A Warm Summer Wedding

Submitted into Contest #144 in response to: Write a story about a wedding photographer.... view prompt

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Friendship Happy

The sun warmed my back as it streamed in through the latticework. I looked above my head, through the greenery. Lighting shouldn’t be an issue from this angle, even with the sun directly above us. 

The arch had been homemade by the bride’s aunt, a middle-aged woman with no children of her own. It had taken her three months to paint the structure, wrap it in fairy lights, and intricately design and attach a variety of flowers and leaves to its entirety. It stood in front of a growing crowd of guests, all dressed in their Sunday best, all strolling down the aisle looking for their seats. Men shook hands and embraced, women whispered to each other and giggled behind gloved hands. The younger generations found each other among the elders, teens asking for each other’s numbers, college graduates comparing courses, even the 30-somethings heatedly discussing favorite documentaries.

The sight was a familiar one; families gathering together to celebrate two very loved people who were themselves very much in love. The joy and excitement radiated off of every person as they caught up with old friends and welcomed new members. Smiles shined, drinks flowed, and the smell of flowers enveloped each face with a warm, heavy scent. I smiled to myself as I adjusted my camera between glances through the lens. I looked at the aisle, determining the set of shots I wanted, and where I would want each from. Tony and Nick were already stationed, one at the back, behind the groom's family, and the other halfway up the aisle, outside the seats of the bride's folks. 

I reached into my jacket pocket and pulled out my lens cap, letting my camera fall to my chest. I looked at my watch, the silver glinting against my suit. It read 5:32 PM. We had at least 45 minutes before the ceremony was set to begin, and that was assuming there were no setbacks, obstacles, or challenges. I stepped out from under the arch, the full heat of the sun hitting my neck. I squinted and walked into the crowd. 

One of the best parts of being a wedding photographer was the invisibility. People took one glance at you, saw the camera, and poof, you were no longer there. You were part of the background, an extra intricate piece of the wedding decorations. The occasional grandmother or great uncle would say hello and you’d offer them a smile and a nod, ask how they were enjoying themselves, or simply offer to take their picture, but mostly, you moved through the crowd like a ghost.

I walked to the back of the venue, my stride long and confident. I had been doing this job a while now, and today looked like it would go off without a hitch. Tony and Nick met me at the back: the Secret Gathering of the Invisible Wedding Photographers. 

Tony was taller than me at 6 foot 6 inches. His dark hair was tousled into place with mousse and although his suit had been custom made, it could have been loosened around his biceps. His eyes were a light blue which was a pleasant pop of color amongst the monotonous grey from his shoulders to his socks. His hands clasped in front of him like a soldier, he looked stoic and alert as he scanned over the heads of people moving past us. He was chewing a piece of gum. Mint Bliss, because that’s what he always chewed. My preferred flavor was Spearmint, and Nick’s was Bubble Gum, so Tony kept a packet of each just in case we wanted a piece. We had known each other a long time, and it showed in small ways like that.

Nick was handsome and muscular like Tony, with the same dark hair and strong arms, but green eyes instead of light blue. He was the shortest of us all at 6 feet even. His suit was also grey, but he had decided to go with a navy blue tie, vest, and socks. He was younger than Tony by six years and younger than me by five, so he was dubbed the kid of the group - and it showed. He drank and dated the most, but handled both well. His girlfriend of four years was a waitress at a bar he had been going to since before he was 21, and you had never seen a happier couple. He doted on her, and she fussed over him, always giggling when she saw him walk into a room. And where Tony showed his affection in a subtle way, Nick would often get drunk and loudly remind every person in whatever bar he was in that he had known us since he was six years old.

I breathed in the scent of the flowers, heard again the sounds of family and celebration, looked at my best friends, and was overwhelmed by how grateful I was to be here with them. We had worked hard to be here and I was so proud of us. I smiled at them and then took an hors d'oeuvres from a nearby tray and popped it in my mouth.

“You boys ready?” I asked around the crab cake in my mouth. It wasn’t my favorite wedding fare, but I knew I wouldn’t get a chance to eat for a long while so I had to take what I could. Thank God I could ask Tony for some gum to take the sting out of my breath. 

Tony looked at me as he answered, even and prepared, before glancing back into the sea of hats and lapels. “Sure am boss-man,” He smirked as he said it. He had never loved the idea of me being in charge, and yet, always backed me up, no matter how ridiculous the venture was. 

“Yeah, this’ll be a piece of cake,” Nick said, a grin spreading across his face. He had always had a good smile, but it had only gotten better since he had met Marissa. “I’ll take my pictures, Tony’ll take his, you’ll take yours, and we’ll be outta here fast as hell.” A grey-haired woman turned to glare at Nick over her pink sequined shoulder. He blushed and gave her a sheepish smile. “Excuse me, ma’am.” 

