Early April brought with it another beautiful same-sex marriage between two wonderful Canadian ladies. We engaged in plenty of correspondence with Susan and Joanna, getting to know one another on a more personal level before they decided to officially hire us as photographers. This dialogue contributed to a deeper understanding of the non-traditional elements of their DIY wedding in the Riviera Maya. They had already spent time reviewing the options through their resort, Grand Sunset Princess Riviera Maya, and felt that their wedding ceremony would be better off organized by themselves and their closest friends. We parted ways after first meeting, as it was time to get in to dresses and finalize jewelery with their respective assistant friends. Matt followed Susan, photographing the final touches such as placement of the barefoot sandals and a final glance in the mirror. With Ruth’s nod of approval, and a few deep breaths, Susan was ceremony-ready. And off I went with Joanna, the more demure and introverted of the two, who excitedly took the time to explain details related to the wedding, such as the imitation flowers that were ordered online from Scotland for their friend Stacey’s bouquet for the evening, as well as the countless brooches that were purchased from varying sources online so she could construct the handmade Do-It-Yourself brooch bouquets for each of them. When trying to collect her thoughts, Jo would have some beautifully intense pensive moments that could not be left unphotographed. And so the opportunity was seized, while seated, and while watching out the window, with a quiet happiness in her eyes. When it came time to head to the beach, Stacey ensured all was taken care of so Jo could just breathe deep and take in the peaceful moments leading up to her marriage.
Having met back in 2007, Susan and Joanna have shared many laughs and tears together, purchasing a house in 2009, getting engaged in 2010 and finally taking the opportunity to exchange vows in 2015. They wanted to keep things simple by organizing the day according to their needs and desires, where they could focus attention on the melding of various elements important to them for their wedding. This included the ability to have their friend Julie perform the spiritual ceremony that included the casting of a circle, calling of the triad, calling of the deity, calling of the ancestors, and several other key proponents of the sacred event. The blend of Scottish traditions, Greek Mythology, Paganism, Hand Fasting, and other similar traditions, is what made this particular ceremony so unique. It was precisely what made it stand out as the most memorable we have photographed. Each moment during the ceremony was well considered and tender, from the ceremonious pouring of the Canadian Club whiskey, and the symbolic lighting of cigars and a unity candle, to the offering of sweet water, flower petals and incense. Unfortunately, these motions were only symbolic because the wind was not cooperating with the events for the day, but it is the symbolic nature of these acts that was most important anyways. One of the most memorable moments, however, was their exchange of vows and rings, which was truly precious. The intonation in their voices, the nervous clasped hands, and the slight tremble in their respective pages while they read aloud all exemplified just how much emotion was spilling out, over those pages. Each were so adorable with matching bubblegum pink nail polish and wrists adorned with various bracelets and tied ribbons, and the dainty way they placed their respective wedding rings, matching Celtic bands, on each other’s fingers was so sweet and so thoughtful. It can’t be said enough, just how meaningful every aspect of this ceremony was, and how each moment was so well considered and significant.
The hand-fasting portion of their ceremony was more of a spiritual nature rather than a religious one. Both brides had previously mentioned that they, as well as their attending friends, are all exceptionally spiritual. They are all very much in tune with Mother Nature, sharing a love of water, but also a focus on the importance of the Triad in its entirety: Earth and the Spirits of the Land, Sea and the Spirits of the Ocean, and Wind and the Spirits of the Sky. So the inclusion of the handfasting played an important role in their marriage. Following this, they each took turns sipping whiskey from a cup of kinship, to acknowledge the blessings of their chosen tribe. Following this rite of passage, was their opportunity to seal their union with a kiss. And, as a first step in their journey as a married couple, they were to finalize the ceremony by jumping over a besom. The besom, also known as a witch’s broom, has been handed down to Joanna from her nana. The end of the ceremony is marked by the newlyweds jumping over the besom together, representing leaving their past lives behind, and bringing in their new life, together, united as one. They finished everything off with their first dance, to a song that they first danced to upon meeting and obviously holds significant meaning in both their lives. It may not be a typical wedding song, but they had a blast dancing together to AC/DC’s You Shook Me All Night Long. With each wedding we photograph, we thrive on the energy from the guests, and we rely on a bit of an instantaneous camaraderie with everyone involved, but this one took the cake, so to speak. Having had the opportunity to really get to know this adorable couple prior to their wedding, with open and honest email correspondence, really helped personalize the experience.
Once their dance was done, Susan and Joanna had a few very important and exceptionally dear surprises ready for their close knit circle of friends that were in attendance. Firstly, during the ceremony they handed out a rock to each friend, as a wishing rock, with the following simple instructions: “Take up one of these stones, and hold it in your hands throughout the rest of the ceremony. Fill the stone with all your good wishes and hopes for the newlyweds as they start their new journey. At the end of the ceremony, we will release that intention into the world, by throwing them into the sea.” Now had come the time to finalize this request and everyone took a moment to make peace with their wishes and toss the stone into the Caribbean Sea. Following this, the brides had a special gift for each friend, a small replica of the cup of kinship used earlier during the ceremony. This time, everyone had some whiskey poured into their respective cups, and ceremoniously sipped from them to bond their chosen tribe that much more. And before we knew it, it was time to branch off and spend some time photographing just the newlyweds. And it can not be stated enough, that these two ladies could not look at each other with anymore adoration than they do. They completely light up each other’s eyes, and their love is infectious in the best way possible. After hearing of some fairly difficult moments in recent years that had their wedding pushed back and had their focus on other portions of their lives, I felt so excited knowing they were finally getting the opportunity to follow through with their wants and desires. The energy that each attendee was giving off was welcomed and returned, and there truly was a connection between each and every one of us.