A few months ago I photographed my sister's wedding. Only I didn't just photograph it - I was a bridesmaid, her sister, a mom to the cutest little flower girl ever, and the day-of coordinator for all intents and purposes. I have done this before, only without a child, when I photographed my older sister's wedding and was her maid of honor. It was a beautiful memory I'll look back on forever, and I'm honored that BOTH my sisters chose me to capture their day.
I'll be honest, though - it's also an incredibly hard set of roles to play. I felt like, at any given time, I could only do two roles well. Sometimes I could be the coordinator and photographer, but I had a hard time being the understanding sister and I couldn't put my tasks aside for a moment to be a mom to Willow. Or I could be in the moment, watching my dad and sister share their first look, and tears would fill my eyes so heavily that I could barely see through the viewfinder.
Before, during, and after this happened, a lot of people asked how I pulled it off. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure. I don't say this because I claim to be superwoman, but a combination of adrenaline and caffeine kicked in because I was running on VERY little sleep (I had to wake up at 4:30am!) and it was a VERY long day. I was so amped up that I didn't feel tired for a few days, and then I crashed hard. There are parts of the wedding that I can remember vividly (how I cried when Josiah's song played as Megan walked down the aisle, the moment I put down my camera so I could hug my baby sister and tell her she looked like a bride, the speeches and dances and seeing my own baby come down the aisle in a wagon), but there are other parts that are a blur. Somehow everything came together, we started the ceremony more or less on time, and Megan was (at least mostly!) blissfully unaware of any issues.
This required a lot of planning. A LOT. So as I think back, here are the things I did to set myself - and the wedding - up for success.
1) I wrote down everything in advance. I mean everything. This was the most detailed timeline I had ever made. I knew exactly what was happening when and although I did not refer to the timeline at all during the day, it was drilled into my head because I had gone over it in such detail.
2) I did as much as I could before the wedding day. This meant that I photographed the major details ahead of time, communicated with vendors in advance, and had my entire bag packed so I could grab it and walk out the door before the sun rose. I also went over every detail I could with the bride, groom, and the whole bridal party so they all knew what was happening.
3) I forced myself to put down the camera at times. Though this didn't exactly help me photograph the wedding, it did help to remember the day. I photographed Megan's first look with my dad but when the tears came on strong, I just enjoyed the moment. Before the ceremony, I took a minute to hold Willow. At the reception, I asked Nathan to cover several things so I could just sit and watch. Which leads me to the most important thing of all...
4) I had an absolute dream team of family to help - and be understanding. I simply could not have done this without Nathan, and he killed it. During the ceremony, he had to switch to the primary photographer role, and he did so effortlessly. I posed the bridal party, he took the pictures. I told him exactly what I wanted and he did it even better than I hoped. He did everything from photographing reception details (which I didn't anticipate!) to fluffing Megan's dress during the ceremony. He's the real MVP.
Besides Nathan, I had so much help. My in-laws not only took care of Willow all day - naps, lunch, and all - they also helped corral the other kids who were there. My family was gracious and understanding when I became tense, stressed out, or just business-like in general. And Megan put her full trust in me to capture and run the day from start to finish, even if my flow didn't always make sense :)
To be honest, I'm not sure if I could ever repeat this day, and at times it felt like too much. I did not handle everything well, and in hindsight there were things I wish I could have done differently. Yet when I look back at the wedding pictures, I am proud. I am not proud of my photographs, or how great I am. I am proud of the family legacy my parents have built. I am proud of my sister for choosing such a godly man to marry. I am proud of Nathan, who handled it all without showing stress and dealt with my tiredness over the next week.
I am proud, in short, to be surrounded by such amazing people, and proud to call Megan, this beautiful bride, my baby sister.
Click here to see the full wedding blog.