Oh, this blog post has been brewing for years.
And it’s not your typical “Happy Thanksgiving” post. It’s the truth about love and loss, commitment and hustle and the ability to recognize when your family MUST come before your career.
First, let me give a major praise to Mr. Old South who has been my rock for the past 20 years. College years, graduate school, first big jobs in Atlanta, first home purchase, moving to NC, second home purchase, birth of 2 sweet girls, laying his own career aside for 3 years to help me build Old South, etc. He seriously deserves a medal for this long and crazy road we have traveled.
But, not everyone in the wedding industry is quite so lucky. At least once a week (once a WEEK!), I hear of a fellow photographer, florist, planner, videographer, stationer, caterer getting a divorce. And in most cases, the road to divorce often started with their career choice.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not here to point fingers, cast blame or even assume I know the full story (because in most cases, these professionals work VERY hard to hide their divorce from their clients. We are in the business of marriage so most are not comfortable talking about their marital issues in the wedding arena), but I do understand how so many relationships can suffer when one or both spouses devote their lives to weddings.
It is so easy to post the happy, sunshine-y pictures of wedding days on Instagram, Facebook and blogs. The general public (and most certainly bride-to-be’s) are searching for the prettiest bouquets, trendy linens, latest and greatest bridesmaids’ gowns, etc. so as purveyors of wedding media, we are inclined to showcase the “fun” side of the wedding world.
But, what clients don’t see is what fellow wedding vendors DO see and it’s time to start talking about it.
Giving away a majority of your weekends WILL hurt your personal relationships. I’ll say it again. Giving away a majority of your weekends WILL hurt your personal relationships.
I know how that feels.
- I did not attend my own high school reunion because….guess what….I had booked a wedding that weekend a year in advance. So, when the alumni committee announced the date 6 months in advance, of course, I could not attend. How many fun stories were shared that night? Old friendships rekindled? Smiles, laughs, jokes…I wasn’t a part of because I wasn’t there. Another Saturday lost.
- My husband was honored to become the godfather of his best friend’s first baby. When Chase was christened and Andrew was officially named his godfather in the eyes of the church….was I there? Nope. I already had a Sunday wedding planned months in advance. So my husband and 2 daughters witnessed this sweet service without me. Another event I missed.
- I turned 40 recently. The night of this milestone birthday, guess where I was? Out at a fun bar raising glasses of champagne with my hubby and our best friends? Nope. I was shooting a wedding. Watching someone else’s life unfold while missing a bit of my own. Another Saturday lost.
- My niece was born in a hospital in TN 2 years ago. All of my immediate family traveled to meet her and welcome her into this amazing world. Guess who couldn’t be there because she had committed to a wedding a year in advance?
I think you are seeing a trend here.
My point is, that all of us who work in the wedding industry, do so because we LOVE IT. Photography is my passion and every time I pick up the camera on a wedding day, it’s like my alter ego takes over. Photographer Julie is confident, self-assured, in control, full of hustle and in her element. For those 8-10 hours, she is laser focused on serving that couple and their families WELL and creating images their children’s children will treasure.
But, what many people forget is that all those little league baseball/softball games, dance competitions, Girl Scout events, church picnics, girls’ weekends away…..all of those happen on Saturdays too.
So, inherently by choosing a profession that operates while OTHER people have leisure time, you are sacrificing at least some of your own. And the ones who miss your presence most are those who love you like your husband/wife, children, parents, extended family and friends.
I sat in a convention center a few years ago learning from an icon in the photography world. I have such respect for her as a photographer and business woman and after that day, even more so as a human being. About an hour into her lecture, she told the cautionary tale of how her business had overtaken every other relationship in her life. She was away from home too much, giving away weekend after weekend, constantly overwhelmed and exhausted and eventually, mentally and physically consumed with growing her business, her husband left. The greatest and most important relationship in her life had been laid on the altar of success. Her heartbreak was still so fresh and so raw and my respect for her in that moment was indescribable. She had the GUTS to talk about the elephant in the room. Raising up a business in the creative world takes extraordinary sacrifice. Along the way, your relationships will suffer. However, as the one who has chosen this path, you HAVE THE RESPONSIBILITY to open your eyes to the cost of your profession and at some point, learn to say no.
Say no to more weekends away, say no to another date night lost, say no to being so exhausted on a Sunday after shooting a wedding that you don’t have the energy to play with your kids.
I have felt this way for many years which is why we decided to expand the company beyond just me. Beginning in 2013, I started hiring other female photographers who were also feeling overwhelmed by this business. Together, we set limits on how much we want to shoot each year and therefore, how much time away from our families we are willing to give. For Dana, it might be 19 Saturdays a year, for Autumn, it might be as little as 9 a year….but we respect the boundaries we each have set to protect our own relationships.
I see it EVERY day. Burnout, failed marriages, relationships lost because of the enormous time/energy needed to operate a company in the wedding industry.
I know how it happens because it happened to me too. You start this company and once you begin getting some traction, you keep adding more and more dates to your calendar. I see photographers regularly shooting double and even triple header weddings (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) then basically slipping into a coma/fetal position for the next 2-3 days from sheer exhaustion. Tell me how your partner must feel? Your children? Your friends? There is no room or energy left in your life for them.
PLEASE, take it from me. When you get to the end of your life, the RELATIONSHIPS you have will matter and nothing else. Do not lay your loved ones on the altar of success. They will become a sacrifice to this “God” of yours and eventually, you will realize (with enormous regret) that saying yes to so many clients meant saying no to time with the ones who matter most.
I am blessed to have a man in my life who encouraged me to pursue this passion. He fought for it alongside me for several years but, at a certain point, we both agreed there needed to be a shift in our business. We had survived a few years of me being absent almost every Saturday but both of us knew that pace was not sustainable. Our kids needed me. My marriage needed me. And not just parts of me, or the bits/pieces left after I gave my best efforts to my clients, the BEST me.
That is why we hire other photographers and editors. We share the heavy load of this company. We set boundaries on our work for the sake of the ones we love.
Then, when we step behind our cameras and capture love in its sweetest forms on wedding days, we can embrace it and capture it. We know that same love in our own marriages/homes and we can appreciate it on a wedding day. How painful it must be to capture a wedding day full of meaningful relationships (parent/child, husband/wife, grandparent/grandchild, friend/friend) when your own relationships are falling apart?
No one seems willing to talk about this EPIDEMIC in our industry, so I will. You are not alone. We have all had those ups and downs when the business has overtaken our personal lives.
Start saying no.
Start putting boundaries on your time.
Start giving your best efforts to your OWN relationships instead of what is left over after serving too many clients.
Start protecting your passion.
Start FIGHTING for your own relationships.
THIS marriage, these children are what I am most grateful for this Thanksgiving. The dream job is just gravy on top….now, seriously, someone pass me the gravy