People often ask me what I remember best from my wedding. I could reply with the predictable answers, like walking down the aisle, exchanging consent before the altar, or dancing at the wedding reception: all vivid memories of some of the most important moments of my life. But they’re also not the full truth. What do I remember best, and most fondly, from my wedding? It’s this photo.
It isn’t of anybody in particular, I know. And yet of all the pictures from the night it is one of my favorites.
I love it for the people it depicts. My husband Dalton’s cousin is seated at the table in front. To her left is my father-in-law Dave, and beside him is Mei, his girlfriend. At a table farther behind sit Mr. and Mrs. Hill, longtime friends of my parents whom my siblings and I call our “Arizona grandparents.” A whole array of people stands in the background, including my aunt Susan—a self-proclaimed “bad aunt” who enjoys dirty martinis and the second amendment—and Caroline, my younger sister. My youngest brother Peter is the only person looking at the camera.
Except my immediate family, almost nobody at our wedding lives in Arizona. And yet all made the effort to be there. The picture captures only a fraction of the groups who talked and laughed together out of the frame that night.
And these tiny, random moments made the best memories. Like Mei joining forces with my sister Lucy to pin up part of my dress that had fallen during our first dance. Or my dad, drink in hand, graciously welcoming the guests to the reception. Taking tequila shots with Dalton’s cousins (“welcome to the family,” they said after the fact). Or the rogue groomsman who wandered around the reception all night but somehow appeared in almost every photo. My grandparents driving Dalton and me to our hotel because our bus took off early. The best man starting an impromptu donation fund for the band. My brother asking Dalton’s uncle about his machine shop. My grandmother in the same dress she wore to my parents’ wedding in 1993, and still every bit as beautiful.
Before this day, all these people had existed in separate spheres of my life. I thought I preferred it that way. By keeping family, friends, and in-laws separate, I could be the version of myself I believed each group most wanted to see when I was with them. But you know as well as I do that a wedding doesn’t let that happen. It can’t be just me with my family, or with Dalton’s family, or with my friends only. It’s not just college people or church folks. The greatest beauty of a wedding is its ability to bring people together. I wouldn’t be the person I am without each of them.
When I recall my wedding, it’s the people I remember best. The family and friends who have raised me, and the people I will get to build relationships with for the remainder of our lives. It wouldn’t be my wedding without them all. And that’s why this humble photo holds its high status in my memory.