In our line of work, it's not unusual to be completely surrounded by raw emotion at any given point during a wedding day. When the bridesmaids see the bride in her dress for the first time, the deep breathe the bride takes before she takes that first step down the aisle, the way the groom's voice cracks just a bit as he reads his vows. For us, it's one of the most amazing perks of our job, way better than any corner office ever could be. Of course, one of the occupational hazards is that every so often the emotion gets to us too. You can usually see it coming - when you have a couple whose connection is so evident that you feel it even before you see them together. You feel it in the energy in the room while they're each getting ready, in the excitement of the guests as they sit down for the ceremony. And as much as you prepare yourself, sometimes it just catches you off guard. There a little moments in every wedding that get to either one of us, but it's not often that the very same moment touches us both Rob and I at the very same time. Julia and Avi's wedding was the exception.
As a part of Jewish tradition, Julia and Avi spent the morning separated, each having an individual reception with the guests before the ceremony. These receptions, called the Tisch (for the groom) and the Bedeken (for the bride) are like mini cocktail hours, with the men gathering around Avi in the bar of the Wadsworth Mansion and the women surrounding Julia out in the rose garden. In the bar, Avi sat in a corner table with his father on one side and Julia's father on the other. All the men gather around him in a semi-circle as he regaled them with funny stories and anecdotes, occasionally interrupted when one of his brothers burst into song. Out in the rose garden was like a vision straight out of a perfume ad, with glamorous ladies walking around as the young girls twirled their dresses in the grass. In the center of the patio sat Julia with her mother on one side and Avi's grandmother on the other. She gushed (and blushed) as everyone came over to tell her just how gorgeous she looked. It was the most common statement of the morning, followed by just how much Avi was going to lose his mind when he saw her for the first time when the men led him out to the patio - marking the official end of the Tisch and the Bedeken.
Knowing the time was drawing near, a handful of friends and family held up branches of an archway that would lead Avi to his bride. In the bar, the men linked arms, formed a haphazard line and began to dance their way out to the garden, singing all the while. You couldn't miss the sound of the men as they approached and Julia reached out and held the hands of her mother and Avi's grandmother. The men led Avi through the center of the archway and suddenly the singing started to die down a bit. There was a definite shift in the energy of the room. Avi stared at Julia, at a complete loss for words. Sweat dripped down his face but he didn't wipe it away, and when drops got into his eyes he blinked them away as quickly as he could never wanting to take his eyes of our her for even a second. His eyes were glued on her, and all the rest of the eyes in the room were set on the two of them. It was as if everything stopped for those few minutes, everyone taking in what they were experiencing in that moment - actually seeing an expression of love in it's purest form.
Julia stood up and Avi placed her veil over her face, but not before he gave her a soft kiss on the cheek. Then all four of their parents stepped in to give the couple their blessing. The two sets of parents each made a small circle around their own child, holding them and whispering to them softly. Then they switched - Julia's parents giving their blessing to Avi and vice versa. It was a beautiful moment - seeing the love the parents had for not only their own child but the new child they would be welcoming into their family that day. I doubt there was a dry eye in the crowd. It was nearly time for the ceremony to begin, but there was one last tradition to perform, the Tena'im. The two mothers stepped forward, put one hand on the same plate (a piece that had belonged to Avi's grandmother) and smashed it to the ground. This symbolized the end of the life the children had lived up until that day, because as of that moment Julia and Avi were starting a new life - together. The crowd cheered, Julia and Avi held one another's hands tightly and I was thankful to have the camera in front of my face so no one could see just how choked up I was. Of course, there was one person who saw right through that; Rob, who came over and held my hand and squeezed it for a minute while we waited for the ceremony to begin. He didn't have to say it, but with that small action I knew Rob was just as moved as I was and without saying a word I knew we were both thinking the same thing: how amazing is it that this is our job and moments like this are all part of a day in the "office"?
* * *
We started the morning with Julia and her girls at a great little inn in New Haven that we were surprised we'd never been to before. Well, that's because it just opened a few weeks ago. It's the Austin Street Inn, a restored Victorian that is now a bed and breakfast, furnished with antiques and the perfect place to stay if you're in New Haven - especially if you happen to be getting married there. When we arrived we were greeted by New Haven local and our friend, the incredibly talented D.D. Nickel, who was somehow making Julia even more gorgeous than she already is. While she was getting her make-up done, we borrowed Julia's stunning Watters gown getting some shots of it while taking advantage of the fantastic front porch at the Inn. We also got to spend some quality time with her other accessories - namely her Kate Spade purple patent leather heels, which were the perfect match with her bridesmaid's dresses. Once all her girls were dressed, they had a little fun with us with a psuedo-Mad Men shot in the sitting room of the Inn before we all heading over to the Wadsworth Mansion so all the festivities could begin.
