pittsfield wedding photographer

Fatime and Thyldan's Congolese Engagement Party in Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Most of the engagements (and weddings) I encounter are pretty straight forward. One person asks another to be with him/her for the rest of their lives and usually there is a “yes” and then there is a wedding and then they are married.

In some cultures, there’s a little more to it than that. Fatime and Thyldan are both from the Congo but met here in the United States and they asked if I would document their engagement party at Fatime’s home in Pittsfield a few days before their wedding. With both of their families living so far away, neither side had ever been able to meet, and the couple decided they would celebrate early with a traditional marriage rite.

I would say this event was kind of like the first day of a weekend-long wedding. Having come from a big Portuguese family, when Fatime kept sweetly asking if I was going to be okay covering such an unusual ceremony, I kept assuring her, “Don’t worry, I’m Portuguese. Our weddings are crazy long too”.

The marriage rite took place in her backyard in a small neighborhood near Pontoosuc lake in Pittsfield. When I arrived, Thyldan and Fatime were away but her house was full of family that had traveled from various corners of the world. There were two big tents set up in the backyard and a canopy for the couple at the front.

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Fatime and Thyldan wanted to have this event so their parents could meet and approve of the engagement and marraige. It was an opportunity for immediate family to offer advice, send well wishes, and confirm intentions. There were two MC’s and a DJ and every once in a while, the DJ would play a laugh track or use an air horn sound effect in reaction to something the MC said. It kept the crowd engaged and made it feel like a live taping of a variety show.

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I photographed Fatime at a hotel in downtown Pittsfield where she was getting ready with her friends. She told me ahead of time that she would be there with her sisters and asked if I could grab some photos of her getting ready with them. Well, when I opened the door to her hotel room and found nearly a dozen women in there I couldn’t help but yell in surprise “these are your sisters?!” She laughed and explained that she calls her cousins sisters, so no, these were not really her sisters.

Regardless, I was still impressed. I have a lot of cousins and I’ve never thought to try and fit them all in a single hotel room but I bet it would look something like this.

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While Fatime got ready, the MC’s worked the crowd by having various women come out hiding under fabric to trick Thyldan and the crowd into thinking that it might be Fatime.

“Is it her? Is it her?" they’d say.

They’d pull the fabric away and sadly no it was not “the beautiful eagle” (the bride).

This went on for about an hour, with the MC’s taking turns building anticipation and tricking the crowd into thinking the bride had arrived.

When she finally did arrive, she came out into the backyard under a sheet of fabric. She was led by her sisters who entered with a choreographed dance. This reveal was more dramatic and vetted than the previous reveals so guests had a feeling that it was “the beautiful eagle” they were waiting for all this time.

They removed the fabric and there was such a celebration.

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It was then Fatime’s turn to go and find her soon to be husband. She wandered around the tents looking for the man she would marry.

A few men came forward and she would politely tell them that they were not the one she was looking for.

When she finally found Thyldan, and the crowd erupted.

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The couple had to get permission from both of their parents and confirm their intentions to marry and be faithful partners. This was symbolized with the gift of a drink. First Fatime went and expressed her love and devotion to Thyldan and asked for her father’s approval and then Thyldan did the same with his father.

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Fatime’s father, uncle and mother got together and came up with a list of things the husband-to-be must bring their family. This can be everything from goats and chickens to expensive suits, pots, and machetes. The families then went behind the canopy to negotiate with one another in private, away from the couple.

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After negotiations came to an end, the MC’s had the couple offer one another drinks as a symbol of a kiss.

Fatime and Thyldan had never kissed before they were married. This was something I accidentally learned when I took their engagement photos and kept asking them to kiss! I wasn’t sure why they kept pausing just before kissing and they told me that their first kiss would be on their wedding day. They are the only couple I’ve ever worked with who had never kissed before. How special is that?

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After the ceremony they held a reception at the Berkshire Hills Country Club just down the road in Pittsfield. Fatime told me that dancing would start before food even hit the table, and she was absolutely right about that. The dancing was so much fun, EVERYONE was on the dance floor.

The next day the couple drove off to NYC to get ready for their official wedding day. I was exhausted so I imagine that they were too.

I love events that throw unexpected surprises and unforeseen challenges at me, so this one was my jam. Aside from a few portraits of Fatime before the ceremony, I was in full documentary mode for the whole afternoon.

A popular phrase I would hear when I worked for the newspaper was “If you saw it, you missed it.” Never has this phrase applied more to a hired event for me. I don’t think I put my camera down once during this ceremony, there was that much going on. I delivered Fatime and Thyldan a gallery FULL of candids.

I feel a different energy when I shoot like this, and when I get into a groove, I am reminded of why I chose this job in the first place.

Sure, it puts food on the table for my family, but it is also my passion. My camera is a ticket to new experiences and Thyldan and Fatime’s marriage rite really reminded me of how special that is. As long as this is my job, I’ll never stop growing and learning.

Jenny and Jeremy's Colorful Engagement Session in Northampton, Massachusetts

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Weddings can be a big investment and I am meeting so many couples lately who are becoming very conscious about where their dollars are going. Jenny and Jeremy have chosen to have their 2020 wedding at Artists for Humanities Epicenter in Boston, a non-profit arts space that provides under-resourced urban youth with the keys to self-sufficiency through paid employment in art and design.

Jenny and Jeremy’s rental fee for the venue is 100% helping fund the employment of over 250 under-resourced Boston teens annually in art and design. Thanks to their rental, AFH can provide a safe space for teens to engage in experiential art and enterprise learning during out-of-school time. How cool is that?!

I love how thoughtful they were when choosing their wedding venue. The space looks so interesting and its look is always changing with new art from the kids. I am SO excited to photograph their event next year.

