“The only reason that I’m still holding on”, he’d said to me a few weeks earlier “is that I want to be here to see you and Stephanie get married and be happy.”
On a monday evening in late October, less than a week before my wedding, my dad went into the hospital. I rode with him in the ambulance and walked beside him as they wheeled him into the emergency room, a tradition that had become familiar during the last few months as he battled with cancer. The next morning, my mom called to tell me that the doctors were giving him two to three months to live, but that he should be home on Thursday or Friday. We talked about getting the whole family together for Christmas, and how to make his last few months as comfortable and happy for him as we could.
Late Tuesday night, I was sleeping on a couch in the waiting room when his nurse came and woke me up. He’d taken an unexpected turn for the worst, and they didn’t know whether or not he’d make it through the night. The next six hours were a blur – and a testament to the fact that I’d chosen to marry the most amazing woman in the world. After everyone had gone home for some much needed rest on Wednesday night, we went for a walk, and out of nowhere she said the exact words that had been running through my mind all evening: “I think that we should get married in the hospital with your dad. It doesn’t feel right to do it any other way.”
Instead of the huge wedding we’d spent months planning, we were married in Room 6 of the ICU, with only our pastor and parents present. My dad was on a ventilator and heavily medicated, and I wasn’t sure that he was aware of what was happening. We stood next to his bed, and I held his hand. As we recited our vows, he squeezed my hand, and I like to think that he was letting me know that he understood what was going on, and that he was happy. When we walked out of the room, married, the entire ICU staff applauded.
Stephanie and I spent our first night as a young married couple sleeping on a couch in the ICU waiting room. Early Friday afternoon, with my mom and brothers and sisters standing at his bedside, my wife held my dad’s hand and read the Bible to him. A few minutes later, he passed away.
We had friends and family in from out of town who had no idea what was happening, and so we decided to have our ceremony the next day, with a candle lit in remembrance of my dad. And although that night was beautiful, when I think back to my wedding, I think of standing in Room 6 of the ICU with my wife’s hand in my right and my dad’s hand in my left. I think of my wife sitting next to his hospital bed and reading the Bible to him. I have a hard time remembering what we had for dinner or what color the bridesmaids dresses were or what music our DJ played — and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I feel blessed that Stephanie and I were able to spend one the most important moments of our lives without any distractions at all, completely focused on the moment, surrounded by only the people nearest and dearest to us.
I specialize in intimate weddings because I feel that they communicate what’s most significant about your wedding day, and what’s nearest to my heart: your love for one another, and your relationships with the family and friends who have come together to join you in celebrating that love. One of the tragedies that I see all too often in wedding photography is that the details and trappings of the wedding day — the gorgeous venue, the beautiful dress, the amazing details, and the mile long guest list — are treated as more significant than the love between the bride and groom. I love photographing beautiful weddings, and I love it when my couples invest time and energy into making their wedding day a perfect reflection of themselves, but when all’s said and done, those are just details. Their love for one another is always the most important thing.
My promise to you is that no matter what, every time you look through your wedding photographs, it will be clear that your love is the most important thing.