For nearly a month I've worried about how to write this blog post, but I knew I really wanted it written. Why? Because it is probably the most powerful story I have come across in my years as a wedding photographer and it's the one time I've had to admit, I just can't save the day.
Now I know, we all have a wedding story, something that we will always remember when someone mention our wedding day. Honestly, I could tell you something that went wrong about every single wedding I've photographed but for me, I don't want the bride to have that story. I want hers to be only happy memories. For instance, at one of my first the bride's ACL tore just days before the wedding. The couple was distraught over what to do but I had a solution; I brought a cute chair and had her sit through most of the pictures. (She also used it during the ceremony). Another time two of the groomsmen didn't show until mere minutes before the ceremony so I took the decidedly annoyed bride and groom out to the park to do some solo pictures while we waited (They became their favorites pictures). Last week it was a case of rain, lots of rain, ruining any outdoors shooting, of which we had planned a lot. We improvised and went with funny pictures to cheer everyone up on the church foyer, some of the most hilarious I've ever shot. In short, every wedding has something that stands out. However, one I photographed in August will forever eclipse them all and it's the one wedding problem I didn't have a solution for.
The couple called me in May or June to book an August wedding. That is very short notice in our industry but I happened to be free and took the consultation. When I met with them I quickly found out the hurry. The bride's mother was fighting pancreatic cancer. She wanted to get married while her mother was strong enough and time was growing valuable.
Normally, I go into every wedding thinking, "I'm going to slam dunk this day- there are no mistakes- everything MUST be perfect", after all, there are no reshoots on weddings. I've never been very nervous, even at my first, even if the bride was a little 'anxious'. This wedding however, had me on pins and needles, not to mention the edge of tears, for days. I don't even know how many times my eyes grew misty looking through the camera at the bride and her mother so I couldn't even fathom how strong those two women had to be that day.
It drove me to new levels. Soon I found myself thinking, "If I were this bride, what pictures would really matter to me?" I started snapping random pictures of her mom chatting with people, hugging visitors, etc. During the ceremony I broke the 'Stay in the back of the church, be quiet and be silent' protocol and snuck into the pew behind her mom, snapping a picture of her looking on at the bride and groom. Afterwards, when the bride's father was thanking everyone for coming and for their prayers over the last year, I made sure to get a picture of him standing proudly behind his wife, who had found strength surprising all of us to carry on through the day's festivities.
But at the end of the day that's all I could do. Take pictures. After losing two uncles to Cancer in the last two years and now watching my Father in Law fighting it himself, I wanted nothing more than to be able to erase the Cancer from her mom the way I can delete a bad photo, but I can't. It drives me crazy that I don't have a solution for this problem.