“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”~ Ernest Hemingway
Almost three weeks ago now, I photographed a canceled wedding weekend in New Orleans and it was life changing for me. I got to witness by far one of the most incredible woman demonstrate grace, beauty, and perseverance…all at the same time! The story made it to a few different blogs (Yahoo! Health, Loverly, and The Bridal Guide Magazine), but you’re going to hear the complete narratives (mine and Amber’s) here on this blog without anything added or taken away. When I got home to Florida, I asked Amber to write a one or two paragraph narrative about what happened and her debriefing of the weekend. It was beautiful, and I wasn’t surprised a bit; Amber is an extremely talented writer, and her words (verbal and written) are powerful! Our hope was that her story would reach people and would inspire them to also be overcomers. Whether someone is facing relationship issues, financial burdens, grieving the loss of a loved person, a failed career and everything in between, a strong ‘village’ can temper the pain with support and solidarity! Here is Amber’s inspirational story.
From the photographer: “I have never experienced or witnessed anything like this kind of strength. Amber is of warrior status! She called me four days before her wedding and told me the groom called off the wedding. She was devastated; I was devastated for her. We both cried. We could have canceled photography coverage, we decided together that documenting the grieving she (and her family) was going through had potential to be powerful and meaningful. I had never photographed anything even somewhat like this, but I was up for the challenge! I flew to New Orleans, and we did a different spin on the wedding weekend. Amber didn’t want the images from the weekend to be, ‘See! You didn’t get me down! I’m gonna get out of this on top!’. Instead, she wanted to show the raw emotion and tell a story. When we were talking about what she wanted her images to represent, she said the following: “This is a shocking very lost feeling, and realities must faced. But with family and resilience you can have comfort and even happiness in the middle of the storm. How your loved ones surround you. How you have to move boxes, and make decisions about possessions, and how to live a new life. That tragedy is like spring rain…somehow in the storm, these little blooms of hope appear until eventually you’re through to summer again.” How amazing is this woman? And that is what we did, my friends; we captured the storm of emotions and the beautiful blooms of life! We split the coverage into two days: Saturday (what would have been her wedding day) I photographed her floral details (she made all those paper flowers herself…603 of them to be exact!!), bridal portraits in her reception dress around the streets of New Orleans, and then we finished the afternoon with her ‘trash the dress’ in the Jackson Square Fountain. A beautiful cleansing took place that Saturday afternoon. On Sunday evening, we took bridal portraits in her ceremony dress walking down Bourbon St. and then Amber and her amazing family took pictures together in City Park as they celebrated solidarity and strength! I am blown away not only by this woman’s amazing attitude, but also by the incredible support and tenderness her family has shown. It was a distinct honor to photograph such a strong, powerful, and stunning. She has set a beautiful example to people everywhere that you can overcome!”
From the bride: “I think we all imagine a bride being left at the alter under dramatic circumstances. But ultimately, it’s a very quiet moment. A letter left at the hotel. An empty aisle. Or a whisper before the door closes. Sometimes it’s small spark that spontaneously combusts and starts a wild fire that just can’t be controlled in time to save the day. For Isaac and me, it was the latter. Under any other circumstance, you can usually feel safe and secure that the flames will die down. But when it ignites just before the most daunting commitment of your life, the blaze seems to blind you from seeing the forest for the trees. You simply can’t imagine living a lifetime in that kind of heat. So Isaac decided to get out of the proverbial kitchen despite my efforts to remind him we were the best firefighting team around. All this left me with a wedding and no groom. What I learned is that a wedding is something entirely different from a marriage. A wedding is about all the people and things that come together to witness two people get married. A marriage is just about the bride and groom. So when my entire family decided to come to New Orleans anyway and see me through the aftermath, it became evident that all the same people and things that made up my wedding still existed. There just wasn’t going to be a marriage. Truthfully, I couldn’t see anything optimistic at first. I was just grateful I wasn’t alone. It wasn’t until Leah Dorr, my photographer, suggested doing a photo shoot anyway that I realized something truly beautiful happened out of all the ugliness. It was the first time my entire family was together in one place, just for the sake of being together, for over a decade or more. And they all came together to hold me up. Somehow, the solidarity, and seeing and feeling unconditional, forgiving love radiate from them made the pain of Isaac’s decision almost irrelevant. In the armor of my family’s strength and support, I could face the battle of heartbreak without fear or humiliation. I cried. I laughed. I sang. I danced. And somehow, in an indescribable way, I won. Did I get married? No. Do I still have a lot grieving and healing yet to do? Yes. But all of that will be okay in time because, in the end, I got so much more than a wedding. ”