When planning a wedding, it’s very easy to get caught up in the details, the little nuances, and don’t get me wrong, they are important – but not more important than the reason you are doing this whole thing. We recently photographed a wedding for a bride that put everything in perfect perspective. Joanna’s day was running smoothly, she looked perfect, and her closest friends and family were at her side. Even the looming dark clouds from the morning dissipated into a perfect blue sky for her outdoor ceremony scheduled for later that afternoon.
Paul and I arrived at the arboretum where the ceremony and reception were scheduled to take place. The setting could not be more gorgeous, and her groom Jon was beaming as he awaited his beautiful bride. We started scouting locations and angles, and there was no shortage of beautiful backgrounds.
After a while, we started to notice that quite a bit of time had passed, more than the usual “fashionably late” start for most ceremonies. I approached the planner and found out that the officiant was no where to be found. The planner called so many times she lost count, she left numerous voicemails and even sent emails via her phone – no reply. I was half-kidding when I mentioned that my husband Paul was “ordained.” Now, let me clarify this, Paul IS ordained, but its through the Universal Life Church (an online church based in Monterey, CA), and in my Catholic upbringing, I pretty much thought, “Well, that plus a dollar, and you’d have a dollar,” but amazingly in the state of Pennsylvania – it will do! According to an old Quaker Law, a couple can even have a “self-uniting marriage,” meaning no officiant is even required, as long as there are at least three witnesses. My husband was stunned when the planner said she would take him up on the offer! (And yes, it wasn’t exactly Paul who offered, I sort of “volunteered” him, but being the stand-up kind of guy that he is, he took it nervously, but graciously, in stride). She quickly spoke to the bride and found that she had no problem at all with Paul performing the ceremony.
She said, and this might be my favorite quote from a wedding: “I don’t care how it happens, or who does it, I just want to be married to Jon. That is all that matters.”
There were no tears, no panic-stricken looks, no anger towards the absent officiant (well, maybe a little bit, but reserved for much later), all that mattered was that this was her wedding day and she was marrying the man she loved most in this world, everything else, as it should, faded into the background. So with the help of the planner, who thankfully and admirably, had a copy of the ceremony wording, Paul prepared to marry the happy couple – and not to sound too terribly clichéd, it went off without a hitch!
The happy couple – do they look stressed? We think not!
I joked with Paul later, asking him if his back hurt (you know, from everyone patting it all night), but the compliments were well deserved. He did an amazing job, some guests didn’t even know he WASN’T the officiant. The couple were so excited to be able to tell everyone how one of their photographers married them! The bride’s mother even told Paul, “ You will always hold a special place in my heart.”
The lesson of this story – hire a photographer who is ordained… of course I’m kidding. Seriously though, just remember that if the centerpieces fall to bits, the heavens open up and a hurricane sweeps through your ceremony, or if your officiant doesn’t show – nothing else really matters except that you are marrying the person you love. Period.