Faux Real Though - The Big Fake Wedding NYC

Earlier this Spring we had the pleasure of participating in an event called the Big Fake Wedding…and yes, it was every bit as awesome as it sounds. Allow me to explain. The founders of the Big Fake Wedding set out to create a bridal show alternative, where newly engaged couples (known as “wedding guests”) can connect with local vendors at an event that mirrors an actual wedding. Guests are invited to attend a vow renewal ceremony and dance-party reception for the chance to see prospective event planners, officiants, DJs, cinematographers and photographers in action. 

Sounds exciting right? Oh it was. And here’s what I decided: if a real wedding had a baby with a Spartan Obstacle Course Race, this would be it. The love-child hybrid event that somehow serves as an emotional vow renewal for one lucky couple, a cake-tasting dance-a-thon to hundreds of guests, and to the participating optics like ourselves, an eat-or-be-eaten athletic quest of performance, skill and stealth, all juggled while navigating a sea of lenses from our fellow competitors, vying for the same ideal shot. Don’t get me wrong, the experience was entirely amicable and not only did we get to learn, laugh and play with the other photo/video teams, we also had the unique opportunity to wield our cameras while satisfying our ever-lasting fantasy of competing on American Ninja Warrior all without having to leave the comforts of Midtown Manhattan.

The reason for all the clamoring can be summed up in two words: the Ryders. A couple who redefines the depths of unwavering commitment and unencumbered love. They first met at a Young Life camp over a decade ago, tied the knot in 2007 and have since conquered cancer, defied doctors and witnessed the miracle births of their three beautiful daughters. To meet Libby and Justin is to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the best things really do come after the wedding. Their’s is the kind of marriage that radiates quiet strength and passionate unity, without so much as a word. 

When they did open up to share their own vows, Libby and Justin boldly bared the hearts before a room full of perfect strangers, inviting us all into their emotional story of unhindered faith, abiding friendship and the kind of loving devotion you’d only expect to see at 30+ years, let alone a 10th anniversary celebration. 

We walked away from the experience not only moved to our core by our new friends, the Ryders, but blessed by the opportunity to meet and collaborate with a stellar team of talented designers, creatives, entrepreneurs and soon-to-be-wed guests we won’t soon forget. 

See below for our own photo recap and a list of featured talent. Highlights also featured on Ruffled, WanderKnot and The Big Fake Wedding as well. Enjoy!

 

Fairygodmothers in the South of France

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To be fair, the ladies of Lucky You Events do far more than "bibbidi-bobbidi-boo" to plan the perfect destination wedding, but the final result is simply magic.

That's why we're proud to announce our partnership with the extraordinaire planners of Lucky You Events—designers and curators of dream weddings in the French Riviera and Provence. See below for their latest announcement, as featured on Weddings in the French Riviera: 

LUCKY YOU EVENTS INTRODUCES OUR DESTINATION WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY PARTNERS: 

"This Spring, as the weather warms and wedding season begins to bloom, Lucky You Events is welcoming the arrival of something new—our first cross-Atlantic collaboration with the esteemed photographers of Gina Esposito, Inc. After a notable rise in couples turning from the States to the South of France to host their dream wedding, we too have broadened our vision and explored new ways to better accommodate our growing base of provencal dreamers, planning from across the pond. 

Thus, the introduction of a new partnership with New York City’s premier photography boutique. Led by best friends, Gina Esposito and Sheena Meekins, the Vogue-meets-vet photography duo brings more than thirteen years experience capturing weddings for couples from Manhattan to the Middle East.

Now, by teaming up with Lucky You Events, this preferred partner is uniquely poised to serve U.S.-based couples, with unparalleled experience understanding, catering to and capturing the vision of hundreds of couples tying the knot at home or abroad. In honor of the collaboration, Gina Esposito Photography is now offering incredible incentives for couples working with Lucky You Events and planning a wedding for the 2017 or 2018 year. 

We caught up with Gina and Sheena to chat destination weddings and the top questions couples ask (or should be asking!) their photographers prior to booking for their big day. Read on and feel free to chime in with additional questions in the comments below. 

Destination Wedding Photography - FAQ’s:

Q: What matters most when selecting a wedding photographer? 
The two things that matter most are style and chemistry. First, you have to like their work, then you have to like them. Start with their aesthetic, look for mood, versatility, detail and emotion. An experienced photographer should be able to capture all of these, while telling a comprehensive story of your day. 

