After her husband’s death, a woman and her friends drank beer in their wedding dresses for an uplifting ‘Friends’-inspired photoshoot

Katie Swantek (second from left) and friends in their wedding dresses.

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Katie Swantek (second from left) and friends in their wedding dresses.
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Courtesy of Miranda Helmuth Photography

  • Katie Swantek’s husband Brett died in a tragic accident in May.
  • When she came across her wedding dress in storage, she was inspired by an episode of “Friends” to take more photos wearing it.
  • Her wedding photographer took pictures of her and seven friends posing in their wedding dresses, laughing and drinking beer.
  • It was a fun, carefree night amid many hard days since Brett’s loss.
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Brett and Katie Swantek were kayaking over Memorial Day weekend when Brett’s kayak got caught in an undertow. Swept away beneath the rushing water, his body was found 10 days later. He was still wearing his wedding ring.

“He always preached to people, ‘always have a positive attitude, even in the worst of times. Have a positive attitude and it’ll take you far in life,'” Swantek said of her late husband. “We had a lot of fun together.”

When Swantek came across her wedding dress in storage in the months after the accident, she decided to wear it once more.

“I ripped it open as fast as I could, put it on. I somehow got it to zip, I wasn’t expecting that. And honestly I sat there and cried the rest of the day,” she said. “I watched our wedding videos and reminisced on what it was like the last time I wore it.”

Katie and Brett Swantek on their wedding day in 2015.

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Katie and Brett Swantek on their wedding day in 2015.
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Courtesy of Miranda Helmuth Photography

That’s when inspiration struck. Swantek remembered the episode of “Friends” titled “The One With All The Wedding Dresses” where Monica, Phoebe, and Rachel sit around on the couch wearing wedding dresses and drinking beer to cheer Rachel up. She wanted to do something similar, to look back on happy memories in the company of good friends – and perhaps create some new ones.

“That’s exactly what I was doing at the time, sitting on my living room couch, drinking beer, thinking how pathetic I was,” she said. “So I messaged my wedding photographer and said ‘I have a crazy idea, what do you think about it?’ She said right away, ‘Absolutely, let’s do it. Let’s see if we can get some friends to do it with you.'”

Swantek put out the call in a Facebook group chat she named “Brides and Beers.” Seven friends showed up with their wedding dresses. Aside from one that had been professionally cleaned, the gowns still bore stains and dirt from their wedding days. Only two members of the group could still zip their dresses up.

Miranda Helmuth of Miranda Helmuth Photography took the photos in Swantek’s backyard at dusk.

“It was the most gorgeous night,” she said. “We felt like Brett painted the perfect sky for us for pictures.”

They posed in Swantek's backyard.

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They posed in Swantek’s backyard.
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Courtesy of Miranda Helmuth Photography

They swapped stories about their wedding days, laughing and drinking beer while posing for photos.

Inspired by

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Inspired by “Friends,” they drank beer and reminisced about their weddings.
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Courtesy of Miranda Helmuth Photography

“It was never about being sad for a night. It was about getting together and having a good time and getting our minds off of the reason that it even came about,” Swantek said. “We laughed until we cried. We were laughing so hard our ribs hurt the next day.”

True friendship.

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True friendship.
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Courtesy of Miranda Helmuth Photography

Swantek’s rescue dog also made a cameo.

Swantek's dog is on the right.

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Swantek’s dog is on the right.
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Courtesy of Miranda Helmuth Photography

“That night of the photoshoot he was having the time of his life,” Swantek said. “He wanted to be in every picture. That’s so much not like him, he’s usually very shy and stays away from people. I felt like a big part of Brett was with us that night, too.”

Another friend had taken Swantek’s young son out during the photoshoot. When he came back and saw her in her wedding dress, he said “Mommy so pretty.” It reminded her of Brett.