I am not sure who said it first, but they were right – photography is like a passport. It allows you to go places, meet people, and experience new things. As a photographer, I am often invited to witness, document, and help celebrate life’s greatest and most treasured moments. Naturally, there is a hierarchy of these moments with births and weddings being near the top. Near, but not at the top. Just last week, I got a phone call that required me to put another stamp in my photography passport – photographing the surprise proposal of two lovebirds. In my seven years of photography, this has only happened two other times with Dan and Alyssa, and Devin and Ricky. Few people, not even the parents of the couple, get to witness such an event. And yet, I was invited to capture it.
I have known Tom for a handful of years and quickly became friends with him. He is one of the nicest, most sincere, gentle, unique, and genuine guys I know. We have shared so many laughs and memories together. Honestly, all of the memories have been great, including the time when he tried salmon for the first time while at a BBQ I hosted and ended up in the hospital. Even then, Tom took it in stride, was cracking jokes while in pain, and posing for photos in his revealing robe.
When Tom called me out of the blue (we tend to text more than anything), my first thought was “he is going to propose!” And I was right! He bounced his original idea off of me, and while I was excited for him and Stephanie, I thought he could do better. A week later, he came up with the plan that we ran with. After a long romantic walk down the pier and a fake-out tying of his shoe lace while at the end of the pier after telling Stephanie “You know I love you…and we are all alone right now” (yes, you read that right), Tom brought Stephanie back to a quiet and secluded patio in Lexington. I, along with the patrons of a nearby restaurant, were eagerly awaiting the moment. These are the results…
As Tom began to slow his walk and stop, Stephanie’s frustration began to wane. Her smile grew larger as Tom dug into his pocket and turned into tears as he took a knee. “Will you marry me?” Some nods, sniffles, hugs, and jubilation followed. Women from a nearby hair salon emptied into the courtyard cheering. Patrons from a bar banged on the glass. Everyone was excited for what they just saw. It was quite the sight to see. After he popped the question, we spent an hour or so roaming around Lexington photographing a mini-engagement session. I have never seen such excitement and authentic smiles. Congratulations to you both! I can’t wait to see what is next in store for you.
This year has certainly brought its adventures for me. More than ever, I have been invited, exposed, and helped celebrate marriages of multiple religions and ethnicities. Just this past month, I photographed my first Muslim wedding. One of the most interesting contrasts I have found is the richness and symbolism in all of the traditions. That, and it seems that everyone has more rhythm than me. (For now, my two left feet will stick to photography).
Months ago, I received a call from Francis, the bride’s cousin. Francis was a ball of energy, positivity, and enthusiasm that couldn’t be contained. By the time our call ended and wedding details were discussed, I felt like I had just gotten off the phone a long lost friend. She assured me that it was going to be a fun and crazy night. I didn’t expect anything less.
The morning of the wedding was filled with friends, food, family, food, and more food. Did I mention there was food? With the unseasonable hot summer we have been having, we decided to take some of the photos inside. Before the bridal party arrived, Salha and Mohamad shared a First Look. The moment couldn’t have been scripted better. Salha gracefully walked down the stairs while Mohamad waited in anticipation. His mom and sister anxiously peeked around the corner, waiting to see both his reaction and the bride. Salha looked radiant in her dress and her elegance was evident. She made a beautiful bride.
As family arrived, the house filled with laughter, hugs, chaos, and flashes. Everyone was excited for Mohamad and Salha. The party started when we arrived at the reception hall and the zaffa, or wedding processional, began. Dancers, drums, and traditional songs and chants led the way as Mohamad and Salha made their way towards the reception. Family crowded the hallways and danced in front of them in a ceremonial welcome. Once inside, everyone danced the debke, or circle dance. Family members took turns leading the dance. At one point, multiple circles formed as the bride was surrounded by her bridesmaids and groom by his groomsmen. The night ended with the candle dance, a ritual where the bride slowly dances around the female guests and they grace her with rose pedals while the groom sits in the middle of the dancefloor. Later, he joins his bride and it ends with them blowing out the candles. I was interested in the meaning of it and found some information from the book “La Milenaria Danza del Vientre, el lenguaje oculto… de Amir Thaleb.”
