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Grandparents celebrate 63 years of marriage with heartwarming photo shoot

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Kayleigh Dray
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When critically-acclaimed author Louis de Bernieres described the concept of love in his now infamous book, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, he made it clear that love, real love, should last a lifetime.

“Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision,” he wrote.

“You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part... [because] those that truly love have roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and not two.”

Shalyn Nelson’s grandparents, who recently reached their 63rd wedding anniversary, are the embodiment of Bernieres’ dreams of life-long love.

And so, to help them celebrate their special day, Shalyn – a professional photographer based in Texas - decided to grant them the gift of a photoshoot, which would help Wanda and Joe to relive the magic they felt on their wedding day all those years ago.

Love The Nelsons

“This right here is my heart."

The couple first met when Joe, after spotting Wanda walking along the street, pulled over and asked her for a date.

She quickly said yes, and it wasn’t long before, on 28 December 1950, Joe got down on one knee and asked her to marry him. After a two-year engagement, they tied the knot – and now, over half a century later, they are just as happy together as they ever were.

Speaking to Buzzfeed, Shalyn said: “I knew I wanted to create something special, and celebrate what true love was to me. And that for me, was my grandparents.”

Love The Nelsons

"I hope we never forget to laugh. And flirt. And love without abandon."

Shalyn added that the photos make up part of her project, Love, The Nelsons, which celebrates old love.
 
She said firmly: “This right here is my heart. This right here is the most important thing I have ever been a part of and put together.”

To ensure that the significance of the shoot was realised, Shalyn called in her friends for help. Together they worked to give Wanda a makeover, gifting her with a new gown, professional makeup, and custom floral arrangements.

They also styled Wanda’s hair beautifully for the two-hour photoshoot, which took place on the Texan ranch that she and Joe have lived and worked on for their entire lives.

Love The Nelsons

"I love you as much today as the day I married you"

Describing it an emotional day, Shalyn explained to ABC News that she was often left overwhelmed as she watched  her grandparents giggling and cuddling one another.

"It was so awesome seeing them so excited and flirting. They just looked so in love.

“My grandfather said, 'Shalyn, this is the most action I've gotten in a long time.' I said, 'You're welcome, Papa. That's what granddaughters are for.'"

The photographer also asked her grandparents to write love letters to one another, which she had them read aloud during the shoot.

"Dearest Wanda,” read Joe. “It’s been a long time since I have written you a letter. I think it was when I was working in Canada that I wrote you last.

“Anyway, I still love you just as much, probably more… I love you as much today as the day I married you. And just think, the license only cost $2.00. The best bargain I ever made.”

Love The Nelsons

"They taught me that marriage is forever."

Joe’s letter, in particular, struck a chord with Shalyn, who has shared it in full on her Instagram page, along with a number of photographs from the shoot.

She has added that she hopes her grandparents will serve as a source of hope and inspiration to other couples.

The photographer, who is expecting her first child with her husband of seven years, told ABC News: "They taught me that marriage is forever.

“No marriage is perfect...they'll be the first ones to tell you that, but they just never gave up on each other. They're just the best people I know and they just set a really good example for me and my family."

You can visit Shalyn Nelson’s Instagram page to see more photographs form the shoot, as well as read more about her Love, The Nelsons project.

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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