This year has truly started on an incredible note for us, as the article that we wrote about marriage was published in the Issue 11 of Holl & Lane Magazine. Not only is this such an honor, but this article was a labor of love. We had so much fun interviewing the five couples featured in the article about their marriages, and the fact that two of the couples are our parents made it even more special! Thank you, Holl & Lane, for encouraging us to write this and for featuring it in your first issue of 2017! Head here to purchase your own copy of Issue 11!
Snehal & Sanjeev | married 29 years
Michelle & Erik | married on November 12, 2016
Kate & Mark | married 33 years
Courtney & David | married 6 years
Anna & Rodney | married on December 31, 2016
We get to be a part of a lot of wedding days. We get to see the nervous excitement on a groom’s face melt into relief and tears when he sees his future wife walking down the aisle towards him. We are able to watch as the bride carefully lays out the heirlooms handed to her by her mother and grandmothers on the morning of her wedding. We get to hear the pride and joy in a lot of fathers’ speeches and we get to see mothers put veils in their daughters’ hair with so much care. As wedding and lifestyle photographers we are lucky to be even a small part of these incredible moments.
Weddings are special. They represent the culmination of months of careful planning and preparation. Flowers, food, invitations—all the details that go into making it an amazing day have to be chosen and arranged to create the magic that we get to witness and photograph. But those things are only part of it. When we set out to photograph a wedding, we pay attention to those details, but we also seek to honor deep, emotional connections, and the intentional, sometimes difficult work that people have invested in planning their relationships. It is that work that truly makes a wedding, and a marriage, special. It is that work, the building of a strong foundation, that turns a wedding from the end of months of preparation to the beginning of a long life together.
Courtney and David have been married for six years, and as they put it, are just hitting their stride. We talked with them over the increasingly loud protestations of their newborn daughter, Margaret, at the end of their newborn lifestyle session. When we asked about how they thought about marriage before they got engaged, David told us,
“We both knew that when we got married that that was it.”
That sentiment is perhaps the most important for a marriage. To date another person is to share your life with them, but to get married is to make your two lives into one, and that kind of thing—obvious as it may sound—cannot be taken lightly. That commitment is what it’s all about, so much so that it is written in the vows: “for better or worse…till death do us part.” But what does this commitment mean when the quickest fact anyone can muster about marriage is that 50% of them end in divorce?
For Courtney and David, that commitment meant putting in a lot of work ahead of time to make sure they were ready, which included premarital counseling. The most important lesson they learned there was about conflict resolution. They found that they have very different styles of expressing frustration. Resolving conflict meant learning about each other and accepting and respecting those differences. Indeed that process of learning about and accepting each other has been a big part of their growth as a couple.
“We have friends that are trying to date, and I feel like they’re looking for what David and I have on the first date. You have to realize that marriage is hard work. It takes a long time to get to that point.”
Marriage is hard partly because it means giving up some part of your life in order to make a new life with your spouse. When we talked with Radhika’s parents, Snehal and Sanjeev, they told us, “It is a partnership, and to enhance that partnership it is always about compromise and sacrifice.” When you are married, your decisions are no longer your own. You have to account for another person, with their wants and needs. So why pay that price? Why get married? As Sanjeev put it,
“Marriage is hard work. However to do life alone is also hard, so you might as well have a partner.”
Sanjeev and Snehal have been married for 29 years, have lived in 5 different countries, sometimes together and sometimes apart. They have created a beautiful life for themselves and their children half a world away from their families in India, but they got to embark on this journey together. They got to share in their struggles and successes with each other. A strong partnership is hard to build and maintain, but it means never having to do it alone. Sanjeev and Snehal knew from the beginning that creating a life together would take hard work, but they have reaped the rewards of that work for almost three decades and counting.
Ian’s parents, Mark and Kate, had slightly different take on their marriage. On choosing the right spouse, Mark said,
“They better be your best friend.”
That friendship has been a major part of their marriage over the last 33 years. But their choice to get married was a casual one, not because they didn’t think much of their relationship, but because to them the most important thing was their commitment to each other, not a piece of paper or a ceremony. They took for granted that they were life partners, that they were together “for better or worse.”
Commitment to each other and to building a life together is perhaps the most powerful, obvious, and difficult part of a lasting marriage. Commitment is a journey, not a destination. These couples have stayed committed to each other in their marriages and can and should feel proud of that looking back on their lives together, but what about those couples just now embarking on their marriage journey together? Surely all couples are committed to each other when they get married, but staying committed takes a lot of work before, during, and after it has been declared.
For Eric and Michelle, who were married in November, that commitment means having a one-of-a-kind relationship with each other. They strive to make sure that they relationship is based on open and honest communication. “When we first got engaged, I legit thought it was going to be peaches and roses. It was all about me, and then all of the sudden Eric started having opinions about things. I was not fully prepared to do everything together, but in that last couple of weeks, really, we’ve really started understanding each other and we’ve really been enjoying this process.” All the work between their premarital counseling, spiritual counseling, and conversations with each other, is dedicated to understanding how to express themselves and hear what the other person is trying to express. In this commitment to communication, there is an element of teamwork, but there is also something more fun and personal. There is that special kind of language, which comes from practice. It is the kind of communication that is almost impossible for others to understand, but in that way it is incredibly intimate. It is a way of saying “I love you” that only your partner can hear. As Eric put it,
“People might say, ‘Y’all are weird,’ but we have our own normal, and I’m cool with it.”
For Rodney and Anna, who were married in December of 2016, commitment in the beginning of their marriage means preparing for each other. Rodney has been reflecting on what he has to offer to Anna and what she might need so that when they start their life together, he is ready for her. Rodney and Anna are remarkably similar in some ways—they both spontaneously bust out dance moves, they both laugh loudly and often, they both are the life of the party—but they are also very different in other ways. Rodney likes to fly by the seat of his pants, tackling life as it comes, while Anna likes to plan and be ready for every contingency. They are still working that out. But through their disagreements, there is a recognition that they love each other and they genuinely want to recognize and meet each other’s needs. Rodney knows he needs to be more proactive since his laidback style can stress Anna out. Anna knows that she needs to be, as she puts it, “Slower to anger and quicker to grace.” They are in the early stages of the life they are building together and are in the midst of the growing pains that every married couple can recognize. They are also so excited for their upcoming adventure together. When we asked Rodney about what he is most excited about, he said it was the little fights that come with building a life together. Anna said,
“I’m just excited to see what we do as a unit.”
Weddings are special. They take a lot of work and a lot of preparation. We are constantly amazed by all the details that go into making a beautiful wedding. But we are completely blown away by the beauty and wonder of intentionally crafted relationships. These relationships take so much more work and preparation than can be contained in a single day of celebration. For these relationships, the wedding day is only the beginning.