Avi was at the Mansion when we arrived, spending time with our associate Susan who was snapping away. Somehow Avi was also managing to oversee the set up while Margery Gussak Catering was putting everything into place. He had some help from Jen at Fleur De Lys Floral who was acting as a day-of coordinator as well. (We had seen Jen's work before at several wedding, but were delighted to finally meet her in person!) Time seemed to fly by at this point - Julia put on her gown, we spent some time with just her and her girls at the front of the mansion before they headed in for the Bedeken. We loved getting to see the juxtaposition between the Bedeken and the Tisch, and get to see the ritual in person since it was new to us.
After the ceremony, Julia and Avi were introduced into the reception and promptly entered two separate circles. The women danced with Julia, the men with Avi and the couple didn't met until they were both raised up in the chairs. It was easily the longest hora (and most energetic) we have ever seen - with the guys in Soulfarm keeping the crowd going the whole time. At one point, Julia and Avi were seated and several friends and family came over and danced for them - some even bringing props to entertain them. This definitely set the tone for the rest of the reception, which was quite lively - tons of dancing, two very touching (and funny) toasts and Julia and Avi even entertaining the crowd with their own signature dance moves. Definitely an evening everyone will be talking about for years to come.
The front porch at the Austin Street Inn was painstakingly restored; the level of care put into it definitely shows. It seemed like the perfect place for us to photograph Julia's Watters gown, especially the white painted wood really sets off the lace in her gown.
Only someone in as amazing shape as Julia could pull off these five-inch Kate Spade heels at a ceremony in the grass. Total balance control necessary.
We were excited when we knew D.D. Nickel was going to be doing Julia's make-up for two reasons: 1) she does amazing work and 2) we love getting to chat with her.
The bridesmaids totally got our "Mad Men" idea for this shot - didn't hurt that a couple of them were fans of the show as well. (Season four starts this month!)
The scene for the rest of the events of the day: the beautiful grounds of the Wadsworth Mansion.
Julia's sister helped her into her gown up on the second level of the Mansion...
...and then helped her with her shoes as well. Check out how closely the colors match!
The last finishing touches: the jewelry.
Finally ready for the day to officially begin.
While we were shooting these bridals, all of Julia's bridesmaids were cheering her on and her hair stylist Frank DeMarco was on hand to fix any hair that went astray. We told him he could come along to every session we shoot!
Julia kept her look simple, a simple bun and pearls which really emphasized all of her natural beauty.
The Tisch was the men's reception before the ceremony. Avi sat in the corner with his father and Julia's father and the rest of the men surrounded them - laughing, singing and telling stories.
Outside in the rose garden was the Bedeken - Julia's reception with the women. She sat with her mother and Avi's grandmother, her bridesmaids behind her and the rest of the women surrounding her.
When the Tisch was over, the men all linked arms and danced Avi through the Mansion and out to the rose garden to see Julia for the first time that day.
The look on Avi's face when he saw Julia for the first time pretty much summed up everything he was feeling.
Pretty safe to say Julia was pretty excited to see Avi when he danced in as well.
Both of them were wiping away tears while the rabbi began the part of the ceremony where Avi would place the veil over Julia's face.
Avi had that look on his face every time he looked at Julia for the rest of the day.
Once the veiling was complete, each parent came in and had a quiet word with their own child and then with the child they would be welcoming into their family.
The rabbi passed the plate to the two mothers for them to break at the end of the ceremony.
The chuppah was decorated in the colors of the day - ivory and purple.
Members of the band Soulfarm played throughout the ceremony.
Julia waited with both of her parents before she walked down the aisle.
This was my shot from behind as Julia walked to meet Avi - I loved the way the wind caught Julia's veil.
Rob was in the front of the aisle, capturing Julia being escorted by her parents and Avi's reaction - just a few moments after seeing Julia for the first time, he was just as happy when he saw her walking down the aisle to him.
Once she reached him, Julia walked around Avi three times while her mother and Avi's mother held her veil.
Julia and Avi signed their Ketubah during the ceremony - at this point the Rabbi was reading it over to them, a part of the tradition.
The Rabbi joked as he signed the Connecticut Marriage license that he was being sure to do everything the proper legal way, especially since their happened to be a lawmaker in the crowd, Senator Leiberman and his wife.
Their stomping of the glass and the first kiss as husband and wife!
We were able to sneak Julia and Avi away to the front of the Mansion for a few pictures, just in time to catch this gorgeous sunlight.
When their first met, Julia and Avi went on a three-month bike ride across the country. His mother brought the tandem bike to their wedding to honor that first big trip together.