It has been a while since my last post. Times are changing and due to COVID-19 everybody seems to have more time to “catch up”. So here I am, catching up and sharing an amazing story about love and new beginnings.
When Nathalia (the bride) texted me in early April 2020 and asked me to “photograph an event”, I thought this was either a misunderstanding, as no events are being held in the middle of the Pandemic, or maybe this lady knew something that I didn’t. “An event?” I replied, and I could not but wonder what type of event she could be organizing in the midst of the current crisis. I added to my text a short question: “What type of event?”, and then she replied: “My wedding!, we are planning a social-distancing wedding”. Needless to say, texts were not enough to show my intrigue and excitement so I called her right away to fully understand what this family of three (bride Nathalia, groom Devlin and baby boy Javi) had in mind. Truth to be told, Javi is just a baby, so he is just playing along with his crazy parents!
The initial plan as I learned from Nathalia was to have a very small ceremony from their townhome’s balcony in East Van. “I envisioned this”, she kept explaining on the phone, “as a symbolic moment as we already live together and have our baby boy. I’ve found a commissioner who is willing to come to our sidewalk, so I just need two witnesses and a photographer”, and then she said, “food will be take-out and will be served on side tables outside and everybody will keep social distancing to make it work, what do you think?”
I must confess I felt a surge of creative energy and the anticipation that I would be documenting a historic event. Historic for them, as weddings are very important family milestones; but also because this social-distancing wedding might be the first of many events to be launched under the new world order we live in.
Nathalia and Devlin’s porch
And that’s how the ceremony was set up, two small tables with take-out food, Lysol wipes and champagne to celebrate probably the first social-distancing wedding of East Vancouver. Bride and groom would stream the ceremony via Zoom, and neighbours and closest friends would join while keeping social distancing.
For this couple, the chances of organizing a real wedding in the near future, like many other family events that require travel and gathering of 10+ people, were really slim. Nathalia’s family live in Colombia while Devlin’s parents live in the USA. Instead of waiting in these uncertain times, they decided to do something right away with the resources they had in hand. Organizing a new-world-order type of ceremony would be the perfect excuse to keep family members “together”, and give them something to look forward to. The idea of having a social event (let alone a wedding) to participate in was actually very exciting for everybody! Self-isolation has been tough for every person, so this felt as a sort of liberation, like a well deserved break in the middle of all this bombardment of figures, facts, cases, fatalities, and limited hope.
Bride, Groom and baby boy ready to tie the knot
Wait a minute, I forgot to mention that TJ was also tying the knot!
Now more than ever, the word “Zoom” has a special connotation for everybody. It is the way to get “closer”, to overcome physical distancing and to connect. The wedding was streamed via Zoom to family members in at least two different countries. My first comment when I scheduled the wedding shoot with Nathalia was that I have a “zoom” lens that would allow me to capture all details while keeping a prudent distance from the ceremony and the witnesses. So with my “zoom” I also managed to overcome the physical distancing and capture the intimate details of the ceremony, so it could be shared with those (mostly everybody) who could not be up close. The following shots capture how the ceremony was streamed via smartphone and Zoom.
Groom explaining the zoom audience the wedding is about to start
Bride giving her last words before getting married
One attendee kept zoom streaming the ceremony
We were all set and extremely excited. Guests stood on the sidewalk across the street, while the commissioner set foot about 8 feet from the couple and baby boy. She had to raise her voice quite a bit to be properly heard by the attendees. Sometimes, we had to wait for a car to drive by while drivers were wondering if this was a type of protest or demonstration happening at the porch of someone’s house. Everybody was paying extreme attention to what was happening, probably to compensate for the lack of proximity, and the outdoor noise.
As I was trying to capture the current moments, struggling to fit everybody in one frame, I could not but wonder if this is how the new social-distancing events will take place: everybody at a proper distance, friendly but not too close to others, willing to engage in friendly interactions, while being constantly aware of the need for physical space. A new complicated social dance that we are tying to learn how to navigate together.
Wedding attendees keep strict count of social distancing measures
The commissioner about to start officiating the wedding
Baby Javi could not be carried by anyone else, so the bride and groom had to take turns during the ceremony. Suddenly the bouquet was not that important anymore.
The vows were magical and very emotional. The promise of being together “in sickness and in health” never seemed more pertinent and realistic. Definitely, there was a message of hope and resilience being communicated without words. Every smile, every vow, every glimpse was magnified given the difficulties that were surrounding them, surrounding everyone of us. It felt like every attendee was also exchanging vows with the future, for the promise of a brighter world, with no virus as part of it.
Vows being exchanged
The ring exchange required also a baby exchange
The rings were not as important at this moment, given that everything that was happening was all about the intention
That is a very excited bride!
And suddenly, after a quick exchange of vows and expressions of love, a first kiss as newly weds was sealing the first social-distancing wedding of our lives. After that, the newly weds posed in the middle of the street for their first photo as a wedded couple, with their baby boy and all the attendees. Some remarks and congratulations were also exchanged via Zoom, so everybody could express their happiness to the couple.
The first kiss happened and baby Javi seemed to be wondering who all those people standing on the other side of the street might be
The newly weds and some of the attendees
The newly weds receiving congratulations via Zoom from their family members
And then something else manifested organically… Given the fact that attendees and newly weds could not pose together for a photo, every attendee resorted to selfies as a way to capture the moment and the desired closeness. Attendees posed in front of their phones, framing the new spouses and baby in the back so they could be all “together” in the snapshot.
Selfies are the new way to get “closer”
Contrary to the regular weddings, the new social constructs of this wedding did not allow for the classic wedding shots a bride usually expects from the photographer. No ring shots (I believe they did not have time to get actual rings), no bridesmaids getting ready in a hotel room with the bride, no bouquet tossing, nor were there any ornament portrayed this time.
The new classic wedding shots: isolated bouquet, bride with bouquet and baby boy, baby boy trying to start the party by tasting champagne for the very first time!
And the celebration began! There was a toast, there was take-out food, and casual chatting. It felt more like a block party. However, the sentiment was of profound happiness. There was a sense of intimacy heightened but a lack of distractions: no cocktails, no loud music, no decoration or even chairs. And when there is no distraction, the most important elements became evident. What was really important for Nathalia and Devlin was their baby boy, the close circle of friends dying to hug them, and the network of family members and friends cheering them on remotely through their smart phones. Everything else was not really missed.
One cannot but wonder, if the new social order will force us to prioritize our future interactions based on what is truly “essential”: health, love and family over everything else. The rest of the accoutrements will come back to our lives if we are patient enough.
A porch family portrait
It was a very memorable afternoon for everybody