Most people would agree that weddings are days filled with heightened emotions, deepened by the presence of those people who matter most to us.
In the short time I got to know both Caitlin and Jon I was able to realize something admirable about both their characters - they’re both sensitive human beings. I don’t mean that in the sense that they can’t take a joke, this bride and groom really FEEL things, they have an innate sense of compassion and empathy that emanates sincerity and candour. Elements that are not only evident in both the bride the broom, but truly a consistent theme found within every member of their families and group of friends.
The bride and groom are very much Toronto people. Urbanites through and through, Caitlin and Jon’s wedding was as much of a love-story with the city of Toronto as it was a showcase of their love for one another. Airship37 was the ideal location for their intimate affair, providing an elegance with hint of industrial themes. There’s literally a giant propellor on the roof of the ceremony / reception space, creating an ambiance completely fitting to their wedding. The interior space of Airship37 was large and filled with light, with two separate rooms, the bride and groom opted to get ready right there at the wedding venue. Jon and his friends quickly got dressed and enjoyed a cold beer outside in the summer heat before Jon surprised them all with beautiful Shun Japanese chef knives (I’m very jealous).
As Caitlin prepared her authentic vintage look, completed by the personal touch of having her grandmother’s vintage pearl earrings and vintage clutch, her father got ready with Jon and the rest of the groomsmen before sneaking off to get a glimpse of the bride, which inevitably led to an emotional moment shared between father and daughter. His look of surprise quickly turned into unsuccessfully fighting back tears as they shared a candid moment together before the wedding ceremony.
During that special moment, just outside the garage doors of Airship37, Jon anxiously leaned against the retro airstream bus as he awaited Caitlin’s arrival for their first look. Overwhelmed with emotion, mostly joy and relief, the bride and groom couldn’t resist to simply embracing within moments of laying eyes on each other. I noticed something truly beautiful about this candid moment between the bride and groom. It was evident to me that this first look wasn’t solely about Caitlin showing off her beautiful vintage wedding dress and look, their first look was about taking the time to actually appreciate the very presence of the individual, to communicate with one another via nuanced emotion to say all the things they couldn’t say, but wanted to.
Although the Airship37 is a unique rustic and industrial wedding venue right next door to the Old Historic Toronto Distillery District, Caitlin and Jon opted to explore more authentic urban locations for their bridal party photos and portraits. Naturally, we explored the DVP / Gardiner Expressway underpass, setting up an antithesis to Caitlin’s beautiful vintage wedding dress and Jon’s sophisticated look. Although the location would seem unusual to most, the bridal party made the most of every second together, providing incredible candid moments and genuine interactions between one another with the city skyline deep in the distance.
The ceremony at Airship37 was equally emotional and sincere, but two things really stood out to me about that part of the day - the first was within a fleeting moment just before Caitlin’s entrance. I remember Caitlin looking up to the sky in attempts to compose herself emotionally for the wedding, and in the corner of my eye I noticed her father offer a simple gesture to help ease the nerves. I’m sure there’s some sort of symbolism or metaphor to draw from that moment, but all I know is that it was a powerful display of love.
The second thing that got me was the fact Caitlin opted for an unplugged ceremony. From personal anecdotes from the bride herself and stories of those closest to her, Caitlin is somewhat of a social media mogul, so to completely eliminate that element from that part of her wedding day was truly telling. Honestly though, in hindsight, after getting to know the bride and groom and their families, I shouldn’t be surprised by the request, the importance of emotional presence was an unwavering element of the wedding day.
While guests enjoyed the cocktail hour on Airship37’s beautiful outdoor patio, Jon and Caitlin snuck off to Polson Pier to enjoy the sunset on the Toronto skyline. The golden light and subtle breeze were enjoyed by both the bride and groom during a rare quiet moment within the chaos of the wedding day, providing me with a beautifully romantic moment to document. I think being a Toronto wedding photographer allows me to appreciate those subtle and quiet moments as they seem few and far between within the walls of living in an urban city like Toronto.
As blue hour struck, the bride and groom shared in one last moment together in front of Airship37’s retro bus before heading inside to face the whirlwind of emotions they were about to have throughout the reception portion of the wedding day.
Like I mentioned, there was high level of emotion on this wedding day, and the speeches perfectly encompassed that element, as the groom, his brother and father all choked up at similar parts of their speeches as they reflected back on their childhood memories shared together.
The speeches were only trumped in emotion when compared to the first dances shared that night. Starting with the bride and her father, Caitlin’s dad once again provided a simple gesture of gratitude and love when asking Caitlin’s now husband to cut in and finish the dance, as he watched quietly in the short distance, taking in the moment. This beautiful moment was followed by Jon sharing a dance with his mother and mother-in law as the bride watched from her seat incapable of holding back her emotions and tears.
Once the crying subsided, the real party began, featuring a Buffalo Bills garter (the groom’s favourite NFL team), a dance-off between a professional and soon-to-be professional dancer, the dance floor set the scene for blurred memories and uncontrollable laughter.
I was very lucky to be introduced to these kind people by Ingrid Forster, a fellow documentary photographer here in Toronto and close friend of the bride and groom. I’m always thankful for these unanticipated moments in life, and these sort of personal connections always allow me to enter a wedding as an active observer, something I always thrived to achieve through my career as a photojournalist and documentary photographer. To have people allow me to be so involved in such intimate and private moments in their lives isn’t something lost on me, and part of the main reason I love approaching wedding with my photojournalistic style and mentality. I felt it necessary to include a quick thank you to Ingrid for her kindness and trust.
Although I didn’t get to spend much time with Caitlin and Jon prior to their wedding due to unfortunate circumstances, I truly feel that I got to know the real people that they are throughout their wedding day, whether it be the fleeting moments shared at Airship37 or watching the golden light dwindle behind the city, they were constantly present in every moment.
Song of the day
It’s Yes - Tyler Burkhart