It was 10pm on Friday night. The wedding was set for 10am Saturday morning – 12 hours away. I had been flown to California to photograph Ron & Jean Bennett's wedding and had been spending the evening with family and friends at a pre-wedding dinner and get-together. The happy night was winding down and we were all getting ready to head back to our hotels when Ron got a phone call from the officiating pastor for the next day's festivities.
My uncle walked across the room to me and, knowing I have been an ordained minister and pastor of two churches for the past 13 years, asked me, "What does it mean when the pastor calls the groom at 10pm the night before the wedding?" I shared with him, "Whatever it is, it's not good..."
As it turned out, the pastor had been attending a family function out of town and plans for his return had gone awry – he was stranded in the Denver airport and was not going to make it back or the wedding. Ron graciously received the news, hung up the phone, explained the situation to everyone in the room and the question began to circulate: "Where are we going to find a pastor to do the ceremony on such short notice?" Are you beginning to sense where this story is going?
I arrived at the church early the next morning with a camera around my shoulder and a notebook and bible in my hand, ready to photograph AND officiate the ceremony. Family members were enlisted to help take pictures while I was on the platform, and Patty Bennett and her son did an AMAZING job of helping fill in the photographic gaps. Ron, a Lutheran pastor himself for many years, walked me through the liturgical nuances as Lutheran is not my native tongue, and away we all went – taking pictures, saying prayers, making up a sermon on the spot and laughing a lot along the way.
Ron and Jean's wedding was special for so many reasons. The bride and groom are 81 and 76 years old. It was a gathering of friends and family old and new in the magical land of California. The photographer morphed back into a pastor in the middle of an emergency, and what seemed like bleak news the night before turned into a crazy, beautiful and unexpected adventure for all of us, making the day an utterly unique and singular celebration and expression of grace and love and finding beautiful things in unexpected places.
I was humbled and honored to be a part of Ron and Jean's wedding day – it was an experience NONE of us will forget for the rest of our lives. Though I briefly thought about the idea of adding the "Seth Hinrichs Chapel Of Love Wedding Package" to my menu of photographic services where I dawn Elvis lamb-chops, take the pictures, do the ceremony and then perform a rendition of "Love Me Tender" by the king himself, I have decided that it would be best to leave the lamb-chops in the suitcase. Ron and Jean's wedding was as beautiful and unique as the two of them, and it was a gift to me to be a part of.