This isn’t my first go around photographing a wedding at Graydon Hall in Toronto. The beautiful manor and landscape has an incredibly authentic vintage aesthetic and mood to it. A real gem of a wedding venue to have as a playground for photographing a wedding, especially somewhere so central within Toronto.
Coincidentally, both times I’ve shot a wedding at Graydon Hall it’s rained, and if you ask me, that’s not really a bad thing since 1) it usually only rains for about 20 minutes in Toronto and 2) it create a beautiful atmosphere and mood that Mark and Jenn got to take advantage of to create an ethereal wedding experience for themselves and their closest friends and family. The combination was the perfect storm in order for me to use put some classic Kodak black and white medium format film through my 6x7 camera. There was something utterly timeless by the entire event that was just screaming to be photographed on analog film, so I trusted my instincts and couldn’t be happier that I did. Wedding photos at Graydon Hall have that potential for timelessness, so a shooting a wedding on film was the natural choice (but I say that a lot I’m sure).
I felt a bit of pressure to exceed my own expectations at this wedding for a few reasons. Mark and Jenn work at the Canadian Olympic Committee here in Toronto, and I’ve personally photographed a few projects for the COC over the years, so naturally I wanted to put my best foot forward to uphold my reputation, but most importantly, I was highly recommended by a close friend of mine who works with both Jenn and Mark at the COC and I wanted to be sure to live up to the honour of being recommended. Although I say I was a bit worried, I really quickly got over it since both Jenn and Mark are some of the most down to earth and easy to get along people I’ve ever met, making the entire process seamless and genuinely enjoyable for me as a wedding photographer.
Rain or shine the wedding was full of love and genuine exchanges between everyone involved in the wedding day, from the bridal party to invited guests, everyone was so quick to share a prolonged and deliberate hug, a soft smile, a gentle kiss on their partner’s cheek as a kind reminder of the love in the room and no one was afraid to show their deeply rooted love through the form of tears, and there were many.
Although the rain moved us inside the beautiful space of Graydon Hall, it wasn’t a downgrade in any way, shape or form. The ceremony space was intimate, everyone completely involved and present throughout the entire process and the proximity added a level of energy that couldn’t be achieved in the large outdoor space on the Graydon Hall grounds.
Like I said before, rain doesn’t last long here in Toronto, and by the time the dinner and reception began the rain had ceased and slowly morphed into a light mist and eventually settled into a delicate fog, creating an undercurrent of ambiance that was seemingly otherworldly, and Mark and Jenn had a front row seat beneath the clear tent to watch it all unfold and the blood orange sun began to sink behind the horizon as they toasted to their new chapter.
What followed was truly special. Watching the bride and groom engulfed in fog share their first dance on the grounds of Graydon Hall while all their guests held sparklers and sang along to Coldplay’s “Green Eyes”, was one of the most naturally beautiful collective acts of love I’ve ever witnessed at a wedding.
The party continued with high energy and dancing, but not before having almost everyone checking in on Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals where the hometown Toronto Raptors captured the W to propel them to their first ever NBA Finals appearance. The serendipitous events led to a larger than life celebration with the bride and groom at the core and people danced the night away as Mark and Jenn snuck off to make the most of the foggy evening sunset.
As they stood in the foggy distance, I saw this haunting beauty that was a combination of the atmosphere but mostly because I was witnessing a pivotal and instantly memorable moment in the wedding day. I think the bride and groom felt it too as they took a few extra minutes to embrace and share in an intimate and quiet moment to take in each other’s energy and feel one another’s heartbeat.
The day was special and memorable on its own, but ultimately having that personal connection with Mark & Jenn is what really brought the experience of creating images to life for me. It’s insane that I can personally get sentimental and nostalgic over someone else’s wedding photos but somehow I can, and am as I write this journal entry out. It’s amazing how much you can learn from other people when you take the time to observe them in highly emotional situations, but Jenn and Mark really let us in and by doing so, I understood them, their relationship and I was allowed to feel the incredible passion and the potency of the love they had for each other and every single person in their lives.
I’ll be thinking about this one for a very long time to come.
