Clerice and Emily. Unmatched examples of patience and trust in God's perfect plan. They're living-proof that, if you're faithful and work-hard, long-distance relationships work. Their wedding was an intricate illustration of "love is patient," and the beauty of waiting, in that, the longer you wait for someone, the more precious they become.
Their wedding has reshaped my heart and vision as a wedding photographer.
In complete honesty, I want to share my story with you. If asked, every one who was also apart of this story had a different experience and would probably share their story from a different perspective.
I want to share my perspective with you. I definitely want to say that I'm not making more or light of what happened, but simply stating how I was personally affected for (so much) good.
After being together for five years, Clerice and Emily never had any photos taken together. Because of this, Emily told me that photography was the most important part of her wedding. However, she was going to have to choose between hiring me or using her budget to fly her family down for the wedding, who she also so desperately wanted to be apart of this special day. I told Emily that as long as she could buy my plane ticket, I would shoot the wedding as a gift so that she could also have her family present. It's hard for me to admit, but I'm sharing this not to brag, but to say that I was actually being selfish in this offer. Even though I do love Emily dearly, in my mind I said, "Wow, I'm finally a destination photographer," and "These photos will look amazing in my portfolio." Regretfully, I made it about me. It wasn't until I was actually in Haiti that I soon realized the reality of my heart.
While there, we tagged along with a medical team and went to the coast for a relaxing day at the beach. On the way back from the beach, the unexpected happened. I and thirty others were sitting in the back of the caged truck, which in Haiti is called a tap-tap. Because of political corruption in the Haitian government during the current election, riots and demonstrations started breaking out on the congested streets. An understandably angry mob of men lined the street with tires and set them on fire, blocking any traffic from getting through. Then the demonstrators slowly made their way down the road. When they came upon our truck, they climbed up on the cage, started yelling at us, and mightily banged the sides with rocks. I grabbed the hand of the girl sitting in front of me, and closing my eyes, I just began praying. With my head bowed, I felt liquid being poured through the cage holes on my neck and back. Because I didn't understand the language or culture, the worst possible thought ran through my mind, "It's gasoline." In our helpless state, we kept praying. Then the street began to open, and two Haitian men, or in my opinion, two angels from God, came to our defense. They climbed on the hood of the truck and pushed people away as our incredible driver drove as quickly as he was able through the crowd. Later I discovered that the liquid was just water, but the fear that it had already brought my heart was settling in deep. Admittedly, I already struggle with the torn of anxiety, so this event skyrocketed my nerves. I felt nauseated and weak and scared. Since Joshua was not with me, I just wanted to go home.
Emily and Clerice's wedding was the very next day, and when I woke up on Saturday, I was still in an anxious, sick state--including being actually physically ill apart from the anxiety. It was in this moment that I had to choose to push through my pain--I had to get out of my own head and stop thinking about myself. This wedding was about them--it was their story. Ignoring my anxiety and fear to be fully present (or even present at all) to their wedding was one of the hardest things I have ever had to mentally do.
As Clerice is an influential community leader, almost all the villagers were present at the wedding. The overwhelming kindness that this poor in spirit, rich in loving community brought to this event filled every corner of the blue, cinder-block chapel. The ceremony was over two hours long, as many local people wanted to demonstrate their love for Clerice and Emily with original songs and words. At the first kiss, the children laughed and the people cheered and clapped and yelled at the top of their lungs for joy.
Three little girls braided my hair, and another woman, a handicap woman, drew a picture and gave it to me as a treasured gift. The emotions in these moments felt more real than anything I had ever felt before. I feel like the images that I was able to create for Clerice and Emily really do show the story, the love and the emotions of that weekend--if I allowed myself to wallow, I would have missed it. It was one of the most incredible, beautiful events of my life.
Looking back, I'm not sure if I would trade-in these experiences for anything. God is in control, and He used this trip to mold my heart and perspective, not only in regard to my photography business, but in all my relationships and future plans. It can never be about me. If I make any part about me, I can't be fully present to this incredible life and the priceless lives of those who surround me.
A few weeks later, at Yeah Photo Field Trip, I was honored to hear Jonas Peterson, a world-renown photographer, speak. Recalling Clerice and Emily's weddings, I was inspired and brought to tears by his honesty and his heart for telling his couple's story. He never makes someone's wedding about himself. He's attentive and intentionally looks for what makes a couple's wedding special for them and focuses on capturing that. God used his story to ignite the sparks that I already received in Haiti. Being intentional about being present to the miracle and honor set in front of me, is the best thing I can do for any couple.
It's not about the location or the glitter and glam, it's about people. It's about the couple, the ones they love, and their unique and beautiful and yet to be told story.
I keep coming back to Jonas' resonating words that I've now made my motto, "I'd rather be a selfless photographer than a fearless photographer."
Clerice and Emily, thank you for letting me tell your story with my camera. Thank you for the opportunity to learn and grow and be impacted for life. Your incredible trust in me and your love is humbling and honoring. I love you.