Virginia Unveiled: How Charlottesville Weds

Photographing a Day for the Ages

How do you see your wedding photographers, and how do they see you?

We walk into a lodge a couple have long dreamed of filling with people they love, don’t see often enough and can’t wait to see on their wedding day. When we arrive with our cameras, lights, and lenses, the gathering goes from private to public in a sixtieth of a second.

We are witnesses, and chroniclers, of friendship, love, commitment and hijinks.

Women bustle around on joyful errands.  Formal finery in fancy bags hangs on doors, chairs and maple rafters, waiting for people to put them on and shine,  Potions and powders and paint from artists’ brushes goes on expectant faces, amid motherly and sisterly chatter.

Downstairs, men gather around bags of rented clothes and shiny shoes, looking like a band about to pose for an album cover.  Balls on the pool table are joined by hundred-year-old watches, gleaming cuff links and bourbon buried and dug up from a special spot out back.   In the man cave. snacks and sports shows and tall tales rule.

What adventures the guys survived to get to this day, recounted with glee, heard with knowing laughs, told countless times before.  Epic days at the lake, romps on the shore, nights of well-lubricated merriment – the legendary exploits of a family of friends, bringing the groom to a time when he can say, I Do. 

After a solemn toast with the buried bourbon, another legendary tale gets going.  The groom will make his appearance upstairs, at a moment a modern couple must embrace — or follow the ways of their parents, and their parents, which one way or another turned out well.

We’re talking about a First Look, a magical meeting in the hours before the wedding ceremony, when a man and a woman first see one another as bride and groom.

What an image to capture and preserve. A beautiful bride stands by the rail of a porch at the lodge seemingly overlooking the world, with her whole world about to tap her on the shoulder.

The groom emerges from the man cave to stand at a balcony, looking out on infinity.  Behind him stands his bride.  We all have found our pre-arranged positions, to enact and capture an encounter for the history books.  The vision this man and this woman have in their heads is about to become reality.

She taps, he turns, and their faces turn radiant, eyes aglow with tears, seeing the happiest of sights and brightest of futures.  We can only marvel, photographing a moment this couple will keep in their hearts and minds’ eyes, and on their mantle.

The upside to embracing this new tradition:  Having seen one another, the bride and groom can pose with fathers, mothers, wedding party and all the friends in the lodge for a whole bunch of photos.  That leaves more time after the ceremony to actually hang out with all the people they’ve longed to see.

At last, we gather at an altar atop the Blue Ridge, 3,800 feet above the Carolina shoreline, awed by the traditional, transformational sight of a groom awaiting his bride.    Blessed are we, the photographers capturing that walk down the aisle, filling a new home with pictures that never get old.