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We’ve said this to a few of you, and we gladly say it to the rest: We are praying people. And we believe when we pray, God hears us. This being said, photographing the wedding of Jacqui and jonas Peterson was such a complete impossibility in our minds, it’s something we never would have even thought to pray for or dream of. When we got an email last November from jonas saying he was going to surprise Jacqui with a proposal around Christmas/new years and he wanted us to be the ones to photograph their wedding, we literally wrote back saying something like “nice joke” and wrote it off as someone out there trying to make us feel stupid. But he wasn’t joking. And so, this is the story of how God answered a prayer we never thought to ask, and granted us the right to be present in a place we never would have asked to go.
we tell our couples that we don’t come to their wedding as a vendor, but rather as a close friend would. Jacqui and jonas took that to an entirely new level for us, and from moment one stepping off the airplane in Sweden we were made to feel like family. Arriving on the small island of Gotland, an old Viking island in the Baltic sea, we went to the family home where the wedding reception would take place, to meet our bride and groom and their families. I still have butterflies remembering the magic of it all. Was this real life? Did we have the right to be here? when was the part where the crew of punk’d comes up to us, pointing and laughing? There greeting us was jonas, with hugs, his usual humble kindness, introductions, and two paper bags. The bags held linens for us to use during our week there in our little cottage (a place we are forever endeared to), and fresh local groceries –milk, cheeses, bread, butter and other delicious staples.
Linens and groceries were just the beginning. The next few days were like watching love on display. Friends and family members came in from all over the world to celebrate this remarkable couple. we all stayed up late listening to stories and sharing good food and drink. local Swedish family members of Jonas’ poured their hearts and souls into doing what was needed to host a wedding: gathering local flowers and pulling out family candlesticks, preparing the meal, hanging the flags, and setting up the dance floor. Looking back, it seems like every little detail was the work of the generous hands of a family member. Not flashy, just genuine, and filled with care.
One afternoon, we hopped in the car with jonas and took a small tour of gotland, the island he spent summers on as a boy. the island his boys now spend their summers on. Jacqui had only made one request for the photos on the wedding day – she wanted a photograph in a field of red poppies. Poppies in gotland only bloom for a few weeks each year, and she had heard they might still be in bloom. We roamed fields we didn’t own, and Jonas told us about an unwritten Swedish law allowing people to walk freely on the land. And not just walk, but explore, hike, camp, and drink water from the springs. They believe the farmland, and wild open spaces should be shared and enjoyed by locals and visitors alike, the forests, fields, and waterways treasured and enjoyed. They call it “Allemansrätt” or to those of us who don’t speak Swedish: everyman’s right. Sadly, despite our exploring, Jonas would apologize to his bride…we didn’t find her a poppy field.
Looking back, it’s easy to see how Allemansrätt didn’t just affect the way the land was treated and enjoyed, but how our very presence was also treasured. The family welcoming us into their homes with bottles of wine, stories, and local folk songs. the nightly gatherings and meals, the uproarious laughter from friends, and the constant humble smiles and kindnesses from Jonas and Jacqui all pointed to it: it was our right to be welcome here. To fully enter into the story with every sense was the right and expectation of each person there, no matter what their role.
On the wedding day, we were en route with the couple in between the ceremony and reception. We had finished their portrait time and sweet, lovely Jacqui brought up the poppy field again. “did you find it??” and just as Jonas was apologizing, we spotted about 10,000 red specks up a country road. Jeremy cranked the wheel to the left and we followed the dirt road until the specks became blooms…And so, as we had done in days prior, we jumped out of the car, hopped the farmer’s fence, and made ourselves at home in the poppy field. a gift from God we never thought to ask for.
it was Allemansrätt.
step two, watch:
step three, look:
thank you for looking and listening, friends.
thank you jacqui and jonas for the invitation into your lives.
with much love,
we are the parsons