2019 a year in wedding moments

2019 was a big year over here. After moving to the San Francisco Bay Area in June of 2017, and flying to NYC, Boston, and Philadelphia countless times to photograph weddings in 2017 & 2018, my 2019 wedding season was 95% California weddings. I feel grateful for the shift and the growth, which has allowed me to spend more time close to home running to the beach and eating breakfast tacos in the backyard with my wife on Sunday mornings.

This year I witnessed great beauty and connection up and down the coast, and I was introduced to new traditions: From redwood cathedrals dusted with rose petals in Mendocino, to dusty ranches lit up with colorful saris down in San Benito County. From Greek feasts in hidden urban gardens, to foggy hilltop wedding brunches. From pretzel dances in Silicon Valley, to rooftop ragers in Soma. From boxer dogs in tailored tuxes, to gold sequin party dresses just for dancing.

There were lots of saxophones at weddings this year. I certainly hope that trend endures. One of the saxophonists wore a cow suit. I had the distinct pleasure of listening to my first wedding podcast, including a hilarious interview with the flower girl. One couple drove into their wedding at Fort Mason on their tandem bicycle right up to the altar, another drove away from their City Hall wedding on a getaway motorcycle with a veil flying behind the bride’s helmet. I learned about 2nd lines, the Gujarati Garba Dance, Hula, and Cosplay. This was also a year of micro-weddings. Such intimate affairs. 10 souls at a gorgeous farmhouse on a Vineyard in Sonoma, 18 in a backyard in Napa, 10 on Synagogue grounds in Santa Clara County. But, there were large affairs as well in clubhouses with fantastic views of the majestic San Francisco skyline, elegant white gowns with long trains, 10-piece bands. There was a wedding newspaper, a bouquet of paper airplanes, and a custom-printed Shehecheyanu shawl draped over a pair of embracing brides just-married on a foggy Marin mountaintop.

I want to take this moment to thank every last person who invited me in to witness their weddings, to witness their families,, and their communities breaking bread, singing, laughing, dancing, crying, etc. etc. I loved all of it. I feel immensely grateful, and I look forward to next year, which should prove to be another glorious year full of ritual and awe.

(2020 is already 75% booked…eeeep!!!)


How much does wedding photography cost in the San Francisco Bay Area?

Here are some of the things that helped me to think through hiring my own wedding photographer…

Wedding photography is a luxury, but so is almost everything about a wedding. The weird thing about the photography is that it lasts longer than the dress, steak, wine, cake, music, etc. etc. Eventually, what the photographer saw can overtake other memories. So weird! Anyway. It is important! 

One way to think about it is that you are commissioning an artist to make a body of work about you, your love, your family, and your friends. For many people this is one of the only times in their lives they will commission an artist to make work for them.

Wedding photography cost varies by market. I might have expensive taste, but one woman I talked to quoted me 10k for her bare bones package. WTF?! That is over the top. Up to 6k seems within reason in more expensive cities. Anything under 3k, you are working with someone who is either, in a market with very very cheap living expenses, is an unrealistic business person, is a bad photographer, is just starting out, or some combination of these things. 

Important questions to consider when hiring a photographer:

Do we trust this person? Is this person actually the photographer who will come on our wedding day? Are they easy to be around? Will they take their commitment to the work seriously? Will they understand what is important to us about our wedding, or do they have their own ideas that they will try to impose? Will this person get along with our guests? What final product are we getting? Do we get all of the high resolution files or do we have to pay for each and every print? Do we want to order prints ourselves? Do we want a professionally produced album? Would we ever get around to making an album ourselves?  

What sort of style does this photographer have? Will they capture us in natural joyful expressions? Are they too focused on making an interesting picture? Are they creative enough with their compositions? Do they take too many pictures of the cake, dress, jewelry, centerpieces? (There is a whole genre that is beholden to blogs like Style Me Pretty. This genre includes a strange amount of product photography along with the traditional coverage.)

So, there’s my two cents.

Also, my cheeky article on why you don’t need a wedding photographer: https://hazelphoto.com/why-you-dont-need-wedding-photographer/


Berkeley City Club Wedding

Berkeley City Club Wedding – Jenni & Andy

Jenni & Andy were married on a sunny day in late December at the Berkeley City Club, a hidden gem of a wedding venue, right next to the Cal campus. Genius architect, Julia Morgan, was at her finest when she designed this “castle in the city.”

As the sun was setting, wedding guests gathered on a generous balcony. The chuppah holders processed. Jenni and Andy’s puppy was led down the aisle by Jenni’s niece. A pair of friends/co-officiants effortlessly wove diverse rituals into the ceremony. Highlights included: the signing of a gorgeous, colorful ketubah depicting, among other things, the Golden Gate Bridge, and their frolicking puppy; a musical performance with Andy on trombone, a friend on sax, and Jenni, with a chorus of friends, on vocals. They smashed a glass, smooched, and headed into the library for cocktail hour, where a full jazz band serenaded guests.

The vision for the wedding reception was crystal clear: “dinner & a show,” oh, and a hora, of course. (Important life rule, never pass up a chance to dance the hora.) Andy’s parents kicked off the show portion of the evening with a riotous slideshow romp through Jenni & Andy’s childhoods. There were traditional toasts, a family band, experimental music, pop covers, a jazz set with Andy and band. Such a lovely full evening!


“Documentary wedding photography” 7 reasons why this is what you really want.

