The Wallflower Photography Blog


Photo of bride and groom releasing doves during wedding ceremony in Volunteer Park in Seattle, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Near the end of a ceremony that will join them as husband and wife, the groom and bride turn to face their audience, each clasping a snow-white dove. On some unspoken cue, their hands open, and the pair of birds burst into action, their wings propelling them into the sky. The doves keep together, circling around the ceremony site several times, finding their bearings, their way home. As the audience, transfixed, watches their aerial dance, a basket of doves is opened, sending a flock of white wings into the air, like little fireworks. Everyone quietly savors the scene for another moment, contemplating the symbolism and beauty of what they just witnessed, then the officiant steps forward to complete the wedding ceremony.

Dove releases are one of the most visually dramatic ways to conclude a wedding ceremony — which, of course, makes us photographers love them! They make for some great photos — in fact, the photo above is an award-winner in a Wedding Photojournalist Association contest! Below, you’ll find highlights from the dove releases at three different weddings we’ve photographed over the years, starting with Amy and Jeff’s 2006 wedding at Volunteer Park in Seattle. The handler place doves in their hands, and must have told them to smile for the camera, because they both surprised me by smiling straight into my telephoto lens, positioned at the far end of the aisle. I caught a pretty cool shot of their doves in the air (despite one of the birds half-escaping the frame), but it was Laura’s side angle that caught the award-winner. Then the handler opened the basket to release the other doves, which made a beautiful sight superimposed over that view of the distant Olympic Mountains.

Photo of handler Michael McAndrews handing doves to bride and groom during wedding ceremony in Volunteer Park in Seattle, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Photo of bride and groom about to release doves during wedding ceremony in Volunteer Park in Seattle, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Photo of bride and groom watching doves released during wedding ceremony in Volunteer Park in Seattle, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Photo of handler releasing flock of doves from basket during wedding ceremony in Volunteer Park in Seattle, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Photo of flock of doves flying away during wedding ceremony in Volunteer Park in Seattle, with Olympic Mountains behind, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

That handler, by the way, is Michael McAndrews, whose business, White Dove Release, was featured by The Seattle Times back in January. Turns out dove releases are also popular at funerals, which makes sense. As Michael said so eloquently, “Otherwise, you’re at the grave site, and they lower the casket into the dark, cold ground. It leaves you with an empty feeling. But I release the doves, and people are looking skyward, into the heavens.”

Chrissie and Austin, whose wedding last December was recently featured here on the Wallflower Blog, were married inside the Chapel on Echo Bay, so they released their doves out front immediately after the ceremony. First, Chrissie and Austin release their two doves, as Chrissie’s brother holds her train off the rain-soaked asphalt of the parking lot. Then Austin’s two kids joined them to help release a second pair of doves. It’s always a bit surprising as the doves suddenly burst forth from their baskets, as you can see from his daughter’s expression!

Photo of cage and baskets holding doves to be released after wedding ceremony in Chapel on Echo Bay on Fox Island, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Photo of bride and groom holding doves after wedding ceremony in Chapel on Echo Bay on Fox Island, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Photo of bride and groom just after releasing doves after wedding ceremony in Chapel on Echo Bay on Fox Island, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Photo of bride, groom and groom's kids opening baskets holding doves after wedding ceremony in Chapel on Echo Bay on Fox Island, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Photo of doves flying out of baskets after wedding ceremony in Chapel on Echo Bay on Fox Island, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Photo of kid reacting after releasing doves from baskets after wedding ceremony in Chapel on Echo Bay on Fox Island, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

In a rather humorous pre-ceremony moment, Julia and Miguel’s doves somehow escaped into a small office in the clubhouse at Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place! Laura’s photo of the brief moment of pandemonium is one of my favorites of 2011 — not many photographers would have the presence of mind to capture a sharp, well-exposed and perfectly framed photo in those fleeting seconds of chaos. The second, intentional release of the doves during the wedding ceremony was quite beautiful. You might recognize one of those photos from South Sound Wedding & Event magazine, which featured this wedding in their 2012 issue.

Photo of doves accidentally released and flying in an office at the Chambers Bay Golf Course clubhouse in University Place, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Photo of bride and groom releasing doves during wedding ceremony at Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Side view of bride and groom releasing doves during wedding ceremony at Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Photo of pair of doves flying over the treetops after being released by bride and groom during wedding ceremony at Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Doves aren’t the only living creatures that I’ve seen released during a wedding ceremony. Rachael and Todd released butterflies at the end of their 2006 wedding at the Jacob Smith House in Olympia. I remember it was a hot summer day, and the butterflies bolted as soon as their mesh-lined cage was opened.

Photo of bride and groom releasing butterflies from special cage during wedding ceremony at Jacob Smith House in Olympia, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Photo of bride watching butterflies fly out of special cage during wedding ceremony at Jacob Smith House in Olympia, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Photo of bride and groom watching flying butterflies just released from special cage during wedding ceremony at Jacob Smith House in Olympia, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Later, I found this butterfly perched on a bush. Maybe that’s an added perk of releasing butterflies into beautiful garden venues — they stick around!

Photo of butterfly on bush at Jacob Smith House in Olympia, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Kerah and Moi also released butterflies during their 2010 wedding at Orting Manor, but it was a pretty different experience. You’d think an August wedding would be warm and sunny, but we got a cool drizzle instead. Their wedding turned out great anyway, and seeing Kerah jump into the pool in her wedding dress has been a career highlight, but I don’t think the butterflies cared much for the weather. They had to be coaxed out of their cozy box, but the photos turned out pretty great!

Photo of bride and groom trying to release butterflies from box during wedding ceremony at Orting Manor, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Photo of groom pointing to butterfly just released from box during wedding ceremony at Orting Manor, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Photo of bride shaking stubborn butterflies out of box during wedding ceremony at Orting Manor, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Photo of groom with butterfly on his finger during wedding ceremony at Orting Manor, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

Photo of bride and groom smiling at flying butterfly just released from box during wedding ceremony at Orting Manor, by Wallflower Photography of Tacoma

I hope this post inspires a few more Wallflower brides and grooms to add a dove or butterfly release to their wedding ceremonies — whether for the symbolism, the entertainment value or the photos! And a tip for wedding photographers reading this who will be photographing a dove or butterfly release soon: Be ready. It happens fast, so start shooting as soon as you see that cage start to open, and don’t stop! Also, you’ll either need a very fast shutter speed to freeze the action, or a medium speed with a flash set to rear-curtain sync to have both sharpness and a touch of motion blur. Have fun!

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