This is probably one of the most difficult, yet rewarding sessions I've ever photographed. Sheila, a beautiful bride-to-be informed me a few weeks before their scheduled wedding that her father had been in and out of the hospital with congestive heart failure. She wanted to give me a 'heads-up' as they were considering holding the ceremony at the hospital instead of the venue they booked.
Well about two weeks later, Sheila contacted me again, this time with a request - to meet her the following day, at the hospital, to photograph their wedding ceremony with her father as he likely only had days left. With my emotions running wild and an aching heart for Sheila and Patrick, I said absolutely. Of course afterwards I started questioning to myself "How am I going to pull this off?, I've never photographed this type of situation!, What if I just lose all composure and burst out crying?!" So I went to some fellow photographers and asked for advice. I received a wealth of support and encouragement from these fellow photogs and others who have been in this situation....so armed with some great advice (and lots of tissues) I headed to the hospital the next day.
Honestly I didn't know what to expect. Sheila only mentioned briefly about her fathers condition and my lack of understanding about congestive heart failure really left me in the dark. However, when I arrived, I was greeted by Sheila's mother Eileen. She was so kind and welcoming, it really put my nerves at ease. Then I saw Sheila's father, who was lying there in the hospital bed awake and completely cognizant. We actually didn't speak much, but you could tell he was doing okay that day. .
After getting all my gear squared away, Sheila and Patrick arrived for the ceremony. With a handful of their closest friends and family present, Sheila and Patrick said their vows to each other and became husband and wife. Taking the advice of my photographer supporters, I stood quietly in the background, allowing the moments to happen naturally. After the congratulations and hugs, and even the cake cutting, I snapped a few family photos and then left them to be together to enjoy the rest of this memorable day.
They decided to stick with the orginially scheduled venue and date. So a week later, I had the wonderful opportunity to see them again. Unfortunately Sheila's father passed a few days after their hospital ceremony. My heart continues to go out to the Hansbury & Naughton families as they move into the next chapter of their lives. However, I'm once again reminded of how important my job is as a photographer. These moments, captured and frozen in time, help preserve the precious memories we create with friends and family throughout the years.
Okay - pass the tissues please.