By Matt Burns
I stand looking into my dresser mirror and tie my peach Tommy Hilfiger tie around my white-collared Geoffrey Bean shirt. I also have on a pair of navy-blue pin-stripe pants and black Doc Marten boots that surprisingly make me look pretty good. My hair is at a good, short length and my beard is neatly trimmed. I clean up pretty nice when I put some effort into it. Maybe my parents are right about me always looking sloppy. I always considered the grungy look to be ‘my look’ but maybe I went too far with it. Maybe it’s time to clean things up and make a habit of looking like how I do now. I don’t think this is why Laura called things off, though. I think there were definitely other reasons. My appearance may not have helped the situation, but it wasn’t the deal-breaker.
I arrive at the Bride’s house at around 1:30 and start doing some initial exterior shots. I get a nice wide shot of the house and worry that I may be shaking too much and that the footage will look bad. I think that it may be all the rage that is pent up inside my chest. I have no idea what to do with it. I don’t know how to release it without making things worse. I’m worried that throwing it all at Laura won’t be justifiable. For all I know, I’m just as guilty as she is. Either way, one thing is for sure: the rage is still very much present inside me, so what can I really do about it? If I’m not justified in releasing it, what the hell can I do but let it rumble inside me, making my hands shake like I have Parkinsons?
I get some initial shots of the flowers and garden outside, things I can cut to if my exterior shot of the house was too shaky. Then I walk inside the house and find the bride in the dining room getting her hair done by the hairdresser. She looks really good and I can’t help but feel jealous of the guy who’s going to marry this girl. There is a glow in her face. She looks so happy. The future is bright for her. Perhaps she was once in the situation I was in. Perhaps my day to feel like her is on the horizon. But how am I to know that for sure? It may be possible that I simply wasn’t made as a man who could engage in a successful relationship. Sure, I have no problem getting laid here and there. But no relationship of mine has ever blossomed into anything healthy and nice. Marriage may not be in my cards, but that makes me sad. As a man, I’m not supposed to admit that I want to get married; I’m supposed to be indifferent and ‘whatever’ about the whole thing. But I’d be a liar to say that I wasn’t fantasizing about my own wedding at least once every day. I want to get married. I want to get married bad. But was I made as a man who could pull this kind of a thing off? Is there something about me, inherent in my personality, that inevitably destroys every relationship I engage in? Am I afraid? Am I scared of somebody getting too close?
I start ‘interviewing’ the bride, ask her what’s going through her mind and what she thinks the groom is doing right now and yada yada yada. She says she’s not really too nervous, mostly just worried that small things will go wrong or that it will start raining and things along these lines. I ask her a few other questions about how the rehearsal and dinner went the night before. I try to be as energetic as possible while I converse with her, and pretend I’m interested in what she’s saying to me. But the truth is that I’ve done God-knows-how-many of these wedding videos and I don’t really care about her wedding day when my life is in such shambles. I would like to care, but it’s just too damn difficult at this moment in time. I’d probably have a whole other attitude if I was already married and I was happy in my relationship. Then I would be happier for her. But, right now, I just can’t be happy about other people’s happiness. I want to, but I can’t and for that I apologize.
I start talking to a few of the other people in the kitchen. The father of the bride says something witty to me in response to my questions. I know I’m supposed to say something witty back to him, but I fail to accomplish this and it creates an awkward moment that makes me wish I could be a funnier person. Sometimes I’m funny, but my mind doesn’t usually operate quickly enough to keep up with most people. Not being quick-witted puts a person at a significant disadvantage in society. If you really think about it, everybody who’s successful is usually a quick-witted person, a guy who easily converses with people and can be spontaneous with his wittiness. I don’t know who I’m trying to fool trying to interview these people. I’m probably the last person on earth qualified for this kind of gig. I’m awful in conversations. I’m probably the most awkward person on the planet. In fact, this may have been one thing that made Laura go her separate way. The more she hung out with me, the more she probably realized that I was a person with weak social skills, which was something to be avoided when looking for a mating partner. Natural Selection goes out of its way to cleanse the earth of people like me. I don’t know if I’ll survive being the way I am. I’ll be cut from the team.
