On February 5, bride-to-be Hannah Darr received the devastating news that her fiancé Layne Meriwether had died in a car accident just four months before their wedding day.
“I didn’t just lose Layne,” Hannah, of Fairview, Oklahoma, told HuffPost. “I lost my very best friend and my soulmate. I’ve been devastated that I don’t get to marry him, have our big wedding we both planned and spend forever with him, starting a family together and growing old together.”
Not long after the tragedy, Hannah reached out to their wedding photographer Holly Gannett about doing a photo shoot in her wedding dress to honor Layne ― her high school sweetheart and boyfriend of seven years ― and the love they shared.
“Even though I will never get a wedding with him, I wanted to at least have a picture of him with me in my dress to honor and remember him as my future husband,” Hannah told HuffPost. “The shoot also gave me some closure and helped me accept the fact that I won’t get a wedding with him, but I am thankful I at least have pictures with him. The pictures are something I will cherish forever.”
So on May 31, Hannah put on her Allure Couture gown and posed for some beautiful, but heartbreaking photos on her family’s land ― the same place where Layne had proposed in April 2016 and where the couple had later taken their engagement photos. Holly was even able to photoshop Layne into some of the images, creating a powerful tribute to the wedding the couple never had.
On June 7, Hannah shared the photos and the story behind them on the Love What Matters Facebook page, where the post received more than 17,000 likes and hundreds of comments.
When Hannah first saw the photos from the shoot, she told HuffPost that they “took her breath away.”
“I couldn’t stop crying because they were so perfect and precious to me,” she said. “They perfectly captured our love, but also my story of pain and sadness, but also joy and peace. The pictures are better than I could have ever dreamed.”
In the Love What Matters post, Hannah opened up about a dream she had after Layne’s death that brought her some closure:
I had a dream I was wandering around in my wedding dress completely lost and helpless with tears spilling down my face, blurring my vision. My vision cleared a bit and I saw my sweet Layne walking towards me with his radiant smile. He wrapped his arms around me and said, ‘Baby girl, quit crying! You look beautiful. You are so strong. I know you can do this!!’ Earlier that night I had cried myself to sleep because all I wanted was a chance to marry my best friend and then I had that dream and it gave me such peace. When I saw this picture Holly Gannett captured, I instantly thought of that dream and tears streamed down my face.
In April, when Hannah was finally ready to try on the dress again, it fit her perfectly. She knew Layne would have loved it too.
“In high school when we would go to proms or even after high school when I would wear a fancy dress, he would always make a big deal about how stunning or beautiful I looked,” Hannah told HuffPost. “He was sweet like that and always made me feel beautiful and loved. I know with my wedding dress it would’ve been like that, but times 10. It breaks my heart that he never got to see it.”
In the months since Layne’s death, Hannah has been working through her grief thanks to support from family and friends, sessions with a counselor and a grief-focused bible study. She even started a blog called Love For Layne where she writes about their relationship and chronicles her healing journey.
“Everyone always says how amazed they are with my strength and grace, but it has not been easy,” Hannah said. “When Layne passed, my whole world stopped. My whole future was planned and it all revolved around Layne and our lives together. At first, I felt stuck, lonely, and struggled to find my purpose without Layne and my ‘new normal.’ However, my personal relationship with God has grown so much stronger and has been the biggest factor in my healing and strength. I have enjoyed blogging and sharing my story. It has become very therapeutic for me and has also reached and touched so many people.”