Sept. 24, 2022, in Palisade, Colorado

The groom was speechless.

Just 20 minutes earlier, loved ones had wiped away happy tears from their

eyes as Clayton Nelson read wedding vows to his bride at his family's

mountainside vineyards in Palisade, Colorado.

Stephanie (formerly Beniek) stood across from him in a gorgeous white lace

gown with intricate beading and mesh inserts on the sides, her long brown

locks curled and flowing down to her natural waist.

Picturesque views surrounded guests during an unforgettable backyard


But the emotional moments were far from over.

Little did Clayton know, the newly minted Mrs. Nelson had snuck away

during cocktail hour—between the ceremony and the reception—for a

surprise he will never forget.

Stephanie teamed up with Sydney Argul, Clayton's cousin and a professional

hairstylist, in the bathroom of the house where the reception was held for a

hair transformation no one saw coming.

Stephanie had stumbled across the idea of cutting her hair mid-festivities on

TikTok, thinking it was the perfect excuse to rock a short hairstyle. And in

less than 20 minutes, Stephanie—a normally stoic woman—was 10 inches of

hair lighter and beaming with anticipation to show her new husband.

When Stephanie returned to Clayton outside the reception venue with breezy

hair brimming at her shoulders, he was dumbfounded in the best way

possible. A huge bright smile spread across his face before he embraced her

and pulled her in for a kiss.

As a photographer, these are the moments I live for.

This is why I do it, so I can capture once-in-a-lifetime moments for people to

cherish forever.

Getting the shot

I almost missed it.

In the process of helping the wedding coordinator clean up after the

ceremony, I received a phone call from Stephanie.

"Wait!" I said to the eager bride, so her hair wouldn't get chopped without

me and my camera there to witness it.

To get the shot, I jumped in the car with the wedding coordinator and raced

over to the reception venue—where I then crammed into the bathroom with

the hairstylist, maid of honor, a bridesmaid and, of course, the bride herself.

I wedged myself into the best angle available and started snapping.

I love how the photos came out, especially the pictures of Stephanie holding

her ponytail in her lap. The haircut was so cute, too! She can pull off long or

short hair.

Capturing Stephanie's haircut and big reveal was one of my favorite parts of

photographing this scenic wedding—well, along with staying at their

stunning Peachtree Property, which was appropriately teeming with peach

trees. I also loved how each wooden chair was different at the reception,

giving it an eclectic, yet put-together vibe.

I met Stephanie through a mutual friend from high school in Hawaii. My

husband, Tony, and I actually stayed with Stephanie and Clayton at their

Brooklyn apartment as 2018 turned into 2019. They were so hospitable,

giving us the newbie tour of New York City and a welcoming place to

stay—continental breakfast included.

I photographed the Nelsons before they were engaged, just a year into their

relationship on July 4 of 2018. The beautiful couple made wonderful models

in what became a Pinterest-worthy session. I was thrilled when they invited

me to Colorado to shoot their 2022 wedding ceremony.

Tony and I flew in for their wedding, and I'm so glad we did. It was certainly

a (hair)cut above the rest.