There is a black and white photograph of a tired Parisian street in 1963. The day looks to be just beginning, empty chairs are clustered outside a café where the curtains are still drawn, mobile kerbside market stalls have their wares under cover and shutters are still closed on the apartments above the stores.
In the centre of the photo is a bride striding across the street, the sole person in the frame. Her head bent, a bouquet grasped tightly in one gloved hand, she is wearing a lace gown with three quarter length sleeves, the ballerina style skirt ending at the knee, showing off her thin calves and white pointed stilettos. She wears a communion length veil that has a fine detail picked out along the edge and her dark hair is piled on top of her head. She is completely alone.
Her lack of attendants and family and fuss is exacerbated by the slightly shabby feel of the street. Uneven awnings hang limply over one of the street stalls, another has someone’s forgotten coat and a page from a newspaper littering the top of it. One of the stalls is a hand cart, another appears to be on the back of a small truck and the third is simply a few boards sat atop some upturned crates.
The bride walks with great determination, the photographer (xx) has caught her mid stride, the moment that both her feet clear the ground. She has about her the air of someone very much set on where she is going, a woman with a job to do.
This is not your typical romantic bridal shot, no bridesmaids, no glossy car, no softly lit church, and no adoring groom. But then perhaps the solitary bride, making her way unattended through the unkempt streets of Paris in the early morning to her wedding is the most romantic figure of all. Perhaps she is marrying despite the lack of support of her friends and family because she truly loves this man, and she can’t afford to wait any more on the convenience of others.
What I love about this photo is the absolute certainty of the bride. The early sixties were still a relatively conservative period, Woodstock was still six years away from the time of this photo, and women bucking social trends was not the norm. This woman is in charge of her destiny, and she is off to meet her groom, with or without anyone’s blessing.
There is a certain romance to this shot too. My favourite movie wedding scene is the one from Braveheart where William Wallace and his bride meet in a forest clearing in the middle of the night with only a priest to witness their marriage. It is a beautifully poignant and romantic moment. That these two people have decided to marry, despite the danger that doing so will put them in, means that for those few hours in the forest all that matters is the promises they make to each other. The decision they have made that what they build together in love will be more than what they could do apart. I love those stolen, tender moments.
What do you think about this bride? Is she off to a happy marriage, a prosperous future, a life of love? Or is her decision to go her wedding alone a portent of a lonely life? Let me know in the comments below, and if you’d like a peek into the world of my writing, reading and mothering, you can find me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Until then, I’ll see you in a week!