Several weeks ago I was at a Painting with a Twist Christmas lunch at La Caretta’s in Mandeville. Maybe it was because I love my co-workers so much and don’t see them nearly enough or the margarita I was drinking that was roughly the size of my head. Regardless, I felt confident that I knew some stuff. I was telling my friends that because I go to so many weddings (I just counted… I’ve now painted at 31 in less than two years) that I feel like I really know what matters and what doesn’t at a reception. I went through my list with them.
Topping the “doesn’t matter” list was centerpieces, flowers (as in the specific kind or quantity. I like flowers in general), and “props” (think boas, top hats, funny New Year’s Eve-ish sunglasses). As far as “matters,” I listed the band, accessibility of the food (who likes to wait in a long line and waste precious dance time?), and, well, please don’t roll your eyes, the love and connection between the couple.
Let me explain.
When you attend the weddings of complete strangers, you get to witness one of the most celebratory and intimate moments of their lives. The love is often overwhelming. I’m not going to say it’s the way they look at each other or the glimmer in their eyes. It’s something else. Something intangible.
So I’m the divorced wedding painter who often finds herself wiping a tear or two from her eyes during numerous first dances. I don’t even like country music but that one about dying a happy man even if all these bucket-list adventures don’t happen— that one takes all I’ve got not to ugly cry all over my oil paints.
When the flowers and the cake, the photo booth and the mashed potato bar all seem in service of the love between two people, when all the fan fare seems to bow before the main show– the couple and those that love them, and not the other way around– I am truly humbled and moved. I have seen this outpouring of love at fancy shmancy weddings and more modest affairs. I’ve seen it on the faces of brides with princess gowns bedazzled from head to toe, and those in cowboy boots, grooms in tails and those in converse sneakers.
“So what about a wedding painter” asks my co-worker from across the table. “Does that matter?”
I took a pause because I hadn’t actually considered it. In light of all I’d just said, do I, the painter, really matter?
That’s my short answer. I don’t. Love happens and is expressed with or without someone making art about it. It is neither lessened nor enhanced. Love is it’s own thing.
I know you know I’m not going to stop there. For the couple who finds a wedding painter whose style they love, the painting can be and often is a treasured reminder of the day they made solemn vows to one another and the celebration that ensued. It isn’t a photograph– one precise moment in time– but a reflection of the night, an interpretation by a stranger of its energy and spirit.
It’s not for everyone. Couples who love music or dancing prioritize the band. Couples who love art might just make a live painter a priority. But I’ll stand by it. The beauty of the wedding is not in the “stuff,” it’s in the people, some of whom I am privileged enough to try an capture on a canvas.