Never has death weighed heavier on my heart and my mind than this year, a year in which two of my best friends have buried their mothers. In one case, my friend’s mother was able to watch her daughter get married, yet, upon the news of her death I immediately began to regret not taking MORE images of Patty on that day. In the other case, the mother in question has spent a good portion of my life filling the void left by the lack of connection I routinely have with my own mother. Momma Laura has shared meals with me, holidays and festivals, vacations and beach houses, her own parents and sisters with me, life lessons, friends, and ultimately pearls of wisdom and nuggets of jaded sharp wit. I immediately regretted not forcing the family portrait session that I knew the family needed before her death.
Laura’s death prompted me to miss the very first wedding that I’ve ever had to miss in a decade of business. We have plans in place for situations like this (the wedding went great, despite my absence), but the guilt I felt about not being present for my clients was immeasurable. What other job in the world does someone have where you question whether or not to be at a family member’s funeral celebration or work? I think that this speaks to the incredibly intimate nature of my work, combined with the relationships and, in some cases, ultimately friendships that I often forge with my clients.
But this is supposed to be a post about the joy of a wedding, you say. Is it coming?
Matt and Patrice have been together for all of their adult lives. They never originally intended to marry, feeling outside of convention and societal norms. Patrice’s late mother, however, wanted nothing more than to see them commit their lives together in the bond of marriage and when she was diagnosed with an aggressive terminal illness, Matt and Patrice planned a wedding. Patrice’s mother never saw her marry – she passed on the day of their original elopement during the year of Covid lockdowns. They made a pledge that they would celebrate surrounded by the people they love and one year later, Matt and Patrice renewed their vows in the best way they knew how – with a grand party in Lake Tahoe with a Tahoe South of North Brewing Wedding, absolutely surrounded by all their friends and family. It was a blustery day while Matt and Patrice stood up on the stage reciting their original vows to each other and Patrice’s mom certainly made an appearance, with a force gale wind that knocked down all of her photos on the memorial table. Matt and Patrice would later joke that it was her displeasure at the informalness of the event, which was more their style and less of their mother’s.
Grief is the price we pay for love. Time doesn’t pause just because we need to prepare ourselves for something. It is a heartache that will never heal, but the love you have for others leaves you with memories that are worth the pain. It never fails to escape me when I’m doing my job that I am responsible for creating memories: the images I capture eventually shape the way people remember their day. What an incredible responsibility I have.
Matt and Patrice’s Tahoe South of North Brewing Wedding was exactly the wedding they hoped for (though a little bit windier and cloudier than we all expected). It was delightfully informal and adventurous, it was beautiful under the cloudy skies. It was an EPIC raging dance party, which seems to happen every time I’m at this location. It had popcorn. And beer. And I personally like to think that Patrice’s mother was there in spirit feeling overwhelmed with joy that her daughter got exactly the event she dreamed of, even if it was a little less formal than Mom would have liked.