If you think planning a wedding is stressful, then imagine planning a wedding where none of the guests even know you are engaged, let alone getting married! Zohreen and Rishi thought that having a surprise wedding would be simpler and more fun, but let’s just say only one of those turned out to be true!
Guests were invited to the wonderfully eccentric Paramour Estate in Silver Lake to witness an elaborate proposal planned by Rishi. Instead, they were welcomed by the bride and groom revealing the surprise from the mansion’s balcony just an hour before their wedding ceremony.
To add an extra layer of anxiety, the only people who were in the know ahead of time – the two sets of parents – did not know that Zohreen had convinced a very special guest to officiate: Reza Aslan. Oh and a third surprise? Rishi’s brother decided to propose to his girlfriend at the reception and with the bride and groom’s blessing (they were all for more surprises!), he shocked everyone when he got down on one knee (she said yes!).
Despite all the surprises, there was another theme very much at the heart of this whole celebration: the fact that this union was more than two individuals coming together, it was two faiths, two cultures, two families from different backgrounds. Rishi is Indian Jain and Zohreen Pakistani Muslim so the love and acceptance of both families was not lost on anyone who was present. Reza drew from his personal life as a partner in an interfaith marriage as well as his professional life as a world-renowned religious scholar to officiate the ceremony with the perfect blend of honest, sweet, and funny while paying tribute to both of their backgrounds. But it is Rishi’s testament of love during his vows that stood out to me as one of the most beautiful I have heard in my 10 years as a wedding photographer. Rishi’s voice broke as he declared: “I will always be a part of your community. I will always fight for your community to make sure that your community is safe.” These words meant everything. To acknowledge the struggles of Zohreen’s Muslim community and to vow to stand by it is the ultimate declaration of love as far as I am concerned.
We could not have been more thrilled to have been entrusted with not only the task of capturing this truly awesome event, but with all the secrets and surprises that came along with it. Zohreen and Rishi, thank you for choosing us!
And a special Thank You to photographer Adam Kealing, who flew in from Austin to help us cover this wedding!
Van Ann and Mario’s love story feels like the plot of a classic romantic comedy set in New York City. Two people from completely different backgrounds – one of Vietnamese decent and the other Puerto Rican – build a friendship over a common love of good food until one day our male protagonist finally makes it out of the friend-zone as our female protagonist realizes that what she was searching for in a partner was right in front of her all along.
Van Ann and Mario shared this story with us when we met them for dinner in New York a year before their wedding. They were excited to incorporate many elements that have defined their relationship over the years – like Shake Shack (the topic of their first ever conversation) and Chick-fil-a (to which Mario famously won a year’s worth of sandwiches for his obsessed bride-to-be). Their faith was also at the centre of the celebration, with Van Ann’s father, a paster, officiating the ceremony. And of course, delicious food, an homage to the many meals over which their relationship developed, was shared family-style at the reception.
Vintage china place-settings, a ladder strung with vintage lightbulbs over the head table, a custom doorway leading to the ceremony, and super fun pink lighting on the dance floor… no design detail was overlooked either! Van Ann and Mario collaborated on the design in a true labor of love.
But perhaps the sweetest gesture of all, was when Van Ann gave Mario two letters to open before the ceremony. One was addressed to him, and the other to his departed father whom she never met. It was the most beautiful way to acknowledge the absence of such a significant individual on such an important day and honour his memory. It said a lot about Van Ann. Needless to say there wasn’t a dry eye in the room when Mario read the letter.
It was a lovely celebration, true to this couple and their relationship, and it was such a pleasure to document it.
This second instalment of Christiane and Jeff’s wedding takes us to California’s wine country, this time with an extended group of family and friends.
This second event really did feel like an extension of the first, and it allowed us to learn even more about them through the other significant individuals in their lives. I was particularly struck by how vast and varied their group of friends is. There were childhood friends of almost 40 years, fellow travellers they met on trips abroad, some were past or current coworkers… even exes! Age, gender, race, religion, sexual-orientation – Christiane and Jeff’s friendships do not discriminate; they love and are loved by all. It takes serious loyalty and great care to maintain so many different friendships over so many years, and Christiane and Jeff have managed to do so beautifully.
During the ceremony, the bridal party gave touching individual testimonials. Despite each of their unique perspectives and relationships with the couple, Christiane and Jeff finding each other later in life was definitely a recurring theme. It was interesting to hear the ways in which their friends feel that these two fully formed adults balance each other out. They expressed a refreshingly realistic view on love and relationships that we honestly don’t typically hear at weddings. It was the acknowledgement that it takes more than just deep love to make a marriage, that it takes a commitment but also an acceptance of the other. It was beautifully honest, and I realized that it seemed very appropriate of what I have observed of Christiane and Jeff. They don’t try to change one another, they may challenge each other, but also they respect each other’s differences, like the fact that Christiane is a passionate vegan and Jeff is very much a carnivore!
After all the salsa dancing on the boat in Vietnam we were not surprised or disappointed to witness a packed dance floor all night. I could watch Christiane and Jeff dance together for hours (and I guess by now I have!). They are individually confident, move together beautifully (albeit not necessarily perfectly) and their connection is palpable. I hate to point out the obvious, but it really is a perfect metaphor for a happy and healthy relationship!
Christiane and Jeff… we will miss photographing you! Thank you for trusting us to photograph both of your wedding celebrations and for inviting us into the inner circle. We feel privileged to be here.