“Yeah, I don’t think it'll be anything too difficult,” I continued. Most of the crowd was sitting now and I looked at my watch: 5:57. I tossed another crab cake in muy mouth. “You guys have your shot lists?” 

Tony nodded, and Nick whipped his literal list out to show me, the paper wrinkled, his own notes scribbled in purple ink. I chuckled and shook my head. “Perfect. Alright, see you guys on the other side.” Tony gave us each a piece of our gum and went back to our stations. I monitored the lighting, took dozens of test photos, and got ready for when the bride made her entrance. The music started and I slide behind my lens, back into my invisibility.

The ceremony was beautiful, simple and sweet. The bride was beautiful, like they always were, and beaming as she strolled down the aisle. The groom brushed tears from his cheeks as his groomsmen looked on with pride. The same sunlight that had broken through the latticework of the arch and warmed my skin through my suit jacket earlier that day glinted across the bride’s veil and the groom’s shoulder. No one paid us any attention, and the three of us moved gracefully around our subjects.

After the ceremony, the warm summer evening wrapped us in its arms. Drinks continued to flow, and conversation even more so, the venue echoing with guffaws and shrieks of excitement as dozens of people relaxed into themselves. Food was ushered to all the guests, candlelight glinting off of faces red with sunburn and intoxication. We took pictures of couples swirling across the dance floor, of grandparents with sparkling glasses of champagne, of little cousins playing in the grass and holding sparklers to the sky. This wedding, like the others, was beautiful.

As the evening wound down, and we prepared for the final shots of the night, I met Tony and Nick by the bar. Tony had relaxed a little now that most of the event was taken care of, his shirt unbuttoned at the top, his gum-chewing slowed. He sat on a stool, one leg outstretched to the floor. An elbow propped on the bar he looked intently at the small screen of his camera, brow furrowed, already sorting through which photos would make the final cut. We each did our own editing work before we would go over all the shots together. Nick stood facing the crowd, his back against the edge of the bar, his camera hung loosely on his chest as he typed incessantly on his phone, his face glowing in the blue light radiating from his hands.

I met them and reached around Nick to grab some nuts from the bar. The redwood of the bar reflected the string lights all around, creating the illusion of warmth even though it felt cool to the touch. Music drifted around bodies, almost seeming to float on the gentle breeze that swayed the tablecloths and bowed the blades of grass left standing after the children had returned to their parents’ laps. I tossed a handful of salt into my mouth and puckered.

“So, how’d it go?” I asked. Tony looked up from his screen and above my head to the lights and treetops, tilting his chin up to smell the air. His shoulders softened and he looked back at me with a small smile.

“No issues here, and I already know my favorites. What about you Nicky?” Nick looked up from his phone and playfully pointed at Tony over my outstretched arm.

“It went fine, but don’t call me Nicky. You know I hate that,” 

Tony laughed. “Oh sure, you meet a girl that loves you for who you are or whatever and suddenly you’re too grown-up for Nicky?” Tony laughed harder as Nick swatted at his arm, careful not to let his camera hit the edge of the bar.

“Listen pal, you keep calling me Nicky and I might just have to bring back Tippy Toes.” Tony’s face dropped and Nick and I burst into laughter.

“I don’t know dude, I think you should bring that back anyway,” I said. Tony glared at me and furiously went back to screening his pictures. Nick and I laughed some more, Nick dramatically, and unnecessarily, wiping tears from his eyes. 

I put my hand on Tony’s shoulder and patted him. “I have to go check in with the planner, make sure we’re covered before they start their exit. I’ll be back soon.” Tony nodded.

I heard them start up again as I walked away.

“You know I hate it when you call me Tippy Toes. Like, actually hate it. It’s different from when I call yo-”

“How is it different? You tease me, I tease you brother. It’s the way of the world.” 

I chuckled and turned to watch. They pointed at each other, taking turns smacking each other’s hands away. I could see smiles dancing on their lips every time one tried to justify their own cruel nickname to the other. They devolved into laughter and back slaps, Tony wrapping his arm around his little brother and shaking him. Nick wrestled away and started to animatedly tell Tony about Marissa, what she’d been doing, when he was going to see her next, how long they’d been dating down to the minute. Tony smiled softly as he listened.

The glow of the lights above them illuminated their features in a subtle way. The breeze moved through their hair, their suits patterned by soft folds made noticeable in the fading light. I watched as they leaned in, showing each other some of their best shots, comparing and boasting. The thick scent of flowers and cologne made my head spin, an effect aided by the exhaustion of a long day. The music had quieted enough to hear car engines starting in the distance. This was my favorite part of every job: when the laughter faded to a contented hum, when good-to-see-you's were genuine, and when it felt like every person had exhaled at once. I smiled to myself as I walked away to find the planner. 

May 07, 2022 02:26

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