It is my dream that everyone can learn what it actually means to be loved.
It’s at the that moment where, no matter what, you can always rest confidently and no-one can ever take that away from you.
And with that love, the knot can really be tied in a multitude of ways.
My journey with Sofi & Sammy came as a sudden gift from a girl that I had once known in a past life.
Sofi and I attended the same high school several years ago and always prided that fact that we not only shared, let’s be honest, the best name there is but also had similar last initials and birthdays nearby to each other! I couldn’t have been more proud for her to choose me, years later, to capture this high point in hers and her husband’s new life together. This couple taught me that marriage comes in all forms of the senses. I learned more about culture with this wedding weekend than I had yet been exposed to - this is something that I will never forget and will always be grateful for. The road to Cloud Ndiyo began with two separate engagement shoots and then ended with two individual wedding celebrations —yes friends, that's four moments total with thousands of memories caught in time. Sammy’s family is Nigerian and it was very important for them to be able to honor this moment proper to their own traditions along with the more publicly known nuptial rituals.
Thursday, July 5th at 8PM
I walked through the doors of a very large ballroom to some of the most flashy decor, clothing and food. I started snapping away immediately, capturing every artistic element present. The wedding party was upstairs getting ready while guests mingled and feasted merrily amongst each other - this sort of celebration was one for the books as I had yet to be invited to a traditional Efik Wedding! Everyone was happy, and very welcoming - I felt at home here and enjoyed each interesting second of it. Traditional music queued as the guests began to congregate around the main doors to the ballroom.
The doors flew open.
Our men entered first, surrounded by traditional dancers, covered in many bright colors waving around noise makers and rejoicing to the beat. Sammy and his men stomped their feet, tossed their arms about and moved in synchrony to the rhythm. The parade lasted all the way into the room, front-to-back, and then around the front table where Sofi's parents waiting on their feet. Words were exchanged, Sammy professed his promise to Sofi for her parent’s approval and then the music changed. Our ladies entered the room.
The same sort of processional occurred, with happy cheering and singing. Sofi, surrounded by her bridesmaids, made her way through the crowds and met Sammy’s parents who were also waiting on their feet. Sofi professed her dedication and eternal love for their son and then met Sammy at the alter before their table. They climbed the stairs together and then sat in their seats above the decorated platform. Their view from their table was a perfect vantage point. They joined hands and then looked out over the cheering crowds with both native and traditional languages pouring out; our Queen had just named her King.
Saturday, July 7th at 11:30AM
I arrived at my photography wingman’s home to pick him up so we could carpool to the Air BnB.
Houlton is the Goose to my Maverick - my forever second photographer for weddings.
Coincidentally, his home was nearby to where we would capture my couple’s wedding prep moments.
We arrived to the brick town home just before 12 Noon.
We walked in, introduced ourselves and then promptly got to work. For much of the time Houlton covered the men and while I snapped Sofi on the sofa, writing her vows as the girls and mothers had their makeup professionally applied. All the way upstairs, the lighting was just beautiful. Did I mention the weather was an unusual but lovely 75 degrees in early July?! The girls danced around, quickly getting into their robes while pouring champagne and batting their freshly applied lashes. The makeup artists worked quickly as we snapped a few candids and then moved downstairs to catch the essential dress, shoes and jewelry details. Houlton was outside with the boys, seizing shots of the men playing a quick game of football before getting dressed. Chick-fil-a was ordered for lunch and the room smelled like Polynesian sauce and warm, breaded nuggets.
The makeup artists finished up and the ladies began to dress. The boys poured into the second floor and the music was turned up on the nearest iPhone available. Houlton worked with effort to get the men as they transformed into the freshest state possible. It was time for them to go as the first bus arrived. It was finally safe for the girls to move about freely through the house as I worked to capture the final moments before Sofi jumped into her dress. The bridesmaids labored to be sure every bridal adornment was properly attached and mounted to perfection.
We moved downstairs.