Pay close attention to their use of color. Do they seem to capture personality or do images feel forced? Remember that their website is likely to represent the “crème de la crème” of their work. If you don’t find this portfolio particularly appealing, continue your search, rather than settling on a vendor that doesn’t take your breath away. 

Finally, read their reviews. It’s important that your photographer is not only talented and experienced, but reliable and personable as well.  


Q: Why is it important to meet or Skype with your photographer prior?
If it’s possible to meet your photographer(s) in person, this will always be the recommended option. The photographer is the vendor who spends the most time with the couple during their wedding day—usually there from when the bride or groom are getting ready in the morning, until the end of the night. It’s important to feel comfortable with their personality and aligned with their temperament—they’ll be shadowing you all day long! 

Also, we often find that the best photos come from the most relaxed environments. When we’re shooting with a couple, but it feels like we’re simply hanging out with friends. In those times, there’s a certain chemistry in the air and it’s something you not only feel in the moment, but also see it later in those amazing images.

Of course, a face-to-face meeting isn’t always possible, so be sure to set up a Skype or FaceTime session to ensure that you’re on the same page creatively and linguistically. It’s one thing to connect over email, but you’ll also want to confirm that verbal communication flows freely between you and those responsible for documenting your day. Plus, it will be nice to see a familiar face among the vendors there you with on your wedding day.


Q: Have you shot in this venue before? 
This is one of our most frequently asked questions, whether shooting at home in New York City or abroad. Our answer is always the same—there’s comfort in shooting what’s familiar, but there’s curiosity in capturing the unknown. Couples are often urged to use a photographer whose shot in their venue multiple times. However, when it comes to creativity, novelty is far more valuable than familiarity. 

As a photographer, your vision is never as clear, your senses are never as sharp as when you’re first introduced to a new environment. This novelty yields curiosity, and curiosity is a photographer’s best friend. So when the atmosphere is fresh, the experience holds as much wonder for the photographer as it does to the couple—it’s something you can feel in the photos. That no detail was counted mundane, no beauty considered routine, no texture unappreciated for its abundance to the native eye. It’s something we have to remind ourselves of when shooting at home in New York City—to marvel at the grandeur we’ve become so accustom to here in the beauty of our own backyard. 


Q: Is it true that I only need one photographer for a destination wedding? 
While the cost of one photographer is often more appealing than the price of two, the advantages of two photogs far outweigh the savings. For starters, two photographers are able to work faster and save you precious time—such as capturing his and her family portraits simultaneously, so you can get back to your guests sooner. 

Also, keep in mind that one person can only be in one place at a time. So if a single photographer is busy capturing the main event (say, you and your partner exchanging vows) there’s no one else available to catch the father with tears in his eyes, or all the incredible reactions happening around the bride and groom. There are so many perspectives that couples tend to miss during their wedding, it’s better to have thorough coverage of these moments, than to tell a partial story of your day.


Q: Why work with a destination photographer vs. using someone local?
There are definitely major benefits to having a dedicated destination photographer. When we travel abroad for a wedding, we, like the couple, are stepping into a distant land and experiencing all the magic that comes with a fresh adventure. From the moment we arrive, our cameras are always snapping—capturing all the elements that surround the region, not just the venue. To us, a destination wedding is about more than just the day-of events, there’s an entire story to be told and the location itself is a character. We love to capture the atmosphere of the region, the people and all the textures surrounding the town. These all play a part in telling the complete story of where and why the couple is there. 

Also, included in our destination packages is the option of a complimentary second-day shoot. These days, many weddings have become a series of weekend-long events, so this second shoot is something couples can use for a welcome brunch, rehearsal dinner, day-after wine tasting event or even a couple’s shoot in a separate location within the area.

For those adventurous couples, this is an amazing opportunity to take full advantage of the destination, either shooting in a nearby city or town, on the coast, in the mountains or anywhere too far to travel on the wedding day itself. It’s the perfect opportunity to wear that stunning dress once more. In fact, many couples take advantage of the chance to amend their look for a second day shoot. Say the bride went for a romantic updo on the wedding day—now’s the time to wear it long and loose. Or perhaps guys can opt for a untied bowtie or none at all. It’s truly a great way to have your cake and eat it too.


