It’s generally a bad idea to live in a world of “what ifs.” It’s impossible to know the insight that experience alone can afford us. We can talk to mentors and try to think ahead, but I’m already finding that ironically, experience is the best decision-making guide. Living otherwise can only lead to regret or a crippling anxiety of “getting it wrong.”
You likely know that we have attended quite a few weddings, and as such, we’ve seen a lot of things! We’ve seen snow (Niewoehners), peacocks yelling during the ceremony (Adam and Lydia Eagle), lots of rain, and LOTS of dance parties stopped for broken wine glasses (seriously…like all the time). As wedding photographers, we gets to see the ins and outs of the day that the typical guest doesn’t experience. We are there in the most intimate moments when a father sees his daughter in her dress or when the bride and groom finally get their first moment alone after family portraits. We are there when the betrothed read a letter from their spouse-to-be, when nerves build in anticipation of a first look, and when a groups of guys bands together to figure out hold to fold their pocket squares – this is a truly special moment.
This past weekend, Chelsea and I officially kicked off our sixth wedding season together as a team. As such, when we got in the car after a long, but good day of training our legs once again to stand up for ten hours, we started to reminisce about our own wedding. Chelsea asked me, “Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently at our wedding?” I had some things to say about the timeline and worrying too much about the weather, but one thing overwhelmed my thoughts: my father.
You likely also know that my father passed away a few months ago. Since then, I’ve gone through (and am going through) all the various stages of grief, which come and go, wax and wane in strange, unexpected ways. One of my overwhelming thoughts in the midst of these thoughts and emotions has been regret. If I let it, my mind will daily remind me of something I wish I had done or said differently. I wish I had called more. I wish I had been more open. I wish I had expressed more interest in his business he started.
So when Chelsea asked me to re-frame our wedding day, it was these sort of thoughts that came to mind. I wish I had spent more time talking to my parents that day. I wish I had put him in the wedding party. I wish I had written him a letter to express my thanks or made more effort to publicly honor my parents. I don’t dwell in these thoughts for long, because as I stated in the beginning, regret is a no-win game. I remember my dad’s joy on that day; he was very emotional prone to tear up over the smallest sense of emotion. I remember the hug that we shared after the ceremony. It was a good day – he looked on it fondly – there is no sense in regret.
All this to say, wedding days are complex days with lots of moving parts. Chelsea and I poured over all the details of our wedding day – who to invite, centerpieces, music, when to have the ceremony, the rain plan, etc. All of that is important, but at the end of the day, I don’t think those are the things you will look back on and really wish you had done differently. What matters is the people who you love and making sure to be present with and enjoy them. Don’t rush through hugging your mother after the ceremony to do what’s next on the timeline. Don’t cut dances short because you’re worried that the guests are hungry. Be present and enjoy those people who have been with you all along; those are the people who will always be there, until one day they aren’t.