In 2013, Heidi Zherelyev and her husband, Val, married in a private California ceremony–a sentimental moment that was only shared between the spouses. At the time, the intimate ceremony was a sweet commitment between the young pair, who’ve since endured several deployments and a move back to their native Phoenix, Arizona.
The pair always knew they wanted to share their story by hosting an actual wedding back home with beloved family members and friends, and that day ultimately arrived in late June at the Gathering Place, a venue nestled along the White Mountains of Arizona. The couple’s wedding day, or specifically their first look session, has since gone viral—due to one particular twist on tradition.
On the day of the wedding, the bride noticed that her husband was a bundle of nerves. The photographer, family friend Nichole Cline, observed it too. “He was super jittery and super nervous,” Cline of KevinChole Photography tells The Knot in an interview. So the bride came up with a master plan to delight her husband to alleviate the pressure.
“The bride’s best friend, who’s divorced, had her old wedding dress laying around,” Cline explains. “Two hours before the ceremony, her brother Eric was at work, and she told him: ‘I want you to go and wear a wedding dress and go down in my place for the first look.’ At first, he was skeptical.”