The day I photographed my first wedding was the day marriage was redefined for me. I sat crouched in the corner of the dance floor trying to find an angle where the soft blues and purples of the room would show the detail of her wedding dress. The soft piano keys that begin John Legend’s “So High” moved the couple into each other’s arms for their first dance. They locked eyes with each other, giggled a little while exchanging whispers (because how often do 400 people watch you dance), and spent five solid minutes enraptured in one another.
There was something incredible about what I was watching. In the earliest hours of their marriage, the way they danced told a story. There were promises being made by the way they held one another. There were commitments being shared in their slow orbit around the floor, but the way they saw each other, so close that you can see yourself in someone’s eyes, stopped me altogether. As my camera sat rested on my knee, their eyes made a promise in three short words that changed the way I saw marriage – I got you. That was the night I knew this kind of love was a must-have for me.
In a way, I’d always known marriage was about partnership, but maybe I never explored how deep (or how far) that partnership could take you. Having not really explored my own truth in earnest, I guess I never thought much about what kind of “marriage” I could be in (especially considering Louisiana and much of the country had yet to legalize same-sex marriage). That night was the first night I was that close to a moment like that. That close to a celebration of raw, unapologetic love that was obviously based in friendship, trust, and faith. I cried –– in part at how incredibly joyful the entire day had been, but I also found myself mourning. I was actually moved to tears at the thought that I would never find something like this. I hadn’t seen it captured outside of fictional characters to even imagine what it would look like.
The third episode of the Black Love series, “Emerging From Darkness,” took me back to that wedding and looking at “partnership” with fresh eyes. Wondering if on the day you take vows, you could even imagine the trials ahead of you. Episode three seemed to demonstrate that “I do,” doesn’t mean “I have a plan” as much as it means “I’m here. I’m ready.”