I’ve been shooting weddings for quite some time and you know which weddings are the highlight of my career? The ones where couples create an experience for those lucky people attending their celebration. And I’m not talking about just the expensive food or luxury venue kind of experience. What I am talking about is something that will make their circle of close friends even closer. And one way to do it is to invite everyone to go with you far, far away.
Do you know how many times I’ve heard from the couples who are having traditional weddings but who told me about their initial plans to get married in Tuscany or in France, etc.? Many, many times. And you know what usually kills these plans? The planning process itself. At some point, they realize that it is simply not possible. In addition to the financial aspect, getting the right people to the opposite part of the globe is a tremendous task. And those who can, potentially have 200 plus local guests. These couples are the first to scrap the idea since most of their guests won’t be able to make the trip. Jobs, kids, plans … you name it.
But even if you manage to get all these folks on board, securing venues, getting the right vendors, booking flights, hotels, and activities it becomes a full-time job. So how many can really pull this off? Very few really.
My job as a photographer to create art and the location should not be a top priority. I’ve had couples who spent hundreds of thousands on their wedding and I had a couple who got married in my backyard and their only expense was me. But, guilty as charged, I do get excited when something new and exciting and, yes, challenging comes my way. And it happened the moment I first spoke with Nastya.
When she told me about her Thailand wedding I got excited but was pretty pessimistic (read above) since I knew that the odds of her pulling this off were against her. But the more time we spent on it, I started to think that this was actually going to happen. Now, looking back and more importantly knowing Nastya better, I am not sure why I thought the Thailand wedding wouldn’t happen. Nastya is an energetic person with a huge heart that has room for love for all the people beyond her inner circle.
Kanoa. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to chat with him about the wedding too much. But I know for sure that without his blessing this destination wedding would not have happened. Kanoa is a busy man with a full-time job and another full-time job as a bar owner. And yet he was ready to go along with Nastya’s plan. He even agreed to hire me instead of hiring a local Thai photographer for a tiny fraction of the cost. Most guys wouldn’t do that because it doesn’t make sense. Kanoa did it.
They had a ceremony in a beautiful “little” resort they rented on AirBNB and were able to fit their entire family there. The rest of us stayed nearby.
When I get a call from a couple that planning to get married in Fairmont I am all ears. When I hear it will be a Persian wedding, I am intrigued. When bride mentions two separate sets of friends whose weddings I’ve photographed before, I get excited. And when that bride tells me that they already decided on their photographer… well… I am not sure I have the right words for this feeling. They booked me without looking at anyone else.
I am well aware that I am surrounded by good photographers so very few couples would give up their right to shop around. But that is exactly what Maryam and Ashkan did not do. When something like this happens I get nervous: what if my style is not exactly what they want? What if they are putting too much trust in me without doing their homework? These and other questions came to mind. I can’t believe I still get nerviness after 15 years of photographing weddings.
Most of my couples run a pretty serious research when hiring a wedding photographer. I had couples told me more than once that they have met with at least 5-6 photographers, I once heard nine meetings. And these are just meetings. Imagine all the online research that goes into it. So when bride that met five other photographers hires me, I am pretty calm: I know that they are familiar with my style. I might have other concerns but mainly related to logistics.
I covered Persian weddings before. And let me tell you: you should have Persian friends and get yourself invited into one of these. There wasn’t a single moment when the dance floor wasn’t packed. And I’ve seen Russian, Indian and Jewish weddings so I can compare. Persian weddings are crazy! And dance floor packed by all generations and for all night!
To me it’s like a photographer’s paradise: wherever you point your camera, there is something to capture! And it’s not just action but family love! Someone hugs or kisses someone, people look at each other like they have known each other their entire life. And in the middle of all this the Bride and the Groom. And me….
