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Mala + Shane Part One: Mehendi Celebration, El Dorado Hills

(See Part 2: The Wedding here)

Some people in life you share the good times with. Some people you share the bad. Others you’re lucky enough to be there for both the sunshine and the rain, your relationship bonded by the shared laughter and strengthened by the shared tears. My friend, Mala, comfortably falls into the latter category. She is one of the most courageous, creative, passionate, and joyful people I know. We share our immigrant status, her from India and me from England, our artistic nature, and our love of travel. Our friendship spans fourteen years with babies born and marriages made and then failed. As she said herself while we were photographing her getting ready for this, the next, beautiful chapter of her life with her now-husband, Shane:  “you have been around for almost all the best moments in my life since I moved to the U.S.” It’s true and it’s humbling. This woman is my family.

Mala and Shane met online in the only way that two single parents really can these hectic days: swiping right. I knew it was serious when Mala disappeared from my social calendar and started popping up all over California with her daughter, Evani, Shane and his son, Aiden. The sparkle in her eyes when she talked about him told me everything I needed to know and so I wasn’t surprised when she returned from a Tahoe break, engaged. From the outside looking in, it looked like a whirlwind romance. But spend an hour or two with these guys and their kids, together, you realize one simple and very powerful fact: this isn’t just a coming together of two people that love one another, but the coming together of families. When people in love say they “found” one another, I think Mala and Shane’s new, blended family is exactly what they mean: together, they have been found. As I share their photos from their weekend, over and over again you’ll see that, yes, these are two people that love one another, but that this celebration is a family one, shared by both of their children.

The thriving Indian community Mala belongs to would never settle for a small wedding by the beach and so Mala and Shane planned a wedding weekend. A traditional Mehendi celebration on Friday night in El Dorado Hills and then a wedding weekend in Fort Bragg for a smaller group of friends and family.

If you’ve never been to an Indian party, you’ve never been to a party. They love to socialize and dance… and DANCE! Everyone can not only dance beautifully, it seems, but loves to perform on stage with abandon to happy, boppy, Bollywood tunes. Mala even got her non-Indian friends in on the act, choreographing a routine for some mutual friends who did an awesome job up on stage. Way to represent, girls.

Me, I hid behind my camera and tried to capture as much of all the joy and genuine love as I could, while also dancing and having a good time.

The evening began, uncharacteristically, with the bride-to-be, dressing her mother-in-law-to-be, Deb, in a Sari for the occasion. Their relationship is close and touching. Like I said… Mala found a family, not just a husband.

Mehendi Celebration, El Dorado Hills

Mehendi Celebration, El Dorado Hills

Mehendi Celebration, El Dorado Hills

Part Two in Fort Bragg is coming soon. Stay tuned…

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Zhengzhi and Yifan’s Winter Wedding, Sacramento Chinese Bible Grace Church

January weddings are always going to be fraught with weather concerns. For Zhengzhi and Yifan, however, the previously warm Januarys of the past few years here in Sacramento, were exchanged for a very wet-and-wild lead-up to their big day, complete with Weather Advisories for flash flooding and gale force winds. The day of their wedding, it said, was going to be the beginning of the worst storm we’d had in years. And I’ve seen some pretty crazy storms here in Sacramento so I didn’t take the warning lightly. Zhengzhi and Yifan, however, were calm and resigned to whatever weather they received, simply excited to get married in their church, with their closest friends and family watching.

In the end, it did rain, but on-and-off and not really very heavily at all until later in the evening. We managed to get outside a little with both of them, and without ruining their clothes. Zhengzi happily trotted out in a light drizzle with an umbrella and her bridesmaids holding her train. I was so proud of her. It rained on my wedding day and I refused to go outside; something I’ve always regretted.

This couple are so sweet, I found myself internally saying “awwww” throughout the day. The way Zhengzi looked at Yifan, her tears as they said their vows, the proud way he stood straight and crooked his arm so perfectly for her to hold, and the devotion with which they sang hymns in Chinese and English to end their ceremony… so many awesome moments.

Thank you to my good friend, Joy, for connecting me with this lovely couple. Congratulations and a lifetime of happiness to Zhengzi and Yifan!

Venue: Chinese Grace Bible Church | Second Shooter: Samantha Shapiro | Assistant: Vickie Horvath


Winter Wedding, Sacramento

Winter Wedding, Sacramento

1 Comment

  1. Joy

    I enjoy these pictures so much. They’ve captured the sweet essence of this couple so much, very true to themselves, and I can just see them looking back at these and being able to recount the little details for years to come. Congrats to the couple again! I’m so happy to be a part of this day, and seeing my bestie was a bonus!!!

    Reply

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Belinda + Mike – Wine & Roses, Lodi Wedding

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When I met Belinda and Mike for the first time at a Starbucks in Rancho Cordova, Mike (who is naturally a man of few words) told me in earnest that he knew from the moment he saw Belinda that he would love her and marry her.  A true case of love at first sight! Belinda blushed with that beautiful, shy smile that she has, and touched his knee. My heart melted and I was so glad they chose me to capture their wedding at Wine & Roses last month.