The bride eventually gets in her gown and I shoot some footage of her in various poses. The photographer ruins many of my shots, but I’m used to it, so I try to make the footage work with him in it. There is already an unspoken animosity between the two of us that is palpable in the way we interact with each other. In his eyes, I’m ‘below him’ on the professional ladder. But the truth is the bride and groom will watch their wedding video more than they’ll look at his photographs, especially now that the high-definition technology enables me to make an extremely nice documentary of the day. Deep down, the photographer likely realizes his job will become less and less of an essential to a bride and groom’s wedding day. He knows there will be a day in the near future where a couple will book a videographer before they book the photographer. And this will mean that the videographer will be “above” the photographer.
That all said, I already have the feeling that this particular video is not going to be my best work. I’m not putting enough careful attention into making sure the camera movements are smooth. I could try harder, but I just don’t feel the desire to. It’s unfortunate that this couple’s wedding had to fall on a day that I was, perhaps, at my most depressed. To think that the quality of your wedding video could depend on how good of a mood your wedding videographer was in! As long as the photographer is in a decent enough mood today he is more likely to shine over me this time around.
I take a look at my watch and see that it’s about 2:30 already and it’s best if I start heading over to the church. I need to make sure I have enough time to set everything up for the 3:00 ceremony. Usually I have enough time to get more shots of the bride and bridesmaids at the house, but every wedding day is different and I simply don’t have enough time for this. I think I have enough footage, though. I can throw a cheesy song over the images and it will be enough to manipulate the viewer’s emotions. Something like “My Girl” or maybe something by Van Morrison. You can probably take the crappiest footage ever shot, throw some emotional song over it and make a bride cry. It’s not very difficult to do. A lot of people think a movie is good if they cry, but the truth is that it’s so easy to manipulate the emotions. I would never tell too many people this, though. I like people thinking I’m some amazing filmmaker or whatever.
I arrive at the church ten minutes later and remind myself not to do any more Catholic weddings if I can help it. Not that I have anything against the Catholic religion. It’s just that the Catholic churches always seem to be so dreary and dim, not good settings for video purposes...or for any purposes, really.
I walk to the front of the church with all my equipment and find the groom hanging out in a small room to the side of the altar. He looks a little pale - probably because of nerves - but other than that he’s a clean-cut, sharp-looking guy. It occurs to me that it may just be my looks that are dooming me. But I don’t think that’s what really turned Laura off either. I don’t know, though. Something to think about.
I ask the groom similar questions that I asked the bride back at the house. He says he isn’t nervous and jokingly says that this is the last thirty minutes of his life (because he is getting married). I know he is joking but I can’t help but want to hit him because of his lack of respect for such a lovely-looking bride. Then again, maybe he says comments like these because he’s afraid of expressing how he really feels about her. Maybe he feels that if he really shows how much he loves her it will creep the bride out, or at least give her the upper hand in the relationship. Does that sort of bullshit end when a couple gets married? Or does the game continue? Or maybe this is why people get married to begin with; that is, to put a stop to the game. People can finally be comfortable admitting how much they like each other because they are bound to each other by law. They can be comfortable saying whatever they want knowing neither one of them is going to easily run off with some other mate. Maybe Laura wouldn’t have ditched me had we been married already. But our relationship never even got close to that point. It was almost as if she just wanted the relationship to go to the point where I finally admitted I liked her and then she was satisfied and could move on. It was something that could feed her ego, knowing SHE ended the relationship. SHE did the dumping...not the other way around. In retrospect, maybe I was in it for the same reasons, but (unfortunately) it’s the guy’s job to spill the beans first. Yes, it was like a blinking contest. Or a Mexican standoff. It was all a matter of who was going to break first and tell the person how they really felt. And since I was the guy, it was my job to make the first move, even though this is supposed to be a post-feminist society where men and women are on an equal plane. But it’s only a feminist society when it’s convenient/easier for the women. When it comes to making first moves, suddenly women become complacent being in an inferior position relative to men. I can go on and on about what’s wrong with this, but I don’t really feel like it right now. The bottom line is that I spilled the beans first, and Laura loved every minute of it. She loved to finally be in the position of doing the rejecting. Finally, she was the one breaking the heart, not having her heart broken.
