Detroit Buddhist Wedding
I fed the meter for my parking spot and quickly checked my watch. It was 10:45.
“Perfect,” I thought. “I can grab a coffee, snag a table, and wait for Kate, Tim, Julia, and Mrs. Kim.”
Much to my surprise, Kate, Julia, and Mrs. Kim were already there, discussing details of the wedding day. After some polite introductions, I sat quietly, listening and observing. This was my first time meeting the bride and her future mother-in-law and I wanted to be respectful to any dynamics or cultural roles that might differ from what I am accustomed to. All I knew about the day was it was going to be a traditional Detroit Buddhist wedding. The meeting went smoothly, covering all of the details from a customary side. Still, I wasn’t sure what challenges the temple would present, if any, from a lighting or space standpoint.
“Julia, would you be interested in showing me the temple so I can get a better understanding of how I will approach my shooting?” I asked. She enthusiastically agreed.
Even though I can quickly assess and problem solve lighting and space scenarios, I always like to visit and scout locations if I have never shot there before. After all, it is their one wedding day. I want it to be perfect and the photos to reflect that.
After visiting the temple and better understanding the role I would be playing in their wedding, I knew that I would play more of a photojournalist at some points and more of an artistic director at others. This excited me. Shooting in more of a photojournalistic style is difficult. You have to be hyper aware of your surroundings, lighting, camera settings, physical presence, and what is happening in the frame. It is tough, but a lot of fun, especially when you nail the shot.
The day started at the Royal Park Hotel in Rochester with Julia getting ready with some help from her mom. Her dress was a traditional South Korean ceremonial dress. In just a few minutes, she was ready to see her groom.
Jason was ready and waiting patiently in the hotel’s library. Before they shared a first look, I wanted to create a few portraits of him.
Next, they were excited and ready to see each other. It was touching to see their emotions peek through when they finally got to be in each other’s presence.
With a gentle touch, Jason fixed Julia’s bow, making her look perfect for their upcoming nuptials.
After their first look, it was time to take some portraits. I wanted the images to reflect the strength, heritage, and personality of each of them.
After a short session, it was time to head to their temple to commence their Detroit Buddhist wedding.
The ceremony was simple and symbolic. Candles were lit, gifts were given, and love was shared, and lives were devoted to each other. It was a beautiful ceremony.
After the ceremony, we took pictures of the family and guests before heading over to another, more celebratory ceremony where important family members bless the couple with figs, fruits, and prayers.
Photographing the two ceremonies was like stepping onto a dance floor and having your partner lead, despite you never having heard the song or learned how to dance. Stressful, exhilarating, and when it is all over – fun! I love the feel of these shots. They are very authentic and candid.
With their Detroit Buddhist wedding ceremony coming to an end, it was time to head back to the Royal Park hotel for their reception. Julia changed into her wedding dress while Jason changed into his military uniform. By the time we started shooting, it was the final minutes of dusk and raining – less than ideal conditions to shoot in. Regardless, we made it work and transformed the few locations we had at our disposal into beautiful backdrops for their wedding images.
As we stood in the banquet lobby, I looked for one last location to shoot.
“Stay here a second,” I told them. I snuck outside, moved a cigarette receptacle, and looked at the overhead sconce gave as I move my hand, back and forth. “I think this will work.”
With our time to photograph wrapping up, it was time to kick off their reception. I had a few minutes to photograph their room as they were getting changed, hence the nice natural light in these pictures.
With a humble entrance, Jason and Julia cut their cake before hearing from a variety of family members and guests.
After dinner, it was time for their first dances.
The photo above makes my heart melt. I hope Jason and his mom love it as much as I do. Think about how many times, from his birth to his wedding day, Mrs. Kim kissed his cheeks. A simple gesture with so much meaning, especially on a day such as your wedding day.
Finally, it was Jason and Julia’s turn to dance. Mary Ann Ross did an incredible job, playing classic dinner music and fun dance music, keeping the floor occupied all evening long.
Special thanks to Kate McClellan from Purple Clover Events and Tim Testerman from Timothy Scott Films for your coordinated efforts all day to make this a beautiful Detroit Buddhist wedding. The results were fantastic and I couldn’t have done it without you. If you love seeing traditional or ethnic weddings, you can see more here.