It was last year around this time that Two Mann Studios announced that they had something epic up their sleeves. And all of us who know Lanny and Erika know that whatever they touch turns to gold – photographic or otherwise.
Anthony and I were deep into our first 1.5 years of parenting and feeling the distance growing between us. We had just passed our nine year wedding anniversary, but I felt more distant from Anthony than I had in years.
Living 4500 miles away from all of our family really began to take a toll on our relationship. While we have made friends-turned-family out here, we don’t have grandparents who are just a drive away to drop the kids with as we get away for a weekend. Our friends are amazing and have supported us through thick and thin – but it’s the guilt-free help that we really miss out on.
But back to Bali. Lanny and Erika announced their not-a-workshop-workshop where they were inviting everyone who had ever taken their workshop over the years. It would be a reunion of world-wide, like-minded people spending a week in Bali and talking about all things – both photography and life-related.
When that small seed was planted, I jumped on it. I called my mom and aunt and asked them to come out here and watch Eddy for 10 days while we hopped a plane, connected with some of the coolest people on the planet, and renewed our vows. Mom called it our “second honeymoon” which made me snicker – but I didn’t realize how right she was.
Our Vow Renewal
When I thought about our vow renewal, I knew that I wanted it to be intimate and frill-free. I ordered a big ass purple skirt (because photo-drama, duh), told Anthony what to wear, and, of course, hired a photographer.
Abby Plus Dave was our first choice. It was never any other photographer; it was always them. As people, they’re incredible humans and as photographers, they knocked our socks off. I first saw their work ages ago with a Lake Morraine shoot they did and I knew that I wanted them. And, it so happens, they were also going to our Bali retreat.
After spending a week getting to know them at the retreat, we were able to stay with them in Ubud before our renewal. I really think that made all the difference. We got to know them on a more personal level so, by the time our vow renewal rolled around (which left me a teary-eyed mess), we felt that we had known them years.
We went to a temple just outside of Ubud (where everyone thought we were celebrities), exchanged vows next to a secret waterfall, and then ended with tattoos.
Why We Renewed Our Vows
I always tell my couples that I try to get in front of the camera once a year – but usually, it’s for our family portraits.
This was different.
I was vulnerable. I was pouring my heart out in front of Anthony and in front of two people who were just vendors-turned-friends. Abby and Dave got close. Like, really close. You know, like the closeness that I tell my couples I will get. I felt the discomfort and the nakedness of the moments unraveling in front of me. But I was ok with it. And, just like I tell my couples, I forgot they were there after a bit.
And ya know what – the photos really did capture how I felt. And even better – the documented the things I wanted to say to Anthony. I won’t re-hash our vows here, as those are between the two of us, but this is what I will say:
We got married when I was 23. I did what I was supposed to do and repeated some words on an altar. We kissed and everyone clapped. And if I could do it again, I would do it differently. And my vows would be different. They’d go something like this…
I’d talk about how I’ve watched us evolve. About our struggles and triumphs. About how incredible of a partner, friend, and father he has become. About how if I had to do this life all over again, I would decline unless I was able to do it with him by my side. He’s my cheerleader and best friend. He brings out the best version of me.
And to look into his eyes and re-affirm everything that we said to one another 10 years ago was such a gift.
We laughed (I had his original wedding ring re-sized, on which the jeweler scribbled a shitty “X” into the band – now I know why the jeweler said he would do it for free), we cried (because writing your own vows is powerful), and got our daughter’s initials tattooed on our bodies. My handwriting and design, and a reminder of the most beautiful thing we’ve ever created together.
It was the best decision we had made in ages. To commit ourselves to one another again. And to remind ourselves that we are in this crazy life together.
In 10 years we’ll go back through these images while our daughter rolls her eyes at our tattoos and mushy sentiments to one another. She may not get it at first, but she’ll see that Mom and Dad love one another and it is our collective hope that we’ll be the example of a loving union.
To my mom and Aunt Cindy: thank you for giving us the gift of time and guilt-free childcare. To know that Eddy was loved and taken care of while we spent time re-connecting is a gift we can never repay. We are so grateful.
To my past clients: I get it now more than ever. I understand what it’s like to be vulnerable in front of the camera. I understand what I am asking you to do by putting your trust in me. Thank you.
To my future clients: Write your own vows. Renew your vows. Make meaningful experiences together that you’ll look back on and laugh, smile, and cry. Take the time to make it personal and your own. No one is in charge of what your wedding day or vow renewal day should look like but you.
To Abby and Dave: you guys are stuck with us now. We’re lifetime friends kinds of folks so please be prepared to share more awesome moments with us. Because we aren’t going anyway. Our Maui home is always open to you and we’re counting down the days until we see you both again.
To everyone reading this who went to the Bali reunion: thank you for opening yourselves to us and for being vulnerable and real.
For late-night lightning pool parties and some really strange and uncomfortable hand dancing.
For early morning coffee chats and Bintang story sessions.
For sweltering temperatures and some unique cultural experiences.
And midnight leather-dog-man stories.
And for every weird, meaningful, and crazy moment in-between. I wish we could do it all over again.
Truly, we are the lucky ones.