A Soldier’s Surprise Wedding

“You’re taking pictures without me?!?”

Those words were the climax of a whirlwind of activity that led to a surprise wedding the next day.

I suppose I should back up a bit.

Planning the Surprise Wedding

My nephew, Calder, graduated from Army basic training on December. He had orders to report to Fort Carson in Colorado in less than 24 hours after that. At that time, he did not expect to get any leave (military speak for vacation) for Christmas.  So, his parents and his fiancée were planning on driving to Fort Carson after Christmas, where Calder and his fiancée would have a courthouse marriage.

A few days after Calder reported to Colorado, my wife called me in the middle of the day to let me know I had to photograph a wedding that weekend. Calder was able to take leave, and he was coming home to Mississippi. That was a closely-held secret. Only his mom, my wife, Calder’s fiancée, and I knew. He was planning on arriving on Saturday—when my wife’s family was holding their Christmas get-together. He would surprise everyone and then announce that he and his fiancee, Leighton, would have their surprise wedding the next day!

You’re Taking Pictures Without Me?

Several things had to go right in order for the surprise to go off without a hitch. Fortunately, they did. Leighton would pick up Calder in Gulfport Saturday morning, they would drive up and get the marriage license, and then drive to my father-in-law’s where the family assembled.

When the appropriate time came, everyone went outside. Supposedly, this was because we were going to take a photo and a video to send to Calder. I snapped off a couple of frames, and my wife, taking the video, told everyone to yell, “Merry Christmas, Calder!”

He had been hiding around the corner of the house, and then came around, saying, “You’re taking Pictures without me?”

This was a huge surprise for everyone (other than those in the know). Well, Calder’s father wasn’t surprised at first either. I don’t know if he didn’t hear Calder or what, but he didn’t turn around when everyone else did!

Soldier on leave surprises family gathered for Chritmas
Not the best photo, but this was staged more to aid the surprise than for the actual photo. (Looking directly into the sun sure hurt the image quality.)

In the photo above, you can see his Calder’s dad still looking forward after everyone else had turned around.

returning soldier in civilian clothes surprises family

After some hugs, Calder and Leighton announced they were getting married the next day.

The Wedding Day

Due to the rushed nature of the wedding planning, The Springs Church in Collins, where the wedding took place, was not decorated as one may expect for a marriage ceremony. This actually made the wedding extra-special because it placed more emphasis on the couple than on flowers, decorations, and the material accompaniments.

The Wedding March played, vows were said, and rings were exchanged. The bride and groom kissed, and then my favorite part of the wedding day. . . photos!


Due to the time of the ceremony, we weren’t able to get any photos outside after the ceremony. Fortunately, we were able to meet up later that week for that purpose.

Alas, Calder had to return to Fort Carson, and Leighton must finish her last semester of college. While it is sad the newlyweds’ time was so short, it will make their reunion all the sweeter.

Wedding and engagement rings sitting on U.S. Army beret with bride's bouquet in background