A Whiskey Soaked Wedding in the Dark / by Chelsea Gaya


Some of the best things are the things that happen when you're not expecting them. And sometimes, even when you have a plan, there is a bigger one at play that is meant to challenge you.

I was at Random Order with Claire a week before her wedding when she admitted to me that she hadn't booked a photographer yet.  

Houston, we had a problem.  

The wedding industry has inflated more than Justin Bieber's ego.  Wedding photographers are in demand, and many of them book out their entire season by February.  Not to mention, most of them charge a premium that rank them as one of the top priorities of your costs.  1. Venue. 2. Dress. 3. Food. 4. PHOTOGRAPHER.


Wedding photography is stressful and intense. This is ONE DAY, and most people expect it to only happen once in their lives.  To be charged with photographing that day, and skillfully and beautifully capturing every wonderful moment, all the family and friends looking their best, and most importantly- capturing the feeling of the day... that's a lot of pressure.

 

Nevertheless, despite my past traumatizing memories of weddings and what they can do to a seemingly sane woman, I had faith in Claire's awesomeness and calm aura, and I offered myself for the job.  The worst that could happen was that she wouldn't like her photos and she'd be no better off than having no photographer, as was the case over pie and coffee one week before her wedding.

Lacking equipment after the valiant death of my last camera on a mountain somewhere in Idaho, I decided perhaps at this moment, I might be ready to slip back into photography.  I had a more stable job that would allow for steady bookings, and my poor iPhone was being crushed under the weight of my high quality photography demands.  My Instagram account overflowed with grainy moments of life that tried desperately to convey what I was feeling about twenty five times a day.   I hadn't paid attention to the signs that my soul craved this outlet, as I artfully arranged the breakfast table so I could photograph it.  I ignored the constant 'capacity full' warnings when it came to every device I owned that was capable of snapping a quick shot.  And perhaps it was at that moment as I tried to frame a photo of my cherry pie that incorporated the light from the window and the glass of whiskey I was drinking, I figured this might be a good thing for both of us. 

I used the deposit and a chunk of savings to purchase my Nikon D7000.  

I asked my best friend, Missy (whom I've known since Kindergarten) if she would help out.

It was time.

 

The morning of the wedding, I pulled up to Missy's house in the 1959 Chevy Apache pickup that I built with my dad.  This truck had history with both of us, driving it through high school and beyond.    It was cerulean blue. I thought I'd surprise Claire with it. Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.

We also loaded her 1800's antique sofa in to the bed of the truck. We'd discussed the possibility of using the sofa as a prop, so Claire was expecting it. The transportation, though, that was a surprise.

Loaded up in the early hours, we headed down to Vancouver.  Just two chicks, no seat belts, thousands of dollars worth of photography equipment, an old truck, and an antique sofa in the bed.     All class.

I honestly didn't know what to expect. I was nervous. Claire was important to me, and this was the most important day of her life. But the day before, we had lunch together in the park. It was relaxed. She seemed at ease and happy.  She handed me a sandwich and a soda, looked right at me and said "Thank you for doing this.  I'm sure it will be amazing, and at the end of the day, I'll be married either way."   

The day was not without incidence.  We were assured the lights would be on for the ceremony. We dialed ourselves in for the light five minutes before the ceremony started, and stationed ourselves in places where we were invisible, but sort of trapped. 

Just as the ceremony started, someone turned out the lights.  I'd be lying if I said I didn't panic.  my lenses were beyond my reach, in a room I could not get to.  I manually set the light meter for every shot of the ceremony and hoped for the best. 

It worked out. <3

Claire and Matt's wedding was by far the most loving, beautiful, laid back, and amazing wedding I've had the privilege to attend.   

The feeling was relaxed and happy throughout the day. Between Cheetos and shots of Jameson, good music and genuine joy of people happy to be around each other to celebrate the union, I never thought a wedding could be so lovely.

The bride is a baker and a culinary graduate. The bridesmaids and groomsmen took spices down the aisle. Matt and Claire chose different spices to represent parts of their lives and relationship, and mixed them together for their vows.  The same spice mix was also used in the cooking of the dinner and bottled up for wedding favors to give out at the reception.


Claire has been a joyful and influential part of the Downtown Vancouver community for the last ten years.  She has opened multiple successful businesses and consulted for others in the area. Because of her close ties with this community, the outpouring of happiness and celebration from a community that finally received the opportunity to celebrate Claire's heart and happiness was beyond apparent. 

It was a beyond a privilege, but a true honor to be there to capture such a beautiful and special day.  

Had I been able to put into words the type of events I enjoy most to photograph, I don't think  could pen this particular feeling.  It sadly feels rare these days to encounter a wedding with such sincerity, with people who understand what the day is really about and don't get hung up on perfection and details or comparing themselves to things they've seen on Pinterest or Etsy.  This is a day that is about you and the person you are marrying, and also, about those who are in your life that mean the world to you.   

 When you choose to have a wedding instead of eloping, you are saying that you prefer the trouble, the stress, the details and the work, the planning and headaches to give everyone else a fantastic time and the opportunity to celebrate your union, and be there from the beginning of this lifelong journey together.  You are also saying that you love these other people, just the way they are, and you want them there around you, no matter where they're from or what they're like.   Unfortunately, I have encountered far too many couples who confuse this day and what it with a shoot for a Vogue spread.  And sadly, it seems that the wedding business has become just that-  a business.   It is a business of love and glamour, which makes billions of dollars a year.  I try to stay away from those types. Brides have offered a lot of money for perfection, but I decline due to a singular belief;  There are weddings, and then there are productions.    

I prefer to capture reality and happiness more than perfection.





 I am happy to call myself a Wedding Photographer more than a Pinterest contributor.  A fly on the wall.  An invisible clicker who captures the small moments that are sometimes the most meaningful, and the big moments that are the most expected.  But most of all, I'm happy to be there to capture them so they are as beautiful in print as they are in your memory.


Things don't always turn out the way you think they will.  I had no idea I'd be altering the course of my career and life over pie and whiskey with Claire one night.  But it happened.

 

 

I also had no idea that on the way home to The Shire, around midnight with a sleepy and slightly tipsy friend on the other end of the bench seat, that the headlights on that old '59 pickup would decide to quit working on the stretch of freeway with no street lamps.  I pulled over to the side of the road near an exit, and tried to strategize.  

What do two stranded photographers do in an old truck, with an antique sofa in the bed and thousands of dollars worth of photography equipment?

Break out the duct tape, and strap our LED fill lighting and flashes to the front and back of the truck of course.  We got off the freeway and began the slow trek down the country backroads. 

We were eventually rescued and escorted home by Missy's husband, who - by CHANCE- had stayed out late at a friend's house.

 


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To Matt and Claire;

    Cheers friends.  May your vows stay whiskey soaked and intact, and may all your kisses smell like wine.  May the road rise to meet you, may the wind always be at your back, and until we meet again- DRINK ALL THE JAMESON. 


Things don't always go as planned. They will not play out perfectly.  We will be sent on alternate routes that we can't always see. Change is scary, and sometimes courage is required.

It takes courage to take someone's hand for life.

It also takes courage not to panic when the lights go out.

 

  xo

 Chels.