Saturday, November 3, 2007

2007-October - Justyna & John - San Francisco, CA

OK, I definitely have a love/hate relationship with this wedding. I absolutely loved every aspect of this event - the couple, John Lee and Justyna Walukiewicz, are amazing, the food was incredible, the ceremony was held at the awe-inspiring Grace Cathedral and the reception was at the ultra-sheik St. Regis Hotel in downtown San Francisco. Also, the bridal party, the families, and every single guest were an absolute joy to be around. You know it's an awesome party when the 94-year old grandmother from China is getting her boogy on down on the dance floor.

Now the hate part - this wedding has officially ruined all other weddings for me. Honestly, I can retire now. This was definitely the high-point of my wedding photography career thus far. Justyna and John were just awesome. We took them downtown to Union Square to get some street shots before the reception, and everybody had a blast.

This was also my second gig working with Hillarie Tuman (Hillarie B Photography), and it was another great experience to work with her. Did I mention she just got engaged? Congrats Hillarie!

Just an all around awesome day. Justyna and John are an incredibly lucky couple to have such a wonderful group of friends and family, and they are obviously very happy and very much in love. This is the type of wedding I live to shoot :)

Check out a few pictures here (key: justyna):

2007-October - Menlair & Steve - Pismo Beach, CA

Yet another chance to go to my old stomping grounds at Pismo Beach. Menlair and Steve are from Porterville, which is actually right next to the small central California town of Visalia where I grew up, so this wedding offered me a chance to reminisce a little about my quaint little cow-town that raised me. Ah, the memories...

This was also my first opportunity to work with Hillarie Tuman (Hillarie B Photography), who is an experienced wedding photographer from San Francisco. This was an amazing experience and I got to learn a lot throughout the day. My favorite part was observing how she interacted with the clients - she is awesome at giving directions without being bossy at all. Needless to say, Menlair and Steve absolutely loved her.

But the coolest part of the day was definitely the couple themselves. Menlair and Steve are definitely, without a doubt, hands down, absolutely in love. They just reek of it! :) It was a real pleasure to photograph such a happy couple, especially when you can just tell they are going to last. Congratulations you guys!

Check out a few pictures here (key: menlair):

2007-September - Jane & Rod - Kansas City, MO

I got another chance to help out my good friend Adnan with his assignment in Kansas City, Missouri. This was my first time to this city, and I was pleasantly surprised. The beautiful tree-filled landscape and green rolling hills made for a beautiful backdrop, and the quaint downtown area offered some good shopping and restaurants.

But the main highlight of this assignment was the couple themselves. Jane and Rod were simply amazing! They were so much fun, cracking jokes left and right and partying the night away like nobody's business. Photographing their wedding and reception was an absolute treat, and I look forward to my invitation to their cabin in Tahoe :)

Check out a few pictures here (key: jane):

2007-July - Corinna & Jim - Pismo Beach, CA

I was glad to help out my good friend Adnan with this wedding shoot in one of my old stomping grounds, Pismo Beach. The location posed a great deal of challenges photographically, but I think we overcame them with flying colors and ended up with a great selection of photographs for the clients.

Check out a few pictures here (key: corinna):

Tips for Destination Weddings

As I mentioned in a previous post, my wife and I decided to do a destination wedding in beautiful Italy. We did quite a bit of research and planning, so I thought I would share some of the insights we learned along the way.

1. First of all, all countries, and even towns, have different legal requirements for foreigners to get married there. Our experience is specific to Italy, but this information can pertain to any country that is not your native residence.

2. I do not want to discourage people from trying to tackle the legal requirements yourself, as you can save some money that way, but I personally recommend finding a service that will handle all the arrangements for you. We used WeddingsItaly to handle all our legal requirements. We chose a very basic package, which just had all the legal stuff, plus a bouquet for the bride and a violinist playing at our ceremony (quite a reasonable price, I might add...).

3. Although you can save a little money trying to do everything yourself, these destination wedding services often have a basic package that is quite reasonable, so I do personally think the service is well worth the money (some basic packages we saw started as low as $600, but the price is largely determined by the location you choose).

4. If you opt for a large destination wedding, one of these full-service companies can be invaluable, as they know people at the local venues, florists, musicians, photographers, etc. They can literally plan the entire event and even help arrange accommodations for you and your guests. It all depends what you are willing to spend.

5. If you are trying to keep costs low, consider a basic package from a full-service destination wedding planner, and figure out the rest yourself.

6. Photographer - This is where we had the most debate. Some photographers local to your destination wedding country can be extremely expensive, and you may not know exactly what you are in for (not to mention, good luck seeking legal help if there is a major problem...). Remember, some photographers local to you may be willing to travel if you cover their expenses, which we found to be a cheaper alternative than many of the foreign photographers.

So your choice becomes - a photographer who knows the area, but may not understand you or your wishes; or a photographer who is local to you (at least to your country...), who will likely understand you better, but may not be familiar with the aspects of your chosen destination (i.e. geography, customs, culture, language, how to get around in general, etc).

*** WARNING - Shameless Plug ***

OR, your best option - hire me :) Destination weddings are actually my specialty, especially in Italy. I have spent quite a bit of time travelling around Europe and Asia and learning as much as I can about the local languages and customs (I speak some French, Italian, and I am also learning Mandarin Chinese). I would not be so brash as to claim to be fluent or an expert, but I can definitely get around comfortably just about anywhere I go and I have learned a great deal about the people and places I have visited. Not to mention, I have MASTERED the Italian train system (please hold your applause...). (To check out a few pictures, go to the Portolio link at the top of this page, and choose the Travel section.)