Belinda loved the flowers and gardens at Wine & Roses, which is hidden in plain sight on an unassuming, suburban street in Lodi. Their intimate wedding and reception took place in a small courtyard with gorgeous vines and trellis cocooning them away from the outside world.  Their ceremony was also short-and-sweet with a kiss that was so quick that I almost missed it. Bless the officiant because, to the amusement of everyone, he asked Mike for a redo and stepped out of the way so I would have a little longer to capture the smooch. Turns out I got the original one anyway but you can never have too many kisses at a wedding. And it was all good practice for Mike as we then were heading out around the Wine & Roses grounds for some post-ceremony photos.

Although her shoes were lovely, Belinda had to kick them off at one point during our travels and one of my favorite moments of the day was watching her and Mike sit on a bench in the courtyard while she kicked her bare feet around like a school girl. Belinda didn’t stop beaming the whole time and the way she looked at Mike just made me smile. These two obviously bring one another so much happiness.

After an incredible steak dinner and a lovely first dance, Belinda took to the dance floor with her daughters (who were also her bridesmaids) and friends, and I got to see a whole other side of her once the music started playing. That lady can dance!

Thank you to my assistant for the day, Katy and special appreciation to Sara Taylor and all the staff at Wine & Roses for being so wonderful to work with. That steak really was ahhhhmazing and I so appreciated everyone’s helpfulness in managing timelines, even when things were running fashionably late.

 

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Below image, Katy Morgan

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Cory + Raphael – Bolinas cliff-top wedding

I can’t believe how long it has been since I last blogged! I have so much in the pipeline to share but, as is the curse of many photographers this time of year, I’m so busy shooting I have little time to blog.

I’m chipping away, however, and SO EXCITED to share with you Cory and Raphael’s cliff-top wedding from last month!

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Cory was referred to me by my daughter’s best friend’s mom. It’s a small world here in Sacramentoland and to illustrate that further, I entered Cory’s getting ready room to find one of her bridesmaids was a photographer who had purchased a camera bag from me through Craigslist last year! As it turns out we had actually met one other time at a birthday party and not made the connection.

For their wedding celebrations, Cory and Raphael had chosen a private home on a cliff overlooking Bolinas Bay, just north of San Francisco.  Cory found the house on an online vacation rental site and picked it from photos alone, based upon the beautiful views and gardens surrounding the home. And it really was a spectacular backdrop with 180 degree views of the coastline and the Pacific Ocean.

The only thing that didn’t cooperate was the weather. Late September and it was in the mid nineties at the beach with barely a breeze and not a cloud in the sky. Given this is the Northern California coast, where it’s typically breezy, cooler, and often foggy, this wasn’t quite the climate they were expecting. But better than rain, most definitely.

Theirs was a small and intimate wedding, with only 20 close family and friends invited. Cory walked down the aisle holding the hand of their young daughter to meet and stand beside Raphael at the wedding arch. I love that the officiant chose to have them stand next to one another, looking out at their family and friends for the beginning of the ceremony as it created a connection with those special people who had shown up to support them.

After the ceremony and photos, everyone set into a relaxed and informal mode on the other side of the house to watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean as they ate delicious Mexican food. Then we all watched from below as Cory and Raphael put their arms around one another for their first dance as husband and wife on the deck of the house, the sky burning up behind them as the last of the sun disappeared below the horizon.

But by far my favorite part of the night was after all the celebrations and dancing was done. When the fireplace was lit and friends and family relaxed into the circular sofa surrounding it, toasting marshmallows, laughing and chatting quietly. I loved how unhurried the moment was, how Cory and Raphael got to connect with every person at their celebration, and that the end of their evening felt like a back yard party with the people they love. I loved the glow of the fireplace, the atmosphere created by the smoke, and those last moments when Cory, completely unguarded and still wearing her wedding gown, relaxed back into Raphael’s arms.

I couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful couple to work with. Cory and Raphael are huge-hearted, genuine, and easy-going people who clearly have a deep connection and friendship with one another.  They created a celebration that was unique and perfect for them, not bogged-down in the expectations of others or tradition.  I left the house with a huge smile on my face, hoping me and my camera would be invited to more weddings like this very soon.

 

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Thank you to my assistant, Vickie, for her help and companionship on that day. We made a day of our travels to the beach, enjoying a picnic in the shade of a Eucalyptus tree overlooking the ocean and a stroll on the beach before heading over to the wedding. Moments of down-time like that before the hours of being “on” without pause for a wedding, make me a better photographer for my clients. Love you girl!

1 Comment

  1. Joy Tsui Fong

    The view…the intimate feel of every detail…the ADORABLE flower girl…and the stunning bride and groom. So beautifully captured! This is a ceremony of two souls marrying each other. Not a show. No swarm of people they don’t know…they did it right! Congrats!

