This year’s New Year’s Eve celebration marked the end of my 5th season as a wedding photographer. That’s five years spent working with some of the most wonderful, welcoming, and inspiring couples I’ve ever met. Five years of fawning over beautiful bouquets, stunning dresses, and meticulously planned out details. Five years capturing belly laughs, tear-filled eyes, and meaningful hugs. Five years squealing with brides, joking with grooms, and dancing in rooms filled with smiling strangers. Five years of learning, stumbling, and growing. Five years of missed football games, family gatherings, and nights out with friends. Five years of long Saturdays, late night editing, and 5-minute meals. The last five years have been more than I ever could have imagined- more wonderful, more challenging, more exciting, and more exhausting than I ever would have dreamed. And after five years, I still love this crazy job. But I find myself loving it for different reasons than I did in the beginning.
I shot my first wedding for Lauren Wright Photography in the spring of 2007, and I was immediately hooked. I spent hours upon hours every day researching, reading, and soaking up all of the information that I could about photography and the wedding industry. I found photographers whose work I loved, and I dreamed of the day that I would be as confident, popular, and down right good as they were. I agonized over every blurry, underexposed or poorly posed shot that I took. I celebrated the “one hit wonders” and “happy accident” photos that filled my portfolio. For a few years, I felt like all I did was eat, sleep, and breath weddings.
And then, I fell in love with my best friend. We dated for three years, he proposed on my parents’ front porch, and six months later we got married. Becoming a wife lead me to a startling realization: Marriage is hard even when you’re right for each other. Learning to behave lovingly toward another person every minute of every day is an exhausting endeavor that requires all of your energy. Sometimes, living side by side with my husband is like standing naked in front of a mirror – every flaw, every imperfection, every bit of ugliness that I can hide from the rest of the world is exposed, and the simple act of learning to love him reveals to me how far I have left to grow. In the midst of learning how to share my life with my love, both of my parents were diagnosed with cancer. Twice in the last year I’ve found myself camped out in the ICU waiting room, listening to the rhythmic sounds of the respirator and other life support machines working to keep my dad alive, and praying that I will get to have another conversation with him.
And in these moments when life is so hard and so dark that I wonder when the light will break through again – I don’t dwell on a single object from my wedding day. There is not a bouquet, a table setting, or slice of cake that crosses my mind. You know what I cling to in those moments? The image of my dad watching his little girl being transformed into a bride.
I cling to the memory of dancing with him for the first time.
I find joy thinking about him dancing with my mom, his beloved bride of over 30 years, whom he will unapologetically describe as the best person he has ever known.
And I laugh out loud thinking about him, handsome in his three piece suit and striped socks, raising his glass in a toast to living fully.
When I feel too tired, too inadequate, or just too selfish to love my husband, I look back and remember how much joy I felt when we promised to love, serve and celebrate each other.
I remember how natural it felt to fall into his arms and let him sweep me across the dance floor.
I remember how much he adores me, how hard he works to provide for me, and how fully committed he is to making my dreams become my reality.
These are more than images. They are more than memories. They are more than moments frozen in time. They are a refuge. These pictures remind me how much love is being poured into my life every day, and that realization gives me the strength to keep loving, keep fighting, keep growing, and keep pressing on.
This is why I love my job. Not because weddings are filled with beautiful details or because photographing them makes me feel artistic. I love my job because I am inspired by your courageous, passionate, determined choice to love one another as fully as you are able. I am encouraged by the joy that you express over sharing your lives together. I find purpose in providing you with a collection of images that will one day give you strength when life and love are difficult.
I know that you will spend months pouring over magazines, blogs and pinterest boards searching for the right color scheme, the best attire, and the exact flower arrangements to reflect your personalities and to make your wedding day perfect. I know how hard you’ve worked to make this day exactly how you want it, so I will photograph every detail that you’ve worked so hard to bring together. But please, do yourself a favor, and be present on your wedding day. Don’t stress over the details. Hug your mom a little tighter. Squeeze your daddy’s hand when he reaches for you. Laugh with your friends. Dance with your nieces and nephews. Look lovingly into the eyes of the person you’ve chosen to share the rest of this crazy, wonderful life with, and soak it all in. Be present and take every opportunity to make memories with the people that you love the most. And let me be there to capture it.
(PS. All photos from my wedding were taken by the ever-fabulous Anne Almasy)