I first met Holly almost 5 years ago, while photographing her brother’s gorgeous farm wedding outside of Toronto.
With great joy and enthusiasm, I learned that she was planning a destination wedding in Jamaica and she chose to have me capture her preparations, culminating with the big day.
As far as I am concerned, this was a double bill: I was going to see some of my most favorite clients and their families again and, I was going to revisit an island so very dear to me. One combination that filled my heart with joy.
The week we have spent at the Riu Ocho Rios, Jamaica was filled with capricious weather: we had seen a lot of rain during the first few days to the point where the wedding planning team came up with a ‘Plan B’ for a ceremony in a covered area. Quite different from the original beach arrangements.
Of course one needs to adjust and accept what is in the moment…but I have to say, I would have been disappointed, and I am sure I would have not been alone.
But…there was no need for such feelings to be experienced, as the skies magically opened on the 4th day and the sun shone beautifully. My heart skipped a few beats that morning and I am certain, everybody else in the party must have been thrilled!
Holly and Robby received the most magical gift: the opportunity to live their dream of a wedding day spent entirely on the beach. They danced the night away on the sand and their joy was truly contagious!
I hope the images below were able to capture some of the fantastic energy surrounding an amazing group of people.
H+R: may your new life together be all about sunshine, joy and much love! Yours, Manuela
Sandra and Sean chose the Grand Palladium resort in Jamaica for their destination wedding. I was super excited to learn that I was going back to a place already so familiar and where I knew what worked fabulously in terms of photo taking.
Not to mention that I was received so well there and recognized a few of the staff members I met last year while staying at this great resort. Yes, I was slightly disappointed not to find ‘my’ read tree at Sunset Cove anymore and I learned it only blossoms from February to June. But still, the sunsets were amazing and I still very much enjoyed swimming into them. To the point where the beach guards told me one time :” You are brave, we do not like going in there when it gets dark!…”.
This was one of those great opportunity to enjoy the beauty of this island some more. And I thank Sandra and Sean for having chose me to capture their wedding day.
Just a few days before our trip, I learned that Sandra was 5.5 months pregnant. I have to say, she looked absolutely stunning and glowing in her wedding gown. This made it all even more special and I am sure, more emotional and memorable for the parents to be.
Walking down the isle while pulling some cool dance moves, Sean was the soul of the party: fun, upbit, ready to have the time of his life with family and friends. And I got a fair share of that!
Sandra and Sean, thank you again for making me a part of your destination wedding celebrations, be very well and please keep me updated with your baby news! Best, Manuela
As I look back at everything that happened before and during my trip to Jamaica, I can say it was synchronicity at play. Many things came together in a way that makes me think of magic.
I am sure it is, by now, pretty obvious that I love horses. And I travel the world to meet them in unique locations and write stories about them. This is how I stumbled upon a wonderful place close to Gran Bahia Principe Jamaica, the resort Jana and Darren got married at. Braco Stables is a beautiful equine operation offering horse back riding in the St Anne parish area. Under great management, the Braco horses are healthy, fantastic looking and sweet natured. Knowing I was going to spend time there, I asked Jana and Darren if they would be interested in a ‘trash the dress’ session at the stables. Luckily they both love horses and they responded to my suggestion with great excitement.
The rest is…what you see below. I do not quite have words that can do enough justice to the feeling of gratitude I experience every time I recall the hours spent together: us, the horses, the ocean.
I may have similar chances in the future. But this absolutely unique adventure will stay in my heart as a first of its kind.
Jana and Darren, thank you again for playing along with so much nonchalance, which made everything flow…enjoy these images and memories for a very long time. Hugs, Manuela.
From the Canadian West Coast all the way to Jamaica for their wedding…I am sure Jana and Darren feel it was the best decision they could have made. So do their family members and great friends.
I do not even know what I can personally say about how Jamaica was for me this time around…a week full of sunshine, sunset swims, culinary delights, warm breeze, astounding adventures with people, horses and combined.
I have been back in the city for a while yet I am not fully here. Plus, looking at all these amazing photos does not help…with the nostalgia. Well, I can only hope I can return for more, I never quite thought I would become so fond of this island where nothing is a problem….hmmm. Way to go, Jamaica!
The wedding….felt like a party with friends. I met some amazing people and my life is now enriched with new, lasting connections. I am fortunate.
