A wedding timeline can be structured or fluid—taking whatever shape the newlyweds desire. Due to COVID-19, couples all over the world have adapted from the weddings they once knew to small weddings. An umbrella term for a few main categories: mini, micro, elopement, and minimony. No matter the month, time, or place—there’s no real difference between a $10,000.00 wedding and a $100,000.00 celebration. You’ll find all of the same core elements at each price-point distilled here for your reference:

  1. Photographer arrives and photo coverage begins.
  2. Getting ready photos.
  3. First look.
  4. Couple and wedding party photos.
  5. Family portraits.
  6. Relax and downtime before the big walk.
  7. Ceremony.
  8. Signing the wedding certificate with witnesses.
  9. Cocktail hour.
  10. Grand entrance and dinner.
  11. Speeches and toasts.
  12. Cutting the cake (desserts).
  13. First dances.
  14. Dance floor opens.

What some people might gloss over, even in their day to day, is the evolution that takes place during #2 — getting ready. A groom’s expectation or time investment during his experience of a wedding day might be as simple as getting his shoes tied and walking out of the door. I’ve noticed this at some weddings and it makes me wonder why? But some gentlemen get it right. They slow down to appreciate their time and in that practice, they notice so much more.

On the other side of the aisle, the way the bride shows up to get ready could seem very practical, like she’s just living through another regular day. She puts her white dress on, gets her makeup done, and is surrounded by her loved ones. If I’m honest with myself, I’ve learned it’s more than that. It’s in this area, the big moment as a photographer is the first look. A holy moment that happens before the bride leaves the room. Hours and hours are placed into preparation. It’s the community of people coming together to prepare a body for ceremony—a tradition as old as time itself. In that vital moment of preparation, some people might look at it as just hair and makeup—especially if they’re running late.

Every culture, every generation has witnessed the preparation of the bride. The transformation, the cocoon to butterfly moment. The infusion of blessing. A meeting of the families (a tradition known to Nigerian tribes well). It’s all my mother ever spoke about as I got older, “The Introduction.” Every culture has a type of blessing that takes place. The transformation is when the bride puts her dress on. The moment where the room is silent, and she connects with her mother, and the realization finally dawns—it’s happening. She’s being blessed, cared for, and sent out to the new chapter of her life. As a photographer, you look. The emotions hit, and she just wants to look at her future marriage with stability. The vows made in marriage—one to another—are sacred. What comes after this moment is what helps stitch a wedding story together. The bride and groom lock eyes, and the most intimate pieces of oneself are revealed through everyday sacrifice. It starts with our loved ones because we want what’s best for them—more than we want for ourselves. Sacrifice is selfless and to this action that’s repeated over the timeline of our lives, over and over again, the act of marriage is a rite of passage that should last until the end of time.

Lauren, what beauty do you think is found in the preparation of getting ready on the big wedding day?

When morning dawns on the day of one’s wedding, there’s something hallowed in the air. The sun floats through the curtains, and the dust drifts across beams of light, glimmering.

It’s more than likely early in the day, the birdsong in the air and the coffee percolating in the kitchen. There’s still beauty to those early hours, as she drifts through the morning and enters into a most important day—one that will alter her life forever. There’s a weightiness to it all, and yet, a lightness too. Soft slippers, a mug of dark roast warming her hand, she pads up the carpeted stairs to the bathroom to begin the preparations.

One of the beautiful things about getting ready on one’s wedding day is that it’s often a communal affair. The bride does not typically get ready alone. There’s a community aspect to this thing she’s about to do individually—this covenant she’s about to make with another person. Having these people of significance surrounding her gives her a myriad of gifts: support, strength, a pep of excitement. This variety of people from different pockets of her life bring a certain sort of safety and comfort as she enters a new season. They say that raising kids takes a village, but I’d dare to say that getting married and staying married should take a village too.

As the morning stretches on, the preparations ensue, and the flurry of dresses, the floral scent of hairspray, coiled hair, flushed cheeks, eau de toilette—all fill the rooms. Satin and lace, champagne and pastries, precious stones. The stuff of beauty is primed, and the bride is made ready.

Profit, like you said, the moment when the bride puts her dress on is truly something that draws a hush of respect. There is a certain glory to a bride—a brilliance you can’t quite explain. The physical embodiment of relationship equity and its importance is made manifest in the beauty of the wedding gown. As it slips over her shoulders and brushes the ground, there’s a quieting of the spirit and a thrum of exhilaration as all gaze at who she will soon become—a wife. As her mother thumbs each pearled button, everyone realizes what is happening. She is finally ready to meet her groom, and he is ready to meet her. The beauty she embodies is a premonition of the magnificence of marriage and the mystery that happens when they are pronounced husband and wife.

There’s also the artistry and expertise that comes with capturing the details on camera—the parts of the morning that might have been forgotten or gone unnoticed. A photographer can freeze time and memory and pull beauty from the smallest things: a bit of tulle, a reflection in the mirror, a stray curl.

If we want to remember the story of a marriage, we have to back up to the beginning. We have to know how they met. What it meant. We have to know about that morning—the one before the bride and groom came together as husband and wife because it tells us some important information, and it’s an esteemed and unforgettable part of the tale.

Capturing the early magic of that day by camera provides a way to take hold of the honor that was found that morning, and the bride and groom get to remember what it took to get them where they are now.

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