From ‘I do’ to Happily Ever After

ERIN – Nicole and Derek Scharringa were engaged on one of the coldest days in January 2023 as they walked along a snow-covered trail on the outskirts of Erin. 

“Derek planned the whole day, so I kind of figured that he would propose because he doesn’t normally plan any dates,” Nicole said. 

“It was just a really perfect, sunny winter day.” 

Derek had chosen an intimate spot to propose, confident that his bride-to-be would say yes to spending the rest of her life with him. 

“We went on a hike and although I kind of thought [the proposal] was coming, nothing happened the entire hike and I was freezing,” Nicole recalled.

“We were walking past a wishing well when Derek stopped. I didn’t notice at first and I kept walking before I realized I was on my own. I turned around to go back to him, asking what he had wished for and then he proposed.”

Nicole said yes, saw the beautiful ring and hurriedly put her gloves back on before heading back to the relative warmth of their truck. 

The couple were married eight months later on a warm September day at Maranatha Canadian Reformed Church in Fergus.

Along with her maid of honour and two bridesmaids, Nicole got ready for her big day at her parent’s house in the countryside. 

“It was just a really nice, relaxing morning. We had fruit, croissants, and coffee and a very close friend of mine is a hairdresser, so it was great that she could be there,” Nicole said. 

“My cousin was my maid of honour, and her daughter was our flower girl, so it was really special to spend the morning with them and get ready together.”

Derek and his three groomsmen got ready for their day at his family home in Elora, with a detour to the Cataract trail to have pictures taken together. 

They’d decided on Broderick’s Clothing Co. in Fergus to outfit the groom and groomsmen with their suits and accessories. Derek was more than happy with the look and style of his suit, and it was fitted to perfection. 

“The guys at Broderick’s were great. They were quick and very efficient with our fittings and time. The fact that they are close to home was very convenient as well,” Derek said. 

With the ceremony drawing nearer, Derek and Nicole headed to a property on South River Road for their first look. Nicole had done some work on the grounds, maintaining the gardens with the landscape company she worked for and chose the location because of its beautiful layout. 

Off-white hydrangeas in full bloom towered over a manicured greenspace in front of a beautiful stone building. It was here the couple saw each other for the first time that day. 

“It was during our first look that we realized that it was actually happening,” Nicole said. 

“I was very nervous, and I think Derek was too. I had convinced him that my dress was going to be short, so when he saw my long, flowing dress he was caught off guard.”

Deciding on a wedding dress often comes with its own set of challenges, but for Nicole the process was a breeze. Part of the reason for this was her decision to go with her mom, mother-in-law, and sister to Taylor’s Bridal in Elmira. 

“I tried on a bunch of dresses, and I thought I wanted more of an A-line style, [a gown characterized by a fitted waistline and flared skirt] but then the bridal stylist said she was going to put me in some other dresses. She came out with one and I absolutely fell in love with it. I just loved that it was nice and flowy, and it was perfect for an outdoor wedding.”

Following a relaxed morning of preparations, the wedding party and guests gathered at the church, where both Derek and Nicole regularly attend on Sundays, for the ceremony. 

The couple was married by a minister who helped them with their vows. Nicole chose to walk barefoot down the aisle, with piano accompaniment before saying ‘I do’ in front of family and loved ones. 

They were pleasantly surprised after the receiving line to find a classic Model-T waiting to escort them back to the bride’s parent’s property. 

“We had no idea it was happening, but it was nice to have a relaxing time with just Derek and I after the craziness of the ceremony, getting ready and posing for photos,” Nicole said. 

“We wanted our wedding day to be a fun, cozy time where people could just have a good time and hang out all night – and it was.” 

The evening wedding reception unfolded beneath the stars with fire pits casting a warm and enchanting glow over the celebration. The space was filled with laughter and joy as guests savoured a delectable array of charcuterie and the newlyweds mingled with their guests.


Capturing everlasting moments

Chantel Dirksen is a natural light, wedding, and lifestyle photographer based out of Guelph, Ontario. Her company specializes in professional wedding photography services that focus on natural light and candid moments from romantic celebrations.

“My photography style would be best described as light and airy with a film-like feel. I use a documentary style approach to capturing weddings,” she said. 

With more than 12 years of experience, Dirksen uses photojournalism as her primary style of photography to capture the most magical moments of her client’s wedding day. She emphasizes the importance of capturing the essence of the couple’s story. “To me, photographing a couple’s wedding is truly the highest honour, and something I don’t take lightly or for granted.

“A wedding is a significant milestone in a couple’s love story, where they promise forever to each other in front of their nearest and dearest. It’s truly a gift to get to witness the love and commitment that couples have for each other, and the outpouring of love they receive from their family and friends.”

This sentiment is echoed by many photographers who view weddings as a canvas for their creativity. The challenge lies in translating the emotional depth of the event into a series of images that resonate with the couple and their loved ones.

Dirksen discovered her passion for wedding photography at a young age, working as a second shooter for another local photographer at the age of 17. 

Prior to that, her focus was on family and lifestyle photography. It wasn’t until she offered to photograph a family friend’s wedding reception that she fell in love with wedding photography. 

Weddings are dynamic, unpredictable events, presenting various challenges. Lighting conditions, weather changes, and the fast-paced nature of the day require adaptability and quick thinking.

