My sister asked me to photograph her wedding just two months after I got my first DSLR. Boy, was I nervous. I carried Scott Kelby’s digital photography books in my camera bag and read them every spare moment; drove to Nashville to attend a NAPP (now KelbyOne) one-day seminar tour; and studied like I was back in college because this was a test with stakes higher than any I’d taken.
I crafted a DSLR photography crash course and these were my Cliffs Notes.
Thankfully it was an outdoor wedding, which saved me because I didn’t know my camera well enough to be shooting a wedding much less for someone that I would face for the rest of my life. Somehow I pulled it off in spite of botched settings and not fully understanding which lens to use in which situation.
I got some shots that I’m still happy with six years later, when I know more, like the moment my brother-in-law saw my sister for the first time: the look of awe and wonder on his face while his dad (who passed away too soon after) smiled in the background.
What set me up to succeed instead of fail—nerves and all—was the knowledge that the jitters were all mine. My sister wasn’t worried; she trusted me and put no pressure there.
In her eyes I could only succeed.
Now two of my sons are engaged and I feel the pressure again, like I need a crash course on how to be the mother of the groom. I fear failure at whatever it is I’m supposed to do and whatever it is I’m supposed to be.
But one of my sons told me last week he appreciates my and my husband’s easy nature in this wedding business and I wanted to cry. In that moment I knew the expectations upon me are self-imposed and not from him.
It’s the gift my sister gave: love, acceptance, trust.
To grant someone the grace to do their best without crippling expectations is a gift, one they might not extend to themselves. The acceptance of that gift—well, that’s another story—but there’s generosity in offering it.