Thursday, January 7, 2016

When life happens to perfectly planned weddings

It’s engagement season again, and all the wedding planning blogs are rolling out their checklists and guides to planning the “perfect wedding.” Pinterest boards, wedding binders, and inspiration are plentiful on the internet, waiting to be plucked out of the digital soup by excited brides and grooms. 

I’m here to remind you of a very important universal truth:
There is no such thing as perfect.

Shit happens, as the saying goes, and while many couples prepare for the standard troubles (rain, a troublesome relative, smearing mascara) many forget to plan to accept their big day in whatever form it manifests itself.

Lisa and Donna showed up on the day of their Provincetown elopement beaming from a sleek, blue convertible Porsche. Lisa stepped out in a sleek suit with pride all over her face as she opened the passenger door for her betrothed. Donna grinned from behind her netted veil, her gown swelling with the breeze as she came to greet us. It was a perfect day in Provincetown. 

Lisa held two distinctly-colored boxes: Tiffany blue with a white ribbon. The couple told us they hadn’t opened either box since they got them- vowing only to do so when they were about to exchange them. The ceremony was to take place on a rock jetty.

James and I set to our task, stepping carefully to avoid wedging a foot between the rocks and launching our gear into the ocean. We all joked about catching the cameras first, as we always do when we are around water.

We never expected it to be one of those Tiffany rings that would fall into the water.

I still remember the sound of Donna’s diamond-encrusted band pinging off the rocks, once, twice, and then nothing. No one moved for a solid thirty seconds.

“Was that the ring?” someone asked. The officiant went pale, the empty box in her hand.

What followed those two awful pings was nearly forty minutes of searching. Donna was laid out on her stomach in her white gown, pulling out stones from the crevice the ring fell into. James and I used our cameras, lowering them into the surrounding holes to snap flash photos in hopes of seeing a glint of precious metal. Soon, strangers began to approach and offer their assistance, the most heroic of which who was lowered into the crevice by his ankles.

Instagram post of the year right here.

Donna and Lisa held each other, their faces spoke volumes. They were upset, they were touched by the assistance, but most importantly they were focused on each other. I believe it was Donna that said “let’s just get married.”

Using her engagement ring in place of the lost wedding band, Donna and Lisa spoke their vows to a disheveled, smiling audience- their “just us” elopement having turned into a small gathering. The volunteers whooped and clapped when the kiss was exchanged and I felt tears in my eyes. Not uncommon for me, I’m a big baby at weddings, but this time it wasn’t a psychosomatic reaction to emotion. What I had just witnessed was beautiful. 

Donna and Lisa could have easily, and justifiably, lost it on the officiant (who scarcely even apologized, blaming the packaging for her ring fumble), they could have cried, they could have called it all off to pursue a more perfect day.
But they didn’t. They allowed their wedding day to be what it was- a test of their strength together, a display of the kindness of strangers, and a perfectly imperfect story. It’s been nearly three years since that day and I still think of it now and then, because it was the greatest display of acceptance I’ve ever seen in nearly seven years of photographing weddings.

Fortunately, the couple were smart enough to insure their investment and I’m sure they replaced Donna’s band soon after. The moral of the story here is that no matter how much you plan and hope for a “perfect” day, life will happen. 

We truly are the authors of our story, and so long as your definition of a perfect wedding is “the wedding that marries us,” you will have it.