“This dance was inherited from ancient rites and ceremonies that took place in sealed religious temples, the lighting of the candles have a purely mystical significance and is a way to provide spiritual light to the various events and deities. Today this dance is usually performed at weddings or baptisms as being a symbolic way of illuminating the newly betrothed or newborn in his new path to take.”
Beautiful wedding photography of an Arab wedding, arabic wedding, Muslim wedding featuring a debke, zaffa, and other Muslim wedding traditions.
I love Michigan. It is where I grew up, went to school, ran down sand dunes, learned to water ski, jumped in cold Great Lakes, road tripped up the Mackinac Island, and call home. It is also where I learned to ski since the age of three at Nubs Nob in Harbor Springs. (You can still catch me in my bright orange down-filled coat riding the blue and yellow chairs. Give a yell.) There aren’t many things in life that I can say I am passionate about, but skiing is one of them. Having said that, you can only imagine my love and vicarious romanticism I have with mountains. My grade school and high school lockers were plastered with photos from Ski, Skiing, and Powder magazines. Scott Schmidt was my childhood idol. The one time a year we would have a powder day in Michigan, I would practice my smear turns, just like Scott Schmidt. The only books I wanted to read were biographies of early explorers, rock climbers, and alpinists. A poster of Mt. Everest hung in my college dorm. Even today, my Instagram feed can be classified into three things – friends, brides, and mountains. I was supposed to take a trip to the Pacific Northwest this year, but found myself to be too busy (worst excuse ever) and couldn’t find anyone who wanted to camp for two weeks in the back of my truck (second worst excuse).
Regardless, I have been trying to make it out to the mountains, any mountains, once a year now. Last year, I went out to do some rock climbing and visit my cousin in Boulder. Taking a shot in the dark, I emailed everyone in my contact list letting them know I would be out in Colorado and if they, or anyone they knew, would be out in Colorado at that time, I would be available to take their photos. To my surprise and delight, the Pintar family emailed me back letting me know that they would be in Breckenridge during that time. I had met them a few years earlier when I had photographed their family photos back in Michigan. We started our day at nearby Dillon Reservoir before heading to Breckenridge, where we took a gondola to the top for a sunset family photo shoot. It was great to spend the afternoon with them and even better watching the boys develop a love for the mountains the way I did when I was younger.
Boulder, Denver wedding photography. BTW Photography is a Detroit-based wedding, family, and lifestyle, destination wedding photographer. BTW Photography will travel all over the world at request.
When I met with Ryan and Katelyn, Katelyn was stuck in traffic, leaving Ryan and I to make small talk. We quickly found common ground – both of us work in the field of education – and swapped stories over coffee. There was something unique in the way that Ryan and I clicked, yet neither of us could put our finger on it. Regardless, when Katelyn arrived, the topic turned to weddings, photography, and the details of their big day. Not only did Katelyn have the bigger things planned out – ceremony at Detroit’s Sweetest Heart of Mary, reception at Penna’s of Sterling – but she also had all of the color schemes, details, and unique elements of the wedding underway as well. Pinterest and Etsy were inspirations and everything she touched was personalized and glam. As the meeting wrapped up, I mentioned to Ryan, “Man, I feel like I know you from somewhere.” He agreed and moments later we made the connection…we went to high school together nearly 15 years ago. This kicked off a whole new round of talks, laughs, and reminiscing.
The wedding day was perfect. Ryan and Katelyn were surrounded by friends and family both in their bridal party and at the ceremony and reception. Everyone who was there had a long history with them. Some of the groomsmen were friends from grade school, many from high school. One even serenaded them for their first dance. Katelyn’s girlfriends and family surrounded her throughout the day and even helped make all of the centerpieces and decorations for the day – from the handmade signs to the personalized champagne flutes. Overall, the day was beautiful, memorable, and truly a unique affair.
Church: Sweetest Heart of Mary
Reception: Penna’s of Sterling
Florist: Roses of Warren
Dress: Augusta Jones
MUA: Megan Hamlin (Chanel @ Sak’s Fifth Avenue, Sommerset Collection)
Rings: Diamond Jim’s
DJ: Memory Maker
Cake: Mannino’s Bakery
Photography: BTW Photography A beautiful Detroit, Michigan wedding influenced by the vintage and glam items found on Pinterest and Etsy. The wedding ceremony was held at the historic Sweetest Hear of Mary Catholic Church while the reception was held at Penna’s of Sterling Villa Penna’s.