Our turn: Ryan and Tatiana’s wedding(s).

 

On June 9, 2015, we got married.
On June 8, 2016, we got married.
On June 9, 2016, we got married.

Let me explain.

Tatiana and I got engaged way back in 2014, which probably already falls somewhere between “vintage” and “retro” on Spotify playlists. Given that most of the people who surround us are in the wedding industry, we knew we would have to get married on a weekday. Given that we didn’t want our non-wedding-photographer friends and family to completely uproot their lives for our celebrations, that meant having it in the summer. Planning a wedding takes time, particularly when your work-heavy lifestyle means you count an afternoon nap as your summer vacation — and so that all added up to an engagement of more than a year and a half.

As people excited to just be married to each other already, that seemed like an awfully long time. While we were starting to plan in May, I realized something: We should just get married — and if we acted quickly, we could keep the same anniversary: June 9, 2015.

And so we did. We kept it very hush-hush, thinking it would be just our parents and us, not least because that was all we had time to plan for. But some of our closest friends and relatives found out with less than 48 hours to go, and we were glad to have them. My cousin Jay drove 300 miles on a moment’s notice, and even learned “Northern Wind” by City and Colour for us … when I asked him one hour before the ceremony. (That’s him performing it at the top of this post).

Our close friend and neighbor Inbal Sivan photographed our Prospect Park ceremony, capturing my slobbering, emotional mess better than we could have asked for. We did some quick portraits after, but — with the sort of freedom photographers pray for, she very wisely said “This light is shit. Let’s come back later.” And so we did — to one of our favorite neighborhoods, Red Hook, and had a grand ol’ time taking awesome portraits that show just how very at home we feel with our dear friend Inbal.

After the ceremony, we took our family out for brunch. Being the last Foursquare addicts remaining, we turned toward the service and found a place called Frankie’s 457. We got there, saw its lush garden out back, and immediately fell in love with it. We’d been thinking of making our big wedding just an all-out raucous party, but suddenly while being at Frankie’s we could feel how nice to have a different, quieter sort of event, surrounded by our close family and friends who hadn’t been at the elopement.

We realized: what if we could have it all? It was an ambitious plan, but we moved forward deciding we’d host two completely different wedding days back-to-back. In total, it meant being able to enjoy three very different kinds of weddings. In 2015, an elopement as private as possible. At Frankie’s, a sweet celebration of our love with close friends and family. And at the Bell House party? A sheer, wild celebration.

Hopefully, to most of you this sounds sweet, romantic, and fun. Of course, many of you reading this are planning or have planned a New York City wedding, and so are also gasping in silent horror at trying to plan two at once.

It was daunting, but we had a few things going for us. Most obvious, Tatiana and I have been to more than 1,000 weddings between us, which made us better at some sorts of decisions — we didn’t need to visit a thousand venues because we’d already been to them, and knew The Bell House was the right place for a crazy dance party. Also, we’d shopped well for the elopement, and our celebrant Christopher Shelley and florist Lydia Andrien of WYLD were so amazing and perfect for us that we knew we’d have to use them both two more times.

And then, of course, happenstance led us to an amazing wedding planner, and now good friend — Sara Landon of SL Events. In 2015, Tatiana and I were still doing events separately, and after shooting one night, Tatiana came to me and said “I know who we’ll use for our wedding planner — I just worked with her and she’s amazing — Leslie Knope meets Amy Schumer.” I said “Well, I bow to your judgement, but I worked with an amazing planner last weekend who seemed great.” Of course, both of these people were Sara Landon.

We felt blessed to have Sara, Christopher and Lydia on our side. They have all become good friends and we make the effort to continue to see them— and as anyone who knows our schedule knows, that is no small thing. Chris is incredibly smart and funny — deeply entertaining even to a crowd who has seen countless weddings before. Lydia’s designs are amazing even to me, who has an anti-green thumb. The last time I grew flora before Tatiana was when I accidentally left cranberry bread in my 7th grade locker over Christmas vacation.

Ok, you say, but get to the real question: How did you hire your *photographers*? In some ways, the exact opposite way that most people do.

I started wedding photography only after years of journalism and corporate work, and I soon realized there was a big difference between getting hired by art directors, who hire photographers for a living for all sorts of jobs, and wedding clients, who are hiring someone for THE job for the first time. We were way more like art directors — if there is someone out there who has been a good wedding photographer for more than five years, we at least know of them, and have probably gone dancing with them. Of course some of our choices were friends so dear that we couldn’t bear the thought of them working our wedding, but we still had a very clear list of hundreds of photographers who are all extremely great at their jobs and whose strengths we know intimately. So we decided to pair those strengths to our individual events.

We wanted to get photographers who love telling the story of the day’s motion and emotion. For the dinner event — 88 of our closest friends and family — we chose Tyler Wirken. Tyler is an experienced photojournalist who uses the codes of journalistic ethics to tell the deep, true story of wedding days as they actually happened. He has a creative, studious eye, and was one of Tatiana’s mentors at the Foundation Workshop. We knew he’d be perfect for the quiet, more solemn ceremony and dinner — and we know that doing great work in an event with no dancing is NOT easy, so we were grateful to have his skills applied to the day.

