Wasn't my grandmother a Betty?
(If you're not familiar with the film "Clueless", you probably have no idea what I'm talking about. A "Betty" is a beautiful woman, usually with a classic and timeless look. And if you seriously haven't seen it by now, then don't bother. It perfectly captured the zeitgeist but would look nuts to anyone who didn't see it before about 1999.)
My mom recently decided to give me my her mother's engagement portrait. It's the original print from 1949 or 1950, housed in the original frame, and the silver that was commonly used in photography back then makes it hard to get a shot where there isn't a lot of reflection. It's a gorgeous piece of family history. My grandmother (named Nancy, not Betty) came from a fairly well-off family in Charlotte, North Carolina. She kept a journal that showed how popular she was with the boys, with a rotating cast of dapper young men who took her out nearly every night of the week. She first met my grandfather at church, where he had begun attending in a deliberate attempt to meet girls. He came from Alabama with a thick drawl that belied his brilliant mind for engineering, and he seemed an unlikely match for her. Still, his name began to appear more and more frequently in the journal, often in the middle of frustrated entries about why he refused to be a lapdog like the others. Eventually, the other boys' names disappeared entirely. The country boy married the city girl in a large, beautiful church wedding with a dozen bridesmaids wearing all colors of the rainbow.
My other grandmother (who actually is named Betty) had a very different experience. She grew up with five younger siblings and without a lot of money in the decidedly less cosmopolitan town of High Point, North Carolina. She met my grandfather as a teenager while working in a department store. Their courtship began during World War II, and he wooed her by using his position in the stockroom to secure hard or impossible-to-get items. While other folks were lining up around the block for a pair of Hershey's chocolate bars, Betty Brown was secretly sitting on a whole case of 24. While other women drew a seam up their leg for lack of a real pair of stockings, Betty Brown never had to worry her pretty head about the nylon shortage. My paternal grandparents got married without a lot of fanfare. My grandmother even got married without a wedding gown, opting for a pink suit instead. But in every photo from the day they got married in their pastor's living room, their smiles look like a million bucks.
Each of these photos help me to remember what truly lasts once the wedding is over. With Nancy, it's the beauty of the images. In Betty's case, it's the emotions and the memories. Once the wedding day has ended these are the only things that will truly last. When I'm working on the details for an event, I find it's helpful to ask myself how the photos will look in 50 years. Will ultra-trendy fashion choices seem dated? Will the decor look too flashy and slick? And, perhaps more importantly, will the photos show the love between the couple? When you are planning a wedding it doesn't matter whether it is big or small, simple or luxurious. The most important part of planning is to remember what lasts.