Monday, February 10, 2014

Get Me to the Church On Time!

I used to be late. Always. I figured people would wait for me. I guess I thought I was important enough to wait for.

During the 1980s and 90s, I was in the wholesale jewellery business. I sold jewellery to stores large and small all over Northern California. Business was fun for me. Seeing my store clients was like visiting friends out of town. One big party! Except I was always late for the party.

One day I decided to take my business a bit more seriously. Perhaps it started with needing a new car. Looking at the trunk of all potential cars, I decided on the big trunk of an Audi – big enough to fit all my traveling jewellery cases. Perhaps it was the big price tag that came with the big trunk that motivated me to make big money, to be on time, to wear the jewellery I was trying to sell, to dress in something other than a T-shirt and jeans. I didn’t go so far as wearing a St. John Knit outfit, but jeans were out! Cute sundresses were in.

I stopped procrastinating. I stopped trying to shove 3-4 more things-to-do before I walked out the door. It worked. I went from selling to stores large and small all over Northern California to selling to mega-stores all over the US.

Now I am always on time.

But how do you tell a bride-to-be who has been consistently late for her appointments with me and Lipton Jayawickrama, my Sri Lankan wedding photography partner, to get to the church on time? Don’t put off leaving. Give yourself time for traffic. There’s always traffic in Colombo!

Well, I actually didn’t think of telling her. I mean, who shows up late for their own wedding? Sri Lankans are notorious (as most islanders; Hawaii, Fiji and the likes) for being on ‘island time’, showing up late, or not showing up if they don’t feel like it – and not calling to let you know. But to their own wedding?

A groom with his groomsmen and family traditionally enters the church first. So our groom and party walked up the aisle to the music. Lipton and I took photos. And then we waited – like people used to wait for me – and waited.  We took more photos and then Lipton and I went outside and called the bride. No answer. We called and called. Still no answer.

The groom stood at the altar, shifting from one foot to the other. Alone. Trying to smile for photos. Probably wondering if his bride-to-be was caught in traffic, or had changed her mind about the whole affair.

But that’s not all – the priest had begun the ceremony! With just the groom. Without the bride! I was stunned. He said he had another ceremony right after that one and he was going to start on time, no matter what.

Thirty-five minutes later the bridal car pulls up to church and out pours the bride and her bridesmaids. I thought she would run up to the isle. I did, since I had to capture photos at the altar. Lipton took photos of her walking slowly down the aisle.

Once she arrived next to her groom and he gently took her hand, I saw her shoulders relax, and heard her sigh a breath of relief. By then the priest was onto the ring ceremony. I saw the bride's lower lip started to quiver. I could see the stress of being late at mid-ceremony, she was about to break out in big sobs, so I whispered to her, Don’t cry. Just take a deep breath. You made it and you missed all the boring parts. Just breathe. With brave effort, she did and she swallowed the sobs.

We got the ring shots and the lighting of the Unity candle and all the other important shots. The bride didn’t smile, but she didn’t cry and the groom was so happy that he had married the love of his live. Late or not!

After the ceremony, Lipton took the couple outside the church and took fabulous photos of just the two of them being silly with relief and happiness. All was well.

Five tips to making it to your wedding on time:

  1. Don’t start any projects within 2 hours of having to leave for the ceremony.
  2. Pick a dresser (for hair and make-up) who has a reputation for finishing on time.
  3. Provide for traffic, even if you’re not traveling during peak traffic times.
  4. Plan to be early. Not on time - EARLY!
  5. Breathe!

Since I don't want to embarrass the late bride, I'm posting photos of a couple who both reached the church on time!

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