“I have photographed precisely one wedding. One. A neighbor of mine had seen some of my photography work and suggested me for the job. Cool. I was eighteen, the payment was pretty good, so I said yes immediately. I had helped out several wedding photographers in the past, so I knew what I was getting into. But this was the first wedding. I would be capturing entirely on my own. This was the wedding that helped me figure out I would never cut it in the business. If I had the choice between being a wedding photographer or going to prison, I would choose prison. Prison is way less chaotic. That wedding was unlike anything I had ever witnessed. It was held at this state property owned by the groom’s mother. This building was practically a palace. Once I got there, I was immediately presented with a comprehensive list of over one hundred shot demands. According to the groom’s mother, if there was even one single shot missing from her list, she would see to it that I wouldn’t get paid. I was considered nothing more than part of the help, which meant I basically didn’t exist to this family. People would run their mouths in my presence like I wasn’t there. I heard so much gossip throughout the day.
One of the groom’s brothers alluded to the fact that he had always wanted to bed the bride and might have a ‘fair shot’ since she was ‘in the family now’. The bride’s father was openly hostile to the groom and called him all sorts of names. The bride’s sister was trying to hook up with pretty much everybody except the caterers and me. The families seemed like a lot to handle, but the couple were the only ones who really mattered here. If their love was strong enough, they could make it through all of this gossip. That’s all sort of okay though. The families are not the couple. They don’t matter and they don’t have to like one another or hold one another in high regard. The couple is the core. I still saw that maybe they could make it work. If love is strong, they can endure.
Everything started unraveling with the pre-ceremony shots. They wanted a ‘men of the wedding shot’ and they were already about half a case of drinks into the festivities. A couple guys needed to pee, and a couple more had to hide all the drinks they had been openly guzzling. One gentleman didn’t know where he had left his fake teeth. In the ‘ladies of the wedding shot’, it was like herding kittens. They all would rather gossip and badmouth each other instead of helping me get the shots. The groom’s mom and grandma were frustrated at me for my lack of ‘ability to control a group’. The kiss was semi-interesting. She was all-in, and he was taken aback and off-balance. I’m no pro, but that had to be probably one of the few kisses he had ever gotten, and I don’t know how you convince a woman to marry you with that little experience. Whatever. I stepped more to his side to try and hide his awkwardness in the photo. I viewed my role as simple. My job was to make this train wreck look less like a train wreck, to hide the bad and emphasize the good.
Then here comes the groom’s mommy with her handkerchief, wiping off the lipstick that had transferred during the kiss. I kid you not, it was like he was seven years old. Mommy licked the handkerchief and proceeded to clean her boy up. The reception was a nightmare. Every single person got wasted out of their minds. The more hammered the groom’s mom became, the more domineering she grew. The bride and groom were at the display table cutting the cake, but the mom shoehorned herself in between to help the groom cut his slice of the cake. The photo for the bride and groom feeding each other the first bite of cake was sidelined by the mom. She insisted the bride put less cake on the fork. If there was a way for her to commandeer the space, then she did. While I was editing the shots, I realized that the groom’s mother was in nearly all of them! This was the first wedding I had ever seen where the mom coached the groom on how to remove the garter. She screamed at him, ‘Don’t be silly! Don’t use your hands, you’re supposed to use your teeth!’
So, things are winding down and I notice there’s no limo arriving, like there’s no car all decked out with ‘just married’ and all that. I asked the groom’s mom. She said,’Oh, there’s no transport for that. Just go over by that shrub and wait, we’re about to do the rice throwing.’ The bride and groom come out from around the trellis, surprisingly without the mom, and they got lit up with the rice. Rather than go to a car, they walked straight to the house behind the mother’s house, and he carried his bride over the threshold. About five minutes later, mommy dearest made her way across the lawn and into that house as well. I got my gear and made my way to my truck, and en route I discovered the bride’s uncle puking in the shrubbery alongside the stately driveway, whilst a few other fellows and friends looked on in amusement. If there’s a more allegorical description of the entire spectacle, I can’t really think of it. The marriage lasted almost three weeks, and considering the living conditions and the neighbors, I think that speaks highly to how much the bride wanted that marriage to work. I knew the groom’s mother for less than five hours, and I was done with her attitude, I can’t imagine three weeks living next to the mother-in-law who viewed you as the woman who ‘stole’ her baby boy away.
Unfortunately, a couple of the shots on the mom’s list did not turn out. I messed up the exposures thanks to some clouds blocking my light. Because I failed to get all the shots, she didn’t pay me. Wedding photographers? You truly demonstrate patience that I cannot comprehend. I would hate for this sort of thing to be my regular day job.”