Sofi’s mother mounted the veil and I snapped furiously, as the natural light was pouring around their figures. Words cannot describe the angelic effect that was happening but I know we froze it perfectly in time. We heard the second bus pull up to the house and come to a screeching halt. It was time to depart and get ready for Sofi and Sammy’s final moments before forever. I hoped in the car, pulled around front, and Houlton jumped in and we were off.
We were heading downtown and of course my GPS took us past the exit. Shaking my damn head.
Thankfully, it was no biggie because we were re-routed and then before we knew it, we were where we were supposed to be: the American Visionary Art Museum. Sofi and her girls were unloading and the breeze flowed down the alley causing her veil to take to the sun - CLICK. The weather couldn’t have been finer for the turnout. Houlton headed up the Federal Hill, where he posed the men for their last group photos as I communicated with the family about our strategy moving forward.
It was time to head to the garden for the First Look(s). First came dad who was waiting with his back turned. Sofi made her way from the streets, to the steps and then around the corner, guided by her mother and our wedding planner, Tami, of Blush Weddings & Events. Sofi walked through the garden and up to her father as I snapped rapidly and then instructed dad to turn around. They hugged tightly exchanged a light kiss and then teared up together before moving forward to the last 'looker' of the day. Sammy waited patiently around the block, on the street side of the museum, for his bride. Sofi approached slowly, with both her parents trailing with her lengthy veil. I could see Sofi over his shoulder as Sammy did nothing but smile hard in my direction. I think he could tell by the increase of my clicking that she was very close and then it would be time to turn around. Three-two-one, he rotated and then laughed out loud. My couple smiled and gravitated toward each other with a fast momentum. They snuck a kiss and were nothing but smiles.
We captured the rest of the necessary shots needed, both outside and then inside, before the ceremony started. The wedding party moved inside and took their stations in the main entrance of the museum - it was time for the ceremony to begin. Everyone was seated and then all way quiet as the music began. the processional started, and everyone made their way down the aisle. This wedding was one of God, family, art and promises. Sofi and Sammy never hesitated for a single second and then before we knew it - our King got to kiss his Queen. The main doors flew open with Sofi and Sammy leading the way. Congratulations were exchanged as our newlyweds were finally blessed with their first round of specialty drinks for the night - I thought the bride was going to break out into her happy dance!
We walked around the corner and caught their newly-wed moments together as man and wife.
Up on the second floor, cocktail hour had concluded and the reception began. Guests found their seats within the rows of tables adorned by tall palm plants with touches of ivory and gold. Each table even had small frames with photographs of our couple’s pooches paired with sparkling elements.
Our wedding party marched in
Each group did a small dance, leading up to the ‘Mr. and Mrs.’ grand entrance. First dances rolled, in, toasts were made and all was perfect. Friends recounted good stories and shared memories between our great pair. And then it was time for dinner! The food was exquisite and so deliciously spiced with flavor. I had never had a vendor meal this elaborate that I was sure we were brought the wrong plates. Once reassured, I expressed my utmost gratitude to our server. Immediately following dinner, many guests had traveled to the balcony for a post-dinner cigar. The cigar roller was an a content man who smiled for every picture. I captured some spectacular night shots outside with smoke billowing around. It was now time to party as I could hear the music starting up with a racy beat ready for the final hours of dancing. From photo-booth snaps to lively bodies doing the boogie, Houlton and I were endlessly occupied until it was time for farewell.
We made our way downstairs just minutes before it was time for the newlyweds to exit the building and head to their afterparty at Little Havana. Tami helped us time this shot to the very second as our sparklers had a tight lifespan. Flames danced about and then the doors flew open as my King and my Queen skipped through the shining embers. I caught their final wedding moments, as they flew by me and down the street to their friends and family. Sofi and Sammy are certainly a couple for the books, and I will never forget the opportunities that they bestowed upon me. I will never forget those days that I was blessed with, full of culture and humanity, but most importantly family. But don't you forget:
"... love is a knot that can be tied in more than one beautiful way." ~ SOBED CREATIVE MEDIA