So it’s taken me quite some time to share these images of Ceri and Charly – in summer in Paris. We met this gorgeous couple at the Luxembourg Gardens which are so completely stunning it’s hard to believe. Paris truly is a photographers paradise. Every which way you turn in another scene just waiting to be captured. The scope for photography is just never ending.After spending some time at Luxembourg Gardens we caught the metro across town to the basilica of Scare Coeur at Montmartre. We wandered away from the crowds picnicking on the hill in front of the basilica with their cheeses and wines enjoying the sunset. We headed to the side of the church and found some gorgeous doors and then onto some of the streets in the surrounding area. Again – every direction you look is another photo waiting to happen. The view of Paris from directly in front of Scare Coeur can’t be ignored though and the pull of the pastel shades of the setting sun called so we stopped for a few last shots before calling it a day. And what a day….I think I can hear Paris calling my name ….
Marilyn and Lincoln had a truely gorgeous wedding day. It was filled with all their loved ones and the bridal party was packed to the rafters with the best friends, their siblings and their children. I adore the soft ivory and champagne colour scheme Marilyn chose. The weather was beautiful and we got one of my favourite glowy sun kissed afternoons that provide the prettiest light. The reception took place in a back garden marquee and it was filled with colourful blooms, and lovely decor.
So back in 2014 I had the amazing opportunity to go to Japan with Naomi of Naomi V Photography to photograph the traditional Shinto Wedding of Nick and Risa. A month earlier we had photographed their western wedding in Brisbane. That was a gorgeous day at Sirromet Winery but this second celebration of theirs was something else. I’ve had a passion for Japan, and Japanese culture for quite a long time and being able to combine my photography with my desire to spend time in Japan was truly wonderful.
The wedding ceremony (kekkonshiki) was held at Tsuragoka Hachimangu Shrine in Kamakura. Approximately one hour south of Tokyo by train. The date was chosen to coincide with the bloom of the Sakura (Cherry blossoms) but of course the cherry blossom season is a little unpredictable and the life of the blossoms is so short there was no guarantee. I watched the sakura forecast anxiously for weeks leading up to the ceremony. Japan was experiencing a late chill with some of the heaviest snowfalls in a long time. My spirits were low feeling certain we would be too early and Nick and Risa would miss out on their cherry blossom ceremony. Then just as suddenly there was a warm change, so warm in fact the first blossom dates were moved forward, this time I was panicked the cherry blossoms would be all be gone. However, the day arrived and all over Kamakura the blossoms ranged from about 60% bloom to full bloom. It was stunning!!!
So a traditional shinto wedding ceremony doesn’t really have many things in common with a western wedding. Firstly the couple prepare for the ceremony together. Here you can see Nick being tied into his under layers and Risa has begun hair and makeup – sometimes both the hairstylist and makeup artist were working at the same time. At this stage Risa’s hair has been styled but it’s tucked under a net as shortly she will be wearing a wig.
Here we have the father of the bride and the father of the groom having a little peek at the preparations.Nick is finally in his Hakama. He looks dashing.
With hair and makeup complete it’s time for Risa to begin dressing. There are multiple layers and for both and women such elaborate dress requires some assistance and know how. Risa is wearing a shiromuko – a white kimono that symbolises being able to conform to her husbands family.
The couple are finally ready to make their way to the shrine for the ceremony. Risa now is complete with her wataboshi. All those layers and the long sleeves of an unmarried woman make movement difficult and the lady pictured helping her will spend the entire day, just being on hand to help Risa walk, or move. In fact getting photos of Risa without her helper was quite a bit of work for Naomi and I.
While Nick and Risa get a ride in the jinrikisha to the ceremony, most of the other family and guests take the dankazura walk – the cherry blossoms weren’t quite in full bloom along with walk but it was absolutely packed with people visiting the shine and viewing the cherry blossoms. The news had warned that it might be the last chance to see the blossoms as rain and wind were predicted so people were out in force to ensure they didn’t miss Hanami (Cherry blossom viewing).
Once at the shrine entrance we stopped to a few formal shots. Every time I look at these photos I have to pinch myself ! I still can’t quite believe that I was lucky enough to be at this wedding, with this gorgeous couple and their wonderful families, witnessing such a cultural experience and the cherry blossom in bloom to boot.
Everywhere we walked people would say, “omedeto” “omedeto gozaimasu” – Congratulations!!
Prior to the ceremony the couple and their closest family and guests gather to the meeting room. A shinto ceremony is usually attended by just the closest members of the family. Nick and Risa other guests were waiting back at the shrine.The bride and groom form a procession behind the shrine maiden, with their closest people behind. The musician’s begin to play, and the procession makes it way to the shrine.Only Nick and Risa and their family were allowed in the shrine with the priest and shrine maiden. Many of the people standing around watching are guests, but most were just passers by. I have to admit this was without a doubt the most difficult ceremony I have photographed. Naomi and I were not allowed to enter and we had to elbow our way around the crowds gathered looking in. The fact that the shrine is raised slightly makes it all the more difficult to photograph. Shortly after this image below was taken, there were “guards” who moved the crowd behind ropes to keep them from standing in the centre – the centre must be reserved for the kami (gods). Nick had to read the vows, they were in Japanese so that was a challenge, you can see Risa is having a little giggle at his attempts. The ceremony is typically a solemn ceremony – but Nick and Risa couldn’t help but be the happy smiley people they are.These images capture the purification ritual, and the sipping of sake.After the formalities Nick and Risa are free to really relax and enjoy their day. It’s difficult to even begin to describe just how stunning the setting was. We went to the peony garden for photos, this garden area required a fee to enter so that meant the crowds of visitors tended to stick to other areas of Tusrogoka Hachimangu.It’s difficult to describe just how beautiful the sakura is and my attempts to capture it always seem feeble. I have been able to tick off one of my life’s goals – to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom but also to see Hanafubki – blossom storm – the name given to the petals falling off the trees in a pink and white rain. Standing under the trees as the petals fall is like being in a dream.Next on the agenda was a formal lunch. The service was like nothing I have ever seen. The dishes were impeccably presented. The sheer number of white gloved staff members to attend to the guest every need was a sight to see.
One of the important parts of the day is the breaking of the sake barrel. The bride and groom, along with their parents break open the barrel. It is then served for each guest. As you can see Risa’s mother is emotional at this point. In fact, during this part of the day, many speeches were made and many tears were shed. It was now time for a wardrobe change for Risa. Words cannot describe how stunning this kimono was. I wanted to photograph it all day long – but sadly we had maybe five minutes to get some shots before Risa and Nick were required back inside. The sun had just about set too so the clock was ticking. And the crowds visiting the shrine and viewing the cherry blossoms still had not fully abated.While this part of the day was full of formality and emotions it was just a matter of time before the guests were ready to let their hair down.All the guests left the venue and boarded a bus headed for Yokohama. Goodbye Kamakura – you were spectacular.Once again Risa has had a kimono change – this one is more relaxed and better suited to the after party. Nick has also popped on a suit – it probably felt like pyjamas after the many tight layers of his hakama.The after party was held in the Landmark Tower – a famous building overlooking the beautiful waterfront. Now it was really time to party and celebrate Nick and Risa’s wedding. The after party involves lots of crazy games and lots and lots of drinks.
I feel so privileged to have been given the opportunity to go to Japan – a place close to my heart. To be a part of this day, to learn more about Japanese culture and to capture little pieces of the most important days of peoples lives.