This blog is comprised of 170 of some of my most favourite wedding photos of all time, and I have a lot to say. If you’re short on time, you might want to return later.
What you see in the following photos represents 4 days of photography for Nirupa and Mike. If you think Western weddings are a lot, a Tamil/Hindu weddings takes the cake and eats it too.
The drive from Halifax to PEI was uneventful. Open road, music, chats about the future. The air was warm, the sun was out. The drive would be the last uneventful thing to happen for quite a while.
We arrived in the mid-afternoon at a small, seaside house on a narrow highway surrounded by farms. This would be our home for the next few days, and we immediately began shooting the henna party that was unfolding around us, simultaneously organic, chaotic, elegant and friendly. The saris were as colourful and bright as the personalities we bumped into. I struggled unsuccessfully to remember names while Rae excitedly got her hand decorated with henna. There were games played while arms, hands, feet and ankles were inked. There was laughter and chatter in English and Tamil and in a fishbowl on the mantel swam a siamese fighting fish named Howard who had traveled from Toronto. Rebecca, who brought him, loved him and doted on him. I hope and wonder if he’s still alive…
I crashed early.
Glorious day. The sun swept across the cornfields that stretched out to the ocean. Our housemates were bridesmaids and they offered us a warm and delicious-looking breakfast that we regretfully declined because of our sometimes annoying vegan persuasion. We had toast and hummus I think. Day 2 was mostly about a collective rallying of decoration and communion. The reception hall transformed, minute by minute, hour by hour, into a classy space. I can’t describe the fury of activity except by analogy. I recently watched a TED talk about how no human on Earth knows how to make a computer mouse. The people who know how to gather and create plastic don’t mould it; moulders don’t know how to mine silicon; miners don’t create computer chips, and so on. And yet, despite this, the mouse is made and sold, and pretty much everything depends on it. Much of the world works like that. The wedding came together like that. Boxes were unpacked, food was cooked, flowers were cut and arranged, tables adorned, and I couldn’t find anybody who knew exactly what came next. I even found myself answering others’ questions as if I knew what I was talking about.
Outside, snow began falling in the hot August sun. I went outside to discover it was just some sort of pollen falling, thick as snow. It was magic.
Another group of people at a barn down the highway were setting up a giant tent at the ceremony site “in case of rain”. The chances of rain were, according to all reports, 100%. We couldn’t comprehend how such a sunny day would possibly give rise to a rain that would certainly crush Nirupa’s dream of having an outdoor beach ceremony the next day. The barn sat on a cliff beneath which was the small, beautiful and west-facing beach where Nirupa envisioned her wedding. Innocently (or at least, I claim innocence), I mentioned to her and Mike the idea of having an evening ceremony that very day instead of tomorrow. Nothing more romantic than a spontaneous sunset wedding barefoot on the beach, right? She took the idea seriously, as did Mike, as did the next 10 or 20 people. A momentum had grown and the idea was soon running around on its own accord. As more people started nodding at the idea my excitement and apprehension grew. I wasn’t in the headspace to shoot a wedding yet. I need to talk myself up to it. But the idea was too far out of hand to reign back in. If it was going to happen, there would be a lot of Hindu rituals that would have to be skipped, some people wouldn’t be able to make it, and there were roughly 1 million things that hadn’t quite been done yet. I’d need to go back to the house to get my cameras for one thing. I could practically see question marks over everybody’s head as they talked the idea over and scrambled to do the next thing. If this was going to happen, it was going to have to happen VERY QUICKLY. Luckily, the idea met a quick and (somewhat) painless death. There were a lot of reasons why the early wedding wasn’t a great idea, one of which is that the wedding date was selected by means of astrology. Ignoring the date would be ignoring fate. Plus, some family still hadn’t arrived. Still, the termination of the idea didn’t go without some family drama, which is–I think–healthy (even if painful) in a family of strong people.
After the idea’s heat had cooled and hugs and handshakes followed, Mike looked at me and said, “I can’t wait to see what you write about this in your blog”. I’ve been writing this blog in my head off and on ever since this wedding….trying to integrate it into my understand of weddings in general….into my understanding of life in general. Weddings are huge. Right up there with births and deaths. This one was epic. I liken it to the fabled Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, a fictional alcoholic beverage in the hilarious book, The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, described as “similar to having your brains smashed in by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick.”
By this time, the giant tent had been erected, bright, white and huge on the lawn over-facing the cliff. We zoomed down the road in our jeep, back to the where the reception space was still being decorated, where home food was still being cooked. As we drove down the road there was a marsh land with about 30 herons stalking over the water looking for fish. Blue Canadian flamingos. I thought of my own dad who would have loved to see such a sight.
We stayed for a couple hours to help decorate and it was dark when we left. People were still decorating.
5AM: The forecasts were right. Embedded in a week of sunshine was one rainy day. Rae dropped me off at Mike’s mom’s house. An hour later Mike sat cross-legged on the floor amid a ritual I didn’t intellectually understand but was impacted by nonetheless. Milk and flowers were blessed and fell upon his head from the hands of loved ones. Rae drove off to where Nirupa was being adorned like a Hindu goddess.
It was drizzling and we all earnestly hoped it would clear.
By the time of the ceremony, the wind joined the rain. Sheets of cold wet fell sideways against the tent. Inside was every colour in the rainbow and more. Coconuts were slammed by machetes, wicks were put in bananas and lit like candles, people shivered and drank their chai tea, seats were arranged with wedding favours on top, the shaman chanted hymns, strings of marigolds danced in the wind. I scrambled to take a photo of everything while in one ear somebody explained to me the key points in this 3 hour ceremony and on my other side, Rae tugged at my cuff because she needed me inside. I didn’t have time to get nervous or even make sense of it. The ceremony….I’ll leave the photos to describe the ceremony.
In retrospect, the wedding shouldn’t have been any other way. Couldn’t have been. The weather matched perfectly the flurry of the day. It seemed like chaos but was, I think, just a higher level of organization that I don’t pretend to understand. The entire experience was so perfect that I’m intrigued by astrology now more than ever.
By the end of the night, after the touching speeches, the cake cutting and the dancing, we went back to the cabin. I tipped my hat to the fish on the mantel and went to bed. I still don’t know how so much was packed into a single day. The friends we made there felt solid. It felt like we’d been there for so much longer than a few days.
Glorious day. The sun swept across the cornfields that stretched out to the ocean. Again. Nirupa and Mike dressed themselves up in their wedding gear and we did a portrait session. It was wonderful. Fun, funny, creative.
Nirupa and Mike are incredible humans who have a rock-solid network of family, fans and friends. They give and receive with grace, and we’re grateful to know them and we feel blessed to have had an important role in their wedding. I could write a blog equally as long about why these two are amazing, and I’d probably make predictions about how important they’re going to be in their professional pursuits, but I won’t. It would probably embarrass me and them.
Instead, I hope you enjoy these photos.