02/22/2018 09:00 EST

A Photographer Asked 20 Couples For The Secret To A Long Marriage

“A sense of humor, patience, love and a bad memory.”

For the past 10 years, British photographer David Weightman has taken photos of beaming, mostly young couples on their wedding day

Last year, he decided to turn his camera on another kind of couple in attendance: couples with decades of marriage under their belts. 

“My photos celebrate the start of a new marriage, but with this series, I wanted to champion the longevity of marriage and give the longest married couples the recognition they deserve,” the photographer told HuffPost.  

At each of the receptions he shot last year, Weightman asked the newlyweds to point out the guests who’d been married the longest. (In most cases, it was their grandparents.) 

Then he asked the marriage vets to sit for a photo and share their secret to a happy, long-lasting relationship.

David Weightman
“The secret of a happy marriage is to give and take and look after one another. That goes for both of us. Always work through problems and never give up. Don’t expect too much, be happy with what you have.” — Sheila and Archie, married Sept. 6, 1952

Weightman takes the photos of the spouses individually, then merges them together using Photoshop. Then he prints the image onto large, heavy-duty paper so that he can layer paint, charcoal, pen and ink directly onto the surface. The process gives the portraits an otherworldly quality.

As for the “secrets” the couples share, they’re as sweet and cheeky as you’d expect after decades of marriage. 

“[The secret] is tolerance, a give and take, and a kiss good night at the end of the day, no matter how many arguments you’ve had,” a woman named Joyce said of her 66-year marriage. 

Her husband, James, had a simpler recipe for marital success. 

“Doing as I’m told,” he joked to Weightman.

David Weightman
Joyce and James were married Oct. 4, 1952.

So far, Weightman has photographed 20 couples. With each portrait, he learns a little more about what it takes to make it far beyond the honeymoon stage. More often than not, the couples stress the importance of a shared sense of humor ― and accepting that change is inevitable. 

“The most noticeable thing in my conversations with the couples is how important humor is,” Weightman said. “Many of them also mentioned how the nature of their relationship had changed, and how they’d managed that. I even had one gentleman get quite choked up when I asked him what the secret was. He was clearly still so in love.” 

To see more from the series, scroll down. Head to Weightman’s website, Married to My Camera, for more info on his work.  

  • Cynthia and Peter, married Sept. 2, 1961
    David Weightman
    “We have always had shared interests and spend most of our time together, but also have time to pursue our own hobbies. I love painting, and Peter does picture framing.”
  • Maurice and Anne, married Sept. 1, 1959
    David Weightman
    “Always, whatever happens, be the best of friends, in good times and bad.”
  • Valerie and Christopher, married Feb. 18, 1967
    David Weightman
    “A sense of humor, patience, love and a bad memory.”
  • Jan and Ellis, married Aug. 6, 1969
    David Weightman
    “The secret is freedom within commitment. Don’t go to sleep if you are angry with your partner without speaking out.” -- Jan 

    “Patience." -- Ellis
  • Michael and Elizabeth, married Feb. 16, 1985
    David Weightman
    “A bit of luck. How can you really know someone until you have lived with them? But three things come to mind. Firstly physical, lots of sex, especially in the early days. Secondly, kids, something you two uniquely share. It’s hard work, needs a sense of responsibility, and a sense of humour doesn’t hurt, especially when it is just so awful. Thirdly, when kids are grown, do you still like each other? Do you want to travel and try new foods? Do you care as you both get older? If you do, then it works!”
  • Gavin and Christina, married Oct. 27, 1979
    David Weightman
    “Love, respect, and faith in each other and my religion.” -- Christina 

    “Phil Collins.” -- Gavin
  • Alan and Judith, married July 15, 1971
    David Weightman
    "The emotional intelligence to recognize that there is a need for compromise with another sentient being. The energy and determination to fight for compromises which are acceptable. A conviction that even though we both live with the most annoying person we can imagine, all alternatives would be much worse. A recognition that if we are to provide good examples for our children and grandchildren then we need to embrace differences and demonstrate that conflicts can be resolved constructively. The physical luck and strength to live long enough.” -- Alan 

    “The secret to a long happy marriage is to do lots of different things separately so you each bring new ideas and interest to the relationship. The odd difference of opinion is good to keep the other on their toes!” -- Judith
  • Julia and Royson, married June 6, 1959
    David Weightman
    “Enjoy each other, sharing things together, work and support each other always, and say good night with a kiss. I wouldn’t change him for the world.”
  • Mary and Graham, married June 26, 1965
    David Weightman
    “Good luck and good genes, and no conflicting interests.”
  • Theresa and John, married July 31, 1971
    David Weightman
    “Love, patience and understanding.”
  • David and Margaret, married Feb. 11, 1956
    David Weightman
    “Love, all you need is love. Love is all you need.” 
  • Vivian and Michael, married June 16, 1990
    David Weightman
    “Communication and hard work, and keeping a blend of things done together and independent interests.”
  • Barry and Marion, married March 15, 1975
    David Weightman
    “Lots of laughter.”
  • David and Maureen, married Oct. 28, 1967
    David Weightman
    “Give and take.”
  • Les and Fay, married April 22, 1967
    David Weightman
    “Get through the hard times with each other, and enjoy the good times. You’re only here once, it’s not a dress rehearsal, so enjoy it.”
  • Tina and Alongi, married July 25, 1964
    David Weightman
    “Be strong through good times and bad, and make sure to have a good day after a bad one.”
  • Michael and Sue, married Nov. 26, 1977
    David Weightman
    “Love, friendship, patience and a sense of humour.”
  • Roy and Beryl, married March 25, 1961
    David Weightman
    “Tolerance and understanding.”