The best wedding shoot that I ever attended

chiang-caveWhile enjoying some time out from work recently, I decided to go to a BBQ with friends one Saturday. This was a big deal for me going out on a Saturday, because that’s usually my busiest day as a wedding photographer.
It just so happened that one couple at the BBQ was engaged and discussing wedding plans. He wanted to elope overseas to avoid all the hype and she wanted to have a big romantic wedding with all the trimmings. Naturally, as a wedding photographer, I have seen some good weddings, some bad weddings and some very interesting weddings.

The bride to be, Tara, was keen to hear about the best wedding I had ever had to shoot. She wanted to know all the romantic details and how everything came together so that it was the perfect day for the bride and groom. Her fiancée Brad, wanted to know about the worst wedding I’d ever been to and wanted all the details of things that didn’t go according to plan. Obviously in the hope of persuading Tara that a big, romantic wedding just didn’t exist.

My sympathies were with Tara that afternoon so decided to relay the story of the best wedding shoot that I ever attended instead of my disastrous event in Bali. It was a beautiful, private wedding in a tiny town called Chiang Dao in Northern Thailand.

As always, I travel to my photo shoots at least one day early. In this case, the Bride and Groom insisted everyone arrive two days early. One day for travel and one day for a bit of sightseeing. The couple had arranged for everyone to fly to Chiang Mai on the same flight and arranged mini buses to take us to a place called Chiang Dao Nest where the wedding was to take place. This was about 77kms north of Chiang Mai and was spectacular.
We were all treated to Thai massages upon arrival and our accommodation was a small bamboo and hardwood tin roof hut at the Nest. Although I was the wedding photographer, I was treated just like a guest and got to enjoy my massage.

The next day, while the guests were taken to the nearby Chiang Dao Caves for a guided tour, I met with the couple who took me on a tour of the resort along with the hosts, Stuart and his Thai wife, Wicha. As we walked around the bungalows, we found some very pretty areas with beautiful mountainous backdrops for wedding photos. I couldn’t believe how quiet and peaceful it was. The gardens were an amazing array of flowers, hanging orchids and large bamboo trees. It was simply stunning.

The wedding day itself was glorious. The stylist (who I had coincidentally worked with before) did the bridesmaids’ hair in braids and gave the Bride gorgeous curls. The makeup was natural and the Bride and Groom had decided on a Christian wedding in the garden of the resort by the pool. The 30 guests, who were all old friends by now, were all served canapés before the ceremony as they waited and were each given a glass of juice or champagne to toast the Bride and Groom as they became man and wife.

Defying tradition, the Bride and Groom actually had their wedding photos taken before the ceremony so that once they signed the register, they could accompany the guests into the restaurant together. This kept with the theme of intimacy.

It wasn’t difficult to take photos aligning with the intimacy theme. The restaurant was filled with led candles (obviously with the bamboo huts there was a fire risk) and silvery white flowing material draped over the chairs with matching table cloths. It was simple, intimate, elegant and romantic.

The food was amazing. You were given a choice of three different dishes for each course. I chose Roasted Sweet Pepper and Goat Cheese Crouton for my starters. My main meal was Marinated Chicken Fillet with Pinenut Crust, Roasted Vegetable Salad, served with Hand-Cut Chips and dessert was Creme Brullee. Everyone chose differently and they were all happy with their meal.

The music played all night and a Thai local band took every request and delivered faultlessly. You could talk to everyone without shouting and everyone had a personal photo with the Bride and Groom as a personal memento to send with thank you notes.

The couple had organised a breakfast the next day with everyone and afterwards left riding an elephant with a ‘Just Married’ sign on the back. The guests were later transported back to Chang Mai and many are still in touch today despite being from all over the country.