Many photographers will offer to travel for you, but few have real travel experience. Just make sure you choose someone you are comfortable with, and who you can trust to get to your wedding without any problems. Like me (just kidding - but seriously, me :)

7. Food - You can either have a hotel arrange a large reception for you, make plans with a local restaurant, or have the destination wedding service handle the arrangements for you. Just make sure you and your guests partake in the local specialties.

OR, you can do as we did - we made absolutely no arrangements, and just found a nice restaurant close to the venue a few days before. We only had 7 people total, so this was easy enough for us. We just finished the ceremony, walked around and took some photos, then went into the Ristorante Delfino in the main square of Portofino. It was the middle of the day and we were the only group in the ristorante, aside from another small family. The staff were ecstatic to take care of our small group, and we received excellent service. And did I mention the food was incredible? They even brought out a cake for us, which was a local specialty, some sort of torte with various fruits (I'm a chocolate lover myself, but this cake was surprisingly good).

For us, we just wanted to keep everything as low-stress as possible, and we ended up just 'going with the flow' on some things (like the post-ceremony dinner). Everything went amazingly well, and we have nothing but the best memories from the whole experience.

One tip - don't be afraid to walk around the local streets and alleyways to take some pictures and mingle with the locals. The scenery will make for incredible pictures, and the local people of Italy are so warm and friendly. People were shouting 'Auguri!' (best wishes) everywhere, and people were coming up to take pictures of us and with us. We truly felt like celebrities - a nice touch on your wedding day :)

I am sure there is plenty of information I am leaving out, but I am trying to learn to keep my blogs shorter and with less rambling. Not working too well just yet, apparently...

If you are planning to do a destination wedding (especially in Italy), feel free to send me a note with any questions. I am always happy to help.

Ciao for now...

2007-March - Phet & Steve - Portofino, Italy (My Wedding!!!)

No offense, but this is by far the most important wedding of them all - mine :)

I was lucky enough to marry the woman of my dreams in picturesque Castello Brown, a small 600 year old castle overlooking the tiny fishing village of Portofino, located on the beautiful Ligurian coastline of the Italian Riviera (about 45 minutes east of Genoa by train).

My bride was beautiful, the town was amazing, the food was incredible, and the people were so warm and friendly. I could not have asked for a more perfect way to usher in our new life together.

The funny part about doing a destination wedding outside of the US is all the legal requirements. It costs a little more, but I highly recommend using a company or service that specializes in destination weddings in the country you are considering. All it takes is one missed appointment or improper filing and your wedding may be either cancelled or deemed invalid, so go with an experienced company.

We had a coordinator assigned to us, Loredana, and she was great. She took care of all our needs and paperwork (she even had her husband fill in as a witness for paperwork at one of the appointments). The one single issue we had was very minor - the caretaker of the castle told us we could not take pictures of the wedding in the castle. No biggie...

Seriously??? Are you kidding me??? We went through two weeks of appointments, went through the gauntlet of paperwork and requirements to arrive at our dream wedding - in a 600 year old castle on the Italian coastline overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, and 'oh, you can't take pictures'...

Ok, so at that point we freaked... And luckily Loredana came to the rescue, along with our new friend Giorgio, the mayor of Portofino, who liked us so much he insisted on performing our wedding personally (I speak a little Italian, and he speaks even less English, but we still got along famously). Loredana got the caretakers to agree to a handful of pictures, then Giorgio told us to take as many as we want and he would watch out for the fuzz for us. How awesome was that!!!

Such a beautiful venue, and of course the beautiful bride, I could not possibly leave my camera at home. Our very good friend Adnan, a fellow wedding photographer, took a plethora of beautiful pictures for us, and I also took around 1,200 that day just by myself (and I'm the groom!).

Overall, it was an amazing experience, along with our honeymoon (most of which was actually before the ceremony), where we visited the Cinque Terre region, multiple towns along the Italian coast, Paris, Prague, Amsterdam, Barcelona, and many others. Aside from the scooter we crashed in Rapallo (long story...), it was the best time of my life.

Check out a few pictures here:

2007-March - Juli & Fernando - Saint Lucia, Caribbean

First of all, I want to sincerely thank Fernando and Juli for giving me the opportunity to be a part of their special day. It was so much fun and the attractive couple definitely looked their best!

I have known Fernando for about 15 years, so it was an honor when he asked me to photograph his reception at the Firehouse Restaurant in Old Town Sacramento, which took place in April, 2007.

Fernando and Juli got married in March 2007 at the Sandals Resort on the beautiful island of Saint Lucia in the Caribbean. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend (I was getting married that same week in Italy :). But I promised to help touch up their wedding pictures and to photograph their reception, which was so much fun!

Juli's father came all the way from Germany to be there, which definitely made him a guest of honor. Fernando's father was unable to make the reception since he lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina, but luckily they honeymooned in Argentina and were able to visit much of Fernando's family there.

Overall, they had a beautiful tropical wedding, followed by a fun honeymoon in Argentina, and then headed home for a local reception in Sacramento for all their local friends and family. Not a bad way to handle the nuptuals, if you ask me :)

Check out some of their photos here (key: juli):