At a wedding, it’s customary for the bride to remain hidden from her groom until she walks down the aisle; this way, she can surprise him with her look for the big day. But Caleb Earwood and his future wife, Maggie, somewhat broke that tradition.
On the wedding day, when Maggie reached out and grabbed her groom-to-be’s hand, she realized that it was trembling. And as Caleb began to speak, Maggie immediately became aware of the type of person she was about to marry.
Caleb and his future wife both spent their childhoods in Asheville, North Carolina. They considered themselves to be friends in high school and started dating in 2013. “She’s so beautiful. I couldn’t help myself,” the then-21-year-old Caleb told The Today Show in 2015.
But although both he and Maggie were young – she was 22 when they got married – the couple’s relationship had certainly been tested by Caleb’s demanding career. After all, at that point he had been in the U.S. Marines for three years.
Yet despite such challenges, the couple’s faith was what had helped forge their unbreakable bond. “We were raised in church our whole life, and with me, marriage sets the first step in our life together,” Caleb told WLOS News 13.
So, on Saturday, May 23, 2015, the couple made this fundamental spiritual facet of their lives an integral part of their big day. They also hired wedding photographer Dwayne Schmidt to capture every moment of the proceedings on camera.
It was lucky that Schmidt was able to be there at all, though. Why? Because the photographer – who’d photographed around 100 weddings at that point – had had an urgent operation for kidney stone extraction one week before the Earwood nuptials.
And while the photographer managed to recover to the point where he could attend, he had little idea of the kind of image that he’d capture once he got there. It all arose from the fact that Caleb had asked Schmidt to take photos of a very private moment between him and his soon-to-be bride.
Specifically, Schmidt stood behind the lens and clicked as Caleb entered a room where the bride waited, hidden so that her groom couldn’t see. “He walked in kind of like, ‘I’m in a room full of girls.’ He was kind of already nervous,” the photographer recalled.
Keeping true to tradition, Caleb wouldn’t see his bride, mind you. Instead, as Schmidt put it, “We got [Caleb] set up on the stairs, and he’s there, [and] she’s behind the door, and then we opened the door and she came out.”
But Maggie didn’t step past the doorframe. Rather, she reached around the corner and gripped her fiancé’s hand. As Caleb explained, “I put my hand out, and once she grabbed my hand I just broke down.”
The moment wasn’t a sad one, though, and it wasn’t over with just the marine’s tears, either. Instead, Caleb took his time alone with his betrothed to say a prayer for them both before they walked down the aisle.
And Caleb went on to explain to The Today Show how important this gesture had been to him and his soon-to-be wife. “We were about to take our first steps in life together, and we didn’t want to take a step without it being in God’s will,” he said.
He revealed, “I prayed to God for my beautiful and intelligent wife that he blessed me with and the amazing family that I was marrying into.” And as Caleb spoke, Maggie noticed just how emotional he had become.
“When I first grabbed his hand, he was shaking really badly, so I knew that he was really nervous,” Maggie said. But the marine’s emotion was also an indication to her that she had chosen the right man. “It relieved me to know that the person that I was getting ready to marry felt the same way about God,” Maggie added.
Their photographer – and everyone else in the room – could feel the emotion of the moment when the young couple held hands and prayed. “Everybody in the room was crying, [and] I’m trying not to cry, so I take the picture. It was just pretty incredible,” Schmidt told WLOS News 13.
Maggie certainly felt similarly. “Everyone was crying. It was just, you could really feel everything. If you would’ve been there, you would’ve known. It was just – it was special. It was very precious,” she said.
What’s more, it was all captured on film. Schmidt snapped photos as the pair held hands and prayed. And he then shared one on his photography-centric Facebook page, deeming it “one of the best things [he had] ever seen.”
The internet at large seemed to agree as well. Within days, the image had garnered more than 38,000 likes and 6,000 shares. And it was an especially relevant image, too, since Memorial Day was on the Monday after Maggie and the marine were married.
Now, the picture has nearly doubled the number of likes that it initially attracted and has been shared nearly 10,000 times. As for the special couple, meanwhile, their lives returned to normal following their moment of internet fame. They told The Today Show that after the wedding they planned to settle in Jacksonville, NC, where Earwood was stationed at Camp Lejeune.