Messy Family Relationships and weddings

The universal truth that you can choose your friends but not your family, is especially poignant when it comes to messy family relationships and weddings.  More than one of my couples in the past has dreaded it, and I’ve been making it a point to find out beforehand if there’s any dynamics I need to be aware of. It’s hard for me too. My family doesn’t have a ton of drama, but what drama does exist is rather stressful. So I hear you. I get that family formal pictures, choosing who’s going to walk you down the aisle, or whether or not to have a dance with your mom or dad can become a ride on the struggle bus.  How do you choose and make everyone happy?  A lot of times you can’t. And you default to the best option among a lot of crappy choices and you decide to make the best of it. If that’s you, these words and my imperfect thoughts are for you. 

messy family relationships and weddings

There’s no easy answer for how to navigate these situations. They frankly suck. I hurt along with the couples who share hard things with me. One thing I do to ease the tension is that when it comes time for different people with hard pasts to be in a picture together, I simply just ask them to gather around the couple, so that people can stand where they’re comfortable. I avoid excessive posing because I want to keep the focus in the moment, on the newlyweds. Another thing that has helped in the past is to gently ask if there’s any stress I need to be aware of, and reiterate that families need to be themselves on the day, and that I will do whatever I need to to ensure everyone comfort as I move things along.

messy family relationships and weddings

One thing that I can say, even if you come from a family that’s seen its share of stickiness, is that if you had a parent who was supportive no matter what, always there for you, always, no matter what in your corner, that’s a strong relationship. And that bond will appear show up in your pictures. Some of the most powerful images I’ve taken have been between moms and daughters who made a life together, or between a father and son after the death of a much loved spouse and mother. I think that’s the beauty of documenting emotional connection between people on wedding days. These moments are made so much more sweet and poignant because of the experiences that lead up to them. I’ve learned not to shy away from making images of these moments because they are so powerful and become treasured pieces of personal history. Images like these bear witness to the strength that so many of us gain through our lives.    

On a positive note, in the last several years, I’ve had couples with rocky relationships with their families, where people don’t hold warm or positive feelings towards each other the other 364 days of the year. But on the day of the wedding, there’s more often than not an agreement that they’re going to get along for the day. Sometimes that means they don’t talk. Sometimes it means they greet each other with hug and let it be. But I overheard once a father of the groom remark to the mother of the groom that the groom was the best they thing they ever did together. I think that’s a beautiful place to land, and a perfect way to express it. A wedding day has the remarkable capacity to hand grace to people who’ve had hard experiences in life because if nothing else, they have YOU, and their love for you is immense. I hope that for your family on your wedding day, there is such grace. 

messy family relationships and weddings

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Elegant Howard House Wedding Photos.

It’s time for some beautiful, elegant Howard House wedding photos! I’m so glad I can share these today!

When I first chatted with Janie about these Howard House wedding photos, I was really excited. Janie has a beautiful sense of classic, elegant style and she had a particular vision for her wedding. She enlisted Dara, or Dare to be different events to execute that style. When Janie and Alex’s wedding day arrived, it was a beautiful, sunny cool day. Spirits were high, and anticipation was palpable. Janie was calm, collected and beautiful, and Alex and the groomsmen were busy setting up chairs, running errands, enjoying the day. Dara,  was setting up a glorious set of table scapes in the event tent next door.

As the day progressed, it got better and better. Their ceremony was beautiful, everything went off without a hitch. You can’t ask for a more beautiful day than a Howard House wedding. Lauren commented several times on how wonderful everyone was.

Photographers, if you ever have the opportunity to make Howard House Wedding photos, you’ll be a happy camper.

Brides, the Howard House has tons of space. Some old houses are small and a little cramped. But the Howard House has huge windows and open rooms. There’s so much space to spread out in and enjoy your day. The area where the house is quiet. Natural light abounds, you have plenty of beautiful spots nearby to photograph in.

I read once that a house isnt a home until it’s had a birth and wedding in it. And one thing I love about estate weddings is that they’re silent witnesses to the joy of so many families. And in old houses especially they’ve seen many many things. It’s one of the things I love most about shooting weddings there- the stories that exist in and about the house. The wedding that I’m photographing that day is just one part of the history.

 

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Shoes: Badgley Mishka

Venue: The Howard House

Bridesmaids style: Davids Bridal

Photography: One Crazy Love

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On the intimacies and interdependence of marriage

I hadn’t been married long when I made some off handed comment to my mother about how I thought she should do more for herself. She’d asked my dad to do something mundane, something I would just do myself. I don’t even remember what it was or where they were living at the time. I just remember her response sort of shut me up because she didn’t respond to me like she normally does, which is something I actually can’t explain. She’s not mad or intense, but when she retorts there something about her voice that makes me both roll my eyes, and feel slightly nervous, but also cared for. But when she responded to me this time, it was just simply said. “At this age, I’m not dependent. We’re interdependent. We need each other differently now than we used to.”

