Jackie and Christopher Sweeney got married in Riviera Maya, Mexico, on April 12, 2022.
Jackie Sweeney's brother, Gabe Johnston, couldn't attend the destination wedding.
Sweeney and Johnston did a private first look and first dance so he could see her dress.
Jackie and Christopher Sweeney met through mutual friends.
"Our two best friends have been together for 11 years," Jackie Sweeney, 27, told Insider of herself and her husband, 28.
In 2017, sparks flew between the pair, and they decided to start a romance of their own.
The couple is based in Niagara-Wheatfield, New York, where Jackie is a teacher at Makowski Early Childhood Center and Christopher is the founder of ProFuel Nutrition.
The couple got engaged in August 2020.
They planned a destination wedding in Riviera Maya, Mexico, for April 12, 2022.
Jackie Sweeney told Insider she had been dreaming of a destination wedding on the beach for years.
The wedding was everything the Sweeneys wanted — aside from one thing.
Sweeney had always planned for her brother, Gabe Johnston, to play a big role in her wedding.
Sweeney and Johnston, 18, have been close since Johnston was born.
As Sweeney told Insider, Johnston has Down syndrome and a heart defect, which he has had six surgeries for in his life.
"He's basically a miracle," Sweeney said of her brother. "He is just super loving. I always say he's my favorite person."
Johnston was thrilled when his sister got engaged.
"He gets very excited for everyone around him," she said. "He's very uplifting, so when hears anything good is going on in my life, he is over the moon excited."
Sweeney planned to do a first look and first dance with Johnston at her wedding.
A few weeks before the event, Sweeney and her family realized Johnston wouldn't be able to attend the wedding.
Because the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing, there was a risk Johnston could contract the virus when traveling to the wedding.
As the event got closer, the risk of something happening to Johnston when he was far away from his doctors felt too great, so he didn't attend the wedding.
But Sweeney didn't want to miss out on experiencing any wedding joy with her brother.
The siblings decided to do a first look closer to home after the wedding.
Sweeney reached out to Caitlin Reilley, a New York-based photographer she had worked with in the past, to do the first look shoot, as well as take some photos of her and her husband.
The Sweeneys, Johnston, and Reilley went to Woodlawn Beach in Buffalo, New York, to take photos.
Sweeney got dressed up in her wedding gown for the occasion.
She got her wedding dress from Blue by Enzoani dry-cleaned and had her hair and makeup done.
"It was a whole ordeal, but it was so worth it," she said.
Johnston also wore wedding clothes, which Sweeney said he was excited to show her.
Johnston had "the biggest smile in the world" when he saw his sister, according to Sweeney.
"He just kept saying, 'Wow, Jackie,' and telling me I looked pretty and asking me how he looked," she told Insider of the moment Johnston saw her.
Sweeney said she was emotional when she saw her brother.
"I just wanna cry," she said of how she feels thinking about the first look. "It was a moment I've always wanted."
"I just felt so happy. That missing piece of my wedding was complete," she added.
After the first look, Sweeney and Johnston shared a first dance on the beach.
The pair danced to "Better Together" by Jack Johnson, who also sings "Upside Down," which was featured in the "Curious George" movie.
Sweeney said her brother loves "Curious George," so the song choice felt right.
Sweeney said she was "blown away" by the pictures.
"I was just bawling my eyes out for hours and all the next day," she said of her reaction to the photos.
"Every time I look at them, I still tear up," she added.
The pictures also ended up going viral on Instagram.
Reilley posted a Reel of photos from the shoot on Instagram, and it has 1.2 million views to date.
"It was insane. I'm still so surprised by it," Sweeney said. "We weren't expecting that."
"I'm not someone with a ton of followers or anything," she added. "We just did it for me and him. So it was shocking when all of that happened."
"Their relationship is so special, and they are so lucky to have one another," Reilley told Insider of Sweeney and Johnston.
"I truly feel so blessed to have been a part of this special moment that they will remember forever," Reilley told Insider.
"From the moment I met Gabe, he radiated happiness and a zest for life that I have never seen before. His positivity inspired me not only that day, but every day since," she added.
Most of all, Sweeney is just grateful she got to experience a first look with her brother.
She said getting to "have that moment where I'm the bride and I have my little brother with me" was the best part of the whole experience.
You can see more of Reilley's work on Instagram.
Read the original article on Insider