They first met in 2007 when they were both freshly single and neither was ready for a relationship. She and Ashkan have a bunch of fun just going about their everyday life. On their sort-of first date which was on her birthday, Ashkan left his car lights on so they returned to his car which, by then, had a dead battery. Maryam had to shuttle him back and forth to get his battery jumped. Pretty good excuse to see her again…
Ashkan planned a proposal with a limousine to take them to a cute boutique restaurant in San Francisco. Maryam, however, was nervous (Yeah… aren’t you supposed to keep limos out of proposals, Ashkan?). Well, as soon as their salad was served she said, “Give it to me already!”…
A destination wedding was their first thought but it wasn’t long until they realized that the complexity and the many unpredictable elements made it too stressful. Since they had met and dated in San Francisco, they decided to marry in their favorite city. Nine months of stressful wedding planning led up to their beautiful wedding at the Fairmont in the City. They were surrounded by the love of family and friends.
Kayla finds Kiko not only tall, dark, and handsome but also incredibly intelligent. For a quiet guy, he outdid himself when they closed the restaurant on their first date after seven hours of getting to know each other. She says he’s full of heart, compassionate, patient, and kind. Kayla says he’s also a goof ball but I am not sure about that part. Or perhaps I left too early to witness it.
Kiko is just as wild about Kayla. He says, “Kayla is nothing short of amazing … the years we’ve spent together have been the best of my life and it’s all because of her … she’s got beauty, smarts, kindness, humility, and compassion”—to name a few of her wonderful traits. He feels, “… blessed that she’ll be by my side from this day forward.”
I never met Kayla before the wedding. Our entire communication was via emails but it didn’t take me more than 5 minutes to realize that Kiko is right: she is very special. I can spot this pretty quick. How? – Do you ask? By the way, people look at her. That’s how. Oh (almost forgot) and later on I got an email from Ritz Carlton. They want her wedding to be submitted to magazines. And if Ritz wants photos featured, the bride MUST be special. Also, if you want to see more photos of their wedding, check out Borrowed and Blue. They have a larger collection.
On the night they got engaged, the earth rocked. Literally. Returning to their bungalow at Los Carneros after a day touring wineries in Napa Valley, Kiko proposed to Kayla in his typical, quiet manner. No one would have known that he had had the engagement ring in his pocket all day. He’d arranged for a car to pick them up and take them to dinner. When they returned, there was a path of rose petals in their bungalow, the fire was lit, and the champagne was poured. A proposal day couldn’t have gone more smoothly. That is until a 6.0 earthquake rocked them awake at 3 a.m. and they were pretty much at the epicenter. It’s tempting to add a cliche phrase here, but I won’t.
The ceremony, Old St. Mary’s Cathedral. Reception, Ritz Carlton. Flowers, Michael Daigan. DJ Scott Campbell (DJCAMS). Videography, Kindlewood Films. Transportation, Classic Cable Cars.
When do you know that he’s the “one?”
Susan knew that Christopher was the one only a few weeks after they met. They were still just casually dating when Susan found herself with a serious illness. Christopher dropped everything and stayed by her bedside, nursing her until she was back to health.
Chris first met Susan at a girls-only wine tasting with 17 women in attendance. Although he says it was an accident and that he didn’t know it was girls-only, he also didn’t leave. He stayed the entire evening. Just Chris, seventeen women, and lots of wine. What a brilliant mistake!
Chris knew how to set a memorable scene for his proposal too. He drew a bath for Susan to relax in. With their new dog at his side, Chris got down on bended knee and proposed. Of all the situations that women guess that their love will propose, we’re pretty sure that relaxing in the bathtub isn’t foremost in their mind.
Their wedding was just like their relationship filled with passion, fun, and of course, a sprinkling of whimsy.
Venue and event planning, Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards. Wedding dress, Glamour Closet. Groomswomen’s attire and bridesmaids’ dresses: David’s Bridal. Groom’s attire, Men’s Wearhouse. Groomsmen’s attire, The Black Tux. Cinematography, NorCal Filmworks. DJ, Denon & Doyle. Invitations, Minted. Rentals, Bright Rentals. Catering, Broadway Catering. Wedding cake, Sift Dessert Bar. Photography, IQphoto (Alex). Flowers, Sonoma Flowers. Special thanks to Loic from Loic Photo for helping Alex!