Memorial Day in the United States represents more than just the informal beginning of summer and offers more than just an occasion to spend time outside with friends and family. It is an important reminder to us to take a moment to remember those who have sacrificed their lives protecting our country and an opportunity to give thanks to them and to their families for what they have done for us. It is about not forgetting the past and honoring the memories of those who are gone.

Generally speaking, this sort of somber reflection has little to do with weddings or wedding photography. The joy associated with two people committing themselves to each other for a lifetime is emotionally out of synch with the sadness and pride that remembering fallen soldiers evokes. As we reflected last Monday on the way this holiday makes us feel, however, it did get us thinking about some of the heavier feelings to which wedding photography can give rise. They come later, of course, and not during the excitement of the special day. They come when brides and grooms use the images to relive moments spent and emotions shared with loved ones after some of them have gone.

Obviously, very few brides and grooms come to their wedding day thinking that they might not see their entire families together again, but the sad truth is that sometimes that is what happens. Sometimes a marriage celebration is the last occasion that all their grandparents, parents, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins are all in the same place at the same time before one of those important people passes away. And if that is the case, the couple’s wedding photos become that much more special to them. They preserve more than just the moment they pledged their love to one another; they also memorialize family members and give the bride and groom a way to spend a little more time with them later in life.

This realization about the added significance of the images we capture on our clients’ wedding days has hit us three times in the past year. The first was when the father of a dear friend of ours passed away a few months after she tied the knot. Love came to her later in life, so she was obviously overjoyed that her elderly father was able to walk her down the aisle to her future husband. When she lost him not long after, she thanked us again for having photographed her nuptials, because the images allowed her to remember her dad and his presence at such an important moment in her life. She told us that seeing him so happy for her helped ease her mourning and grief just a little bit during those first difficult months after losing him.

The other two instances were very personal to us. In January 2015, we photographed the marriage ceremony of Anji’s maternal uncle and aunt. In Hindu culture, a man who turns 80 “remarries” his wife in a deeply touching ceremony that celebrates the lifetime they have spent together. Since then, two of the older attendees – both important parts of our extended family – have unfortunately passed away. The photos that we took of them were some of the last put on film, and we and their immediate families are so happy that the opportunity to capture their smiling faces arose.