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...