photo: Gia Canali
I consider myself a collector of stories (sometimes a creator of them, but not in this case). In this case, the story is even better than I’d imagined when I first came across this veil of exquisite beauty in the tiny bridal room at Stanford Chapel the morning of Louise’s wedding. As she and I conversed (both there and since), and I learned more about the veil, I thought you folks might love this story as much as I do.
Connecting with the things our forebears have done for centuries is a powerful reason people get married and have weddings (and why it is an institution in all our human culture). But getting to so tangibly, so physically connect to that past is one the rarest and most extraordinary privileges.
Plus: don’t you kind of love to imagine ladies with excruciatingly delicate fingers embroidering this lace by hand … over 150 years ago?!
From the bride:
“My grandmother grew up in San Francisco, and lived in an apartment building with her mother. They became close with Mrs. Kane, a woman down the hall who had no children of her own. When my grandmother was engaged, the neighbor loaned her a lace veil that had been handmade for *her* grandmother on her wedding day, but the neighbor never wore since she eloped. The veil is well over a hundred years old! My grandma wore the veil when she married my grandfather in San Francisco in 1949. When they had three daughters of their own—Katie, Nyna and Mary Lou—Mrs. Kane decided the lace veil should be passed into our family permanently. Katie wore the veil when she was married in 1975; Nyna, who is my mother, wore the veil when she married my father in 1977; and Mary Lou wore the very same lace veil on her wedding day in 1980. From generation to generation, the antique lace will continue to be passed down to brides in the family, and I wore this same veil on my wedding day in March 2011. My cousin Carrie will wear the lace next for her wedding on July 4, 2011.”
The first wedding I photographed was my high school friend Kori’s. In the weeks before the wedding, nobody was planning to or hired to take photographs, so I volunteered. I was justifiably mortified that this momentous occasion might go undocumented—and was apparently (happily) undeterred by my lack of experience.¹ The wedding day was a whirl—so much happening—an emotional ceremony, the reception in her father’s barn, a pig roast (!), and Kori had made her own beautiful dress by hand, complete with a whole backful of real buttons. Taking photographs was so exhilarating that I raced out to a one-hour photo developer as soon as I left the party. I was completely impatient to see the photographs we’d made²— which (thank God!) turned out great—and wanted Kori to be able to bring the pictures on her honeymoon.
What surprised me most at that first wedding and what I could never have anticipated was the transformation Kori made from woman to bride. I mean: Kori was really a very pretty girl, but as a bride, she absolutely shone. Now I’ve documented well over a hundred weddings (maybe hundreds?), and though expected, the transformation of every woman to bride is no less dramatic. This transformation, I believe, is why we all love the getting ready photographs.
We know we are going to outdo ourselves. And somewhere in that getting ready time is where it happens. Also, it’s one of the few parts of the day that our spouses don’t see. So there’s a natural curiosity. And for my part, I know I really had wanted to see evidence of my husband preparing for our wedding. Despite the obsession on all our parts, it’s easy to make design mistakes that adversely affect the getting ready photographs. Fortunately, it’s just as easy to take some simple measures to ensure gorgeous getting ready photographs.
1. Choose a room with good light. I love when brides and grooms get ready at their home or at their parents’ homes. Obviously, this isn’t possible at destination weddings. If you get ready in a hotel or other location, choose a room with bright indirect light (like with nice giant north facing windows, if we’re going to be picky!).
2. Make the space clean and tidy. Or if you choose to get ready in chaos (think big family, big bridal party chaos), let it be beautiful chaos. This is sometimes the hardest part to manage, but it is essential—and it really impacts the photographs. The room, of course, is the backdrop for all your getting ready photographs. Keep luggage neatly packed and out of the way. If you’re in a hotel, call housekeeping service and have the beds made up and room cleaned.
3. If at all possible, make it possible for your photographers to go back and forth between the bride’s getting ready location and the groom’s. Two rooms in proximity are always a good choice. You’ll get more photographs for your time. No matter what, don’t forget about the groom. Watching the groom figure out how to get dressed is sometimes the best part! His exciting getting-ready photos only take about fifteen minutes (well, honestly sometimes about three minutes), so it won’t detract from your coverage. Schedule his getting ready photographs while you’re getting your makeup started. Nobody really wants photographs before the foundation goes on anyway. (A side note is that a lot of couples request a divide-and-conquer strategy for the getting ready photographs, but you should definitely check with your photographers to see if this works well with the way they shoot. I dislike dividing cameras and resources, and my husband and I have developed a great way of shooting together.)
4. If intimate getting ready photographs are important to you, consider wearing lovely lingerie for the getting ready photographs (even if you plan to switch to Spanx for the rest of the day). Let your modesty guide you, of course. If you want to wear a lacy bra or corset while you’re getting your makeup done—or just while you’re getting ready to put on your dress—so be it. But if you’d rather sneak into your dress in private, that’s totally up to you.
5. The details matter. Most brides love photographs of all the little details they’ve spent months (or more) acquiring: the dress, the shoes, jewelry, bouquet, etc. So keep these details easy to access. I also suggest bringing your own pretty hanger to hang the dress on. My favorite hangers are antique.
6. Schedule your preparation time properly—and pad your schedule. Allow enough time to do everything you need to do—hair, makeup, dressing, driving between locations (all you LA brides)—and then some. If you have a complicated gown with lacing, real buttons, or lots of layers, allow extra time to dress. More often than (I’m sure) your stylists would like to admit, hair and makeup run as much as an hour and a half behind. The indecent measure of stress that adds to your wedding day shows in the photographs. The best case scenario involves you having time for a champagne toast with your attendants.
7. Save five minutes (or more!) after you’re all ready for a few portraits before you go out into the busy-ness of your wedding day. Your hair and makeup are still perfect and the bridal transformation is complete.
What do you think makes the biggest impact on getting ready photographs? I’d love to hear … Leave a comment and we may update this post or add another on that topic.
photo credit: Gia Canali
¹ I have this theory that the so-called beginner’s luck is formed by the blissful unawareness of what we are to fear, like an ingenue’s confidence. It’s helpful. We learn to fear things (like lost rolls of film, poor exposures, getting heckled during family photographs, etc.) only later on.
² This was in the all-film era, of course. I grew up near Rochester, NY, Kodak’s headquarters. So I’d seen digital cameras. Several years before, one of my prom dates’ fathers had a prototype digital camera from work and had taken photos of all us kids dressed up for prom. We were wowed when he showed them to us a moment later on his computer.
Now that I think about it and despite how hard all of us tried to get away from the poofiness of wedding fashion in the 80s and 90s, wouldn’t it be fabulous if brides of our generation reinvented “the pouf” in some lovely modern way? Check out this bubble veil one of my brides wore this summer in Portland. The shape nicely set off the sleek and very, very sexy lines of her gown.