“If I had a flower for every time I thought of you… I could walk through my garden forever.”
— Alfred Tennyson
I’ll be completely transparent. I spend probably far too much time obsessing about how I can make my clients happy and my work better. Now that I’ve got that off my chest let me explain how in the heck I’m going to bring that back around to this wedding. I’ve had the chance (really the blessing) of shooting weddings now in the majority of the states in our country. I’ve shot in high mountains, and every kind of beach you can imagine. I’ve watched couples in love in tropical forests and urban jungles from Manhattan to Golf Shores. The one thing that I decided about this little prayer of a company a long time ago was that I wasn’t willing to get into too much of a stride. I’ve been doing this for quite awhile now but truth be told I’m only 30 and I pretty strongly feel like photographers who commit too soon to a “style” basically agree to die a little inside creatively. So - my goal has always been to pay attention to the light around me and express the moments and the personalities of the people. For all the confident statements we make on social media and this blog about how we do things the reality is that I think all artists are a bit insecure at times. I don’t know how many planes I’ve jumped on with cameras in my bag and the schedule of events for the next few days running through my mind but for every time I’ve touched down I’ve never arrived at a new location without some nerves.
I’m sure it seems weird to admit to that, but the reality is that I want to be humble in my work and I’m perfectly willing to say I still get anxious. These days I have this team of support behind me that I am so blessed to be able to lean on from time to time. Shooting most of our weddings in teams allows us to have somebody to bounce ideas off of and interpret light with not to mention somebody to cover us when the events of such a big day speed up. But I’ll admit, there’s something about shooting a wedding completely alone (like this one) that brings back the rush that I love so much about this job. Knowing that every shot, every moment, every single fleeting second will only be caught if I’m dialed in is what get’s me excited. I’ve never been one to say I’m better than any other photographer, but I will definitely say I’m faster. These days our cameras are basically extensions of our eyes and being able to read and adapt to light in a split second is always the difference between an amazing moment and a missed photograph. All that said, as we touched down in California last week for a few days as a family I felt those nerves creep in a bit. I had several days ahead of me with just Melissa and our boys to enjoy the warm weather and the sand between our toes but already my mind was on the task at hand. I’m completely planning on blogging about our trip and our fun together on here in the next few days but I’ll skip past our little mini vacation and jump right to the weddings since that was ultimately the whole reason for the trip in the first place.
If you read my blogs often (I’m so sorry I’m so long winded if you do) then you’ve heard me say a million times that I do this for the people. The truth about wedding photography is that it is a lot of work. It’s a lot of stress. It’s a lot of planning. It’s a lot of pressure. AND, if you have the right clients - it’s a lot of fun! (Alternatively if you don’t - it’s not). You might be asking yourself why “fun” matters! If you wake up, clock in, sit in front of a screen with a spread sheet in front of you and a mouth breather who shares your office cubby behind you you might not quite get this - but an artist who isn’t having FUN - is usually not producing their best art! So - it’s absolutely huge to us to make sure we’re working with clients who not only want us there, but want to enjoy the whole process! I’m pretty blessed to have a very short list of “bridezillas” on my resume but there’s always those first few moments on a wedding day when we walk in that we hope everything is going smoothly (somewhat selfishly). The great news is that with this wedding I knew exactly what I was walking into.
Shelby + Jason have been package deal from the get go with me. I tend to spend a lot of time getting to know brides and trying to make contact with grooms during all of the planning stages but Jason couldn’t possibly be any more the opposite. This guy is not only completely smitten with his (now) wife, he’s also completely willing to get his hands dirty with an opinion or two. He’s the type of guy that looks you right in the eye when you’re talking, smiles and means it, and shakes your hand out of respect - not simply necessity. I’ve hung out with a lot of grooms on their wedding day but to see Jason from the day we met, through a few lunches and phone calls, all the way into the guy putting on that white tuxedo on his wedding day I can say without a doubt that he is unwavering. There’s not a doubt in my mind what Shelby sees in him and you only have to be around the two of them for long enough to see her settle into his chest when they hug, or him crack a sarcastic little joke for her to laugh at to completely understand why forever is so important to these two. They’ve completely found a counterpart in each other but this isn’t a business arrangement - it’s very personal to both of them. I honestly could go on for ages about Jason. I know that’s probably a little weird, but as I type this I’m reminded of the text message I got back from him this morning in Tahiti thanking me again for the effort on their wedding day. It’s so rare these days to meet a guy who’s willing to be grateful for anything and I’m completely blown away with how humble and kind this guy is but let’s be honest here - if you’ve made it this far you’ve already seen the photos and you know who stole the show. (He’s completely fine with that by the way.) Shelby is stunning. Yes, her big beautiful laugh and tiny little figure help but this girl completely lights up the room. I’m not sure I’ve ever actually worked with another bride who made me feel this welcome to one of the most intimate days in her life and I can certainly say that her hospitality to me was at times even a little awkward. (I had to remind her several times that she was the bride.) Everything from her ear rings to her lace sleeves was flawless for photos and Jason knew from the very second she stepped into that church just how blessed he was to spend his life with this beauty.
