How do I even begin to put into words what it was like to photograph the wedding of Christiane and Jeff on a boat… for 3 days… in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam… with 15 of their close friends? The only word that comes to mind is magical.
We met Christiane 5 years ago at Kristiaan and Lionel’s wedding in Antigua, Guatemala (also known as one of our all-time favourite weddings and couples!) and we’ve been active Facebook friends since. We didn’t meet Jeff until we met up in Hanoi the night before our ship set sail but we quickly got to know each other and forgot that we weren’t just hanging out with our friends.
As a photographer I am obviously biased towards visual storytelling. I went to school for journalism with the intention of becoming a writer, but I fell in love with photography (and a certain photographer… but that’s a story for another day!). I rarely feel limited by photography as a storytelling tool, yet during our three days on the boat in Ha Long Bay, I often found myself wishing that I could capture the other elements that made this trip so magical… the mouthwatering smell of lemongrass and garlic wafting from the boat’s kitchen, the feeling of a warm breeze providing a moment of relief from the humid heat, the sounds of the somewhat eclectic playlist the staff played in the afternoon to which this salsa-dancing group of friends checked, combed and “copaed” (I had to google those salsa terms…) with hair still damp with sea water. But really, it was the company that made it all so wonderful. As Anna, the only child on board, said, Christiane and Jeff “have chosen their friends wisely.”
The wedding day was unconventional to say the least; starting with a kayaking trip around the limestone islands, lunch on the beach, and a rush back to the boat for a quick change into wedding attire. To say that Christiane was a laid back bride would be quite the understatement! Her girlfriends fussed over her hair and makeup while she admired the view outside her window and reassured them that she trusted their opinions on what would look best. Back in his room, Jeff shared one laugh after another as he got ready with his childhood friend slash appointed officiant Craig. We saw the sun briefly for the first and only time of our entire trip at sea the moment Christiane and Jeff exchanged their vows. Following another incredible meal, they danced briefly until the heat got the best of everyone and we sat on the upper deck admiring the stars until everyone slowly retreated to their cabins. As I said, it was magical.
The only thing that made saying goodbye to the group after this once-in-a-lifetime adventure was knowing that we’d be seeing most of them again soon in California for Christiane and Jeff’s larger, more traditional wedding. That one is coming up on the blog in a few weeks, so I guess that makes this post To Be Continued…
We rarely get the opportunity to meet our couples in person prior to their wedding, but Nora and Niklas actually live in Montreal so we were looking forward to meeting them when we made plans over a year before their wedding date. That day, however, Nora and Niklas had the very best excuse for cancelling our meeting at the last minute: Nora was in labor! When we finally did meet them several weeks later, there were 3 of them: little Max (great name, right?!) had joined them.
Nora and Niklas are German, but moved to Montreal a few years ago for Niklas’s family business. They’ve made new friends in Canada and started their family, but their home and their roots remain in Germany, so they returned there to tie the knot. Lucky for us, they brought Canadian photographers along!
Like many European weddings, an intimate civil ceremony kicked things off on day 1, followed by a church ceremony, afternoon cake, and dinner and dancing later in the evening on day 2. The events unfolded at a relaxed and enjoyable pace, and it was very much a family affair. I particularly enjoyed seeing how German parents allowed their kids to explore and experience things around them so freely. Their curiosity for every part of the wedding day added a really beautiful layer to the story. And of course, it felt especially special to have Nora and Niklas’s little Max there to witness his parents’ special day. He may not remember it, but I hope he enjoys seeing himself in the photos as he grows up. (Side note: our own son Max is 3 years old now and loves looking through our wedding album!)
Nora and Niklas, thank you for allowing us the privilege of documenting your wedding in the German countryside. Exploring a part of the world that we otherwise would likely have never seen was a bonus to witnessing the love that surrounds you as a couple.
This story begins with secrets, lies, and double-lives… sort of.
When Clarice and Stanley planned their trip from Hong Kong to Canada to visit Banff National Park and the Rocky Mountains, Stanley suggested that Clarice bring a wedding dress so they could set up a tripod and take some pre-wedding photographs (a typical Chinese tradition). They are both photography enthusiasts so it seemed like a good idea. What Clarice didn’t know, however, is that Stanley was planning on surprising her with two human tripods (named Davina and Daniel) AND an engagement ring!
We picked up Clarice and Stanley at their hotel in Banff after location scouting for the previous two days and I think we may have been even more nervous than Stanley! We kept our real names, but the story was that we were friends of Stanley’s cousin, fellow photography enthusiasts who happened to be in Banff at the same time as them, who would show them around since we had a rental car and they don’t drive. When we got to Lake Minnewanka, selected for the proposal spot for its privacy, I nervously asked Clarice and Stanley if they wanted us to take a photo of them on the rocks. I nodded to Stanley to take the ring out of his backpack while I distracted Clarice, and convinced her to leave her backpack with me. There wasn’t a single tourist around as they climbed the rocks, posed for a photo and Stanley got down on one knee and presented her with a sparkly engagement ring to the sound of a music box he had hidden in his pocket. A shocked and thrilled Clarice said “yes!” and we all got a little teary-eyed.
Able to finally reveal our real identities to Clarice, we were excited to tell them about all the great spots we’d be exploring the next day. All four of us were visiting Banff for the first time and it was truly spectacular. To have the opportunity to photograph Clarice and Stanley against these breathtaking backdrops was an experience that we will never forget. We could not have asked for a sweeter, more willing couple to go on this adventure with.
Thank you, Stanley, for inviting us along, and to Clarice for embracing the surprise and the adventure!
To see a photo from the proposal itself, head over to our Instagram page where we post behind-the-scenes photos of our travels and photoshoots, as well as (embarrassing) photos from the last 10 years of Davina + Daniel.