An emotional first look at a wedding. The groom wipes a tear away. Documentary wedding photography.
  1. You care deeply what it actually felt like to be at your wedding, and so you want wedding photos that convey that feeling. The goal in “documentary wedding photography” is to make images that make you feel what it was like to be at your wedding years after the fact.
Boy in suit and suspenders hugging his daddy's leg at a wedding. Documentary Wedding Photography

2. You want a photo of your best friend doing the worm, of your mom teasing her sister, of your dad hugging you with tears in his eyes, of your niece with that look like she’s plotting world takeover. These are the moments a documentary wedding photographer sees, and immortalizes.

A groom held aloft his cousins' shoulders during a baraat. Documentary Wedding Photography Hazel Photo

3. You want a photographer who has a keen eye for the meaningful gestures, expressions, and details that tell the larger story. A documentary wedding photographer spends years honing the ability to see the unexpected, to frame things just right, so the viewer is compelled by the photograph, and understands the scene.

a little girl in a white dress with a white basket and a bright pink troll, sticking her tongue out and observing it all on a wedding day. Documentary wedding photography.

4. You don’t want your photographer to tell you to have a second first look. One is overwhelmingly wonderful. Also, hold on a sec, how in the world can you have a second first look? This speaks to the authentic manner in which documentary wedding photographers work.

a groom and his father share a hug at the hotel before heading over to the church for the wedding. Documentary wedding photography

5. You want pictures that make you feel seen. A documentary wedding photographer can make photographs that compliment the principles that guided you when you were planning your wedding. (whether you sat down and wrote out official guidelines with your fiancé, or you just have a general sense of what you were about during the planning.) Unfortunately some wedding photography doesn’t see you for who you are, and ends up being more a photographer’s idea of what a “romantic wedding” should look like.

a Bride reading a letter from her groom before the wedding surrounded by bridesmaids and mom. Documentary wedding photography

6. You don’t want a photography company that takes over with multiple cameras, and blocks your guests’ view, and makes it feel like a photoshoot, not like an authentic event. In “documentary wedding photography” the goal is to let the wedding be what it is, rather than to step in and change it.

7. You like the color of your dress and the florals you chose, and you want them to be true to life in the pictures. The style of a documentary wedding photographer can be carried into processing images after the wedding day with the goal of reproducing beautiful faithful color. Some wedding photography is significantly altered in processing, whether that be desaturation, color grading, or excessive retouching. 


Moments that matter – a year in weddings

Here we have a year of weddings as seen through “moments.” 


2018 brought a lovely diversity of venues throughout the Bay Area and beyond, including the Sierra Mountains, Big-Sur, The Boston T and the Boston Public Library, Art Museums, Tiny Chapels and Massive Urban High Schools, Small High Schools and Redwood Theaters, a Mansion that once belonged to a general


I feel overwhelming gratefulness for all the joy and ritual that I experienced through a camera lens this past year.


But why “moments”? Because they draw us in through their storytelling power. They make us feel what exists on either side of them. They don’t just show a gorgeous dress. They show a woman in a gorgeous dress flushed with joy as she dances with her father. Her gesture shows the freedom and the fun she has shared with him. They don’t just show a marriage license sitting upon a table. They show a group hug between a bride, a groom, her sister, his brother, and the closest of friends, the marriage license gripped between the groom’s fingers.


A photograph is time frozen. Sure, etymologically speaking, it is a light-drawing…but maybe we should have called it a nontempograph… because it’s conceptual implications are: it takes something that exists in the spatiotemporal world, and strips it of time, leaving it to a solely spatial existence. It is of time and yet out of time.  A spatial representation of time at a standstill.


And in it’s spatial existence, it can only hint at temporality. It is those photographs that gesture grandly toward temporality that move me most.

Here’s to a 2019 of making wedding photographs that gesture grandly toward temporality.


Classic Church and Topsail Tent Wedding – Jocelyn and Tom

Classic Church and Topsail Tent Wedding – Jocelyn and Tom

The story of how it came to be that I photographed Jocelyn and Tom’s wedding is on the complicated side of things. Jocelyn reached out to see if I was available to photograph her wedding on the Sunday of Memorial Day. She is an incredible storyteller, and went into detail in her initial query about the history of her grandma and grandpa’s house where the reception would be held. The house actually had it’s 300th birthday this year. There was a fabled apple tree, apple pies, peach jam, and a grapevine Robert Frost had written a poem about. Jocelyn and Tom were high school sweethearts at Exeter where they both rowed on the crew team. Very sad for me! I was booked Sunday, but I was available Saturday, so I cheekily suggested they change the date of the wedding to Saturday.

 

By mere chance, or some celestial tinkering, Jocelyn and Tom changed their wedding date to Saturday, and booked me as their photographer! I anticipated the wedding with excitement all year long, and when it finally came to pass, it did not disappoint.

 

The wedding was a classic. It started in the Exeter church, and ended with joyous dancing under a topsail tent. The thing that struck me most about their wedding was how right it felt. They were surrounded by family and friends who could see with great clarity how happy Jocelyn and Tom made each other and what an incredible match the two made. Each, in their own right, is a force to be reckoned with, but together, they are indomitable. Woe to anyone who should impede their path. They had their first look on a worn marble staircase at Phillips Exeter Academy where they had first met and forged their connection. I made couples portraits of the two down at the Exeter Boathouse, the site of their first date! I could go on and on about the wonders of their wedding… Thank you again for being so lovely to work with, Jocelyn and Tom.

 

Many many thanks to the talented Cara Brostrom for coming on as a 2nd photographer.

 

Sitting Bride Groom Portrait San Francisco Wedding Photographer

 

Bride’s Dress: Amsale from The White Gown

Groom’s suit: Custom made by the Black Lapel

Florist: Cymbidium Floral

DJ and/or band: DJ Jodi Entertainment

Catering: Stone Oven Catering and Las Olas

Invitations: Crane & Co


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