I read on the net about thousands of Moonies getting married all over the planet. Thousands. One group had 2,5000 brides and grooms getting married in the same ceremony. That’s big.
The biggest wedding I’ve shot here in Sri Lanka had 1,200 guests. When the bride-to-be told me how many people were showing up, I gulped. Gads. And it was to be a segregated wedding, with the women on one side of a partition and men on the other in the large Colombo convention center. And she only wanted females to do the photos on the women’s side. More gulps. I would have to shoot the wedding by myself for I had no female assistant at that time. What a job!
The bride was adorable. We talked for hours before the wedding. She explained how her Muslim wedding would go; that there were very few traditions involved, that the most important thing was to get the shot on the throne of her mother-in-law putting the thali on her. The thali is a necklace that is given by grooms' family that usually substitutes for a ring. The throne is a small-to-large stage upon which the bride sits and waits for the groom and his entourage of family and friends to enter the women’s’ section. The groom would then approach her, place a ring on her finger, and sit with her while his mother places the thali on her and blesses them. All the while I'm to take photos.
The convention center had been transformed into a gauzy fairly land of lights and flowers. Lipton Jaywawickrama (my photo partner) went to photograph the men’s side and I was on my own. I was nervous but I started photographing all the beautifully dressed women who were arriving; women wearing sarees and headscarves, women wearing sarees and no headscarves, women fully covered with their fancy bejewelled burqas. Lots of them. I had no time to think, just compose and click.
After the hall filled up, the bride came in with her crowd of family looking like a princess, her fluffy gown trailing behind her. Her hair was down and uncovered, which is normal for weddings while she’s surrounded by women. I was loaded down with camera lenses and a light stand that I was tethered to. I looked like a packhorse. But I got the shots!
Things went well until the all-important thali shot. My light stand fell over and I missed the shot! I thought I die, but the mother-in-law was happy to put the necklace on again. I missed that shot too, for I had stuffed the flash under my arm trying to balance my load! We tried again. And again. It took me a total of five embarrassing shots before I had success. I was ready to cry but the bride, groom, mother-in-law and family were all smiling, saying it was perfectly okay. Don’t worry, they said. How gracious of them.
The rest of the evening went well. People smiled for the shots amongst all the chatter. Lots of chatter. I was the only foreigner in the room full of 1,000 women and I couldn’t have felt more comfortable.
My darling first little Muslim bride is now the mother of one, with another on the way and Lipton and I have photographed three of her sisters’ and brother’s weddings. We are officially their family photographers.
That first Muslim wedding has catapulted to scores of others over the years and I now have a female photographer who accompanies me to the segregated ones. No more fiddling with light stands either; we are completely portable now!
The above bride and groom have asked me not to publish their pictures,
so I'm posting several who have agreed to be published.
The throne of one Muslim couple.
The bride and flower girls wait on her throne for the groom.
The groom puts on the thali.
Such a darling couple!
This Muslim bride chose to cover her hair.
Her gorgeous gown weighed a ton!
Beautiful! I couldn't resist posting this one.
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