The rain held out until just as I walked in behind the couple to the reception space, held upstairs at the Grand Ballroom of the Capital Club Building in Raleigh, NC. Timing is everything and the timing could not have been better for the love-birds tonight.
As a wedding photographer, I often spend my weekends going through the rituals: calming down the bride, joking with the groomsmen, making connections with the caterers, wedding directors, venue coordinators, and DJs. After a while, the events seem to run together. But tonight was different. Tonight was special.
I’ve known Phi since third grade when I changed elementary schools and we shared class together. Throughout the rest of our time in elementary school all the way through senior year (and beyond) Phil would prove over and over again how genuinely nice of a person he was, and his sense-of-humor was just icing on the cake. He’s the type of person who can be the life of the party or, as was proven tonight when speech time rolled around, the humble character that can show gratitude for those around him.
When Phil asked me to photograph his ceremony and reception, I was on board. He’s a good friend and always has been. Even if I wasn’t the photographer I would have still gone to his wedding to celebrate such a big milestone in his life. Sitting here thumbing through files to do a preview I can’t help but feel humbled myself by being a part of such a momentous occasion for such a dear friend.
The ceremony took place in Nash Park, downtown Raleigh, with the reception space only a block’s walk away. The grand ballroom was decorated in lovely gray and black linens with a southern-bred theme. The food was southern charm with a city-flare (read: gourmet southern traditional dishes). The fresh-flower centerpieces were a collection of hydrangeas designed by a family-member that recently retired from the florist industry. Even the gifts for the guest brought a tear to your eyes: mini-pecan pies done in honor of the groom’s deceased father, complete with packaging that gave the father’s recipe to carry with (yeah, I know…so cute and such a great way to honor a loved one’s legacy). It was every southern girl’s dream.
Except, the only southern girls in this wedding party were the bridesmaids…errr, groomsmaids, I guess. You see, this was my first gay wedding (both as a photographer and attendee). I loved every second of it. My heart filled with pride and joy to watch a friend and the love of his life say their vowels before friends, family, and (yes) God, and begin their journey through life together. I wish I had written the words down spoken by the officiant regarding the love between Phil and Brad. The verses, poems, and personal writings uttered this evening were so on point and could be used at ANY wedding, gay or not.
As I left the evening for the hour-long drive home, I began to reflect on my experience. At first, my thoughts ran positive. What a beautiful day….the number of people there….the delicious food…the details. I mean, let’s face it, both Phil and I come from a small, rural area (we graduated in a class of 75 students) in southeastern North Carolina. You don’t get much more red than that. We may breed cows, hogs, chickens, and turkeys, but everyone around here proudly raises elephants.
Then the sadness set in. Don’t get me wrong, they are married. They are husbands. But in the eyes of the state, the same state that they included an image of on their unique, southern-themed invitations, does not recognize anything that happened today other than proudly collecting taxes from the businesses that serviced the event.
I can’t begin to imagine how, even though everything was so beautiful and everyone so happy, disappointing it must be to realize that today’s vows would not hold up in a court of law.
For a second, put yourself in their position. You are in love with and loved by the man (or woman) of your dreams. I mean true love. The unconditional kind, you know. The this-person-completes-me-in-ways-I-never-dreamed-possible type. The kind of love that you read about and never think it is true until it happens to you. The kind of relationship and bond that you know no matter how hard things get, no matter what trials may come, you want to face them with that person because you’d rather face all the hells of the world with them than to live one day in utopia without them. Now imagine that the government told you that you could not get legally married and that any such ceremony to get married would essentially be the grown-up equivalent of playground make-believe.
The pain that occurred to my heart when that thought hit me really infuriates me. Both Phil and Brad are great people. They treat everyone they meet with kindness and love. They work hard. They pay their taxes. They vote, go to political rallies, and stay current on the happenings in our country. They are excellent citizens of both the State of North Carolina and the United States of America. Yet, because some people (since apparently now-a-days the majority can vote on the rights of the minority…I know I still don’t quite comprehend that either) do not agree with the fact that they both have penises, they are not afforded the same liberties as a couple of differing genders.
I truly hope that I live to see the day that Phil and Brad can get married in the eyes of the law. Even so, they will still be Mr. and Mr. Murray-Blackman to me.
Photos ©MeeSquared Photography, 2013.