The Saint Louis Basilica Cathedral, Jon & Josephine Havlak,1979.

I often get asked what made me want to become a wedding photographer.  The answer is simple: it was my own parents’ wedding album.

I was a fledgling fashion photographer when I first discovered it.  I had just begun photographing weddings on the side, and although I was surprised to find that I actually really liked it, I was still too stubborn to admit it.  My mother is herself a wedding photographer, and somehow it just seemed too easy to follow in her footsteps.

Then it happened.  While looking for a book  to read on a visit home to Saint Louis, I stumbled across the album. I couldn’t believe the set of images in front of me, and that I hadn’t discovered them sooner.  I stayed up until 3am pouring over every photograph.  They were perfect.

Unlike most couples who got married in the 70’s and wound up with a handful of stiff posed photographs, my parents had hired a friend who was a newspaper photojournalist to shoot the wedding, and the result was this amazing collection of totally documentary black & white images that capture my parents exactly as they were:  Young, broke, a little wild, a lot of fun, and ridiculously in love.

They met in college at Rice University in 1973.  My father was hilarious in small groups, but reserved in large ones.  My mother was lively, feisty, and outgoing no matter her audience.  My father developed a crush on my mom pretty much right away.  It took my mother three years to notice him.  But when they finally had their first real one-on-one conversation, it took her all of an hour to realize that she’d found The One, and the rest was history.  Thirty-three years later, they’re still one of the happiest couples I know.

It was a simple wedding;  They had just found out that my grandmother was sick with cancer, and my dad knew how important it was to my mother to have her at the wedding.  They planned the entire thing in eight weeks.  They got married in November at the Saint Louis Basilica Cathedral, which was designed by my mother’s great-grandfather, George Barnett, an architect like my father.  My mom borrowed an old wedding dress from a family friend.  My father wore black snakeskin cowboy boots under his suit.  It was 1979.  They were twenty-four.

No one remembers the photographer’s name or knows what he is doing now.  But wherever he is, I will always be grateful to him – not only for preserving this moment in my parents’ life, but for inspiring me to take the plunge into a job that I absolutely love in the hopes that I can give other couples and their someday-daughters the same kind of gift that he gave me.

Happy birthday, Mom!  And thank you, Dad.  I’m so grateful for everything you’ve both given me:  For a lifetime of laughter, support, love, and hilarity.  For never sugar-coating the truth, yet always finding the humor in the worst situations.  And, most of all, for being living proof true love is a real thing, and that it lasts.

1970s Wedding Photograph of Bride Before Ceremony at the Saint Louis Cathedral

1970s Wedding Photograph of Bride Josephine Havlak

1970s Wedding Photograph of Bride and Her Father at the Saint Louis Cathedral(My famously stern grandfather gets a little choked up as he’s about to give my mother away.)

1970s Wedding Photograph of Bride at the Saint Louis Cathedral

1970s Wedding Photograph of Bride and Groom at the Saint Louis Cathedral

1970s Wedding Photograph of Bride and Groom at the Saint Louis Cathedral

1970s Wedding Photograph of Bride and Groom at Altar the Saint Louis Cathedral

1970s Wedding Photograph of Altar Boy at the Saint Louis Cathedral(My favorite uncle, Andy, a notorious hell-raiser in his day, acting as altar boy.  He wears dark glasses to hide his hang-over.)

1970s Wedding Photograph of Bride and Groom at the Saint Louis Cathedral

1970s Wedding Photograph of Altar Boy at the Saint Louis Cathedral

1970s Wedding Photograph of Bride and Groom at the Saint Louis Cathedral

1970s Wedding Photograph of Bride and Groom Kissing

1970s Wedding Photograph of Bride's Mother(The is one of my favorites from the whole album.  I never got the chance to meet my grandmother, who passed away while my mother was still pregnant with me.  But between my mother’s stories and photos like this, I feel like I knew her.  Here she is, as elegant as ever, undaunted by her cancer, and wearing a fabulous fur in place of the hair that chemo took from her.)

