I’ve probably said this before, but it’s always worth mentioning, part of what I love about being a Toronto based wedding photographer is the ample opportunities I get to embrace different cultures, lifestyles and people from all walks of life. It’s rarely the same experience, regardless of where or what I’m shooting.
Rajni and Aron’s wedding days were the epitome of this perspective and new experiences for me as a wedding photographer.
Their wedding celebrations were a beautiful experience of culture and diversity. So much so, they couldn’t just hold a 1 day celebration, but they had a two-day wedding celebration to ensure that that both elements of their cultures and lives can be celebrated and experienced by all their friends and families.
To add to my immersion on the wedding day, I had the privilege of using analog film, both 35mm and 120 formats to capture the contrast and beauty of both wedding celebrations. Aron is an avid film photographer himself, and including my analog film package was a no-brainer for him. His excitement for the bridal portraits to be taken on medium format film had me looking forward to the wedding day as much as them both.
With my Hasselblad and Leica in hand, I felt like a true documentary photographer on the first wedding day. The Sikh and Indian traditions were unfamiliar to me and I was absolutely captivated by the influence of colours, the vibrancy of the traditional garments and accessories, but most of all, I was engrossed in the candid showcase of emotions and family values.
Seeing Aron being completely thrown into Rajni’s culture and tradition was in itself a showcase of love and beauty between the two families being bond together through a traditional wedding ceremony. Once the ceremony was done and everyone returned to Rajni’s parents home, I was unprepared for the level of emotion about to reveal itself. After we captured some beautiful portraits or Rajni in her traditional Indian bride dress and Aron in his sultan-esque garments, which I will add, were absolutely stunning and the colours were made to be photograph with analog film, the bride and groom return into the home for Rajni’s send off.
The tradition of sending off a bride was new to me and I wasn’t ready for how emotionally powerful it would be, especially since Rajni is the only girl in her immediate family, with four older brothers, there were many hugs and tears shared between her and the members of her family. An absolutely beautiful display of the love they had for one another. It was a cinematic and passionate ending to day 1.
Day 2 followed Aron’s cultural traditions, with a church ceremony and reception in Hamilton Ontario. We got the opportunity to explore Dundurn Castle for a few portraits of the bride and groom along with their bridal party. What was particularly great detail about Rajni on day 2, was how she kept her Henna tattoos intact along with her jewelry from her previous wedding dress, an immediate and impactful display of cultures intertwining paving the path for their own traditions while still holding on to who they are.
The day continued with great food, emotional speeches, a slideshow of old analog film photos of the bride and groom as children and teens, an incredible recipe for a timeless gathering of friends and family.
We capped the day off with a quiet moment during blue hour at sunset, letting the wave of emotion of two wedding days sink in for one last time, giving me the perfect setting to finish my rolls of film and shared experience with the bride and groom on their wedding day. I look forward to hearing from Aron and Rajni in 20+ years when they stumble upon their negatives and slide, reminiscing over the now vintage film of their wedding day, something they can actually hold and show future generations.
Looking back on days like Rajni and Aron’s wedding(s) , I’m reminded that not all weddings need this obvious alternative twist to them, sometimes, holding on to your traditions and blending them with your own, is equally as beautiful and meaningful. This wedding had emotion, it was intimate, it was genuine, that is the real recipe to timeless weddings.
Song of the day
Saint - Blood Orange
Since moving to Toronto nearly a decade ago my summers have always been highlighted by adventures to Toronto Island. The relaxing ferry ride across the lake provides a fleeting view of Toronto’s skyline, providing a rare and beautiful quiet moment within the chaos of the city.
This very mood was analogous to Chris and Andrea’s aura and personalities.
The Toronto Island Cafe was practically tailor made for their wedding day aspirations and inspirations. Authentic, unpretentious vintage ambiance and atmosphere, the vibrancy and sincerity found in these characteristics were echoed in the bride and groom’s wedding and all its details.
Their appreciation for vintage aesthetic and meaningful creation enforced their no-brainer decision to have us photograph their wedding on analog film. The bride and groom’s appreciate for cinema film pushed me to use a unique 35mm and 120 film created and based on Kodak's Vision 3 5219 motion picture cinema film, something I knew Chris ( who is a technician for ARRI Cinema cameras ) would find deeply meaningful and personal.
With my Leica in hand and some black and white film, I was mesmerized by my surroundings capturing the candid elements of the wedding day with my documentary photography approach. With some medium format cameras in hand with slide film and colour negative film, we captured Chris and Andrea’s true selves and all the intimate subtleties of their partnership. It’s always a deeply meaningful experience for me as a wedding photographer when I’m completely entrusted to capture timeless memories on analog film, and to do so for people who have such a deep understanding and appreciation for the cinematic flair found within art, is truly a privilege.
