I vow to be there on your wedding day come rain or shine, for 2 guests or 200, for the smiles, the tears, and everything in between. I vow to be your confidant and friend — someone who earns your trust, who respects your vulnerability, and who honors your love story by documenting it authentically.
February 6, 2021
Erin and Mike were a memorable couple. So when I heard the news that Mike passed away last week, I was gutted.
Mike was diagnosed with liver cancer on New Years Eve and passed away 4 weeks later. When I heard the news that he was gone, I immediately called the one other person who I knew would understand how heartbreaking this was—my second photographer Lou Ruediger who worked their Gateway Clipper wedding with me in 2019. We both bonded with Erin and Mike, in fact they requested a photo with us during their time for family photos. That has only happened to me 3 times in my entire wedding career, so it was a huge honor to be included as family. Lou and I recalled some of our favorite moments from their wedding, and since the best way to pay tribute to someone after they pass away is to share stories about them, I wanted to share them here, too.
I first heard about Erin and Mike when she reached out to me to photograph her wedding. Erin works at the same building where my husband works, so I asked one of her coworkers about what kind of people they were and what they were like. I was told that Mike walked Erin to work every day, gave her a kiss, and then kept walking to his own job. He walked her to work not because he needed to, but because he wanted to. “It’s really cute.” her coworker said, and I agreed.
When it came time for me to set up a wedding meeting with Erin and Mike, I suggested we meet at a coffeeshop which was typical protocol pre-Covid, but instead, Erin and Mike invited me to meet them in their own home which I happily obliged. You get to know people very quickly when you are invited into their home, and I could see right away how perfect they were for each other. At one point, Mike said he just wanted Erin to have whatever she wants for her wedding and that single phrase always stuck with me.
Their engagement photo session was a blast! They had several locations throughout Pittsburgh that they wanted to use, and I was skeptical that we could fit them all in before dusk so it was important that we stuck to a schedule and of course Erin had it all planned out perfectly. The first location was along the Allegheny River with the Pittsburgh skyline behind them. As we were walking down to the riverwalk, we happened to see the Gateway Clipper boat making it’s way under one of the bridges! Erin and Mike were thrilled because that was the exact same boat where they would be married a year later. It was brutally hot that day, and Mike was sweating bullets in a full suit, but not once did he complain. In fact, he couldn’t have been happier to be spending the day with Erin.
Lou, like me, was devastated. Lou spent the day with Mike and the guys as they got ready and after seeing Mike do a funny pose, Lou instantly grew attached. After the ceremony, Lou described how Mike had so tenderly spoken to his mother who was streaming the whole day through her cell phone. She was hospitalized at the time and could not attend, so Lou and I tried to incorporate her as a phone in many photos—even posing with the phone in their family pictures as if she was there. Lou noticed Mike on a video chat with his mother after the ceremony, documenting Mike as he loudly expressed to his mother “I love you so much!”, and even kissed the actual phone. Lou watched as Mike leaned against the boat railing by himself because he needed an emotional moment alone before joining his guests. Lou photographed this moment from far away to respect Mike’s personal space, and they’re some of my favorite photos of the day.
It happened again at the end of the night after their sparkler exit as Erin and Mike excitedly talked to his mother via phone: Mike exclaimed “Mom, meet my wife! Meet my wife!” as sweet Erin smiled and held up her new wedding band. What Erin and Mike didn’t anticipate was that his mother would unexpectedly pass away a few days later during their honeymoon, so I was glad that we tried to weave “her” into as many photos as we did.
As Lou was with the guys getting ready, I was with Erin and the ladies. Shortly after I arrived, Erin received a surprise delivery of 2 red roses with baby’s breath sent by Mike. I remember being so impressed! With all of the craziness of last-minute-wedding-things, Mike had managed to think ahead and deliver roses for no other reason than to make Erin feel even more loved on her wedding day.
Mike and Erin had spreadsheets full of notes, timelines, and a well-documented inventory of their wedding. Everything was planned, and they were prepared for everything. Any veteran wedding professional will tell you that it’s impossible for a wedding day to run perfectly smoothly—but their’s actually did. They got everything they wanted. They had sunshine during their ceremony, then an overcast sky for their family formals and portraits (which is exactly the type of lighting scenario you want). It rained during dinner which was perfect because no one was outside anyways. After the meal, the sun started to peek out at sunset so I quietly interrupted them while they greeted their guests and invited them to take sunset photos and they were so excited that they politely abandoned their guests and immediately went out for the prettiest, pinkest sunset I’ve seen in awhile. Just perfect. I remember photographing their portraits and asking them to kiss, and Mike was always so excited to kiss Erin. It was as if he just couldn’t wait to love on her.
Erin, you looked STUNNING and so happy all day. It was easy to find gorgeous photos of you, because you had a beaming smile in almost all of them. And I wanted to thank you. You reminded me that life doesn’t always go as we plan, so we must appreciate the good times while we have them. I hope these stories and photos can bring comfort to you and all of Mike’s friends and family.
Mike, thank you. You reminded me to love with enthusiasm. Not a lukewarm kind of love, but a grab-the-phone-and-kiss-it kind of love. A grab-your-spouse-and-run-for-a-sunset kind of love.
Friends, don’t wait. Don’t wait a second longer to tell your loved ones how important they are to you.
If you should feel moved to do so, please consider donating to Mike’s GoFundMe here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/michael-joseph-lamantia. Any contribution would be greatly appreciated.
Photography: Erica Dietz Photography
Second Photographer: Lou Ruediger
Ceremony and Reception: Gateway Clipper Fleet
Getting Ready: Sheraton Station Square
Officiant: Reverend Mary Ann Trifaro
DJ: First Class Entertainment
Cake: Bethel Bakery
Hair and Makeup: Philip Pelusi
Nails: La Pomponnee Salon & Spa
Dress Boutique: Koda Bridal
Tuxedo: Men’s Warehouse
Rings: Goldstock Jewelers and Bucci Jewelry
Bridal Jewelry Set: TrinketsbyThandeka
Bridal Hair Piece: Bridalwish Floral Design
Origami Boats: FlyingCraneOrigami
Guest Book Art: KLoRebel Art