Mr. and Mrs. Bing never looked better. Nearly 40 years ago, hopeful young couple Timothy and Jennifer Bing married in an intimate and budget-conscious ceremony after purchasing their first home together. Given the circumstances, the bride and groom asked their close friends to document the occasion on their 35mm cameras in lieu of a professional wedding photographer. The two weren’t prepared at all, however, to lose those memories.
After the film was dropped off at a local pharmacy days later, a fire broke out at the store and the majority of photos were lost forever, except one image. Years later, the same couple—more in love than ever—raised a daughter who happened to pursue wedding photography as her profession, and she wanted to make up for their loss. Ahead of her parents’ 38th wedding anniversary on July 7, photographer Ashleigh Bing had meticulously mapped out a sweet surprise that would capture their love story: a photo shoot that hopefully would serve as some sort of replacement for their lost wedding images.
“Imagine one of the most important days of your life coming and going, and you not having the photos,” Ashleigh tells The Knot in a new interview. “In the past, the idea crossed my mind to do an anniversary session, but time would slip away and I missed my opportunity. This year… I asked my parents to not schedule anything on June 17.”
Ashleigh managed to keep the big surprise a secret until the night before the shoot, when she revealed that the makeup artist (Marquia James of GlamQui) and hairstylist (Jenae White of White’s Barber Co.) would arrive at the crack of dawn the next morning. “I wanted my mom to have plenty of rest,” she says. “Then I explained that I wanted to gift them one of my ‘bride and groom sessions,’ since they never had a chance to see their wedding photos. They were in complete shock.”
The photographer prepared everything down to the details, beginning with the location—the Washington National Cathedral at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. “It was totally different from where they got married: a small community church, Seabrook Baptist Church in Lanham, Maryland. It wasn’t the prettiest of backdrops, so I figured that if they had to wait this long for photos, I better make it worthwhile.”
Ashleigh went above and beyond from a wardrobe standpoint, securing Badgley Mischka gowns from Rent The Runway, along with a tux and other accessories from Kuppenheimer and Men’s Wearhouse. One of the sweetest added touches was a pair of matching Chuck Taylors for her mom and dad. “I got a kick out of them not knowing any details and trying to investigate to see what I was up to,” Ashleigh says.
Not all memories were lost, and Ashleigh was able to implement the original wedding invitation from July 7, 1979, as well as the one photo (an image of someone’s arm blocking the pair) into the shoot. It turned out beautifully.
“As a person who knows my parents so well… this made for a very easy shoot,” she says. “The only challenge was the heat and the humidity. My 8-year-old niece, Laila, assisted me that day, and even instructed them [her grandparents] to do a few poses.” Another added benefit was having good background music.
“When I shoot my sessions, I like to include music because it takes the edge off and loosens the couples up,” she says. The playlist that day included Mr. and Mrs. Bing’s first dance song: “Love Ballad” by L.T.D. In photos, the couple affectionately embraces each other and dances in their formalwear within the beautiful venue. The essence of their love was, in fact, captured, and even went viral for that very reason.
One of the most profound examples of love from her parents was over a decade ago when Ashleigh’s mother battled cancer. A tumor lining her skull was removed, resulting in the likelihood of stroke and paralysis. “Doctors didn’t think she’d walk again,” Ashleigh says. “My dad saved his head in support of my mom.”
“As someone who’s had a front-row seat to my parents marriage, I’ve seen that nothing worth having comes easy,” Ashleigh tells The Knot. “Did they disagree? Sure. But they always worked through it… 38 years of marriage is not something to take lightly.”