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So, I specialize in offbeat weddings. Offbeat clients, are, like, my thing. Offbeat Bride was a book published in 2007 by an author I personally know and love, and gradually it grew to become an amazing online resource and community for people getting married who were taking a walk down the not-so-beaten path of the aisle. Couples planning weddings that bucked tradition for tradition’s sake began getting married in all new ways. New wedding themes- like steampunk decor, dinosaurs, zombies or Dr. Who- began emerging, and I started photographing couple after couple as they walked, danced or ran down the aisle. So… I’ve seen it all. New Age ceremonies and interfaith ceremonies and customized wedding favors and offbeat details and meaningful gestures, and yet… Colin and Orli’s wedding completely embraced on the spirit of the offbeat wedding and became something else entirely. It became THEIR offbeat wedding, and in its own way, in its own time, the wedding became a work of art in its own right.
My involvement started about two years ago, in the fall of 2014, when I was pregnant with my son Ryan. The thing about maternity leave when you are self-employed is that if you don’t work, you don’t earn anything. As an artist, you always fear that maybe- just maybe- if business slows down, if you don’t get this next gig or take advantage of this opportunity, RIGHT NOW, that maybe you will never work again. The freelance/self-employed/make a living with your art roller-coaster is terrifying and wonderful all at the same time, and I know this will strike a chord with Colin and Orli and their loved ones, who are artists and theater people and costumers and stage managers…. super-talented ones, too. Wait until you see what they created!
Anyway, I put the message that I was looking to line up gigs for after my son was born out into the universe, and Colin answered the call. He knew without a doubt that he wanted to hire me to be his wedding photographer, but oh, just one thing- He hadn’t proposed to his girlfriend yet. But she had been a bridesmaid in another wedding I shot, and he knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt that YES, she would say YES when he proposed, and YES, she would be totally fine with him booking a photographer at my 2014 rates, which would help them save and help sustain my little family during my maternity leave. In fact, she would be thrilled. Send the contract to his work address, please, to keep the proposal a surprise.
So, THIS had never happened to me before. I’ve heard from a bride or two before the engagement has officially happened- usually the ladies doing their research and thinking about budgeting want to know what my packages are- but a groom taking the initiative? And booking without the bride’s knowledge? Years in advance? So, I knew right then, this couple was different. This wedding was different. Happily, Orli did, in fact, say yes when Colin proposed, and yes, she was thrilled I was on board already. That tells you something about this couple. They really know each other very well. They have a joint artistic vision that is completely in sync with each other, even as they inspire and push each other to excel in the arts, and they like surprises.
As soon as they set the date and showed me their venue, I got really excited for this wedding.Okay, let’s do this!
The Chapel of Sacred Mirrors is… what is it, exactly? It is an art museum, a sacred space, an inn, a cafe, a place for wanderers and artists and sojourners. It is so special, that you know as soon as you arrive that you’ve come to a place of great spirituality and power.
Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate, and Colin and Orli’s ceremony was moved from outside by an amazing art installation to the CoSM’s dining hall. I know how that sounds, but even the dining hall is adorned with artwork and metaphysical paintings and murals. You’ll see.
There are so many special details and things to tell you about! Colin and Orli must have put about 1,000 hours into crafting this event. They didn’t just plan a wedding. They poured their hearts into each and every detail. We’ll start with Orli’s dress. Orli is a talented costume designer whose work has been worn on stages around the country, so she wore a one-of-a-kind, beautiful draped, hand-painted dress whose finishing touches she was applying by hand the morning of the wedding.
Meanwhile, Colin would be giving his groomsmen custom-designed, screen-printed ties and personalized cufflinks that he himself created for each of them.
The floral designs and bouquets were all created by Colin and Orli’s talented “support team,” a group of friends and artists who hail from Seattle to Brooklyn and places in between. I wanted to showcase their work in the context of the artwork in the building, because I know the paintings by artist Alex Grey mean so much to the bride and groom that they wanted to celebrate their love and pledge their lives while being literally surrounded by it.
Orli got dressed, like so many brides, with help from her mom and sister and besties, oh, one of which is a costume designer in L.A. You know, like every bride. Lucky girl. Then it was time to see the groom.
Colin and Orli had a private first look on the veranda, and then they got to reveal their wedding attire to their families.
A special piece of lace from Orli’s grandmother’s veil was sewn onto her petticoat, so this was such a special moment when she got to see it.
People were just drawn to the art on display. It’s so powerful. The next hour or so was a whirlwind of posing and braving the elements and wrangling umbrellas, all in pursuit of photos. Many thanks to the wedding party for their patience and cheer.
These painting, titled “One” is an original work that is not supposed to be exposed to camera flashes. Colin and Orli gave me pretty much complete creative freedom, although they did really want a photo in front of this painting in particular. I love this silhouette.
Colin and their immediate families and witnesses headed upstairs to read and sign their ketubah.
The parents of the bride offered their own blessings for the couple, and then it was time for a a whiskey toast with the father of the groom. That’s the best of Jewish and Irish wedding traditions, right there in a nutshell.
So, remember I said they moved the ceremony into the dining hall? Doesn’t the mural coordinate beautifully with their chuppah? Weddings take on a life and energy of their own, despite our best laid plans. Sometimes the results of that alchemy are kind of amazing.
The ceremony was a unique blend of music, metaphysical meditation, Shakespearean sonnets, personal vows, the sheva brachot, or seven Hebrew wedding blessings, a Celtic hand-fasting, and a happy surprise- kazoos!
Every guest found a kazoo taped under their chair.
After an exchange of personal vows and a final mediation to absorb the joyful energy in the room, the bride and groom kissed and were off to yichud- a tradition observance of solitude for the newlyweds with just a little not-so-traditional (but couple-approved) documentation by yours truly.
I loved this spontaneous moment of affection amongst the groomsmen, which I know the bride and groom didn’t get to see.
Also, in between everything else Colin and Orli did to handcraft this welcoming, personal, spiritual, artistic event, the bride hand-braided her own challah, with a little help from her friends, just for the occasion. I feel like that deserves its own photo and shout-out here!
After yichud, the bride and groom gathered their officiant and their immediate families for a special gift presentation of hand-carved memory boxes with items that captured the essence of the day.
Then we braved the drizzle for a few shots by Altared States, the sculpture installation where the outdoor ceremony would have been, and then we were off to the reception venue, complete with illuminated waterfall.
The escort cards were displayed on a huge truss that the groom designed and executed and painted- are you beyond impressed? I’m kind of beyond impressed.
Everything that made the bride’s dress special was on full display during their first dance.
Then it was time for funny, heartfelt speeches- Colin’s mom described herself as being the living embodiment of the happy face emoji with hearts for eyes! ha!- an uptempo horah, an amazing cake that completely incorporated the themed design elements that graced everything from the invitation to the hand-carved centerpieces, because OF COURSE IT DID. AMAZING.
After the cake-cutting, it was all about the dancing. I don’t think that the bride and groom sat down once from that moment on.
It was a beautiful night, and it was over all too soon. The bride and groom were away for a day or two, and now they are back at work, creating theater and costumes and artwork and starting their marriage with a blend of spirituality and passion that is uniquely them.
Oh, but one last cool thing- the guests picked up a small recipe book of the couple’s favorite dishes from the amazing hand-constructed Truss of Awesome. Confession: I took one. I can’t wait to make the savory butternut squash and cheddar cheese bread pudding. Or the apple mosaic tart with salted caramel. Or the slow cooker Thai curried beef short ribs. Thank you, both, for giving so much of yourselves not only to each other, but to the rest of us too. Happy Marriage!