The Why of Weddings (& Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and Other Celebrations)

02 | 22 | 2012

for EG

I photographed a bat mitzvah a few weeks ago.  This is not something I get to do very often, but I always relish the chance.  Bar and bat mitzvahs are so fun, unabashedly celebratory, and I think that age 13 is just about the perfect time to remind a young adult that of the love and support of family and community.  The clients for this bat mitzvah were particularly wonderful and I could tell from the first moment I met them last summer how much they loved their daughter and wanted this bat mitzvah to be a really affirming expression of that love.

The party was exhilarating—a whirlwind, really—and at the end of the night, after all the guests had gone home and I had packed up most of the cameras, I went to say good night to the bat mitzvah girl and her parents.   Her father began to tell me how people had complained to him before the bat mitzvah, “it’s so much money to spend” and “it’s just a party” and  “you’ll never remember it.” He continued on to tell me how happy he was with how the party turned out,¹ detailing how meaningful it was that his people had come all over the world for this party and he concluded, “you know, I think we will remember it.”

And something clicked.

He had paid the money and thrown himself headlong into the planning of this event not just for the daughter he and his wife love so much, for her birthday party or to honor and welcome her into a tradition, not even for the guests to have an incredible experience (which they certainly did), but so that he and his wife could have the privilege of gathering their people. From all over the world.  Into one room.

What good sense.  What clarity.  No one has ever articulated the why of a celebration so well to me.  (Also maybe it’s harder to see with weddings, perhaps because we kind of hope it’s really about ourselves when we get married).  You gather your people.  You gather your people at these singular moments in your life for the joy of being together, all together, all at once.

So often my wedding clients talk about how incredible and humbling and overwhelming it is to see their people all together.   One of the keenest memories of my own wedding is turning around during the ceremony and seeing the faces of my loved ones all together.  I think I’ve talked about that here on the blog before. But we don’t always or easily anticipate that, plan for it in the planning of the wedding.

I’ve seen some pretty crummy comments around the web, even here on this blog, about how much money people spend on their weddings.  Although there are lots of reasons for not spending money on a wedding (or anything else), folks might be missing the point.  It’s not about a dollar amount.  It’s about why whatever money people choose to spend is worth it to them.

photo: Gia Canali

¹ Let me just interject that it was one for the books as far as these things go.

7 Notes on “The Why of Weddings (& Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and Other Celebrations)

  1. Mary Babin

    dear Gia, This made me cry…those nice hot happy and sentimental tears that I did NOT (phew!) shed on Tori & Nick’s wonderful day. This father has precisely captured the warm joy of such a celebration. What a wonderful post! Love to you and Matt, Mary

  2. Mary Babin

    We are so lucky to have your photos to bring back the visual images that our memories, such as they are, may dilute. But nothing will even dim my memory of how I felt. Still think of you as “our Gia”, as I once referred to you to Tori!

  3. Gia Post author

    Mary, We are so, so blessed to have gotten to share that day with you and your family! I can still close my eyes and feel the absolute magic of Tori and Nick’s recessional with the strings playing the “Up” theme in the background!!

  4. Jessie

    great blog post and so true! I always tell clients they could hold their wedding in a cardboard box and it would still be great because of their guests and all the love they bring. The details and the decor really are secondary-it’s all about the love and you’re right, you can’t plan that!

  5. Matthew Manus

    Gia, I love this post. I’m so proud of you for tackling this kind of subject matter on your blog. So often, with regard to weddings and like celebrations, we hear (or see) comments like,”With so many things wrong in the world, how can someone spend so much money on a party?” And to those people I say, “Seeing it as just a party is one of the things wrong in the world.” Well done, Gia! Cheers!

  6. Elizabeth Hermann Smith

    Gia —

    West & I were SO lucky to have you photograph our special day! (And we’re SO lucky to have you as our cousin!) You bring so much joy to everyone whose celebration you help to memorialize, and I love this post — that father got the sentiment just right. I hope this helps bring home to you the importance of what you do & how you & your work help countless people remember & revisit the most special & meaningful of times in their lives.


    🙂 Lizabee

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