Song of the Day
Green Eyes - Coldplay
B-Side track of the day
Put You First - Tyler Burkhart
A Toronto City Hall wedding is something I’ve become quite familiar with over the past few years. I’ve photographed roughly 15+ weddings and elopements at Toronto City Hall in my short career as a Toronto wedding photographer, hell, in 2019 alone I’ve photographed a handful so far! I can openly admit though, that no two City Hall weddings have ever been alike. Sure, the beautiful and futuristic architecture of Toronto City Hall remains the same over that time period, but it’s never truly about that anyway, what has truly made each experience unique is the people involved in the intimate experience of eloping or getting married at City Hall. I think in order to be one of the best Toronto wedding photographers it’s key for me to be able to revisit the same places with a different outlook and perspective. Overtime I quickly realized it’s not about where people get married, but WHO is getting married, the nuances between them and the space, that is the key for me as a wedding photographer and I can thank my 5+ years of experience working as a photojournalist to acquire the patience and mind’s eye to anticipate the images I envision, but more importantly, I’ve learned how to connect with the couples I work with in order to create a catered and unique experience through the images to tell THEIR story, which the wedding venue only plays a partial role.
Dana & Marc reached out to me roughly a year before their scheduled wedding at Toronto City Hall, we grabbed a few beers along Queen West and they explained to Ryanne and I their ideas and vision for their wedding. Their enthusiasm and excitement for working with us on the wedding day really propelled my own excitement and vision for what we could create.
The bride and groom opted for a late spring City Hall Wedding, with Marc’s family and close friends travelling from Montreal for the occasion. It was nice to be around other French speaking people for a change, since moving to Toronto from Ottawa I often miss speaking French in my day to day life so that simple notion of language allowed me to bond and connect with Marc and those in attendance.
But before any of that happened, Dana and Marc opted to have a first look within the grounds of Toronto City Hall. The first look was the perfect combination of surprise and overwhelming emotion as both Marc and Dana took a moment to appreciate one another’s wedding attire before naturally embracing for what seemed like a minute suspended in the infinite. A striking moment for me as the wedding photographer was when they both took a minute to step off and to express some unrehearsed personal vows to one another. I opted to give them the space they needed to allow themselves to live in the moment and really dig deep in what was easily the most intimate and deeply emotional moment of the entire wedding day. That quiet and emotional moment between the bride and groom opened up a level of natural emotion that easily translated to the portraits that followed. I could feel their happiness and love as I watched them through my camera, an incredible privilege and something I never take for granted as a wedding photographer.
Something I love about weddings at Toronto City Hall, and something that isn’t often talked about, is how there is a limit to the number of people that can attend the actual ceremony. Due to the small space and limited numbers, the ceremony always feel intimate and private, the energy and emotion is felt by everyone and it’s impossible not to be present in the moment since both the bride and groom’s family and friends are within touching distance throughout the entire experience. The ceremony was simple but extraordinarily beautiful at its core. A mixture of humour, laughs and tears, Dana and Marc exchanged meaningful vows before sharing in their first kiss as husband and wife.
Another key benefit of having their Toronto City Hall wedding in the late Spring was the fact that the cherry blossoms were in full bloom at Osgoode Hall where they opted to capture some beautiful and intimate portraits following the wedding ceremony. Who knew that you didn’t have to fight off crowds at High Park to appreciate mother nature’s transformation and make the most of them for your wedding day photos! Once again, Osgoode Hall is a place I'm quite familiar with, but the subtle changes over the course of the year, and the people in front of the camera made me feel like it was a completely new space to work with altogether. The combination of nature and old architecture aren't something common within Toronto's downtown core, but Osgoode Hall gave us the diverse landscape to help tell Dana and Marc's wedding day story in a natural and stunning location that few wedding venues in Toronto could ever provide.
This wedding was memorable for many reasons, but something I absolutely loved was the editorial vibe and route that Dana took with her bridal fashion and look. Ditching the idea of a traditional wedding dress and opting for a white jumpsuit, Dana had the glow and essence of all things editorial and fashion, straight out of an Aritzia fashion ad. The contrast between her wedding jumpsuit and the vibrant florals around Osgoode Hall create an epitome of perfection to capture, combined with Marc’s ability to naturally express his connection to his bride, I was presented with every opportunity to create timeless and cinematic imagery that wasn’t forced or staged.
Weddings at Toronto City Hall aren’t boring or typical, far from it, and this wedding day was all the evidence I could ever need to disprove that misconception.
Song of the Day
Tuesday Feeling (Choose To Stay) - Blood Orange