I finish my interview with the groom and then make my way up to the balcony in the way back of the church. My plan is to set up a second camera here so I’ll have the ceremony covered from another angle. But things don’t go according to plan. The music director is sitting up here preparing whatever the hell it is she prepares before the ceremony. She gives me a warm smile at first, but then she realizes I’m the videographer and her attitude turns colder. When I ask her if there’s a good place I can set up a camera she becomes very territorial. She says she and the other musicians will be “moving around a lot” so the only place a camera could possibly be is way in the back. I consequently try setting up the camera ‘way in the back’ but it’s so far back it can’t even see the altar from where it’s positioned. I realize at this point that I’ll only be able to use the one camera and try to make it work as best as I possibly can.
The ceremony starts and I position myself halfway up the aisle so I can get a good shot of the initial wedding party procession. I assure the photographer that I’ll be out of his way when he asks me “where I’m going to be”. I can see in his eyes the contempt he has towards me, though it’s likely that this contempt will never be expressed outwardly. I’ve never gotten into an actual verbal dispute with one of the photographers. It’s always unspoken and insinuated in gestures and tones of voice.
The bridesmaids proceed down the aisle looking as happy as they pretend to be. The truth is probably that many of them are jealous of the bride and wish it was THEIR wedding day. And I can’t really blame them. I would never admit it to anyone, but I wish it was my wedding day as well. It’s not a masculine thing to say, but I’d be lying if I said the contrary. Some of the bridesmaids fake their smiles better than the others. Some of them have real smiles and are probably married and are already happy with their lives. But some of the bridesmaids are really horrible at faking their smile. You can just see the envy in their eyes.
Finally, the bride comes walking down the aisle being escorted by her witty father. The father is all smiles but the bride can’t hold back her tears. I get a decent shot of them, though they don’t go as slow as I would have liked them to go and they pass by the camera too fast. I would have gotten a longer shot of them had I positioned myself at the front of the church, but the priests are very strict about where I can and can’t stand. According to their tradition, if I get within a certain amount of feet from the altar it’s considered disrespectful and it nullifies the sacredness of the ceremony. I guess it means the marriage will end up cursed or not recognized in the eyes of God. Of course, it’s ridiculous, but I have to follow the rules anyway. When in Rome you gotta do what the Romans do.
The procession comes to an end and I speed-walk over to my tripod, which is already positioned to the left of the church, four or five pews away from the altar. I mount the camera on the tripod and resume taping the ceremony as well as I can. I pray that I’m able to get decent shots of everything I need to, but there are always problems. For one, the bride and groom are positioned on the altar with their backs away from the pews. This means it’s incredibly difficult to get any sort of clean shot of them. The other obstacle is that the singer is positioned on the podium opposite from me and when the bride/groom stand, they block the camera’s view of him. This is unfortunate because the singer is a Greek man with a Josh Grobon-sounding voice. If I was able to set my second camera up where I wanted it to be I would have been able to get a shot of him from a different angle. These are unfortunate circumstances and it’s making me panic some, which is a bad thing because it makes me tense and the camera shakes more. My pans aren’t as smooth as I would like them to be either.
Once it’s time for the vows, I’m able to get a better shot of the groom because he turns sideways, towards the camera. The bride, however, has her back turned toward me and I can’t do anything about the situation. I’m lucky, though, because the groom turns out to do something funny while saying his “I do’s”. Basically, his voice cracks a bit and everyone in the church has a good laugh. This is good material for a wedding video. It breaks things up a bit and makes things a little more interesting. I wonder if anything similar will happen during my wedding video. I know it’s something that will have to be an accident. I won’t want anything to look contrived. Then it would look stupid.
