The country club at the end of the trailer park
The first thing I noticed when we got to the country club was the tragic music selection. It was a bi-polar imbalance of elegant Christmas standards meeting an uncertain mix of trashy camp music. You’d hear Silent Night, and then two rounds of songs about overdosing at Christmas set to a piano riff that promised suicide would be swift if you couldn’t stand the song anymore.
The family had opted for an outdoor wedding. At night. Now, in their defense, it was a charming, beautiful set up. Ninety percent chance of rain be damned, it was gorgeous. We explained well in advance that wedding ceremonies at night were a challenge because of the lighting.
Terms like, “Absolutely no refunds,” were used in explaining that we might not be able to get great shots of insignificant moments like their first kiss, or the look on the groom’s face when the bride appears. In case you’re wondering, I had a great angle for that photo and I assure you he looked like an anonymous witness on the news that had been blacked out to protect their identity.
It’s okay, though. I did get some fantastic photos.
Such as the bride’s shoes. She was forty-three months pregnant, so she opted for comfort over fashion. And honestly, that was the best choice. Actually, I think she was probably just in her fourth trimester. For years after their child is born, people will ask what month he was born in and immediately start counting backward.
100% chance of rain
I got several great photos of the bride emerging. That’s probably not the best word. Oh, well. As the country club doors opened—with Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer playing in the background—the bride emerged out onto the patio and it immediately began pouring rain.
Try as I might, I’m pretty sadistic when it comes to memorializing this kind of thing as a photographer. I immediately started photographing their guests—their closest friends and family—fleeing the damn scene like they were being chased by a tyrannosaurus.
When it finally did stop pouring, and guests were reasonably certain we had a few minutes before the real storm started, the event manager for the country club brought out ONE TOWEL. Like one towel to fifty chairs was a reasonable ratio. I pulled Dylan aside and thanked him again for agreeing to a justice of the peace ceremony for our own big day.
I asked the DJ if he could play Alanis Morrisette’s Ironic, but he said he didn’t have it. Which only added to the irony.
Once everyone was back in their seats, the preacher began the longest wedding essay I have ever heard. It was long enough to be a thesis. It may have even risen to the level of being divided in to several volumes.
With the wind howling, a car alarm going off in the adjacent parking lot, and the imminent threat of rain at any second—and the bride being in a see through dress a second after that—I guarantee you he didn’t skip a single line. These things can’t be rushed, apparently. If it had been me, I would have taken the microphone from him in the tenth minute of his personal anecdote about his own experience in marriage—a story sobering enough to convince anyone not to do it.
Finally, they say ‘I do’
For a while, I was taking the occasional photo just for show—so the hostages guests didn’t think I was being lazy. My best guess is that there was Adderall in the grab bags they handed out, because most people didn’t start looking around (for a bar? The exit??) until fifteen minutes in to the ceremony.
I had reached a point where there wasn’t any angle of that ceremony that hadn’t been explored. It felt like it was rising to the level of a stalker. And I was running low on remaining photos, which I didn’t even know was possible. I snapped a shot of the flower girl laying down in the grass and calling it a day, and reserved my photos for the kiss.
Can you photo shop Obama into this?
After the ceremony, I took photos of every conceivable combination of people in the wedding party. The bride laid down on the couch in the hallway, and for a minute, I thought it might be time. I contemplated whether or not any amount of dry cleaning could clean up her water breaking on a taffeta white dress.
It got weird after that. The groomsmen took their shirts off to reveal superhero costumes and asked us if we could photo shop Obama into the middle of their superhero circle. Granted, when you shoot a wedding, you get lots of editing requests. People seem to think photo shop is a cure all, and they’ll ask for you to shave ten pounds off of them or make their trailer look like an estate.
I nodded and smiled. Sure, we’ll tell the editor to put Obama in the photo. Cause thirty years from now, your grandkids are going to think the president showed up to your wedding dressed like Wonder Woman. That’s perfectly realistic.
Later that same decade: a gang bang on the cake
The reception hall was less of a hall and more like a walk-in closet with no ventilation. The cake had melted during the unreasonably long ceremony. I saw the cake before the ceremony… it was stunning. The layers were garnished with strawberries that were elegantly decorated to look like the traditional bride and groom cake toppers.
When the wedding party got to the wedding hall, the edges of the cake had melted, letting the strawberries roll onto the table and floor. The groom’s strawberry was disfigured beyond recognition, the chocolate sauce melting on to the pile of strawberries that were atop the bride’s strawberry. It looked like the bride’s strawberry was being gangbanged in a filthy sea of melted cream.
The groom’s cake was black. I don’t think anyone thought that through. I stopped saying things like, “smile,” and “’say cheese’,” and opted for leading questions like, “Are you sure the contract says we have to stay until nine?”
I cried during the bridesmaid’s toast
In a rare display of emotion, a few stray tears escaped me during one of the toasts. I had realized we had an hour left and the event coordinator had just assured the mother of the bride (we’ll call her Helga) that we would definitely stay later if needed. Like hell we would.
After the toasts, we had thirty minutes left and there had been no daddy-daughter dance, no throwing of the bouquet, no rice throwing, and no exit scene (this is sometimes staged when the photographer leaves before the reception ends). After assuring the event coordinator that our exit time could not be adjusted, they crammed everything in to the last thirty minutes.
Are the children required to marry right away?
A five-year-old caught the bouquet. A different five-year-old caught the garter. Now in defense of the single men who were avoiding the garter like it was a rabid pterodactyl, I’ll add that even the groom didn’t want to touch that thing because of the humidity in the room.
I’ve never been clear: do the children have to get married right away, or is that just the symbolic recognition that no other eligible member of the family will be getting married in the next twenty years?
We coached the bride and groom on the best way to stage an exit photo. It would have been so lovely if we had coached the entire room. The guests—every single one of them—had handfuls of faux snow that they started throwing—nay pelting—the bride and groom with.
I got three great exit photos: the first was the bride and groom oblivious to the fact that everyone in the photo behind them was about to attack them with a powder-like substance. The next photo was the two of them horrified by the sneak attack. There was this look of utter betrayal in the bride’s eyes that hasn’t been seen since Benedict Arnold’s days.
The final photo was an otherwise charming photo of the two of them walking, hand-in-hand down the hall. Actually, they weren’t walking as much as running away, but that’s not evident in the photo. What sets this photo a part from the normal coffee table book covers that every bride dreams of is that the two look like they just spent an hour in Whitney Houston’s sock drawer.
I remember why I don’t photograph weddings anymore. Everybody wants something beautiful to commemorate their wedding with, and instead, they get gorgeous, black and white stills of what looks like outtakes from Jurassic Park.
Sure, I’m available for your wedding as well.