Joe Flacco (Lloyd Fox, Sun photo )
Within a couple of hours of picking up his first ring, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was back on a football field, a champagne bottle in his right hand and his bride and his groomsmen crouched down in front of him like hulking offensive linemen. Flacco barked out commands to his tuxedo-clad teammates as he waited for his new wife to toss him the bouquet from underneath her lacy white dress.
The steel bleachers at Audubon High School were empty, save for a few friends and family members. But millions might as well have been watching and waiting for the bouquet — which was Ravens purple, of course — to soar through the air into the quarterback's huge hands.
Finally, there was a snap. Jason Prezant, the wedding photographer, had his shot.
It was one of hundreds that Prezant would take on June 25, the day Flacco married his high school sweetheart, Dana Grady, in New Jersey. Prezant documented their first day as a married couple as a trolley carried them from a Catholic wedding at Holy Savior Church in Westmont to the rowdy reception in downtown Philadelphia. Along the way, the wedding party stopped at an empty movie theater, the high school field where Flacco's ascension to football stardom began, and the middle of a gridlocked intersection on Broad Street — all so Prezant could take some candid, quirky, unforgettable photos that would later become one of most buzzed-about things on the web.
"I think that's awesome, and more people in the public eye should do that and let people see inside of their lives," said Prezant, 26, who is based out of Wilmington, Del. "People like these images because Joe Flacco is in them and because they're Ravens fans. But I think the photos are pretty cool on their own. Even if it wasn't Joe Flacco in them, people would still enjoy the photos, and that's because Joe and Dana gave me time during their wedding day to make those images."
Capturing an Internet sensation was a daylong process, starting with
Prezant arriving at the Grady household in the late morning to photograph Dana and her bridesmaids as they got ready for the big day. That he was there was a pretty unlikely story in itself.
In 2004, as a psychology student at the University of Delaware with a passion for photography, he started to lose interest in college photo courses he thought were too impractical. But a year later, he stumbled upon a classified ad looking for wedding photographer. And several months after graduating in 2007, Prezant started his own business.
This spring, he received a text message from a former client who wanted to know if he was free to shoot her cousin's wedding.
"It wasn't until a little later that I found out she was marrying Joe," Prezant said in August. "My first thought was, 'I'm going to look tiny next to him.' I'm 5'8" — he's like 6'6" and 220 pounds or something like that. … Obviously, it was a little bit exciting, but nothing really changed."
The soon-to-be wife of a budding star in the NFL, Dana was calm and collected as she prepared the morning of one of the biggest days of her life. "She was all smiles," said Katy Timney, Prezant's assistant. Dana did tear up with her maid of honor, though, after putting on her wedding gown.
Meanwhile, Prezant's second photographer, Jeff Mosier, was across town at the Flacco residence as Joe, his four brothers and the rest of his groomsmen got their tuxes on and their hair gelled up for the 2 p.m. ceremony.
"You could just tell how really excited they were for Joe," said Mosier, who is from Silver Spring and is now based in New York. "It was really special to document that so they'll be able to look back 25 years from now and see how much fun they had that day."
When the last lavender bow tie was tightened and the final dab of mascara was applied, the bridal party hopped into the trolley, arriving at Holy Savior Church shortly before the ceremony. Inside the cozy old church where other Flacco family members have wed, Joe watched from behind a curtain as friends and family filled the pews.
"It was really cool because you're seeing just Joe," said Mosier, who has worked with Prezant at weddings on a few occasions. "It wasn't the Joe that everyone knows, the football player. There wasn't anything unique to it that made it different from, say, John and Jane getting married."
Added Rebecca Richman, their Philadelphia-based wedding planner: "They're your average bride and groom. They had all of the same hopes and dreams and wishes for their wedding like everybody else. While they were a high-profile client, it was a pretty typical planning process."
The pictures they took after the wedding, though, stood out from those of other newlyweds.