so i became (but for a short time) the official photographer of not only the bride and groom but also the 'matron' and a few other couples. eventually i had to pull the plug, so to speak. insisting that though i would love to take their photos all day i had a job to do and a short time to do it in. they were gracious and backed off and i was left with the my intended subjects.
we cruised from pre determined spot to predetermined spot accommodating for those lovely wedding photos that couples cherish. i felt so alive like finally after so much indecision with my life, my plans, my abilities, generally myself, i was able to see and feel like myself. not only believing that i was good at what i was doing but knowing i was great at it!
finally the bride was on her last legs having not eaten all day the photo session was becoming too much for her to handle and so just shy of getting to all the positions i had envisioned the day before it was time to end. regardless of the fact that i didn't get them to all my preconceived positions i was very pleased with what we had accomplished in such a short time considering all the hurdles that we faced namely the language barrier.
someone came up to me and zan and said that the bride and groom wanted a picture with us in front of the building. ok, sure why not. but when we got to the front and posed together for our own photo the bride and groom were nowhere to be seen. as we looked around the back door of the 'wedding car' opened and the bride waved us over. i thought to thank us, i was wrong, instead we were invited into their car! ok, sure, why not.
they were about to get some food and asked if we had any preferences, not wanting to be difficult i stated i had no restrictions nor preferences. zan however is a veggie and asked for a salad. quickly the groom and father-in-law got out of the car and ran across the street towards, of all places, mcdonald's. really, was my first mcdonald's experience in guatemala going to be in the back of a bridal car? as it turned out no, it wasn't. rather it was pollo campero. what's that you might be asking. well before you get to excited, it is the latin equivalent of KFC. so there i was sitting behind a beautiful bride in her amazing typical wedding dress eating greasy fried chicken! whats more is that zan, my veggie friend, who ordered a salad opened her container hungrily only to find strips of chicken on top. i now had a side of chicken strips. mmmmm.
before the food finished we were on the road off to the reception hall. i must admit it was pretty weird driving around town in a car. since being in xela i had been in two cars: a taxi and the bride's brother's car when we went off for lunch. and now here i was cruising around a city i have gotten to know from the sidewalk in the back of a sweet SUV, eating my pollo campero while sitting behind the newest kind of bride, what a difference a day makes!
i was not prepared for what came next. if there were 150 people at the ceremony there were 450 now filling the reception hall. every woman save 5 or 6 wore typical dress, i found out tonight that their fancy special dresses alone would have cost upwards of $500. that is ALOT of money here. money aside it was an amazing site! and when i say every woman i mean, every woman, child and young, young girl. i have never seen anything like it. the colours were bright, vibrant and everywhere! the room as well had morphed into much more for when i left it 12:30ish. obviously now it was filled with people but more so the audio component of the event had only started to arrive in boxes when i was leaving. now it was blaring in front of me (yes i chose that word on purpose) with 2 literal walls of speakers (floor to ceiling) looming and booming with the sounds of the over a dozen piece band. the place was going off!
what followed was truly special. i was afforded the opportunity to not only witness some ancient mayan traditions and ceremonies but i had front row seats! what an honour. i have since described it as opening a national geographic and stepping into one of the pages. introduction dances to gift exchanges brought in on the heads of the matrons i was there, mouth agape delirious with wonder (and as it turned out a bit later some bad chicken) 'shooting' (taking pictures) away. for the first time since arriving in guatemala i was not only being allowed to take pictures of women in their uniquely stunning attire but i was being approached and ASKED to take their photos. i was in heaven. (until the chickens fought back that is).
the traditional aspects were mixed in with what i'll call western traditions like the cutting of the cake, the first dance (but they had a few) and everyone seemed to enjoy both aspects with gusto. when the traditional aspect finished up the band kicked it up and the crowd got to their feet and began to dance up a storm! the air was light with happiness.
eventually the bride and groom, exhausted from the day of nerves, happiness, excitement and love, were ready to take their leave. (and not a moment to soon as i too was done from their day.) shaking hands, hugging, a few tears and they were off.
and so ended my first ever wedding photography experience and more than that a one of a kind glimpse at some beautiful cultural traditions that not even my guatemala housemates who looked at my pictures knew what they were!
i wish the hugo and rebecca all the luck in the world going forward.