In an essay that appeared last week in Town & Country, Caroline Hamilton Langerman writes about the experience of finding out that her photographer had lost ALL the important photos from her big day.
"Here was the truth: There was not an image of my family. My wedding party wasn't pictured. Our brothers were entirely unaccounted for. My walk down the aisle would never be seen again. The only bride and groom pictures were taken with guests' iPhones," Langerman recalls. With about 90 days to go until my own wedding, just thinking about what happened to Langerman is giving me hives. I know you can't plan for every possible mishap, and I anticipate a few snags along the way. But while I may fret over an endless number of "what-if" scenarios that could ruin my wedding, I don't genuinely expect anything dramatic to go wrong.
So, how did this happen? Apparently, Langerman's photographer, Wally, inadvertently re-used the same memory card that contained her pictures to shoot someone else's wedding. He was (appropriately) beside himself over the error, and did everything imaginable to try to recover the data — including sending the SD card to a forensics lab — to no avail. Eventually, Langerman had to accept that most of her wedding would only be immortalized in her memories. The moments she worked so hard (too hard?) to preserve in JPEG form would never see the light of day, let alone become treasured family heirlooms.
Now, you might be thinking that this isn't really a disaster — and in the scheme of the world's problems, you are right. The wedding photos are far less important than the commitment, the marriage, and the magic of the day itself. But don't kid yourself: You'd be pretty peeved if Wally lost all your wedding portraits. Especially if you weren't that keen on hiring him in the first place, which Langerman admits she wasn't.
Her emotions ran the gamut from disappointed to angry to sad. But ultimately, she responded to Wally's admission with this email: "'Hi Wally...Please don't worry about it. It could have happened to anyone. We are very happy with the candid pictures we have.'"
Even as the idea of losing all my wedding photos frankly stresses me the fuck out, I recognize that it isn't my anxiety over what happened to Langerman that has stuck with me after reading this. It is her remarkable humanity and grace.
"Friends asked if I was going to sue Wally. I thought back to the suntanned guy who asked me if I had a favorite side of my face. The person who gave me a sympathetic smile while my mom was singing Rodgers and Hammerstein. Sue him? I felt bad about the pictures, but I felt bad about Wally, too," writes Langerman.
"Last time I checked, there had been no amendment promising life, liberty, and the pursuit of the perfect profile picture. Pictures were a party favor, not a civil right... If I really stood for the values I had just pronounced [in my wedding vows], there was nothing to do but sit quietly and wait for the anger and regret to pass. It was 'to have and to hold,' after all, not 'to tag and to post.'"
I'd like to imagine that if I found myself in the same situation as Langerman, I'd react with a fraction of her compassion and empathy. But if I'm being honest, I also hope I'll never need to find out. (Town & Country)