Last week, the wedding blogging world was thrown into a bit of an uproar when Jonas Peterson, one of the world’s most respected wedding photographers, wrote his Mason Jar Manifesto. It’s about how the wedding world is focused on the wrong thing: stuff instead of love. Or, in other words, he wrote a kick-ass APW mission statement. This kicked off a debate all over the wedding-blog-o-sphere about whether or not the details matter, when to me the answer seemed obvious. We’re human beings. We perceive life in the particular. So yes, details matter on your wedding day. But the details that really matter are the emotional details (like the seagull in this story), not Buying All The Things. So I’m honored to be the blogger that gets to share Rachel & Jeff’s wedding, as shot by Jonas Peterson, with an essay on Trust & Surrender by Rachel herself. This is the wedding that started it all.
If I could give a gift to anyone planning their wedding it would be this; first to hug them, and then tell them to take a deep breath. Now trust and surrender. Because really this day is bigger than us. It is bigger than our control; it is much the way love is.
You see, Jeff and I met each other three years ago standing in line at the airport. We were beginning a journey that would change us forever. We traveled through Asia for one year together. I knew I would marry Jeff after a week. We had found an abandoned newborn kitten together and held it between us all night. Jeff fed her at 3 a.m. with a little bottle. There was no turning back, he was it for me.
Jeff and I are passionate about social justice, poverty and human rights. Coming from this it was hard for us to imagine what our wedding would look like. We had just spent time with children who literally lived in dumps, in homes built out of trash. How could we balance this reality with the expense that a wedding tends to carry?
We listed our priorities, we saved our money, we embraced the generosity and talents of those around us and we requested pot luck pie for dessert. We found ways to honor the issues and people we cared about in our ceremony and we made a donation to a women’s cooperative in lieu of favors.
Continuing in this spirit, it makes perfect sense why we chose the place we did. I come from a long line of people whose hearts belong to the sea. During the Great Depression my great grandparents used to meet friends and family at Rye Beach. Everyone was dirt poor, so one family would bring onions, one family brought potatoes and another family would catch the fish. They would build a fire on the rocks, hang a soup pot and make a meal to share together, one that no one could have created on their own. This is where we had our wedding, our portraits were taken on those rocks. The old family photographs of their happiest days on that beach hung in the trees. You could feel them there.
The most important decision to us was finding the right photographer. When we found Jonas Peterson‘s work we knew we needed to take a leap, no matter what continent he lived on, and tell him what his images meant to us, what it would mean to us to have him there. Beyond his technical skills it was obvious he worked from his heart and his gut. I trusted in the way he saw people. I knew that if we could surrender ourselves in vulnerability in front of him, we would create something honest and incredible together. He also brought Nirav Patel who is the most compassionate soul. They let us just be. They made us feel seen, let us know we were enough, our love was enough.
The photographs are beyond anything I could have imagined. A higher power had an influence on one image in particular. There is one of Jeff and me standing between two trees, and when Jonas showed it to me I couldn’t hold back my tears. If you look you will see a seagull floating above us. I knew immediately who that really was. My grandfather passed away when I was five. He loved the sea, and for this reason he told me he would come back to me as a seagull. It was ever comforting to picture him with wings wide gliding over me. I have never seen a photograph capture a soul like that. He is there.
Wedding planning was a real test of my faith. Just about everything that could have gone wrong did. Just picture the groom being stuck in Korea the day before the rehearsal—it is a small taste of what we faced. There were moments I doubted the wedding. Never the marriage, but the wedding. Yet, I knew deep inside that what would be would be. I trusted that no matter what happened I would look back and say it never could have been different.
At the end of the wedding night when the guests had gone home and the fire was burning out on the beach, I walked down to the edge of the ocean where generations of my family’s toes have been lapped by the waves. I looked up at the moon and I quietly whispered “thank you.”
Let this process humble you. That’s what’s beautiful about it.
Photography: Jonas Peterson