In what has become a quarterly ritual, I submitted a selection of wedding photos to a well-known wedding magazine. They were all weddings in beautiful locations, with gorgeous color and emotion and life and LOVE. I was so proud of each of them, and happy to share the stories I’d told through photographs for each couple.

A couple weeks after submitting, I got this reply: “These are all really pretty, but we want to see more details. More pictures of flowers, centerpieces, and any other details that really made these weddings special. Our Real Weddings section should give brides ideas for planning the perfect wedding.”

And while I did provide additional detail photos, I also kept the original e-mail in my inbox, just… mulling it over.

See, wedding publications exist to feed the industry: the florists and the lighting designers and the calligraphers and the caterers and the photographers and the thousands upon thousands of couples who will spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on their weddings. Magazines and blogs publish pictures of couples in lavish surroundings with immaculate decor, and vendors who can provide similar glitz and glam pay big bucks for full-page ads and featured banners. Many women (in particular) spends YEARS scouring these staples of wedding wisdom for the perfect dress, the perfect bouquet, the perfect cake… when they finally meet the perfect partner they’ll be ready.

I’ve had my own work published in these magazines. I’ve been featured on wedding blogs. I’ve even paid to advertise with publications who “reach a bajilliondy high-end brides every month.”

As I think back on the hundred-plus weddings I’ve photographed, I want to emphasize this:
Every wedding is perfect.

I love a good party.
I love a bride in the most elaborate, fancy, princess-y dress you’ve ever dreamed of.
I love custom chuppahs and embroidered aisle runners and matchy-matchy bridesmaids dresses.
I love to photograph flowers and shoes.
But you know why I REALLY do what I do?
To photograph your parents, who will hold hands and cry on the first row of the chapel. To photograph your sister dancing with that boy she will marry in three years. To photograph those kids who will grow up so, so quickly. To photograph your grandfather, who will pass away next spring. To photograph your first kiss as a married couple, your best friend busting out her signature dance moves, the flower girl asleep under a table, and maybe even your ex looking pretty wistful as he hugs you a little too long in the receiving line.

You already know: your cake will disappear in less than an hour, your flowers will wilt before the ceremony ends, and that uncomfortable tux will go back to the rental place in the morning. But those photos… they’re gonna be there forever. You’ll have them when your own kids are born, when you have the biggest fight ever with your partner and need to be reminded of how much you really love each other, when your parents pass away and you realize the last time you danced with them was at your wedding…

So, nothing against the wedding magazines and blogs and their endless, passionate quest for “perfect” detail shots. PLEASE: throw the party of your lives with every. single. detail. EXACTLY as you dreamed it would be.

But my job — MY job — is to see past all that. My job is to give you photos that will remind you why you had that damn expensive party in the first place.

If you’re planning your wedding right now, please just close the magazine. Log out of Pinterest. And look at the person you want to grow old with. Remind yourself of why you’re doing this. And really CELEBRATE when that day comes. Don’t stress about your shoes or your cake or your flowers. Don’t stress about anything. When it’s all over, you will be married, and surrounded by the people who know you and love you most in the whole wide world.

I promise: that is the Perfect Wedding.

[This essay was also published HERE, on Huff Post Weddings.]

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  1. Truer words were never spoken. A wedding is the very beginning of a marriage, and the least important things in a marriage (or a wedding) are THINGS. Thank you for your thoughts and observations!

  2. Perfectly perfect. To another year filled with perfect clients and perfect weddings! Love this post.

  3. This is what I love about the things you do. I would also mention the special photography of the wedding couple in places that have meant a lot to them as their relationship grew; our daughter cherishes those photos as much as any others. What a wonderful job you do, Anne!

  4. “Why you had that damn expensive party in the first place” …. love that line. Actually I love the whole essay, but that just kinda sums it up. And you do such a wonderful job capturing the essence of the answer to that question in your photographs.

  5. I deliver a very basic version of this text, when we sit down and meet a Bride & Groom for the first time, but I’ve never been able to really articulate it. THIS really resonated with me! What they can’t realise when we meet, is that we’ve experienced ALL of those amazing/funny/sad moments already, and I try to convey to them that it’s all about to happen to Them… and that WE are going to help make it happen! It’s an awesome privilege!!! Thank you for your lovely words…

  6. Oh Anne. Thank you so much for this post. I have been trying for months to articulate how I feel about this and everything you say is spot on. You see, not only am I a wedding photographer, but I am also in the process of planning my OWN wedding right now. And it’s just so overwhelming. I feel so much pressure to have all these incredible details and yet, so many in the industry have shamed me for having a modest budget. it makes me feel as if MONEY is more important than having an amazing party with the most important people in my life…AND ALSO celebrating the fact that I am spending the rest of my life with my SOUL MATE.

    I have done so much soul searching as a photographer the past few months and most of that is because I am a BRIDE now. I have to reevaluate what’s really important to me. As a bride, as a vendor, and really, as a person.

    thank you so so much, Anne.

  7. Anne, Hi! I’m a wedding photographer here in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, I’m a fan of your work and I read every thing you publish wherever you’ll publish it and reading this post, I’m speechless!! This is exactly the same that I’ve been wanting to say so loud a long time ago!! If you don’t mind I’ll share. Thank you!!

  8. Wonderful post and thank you for pointing out what is the most important aspect of the wedding! You’re an inspiration to those of us that believe wedding photography should be timeless reflection of an incredible point in a couple’s life.

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