If every celebration were like this one, you’d still find me documenting unfolding wedding moments most weekends.
Amber + Joe had the kind of wedding that was true to who they are. True to the core.
Confession #1: It’s emotional work, photographing a wedding. To “lead shoot” a wedding and create the kind of images that we’re proud of requires full-on engagement. You must be “all in” ~ It’s not just the weight of the equipment or the challenge of the day’s constantly-changing lighting conditions that leaves good wedding photographers exhausted by the time we pack up our cameras and say “that’s a wrap.”
It’s the love.
Love takes work. Before, during and after. For us to do a good job, a really good job, requires that we are not just part of the moment but fully engaged in the emotion of the moment. Emotionally available, present and committed. In short, we have to fall in love.
Confession #2: “Amber, I just don’t do this any more…” I explained on the phone when the bride-to-be inquired about me documenting her wedding. With a lump in my throat, I laid it on the line. “Since my divorce, wedding photography has been hard for me, too hard. Second shooting with Kim or Annika, that I can handle, but being the lead shooter requires such intimacy. It’s a different level and I’ve not been able to generate the enthusiasm necessary to feel like I can do this justice. I simply don’t delight in the wedding details anymore ~ I find it exhausting, not energizing. I guess I’m sort of anti wedding industry at this point in my life,” I tearfully confessed during that phone call.
Confession #3: What a relief it was to finally say it all aloud. A weight was lifted. Is it possible that when we come to terms with what’s been crushing us, fractured light seeps in and our little corner of the world is not quite so dark anymore?
Confession #4: “Actually,” said Amber listening politely to my narrative about my past few years (her PhD is in social work; maybe that helped her endure my rambling confession,) ~ “Amy, your story doesn’t scare me; it actually makes me want you to photograph my wedding all the more” she insisted. And with her words, I felt the tension in my shoulders release. I realized that I could breathe. Then I realized I was crying.
Confession #5: I’d been drained by the very thought of weddings for a long time, but now, after admitting my story and my struggles, and after hearing Amber say, ”We want the kind of pictures that you took at Tracy’s wedding years ago — we want pictures that show how people feel about each other.” I realized I still had something to offer. Imperfect, struggling me…
Confession #6: “We’re getting married,” Amber said, “but we’re anti-wedding-industry, too ~ and really, this day isn’t even about us. Joe and I contemplated not having a ceremony, but bringing our families together and letting everyone know how much we care about them is just too important. We want pictures of our families. We want pictures of the people that we love.”
“We see the pictures, and the celebration really, as sort of a gift to our guests. Good pictures are a way to say thank you. This matters. We want our guests, our family, to know how much they matter to us,” continued the wise bride.Confession #7: “We’re not your typical couple. This won’t be your typical wedding,” Amber assured me.
“We’re holding the ceremony in the Lupus General Store because of how much Lupus means to me…I’ve lost both my parents; their ashes were spread in Lupus. They loved this place. I love this place. They played music there with their friends. Roots. I have roots here.”
Confession #8: As Amber talked, I, the jaded wedding photographer, was falling in love.
As Amber explained the roots and the “whys” — why they wanted a wedding ceremony after all; why they wanted, needed, wonderful photos; why they chose Lupus; I felt my heart open up. As Amber shared her vision (music, poetry & readings, true friends together sitting in the general store, “no bridesmaids or groomsmen — who needs that?!” and no wedding cake, but really good bbq and “I didn’t even buy a wedding dress; it came from a second hand store, but I love it”…) I cried, and said yes, Amber. Yours is a story I will photograph; yours is a story I want to tell.
Confession #9: And I knew I could never do it alone. SilverBox partners Kim Wade and Annika Miller were already booked, that’s why I was even having this conversation, so I reached out to the unflappable Rebecca Allen and I thanked my lucky stars that she was able to help document this adventure. Rebecca understood. She gets it. She is a story-teller, a remarkable one. So many of the pictures you see in this post aren’t mine, but her’s — well, “ours” really. Because that’s how weddings work.
Confession #10: What are weddings really about? The people and the richness of what is Real. And Sacred. And it’s not stained glass and an organ that elevates a gathering into something Sacred. (Stained glass and organ music can be elements to a Sacred story, but they don’t guarantee it and sometimes they even stand in the way.) So what is the Sacred? It has something to do with the connection you feel to those around you. You feel it when when you walk in the door. It’s love, and it’s palpable.
Words matter. Words help create the Sacred. The Spoken Word brings all present fully into the common experience that at this moment, is shared. A speaker puts into words the feelings of those gathered. Yes, words are part of the Sacred.
Joe and Amber wrote their own vows. They addressed their friends, their family and each other. Words have power. And though she writes poetry, Amber told Joe after struggling to find the right words, she realized that it was Bo Diddley who said it best… “Oh baby…”
Confession #11. It doesn’t matter what you wear on your wedding day, the menu, the weather, who stands where…none of that is the Sacred. The Sacred is who is holding your hand.[And on this day, the hand holding was everywhere, like when Amber and Joe sat together listening to the music written by Amber's father and performed by his dear friends honoring both his memory and his daughter on her wedding day.]
Confession #12: It’s not the traditions that make a wedding — it’s the authentic connection between you two and those you’ve invited to encircle you; those who share your life’s journey, your heart, and your love. “Joe, I’ve loved watching the people I love fall in love with you,” Amber said in her vows.
And the only thing more beautiful on your wedding day than the smile on your face is the unadulterated joy of those who encircle you.
It’s a special place, Lupus, Missouri, the trains…
…the tracks……the river.
The ties that bind.
It was a reunion.
Damp. Heart-felt. And in every way, fabulous.
Amber Moodie-Dyer and Joe Smith were married April 27, 2013 in Lupus, Missouri and it was pure magic.
Amber and Joe ~ thank you for not being easily scared. Rebecca Allen, thank you for capturing the magic.