The priest continues the vows and I’m curious as to whether he is as envious as I am. I realize, as a Catholic priest, envy is something frowned upon, but, still, is it something he feels? How can a person go their whole life without love? It just doesn’t seem like something I could ever do, though it may be something I’ll be destined to do. I can’t help but wonder what a chaste life does to an individual. Maybe it’s a vocational thing and priests are cut from a different mold. But is it natural not to embrace the side of you that needs sex and love? Maybe it’s not natural, and when these human impulses are repressed, bad things end up happening. Maybe this is how you get molesters or pedophiles or other disturbed individuals, which (of course) is a major problem within the Archdiocese at this point in time.
The Mass comes to a close and I quickly run to the back of the church so I can get a shot of the newlyweds as they make their exit. Then I get some shots of the bridesmaids/groomsmen as they escort one another down the aisle. And then some more shots of everybody else as they leave the church. One guest makes a funny face as he looks into the camera and then he looks at me for some sort of reaction, or for approval for what he just did. I know I have to smile and chuckle to let him know that what he did was good for the video. This must be the clown of the group, I figure. I’m probably bound to see a lot more of him as the night progresses. He’s likely to be a real ham and will be good for the video. I need people like this to keep the video interesting. The only problem is that he’ll expect me to laugh at everything he does, which probably won’t be something I want to do unless he IS actually a truly funny person. I wish I could wear a paper bag over my face so nobody would have to see my face, which I would prefer to keep as stoic as possible.
I hurry outside the church and get in a decent position to tape the receiving line. The bride and groom hug and say “thanks for coming” to all their guests and the guests express their congratulations. Some of the ladies tell the bride how beautiful she looks and some of the men tell the groom that he “did a good job up there.” Some of the groom’s bachelor buddies say comments like “another one lost to the dark side” but the truth is that, deep down, they probably want so bad to have what this guy has. I know I do and I would consider myself a typical man. Nobody ever wants to admit it, but I bet we fantasize about marriage more than any woman out there. The only difference is that men don’t show it, because society considers them sissies if they do.
The receiving line lasts for about a half hour or so and then I pack up my equipment and head to the hall where the reception’s taking place. It’s an expensive venue located on the edge of a placid lake. At first, I feel kind of intimidated walking into such a ritzy place, but then I assess the hall as overrated and not worth whatever the bride’s parents threw down for it. I find a secluded corner to put down some of my equipment and I head over to the lounge where the cocktail hour’s taking place. I’m immediately disgruntled to find that the place is extremely dim, which is going to be a problem for videotaping purposes. I wanted to use one of my smaller video cameras that would be better for interviewing people, but the problem is that the resolution is worse and with the low lighting I don’t even think I’ll be able to get a focused image. I have no choice but to use my other camera that works better in low lighting, even though the microphone is kind of a piece of crap that picks up tons of background noise. There’s nothing much I can do about it, though. I have to hope that the crappy microphone will do a good enough job.
The first “interview” is always the toughest, because people seem to assume that I’m some weirdo creep with a video camera. A lot of people don’t like to be on camera, especially early into the cocktail hour when they’re still relatively sober. The other problem is that I, again, have to pretend I’m quick-witted, even though - by nature - I am the complete opposite. For the most part, people just say “congratulations” and “best wishes”, but the more creative ones tell a funny story and I have to pretend that I’m amused by it. Smiling and nodding your head is key, and asking a question or two is always a good thing. Pretend you’re interested, basically, which sounds like a real asshole thing to say, I know. But, remember, this is just not a good time for me. Maybe if things between me and Laura were going well I would be genuinely amused by their stories. But I’m not really amused by anything. What I really wanna do is sit alone in a dark room and stare at a wall for an indefinite amount of time. Videotaping a wedding is the last thing I wanna do right now. But I’m committed to it. So I have no choice but to pretend I’m amused, no matter how big of an asshole that may make me out to be.
The cocktail hour ends and everybody moves their way into the main reception hall. The DJ tells everybody to take a seat and that it’s now time to introduce the wedding party. I position myself with my tripod on the dance floor and shoot up a flight of stairs with a pink carpet and a bronze railing. First, the parents of the bride and groom come down the stairs and they mainly just smile and wave at everybody. Then some of the bridesmaids and groomsmen make their entrance and each do a little something zany as they make their way onto the dance floor. One groomsman in particular does a worm-like dance move and another couple does a dip and kiss on the cheek, which is cute.
