When I first started doing wedding photography I noticed an interesting trend. By the end of each wedding, I was getting farewell hugs from the couple. Now I know hugging isn’t all that unusual. My husband’s family hugs with pretty much every greeting and parting. But I’d expect that from family. I don’t necessarily expect it from people I’ve known only a few precious hours.
At first I told myself it was simply our northland manners and friendliness, after all, around here it’s a good chance you all have similar roots and childhood experiences. Then, as the weddings continued on, I realized that no, this wasn’t normal. Couples weren’t embracing caterers, videographers and assorted other vendors with any regularity, yet I always got sent out the door with a big hug. On occasion I even found myself being chased down by a bride or groom that missed my exit and made a point of catching me to say goodbye.
When I finally sat down to think about it, I realized that it made sense, this connection. I’m there with them from beginning to end on one of the biggest days of their life. I meet them months before the wedding, usually one of the first vendors approached by a couple. Then there are engagement pictures, where I listen to all their planning woes and joys, reassure them that everything will be perfect and promise to save them from annoying bridesmaids and in-laws if I see them getting stressed on the big day.
Then the wedding comes. Many times I see the couple before anyone but the wedding party. I’m there when the bride is getting pummeled with questions, panicking because her dress doesn’t fit right and giving the groom tips on a great first kiss (for the pictures of course). I’m there the first time the couple sees each other, I record the tears, the kisses, the teasing. I listen to the best man practice his speech, I catch pictures of the flower girl spinning in her gown, I give the bride one of her first smiles as she enters the church on her dad’s arm to walk down the aisle.
So of course I’m their friend. If I wasn’t, how hollow it all would feel. The couples need to feel utterly comfortable with me and I can tell by the hugs that they do. I think that’s the best part of what I do-making those friendships. They last too. Several of the couples I have done weddings for return year after year with their children for baby and family photos. I love that part. When I get a message from a past bride announcing her pregnancy and asking me when she should schedule maternity photos I’m as excited as any friend would because now I get to capture a whole new chapter in their life and why wouldn’t I be? I’m eager to meet those little wonders and pass on the hugs their parents gave me.