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Northampton Massachusetts Photographer
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Jenny and Jeremy were wanting to get out of the city for their session, and while they had never been to Northampton, they were excited to explore all of the fun things it has to offer. We spent an hour poking around the city and getting to know each other. They admitted right away that they hadn’t had real photos taken ever as a couple and of course they warned me in advance.

(As a side note, I get warned a lot like this and it’s never been an issue, so take note future couples, you’ll all be fine and look like super models, k?)

Top photographer western massachusetts
Top photographer western massachusetts
Top Photographer Northampton Masachusetts

I wanted their session to be just as colorful and fun as their venue so we decided to use many of the bright murals around town. Some have been there for years and some were painted just very recently.

This mural by Brooklyn based Ramiro Davaro-Comas is one of the newer ones and one of my favorites. I love the ninja turtles peaking around the corner.

FUN FACT

Did you know the ninja turtles were conceptualized in Northampton?

I also love how the artist captured the story of the heist in such a fun and unique style. I was so excited when Jenny and Jeremy agreed to be part of the scene for a moment. Nearby shoppers and pedestrians got a kick out of seeing this shot come together as well.

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I’ve been blessed with some really adventurous couples this summer, Jenny and Jeremy included. Thanks you two for such a fun afternoon. I can’t wait to capture your wedding next year!

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Traci and Evan's Rainy Day Elopement in Northampton, MA

Rain on a wedding day can be stressful, and it is always one of the biggest worries when planning an outdoor celebration in New England. I try to tell myself to plan for the worst weather just because of how unpredictable things are here in the northeast.

The last few times I’ve been faced with rain at an outdoor wedding, I’ve lucked out with some very adventurous couples, like Traci and Evan, who love the thrill of unexpected photo plans.

Traci and Evan eloped moments before a heavy rain storm rolled in. They planned a very short and sweet ceremony on a Wednesday afternoon in the gardens at Child’s Park in Northampton. We JUST made it through the ceremony and a few family photos before the sheets of rain started.

With the forecast the way it was, I had been thinking of alternate locations for the two of them should this happen. Hotel Northampton was on my list, and it turned out that Traci and Evan’s parents were all staying at the Hotel so the staff was so happy to have us use their atrium during the storm.

We waited out the worst of the storm inside, watching the rain stream down the windows.

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I love this atrium for photos. The light is diffused and falls evenly throughout the room. I love the plants and all of the fun little chairs for people to sit on. It’s a private little space off to the side and every time I work in here I discover a new way to use it.

The rain let up and Evan suggested trying some photos at Forbes Library. He goes there regularly to read and explore the shelves. It’s one of his favorite places to go in Northampton.

The staff at the library was so happy to have us and strangers kept stopping the couple to tell them how beautiful they looked, how exciting it was that they had just been married and how neat it was that they came to the library for photos.

I secretly wanted to gather all of these nice strangers, who thought they were coming to the library for a quick return, form the most epic receiving line ever and snap an exit shot of the couple. Traci and Evan DID have to get to dinner eventually so we had to scrap that idea but maybe I’ll have a willing couple in the future? (hint hint hint hint hint)

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Traci teaches African American History at UMASS Amherst and Evan will be starting a new job at Harvard in the fall so the library felt extra special for this academic couple.

The session ended and I felt like our time together came and went so fast. I really enjoyed exploring with the two of them, and while the rain put a tiny moment of question in the plans, it led us on such an amazing journey.

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Congratulations Traci and Evan and thank you for choosing me to capture such a special event. I wish you a lifetime of love and happiness!

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If it rains, we still have fun. I promise.

Fatime and Thyldan's Engagement Session at Springfield City Hall

Fatime and Thyldan hired me to cover their engagement party next week and decided to add in a quick engagement shoot beforehand. They wanted fresh prints to display at their wedding at the end of the month.

The couple is originally from the Congo and they’ll be having a really fun welcoming party for their traveling guests next week. The event sounds really unique with lots of special traditions that I am so excited to cover.

We took their photos at Springfield City Hall, one of my favorite photo locations in western Massachusetts.

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Engagement photos at Gouveia Vineyards in Wallingford, CT

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Bruno and Brianna are getting married at The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Waterbury, Connecticut next year and then celebrating with family and friends at the Aria Banquet hall.

They wanted to have their engagement photos taken at a place that would compliment the European aesthetic of their venues and celebrate Bruno’s strong Portuguese heritage. When they asked if I would mind taking their photos at a Portuguese Winery in Connecticut I jumped at the opportunity.

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We traveled down to the Gouveia Vineyards, a Portuguese winery in Wallingford. The winery is overlooks 140 acres of expansive landscape including 32 acres of vineyard, rolling hills, and is perfectly placed to enjoy a stunning summer sunset.

According to their website, the winery produces 90,000 old world style bottles of wine a year using traditional skills of Portuguese winemaking.

“Our original vines were planted by hand. Every vine is hand pruned and we owe our gratitude to the hundreds of volunteers who help harvest the grapes every year.”

Yes that’s right, you can volunteer at their harvest in September to pick grapes in the vineyard, and even do some grape stomping in the barrels. What’s even cooler about this is that Portuguese Ranchos from around the region come and perform at the vineyard to celebrate the Harvest while you pick and stomp.

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We spent the afternoon exploring the stone house and tasting room, strolling along the dirt roads of the winery, and enjoying the view of the pond. The fields were so hot and sunny, but when the sun began to set, enduring the direct summer heat immediately felt worth it.

Thank you Bruno and Brianna for the wonderful afternoon and for introducing me to this amazing place! I am SO excited for your wedding in the spring!

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If you are planning a wedding, some of my packages include a personalized engagement session like this!

Click here for more information.

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