When Mo’s sister Fara and her fiance Sham messaged us asking to photograph their modern Ismaili wedding we were thrilled! Not only was it going to be at the incredible Aga Khan Museum that I absolutely love, but it was packed with Afghan and Ismaili wedding traditions that I haven’t photographed before.
People often contact us asking if we have shot a particular cultural wedding. Whether a traditional Jewish wedding or beautiful Ismaili customs, in 99% percent of cases the answer is YES! I was beyond blessed to witness many cultural wedding traditions from a Buddhist wedding to a Greek Orthodox wedding ceremony and I’m always excited to photograph something that I haven’t seen before.
While there are some cultures that I haven’t photographed, it doesn’t change the outstanding results. Our couples are often attracted to Mango Studios because of our signature storytelling style and natural portraits. That approach remains the same even if we photograph a traditional wedding we haven’t witnessed before.
As with any weddings we photograph, I start with meeting my couple and going over their wedding day details over a cup of tea. I ask them how they envision their day to unfold and help them to come up with a wedding day timeline. As soon as it’s confirmed, I ask them if there are going to be any special events such as a gift exchange, or special traditions during the ceremony. This is where communication is key. It’s very important for your wedding photographer to know every little detail so they can be better prepared to photograph that moment in a beautiful way.
Fara and Sham are both super cool, down to earth people and they wanted their wedding photos to look distinctly cinematic. Coming from two different cultural backgrounds, they also wanted their wedding photos to be filled with warmth and a sense of unity with their family. They did a great job explaining to me which Afghan and Ismaili wedding ceremony traditions I can anticipate during the day. Sham would receive a special shawl from an elder member of his family in the morning and get his parent’s blessing once he’s ready to leave the house. Fara and Sham would enter the ceremony hall together symbolizing the unity and equality of two traditions, then sit at a long family table to sign marriage contracts. The mullah, or the priest, would read their marriage contract and ask if they agree. Once the document is signed the priest would put the rings on their fingers and the groom’s mother would cover Fara with the shawl that the groom wore in the morning.
Knowing exactly what to expect helped me to position myself so I could get all the important moments while taking cinematic, photojournalistic photos. I was also able to prepare for the special moments ahead of time and pay attention to my composition and framing. This way I ensured that Fara and Sham’s photos would tell a story in a single frame while simultaneously capturing what was happening before my eyes and people’s reactions in a single frame.
So, whenever couples ask me if I have photographed a particular traditional wedding before, I always say that no matter what the traditions are, it’s the communication leading up to the wedding that matters the most. Keeping your wedding photographer in the loop and giving them a heads up on all the moments you’re excited about is key. After that, all you have to do is to trust their vision and to do the job they’re the best at – capturing your memories in an organic, beautiful and captivating way.