1970s Wedding Photograph of Wedding Party at Saint Louis Cathedral

1970s Wedding Photograph of Bride and Groom Leaving the Church

1970s Wedding Photograph of Bride and Groom in Car(My parents looking exactly as they do today, 33 years later)

1970s Wedding Photograph of Bride's Father Walking at Saint Louis Cathedral

1970s Wedding Photograph of Bride and Groom Greeting Guests

1970s Wedding Photograph of Bride's Parents Talking

1970s Wedding Photograph of Groom's Parents

1970s Wedding Photograph of Groom Laughing

1970s Wedding Photograph of Guests Laughing

1970s Wedding Photograph of Bride and Groom's Fathers, both World War II Navy Veterans(My two grandfathers, both WWII Navy Veterans, getting enthusiastic.)

1970s Wedding Photograph of Woman Smoking Cigar(Believe it or not, this was the original owner of my mother’s wedding dress.  Here, she rocks a huge medallion and savors a cigar with style.)

1970s Wedding Photograph of Groom Giving Tast and Bride Laughing(My mother laughing at my father’s toast with the same hilarity she gives his most dad-worthy puns today.  It took her a solid twenty minutes to recover from a recent joke he made about how living near the Scientology center must make me feel “alienated”.  Aww, Daaaddddd.)

1970s Wedding Photograph of Bride and Groom Dancing(Please note the Gypsy polka band in the background.  My grandmother hired them upon hearing that my dad was Czech.  We’re still not quite sure what her logic was on that one, but we just go with it.)

1970s Wedding Photograph of Bride's Father(My four grandparents watching the first dance.)

1970s Wedding Photograph of Bride and Groom Dancing(My uncle Andy, still rocking those dark shades, asks his mother to dance.)

1970s Wedding Photograph of Bride tossing bouquet at the Saint Louis Cathedral

1970s Wedding Photograph of Bride and Bridesmaid at the Saint Louis Cathedral

21 thoughts on “The Saint Louis Basilica Cathedral, Jon & Josephine Havlak,1979.

  1. What a beautiful bride and good looking groom!! Love the photo’s, so spontaneous and natural. Whoever took them had a good eye! The church is spectacular!!! You have an amazing family!

  2. Oh my goodness…..I have tears in my eyes as I look at these pictures. I love them. Dodie, you look so happy and so does Jon but the picture of mrs. Wilson is perfect. What wonderful memories………..thank you for the chance to see these pictures. By the way, is it possible that I was ever that thin and young?

    • – Love Love Love How is that you are so amazingly tanlteed and yet so humble and supportive of your peers? Your work continues to inspire and amaze us. Thank you for being such a positive force in our local industry!

  3. Grace, not only a beautiful story but an amazingly sensitive and candid reportage of a day filled with such love. As I was scrolling through the images I had to keep reminding myself when these were taken and what the trend in wedding photography was then. What a wonderful family treasure. Thank you for sharing such an inspirational gallery.

  4. Whoever the photographer was, he beat out Dennis Reggie at the “photo journalistic wedding” idea. Yes, these are truly timeless. I can only wish my work stands the test of time near what these have.

  5. Lovely wedding, beautifully captured, and yes, I well remember the weddings during that time. Just absolutely love the comment about the band….. Thank you so much for sharing and I’m so glad you were inspired and continue the tradition of thoughtful and beautifully photographed weddings. We can remember the special day, we may remember that the food was good, but can’t taste it; we may remember that the flowers were beautiful, but can’t smell them, but the photographs remind us of the happiness, the joy, and the beauty of that day and they are the only real lasting thing we can hold on to forever except our memories……

  6. Love it. Authentic. Perfect. Love the whole photo journalism feel of it. It’s how I love to shoot my weddings now (when I do them, which I don’t often because my last bride totally didn’t get the concept and acted like we were having a fashion shoot).

  7. These pictures are Seriously Wonderful…The spontaneity is palpable…They are perfect! What a treasure you have shared. I find myself looking at them over and over and wanting to know all about the people in them, what they were saying, and what was happening. Gobsmackingly fabulous!

  8. Love the original owner of the wedding dress! What great pictures! This is the wedding everyone wishes they have. How fun!

  9. Beautiful pictures! So glad to know Jon and Doddie are doing so well. Feeling a little old now as I grew up with all the five Havlaks. Ouch. Where did the time go?!?

  10. Pingback: San Francisco Wedding Photographer: A Wedding in Black and White – Stephanie & Stuart at the Testarossa Winery « gracehavlak

  11. Pingback: San Francisco Wedding Photographer: Sherielyn & Andrew at the Presidio Chapel & Cliff House « gracehavlak

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