“Understanding the fundamentals of photography, and how to operate the camera manually is critical when handling challenging lighting situations,” Dirksen reflected.

“Wedding photography is an art, but a wedding photographer is someone who can not only document images that showcase your day, but someone with time management skills, interpersonal skills, organization, and most importantly, strong communication skills.”

To date, Dirksen has photographed more than 150 weddings, largely within Wellington County.

“I’ve been blessed to serve couples and families in the Guelph, Fergus/Elora, Wellington County, and surrounding areas for over 10 years,” she said. 

Dirksen was at Derek and Nicole’s wedding to capture every moment. 

“I knew after meeting them that Nicole had a beautiful vision for her day. My favourite part is hearing the initial vision for a couple’s day during the planning and then seeing it all come together the day of,” she said.

“I’m incredibly happy for Nicole and Derek, just as I am for every one of my couples: there’s truly nothing better than seeing two people in love promise forever to each other.” 

At the heart of wedding photography lies an artistic vision that goes beyond technical proficiency. 

Dirksen believes in establishing a connection with couples and building a rapport that goes beyond the professional realm. 

“What I love most about wedding photography is the pure joy, excitement and happiness felt throughout the entire day,” she said. 

“My goal is to create a beautiful experience so that when my clients look back on their photos, they will remember the feelings they felt on their wedding day. I always do my best to go above and beyond for my couples, and jokingly tell them I am the bridesmaid they never knew they needed.

“I am always fixing hair, veils, adjusting dress placement and assisting in whatever areas are needed to ensure my couples look and feel their best.”

She also makes a point to spend time with couples months prior to their wedding day to ensure their photography timeline captures all the elements they want documented.

“Pre-wedding consultations are important to ensure I am a good fit for the couple. It’s also a great way to get to know the couple and their story, how their wedding planning process is going, and if they require any assistance with selecting vendors,” she said. 

“I go over what they should expect on their wedding day, sharing my approach and how much time is needed to cover each part of their big day.”

Some of the areas Dirksen covers include coverage, timeline, first look, delivery of images and expected quantity, turnaround time and risk mitigation strategies. 

“I also make sure to ask if they have any questions about wedding photography, and what expectations they have for me,” she added. 

Creating a certain level of trust is essential for couples to feel at ease in front of the camera, resulting in more natural and candid photographs. It’s not just about being a bystander with a camera; it’s about becoming an integral part of the celebration, allowing the photographer to document moments that might otherwise go unnoticed. 

“With a documentary style for specific moments of the wedding (ceremony, cocktail hour and reception), couples will always receive candid moments they weren’t expecting to see in their galleries,” Dirksen said. 

“Posed photos typically take place during family and bridal party portraits, along with the couple portraits. Over the years I have discovered that couples often ask to be given direction for poses, and once they get comfortable in front of the camera, that’s when I can prompt them to incorporate movement through walking shots, dancing or anything that is authentically them to get those truly candid moments.”

Dirksen’s efforts to capture those moments were not lost in the case of the Scharringa’s wedding. 

“I really love the candid, ‘in the moment’ photos Chantel took,” Nicole said. 

“They capture the laughter and tears in the moment – and you can really feel the emotion.” 

Dirksen echoed Nicole’s sentiment. 

“I’m constantly watching and waiting to document the in-between moments as the wedding unfolds. 

“Some of the most precious photos to a couple are candid, genuine reactions that they didn’t see themselves. I always like to include black and white versions of different candid shots in every wedding gallery I complete, as I feel it truly draws out even more emotion from that moment.”

With an exceptional eye for details, she expertly captured everything from the floral bouquets to the rings, boutonnieres and table settings. Supporting locally-owned businesses was important to the couple. 

Nicole’s aunt owns Grand Floral in Fergus, making it an easy choice for the wedding. 

“Our bouquets and the guys’ boutonnieres were stunning. We went with pocket boutonnieres over traditional ones as they don’t put a hole in your suit,” Nicole said. 

The couple decided on Ron Wilkin Jewellers for their jewelry, including Derek’s watch, largely because of Nicole’s history with the store. 

“I remember going into Ron Wilkin’s with my dad when I was little to get my mom birthday or Christmas gifts, so I told Derek my rings had to come from there. Amy Graham [the store’s owner] was instrumental in helping us choose wedding bands and gifts for the bridesmaids and flower girl.”

“When shopping for Nicole’s earrings, the staff helped me find something that was timeless and would match the necklace I had previously given her,” Derek said. 

Behind the camera, wedding photographers navigate a rollercoaster of emotions, experiencing the joy, excitement, and sometimes the challenges of their clients’ special day. Long hours, physically demanding work, and the pressure to deliver flawless images can take a toll. Dirksen opened up about the emotional side of Nicole and Derek’s wedding. 

“Getting to work with Nicole and Derek was one of my highlights of the 2023 wedding season. I love when a couple trusts me to document their day, after all the time and preparation to tie all the details together.”

As couples continue to seek photographers who elevate their wedding experience and capture the fleeting, yet lasting moments that define a union, the art of wedding photography evolves – driven by the passion and dedication of photographers like Dirksen. 

For a more in-depth look at Dirksen’s portfolio, or to book a consultation, visit or email her directly at

Advertorial Writer