My mother is the reason I photograph weddings today. Like many mothers she taught me the importance of traditions and family values from an early age. We spent many holidays in the kitchen baking homemade gingerbread cookies (and licking the icing spoon at the end of the decorating phase), sat around the dining table every night talking about our day, and prioritized family board games and playing outside over computers and TV. She was also the first person to say "you can do this" when I decided to make a career out of my budding hobby, at the age of 16, never doubting its success. She was my self-proclaimed "biggest fan", and I love her for that.
My mother passed away as a result of a heart condition in August, 2015. We were the best of friends, and it broke my heart, but she also left me with one final piece of understanding: photography is far more important than I had considered previously, and the role of parents and grandparents simply does not get enough time in the spotlight on a wedding day. I now encourage couples to plan even just 10 minutes in the early part of the day specifically for a few portraits with these treasured role models, separate from the family formals to take place later on. During this time I involve the parents and grandparents in part of the "getting ready" process, giving them a special opportunity to reflect on many years spent helping their son or daughter get ready for school, do their hair for ballet, or pack for college. After this I take a portrait of each parent, individually, and then together with the bride or groom. Finally, if time permits, I capture a full family portrait (knowing we will also do one later in the day, but wanting to capture this special moment before the walk down the aisle).