Sheetal Singh and Jesse Chima
July 4, 6, and 7, 2007
I was excited about this wedding from the beginning, first of all because I love shooting Indian weddings, and second because of the locations! The Sikh Temple in El Sobrante is HUGE, you can see it from the freeway, and it looks beautiful just on the outside, which is all I'd ever seen of it as you can't get in without being invited. The Rotunda is a completely open, circular building with a glass roof, right next to city hall; the bottom floor is where private events are usually held but they close the whole place down when that happens--the spectacle of having this whole building to yourself is really something. Indian weddings are almost always incredibly opulent, colorful events, and I knew that this one would be no exception, but more than that what makes them so enjoyable to shoot is the crowd: large and generally very lively, they don't tend to hold back for the camera and truly enjoy being photographed.
This was a three day shoot--the first day of shooting took place on the Galaxy Commodore, as it sailed under the Bay and Golden Gate bridges on the fourth of July. Sheetal and Jesse exchanged rings on the top level of the ship just before sunset, and then everyone enjoyed dinner and dancing for the rest of the evening, as the boat made its way west. It was cold, but I managed to get Jesse and Sheetal outside for some cuddling shots during the fireworks.
The second day started for me at Sheetal's hotel room at 7AM, and continued at the Sikh Temple where the couple was officially married. I had the pleasure of having my good friend and wedding photographer Chris Sommers as second shooter with me on this day. Sikh weddings are incredible, full of meaningful rituals and beautiful symbols. After seperate preparation rituals, the groom rides a horse up to the temple with his family walking beside him, this is called the Barat. They are greeted by the bride's family (the bride is hidden inside) during the Milni, which involves introductions and tokens of appreciation between the families and then group prayer outside the temple. Tea and snacks are then served, which is eaten while sitting on the floor.
The main wedding ceremony, called Anand Karaj, begins with the groom and bride greeting each other just outside the main temple hall, then the groom processes down to bow and sit in front of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS), the Sikh Holy Book, which is also considered the embodiment of the last living Guru of Sikhism (the word "guru" meaning spiritual guide or teacher). The bride and her family do the same, so that the bride and groom are sitting next to each other surrounded by family, with the men on one side and the women on the other.
The ceremony continues with the singing of hymns and prayer, followed by the bride and groom walking clockwise around the SGGS four times at intervals. Once they complete the fourth round, they are considered married, and flower petals are thrown over them. Then they sit again, and their families and the rest of the congregation take turns individually blessing them and giving gifts as group photos are taken (with 300 guests you can imagine how long this takes....:) ). Finally sweet pudding is given to everyone by the temple devotees and lunch is served.
The wedding ends with the Doli--the groom rides his horse away from the temple followed by the bride who rides in a small covered carriage, carried by four men. The Doli can be an emotional moment as it marks the passage of the bride from her birth family to being a member of the grooms'. The bride throws rice behind her as she leaves, symbolizing her hope for prosperity for her relatives even as she leaves them and becomes a part of her new husband's family. You can read more about Sikhism and Sikh weddings on Sikhiwiki.org.
The third day was the wedding reception, complete with first dance, cake cutting, etc...and it just happened to be scheduled for 7/7/07, the most popular wedding date of this year. When Jesse and Sheetal contacted me back in May, I let them know right away that although I was free for the other two days, I was already booked for the third day (and had been for almost a year). With their consent we decided to go ahead with the booking anyway, with the understanding that I would have a trusted colleague substitute for me on the third day. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to use Chris--luckily she was free. She was excited to shoot a Sikh wedding and I thought it would be good if the second photographer on Friday and the primary photographer on Saturday could be the same person--that way the couple would be comfortable with her in advance. This was the first time I've entrusted one of my couples to another photographer, and I must admit it was a little nerve wracking (like most photographers I'm a total control freak)...but Chris did a fabulous job and made me very proud to have her on my team, if only for the one day. :)
My "other" 7/7/7 wedding ended at 9PM that day, so since it was on my way home I decided to stop by the Rotunda to check out the last hour or two of Jesse and Sheetal's reception... to see how their party was going and maybe grab some more of that yummy Bombay Garden food. I didn't think Sheetal could look more beautiful than she did on Friday, but she found a way--her reception outfit was a combination of subtle rose colors and earthtones, it was hand-covered in rhinestones and other jewels and it reflected the subtle lighting in the venue everywhere she went.
I knew that planning the wedding had been very hard on both Sheetal and Jesse, so it was really nice to see them cut loose a bit at the reception, finally able to relax and enjoy themselves. Both Chris and I had a chance to see and capture a more playful side of their relationship that had been almost invisible the other two days, and I was very glad I'd stopped by.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Sheetal Singh and Jesse Chima
Stella and Phu
July 1 2007
This wedding was a joy to photograph. I am a sucker for a good detail shot and there were so many beautiful details here; the gorgeous flowers by Le Bouquetier, the little red envelopes full of cash gifts given by friends and family, Stella's THREE gorgeous dresses, the china cups and teapot used for the tea ceremony...it just never ended.