    Reply

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Kayla + James – Dunsmuir Hellman Historic House, Oakland CA

One of the greatest pleasures and privileges in photography is capturing important and emotional events for people you care deeply about. There’s nothing like the personal fulfillment you gain when shooting them nor the satisfaction in delivering the final images.

And so it was for my good friend, Vickie, whose niece, Kayla, married her love, James, this past May at the Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate in Oakland, California.

Vickie and I have been friends now for almost a decade and she is my oft-assistant on events such as this, sharing, as we do, our love of photography. This time, however, it was her turn to let her hair down and relax as a guest.

Vickie’s family is a close-knit and loving bunch. I don’t know all of them well, except through her passionate descriptions, but I know that, despite their challenges, the love that they share is honest and unwavering. I think the strength of their connection comes from Vickie’s mom who passed not long after I met her and whose vibrant spirit lives on today so vividly through her family’s remembrances that is as if she is still physically present. In the ebbs-and-flows of life, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, cousins and grandchildren have each taken on additional roles in each other’s lives and a-typical bonds have developed: cousins like sisters and aunts like mothers. It’s a tangled and complex web of fierce devotion and commitment, with each family member picking up where another leaves off at various times in life.

Vickie, in particular, seems to have assumed the matriarch role since her mother’s passing and, in addition to her own grown son, has very close relationships with her nieces and nephews. Through this, Kayla and I met a few years ago when she modeled for me and some friends at a photography meetup. So I knew even before I arrived at this historic house just a stones-throw from the I-580, that Kayla was spunky, funny, fiercely-loving and carefree, and that James was a smart and lucky man.

For sheer breadth of emotions on display and honest, heartfelt reactions from everyone – none more so than Kayla herself – this was hands down one of my favorite weddings to shoot ever.

Below image, Samantha Shapiro

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Below image, Samantha Shapiro.

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Below images, Samantha Shapiro

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Special thanks to my assistant for the day, Samantha Shapiro, who had literally just flown home from Costa Rica. Samantha is fabulous to work with on any day but on this particular Saturday I was particularly challenging to deal with, discombombulated as I was from a number of drugs I was taking from a sudden outbreak of hives. Better discombobulation than a frantically itching wedding photographer, I believe, but still I recognize that my brain was running in ten different directions at the same time and that left Samantha doing the same. I bow to her good-natured tolerance.

Thank you to Kayla, James and their entire family for allowing me the honor of capturing this day for them.

2 Comments

  1. Vickie Horvath

    These photos truly captured Kayla & James day perfectly. They live and cherish each moment and make family a huge part of their lives. They show their emotions, both joy and sadness and embrace those emotions whole heartily…we should all be so lucky. Their wedding was a true reflection of them both, with boundless energy, FUN and love of family. Congratulations and I can’t wait to see the rest of the photos!!!

    Reply
  2. DONNA CHAMBERLIN/Mom-Mother In Law

    Amazing pictures and capturing the moment. Great job! Can’t wait to see the rest of the pictures…..Truly a moment of memories forever.

    Reply

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Diana and Terry’s laid-back downtown wedding – Sacramento, CA

Diana and Terry have found love the second time around. Last month they gathered with a small group of family and friends on the patio of Mulvaney’s B&L in downtown Sacramento, for in intimate ceremony and dinner. 

These two are just too sweet, goofy and totally in love. Although all weddings are special and, culturally, we tend to play-down a second marriage, I find that there is something so easy-going and deliberate about couples where one or both have been through this before. Many of the trappings (gorgeous as they are) and pressures of that first celebration are stripped away and the day, like Diana and Terry’s, is just about making it official and celebrating all that goodness with people they love.

I dug how playful Diana and Terry got after a couple of their signature cocktails (for which I still need to write-down the mix.)  They played around with their chalkboard sign out-front and then, after dinner, commandeered the harpist’s instrument for an impromptu duet (or, at least, the appearance of one.)

Loved this couple and this laid-back afternoon celebration in downtown Sacramento.

Thanks to my talented assistant, Samantha Shapiro.

Thanks AND kudos to Katie Edwards at Ambience Floral Design for the bride’s gorgeous bouquet. Katy also provided the flowers for my own wedding several years ago and referred Diana and Terry to me. Katy is so talented and the freshness of her flowers is unmatched.

 

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Photo, below, Samantha Shapiro

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Photo, below, Samantha Shapiro

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Photo, below, Samantha Shapiro

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Photos, below, Samantha Shapiro

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Michelle McDaid is a lifestyle and documentary photographer based in Sacramento, California (and willing to travel), focused on telling the real life, loving and joyful stories of families, children and couples in love. To book a documentary storytelling session or wedding, please email Michelle to learn more about sessions and availability: michelle@mbymphotos.com or click here

To sign-up for Michelle’s e-newsletter series “Your Best Family Photos Ever” click here.

 

1 Comment

  1. Elena Gerli

    I love this couple. So sweet and accessible. Beautiful shoot, I feel like I know them a little bit.

    Reply

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