Jana and Darren: I hope you will always enjoy life to its fullest and laugh with each other, always remembering the lightness and nonchalance we have all experienced by the ocean.
Destination weddings are a lot of fun to begin with but the experience feels even more rewarding whenever it is followed by a shoot that is more relaxed, laid back, casual: the so called ‘trash the dress’ photo session that usually does not have much to do with spoiling the dress. Even though many times brides choose to go into the ocean with their gown, nothing really happens to it. It can still be kept in its original shape.
Shivani opted to wear a light summer dress, very appropriate for the beach. That was a great idea considering the elaborate outfits she wore the day of. It was perfect for the purpose of our little creative adventure and she did not have to worry about anything.
By the time we made it to the beach the sun was already going down but we still had a little time to play. The beautiful cove had so much to offer: plenty of colourful backdrops, boats, a wonderful beach with super warm water. I think we were quite able to take advantage of all this while fully enjoying ourselves in the process.
The result: another lovely series to be used as a forever reminder of a good time shared with some fantastic people. Enjoy!
While sitting in front of my computer and looking at Shivani and Nimesh’s wedding photos, a song popped into my head:
Shirley Bassey’s “Where do I begin”…
This is exactly how I felt while looking at the images that vividly brought back the amazing experience I have had while at the Grand Palladium in Jamaica: a story about love, sea, dreamy beaches with red trees and a gorgeous couple that got united in marriage through the most incredible Hindu ceremony I have witnessed. Considering we were miles away from home and everything had to be flown down, I truly admired the dedication for having had all the symbolic elements essential to such a rich ritual in place.
The space looked almost like a temple with its white columns washed by the great light coming through. In spite of the heat, the humidity and I am sure, the difficulty to wear such intricate outfits, everything took place flawlessly and was a joy to watch.
While wishing for some afternoon clouds (which seemed to come in every day almost at the same time) and luckily not having any rain, the wedding party and I went to the beach and waited for the sun to hide. And it did. Almost at command.
After a nice little break we all met again at the reception. The chosen restaurant, with a beautiful sea and sky view, has demonstrated one more time how skilled the Jamaican cooks really are: they came up with a beautiful series of Indian dishes deliciously flavored.
The super entertaining DJs played some great tunes and the bartenders poured drinks while displaying impressive moves themselves.
All in all, after getting into the groove, the happy crowd rocked the venue. Ya Man!
Dear Shivani and Nimesh, thank you for making me a part of a very unique experience that will stay in my memory for a long time and big Congrats to you!
One of my very best experiences so far has been traveling to beautiful Arizona to capture Michelle and Stephen’s wedding events. Their celebrations started with a Western style rehearsal dinner at the quaint Pinnacle Peak patio in Scottsdale. I really felt like I stepped back in time, I would have not been too surprised if John Wayne himself suddenly crashed some of the local bar’s doors open, jumped on his horse and rode into the beautiful sunset Great party, fun crowd, tasty food and extremely friendly staff! Next day we continued on at the super elegant Four Seasons resort. Despite the super hot day, we enjoyed an impeccably blue sky and the sun shining over the perfectly kept patches of dessert surrounding the resort. I do not think I could have asked for more in terms of photo taking opportunities. The ceremony took place while the sun was setting behind the mountain creating a surreal, romantic atmosphere and casting a fabulous light. Cocktails followed and shortly after the party started. Michelle, Stephen and their guests danced away, almost non stop, throughout the night. I will never forget the vibe in the room once the High Energy tune began…I can still hear and see it all
Dear Michelle and Steve, thank you for the amazing opportunity of having spent some great days in one of the most beautiful corners of the world. I had a blast traveling around and discovering such majestic landscape! May you live happily together, enjoy each moment and hope to see you again in NYC soon and have more fun together! Hugs, Manuela.
The very first person who knew about the potential chosen spot for Mona and Emon’s post wedding photo adventure was my dad. This past December I was back home in Romania. One relaxed evening we were sitting beside each other, him doing his Sudoku and myself researching cool spots in the Punta Cana area. This is how I discovered Altos de Chavon. I showed my dad photos of it and he said to me: I really hope you make it there, it looks breathtaking! I brought the idea up with Mona and Emon while being a bit nervous about it. Because I knew it would take time and effort to get there especially the day after their wedding. I can’t say how excited I was when they decided to go for it! I knew this was going to be a memorable journey. Altos de Chavon is a replica of a Mediterranean village, built on a cliff and looking down to the Chavon river. To those interested, this is a private property and one has to pay quite a lot to get to take photos. We did not know how much until we got to the gate! The journey to this dreamy place was also rich in surprises as we got to stop in a sugar cane field, by typical Dominican homes and last but not least, we caught an unbelievable sunset which Mona and Emon got to enjoy while stepping into the ocean.