After the wedding ceremony, we headed off for a luncheon, tea ceremony, and lion dance at Bintang Badminton, the couple's place of business--the red colors of the lions and paper lanterns against the green and blue walls were very cool. Then there
was a 2 hour break (naptime for me!) and then the reception at the Mayflower Seafood Restaurant in Milpitas (mmm...lobster salad...), where I was again loving the colorful decor and cool details.
Stella and Phu and I did our E session on the Stanford campus 2 weeks before the wedding, so we had already worked out a rhythm of shooting together. They decided to have 3 large, beautiful matted prints displayed at the reception and once again I was happy to see that their choices were in sync with mine. This wedding was yet another example of how important the E session can be for some couples, as it definitely took a little while for Phu to get into the spirit of things and loosen up that day... but that time was well spent, as the romantic shots on the wedding day went very smoothly because of it.
Villa Montalvo is one of those places where I keep discovering new little areas to shoot, everywhere I look there is a new idea and something to get excited about...Stella and Phu were very gracious in putting up with my saying "wait! just one more shot over here!" about 10 times, and I think they really enjoyed the time alone.
Funny reception moment--Stella ended up throwing the bouquet twice...apparently there were a lot of pre-teen girls at the wedding, and the single women who were of marrying age complained when one of them caught the bouquet the first time, so we did it again...
Big thanks to Irene Kane, the officiant, for filling the ceremony with funny, touching stories that made for some great reaction shots. Also Kathleen from Villa Montalvo was a pleasure to work with and I hope to be seeing more of her in the future. Finally, Robert Valdes from Axiom Video was also very accomodating, and fun to talk to during downtime.
From the Stanford E session, this image looked great at 16x24"
This one was deemed a bit too sexy for a large print, but it went on their event cards
At the wedding:
Judging from the flowers, there were about 12 uncles and 8 aunts
I LOVE this shot and am having a canvas wrap made of it for myself
The architecture at Villa Montalvo makes for some great compositions
Bouquet toss, take 2
Proofs (E session is up now, wedding will be added early Sept.)
Saturday, July 14, 2007
This month, People Magazine came out with their first ever "Real Weddings" issue (appropriately colored cotton candy pink) and I was thrilled to learn that one of my weddings is featured in it! The issue is a collection of stories about ordinary people and their extraordinary weddings...my couple, Jeromy and Nicky Smith, and their "Lord of the Rings" themed wedding, can be found on page 47. Jeromy and Nicky exchanged replicas of the "rings of power" at the Smith's private estate in Yountville CA on June 24 2006, after which they were served pink champagne and hors d'oeuvres by Gandalf, Frodo, and Galadriel. Their wedding programs were also LOTR-themed and written in Tolkien-esque poetic verse.
I had a lot of fun telling Nicky that they wanted to interview her for the article. At the time of the wedding she was pregnant with their second daughter, who was born later that year; so I guess you could say her picture is in the magazine too. What a great 1st birthday present...I'm totally picturing her bringing the issue to show and tell. ; )
This was such a cool, unique wedding, and I'm overjoyed to have it seen by so many people. To see more pics from Jeromy and Nicky's wedding, click here.
Yorie and Khashayar, 6/9/07
These Livermore wineries are like little hidden gems, places I didn't even know existed until I started shooting weddings full time. I guess with it's proximity to Hayward and the industrial part of the East Bay, you don't usually think of Livermore as being this verdant, peaceful, zen place...but when you enter the grounds of Murietta's Well or the other area wineries it is like stepping into another world.
I particularly loved the country-house feel of the main building, and the multi-level staircase that the wedding party had to walk down before they got to go down the aisle...really great angles there. Decor and floral arrangements by Anne Mendenhall accented the natural layout of the place beautifully (Anne had also done my May 19 wedding at the Dublin Ranch, scroll down to see me rave about her work there).
Yorie looked incredible, with makeup and hair done by the masterful Toshi Murata. Her dress was perfect, her shoes were perfect--everything she wore worked to enhance the sense of sophisticated beauty that she already has. I also had the rare opportunity to photograph Khash in the getting ready room, as he and Yorie were not seperated before the wedding at all and did their prep together.
We stopped at Mission San Jose to shoot a few romantic moments before the ceremony, and thankfully there wasn't another wedding going on there that day so we had the place to ourselves. Yorie and Khash and I had just done our E session a couple weeks ago, so the memory of it was fresh...which was a good thing since Khash was a bit of a nervous wreck. He calmed down considerably after the ceremony, however, and the reception was loads of fun--everyone danced their hearts out, especially Yorie's mom! (She's the one in the kimono) DJ Sergio of Wedding DJ SF did a great job of keeping everyone partying with a great selection of Iranian dance music.