As a wedding photogher, not only do I get to capture all the wonderful emotional moments that happen during the course of a wedding but also the long standing and symbolic traditions that go along with it.
I love traditions and that passion is probably the biggest reason why I became a wedding photographer in the first place. I enjoy all the wedding rituals, little and big, that occur throughout the day. On some weddings, tradition begins with the mother of the bride putting the veil on her daughter and then soon to follow, the father of the bride walking his beautiful daughter down the aisle. Similarly with the Jewish tradition of bedeken (veiling ceremony) the groom, the rabbi, the fathers and the whole entourage proceed to the bride (who is flanked by both mothers) for the veiling ceremony. The groom places the veil over the bride’s face and recites a blessing. It’s wonderful to see and capture how various family members express joy as each tradition unfolds.
I’m a tradition junkie and I’m not alone with that obsession. There is no way I can imagine a birthday without cake, a Fourth of July without fireworks, not making s’mores by a toasty campfire, not having turkey on the menu at Thanksgiving and waking up on Christmas day without a fully decorated and glowing tree. Unthinkable!
There are many people just like me who are rooted in tradition and when a tradition is broken, overlooked or even dismissed, there is a strong feeling of disbelief and disappointment. When wedding tradition is broken, the air is quickly filled with the buzz of chatter, spreading throughout the reception from person to person, like a contagious virus – “What do you mean the horah is not on the playlist?”, “Oh my god, there’s no first dance!”, and “They’re serving donuts instead of cake!” (I’m not kidding, look for the donuts at the end of this wedding slideshow)
The point here is that some people’s expectation are not necessary yours. Not all couples are exactly the same and not all cultures have the same wedding traditions. When it comes to wedding traditions, some couples just don’t want a cookie cutter wedding day. Which wedding traditions, old or new, that you decide upon is your decision alone. It goes without saying that the wedding traditions you decide upon, needs to be right for you, because after all, it’s your wedding and no one else’s.
A couple of weeks ago, I photographed Emily and Brandon’s wedding at West Point. They had both just graduated from the US Military Academy the day before (yes the day before!) and on a sunny Thursday afternoon, both these newly commissioned lieutenants, wanted to keep sacred the tradition of not seeing each other until the grand walk down the aisle but to also start a new tradition on their wedding day. With a perfect little nook in the lobby of the Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel, a place where they remained hidden from sight from one another, they exchanged love letters. As you can see pictured above, it was such an intimate moment to witness and capture, and I wondered as they read in silence what those love letters said that made them smile.
This simple act of exchanging love letters is, in my opinion, one of the best wedding traditions, because it’s something that can be done throughout your entire marriage, not just on the wedding day. I hope and wish that Emily and Brandon read their love letters on each anniversary going forward and perhaps write a new love letter each year to express how their marriage and love for one another grows with time.
What would you say if you could share one simple message just before tying the knot? Any wedding traditions you couldn’t live without? Let us know by sharing your thoughts in the comments section below.
About Wedding photographer Chris Leary
Chris Leary is a New York wedding photographer who has been documenting weddings and traditions for the past 14 years. His approach to wedding photography is both intuitive and photo-journalistic. He prides himself on crafting expressive documentaries by capturing not only big moments for the bride and groom, but also small fleeting moments that tend to be forgotten once the wedding day has come to an end. His passion lies within the creation of tangible memories.