Q: How many photos should you receive from your photographer and should you expect them all to be edited?
It’s important to speak with your photographer about their post-production policy before signing an Agreement. Some photographers promise to deliver thousands of images, and it leads couples to believe that they’re getting more for their money, when they’re simply receiving a barrage of unedited images. Our recommendation is to beware of any photographer who simply slaps the images on a USB drive and delivers them without any proper editing. 

Most photos require some degree of post-production work or color-correction to bring them to their best. This is actually part of the art itself—to enhance the emotion and pull forth all the details our human eyes perceive differently than a camera. 

At the end of the day, there’s no specific number. You may receive several hundred or even 1,000+ images, depending on the length of your wedding day. The most important thing is to make sure that each photo has been reviewed and properly edited prior to delivery. 


Q: Can you recreate a specific photo we found online?
These days, many brides approach their wedding day after having spent a year pinning their favorite images and Instagram shots into a wishlist for their wedding day. We often receive special requests to recreate specific images—and we’re always game to try! At times, the location, lighting and atmosphere will allow us to duplicate their vision perfectly. Other times, we’re shooting a winter wedding with a bride who wants to recreate a summer beach scene—not so easy. 

Although there are many factors that contribute to replicating an exact shot, we always take the inspiration into mind and aim to deliver the same aesthetic, spirit and effect they originally wanted to capture. All photos are ultimately a collaboration between the photographer and the couples themselves, so we always welcome brides and grooms who arrive with their own creative vision.


Q: And finally, what are your top destination Do’s and Dont’s:
Do: Consider a mobile-free ceremony. There’s nothing that spoils the timelessness of a cliff-side chateau faster than an audience full of glowing blue screens. We often see guests spilling into the aisles, competing for the best shot and interrupting the atmosphere. Instead, we recommend inviting your guests to be present in the moment and leave the documentation up to the professionals :)

Don’t: Be afraid to get the bottom of your dress dirty. Sometimes a quick stroll through sand or stone is the only way to get to the heart-stopping photo location of your dreams. A little kiss from mother nature will wash away easily and we promise, it’ll be worth it." 

 

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PRE-SEASON PLAYDATES

When its 65 degrees in early March, a sort of frenzy emerges as (otherwise) social beings escape from their lairs, in search of fresh, coat-less adventures and the slightest taste of anything resembling Vitamin D. Whether a product of global warming or a late-winter mercy gift from God Himself, these warm weather gems call for nothing short of excessive celebration. 

And celebrate we did. Complete with all the sequins, pomp and circumstance one can muster with a gracious 48-hour warning from weather.com. 

The location of choice: a little sliver of bohemian bliss, also know as the new Francis West flagship boutique. After a quick trip out of the city, we joined NYC hair goddess, Nikki Avanzino, assembled the glam squad at Elle B Make Up Studio, secured a selection of gowns and accessories from whimsy Wonder Woman, Carol Hannah and let the playtime begin. 

Our vision—to draw inspiration from the designs themselves. Mythical meets minimalist, at the intersection of early spring.

LOVE OF THE IRISH 

I know St. Patrick isn't the same as St. Nick, but something about today actually feels like Christmas. We had the privilege of shooting the surprise elopement of Belfast's most beautiful couple (clearly no bias here at all). Otherwise known as the new Mr. and Mrs. Adams. 

It turns out the high school sweethearts, Farrah and Conor, are as adventurous as they are in love--deciding just weeks ago to book their trip, hop the pond and create (yet another) reason to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, forever. 

As luck would have it, they invited us to City Hall to capture their surprise elopement. In walks a sleek, backless beauty with her tweed-tailored Irishman and, needless to say, the rest was history. As the NYC parade kicked-off uptown, they exchanged vows downtown, bursting with elation through a short, intimate ceremony before heading off to Brooklyn for a celebration all their own. 

Farrah and Conor, thank you for allowing us be a small part of your story. Here's a sneak peek to help you share the wonderful news ;)

 

SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE

I’ve always believed that good things come in three’s. This is possibly a bias towards my favorite number, or perhaps it's merely the curse of perpetual optimism. Either way, this lucky phenomenon is both proven and validated by one simple word: Trifecta. It's a term defined as “a run of three wins or grand events” (a.k.a good things… in three’s). 