I’m not lying when I say I remember every single frame I shoot when I shoot a roll of 35mm or 120 film. I lose myself within the experience and process of photography, knowing that each individual frame will be held, touched and looked at for generations to come. These negatives will outlive me and the significance of that isn’t something I ever overlook.
Elegance in simplicity, the bride and groom’s timeless style was exceptionally fitting with every element and surrounding detail of the venue and mood of the wedding day. The combination of film and fleeting candid moments fostered an atmosphere of creative inspiration. Analog film brought out the palpable emotion in the seemingly unnoticed moments, creating scenes I can only compare to some of my favourite album art from bands and musicians I constantly listen to at home.
The Toronto Island Clubhouse allowed for both an intimate outdoor ceremony and a beautiful vintage clubhouse that oozed with character for their reception. The stage was set for a finger-licking good BBQ catered by the Island Cafe followed by emotional speeches full of laughs, tears and sincere gratitude. The whole day would not have been enjoyed without the company of their cute terrier, Otto, who witnessed everything from the ceremony to the first dance.
By the the time the sun began to set behind Toronto’s skyline, Andrea became the barefoot bride seemingly carefree and lost within the excitement and intimacy of the wedding day. The warm sunset light is every photographer’s dream, and sunset’s like the one we experienced was one any Toronto wedding photographer would hope for on a summer's night.
With the moonlight shining through the windows and the string lights above, the bride and groom joined their friends and family to dance the night away before catching the final ferry ride back to Toronto. A bitter-sweet return to our lives in the city as the glow of the Toronto Island Cafe’s clubhouse dims and we leave behind another delicate and deepening human experience.
You never know what you’re leaving behind until you leave behind.
I look forward to grabbing a beer with them again in their neighbourhood of Vegandale… I mean, Parkdale :) and reminiscing about the beautiful forgotten moments and deeply impactful subtleties of that summer's evening.
Song of the day
Leave Behind - Eddie the Wheel
Calm, cool, collected, that’s Afsheen and Nikola. Emphasis on the cool. I guess those are the characteristics you need to possess to pull-off a pop-up wedding in the middle of a Toronto Park, followed by signature cocktails and hors d’oeuvre on Pray Tell’s patio in the west-end.
To continue with the trend, Afsheen’s bridal fashion composed of a white jumpsuit with polka dot, blue suede heels and rayban sunglasses. Nikola’s groom style was the casual and classic look of a fitted blue suit, no tie and white sneakers.
The wedding day started at the U of T campus at the very location the bride and groom met, we strolled through the campus and even through the hallways where they formerly had classes. A trip through time where nostalgia fuelled their quiet moments together allowing them to relive the infancy of their love story.
The theme for their photos were based exactly on capturing that feeling. The next stop being Sneaky Dee’s bar that holds significance to their relationship followed by a walk through Kensington Market, another cool and telling location for this Toronto bride and groom. With the summer’s air fresh and the breeze cool, the bride and groom strolled through Kensington market where we made a couple of stops to take in the atmosphere along with all the character that Kensington market has to offer. The eclectic vibe contrasted beautifully with Afsheen and Nikola’s elegant downplay of the modern bride and groom.
Their wedding ceremony was literally a pop-up wedding in the middle of a Toronto City park, surrounded by trees, friends and family. They shared their vows to each other, a first kiss, and a family union through breaking and eating of blessed bread in the park. It was simple, genuine and quite frankly, beautiful.
Afsheen and Nikola are very down to earth people who never wanted to go the traditional route with their wedding, and Pray Tell’s atmosphere and aesthetic was the perfect restaurant wedding venue to hold their low-key party. Cocktails were flowing, people were laughing, hugs were shared, a perfect environment mixed with mingling and candid moments that made for great images. To make things even better, they had a literal CHEESE-CAKE, not cheesecake, but actual wheels of fine cheese stacked together in form of a wedding cake. Literally, a cake of cheese, a cheese-cake wedding cake, a cheese wedding cake. Whatever you want to call it, this should be a trend going forward for all weddings. I guess that’s what cool, modern, city brides and grooms do, set their own trends.
Ironically, there’s something highly intimate and beautiful about restaurant weddings, especially those in the Downtown Toronto scene. To make things more incredible for me as a photographer, having photographed this entire wedding on 120 film was a dream. Afsheen was keen on having me use my Hasselblad for a majority of the portraits and the process of analog film added to the calm demeanour of the wedding day.
Pop-up weddings photographed on analog film, literal cheese wedding cake, Pray Tell’s food and cocktails, good people. This is why I love being a wedding photographer in Toronto
Song of the day
Hope - Blood Orange