I am a wedding photographer.
Brides constantly surround me. I appreciate the pressure of planning a wedding with a full year timetable and the pressure of pulling together a wedding with just a few months (weeks! days!) to spare. And, I understand the stresses of finding the perfect dress, selecting the ideal venue, and creating a flawless atmosphere. In the process, I’ve witnessed tears shed over an askew flower arrangement, frustration over the last ten pounds that failed to disappear, and a few specks of dust on the gleaming white symbol of matrimony itself.
Whether it is the result of social pressures or the need to make real the imagination of our childhood fantasy, the material– and not the emotional– aspect of a wedding has increasingly taken center stage. In fact, a quick flip through any popular bridal magazine will confirm that most modern weddings focus on the “things,” rather than the “people.”
My photographer status should prod me to encourage you to pay attention to the tiny details, right? What my rivals don’t know is that I am a military spouse, and that very title has given me a unique perspective on marriage.
When it was my turn, the person kneeling across the altar from me on my wedding day was more than just my soon to be husband. He was the boy for whom I volunteered to wait, spend countless months without and give up a few dreams.
I placed a great deal of importance on the aspects of our wedding that I knew would enable me to effectively tell our story. I was aware the day itself would be short lived, and that in two weeks my new husband would be leaving for overseas training.
That’s why I want to share with you, both based on my experience as a military spouse and the years I’ve worked as a professional photographer, 5 tips on how to take charge of your wedding memories and reclaim the focus on the emotional and the lasting.
1. Have a Wedding Book
My grandmother gifted me a beautiful handmade wedding book filled with messages from the people we loved most. We received advice, compliments, hopes for success, tender illustrations of kindness, and expressions of support. Years later, I am able to easily recall those who participated and who loved and cared for me enough to acknowledge their presence with written words.
2. Keep a Journal or Blog
The night before I married my husband, I wrote down exactly how I was feeling, reasons I loved him, hopes I had for our future and the excitement I had to finally be his forever. I have reread that passage in my journal countless times over the years. In it, I find great comfort when he’s gone a on a mission, when I need a little motivation to preserve, or even when I get angry with him. The written expressions of how I felt that day has given me strength in times of weakness and provided a solid reminder of the foundation of our love.
3. Hire a Videographer
My biggest regret is not having a wedding video. I don’t really have a great excuse for why I didn’t have a video; it was simply an overlooked gesture. In hindsight I wish I had hired someone to capture a motion version of things like: my first dance, cutting the cake, and us making our getaway. Much like photos, a video can serve as memory refresher.
4. Take Time to Breathe
For three hours, our entire wedding party stood in a formal line and shook hands with every single person that came to our reception. If I could go back I would ditch that receiving line for ten minutes, grab my husband and disappear to a corner to breathe everything in. It all goes by so fast, and I feel like I never really took time to appreciate everything from afar. IT IS YOUR WEDDING DAY. You are allowed to set the schedule and take a few minutes to appreciate the simple things.
5. Hire a Photographer!
Aside from my actual memories, I treasure most the pictures I have from my wedding day. I cannot express enough the importance of capturing quality photos to help you preserve on of the most important days of your life. Photos capture a rawness that the mind often forgets over time. Photos will help you tell your real life love story to the world, and in turn will help not only them understand and interpret your love for one another, but will also keep those sacred moments unfiltered and untarnished.
What matters most on your wedding day are not the ‘things’ but the bond you form with your spouse. The centerpieces, the food, and all the temporal effects might be pretty to look at, but are overall insignificant to the bigger picture. This is your opportunity to write on of the most treasured chapters in your most important novel: make it special and make it last.