The images below are a colourful record of our adventures that day. One thing I love about editing the photos I take is that, while looking at each one of them, I get transported back and relive each single second.
Mona and Emon, I know how tired you were that morning when we started our journey, therefore thank you for being willing to go for it!
I trust you will look at these images and smile to yourselves while recalling many of those great moments we had together. Hugs, Manuela
Mona and Emon decided to get married at the beautiful Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana resort, surrounded by loving family members and great friends. Needless to say I was ecstatic to fly down and join them for the week. There is no better time to do this than January and take a nice break in a sunny destination by crystal clear waters.
Infused with both traditional and modern flavors, their celebration was a blend of colourful and visually appealing symbols. Creatively put together under the gazebo, the Sofreh (traditional Persian table covered by items rich in meaning) was beautiful and a perfect match to the beach atmosphere.
Below are just a few photographic details of the many symbolic elements, like: wallnuts = fertility, honey = sweet life, apples = divine creation of mankind, coins = wealth and prosperity.
The reception was held at the fantastic Jellyfish restaurant half an hour away from the resort. This place is a must see! It is spectacular, located right by the ocean and offers an unexpected experience on all levels: visual, culinary, service excellence. Needless to say the fun group hit the dance floor (setup right on the sand) and barely stopped for breaks throughout the night.
The party continued on the bus back to the resort and would have probably gone on til sunrise if we did not have to extend our adventure together with a ‘trash the dress’ photo shoot the next day. But about this a bit later.
I would like to particularly mention lovely Rebecca Elias from Luxe Destination Weddings for her great help throughout the day. She is simply a pleasure to work with and has a very special way of subtly making sure everything goes on smoothly. Plus, her suggestion for the reception to be held at the Jellyfish restaurant was fantastic! Rebecca, thank you for everything and particularly for pulling Mona, Emon and I out of the imminent storm!!
Mona and Emon, thank you for having made me a part of your wonderful celebrations, I trust your life together will always taste like the honey you fed each other during your wedding ceremony! Hugs, Manuela
After a splendid wedding day at the Riu Palace, Reyhaneh and Will decided to continue their adventures with a ‘trash the dress’ photo shoot. But the photo taking was just a part of the journey the three of us have embarked on that day. We made a first stop in Cabo San Lucas, the little town just 10 minutes away from the resort. What I recall as a dominant feeling throughout the day was our willingness to live through things as they came. Not a lot of planning ahead, with just a general time frame guiding us, welcoming each moment as it presented itself, we soon found ourselves floating away in a little boat taking us to the Lovers’ Beach, our next stop. I guess our Mexican friend somehow managed to tap into the way we were that day, so he decided to give us a little ‘tour’ before dropping us off on the beach. We drove around on choppy waters, getting extremely close to birds and sea lions, smelling the ocean, feeling slightly frightened at times but being immediately comforted by the calm on our Mexican friend’s face. Once on the beach, I felt it was really hard to take all that unusual beauty in. We needed a while to get over the initial amazement which literally left us speechless. The images below are just glimpses into the wild pure beauty of the place. Even though the surroundings were absolutely stunning, I am certain the photos would have not turned out the same if it wasn’t for the way Reyhaneh and Will are. Simply put, a dream to be around and photograph.
After a couple of hours spent on the beach, our friend came to pick us up and offered to drive us back to the resort in his boat. The tide was really high though and I recall one moment when, still in the boat and literally on top of a massive wave, I looked down at the shore and thought: we are stranded. We had to find another more calm spot and rush out of the little water taxi the moment it was pushed close to the beach for one fraction of a second. Once all safe on the shore, we watched the boat driving away and I still recall Reyhaneh’s words: ‘this feels like a movie: the boat vanishing into the sunset’…
Indeed, it all seems like a dream now. Yet, there are clear proofs of the fact that we have been there. Every time I look at the photos we took my heart fills up with joy and gratitude. Thank you again dear friends!