Every human being is unique. We each have our own hopes, dreams, beliefs, desires, bodies, and personalities. Yet we are bound to each other by a complex system of kinship, friendship, business relationships, laws, currency, language, nationality, and world citizenship. Without each other, without the mind-boggling network of economics, infrastructure, legal codes, and communications upon which our society is built, the modern world would descend into chaos. We live, thrive, suffer, and strive within the most intricate interpersonal web the world has ever known. But at the heart of all of this, the most ancient and primal human bond still prevails: Family. Without family -- be it biological, adopted, or fostered -- few of us would survive the long and difficult journey from birth to adulthood. And even beyond adulthood, the bonds of family continue to give us purpose, emotional support, personal satisfaction, and joy throughout our lives. And at the heart of family, is the sanctified union of two people that we call marriage.
Unlike the miracle of birth and the inevitability of death, marriage is something that we choose. It is perhaps the greatest conscious decision about our lives that we will ever make. To wed ourselves to another, to forge a union that we pledge to uphold for better for worse, in sickness and in health, is a life-changing event. And this is why, from time immemorial, the marriage of one person to another has always been ritualized, canonized, and celebrated with the ancient ceremony that we call "wedding".
Look around the world: weddings employ a multitude of rituals, from tying hands together. to smashing glass. to locking a couple in a room, to blood-tying, to a simple exchange of vows sealed with a kiss in front of family, friends, and officiant. We as a culture have our own preferred rites, but what matters is not the specific way in which a wedding proceeds. What matters is that we mark this decision, this commitment, this life-changing act, with ceremony.
In present-day America, couples have the freedom to express their individuality and celebrate their love and their union however they choose. As long as the marriage certificate is signed and notarized by an officiant in front of witnesses, you can do just about anything you want at your wedding, provided you don't break any laws. But there are time-honored traditions: Something Old, Something New. Something Borrowed, Something Blue. The men and women getting dressed in different rooms or houses. Mom putting on the veil. Mom crying. Dad seeing the bride for the first time in her wedding gown. Dad crying. The gathering. The processional. The readings. The vows. The pronouncement. The kiss. The clapping and tears of joy. The reception. The first dance. Prayers. Toasts. Feasting. Dancing. Cutting the cake. The bouquet toss. The garter toss. More dancing, drinking, feasting. The grand exit, maybe sparklers, flower petals, glitter...
Not every wedding includes all of these rituals. Some include more. Some less. But I believe it is important to see them as rituals, each imbued with meaning and symbolism. Just because so many other married couples follow the same traditions does not diminish the meaning that they carry when they happen at your wedding. I've gotten choked up many times at a first dance, a reading of vows, a toast -- things I've photographed hundreds of times, acts being performed by total strangers that bring tears to my eyes and make my heart skip a beat. And I've laughed my ass off at more than one cake-cutting ceremony.
As a photographer, I consider my role an intrinsic part of the ritual. Myself and my assistant and the work we do at your wedding -- it's not merely about capturing images to be preserved for the future. We are also part of the proceedings. If we are doing our job right, we are bringing out the best in you. We are putting you on a stage where you shine. The click of the shutter and the pop of the flash add drama and import to the proceedings; and our interaction with you, your betrothed, and your entire wedding party should elevate the drama of your day, while at the same time putting you all at ease. This is an important day, perhaps the most important day of your life, and we are your press corps, your Annie Leibowitz, your personal documentarians. Our job is to make you feel the magic of the day and to capture that magic in still imagery that you will use for years to come to recall that day.
You have the opportunity to plan and design and craft your own ideal wedding. I would encourage you to put your heart into it, put your creativity into it, put your "you" into it. Make it something special. Don't get too bogged down in the details, but don't ignore them either. Visualize. Stage your own theater production, your own cinematic masterpiece. And make it mean what your marriage means to you. Make it reflect the small things upon which you have built your relationship. Make its grand theme an expression of what you feel for each other, and of what the union of your two lives, your two families, your two worlds, is about to create.
These are just a few thoughts that I’d like to share with you, in hopes it might help you reflect a little, might help you in the midst of all the craziness of planning your wedding, not to fret too much all the small choices you have to make -- like what kind of silver to rent, whether to go plated or buffet-style, what color ties the groomsmen should wear, etc -- as important as these decisions are -- and think about what you want to experience at your wedding. What you want to express. What you want to give. Who you want to be and become as a couple. It's a big door you're walking through. Walk tall, step proud, dance through it if you like. And leave it to me to capture it all, because chances are it will all be a blur when it's happening..