As many friends of The Wedding Yentas community know, my grandfather passed away on April 3 and even though it was expected and he was 92 years young, it’s still a difficult and sad time for my family. He was an accomplished man who ran a successful business, was a father to three daughters, loved his five grandchildren, and enjoyed his three great grandchildren (one of them is Baby Yenta!), indulged in chocolate, cheered on his favorite baseball team, and kept an orderly and organized home.
He lived a very full life. He served as a mail carrier in the army during World War II and was involved in some of the most historic battles and landmarks. He traveled extensively and was extremely philanthropic, especially in the Jewish community and within the synagogue he heavily funded.
If there’s one thing the Jewish people know how to do, it’s a funeral. Two days after my Grandpa passed away, all the people who loved him — and it was a lot! — filed into the chapel of a well-known Los Angeles Jewish memorial park. After some Jewish prayers, heartfelt eulogies, and an Honor Guard that presented my Grandma with a commemorative flag for her fallen soldier, it was all over and everyone caravanned back to the home my grandparents shared to partake in — no surprise here — a perfect and delicious deli spread. The remainder of the afternoon and evening was a wonderful party filled with good conversation and good food, an event my Grandpa would’ve definitely enjoyed. The Jews do it right: mourn, bury, eat. It’s comforting, socially and emotionally.
Besides the people, the one thing that traveled from the funeral to the “after-party” was a science fair-like poster board filled with photos from my Grandpa’s life and the people who loved him. I love looking at the photos of him as a strapping young man in the army, near the age he met my Grandma. I also love revisiting memories for which I was present in photos that memorialize him the way I remember him as a little girl.
And even with a rich life of experiences and crowds of loved ones, what’s that one photo in the middle of the poster board?
His wedding photo.
Taken April 20, 1947 by a now unknown photographer, never blogged, never shared on Facebook. This photo is the center of a poster board which is meant to recap his full life. Without even strategizing or analyzing, it was understood that the most important photo to represent his life as we knew it was the photo that showcased him next to his bride, my Grandma.
People, this is important: why am I telling you about my Grandpa who passed away? Because your wedding photos will be a recap of what’s considered the most important day of your life. You will have many important days: the day you get promoted at work; the day you run your first marathon; the day you receive the key to the house you just bought. And if there is a camera available on those other important days, will the output of the camera be at the center of your funeral science fair poster board?
It’s no secret I’m a wedding junkie and I’m lucky enough to review hundreds of weddings a year to publish on The Wedding Yentas. I have many friends in all fields of the wedding industry. I love flowers like the next girly girl and I think music makes or breaks your party. But let me be real for one second: your photographer better be good. You must love your photographer so that you are comfortable getting all nakey-nakey before you put on your dress and feel totally cool with kissing your partner a zillion times throughout the day on camera. You have to adore your photographer’s work and trust the technical and artistic credentials that sealed the deal for you. Do not try to save money on your photographer. Save money elsewhere. Or, choose a photographer within a reasonable budget. But do not hire a photographer based on dollar signs — or lack thereof — alone. Choose your photographer because you are obsessed with your photographer. Hire a trained professional who specializes in weddings (and bonus points if he or she has shot Jewish weddings!). Be absolutely sure that any money exchanged buys you the most phenomenal wedding photos.
What I love most about my grandparents’ wedding photo is that it could be anybody, really. Go look at your grandparents’ wedding snapshots. I bet they look just like mine. There are variations on the location and the dress, of course, but I think that’s the special part about Jewish families: everyone’s photos look the same; the people are just swapped out. Is that my Aunt Frieda or yours? Who knows. All Uncle Louises look alike.
I love my grandparents’ photographer because he captured them in a magical time during which all members of The Greatest Generation seemed to sparkle. That “I just got back from war not too long ago and I am ready to conquer the world with this pretty lady by my side” look. There was no Photoshop. There was no Instagram. There was no blogging. It was just a photographer, his camera, and his subjects. And from that came a handful of photos of a young couple in love.
That young couple aged and the bride remains with us. The groom, that handsome son of immigrant parents groom, is no longer alive, but his face lights up the photo the way it did throughout his whole life.
One day, you’re going to die. There will be a deli platter. And hopefully, right smack in the middle of a science fair poster board, there will be a photo of you and your life-long love taken on your wedding day by the best photographer you knew.