This was the word that came to mind a few weeks ago, as we rolled our photo gear out of Al Badia Golf Club, trying to make sense of the glorious celebration still booming behind us—trifecta. It was the only logical conclusion to the beautiful collision of Nigeria, Ethiopia and Arabia, somehow happening all at once. 

That collision, was the international black-tie affair where Ms. Betty Samuel became Mrs. Chinedum Nwaneri. A stunning Ethiopian/Eritrean bride and strapping Nigerian groom with enough style to give the Middle East elite a nice run for their money. The couple tied the knot in none other than Dubai, the city of their courtship.

It was there in Festival City that we found ourselves in the midst of one of those nights you’ll never forget. Surrounded by guests from all over the globe and enmeshed in one of the most colorful cultural events we’ve ever had the pleasure of shooting. 

What began with a custom white gown and embroidered tuxedo, gave way to a native Nigerian dress, golden head wraps and later—a regal pair of black and gold capes for the newlyweds. Each change ushered in a new spotlight of Nigerian and Ethiopian/Eritrean customs; blurring the lines of performance with the art of tradition and the beauty of love celebrated in earnest abandon. 

It was the kind of celebration that had its own pulse. A night so alive, it pulls in anyone and anything that’s not already nailed to the ground. Ourselves included—happily swept up into a place that existed neither west in Nigeria, nor east in Ethiopia, but somewhere in between. Somewhere that surely hung there in the Arabian sky long after the evening ended. 

 

 

THUG WIFE

Typically, most weddings have that one lively guest who carries the self-appointed title of Hype Man Extraordinaire. A role commonly reserved for that especially colorful groomsman, on a mission to see every preteen and grandma turnt all the way up. 

But for Nicole and Tim Caputo, this was not the case. This was a job for Nicole herself—the young, whimsical and effortlessly gangsta bride known as, Thug Wife. 

…Did that description just throw you off? It threw us off too. Because, admittedly, our first impression (and her extensively detailed wedding manual) had us expecting someone prim and proper. But buttoned-up as she seemed, we pulled up to Nicole’s, heard that beat drop from inside the house, felt the bass all the way across the street, and realized we were in for something new. 

That something, was one of our favorite parties of the year. A one-of-a-kind celebration of love and life—thug life. Because lavender, roses and wind-blown chiffon can really make a girl feel like a boss.

And honestly, after you’ve planned and executed the perfect wedding, you and your lady swag deserve a moment to celebrate. 

So with the permission of Mrs. Caputo herself, we bring you...

 

The Top Tips For Thuggin Out Your Wedding:

 

 1.    It's All About Your Ride-or-Die: Let’s face it, this is the reason why we’re all here. Because you said yes to spending the rest of your days sticking by your best friend through thick and thin. So maintain perspective ladies, it’s all about the love. 

2.    Thugz Mansion: When hosting your first reveal at Old Westbury Gardens, be sure to allocate time for the requisite soul train line (as seen in the movie, Hitch). Note: we know Will Smith isn’t exactly the face of hardcore thuggin, but feel free to channel your inner Rick Ross (or Nicole) for inspiration.

3.    Squad Up: Chemistry is everything. And because your bridal party is with you for the entirety of your day, be sure they’re girls who help create and carry the atmosphere you want on your wedding day.  

4.    Putcha Stunna Shades On: This is a big one. Pick a Maid (or Matron) of Honor who can speak from the heart and still slay the game on your toast. Bonus points if she spits her speech to a custom track like Nicole’s sister, Victoria. (p.s. can we please shoot your wedding one day?!) 

5.    Make a Mean Playlist: Whether your songs include Frank Sinatra, Fetty Wap or some glorious combination of the two—make sure the DJ knows your must-have jams. 

6.    Just Keep it Real: Above all, make sure your wedding day is YOURS. There’s often pressure to meet everyone’s expectations, but rememberthugs take orders from no one. So don’t shy away from being who you truly are. The most beautiful brides are the authentic onesnever opting for a fake smile when the moment calls for a deep belly laugh, a few honest tears or some serious mean muggin (like our girl, Nicole). You’ve waited your whole life for this day, be sure to show the real you :)

DANCE LIKE NO ONE'S WATCHING 

Crazy things happen in New York City. I mean... cray. This month alone, we've encountered a naked man in a box, heard unfortunate stories of a mass cricket-release on the F train and enjoyed a mid-sidewalk serenade by Pink Santa (because you know.. September..........).

