By Mariah Ashley
only you could pick your family as easily as you pick your nose. You could fix
every issue with a flick of your tissue." - Mariah Ashley
Nancy came in to give us all the details of her wedding a
few months before the event. Generally brides are pretty pumped at these
meetings and tell us to-the-minute details down to the music the jazz trio is
playing for the processional. Irrelevant yes, but we smile and "Oooh
" and "Aaah" as any good wedding vendors should.
Not Nancy. Nancy had nothing exciting to report. No
extraneous details to share. Nancy was strangely quiet, even hostile. Nancy was
negative. "I'm just not your typical bride. I'm not excited about all this
wedding stuff. I'm pretty sure the wedding is going to be kind of a mess. I'll
just be glad when this is all over!" blurted Nancy.
O...K...? Awkward! We sat there a little stunned and
wondered, why on earth would you go through the trouble of planning and paying
for a wedding when you have an attitude like that?
Spoiler Alert! Nancy ends up as one of our top three
clients of the year. The reluctant bride with a
small budget wedding spends
$11K and counting on her wedding photographs. Seriously, we need to add some
more products because we have run out of things for her to buy.
So what happened between Nancy hating on her own wedding
and spending gobs of money on photographs after?
Have you seen the movie Little Miss Sunshine? There's a
great scene where Dwayne (the teenage son) gets some upsetting news while on a family
road trip. He totally loses it in the back of a VW bus and his step dad has to
pull over to the side of the road so Dwayne can have a nutty. Dwayne's mom
says, "For better or for worse,
we're your family." Too which Dwayne eloquently relies, "No you're not my family okay? I don't
want to be your family. I hate you f*#%ing people. I hate you! Divorce?
Bankrupt? Suicide? You're f*#%ing losers! You are losers!
The bad news Dwayne receives is his tipping point. He
just can't take another second of his family's dysfunctional BS. Nancy and
Dwayne are one in the same.
After Nancy's nutty she opened up a little about her own
family situation. Divorce, remarriage, tense relationships, absentee parent,
etc. Poor kid, no wonder. Her negativity was her defense mechanism. Nancy was
setting her expectations REALLY low so as not to be disappointed by her family...
Like Nancy, most of our clients think they are the only
ones with a crazy family, but the reality is dysfunctional is the new normal. Are
you with me? Trust me, I know a thing or two about this. I am completely
reduced to my teenage self whenever I am around my family for too long.
Here's a secret about me that only Trish and my husband (and
now you) know... my fifteen-year-old self ran away from home three times. The
third time was the charm though; I got to spend the night in jail. I had a
metal bunk and a non-private privvy. The temperature in the slammer was about
50 degrees and my jailers had confiscated my shoes. I lay there shivering and
learning my lesson which was the intention of the coppers after all. I didn't
run away again because I realized for better or for worse my family was my family
and I really do prefer my bathroom to have walls. But back to Nancy...
I'm happy to report that on the wedding day everyone was
on their best behavior. Yes, tension and resentment crashed the party but so
did regret and tenderness and we chose to focus on the latter. We got a
beautiful photograph of Nancy's mom tenderly helping her get ready, fastening
family pearls around her neck. We also got a beautiful shot of Nancy and her
father dancing, tears of regret streaming down his cheeks.
I heard an interview on the radio that got me thinking
about how Nancy had gone from reluctant bride to becoming one of our top
clients. Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton authors of Happy Money explained that people are happy to spend their money
and happy even long after the purchase when their money is spent on an
experience such as a vacation. The part that I found interesting was that
photographs play a huge part in enhancing the remembered experience of the
vacation and reinforcing the positive feelings about the decision to spend the
money. Because you can re-live your memories over and over again through your
vacation photos, the memories of the trip often become even sweeter than the
actual moments that were experienced. The camera only focuses on the smiles and
sunsets and not the hassles and petty squabbles that go along with any trip, so
that is what is remembered.
At the end of Little Miss Sunshine, perhaps the most
dysfunctional family road trip of all time, the characters end up dancing
together in a scene that will make you so uncomfortable you squirm, and
laughing so hard you'll cry. That's pretty much what happened at the end of
Nancy's wedding too. Everyone was on the dance floor in one big, crazy-flawed,
fun-loving family pile dancing their butts off.
A Roman philosopher said of nostalgia, "Things that were hard to bear are
sweet to remember." Because we hyper-focused on finding the tender and
loving moments behind the bitterness at Nancy's wedding we were able to exceed
her expectations and show her something that she may not have been able to see
herself but probably felt that day. Although her family is dysfunctional for
better or worse they are hers and they undoubtedly love her. What Nancy needed
was a vehicle for her nostalgia. She needed a way to look back on the day that
had caused her so much grief to plan with fondness and no regret for the money
they had spent. Because the photographs reflect a beautiful bride, a couple in
love, and a supportive family (with stellar dance moves) Nancy upgraded her
album, bought three parent albums and framing for walls.
We've all had wedding clients with family tensions so
thick that we want to run and hide. It's easy and natural to want to throw your
hands in the air and say, "There's nothing to be done for these people
their f*#%ing losers!" Before you do that though, remember that you might
just be throwing your future best client out the window. Dig a little deeper,
remember your own whacked out family, and see if there isn't a little crack of
tenderness to expose in the wall of dysfunction.