She said it was meant to be. But she wasn't only talking about her future groom. Shayna was on a Binbrook Facebook page asking if anyone knew of a photographer that would come to Mexico for a week to document their wedding. One of my clients contacted me to notify me of the opportunity in which I immediately contacted the bride to be. Unbeknownst to me, another mutual friend had already contacted her to recommend us. And so it was.
Michael and I arrived June 2nd to the Toronto airport to meet the bride, groom, their beautiful children, family and friends. Looking back at that moment, we knew nobody. We hadn't even met the couple who so generously offered to fly us down with them. We now have lifelong friends. Time is a funny thing.
We knew this couple was first class when Michael and I indeed were upgraded to first class on the plane. We offered them our seats as a gesture, which they gratefully declined because they needed to sit with their family. That was the start of a week that demonstrated to us the importance of kinship to this particular clan of almost 30 people.
After chatting with everyone for a few minutes, we soon realized the Kevin Bacon theory is indeed true. The groom went to highschool with my cousins and the bride's father is another cousin's union rep. Another bride who was friends with one of my past brides worked for a guest and knew of me.
The heat once we stepped off the plane was palpable. Michael and I took our first photo and discovered how fogged up our cameras became because of the 40-50 degree weather and humidity. We looked at each other with slight panic. But the lenses, as well as the guests became accustomed to the Mexican summer temperatures.
Shayna had given everyone a welcome bag of thoughtful and useful gifts including: A fan, blistex, shot glasses, tylenol, healthy snacks and a variety of other things to make our stay more enjoyable. She also wrote every guest a hand typed and individually customized letter of appreciation. A girl after my own heart.
Throughout the week we took candid snaps of the different events. Michael attended the bachelor party with our groom Mark. He was not interested in leaving the resort but just wanted a low key night at the sports bar with his guys. They all went for dinner and then just hung out, teasing and chiding the way boys do. Shayna's stepdad Kevin was the best man. We could relate to having our family stand up for us. Family is forever but friends come and go. Kevin is so extremely proud of his family, you would think that Shayna and Mark were his own blood. It's truly humbling.
The girls however did not go low key. We all went for dinner and then took a bus to the infamous Coco Bongo's in Playa Del Carmen. I watched in amazement some of the girl's faces who had trepidations of leaving the resort. The show is something that is truly remarkable. It was a night that left us all talking for the rest of the week.
We would all meet up every night in the lobby bar and listen to the live band, chat, drink and dance. At certain points of the trip, I would quip to Michael "Is this my job?" Most of the guests work in the restaurant industry so they were generous with their tipping and mindful of the people who worked so hard all week to serve us and make our stay more enjoyable. It's nice when you are in the company of likeminded people.
As the wedding day rolled around, Michael and I tried to make it as seamless as possible from our perspective. We had been married in Mexico before and also had made some connections with the right people in the hotel. We knew first hand how important it was that things go smoothly. We attended the meeting with the coordinator and when she would ask the couple to choose their options, everything was low key. There was no way they wanted a red carpet rolled out for them (this was also an option). They didn't want attention, they just wanted their day. Done so in their own way.
When the wedding day rolled around, we were up early with all our gear ready and charged. I stepped outside with some slight fear. It was going to be a hot one. And hot it was. It was our most challenging wedding to shoot from a weather perspective so far. Our cameras were fogging up, people were unbearably hot and we needed to work fast. The salt of my sweat was blinding my eyes. There are no excuses to not getting the photos right. Not weather, not camera malfunction, not sickness, not mood. You must as a photographer be prepared for the unexpected.
Similar to our style at home, Michael spent the morning with the guys and I with the girls. Crystal, the bride's cousin, was her maid of honor and Shayna's daughter was a bridesmaid. Her other two adorable daughters were the flower girls. She was lucky enough to have a friend come on the trip who owns a hair salon (I will be checking her out....she is amazing!)
The architecture in our resort was amazing. I wanted to take a shot of the bride and groom before the wedding, but didn't want them to see each other. We snapped this photo which I loved. The anticipation and emotion that builds before your wedding ceremony is something that is indescribable.
Shayna looked stunning in her Maggie Sottero gown. Her and Mark worked tirelessly to get in shape for this trip. I marvelled that they have three children and have bodies like they do!
Brad, the bride's father, walked Shayna down the aisle to her groom. Her little daughters couldn't wait to see their daddy. At one point, the eldest of the two whispered to Mark that she wanted to marry him. The youngest was having a meltdown (literally) in the heat during the ceremony and in a moment of humour, the bride called a timeout for a juicey. I love that they are real, even in their wedding ceremony.
We all toasted with champagne, took some group photos and then Michael and I snuck them off to the spa area of the resort. It was quiet, beautiful and they couldn't believe they had a moment to themselves. I almost just wanted to leave them there alone. But alas, the show must go on. The love that is so obviously in Shayna & Mark's eyes is something that is indescribable in plain english. Sometimes there are not enough words in the dictionary to describe something. You would just have to see it and be there to understand.
We attended an amazing dinner, followed by a private cocktail party of dancing and finally the disco to end off the night. The speeches had us all choked up but Kayla, their 13 year old daughter's speech was the one that had the tears flowing. What an absolutely amazing young lady. We awoke the bride and groom early the next morning to shoot an hour of trash the dress photos. But that hotness is a separate blog post in itself. A special thank you to Jeremy who is an avid film photographer himself and for helping us out with holding the flash when we needed and also adding his own unique twist to some of the reception photos. Also thank you to everyone who was not mentioned in this blog post. You all are amazing! Michael is now inspired to get a tattoo since I believe almost every guest on the trip had one or several!
Shayna and Mark, to say it was an absolute honor to be with you all in Mexico is a complete understatement. Thank you for having blind faith in us and for hiring us on the spot to come down and document your memories. As your bus pulled away and we so ridiculously cried waving you off, Michael and I rendered ourselves truly blessed. Here are a few of the many thousand photos we took. We can't wait for our double date!