As we have mentioned elsewhere on our website, we love the tradition of couples exchanging love letters before a wedding ceremony. We’ve photographed future spouses writing and reading these notes at weddings in the Washington, DC area and at marriage celebrations in Northern Germany, and it never gets old for us. We love that the little ritual gives soon-to-be-married couples a chance to tell each other their private feelings before exchanging their vows in public, that it gives the marital celebrations a lovely old-fashioned sensibility and that it makes for some beautiful photos of brides and grooms telling each other how they feel about their upcoming marriage and hearing something similar back from the people with whom they will be spending their lives.
As with nearly every wedding-related tradition, of course, each couple does the letter exchange tradition in their own individual way. Some send their notes along with a gift; others let their words express everything that is in their heart. Some brides and grooms choose to write and read their letters surrounded by their bridesmaids and groomsmen, multiplying their joyful emotions by sharing them with loved ones; others feel that these moments are private by nature and prefer to express and take in those personal sentiments by themselves. There is no right or wrong way to do it, naturally. It depends entirely on the personalities of the two people getting married.
The bride and groom who tied the knot in the wedding at which we took this photograph had a very sweet approach to the tradition — one which we had not seen before. Each wrote a letter to their future spouse telling them everything that was in their heart. Instead of sending them to one another before their rural outdoor ceremony at Khimaira Farm in Luray, Virginia, though, they decided to save their notes and exchange them when they celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary.
What we love so much about this spin on an old nuptial tradition is that it seeks to do exactly what we try to do as wedding photographers: create something that will allow two people to remember and relive how they felt on the day they got married. Our approach to taking pictures of a couple on their special day is to get images that tell the story of everything that happened during their wedding celebrations. Not just the things that took place, but the emotions that the couple, their families and their friends experienced as everything unfolded. We want them to be able to look at their photo album in five, ten, 20 and hopefully 50 years, and ask their spouse, “Remember that? Remember how happy/thrilled/excited/touched we were when that happened?”
Because the missives written by this bride and groom are going to serve as similar reminders of how they felt about each other on their wedding day, we got the impression that each was spending a little more time than usual penning them. If their words were going to be pulled out of a figurative time capsule in five years, they wanted to make sure that everything sounded perfect. The intense concentration that it required is evident in the groom’s body language in this photo and added some dramatic tension that makes the shot one of our favorites.