When these two decided they wanted me at their wedding I was so humbled. Shelby’s family (understandably) had suggested that they find a photographer who was closer to the area and I can certainly say I’m blessed that they didn’t. Having me behind the camera was one of those things Shelby didn’t want to budge on and though I can certainly say that Amy + Mark (Shelby’s amazing parents) are now a few of my favorite people as well, I was nervous that they weren’t going to like the photographer who flew across the country for this event. I couldn’t have been more wrong as I was met at the door with a huge hug by both Shelby and her mom and from that point on might as well have been a part of the family. This entire day went off without a hitch - if you’ve read this far you’re about to get a huge advertising plug so get ready to be sold :
I work with wedding planners all over the country. From NYC to LA and everywhere in between and can certainly say that there are very few weddings planners out there who are just “alright”. In my experience you either get a great one or a bad one and so I spend a lot of my time planning photos with our couples trying to insulate myself a bit from them just incase I end up with one of those grumpy old ladies who wants to tell me where and when to shoot and insists on fluffing the dress and fixing the veil between clicks. When Shelby sent me over Britt’s contact information for this wedding I immediately looked up Sugarbranch Events to see what I was in for and was instantly in love with their style. These ladies are the real deal and though I’ve done my fair share of “celebrity wedding planners” and the big name companies I would absolutely say that they’ve got to be my very favorite anywhere west of Denver. Britt was completely attentive, completely organized, and completely professional and though I don’t think I saw her actually sit and take a breath all day she was never without a smile. I rarely lean on a wedding planner for much of anything if I don’t know them but she was willing to assist me with little things all day long and since I was shooting completely alone it helped so much having that extra set of eyes! If you’re planning a California wedding (especially SoCal) make sure they’re there.
Anyway sales pitch over and back to the day. As everybody piled in limos to head to the church I had a few moments to peek back through my photos from the no-look session. For those of you who may not know what I’m talking about here let me explain this concept pretty quickly. There’s not many photographers out there who are willing to pull this off but we’re pretty outspoken about the fact that we want our couples to get the wedding day they WANT (not simply the photos they want). This day has a lot more significance to it than simply a series of photoshoots and while most of our industry tries to make a couple feel bad for not wanting a first look, OR (perhaps worse) makes them miss the first two hours of their reception doing couple’s photos we dreamed up another option last year. Sick of pinterest making holding hands around corners and kissing on opposite sides of doors something that was “cute” but completely impersonal I started this idea of asking our couples to trust me - completely trust me for long enough to give them an experience that they will likely never have again. Shelby + Jason got completely dressed and ready for the biggest day in their lives so far and then instead of seeing each other for the photographer’s sake, they - didn’t. Instead they spent 40 minutes together, actually together, but they didn’t say a word to each other and they didn’t see each other. Instead they spent a few very intimate moments just enjoying the presence and the reassurance in each other’s arms. They held hands, they even touched noses a few times, and through a lot of tears and a lot of emotion when I had Jason walk back up the hill away from Shelby having no idea what her dress looked like I was completely reaffirmed that these experiences are completely worth the effort. It’s a pretty logistically complicated thing to pull off, and it takes a couple really willing to be in the moment but the whole first set of photos of them together are incredible simply because they were willing to be so present together.
The ceremony was maybe the fastest catholic mass in history. I know they said all the right words, put the rings on, kissed, and took communion but it all flew by. In fact before I even really settled into shooting in this big beautiful church overlooking the Dana Point Harbor they were already running back down the aisle and through a tunnel of their friends and family cheering right towards the most beautiful 1960 Rolls-Royce I’ve ever seen. This thing was a masterpiece and a treat just to follow through the streets of Dana Point and up in to the Laguna Hills and before it was time to head to the reception we had to make a quick stop down by the harbor for some more couples photos (where they could actually see each other). This was my favorite few moments of the day! Watching them walk and laugh and just enjoy some time together was perfect and just as I said “Alright guys we better get you back to your party” I heard the most amazing response from Jason ever - “We’re not in a rush man. This is what we wanted.” - Best. Groom. Ever.
The reception kicked off with a bang. Shelby’s dad gave an incredible toast to the two of them through a few choked back tears and after an incredible dinner two of the best Dj’s I’ve ever worked with made sure the dance floor was packed. I’d estimate probably 85% of the people at the reception were on the dance floor throughout the entire night and though my feet were completely killing me, I couldn’t help but be right in the middle of the fun. A huge shout out to my friend Aaron from Imagine Film Company for joining me all the way out in California to video the wedding along side me (so great to catch up with him after several years) and to all of the amazing vendors who pulled this day off. It was truly a special day for all of us but most of all watching Shelby and Jason so happy meant the world to me. Thanks for reading - thanks for caring - I sincerely hope you LOVED the photos. - Miles.
Event Planning and Design : Sugar Branch Events
Reception Venue : Dove Canyon Country Club
Ceremony Venue : St. Edward the Confessor
Floral Design : Flowers Etc.
Hair / Makeup : Beauty and the Beach
Videography : Imagine Film Company
Dj / Lighting : Visions Entertainment
Rolls - Royce : Classic Limos
Cake : It's all about the Cake