Finally, the bride and groom make their entrance and immediately go into their first dance with one another. They hold each other tight, smile and make direct eye contact with each other. I come to realize that I’ve never been able to make that kind of eye contact with a woman...not yet, anyway. It’s a look of total comfort with one another. No awkwardness. No insecurity. They are like one and the same being. I certainly never had this kind of experience with Laura. I want this, though. I want it so bad. I wanna be able to look (comfortably) deep into a woman’s eyes and see her look back into mine with a look of total love and admiration. Oh, how that must feel! To know that there is a separate being out there who actually loves you and needs you. This person would be devastated if you went away, or died. This person actually cares about you, more - or at least as much as - they care about themselves.
I circle around the newleyweds, trying to get shots of them from various angles, but then the photographer grabs my arm and says, “Can you just stay still for one minute?!” Apparently I was getting in all of his shots. I tell him, that, yes, I’ll stay still, mainly because I’m too big of a wuss to do otherwise. But why should I revolve my positioning around him? He should be revolving around me! What, so his work can turn out great and my work can turn out crappy? No, sir, you are soorely mistaken. (This, of course, is everything I want to say, but I’m too pussy to say.)
The first dance ends and the father of the bride, best man, and maid of honor do their toasts. The father thanks everybody for coming and welcomes those who have traveled from far away. The best man makes a few jokes about playing football with the groom back in high school and how they used to nickname him “chuckles” (for reasons he’s not willing to explain). And the maid of honor talks about the bride’s first kiss with the groom and how she knew he was ‘the one’. During all the speeches I try to keep my distance and not draw attention to myself, but I need to be close because my camera light only reaches so far and they have dimmed the lights to an extremely low level.
The speeches end and the waiters start serving the meals. This is a time where I get some shots of people eating at dinner, which I can use as “B-roll” or stuff to cut away to during speeches and what-not. It helps make the video more interesting. I also go around to some of the tables and interview more people and try to be as witty and energetic as possible. It’s kind of like a role I have to play. I pretend I’m the happy-go-lucky wedding videographer who really enjoys talking to everyone. The truth, of course, is that I would prefer not to talk to anyone at the moment. I would prefer to sulk in silence in some dark room somewhere. I just want to be alone, to be honest with you. If this were some other job I would have just called in sick. But you can’t bail on a wedding couple. You have to be there for them. This is their special day. You can’t really let them down.
It’s around this time when I start wondering whether there is a meal waiting for me somewhere. I see the photographer and his assistant walking into the lounge area, so I follow close behind them, rewind some of my footage and pretend to review some of it on the small, LCD camera monitor. The photographer sits at a table and some waiters serve him and his assistant meals. Nobody has approached me yet about giving me a meal, and the bride/groom never said anything about it either. Maybe they forgot me like people usually do. I haven’t yet written it into my contract that I would require a meal. Maybe I should start doing this.
I hang out in the lounge for a while - pretending to review some of my footage - just to give the waiters a chance to approach me and tell me there is a meal waiting for me (if there is). But nobody says anything. I WOULD ask if there is a meal, but I don’t want to cause any sort of a scene, and it’s not really a big deal. I just think it’s kind of crazy that the photographer got a meal with no problem. And his assistant, too. Such disrespect for the videographer. What am I? Chopped liver?
I make my way outside of the lounge and into a little art gallery that I guess is supposed to add to the banquet hall’s elegance. I figure I can get some B-roll while everybody else is eating. Plus, it will give me a chance to get away from some of the people and I can let my guard down a bit. Up until now, my energy has had to be high and I’ve had to walk around with a forced pleasant look on my face. I don’t think a lot of people realize that it’s very draining to appear pleasant when you are actually anything but. Getting away from everyone also allows my mind to think about what happened with Laura. I think what it all came down to was a battle between two very insecure individuals. Deep down, I don’t think we ever really liked each other, at least not that much. What was important to us was having the upper hand and that was basically it. We needed to feel superior to the other. Unfortunate for me, Laura ended up the victor while I was left with nothing but animosity, towards women. Towards love. Towards relationships. Towards life in general, I guess.
