I am the daughter of a United States Marine. I am a photographer with 20 years worth of capturing moments. For all these years I have dreamed of the day I would have the opportunity to photograph a Marine in his dress blues uniform at his wedding. This weekend, I finally got that chance.
USMC Jon Vander Ark pledged to love and protect my sweet friend Miss Mary Cloud Taylor in a ceremony at Sliter’s Park in Bigfork, Montana. And days before the wedding, he made a brilliant, risky, tactical calculation as only the Marines can. He lied to her.
It’s the best story, and I have the photos to go with it below.
Jon told Mary Cloud that he had ordered a set of dress blues, but that they would not arrive until about a month or so after the wedding. When she met me for breakfast and a final meet up about the wedding on Tuesday morning, she gave me the sad news, that he would not be in uniform.
However, the next day, Jon and I got to talk. He told me he had not been completely forthright with her — he would be in his uniform and he needed to loop me in on the secret so I could capture the moment.
What Jon did not expect was that hours later, I’d be on the phone with her. I smiled when he told me he had been concerned that I would spill the beans in that phone call and not be able to keep the secret. But as much as I love MC, there is no way I would EVER mess up those photos.
She did not disappoint. The look of shock and awe and joy and reverence on her face when she spotted him was simply perfect.
As was the entire day.

The motto of the United States Marine Corps is Semper Fidelis. It means, “Always Faithful.” I have no doubt that this wedding is only the start of the beautiful life God has planned for them and that these two will honestly live up to that motto.
Semper Fi!

The wedding dress hangs on a fence outside the cabin where the bride gets ready in Bigfork, Montana
Wedding rings in a wedding bouquet.
Detail photo of the wedding day shoes that read, "A new day."
Bride getting hair and makeup ready for her big day in Bigfork, Montana.
Bride looks up at the camera in low light as she puts in her earrings, the only jewelry she chose to wear at her wedding.
Bride shares a moment with her family and her soon to be family as she has her dress on and prepares for her first look with her soon the be husband.
Bride outside her prep cabin as she heads to her first look with her soon to be husband.
Such a perfect look of shock on this bride's face as she sees her groom for the first time in his formal dress blue United States Marine Corps uniform.
Bride snuggled up safely in the arms of her United States Marine.
Sunlight glints of one of the medals of this grooms dress blue uniform as the couple makes their way to the wedding site in Bigfork, Montana.
Two vertical portraits of the bride and groom. Left, she poses looking back at the camera. Right, they kiss in the sunlight.
Two vertical photos side by side, the bride on left, and the groom in dress blues on right.
Bride and groom are all smiles for each other on their wedding day in Bigfork, Montana.
Close up detail of uniform arm insignia with bride softly blurred in the background.
A goofy photo, replicating a silly smile they did for the engagement photos.
Two vertical portraits of a bride and groom in the bright sunlight in Bigfork, Montana down by the Flathead River.
Music for the wedding was performed by the band Flannel Graph.
Flower girl takes a moment to stop and smell the bouquet.
Bride and her father at the start of the ceremony.
Father of the bride is emotional as he hands off his eldest daughter to her husband-to-be.
Montana and Mississippi guests gather at Sliter's Park in Bigfork, Montana for this wedding.
The bride cannot contain her joy during the wedding ceremony and smiles broadly.
The pastor leads the bride and groom and guests in a prayer.
Wedding program detail.
Parents of the bride and guests sing "Great is Thy Faithfulness."
Parents of the groom and guests singing the final hymn, "Great is Thy Faithfulness."
Presentation of the Bride and Groom!
Kiss and flower bouquet, two verticals side by side.
Father of the bride absconds with the brides' veil after the ceremony.
The bride and her two sisters.
All together now, the combined Taylor and Vander Ark families.
Brother of the groom gives toast at the wedding.
Mother of the bride listens to toasts at her daughter's wedding.
Sisters were all smiles after their toasts.
An emotional dad struggles to get through the toast at his daughter's wedding.
Father/daughter dance.
Old friends come to share joy at the wedding.
Dancing at the wedding!
More Dancing at the wedding!
Groom and new sister in law enjoy a dance at the wedding.
Grandparents dancing at the wedding.
Another father and daughter dance.
Saying farewell, the bride and groom exit their reception and head off for their honeymoon.