Weddings || Or some notes about being an artist that also photographs weddings...

My sister-in-law got married a few weeks ago now, and the love, care, and attention to detail she put into everything was palpable. Lucky for me, for the first wedding in a while, I got to be on both sides of the experience—I decided to record video of the whole thing & the speeches, if for nothing else, for the audio. I also took a few pictures, but tried to resist the urge and be present with the family (which is really hard to do when you have a killer lens hanging off your arm). Coming back down to real life after an incredible and surreal weekend is rough, so I thought I'd prolong the feeling by talking about wedding photography.

a photo only a family member would get—that sass!


When your an artist that also makes a living off your craft, people don't seem to understand that there is a difference between the two. For me there used to be a giant wall between the art I do to make money and the art I do for myself. The wall has come down a lot in the last year, parts of it are still there, but there's a large shift going on in my personal life that's bringing the two things even closer together than they've ever been before. Within the last 2 years I bought a house; I got married; Flew to some amazing places; Rode one of the tallest roller-coasters in the world (literally); Decided to jump on one of the hardest roller-coasters to ride (figuratively) by going back to school after 5 years out; Adopted a crazy puppy; Took a few thousand portraits; Didn't shoot enough rolls of film; Started a business partnership that I'm incredibly proud of. I could keep going but I think you get the picture. It's been a process of me slowly creeping up on my dreams—things coming together, and I couldn't be happier to finally feel like I know what I'm doing in life.

But to get back to where I started, you would think that after all the weddings I've photographed, I would be a bit jaded to the whole thing. But no, not even a little bit. If anything, I feel like it's quite the opposite—I started out a bit jaded, young, too-cool for weddings, and now I'm the one who needs a tissue-filled pocket, primed and ready for the water-works.

I started my career as a wedding photographer pretty young, and certainly pretty naive. I have to admit, I didn't really understand what I was photographing when I started. Granted I was only 18 when I got my first gig as an assistant for a small wedding photography business in Santa Cruz. And that was my first time going to a wedding at all! Being a photographer is a great way to see something for the first time—every piece of it new and odd and interesting—perfect to photograph, examine, edit, and process. But I have to say it didn't feel good to be an outsider when it came to photographing weddings. I mean, okay, to step it back a touch, I've been photographing things for money for a while—most random (and in my mind most ridiculous!) being paper-weights! But a wedding is not a paper-weight—it's a moving, breathing event with characters and more emotion than one frame can hold. I struggled for many years to find a way to feel more connected to "the wedding". Being an assistant can be pretty alienating, and in my case I barely got to know the people I was photographing. If I was lucky I'd be editing the wedding I shot myself, but often the workload was so large I would be working through other people's work, answering emails for future clients I would never get the chance to meet, so on and so forth...

Of course taking on my own clients changed that "outsider" perspective a lot. But still, I found it challenging to not really understand first hand what they were going through. You can't truly tell a story without having empathy. That is to say, as photographers, we are storytellers. Each frame filling in a piece of it all. A good photo telling you everything you need to know. I guess my point is I didn't know exactly what I should be telling—what that feeling was or could be.

Last year I married my best friend in Joshua Tree, and for the first time I did fully 100% get it. It took for me to have my own wedding, to sweat through the budget, DIY myself to the point of neck cramps, panic over my vows at the last minute—it took for me to be there, in that moment, putting the ring that we had custom-made on my husband's left hand—it took to that minute for me to fully understand it. Sure there's a level of ridiculousness to the whole thing—the white dress, walking slowly down the aisle, being announced by a DJ—sure there's a whole set of weird traditions that we uphold, with no real reason behind them. And sure a lot of people say after the fact that they could have used the money for something more practical, that it all went by at the blink of an eye, and they don't remember anything—but that's all just things people say. Money is money and tradition is kind of silly—but having a kick-ass party with all the people that you love and hold closest to you is really one of the best decisions you'll make in your life.

If I can project any advice to brides planning their weddings out there in cyber-space: Don't listen to anything anyone tells you! Drop the bridal manuals, take a step back, take a deep breath, and remember there are a million unique ways to do the same thing. Do it your way, do it with feeling, and don't forget to have fun.

Sethers + Love,


p.s. here are some of my favorite moments (& characters) I captured at the wedding!


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Sethers + Love

Collaborative efforts of Rory Amber Thompson & Jordan Rose Jurich-Weston; Fine art wedding photographers using a combination of digital and film. Serving the greater San Francisco Bay Area, Gold Country, Santa Cruz, California, World Wide.