I head back into the ballroom and the bride is ready to toss her bouquet to all the single ladies in attendance. A rather unattractive girl ends up catching it and I feel bad for her. The whole thing is a tease, I would like to tell her. I caught the garter a few years back at my buddy’s wedding. Needless to say, it didn’t mean a whole lot.
The people start to dance and I know I need to get a lot of this stuff on tape. The songs are pretty predictable. The DJ starts with “Get down tonight” and then makes his way into “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees and then “Dancing Queen” and “We are Family” and “Celebration”. I must have done dozens of wedding videos with this same exact playlist. If my prediction is correct, there will be a sequence of three or four Michael Jackson songs, probably “Billy Jean” and “Thriller” and the Jackson Five’s “ABC.” Then later in the night when everybody’s drunk there will be sing-a-long songs like Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’”. And don’t forget about the slow songs intermixed throughout the night - probably Anne Murray’s “Could I have this Dance?” and that song “Lady in Red” or something like that.
I stand to the side of the dance floor taping all the dancing with my camera light at full blast. Oftentimes, I feel rather awkward just standing there straight as an arrow. I feel rude not getting into the music and nodding my head, but I’ll shake the camera too much if I do this. Every once in a while some drunk people come running up to the camera and shout, “Linda and Tom, we love you!!!” and I feel the need to shout, “Yeah! All right!” or “That’s what I’m talkin’ about!” Or something along these lines. Of course, what I really just wanna do is not react and simply do my job filming. But I’ll look like an asshole if I don’t get into it a bit, at least to some extent. As selfish as I may appear to be, I really don’t want to be creating any bad vibes on the dance floor. I really do care about the bride and groom having a good day, despite my envy and jealousy and all that stuff.
After a while, I start to relax and loosen up, mainly because I know the end is near and I’ll be able to go home. But then it hits me that I’ll have to edit all this footage all next week and I’ll relive the entire day, in slow motion. And then I’ll have to tape a whole other one next weekend. And edit all that week. And the weekend after that. And the weekend after that. And the weekend after that. This will never end. This is a kind of hell for me, living out some sort of twisted Karma.
It occurs to me that maybe I was an evil warlord in my past life and this is how God is punishing me right now. If you think about it, it’s really quite perfect. A man is doomed to witness one successful relationship after another through the lens of his video camera, all whilst he experiences one failed relationship after another in his personal life. Yes, this is my doomed fate. How perfect. It’s a clever little version of hell, personally tailored for me. I don’t know what I did in my past life, but is it really fair to hold me responsible? If I can’t remember it, how can I be guilty? I must have been really bad. Maybe I was Hitler. Or Stalin, maybe.
The DJ ends the last song and I express my congratulations to the bride and groom one last time. The groom thanks me so much and I respect him for that. I ask him where they’ll be honeymooning and he says Fuji. While they’re in some tropical paradise, I will be in hell, and I can’t help but admit I’m kind of bitter. I hope Laura is in hell with me, soon. I hope that the guy she ditched me for dumps her soon so she is - once again - the one being rejected and not the one doing the rejecting. I hope she is put back in her insecure place soon enough. I tried to remain calm up until this point, but I admit that I honestly wish nothing but the worst for that bitch. All she wanted was too dominate me to fuel her insecure ego. She enjoys the fact that SHE REJECTED ME and that I’m pissed and hurting right now. SHE REJECTED ME. SHE REJECTED ME. That is how it will go down in the books. And now she’s off with some other guy and I’ve got nothing but the short end of the stick. Yeah, I hope she’s put back in her insecure place soon enough. I hope that guy dumps that bitch.
It’s not very mature of me, but I drive home from the wedding tonight and do my first ever anti-prayer, or “curse” I guess is the better word for it. I literally pray to God that nothing but pain and misfortune befalls Laura for the rest of her fucking life. I’ve never done anything like this. I’ve never hated anybody so much. But I honestly want nothing but the worst for that girl. I hope she rots in hell. In fact, I could probably kill her. Now I know how murderers are born. Yeah, I could kill that girl. I really could.