We can see Tyler’s thoughtful, deliberate photography especially in our first look, one of our favorite parts of the day. You can see this story in fuller detail on Tyler’s blog. We wanted to link each part of our wedding to our beloved neighborhood of Cobble Hill, and that meant meeting Tatiana on our local subway stop (Appropriately, it is an F Stop.) We have always loved weddings with first looks, because they give a private, emotional moment without taking away one bit from the emotion of the ceremony, and Tyler took a logistically challenging first look and turned it into incisive, emotional photos — never intruding on the moment even while getting right into the emotion with his 35mm.

As for the anniversary wedding, June 9th, the big shebang – we knew this day would be, well … nuts. Really, that was the point. We knew that we easily have another thousand weddings left in our career. No way were we going to go to more weddings and keep thinking “Man, I wish we’d enjoyed our weddings as much as THESE people.” We wanted to throw a blowout party, leave all of our guests well-fed, with thighs sore from the dance floor and heads sore from the bar. We needed someone who could capture the crazy — and luckily we knew some of the best in the world at that — Two Mann Studios.

Erika and Lanny are great at capturing crazy because they ARE crazy — able to be friendly and open even while visibly intense about their work. At one point Tatiana told them they could take it easy during the getting ready and Lanny said “You don’t understand … we don’t take it easy.” I understood because I knew them better … and because it’s what we would say.

What sort of craziness was in store? Well, we decided to invite 250 people. We wanted everyone to spend their time dancing and talking and mingling, and we knew the best way to do that is to take away their chairs.

No fixed seating, a five-hour cocktail hour with a dance floor. I also knew this may not be for everyone, so I wanted to make sure that even if guests didn’t like to dance, they would go home very well-fed. That’s where CxRA came in. We’d done a wedding for one of their directors and were amazed at the quality of their food as well as their professionalism. Everyone talked about how amazing the food was … food that we, of course, did not eat. Wedding clichés? They’re all true. It does go by in a flash, and unless you make it a priority, the bride and groom are too busy to eat. We are particularly grateful to Gina DiCarlo, who headed up the staff at our event. She ran the show seamlessly … and now we’re extremely excited to shoot her wedding next year.

But there’s more. You see, Tatiana is, well, optimistic. She played a number of long-shots for the wedding, and not all of them panned out. No, Chelsea Peretti did not reply to our IG invite, and no, President Obama did not attend either. But some of them, against all odds, did. Tatiana donned two amazing dresses from fashion designer Rani Zakhem after calling him personally … in Lebanon. And we’d always loved Postmodern Jukebox, particularly with Robyn Adele Anderson, so she posed the idea of contacting Robyn to play even a portion of our wedding. “That’s silly,” I said. “That’s not the way the world works. They’re on tour in Germany anyway. It won’t work.”

I was wrong. Robyn replied — with astonishing promptness for someone touring in Europe — and she would be coming back to the U.S. shortly before. We quickly worked something out, and Robyn not only showed us she was a consummate professional throughout the planning process, but she KILLED it in a 45-minute set at the end of our cocktail hour. Seriously, just to hear this, by this singer, play right before our ceremony … was amazing.

About that ceremony. The Bell House has one of the most theatrical stages we’ve ever seen. We’d already married each other politely and solemnly … TWICE. Now it was time to have some fun with it. Christopher Shelley concocted a script for some of our closest friends to read, re-enacting our early relationship in a rhythmic, semi-musical chant. My cousin Jay performed a wedding song again, but this time it was a lyrical version of “Started from the Bottom” … very fitting if you know our early history. And we ended the ceremony by me jumping off into the audience, followed by a giant balloon drop, as one has at their wedding.

But that was not the most theatrical thing to hit the stage that night. You see, we’ve been to A LOT of weddings, and by the end of those days we are most jealous not of the couples, but of the little kids who take off their restrictive formal clothes and run around the dance floor in PAJAMAS. So we thought we could extend that comfort to our guests with a “pajama hour,” which, in deference to our often competitive friends, was also a pajama catwalk contest judged by the three J’s — my cousin Jay, Tatiana’s brother, Jason, and our friend, sexy-hair Jason.

Because you know what they say… “It’s not a wedding until the bride gets hit in the face with a rose thrown at her by a man wearing a judges’ robe because he liked how she modeled her pajamas.”

(I guess I should mention at this point that, in addition to being extraordinarily grateful to our photographers, we are also insanely jealous that they got to shoot this wedding.)

We are most grateful to everyone who came and celebrated all this madness with us. It was been wonderful to re-live this day through the pictures. Of course, having invited 96 wedding photographers, our guests photos were … not the usual, and even though we wanted for our friends to take a night off for fun, we are still over-the-moon happy to have video from our friend and videographer Seth David Cohen and the best “casual guest photos” ever taken ever from Ben and Erin Chrisman, who are simply incapable of being casual. We also got valuable help from our friend, the lovely wedding photographer Nessa Kessinger. Knowing how much would be going on at any given time, and how hard it is to choose between shooting beautiful details or all of the moments going on around you, we asked Nessa if she would photograph details on both days. Nessa does details with an eye that would make Wes Anderson proud, so we are deeply grateful for her help.

Just writing this stuff seems like a dream. We feel so eternally lucky to have had so much come together and to be able to celebrate with nearly everyone we love most in the world. We are so excited to share some of the photos of the weddings with you, from each of these incredible sources. And the things we learned from being in the position of our clients? That’s a whole other story, and an even longer one.

June 9, 2015: Prospect Park by Inbal Sivan

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June 8, 2016: Frankie’s 457 by Tyler Wirken

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June 9, 2016 at The Bell House by Two Mann studios

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