The elevator glides upward smoothly. Moments later, the doors slide open on the eighteenth floor of a San Francisco high-rise hotel. Stepping out, I swing my camera bag over my shoulder and walk to the door of the Golden Gate Suite. Here I stop and take a deep breath. I know what's behind that door.
The air is thick with hair spray and Victoria's Secret perfume. It's an asthmatic's nightmare. “Mom, my inhaler,” gasps a voice. That must be the bride. She's wearing shorts, a huge updo, and pearls. Nothing else. She sucks deeply on her inhaler as the stylist sends a cloud of hair spray drifting down over them both. Ten women in matching lemon yellow sweat suits with BRIDESMAID embroidered across the backside are in various states of undress, panic, and bad temper. “I need a Valium,” moans a sweating bridesmaid with a Lycra girdle halfway up to its final destination. A bridesmaid so thin she's practically transparent looks at her without sympathy. “Valium you can buy. Exactly how am I supposed to get boobs in the next fifteen minutes?” The coordinator rushes over with double-stick tape and a pair of breast pads. “No problem, honey, we'll just stick these right on. That's keep your dress up. And don't you worry,” she says soothingly to the chubby bridesmaid who has finally managed to get the girdle up over her bottom. “I've got some Valium right here.” From the bathroom someone yells, “Hey, can I get some help here, please? I need makeup on my back to cover these zits!”
Everyone's jewelry is either missing, broken, or just plain wrong. No one can agree on how the sashes on the dresses should be tied. The flowers are late. In one corner, a panty-hose versus no-panty-hose argument is raging. The bride's makeup needs an extra half hour to complete, and the coordinator has forgotten the brand of bottled water the bride expressly asked for. The ring bearer is happily killing people with a noisy video game, and the flower girl is crying because someone just stabbed her with a booby pin while attaching her head wreath. The bride's mother dashes up and grabs my arm. “Are you the photographer?” I freeze. Am I? Yup, that's me.
From Exposed: Confessions of a Wedding Photographer by Claire Lewis. Copyright (c) 2008 by the author and reprinted by permission of Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin's Press.