into meghan’s house, sarina greeted me with a hug and asked how dad was. I pulled her into another room and explained what had happened but that I didn’t want meghan to know because this was her day. To be honest it was good for me that I had to work that day because it’s difficult to be upset when surrounded by so much joy and it made me focus my attention elsewhere than my grief. sarina shared the information with her parents and helana and when potential rough spots came up – like the father/daughter dance – they as a family were there for me and I am forever grateful.

when sarina got married, helana was dating a man named walt. They were so cute together that I had stalked them on the dance floor and had taken tons of photos of them. helana had been plagued with health problems since she was an infant and as a result was small – but what see lacked in stature, she made up for in personality! helana sparkled and had an amazing spirit – so when she called me to tell me that she and walt were engaged I was thrilled!! we decided to shoot their e-session in love park. because of their height, helana and walt could easily fit underneatht the LOVE sign and made this photo possible which is one of my favorites ever!


as their wedding day approached, some not-so-great things happened. sarina was now pregnant with twins and on a long duration of bed rest. shortly after twins johnny and gemma were born, johnny suffered severe complications and had to be air-lifted for heart surgery. being the loving aunt that she was, helana worried herself literally sick – being hospitalized with pneumonia a couple of months before wedding day. when I got to sam and jackie’s house the morning of the wedding, helana was frail and weak – but SO excited! she had looked forward to getting married ever since she was a little girl and she was beautiful.


sarina, john, gavin, sydney, johnny and gemma at the wedding



2 days after the wedding, I was back in snow hill and that morning I had gone into town to run a few errands. when I came back there a missed call from sarina but no message. I called her back and knew immeidately that something was very wrong. sarina was sobbing just saying “my sister” over and over again. when she caught her breath, sarina told me that as they were landing in florida for their honeymoon, that helana had become unconscious and was rushed to the hospital. sarina was on the way to the airport with sam and walter’s dad to go to florida. not knowing the specifics of helana’s condition, she asked me to get some wedding photos on the blog as soon as possible which of course I did. once they were in florida, it was clear that helana was gone and sarina contacted me the next morning to let me know. I traveled to philadelphia the next week for helana’s funeral. still, several months later I can’t put into words how much the whole situation affected me – helana was such a special person and I miss her. I kept in close contact with the family and went to sarina’s house to spend some time with her and mom jackie. during the visit I photographed what sarina and jackie call their “medicine” when they would almost be overcome with sadness these amazing kids would bring  joy and gratitude and their love got them through this nightmare and helps them to look forward to the future.


sydney the ham




I can’t imagine what my life and my business would have been without meeting you at that show. you are real and treasured friends and I love you all so much. I’m so lucky to be the photographer for your big crazy family and treasure all the time we have spent together. xoxox