Food is love. This simple thought completely encompasses my experience photographing Gary and Cheryl’s beautiful vintage wedding on Niagara on the Lake.
I’ll start by saying this - the food at this wedding was out of control, legitimately some of the best I’ve ever had, not just at a wedding, but ever. Leading up to the wedding both the bride and groom emphasized how the wedding was meant to be a beautiful celebration of their long-lasting love for one another, with the key ingredient being food, something both Gary and Cheryl value highly, and I’ll be the first to say, that the food did not disappoint. Outside of the wedding I’ve photographed at the Chase in downtown Toronto, I’ve never had a meal at a wedding stick with me in this way before.
Gary and Cheryl have been together for a long time, and the wedding was filled with highly personal touches and many avenues of nostalgia. To start, the entire wedding was held in Port Dalhousie, Cheryl’s hometown that has as much character and Canadiana as any place I’ve ever been to in Ontario. The groom got ready in a beautiful country home along with his two sons, providing beautiful candid moments between the three of them, offering a unique family experience and bonding moments as they anxiously prepared for the day ahead. The bride opted to get ready in her childhood home. A place filled with fragments of Cheryl’s youth, her family’s history, vintage old photographs, and of course, one of the coolest, most authentically retro basements I’ve ever had the privilege of stepping foot in. When I say this basement was retro and vintage, I genuinely mean that it was an actual time capsule back into the 1960’s. The furniture in perfect condition, seemingly modern at this point, red and orange lights create the ultimate mood for anyone hoping to relax and take a moment. The walls were covered with images of Cheryl, her parents, family members, trophies and vintage artwork. I was utterly obsessed with the space and was so excited that both the bride and groom (and the bride’s father) were so willing to let me capture portraits that were downright strange and thematic to something out of a Stanley Kubrick flick.
The personal touch of being in Cheryl’s parents vintage home didn’t go unnoticed, and it truly added to the depth and detail of the entire first part of the wedding day.
The backyard is home to a beautiful cherry tree, a monument within Cheryl’s family and their lives. The perfect place for a candid and emotional first look between the bride and groom.
The first part of the day was concluded with the bride and groom celebrating with their immediate family, toasting to the celebration ahead.
St. Catherine’s rowing club was the perfect venue to hold an intimate outdoor ceremony among trees, and the perfect vintage venue to hold all of the bride and groom’s friends and families for an incredible dining experience. With the help of a cartwheeling flower girl and a young ukulele musician and vocalist, the very excited and joyous bride made her way down the aisle, captivating the entire audience as her father escorted her to the groom.
As the night went on Gary and Cheryl decided to take in the beautiful pink sunset for some golden hour and blue hour portraits by the lake. The stunning scene and natural beauty of our surroundings made for the ultimate quiet moment for the bride and groom to cherish and enjoy together. To highlight the importance of the organic, locally sourced meal we were about to have, Cheryl made a small speech about the food we were about to eat and highlight the elevated level of work done by Treadwell, the restaurant who catered the event, which allowed everyone to have a deep understanding and appreciation for the complex and beautiful meal they were about to enjoy. The tomato water soup was unforgettable, the whitefish and beef short-rib were just as incredible. A complete dining experience that left people in awe and with their stomachs full.
While people took in the incredible meal both the bride and groom shared some beautiful speeches. The groom actually read an old letter he had written to the bride in the earlier stages of their relationship, providing a deep and heartfelt look into the intimate part of their relationship. The nostalgia wasn’t lost on anyone in the room, as nearly every single guest was forced to wipe tears from their eyes and the groom choked up reading back through his thick book of letters that kindly reminded him , and everyone in attendance, that their love for each other, and their love for their family, was present since the start.
The night progressed, wine was drank, Gary and Cheryl enjoyed a beautiful first dance both inside and outside the venue below the stars and string-light, friends and family mingled and laughed the night away. Dances were shared, moments were cherished, and I couldn’t help but smile when I caught the bride’s mother and father share in a deeply intimate moment as they shared the dance floor together. Love was definitely present that day, felt by all, highly contagious and unavoidable.
Food is love, and that night, nobody went home hungry.
Song of the day
Orange Sky - Alexi Murdoch
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
One thing I knew for sure going into Ali and Sarah’s wedding was that I could expect earnest emotions.
There’s always something particularly special about working with other people from different creative fields. Sarah with a background in theatre, and Ali with a background in music, I had an unconscious comfort in their presence from our mutual visions as artists and people living through the human experience. Both Ali and Sarah are highly thoughtful individuals with an in incredible energy, one that resonated immensely throughout the day.
Like many others that I’ve worked with that have a creative background, both Ali and Sarah expressed the importance in having something tangible and intentional as analog film be part of their wedding day experience. When we first grabbed coffee together we practically chatted about analog film and how I use it for weddings for a bulk of our conversation. They were enthusiastic about allowing an artist to use their creative tools and compass to create something powerful and personal for their future selves. Their appreciation for the nostalgic and tangible element of film photography had me looking forward to their wedding day for over a year.
The day began with an emotionally and spiritually driven first-look before heading off to Fat Pasha’s on Dupont Street in Toronto for the wedding ceremony and reception. Having eaten at Fat Pasha’s in the past, I was 100% looking forward to their incredible food and the ambiance and atmosphere that their space and patio create. You can have an intimate and beautiful experience within a large city like Toronto.
A summer wedding at Fat Pasha’s, with the Toronto Sun peeking through the cracks of wood panelling, was the ultimate scene setter for an incredible evening among friends and family to experience the fusing of two creative souls.
The bride and groom held a jewish wedding ceremony on Fat Pasha’s patio, beneath a beautifully crafted chuppah Ali and Sarah said their vows to one another. I was expecting beautifully written vows that dug deep, but even I couldn’t predict the authentic and candid beauty created from their mere words to one another.
Digging into the subterranean elements of complex human emotion and purpose, every single person in attendance was rapt in attention, most fighting back tears unsuccessfully. Ali and Sarah accomplished what they set out to do, to unite not only themselves in a life-long spiritual bond, but also create an ultimate shared human experience with their friends and family.
The evening went on with the breaking of the bread, amazing catered food by Fat Pasha’s, incredible cocktails, and a few blue hour portraits of Ali and Sarah to help them soak in the atmosphere of what they just went through together.
Most artists appreciate having personal elements of their lives involved in their weddings, often creating a platform for those closest to them to contribute uniquely to their wedding. Ali had his friends play music for the ceremony, numerous friends read a special blessing or reading during the ceremony itself, the speeches were held beneath the blue hour sky and stars, it just oozed mood and intimacy, highly representative of the Sarah and Ali I got to known personally.
For me, I leave behind 35mm and 120 negatives and positives from my experience and artistic contribution to their wedding day. These remnants of my experience, the analog film from their wedding day, is my tangible imprint for them to share amongst their friends and family for generations to come.
Song of the day
Subterraneans - Willie J Healey