Blog | Weddings by Gayatri | Candid Wedding Photographer in Chennai

Jonathan + Frances | A Wedding in New York City

Sometime in September last year, I happened to be walking around Brooklyn Bridge park and witnessed a really beautiful wedding happening right in front of. What you see in the image below is the ENTIRE WEDDING PARTY. Anyway, I took photo of this and posted it. 

Little did I know, that at the same time, Jonathan & Frances, were hunting for a wedding photographer in New York, and just happened to come across my post! They emailed me and checked if I was available to shoot their wedding in the coming month. Initially, I'd planned to leave New York before their scheduled BIG day, but I decided to stay a little longer and shoot their wedding. For me, this would be a first. A Cuban-Italian couple, getting married in Manhattan's Lower East Side. How could I refuse? 

Jonathan and Frances are both event professionals from Brooklyn and they'd planned their wedding to the final details. There were going to be just 50 guests, and me. Jonathan had picked out Frances' dress and his shiny gold shoes. They went to pick up flowers the day before the wedding from the Chelsea Flower Market, where most of the city's flower vendors come to buy their flower supplies. Supplies run out by 9 in the morning so you need to go early. 

The wedding was held at the roof of the Standard Hotel in Lower East Side, Manhattan with live music keeping us warm & the crisp New York fall breeze keeping us on our toes. 

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Venue: The Standard Hotel  | Bride's Dress: Oscar de la Renta | Flowers from Chelsea's Flower Market

Here's to both the couples! The one that got married on Brooklyn Bridge, and the one that got married just across the river. 

Mrigayanka and Akshay's Wedding Book

Click on the first page to see in full screen mode. 

Rizwana & Irshad's Wedding or How I fell in love with Rameswaram.

WARNING: this is a long-ish post with lots of photos. 

In late 2014, I got a call from Jasmine. She was calling from Rameswaram and we first struggled to communicate in my broken Tamil. She was quick to fix this and switched to Hindi which surprised me. I made a note to find out how this came to be. Her sister, Rizwana was to be wed in April and they were hunting for a female photographer. I'd been wanting to shoot a Muslim wedding for a while so I jumped at the chance. So one fine hot April evening I set off on the Rameswaram Express (Did I mention I love train journeys?). 

The train ride alone is worth the trip. You can spend hours looking out the window (or in my case, the door) 

The train ride alone is worth the trip. You can spend hours looking out the window (or in my case, the door) 

My train arrived in the wee hours of the morning and I was whisked away to what I now know is one of the best hotels in Rameswaram. It didn't take me long to fall into a deep sleep only to be woken up around 9.  My lovely host, Jasmine had sent a friend over to make sure I would catch breakfast. I politely refused and went back to sleep. After that there were multiple unsuccessful attempts at waking me up for lunch. Finally, Jasmine sent reinforcements and made sure I was accompanied to the lunch being hosted by her family near the wedding venue. There I was introduced to the lovely Kalam family. The head of the family, Mr. Kalam, runs a successful Sea Shell business (more on this later). I stuffed myself and excused myself to use this free afternoon to explore town. 

Rameswaram is a tourist town, welcoming over 30,000 visitors every day according to some sources. The main attraction is the Ramanathaswamy Temple. Rameswaram is one of the holy pilgrimage sites for Hindus from all over India (and the world). 

 

Agnitheertham - a spot for visitors to the temple to take a dip. It is also popular with cows and goats who come because there is a steady stream of greens for them to eat. One woman tried to sell me a bunch of greens to feed this cow. 

Agnitheertham - a spot for visitors to the temple to take a dip. It is also popular with cows and goats who come because there is a steady stream of greens for them to eat. One woman tried to sell me a bunch of greens to feed this cow. 

One of the many goats there to enjoy the bounty of this spot.

One of the many goats there to enjoy the bounty of this spot.

The lovely architecture of Rameswaram homes. It was lovely just strolling through town. Taken on OnePlusOne

The lovely architecture of Rameswaram homes. It was lovely just strolling through town. Taken on OnePlusOne

I also went into to check out the wedding venue, which is the largest venue available there (run by the Tamil Nadu government) 

That evening there was ladies only event for Rizwana, where all the women of the community applied mehendi on her hands, put on jewellery and fed her generously with pomegranate seeds. I actually did manage a glimpse of the groom, Irshad, that night, but it wouldn't be until half way into the wedding, that I would see him again. 

The next morning, it was time for the wedding ceremony. A simple affair where the men and women were separated out in adjoining tents. After some prayers, Irshad's mother tied the "Thali" on Rizwana to complete the wedding. 

I'd insisted that we go to Dhanushkodi the next day to take some photos of the two of them but it all depended on them waking up! Going by the looks of how tired they were at the end of the wedding, I had my doubts but nevertheless I woke up early the next day but only to pouring rain! But it being my last chance to see Dhanushkodi, I dragged myself out and made it to the 4wheel gypsy that would take me there. It rained the whole time I was there and I wasnt even able to step out of the vehicle. 

On the return journey, Rizwana called me and said she & Irshad wanted to go back! I hoped the weather would get better for my next trip except this time, it was just way too sunny! 

Oh, I forgot to mention the 300 times our vehicle broke down. 

Oh, I forgot to mention the 300 times our vehicle broke down. 

The last thing before I boarded my train, was at to attend a small ritual at Jasmine's home where Irshad and Rizwana would play some ice-breaking games. 

Pallanguzhi was one of the games being played. Interesting note: It belongs to a family of games called 'mancala' whose variants are played in parts of east coast and western Africa, Maldives, Philippines, the US, Europe, the Caribbean, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan!

Read about this old world game here and here.

...and on that note, I bid Rameswaram goodbye! 

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Photos taken with OnePlusOne, Fuji X100 and Nikon DLSRs

Amrita & Ashish's Bangalore Wedding

It's always an amazing experience shooting the wedding of a college classmate years after you've graduated. Amrita & I graduated from the same university in Singapore way back in 2004. Although she'd been studying for a business degree & I was studying engineering, through the common "Indian orientation" aka ragging we ended up in same group of friends. Our paths diverged sometime during the course of these last ten years but we were in touch through common friends. When she contacted me to shoot her wedding last year I was in two minds. Shooting a friends wedding can be fun but also a little stressful. In the end, I decided that this was going to be a good experience for me and for her, having a photographer she knew, would make things so much better on her wedding day! And I'm so glad I decided to go this way. The photos were beautiful!

But what really made this wedding amazing was Amrita & Ashish's huge gang of friends from their days together at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. This bunch was a crazy one. And I'm so thankful for that. I think the bride and the groom relax way more with friends around and that is exactly what happened here. Starting at the haldi & sangeet, the Michigan gang really brought an energy to the night that I rarely see at sangeets these days. Most of the time it is just choreographed, fake & unnecessarily grand stages. There were some really heartfelt and fun performances by their friends and family followed by a night of unending dancing and singing. so much so that I had half the mind of dropping the camera and joining in! Ah, how I wish all weddings were like this. Ashish and his gang performed an amazing "Why this Kolaveri di" number that so was good that they had to do an encore. But the highlight of the night for me was Ashish and Amrita's Tango number to cover of one of my favorite songs of all time "Smooth Criminal". It was so unexpected and a surprise for all the guests (friends included). I think they'd been practicing in secret! 

The wedding was at the Ganjam Mandapam in Bangalore where I've never shot before. It's a really traditional setup without the feeling of being in those typical Chennai "mahals" and I was glad to be out for that. With a mix of indoor and outdoor space, the venue was just perfect. The wedding itself had a mix of south & north Indian rituals and some clearly UMich rituals :)