I don’t think it’s a secret that I limit the number of weddings I photograph each year. While they’re hard on my body and I generally can’t walk the next day because my body is so sore from non-stop squats and stretches while carrying 20-30 pounds of gear on my shoulders, that’s not the main reason. Between tabloids in the checkout at the grocery store and reality TV shows, marriage is treated like a commodity. Some of the weddings now become more about appearances and impressing others with the size of the guest list and the festivities of the day rather than celebrating the start of a marriage.
When I accept a wedding couple, I want to know I’m going to be truly excited to see them exchange vows. To count down the days to their wedding and then love every minute of the dozens of hours to follow on my computer as I cull and edit images to make sure everything is perfect before I return their wedding day. To celebrate with them in the excitement of the day. To wipe away tears as I hear them speak beautiful words of commitment and love to each other. I want to be absolutely invested in my people and dedicated to creating images they’ll love for the rest of their lives as they relive their wedding day. I think they deserve that commitment from me. Because what kind of images would I create and deliver if I treated this like just a job or another paycheck? I’m pretty sure they’d be ok, but I also know I wouldn’t be trying my hardest to document what the day felt like or creating images I would love if it was my own wedding day.
I already had one wedding booked in September when Renee messaged me to ask about me photographing her wedding the very next weekend. If it had been anyone else, the answer would have been an almost certain no.
But I’ve known Renee since fourth grade. We played at each others’ houses growing up. Her voice and laugher is forever burned into my brain as one of my favorites. I’m even facebook friends with her Mom. Then there’s Rob, her quietly thoughtful introvert and love of her life. Who works for Delta. I have many Delta connections, between family, friends, and past/current clients. So I’ll almost always ask the question, “Do you know _________?” on the off-chance they’ve crossed paths. Rob was prepared to say no because he hears that question a lot. And well, there are over eighty four thousand people employed by Delta, so the odds aren’t that great. But when I asked if he knew Andy, he paused and laughed. Rob said he knew Andy well and wanted to know how I knew Andy. I only photographed the start of Andy’s marriage to Shanna a year ago. It’s a small world. And when a friend I’ve known for over half my life asks me to photograph her wedding in front of the best waterfall in Georgia after secretly stalking my photography for years, how could I ever say no? I couldn’t say no even if I photographed another wedding the day before because there was never a chance I would miss this day when Renee married her best friend.
Early in the morning, I drove out to Minnehaha Falls to see what it looked like in person and I was amazed. It was beautiful and tucked away from civilization + cell phone signals. There was no one there. I headed to the cabin to photograph Renee + Rob getting ready before riding with them to the falls. They had been there multiple times over the past year and never saw more than a couple people. When we arrived, there were cars galore filling the parking area and dirt road. After a longer walk and hike to the falls, we found it over-run with families and little kids wading in the water. And over a dozen people repelling down the waterfall from the top.
It. Was. Chaos.
So we waited and slowly the families with littles cleared out. Renee’s cousin was their officiant, making the ceremony that much more special and intimate. While paying attention to facial expressions and connection when clicking the shutter to make each image, I was also well aware of people in the background and how I could block them based on where I stood, squatted, and moved throughout their ceremony. While it’s fun to have an image like the one above showing all that chaos and the reality of their wedding location, it’s also nice to have the focus on my couple. Without chaos. Or the need for photoshop sorcery to remove people from backgrounds. After their ceremony, we climbed higher on the falls and made more portraits of them together before hiking back to the car where they signed the marriage license. And filled the car with laughter and singing for the ride back to the cabin.
Renee + Rob. You two are the perfect compliment to each other. You balance each other out impeccably.
Thank you for trusting me to document your wedding day together. It was an honor to be there for and with you.