All alarmingly normal incidences to the average New Yorker. 

So when we took to the streets with pancake tutus and a (seemingly) intrusive wish list of shots, we knew these un-phased pedestrians would prove the perfect audience for a day galavanting with the talented, Caitlin Olson. 

And galavant we did. Whipped by the wind of a passing train, tangled in the rungs of a well-placed fire escape,  dangling gracefully above the concrete landing pad below. 

We took to these activities with boundless, carefree joy. Basking in the emancipating comfort that comes when no one's watching. Be it barren platform or busy street—we danced our hearts out, knowing the security of this city's unspoken agreement. Passionate performance or peculiar scene, only few will bat an eye. 

INBAL AND CARISSA - PLEASE TAKE A BOW

Don’t let the big tires and tech gear fool you—we’re photographers, but we’re girly girls at heart. So when we see a gown like Carissa Bentley’s knockout number, we put the cameras down and take the requisite moment to swoon in the presence of such perfectly layered lace. 

And how could we not? Anyone with a pulse and even the faintest fashion sense would do a hard triple-take in a mere Inbal Dror drive-by. Because this isn't just a dress. It’s a work of sheer artistry from the supremely impressive designer that's quickly making “Dror” a household name. 

Our encounter began just like any other summer Saturday. We arrived at the bridal suite, calm and unassuming; greeted by the equally beautiful (soon-to-be) Mrs. Bentley. After introductions with warm family and winsome bridesmaids, we took in the subtle current of pre-ceremony buzz, grabbed a few lenses and got right to work. 

It was then that we slipped into an adjacent suite—a simple attempt to capture the jewelry and accessories, not knowing “she” would be waiting in the window. 

But there it was. Our first Dror encounter of the season. Layers of ivory culminating in a tulle train, draped in tapered lace. A trail of traditional buttons, giving way to a delicate mermaid silhouette. Crystal beading and appliqué straps leading into the deep, T-shaped cutouts of an embroidered lace back. This could only mean one thing.

We fell into a momentary state of dream-like adoration and finally snapped-to with one name on our lips—Inbal Dror.  The Israeli bridal genius has (unknowingly) sparked many-a-Instagram arguments over which of her stunning style was “ours.”

But now, here it was and one thing was clear—this one belonged to Carissa. And if the custom hanger left room for question, her glove-like fit was undeniable. This one was made for Carissa and beautiful wedding day to follow. 

So kudos to both the beauty and the brains behind this style stunning duo. You ladies have us ALL taking notes.


REVEALED

Throughout history, many cultures across the world have upheld traditions requiring brides to enter into special time of preparation before stepping up to the alter and into their new lives. For months before the wedding, they retreat for various rituals surrounding prayer and purification. Of course, we’re no stranger to the polish and process many brides adopt today; but after considering these time-honored practices, I couldn’t help seeing a few similarities reflected in a recent process of my own. 

While much less formal (and far from bridal) I’ve taken a form of a retreat myself. A brief intermission in more of a metaphorical than a physical sense, but a time for clarity and refining nonetheless. To take stock of my current position, my passions and goals, as an entrepreneur on the outside, but an artist at heart. To truly identify my core principles, evaluate my best work and reestablish my commitment for the journey ahead. 

Because stepping up to an altar, whether in a church, on a beach or under a tree; whether as a the officiant, the photographer or the bride herself, requires careful thought and consideration to properly revere the moment at hand. 

So with this process in mind–cleansing completed, purpose polished and reason rekindled, I’m ready for a first reveal of my own. Because today not only marks the launch of the newly redesigned ginaesposito.com, it represents the beginning to a new and exciting season in my life as a photographer. And call me old-fashion, but in the spirit of tradition, I’d like to mark the date with a few public vows of my own:

To let passion take precedence in everything I shoot. To favor personality over automated output. To say what I mean and shoot what I see. To lead with creativity and follow each story as its unveiled. To keep expectations high, and ego low. To aim for excellence and land on authenticity. To be present in the moment, sensitive to the atmosphere and conscious of emotion. To capture subtle nuance and grand statements alike. To never sacrifice integrity or lose perspective on the moment—these days are absolutely as priceless as they seem. 

Above all, I commitment to being myself, building my craft, taking nothing for granted and making memories of my own along the way. 

Here’s to the new chapter ahead.