Naturally, as an arrogant twenty something oldest child, I thought this was dumb. But now that I’m several years down the road in experience and marriage, I’m starting to get it. I saw it in this image I don’t even remember taking. It appears right before a ceremony, and instead of marking it as a cast off, I saw something in it. His eyes, her hands. It was that connection my mom was talking about. I’m starting to feel it with Alex, like how I need him in different ways than I used to. Sometimes I need him at weird times, like the time I went to shoot in the cold at the river, and he came with me.  His hand on my shoulder speaks volumes to me when I need it. We’re becoming interdependent in some ways. It takes time to know it’s happening. I didn’t really start to see it until this year. It think it came upon us gradually, and quietly. Someone calls it working shoulder to shoulder. But I think that any couple with an enduring marriage experiences it. It’s sort of like the umami moments of marriage. It’s all the types of moments at once. Support, happiness, hope, despair, determination, commitment. It’s all the things that make up love.

It’s hard to express that this is something I want for all the couples I meet, whether or not they book with me. I wish I could give them a glimpse of what their lives will look like in 15 years. But the best thing I can do in this moment is to show you what it looks like. It’s a look, and brush of a hand as you move away for a few minutes. It’s a moment here and a touch there, made up of a lifetime of these intimate quiet moments. These are the images you want some day.

 

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Behind the scenes

The ridiculousness of these behind the scenes images inspired this post. Basically, sometimes the fact that your can work in a narrow space in a short time frame says a lot about your abilities. Today was gloomy, windy, and cool. My yard is a hot mess. But I got the images I needed. Enjoy the read.

I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately, and one my projects involved discussing cocktails. After I flipped through wedding images, I realized I’d need to make my own. Naturally, I felt a little overwhelmed by this realization until I realized that I had whiskey and wine, interesting looking glasses, mint and rosemary and tons of Camellias and roses grew in my yard, and I even owned something that looked like a cocktail table. So I went to the store and spent $20 on Gin, raspberries and blue berries (note: use blackberries instead. I just ate the blue berries at the end.) . And I set out to make these images happen. NOTE: I’ve never made cocktails before and I’ve never done any sort of styled shoot at my house. This shoot could really go either way at this point.

Next, I felt more low key concern because we’re renovating our backyard. By ourselves. (Ourselves = awesome husband is doing it.) And that I had limited choices as to where to stage this deal. I briefly considered a park, but in my town, alcoholic beverages at a park are fat NO. Every other place required a fee to shoot or permit, and I didn’t feel like dealing with that. So I picked literally the one place I could shoot in, on the edge of the yard in front of a neighbors hedge.

Next, my sweet pup Penelope was not amused that I was doing this. She’s a bit of diva, and generally thinks that humans exist only for her, so naturally, she was like, “WUT.” But I persisted through her staring as a guilt trip act. Next, I evaluated my space. It had a lot of drawbacks. Also, it looked out over the street and people walking by could see me. More on that later. And yes, that’s one of my daughters bed sheets. Remember, I spent exactly $20 on this.

At some point, my deck was covered in alcoholic beverages, lenses, downy, and fruit. And yes, that’s a bird house. Next to a bottle of wine. But I think the results were nice! If I hadn’t shown you the behind the scenes of these images, you might not have known that I was crammed into a weird space in my yard.

One fun fact about the image below: Where I parked my shoot looked out over the street. People walking by could see me, and it’s really really quiet on the street during the day and you can hear people talk from a block away. So as people were walking by I heard comments. Mostly it was curiosity. “Is that the photographer? I heard there was a photographer on the street.” “Is that wine?” (yep.) “I hope she has a party to finish that off. I’d go to that party even at 10 AM.” I wish I had stopped working to gush about the joys of day drinking in moderation, but I was on a tight schedule. BUt yes. Day drinking is great. A glass of wine with lunch is fantastic. I highly recommend it. But I digress.

Behind the scenes

behind the scenes

 

Basically, I just want to encourage all of you out there who have to produce images for writing on short notice and are going nuts looking for a place. Look around your own house and neighborhood. In 90 minutes I had everything I needed, and I just needed to shoot with my 85, so that I could block out the funk of our backyard renovation. I got the results I needed and they look fantastic in my piece. Go with what you know and what you have. Also, I love that giant Camellia bloom. I jumped up and down when I found it.

Behind the scenes

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Details

In the last year, I’ve learned to ask about details. Their history, their story, their meaning. Sometimes the answer is as simple as, “I liked it and thought I could wear it again sometime, like on anniversaries or special nights out.” Sometimes the answer is more nuanced. A gift from the brides father to her mother on their first date. A grandmothers bracelet, a kerchief carried at every wedding for 5 generations that came over with an aunt on a boat from Europe.

In the last year, I’ve really though a lot about family and love and details. In a fragile year like this one has been, they’ve taken on greater importance to me. While I recognize that it’s hard to change the issues we have going on, the thing I’ve fallen back on is that we can change how we look at people, and look at life. My mom used to tell me that none of us know what’s going on in someone’s life, and that’s a primary reason to always be cool, all the time.

 

Back to the details- They’ve become super important to me. If a picture can connect your current self to your past self, so can a piece of jewelry or a fabric, or a pair of shoes. It’s not the thing, it’s the connection. You wear them with joy and hope. They exist with you through a sacred day. And the details passed down to you from family or friends are also a legacy created with love, nurtured over the years and then passed on to you the day you begin your new adventure. They’re there for you, pointing the way to your own future. They speak to the fact that your marriage exists for you, but also for people who are impacted by your marriage.

The point is, details matter. Everything matters. Words matter, love matters, people matter. And it all matters more now. It just does.

So whatever they are, no matter how simple or elaborate, share those things with people you love through the years. Don’t just keep them in a box in a closet. They’ll mean more when you share them, like you share love with others.

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