The number of times I’ve attempted to write this would make you laugh.
I firmly and wholeheartedly believe in the life-changing magic of vulnerability, and often ask my couples to open their hearts, tell me their fears, their dreams, and play for my camera, which I’ve come to appreciate as an act of vulnerability in itself. So it feels a little unfair that I’m able to ask about their great love, their lives, and what brought them to where they are at this specific moment in time, yet I don’t often share mine.
It’s a little awkward, to be honest. Many people would tell me it has no place here, in such close proximity to happy love stories. And yet, I often find myself with two complicated and in love people (we’re all complicated, this isn’t a bad thing) who are professing their commitment before me and my camera, and I want to be able to connect with them on my most honest level, which for me is heartbreak. Because at this point in my life my greatest love story didn’t end with us together.
I almost got married once.
This is a key part of my story, a defining moment in who I was and became and want to be, and something I sometimes struggle with relinquishing to the past. It’s not that I’m not over it or him, I really, truly, believe that I am (although, I also believe that those ravine-deep caverns of love remain with us in one way or another throughout life, and this is honestly a beautiful thing) but it’s a mountainous challenge that continues to shape me to this day.
We broke off our engagement a month before the wedding (a logistical and emotional and literal nightmare for everyone involved; I personally couldn’t sleep for months and absolutely do not recommend this method if you can help it) for many reasons, most of which I prefer not to carelessly dispense to the internet. But I can say this: there was so much goodness to our relationship, he was ultimately my home and my favorite human and the one person I looked for at the end of every day, but at our deepest core we just didn’t work. We were a profound mismatch from the very start.
The point of my sharing this fragmented story is an attempt to show you why I’m so drawn to weddings. Friends have asked if it’s hard to photograph these events after I was so close to having my own, and it’s really not. (At least, not anymore.)
I think because of this exact reason, weddings have a kind of magnetic pull for me. Because I know what it’s like to love someone so much that you fear you may never feel anything as strongly as this again, and how that’s both inspiring and strangely depressing. I know how it feels to imagine the person you love and respect and know so deeply as a parent, to see the home you’ll share in ten or twenty years, and envision yourselves watching your children play soccer and learn piano. I also dreamt about future family dinners, anniversaries, vacations, navigating cross-country moves, and fervently encouraging each other as we each pursued new paths and milestones in our careers.
I imaged what we would do when our parents passed on, recalling how he held me after I found out my aunt had died and my tears splattered our bedsheets.
If you think the moral of this whole story is that I no longer believe in love, I think you may have missed the point.
It’s distinctly because of all of this that I believe in love.
I’m fortunate to have finally arrived at a place where my great heartbreak has become a vehicle to wholly appreciate and admire the love of others. One day I’ll find love again, but that isn’t the point of this story either. I know the beauty of having found your partner, and how easily it can disappear, which is all the more reason why I firmly believe in documenting your story as it is, right in this moment.
I respect the long and tiring journey you’ve been on to meet and connect with your person, the late night conversations you’ve shared, the laughter you’ve bonded over, the times you’ve shown your most heartbroken and vulnerable self to them, and most importantly, the commitment you’ve decided to make to each other. No matter how unpredictable life can be, you have one another right now and are making a promise to try your damnedest to have a future together, too.
I think this is quite simply the most beautiful thing you can do.
Heartbreak litters our lives in a myriad of ways and the future holds no promise. Since love can be so fleeting, please, be sure to savor that immense beauty while it lasts. Celebrate this time together, continue to connect over your laughter, stare into their eyes and find that pinpoint of vulnerability that you know only with each other.
Life may be mundane at times, but don’t forget why you’re here. Take your time, swim in this feeling, there’s no need to rush it. Get married. Or don’t! Elope, or throw a rager of a wedding party. Commit to your partner in the way it makes sense to who you both are and want to be. Break the rules when you see fit, communicate often, and always, always, always, take more photos of the happy, the sad, and the most ridiculous times. Because the only guaranteed moment you have is now.