Although Amanda Cole’s daughter, Azalee, wasn’t able to be there for her mom’s Dec. 13 wedding, the 32-year-old bride still found a way to include her in the photos. Azalee passed away at the age of 6 on Nov. 17, 2013, after being diagnosed with neuroblastoma in June 2012.
It all started when professional wedding photographer Ashley Frantz, 31, and Cole were put in touch through a mutual friend, who knew Frantz to be a good listener, in the spring of 2013.
Every couple weeks the pair would talk on the phone — Frantz in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and Cole in Baton Rouge — but after learning that Azalee's diagnosis worsened, Frantz decided to visit Cole with her husband, Jonathan, and daughter, Paisley, 5, in September 2013.
"Since Azalee loves Disney, we thought we'd dress up as Mickey and Minnie Mouse and it really brightened her day," Frantz told TODAY.com. "Even Paisley dressed up as a mini-Minnie Mouse!"
When it came time to start planning her wedding to Chip Cole, 38, Amanda Cole asked Frantz if she'd be able to Photoshop Azalee into the images.
They met at a local park on Nov. 14 to take the photos.
"Azalee and I were very close so I feel like the way Ashley posed us was exactly like something I'd be doing with Azalee," Cole told TODAY.com.
At her December wedding in the backyard of her parents' home in Port Allen, Louisiana, she had the photos blown up and on display.
"It was a really emotional day," Cole said. "I was ready to marry Chip, but I wasn't prepared to walk down the aisle without Azalee by my side."
To incorporate Azalee's love of butterflies into their wedding ceremony, the couple had a butterfly release.
"She loved butterflies," Cole said. "She was always drawing them and pointing them out and we once had a butterfly release at St. Jude so it was a great way to honor her memory, as well as my memory of a special moment."
Cole had the photos framed, which also feature her son Kiptyn, 6, and plans to put them on display in her home.