When the wedding photographer attends a wedding.

Its like a theater on opening night. Out in the audience, there is a buzz of hushed excitement, a few shrieks from uncooperative children, and a general anticipation; a collectively bated breath. When the house lights go down, all sounds fade off until one final giggle echoes across the room… and then silence.  In the darkness, everyone calmly waits to watch the play unfold, the serene moment unbroken except for gentle whispers.

Behind the curtain, though? Its a completely different scene. Panic. Adrenaline. Scurrying. Scampering. Actors finding their places. Directors shrieking (in whispers, of course) last minute orders. A prop almost falls crashing to the floor, but is caught at the last minute. A technical glitch almost wreaks havoc.  When the curtain finally rises, most crises have been avoided…but everyone backstage knows how close the entire production was to disaster.

While I sat in the comfortable pew, waiting for Nichole and Lee’s wedding to start, I marveled at the difference. Over the past two years, the only weddings I have attended have been ones where I was watching the backstage drama, helping with last minute adjustments, taking photos of all the action, and seeing everything from start to finish. To sit calmly with the rest of the guests – without a camera in hand – I almost didn’t know what to do with myself.

Instead of adjusting camera settings, I sat back and watched the emotion of the moment.  Usually, I have to wait until I’m culling through all my day’s images before I get to really see the emotion and experience the happiness and wipe away the tears.  Sitting in the pew, I cried when everyone else did. No delayed reaction here.

Instead of running between vantage points and covertly directing my second shooter, I sat in one location and simply enjoyed seeing Nichole grin at her guests and smile at her man and cling to her father.   Instead of helping bridesmaids with bobby pins and safety pins, I waited with everyone else for them to walk down the aisle. Instead of laughing at the flower girl’s antics all morning while she hung out with the big girls and before she was put into her frilly dress, I giggled with everyone else as her cuteness appeared with the flower petals.

Instead of eyeing the lighting and crawling around for angles and watching the scene play out for my camera, I sat in that church pew and pondered the miracle of marriage (as so humorously blogged by a facebook friend) and marveled at the prayer involved in making it from “Hi to ‘I Do’” and generally just enjoyed the beauty of a wedding day and all the love rolled into the moments where two people begin their life together.  [Insert sappy sigh.]

Sitting in the pew enjoying a wedding reminded me just why I do what I do.

I photograph weddings for the grandchildren…keeping the shutter clicking so that the grandkids know what it looked like when Grandma and Grandpa got married.

I photograph weddings for the parents — the proud, proud parents who can’t believe their kids are old enough to be marching out on their own.

I photograph weddings for the distant friends who would give almost anything to be able to skip the work meeting and make it across the country for the wedding, but who kinda need to keep their job, so have to miss the celebration.

I photograph weddings for the bride and groom, so that when the dust settles and their enjoying life as newlyweds, they can look back over the picture and remember all the details of the day that they missed while they looked into each others eyes.

That’s why I photograph weddings.

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