I’m afraid to say this, but the biggest problem with the wedding industry…is the wedding industry. I’ll tell you what it took me to realize that there’s a major disconnect, a seemingly inescapable juxtaposition of love & the wedding industry.
In a society obsessed with social media, looking their best, and keeping up with all of the (expensive) wedding trends that are orchestrated and controlled by God-knows-who, one wedding changed my perspective for good.
On February 2, 2023, I received what initially seemed to be your average wedding inquiry from a couple named Kaitlin & Shuvanon. It was the dead of winter (notoriously a photographer’s slow season), so I was eager to hear more about their plans.
What’s your date?!: 2/26/23
Ceremony location & time: Jefferson Gibbon Hospital- working on coordinating a time with nurses now
Reception location & time: No reception
Tell me 3 random facts about you as a couple!: We will be getting married on our 11 year anniversary, we’re high school sweethearts, we’re proud parents to two cats- Olive and Hazel
Write me your questions & thoughts:
“Hi! Shuvanon was diagnosed with stage 4 DSRCT last year (Feb 2022). He will be getting surgery soon (early March) so we had to move up our wedding date on short notice. Our 11 year anniversary is coming up so we really had our hearts set on that being our date, however, Shuvanon will be in the hospital finishing up his last cycle of chemotherapy before surgery. We still really want to be married that day and don’t care if it has to be in the hospital. We’re still trying to figure out how we can make this happen (visitor wise) but really want a photographer there to document. Thank you so much!”
As you can imagine, I was filled with emotions instantly.
I’m embarrassed to admit this, but at first glance (and I mean within milliseconds) of the ceremony location, my brain said this must be some sort of venue owned by a hospital network… right? Maybe it’s actually located at Jefferson Gibbon Estate, or Jefferson Gibbon Grounds. It can’t be at a hospital.
But then I read on.
It wasn’t long until I realized that I could not respond to Kaitlin and Shuvanon with my templated email response, comment on their fun facts, tell them I was available on 2/26, and send them my wedding collections packet.
If it’s not already obvious, my response required much more thought and care.
After some dialogue about how we’d proceed to help make this wedding day feasible for the two of them, Kaitlin & Shuvanon received great news that would completely change the direction of their plan.
17 days before the wedding, Kaitlin sent me an email.
“We actually have some news. Shuvanon’s surgery got moved up even further to March 2nd. This means that he won’t be doing another round of chemo. Fortunately, this means that we won’t have to get married in the hospital!! We still haven’t found a venue, but will let you know as soon as we do! Thank you so much! ❤️”
To put this into perspective, Kaitlin & Shuvanon planned their wedding within 3 weeks. Most couples plan their wedding for 1-2 years.
Of course, under extreme circumstances, what else were they supposed to do? I’m not at all insinuating that navigating the wedding industry is easy, by any means. But I hope that their story reminds you of what truly matters: love, well-being, and tenacious hope for another anniversary together.
There is a world where weddings are allowed to be imperfect and don’t cost a lifetime’s worth of savings.
And in this world, flowers are fake, and guests aren’t judgmental. Vows are written on the backside of a parking ticket instead of a $100 cookie-cutter “His/Her Vows” booklet that you found on Etsy and had to have.
Your cousin brings you 5 drugstore lipstick options to try on moments before your ceremony because you forgot yours at home. Not to mention, she wears a stunning dress that she got for $40 on Amazon because who actually likes bridesmaids dresses?
In this world, your loved ones hang onto every word spoken by the officiant and the designated speakers, understanding what it must be like to hold such an honorable role in the lives of you and your partner.
They watch your ceremony through their eyes, not screens. They sit anywhere they’d like, with people they’ve never met. Everyone is simply thankful to be spending their precious time with you.
They stand beside you, bearing witness to you committing the rest of your lives together, in sickness and in health.
Even if a world like this doesn’t exist, I hope to encounter more couples who don’t sweat the wedding industry standards that don’t matter (to them).
I hope that all brides and grooms feel like their most beautiful selves on their wedding day, rather than sacrificing their authenticity to be a poster child of wedding magazines.
I hope to stumble upon more like-minded vendors who truly enjoy their craft and help couples obsess over the relevant details.
I hope to meet more couples like Kaitlin & Shuvanon: to be inspired by a love that’s so deep, that not even a hospital ceremony, 2-week wedding planning time, a major surgery, or the fear of cancer can keep stop them from dancing their asses off and laughing hysterically together.
I know that there is a world where weddings are merely a celebration of love. I’m certain that world already exists. We just need to find our people and hold on tight.
Thankfully, Shuvanon’s surgery on March 2, 2023 was a complete success! Though there is still a long road to recovery for him, new chemotherapy he is undergoing, and lingering tumors that the surgeons were unable to remove, Kaitlin & Shuvanon remain hopeful that he’ll continue to stay strong.
Upon receiving permission from Kaitlin to share her words, I’d like to share the sweetest message she sent to me:
“I’ve never met someone like Shuvanon. I know I’m totally biased, but there is just something so special about this man. He’s loved both widely and deeply. We’re so thankful for all of the support we’ve received. I’ll probably update the caring bridge once Shuvie is out of the hospital.”
I can vouch for Kaitlin’s biased opinion. And you probably can, too, just by looking at their radiant love in these photos.
Once all of their photos were ready to be delivered, I was sure to check in with them to see if 1) how Shuvie was doing post-surgery and 2) if they were together (because looking through your wedding gallery together is a requirement by Perennial law).
They were indeed together, at the hospital, after about 3 weeks of living there post-surgery. Though there was certainly no rush, they were eager to get home, cozy up together with their kitties, and finally breathe.