Kelly Grace Photography Donates Time and Talents for Wedding Photos
When newlyweds Courtney and Sterling Backaus learned from their wedding photographer that his SD cards were empty and many of their wedding photos nonexistent, they were devastated. The photographer was able to retrieve some of the photos from before the ceremony, but had lost all of their ceremony, family, bridal party, and reception pictures.
When Kelly Mathis, owner/photographer of Kelly Grace Photography, learned about the incident through social media, she knew she wanted to help.
“I reached out to Courtney’s sister, Amanda, and basically just said, ‘If it’s any consolation, I’d love to offer Sterling and Courtney a session if they wanted to get dressed back up,” she said. “After the initial shock of finding out, they took me up on my offer and we started to plan!”
A Neillsville native, Mathis had known both Courtney and Sterling since they were young. A lifelong photographer who began shooting weddings about nine years ago, Mathis now photographs more than twenty weddings every year.
Donating her time and talents to the couple, Mathis helped recreate moments from their big day. Sierra Strangfeld at Family Roots Hair Salon also recreated Courtney’s hair and makeup at no charge, and Kate at KC Designs and Alterations in Fitchburg WI cleaned and fixed her dress free of cost.
“They were so excited to start planning a re-shoot day! I can’t take any of the credit for this portion as it was all Courtney, but she chose a day for the shoot, contacted the family members, rented a few tuxedos, made an appointment to have her hair and makeup done just like it was on her wedding day, and had a bouquet made,” said Mathis. “I helped her to choose a location and made a list of the different groupings she wanted captured.”
Due to logistics, the group wasn’t able to get the full wedding party together or return to the church, but they settled on the two things Courtney really wanted: family pictures and a few portraits of her and Sterling together.
Mathis’ favorite part of the project was witnessing the outpouring of support from the couple’s family.
“It was so fun to see their two families get dressed back up and come together in support of them. We really couldn’t have pulled any of this off without their love and support,” she said. “Courtney, Sterling and their families looked exactly like they did on their wedding day and that is exactly what we were going for!”
“Our families made us feel like it wasn’t just a day for photos but our day again. We had a
small cookout and spent some time together,” added Courtney. “I really did get to feel like a bride all over again. My mom even made sure I had flowers because a bride needs flowers! I mean how many people can say they were able to dress up like a bride and groom together twice?! I felt very loved this day by the support of Kelly, Sierra, and our families to get a few important photos.”
As a photographer, Mathis is dedicated to helping couples create images that last a lifetime, that transport them back to a time and place.
“That is what I strive for when I’m behind the lens: to give my couples the perfect,
memorable image they can return to time and time again,” she said. “Knowing these two no longer had those images they could look back on and share with generations to come, I just had to do something. I wanted to help them re-create any images they wanted so they had something they could look back on from their most special day.”
“These photos mean we will have photos to hang in our home. We will have photos to show our children someday and tell them ‘our’ wedding story,” said Courtney. “Seeing these photos will be a constant reminder of the genuine people that went above and beyond to help Sterling and I out on this day. Kelly’s act of kindness reminded me how grateful I am to have been brought up in a small town with wonderful community support. It took a lot of the heartache away.”
For Mathis, helping the couple recreate their special day was part of what she strives to do as a photographer: preserve life, love, and history for generations yet to come.
“Truth be told, I don’t take these photos just for the couple, but also for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren to find one day,” she said. “They might not ever know the version of their grandparents as a young couple, full of love and excitement, but through my images, they can catch a small glimpse of their grandparents who came before. It’s my hope they can now look back at these images and have a positive memory from their wedding day!”
Mathis lives in Neillsville with her husband and three children, and keeps busy working and renovating their 120+ year-old farmhouse home.