While most brides worry about the many details of their big day, Ally Grizzard had one main focus for her Oct. 6 nuptials: make it down the aisle. The 22-year-old Carrollton, Georgia, native wasn’t worried about wedding jitters, however; rather, she had been training for three years to physically be able to walk toward her waiting groom after being paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident back in 2015.
“Walking down the aisle was never really a question for me,” she told People of her momentous trip down the aisle. “I knew even before we got engaged that I had planned on still walking down the aisle to my husband one day.”
And she did. With the help of her father and her stepfather, Grizzard, who usually uses a wheelchair, boldly walked down the aisle toward her longtime love, Amos Grizzard, in a highly emotional moment in the wedding.
Photographer Ashlee Burgess, who has known Grizzard since high school, tells The Knot that it was a moment she’ll never forget.
“The greatest part about my job is that people trust me enough to tell their stories, and Ally has one of the most inspiring stories I have ever witnessed,” she says. “I have the honor of capturing love stories and wedding days often, but I have never struggled harder to fight the tears at a wedding than when the doors swung open and Ally started her walk down the aisle. The amount of love from all the wedding guests, the tears of joy shed, and the determination on Ally’s face were incredible moments to capture.”
“I was so nervous,” Grizzard told People. “It was my very first time walking uphill and on grass and there was actually a point where I didn’t know if I was going to be able to make it to the end, but I knew I just had to keep going.”
It’s an apt metaphor for Grizzard, who has been determined to get back on her feet, literally, since the catastrophic car accident took place on January 31, 2015. According to People, Grizzard was driving her 6-week-old puppy, Lilly, to the vet that day when she noticed that a hay truck was coming straight at her. She swerved, but in missing the truck, lost control of the car, and she, Lilly, and the vehicle flipped for 75 yards. Grizzard was thrown 50 feet from the truck, landing directly on her back and shattering and severing parts of her spine. (Lilly survived the wreck).
Grizzard had to be airlifted to the airport, and what followed was months of physical therapy and mental exhaustion. Still, she said, she didn’t want to dwell on the downsides of her condition and instead focused all her energy on regaining her strength.
“Emotionally and physically after, it was hard,” she said. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through. It was tough to get used to and just tough learning how to live all over again in a way that I had never lived in before, but it made me who I am today.”
Burgess has been there to capture Grizzard’s determined plight from the start.
“[Following Ally’s accident,] I reached out to her mom and eventually decided to do some mini sessions to raise money, support, and awareness over the weeks following her accident,” Burgess says. “It was incredible to play a small part in the way the community came together during that time, and it created a relationship between Ally and I for which I will always be thankful. A few months later, we finally got to take couple’s photos of Ally and Amos as she began her road to recovery. In the following few years, we met for countless shoots and couldn’t go more than a few months without coming up with fun ideas for sessions.”
Amos has similarly been there for Grizzard throughout her lowest of lows. She and Amos had only been dating for just six months at the time of the accident, but he constantly by her side, and their love never wavered. Grizzard called Amos her “rock,” and when he proposed on Valentine’s Day 2017, she became even more determined to train with leg braces so that she might walk at her own wedding.
“I believe he was placed in my life at the time that he was for a reason,” she said of Amos. “God knew I would need him in the days to come during the hardest time in my life.”
And on Oct. 6, Grizzard made good on her promise to herself to walk down the aisle, and touching images captured by Burgess show just how special the moment truly was to the couple and their gathered friends and family.
“I had pictured it in my head since I was a little girl and I didn’t want that picture to play out differently just because of my accident,” Grizzard said. “I think every girl dreams about it from the time they’re little, so I didn’t want to give up on that dream. I chased it instead.”
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