I said it many times how much I love to work as a second photographer. Firstly because it keeps my mind and body active and secondly because wedding photography is my second religion. With every wedding I photograph and every wedding photographer I meet I grow as a human and as a professional. That means more experience, multiple ways to try different compositions and techniques in order to improve my overall wedding photography skills.
I remember I met Alexis Jaworski for the first time in the beginning of 2017. We were friends on Facebook before and I knew his awesome work (street photography and wedding photography). Since our first beer we kept in touch and somewhere in July last year Alexis asked me if I am available to help him to shoot a Sikh wedding at Grand Station in Wolverhampton. If you follow me on Instagram you may know I am a big fan of Indian food and I am fascinated by their culture. If you don’t, go back, click the link and hit the follow button. Next time when I’ll go to my favorite Indian restaurant I will spam your feed with Indian food pictures. Of course, if you like it.
There we go! I travelled for R and D’s Sikh wedding from London to Coventry then to Wolverhampton. Alexis picked me up from his town’s train station one day before and we travelled together since then. For two hours and a half we had the most interesting conversation about street and wedding photography, about goals and travel, about past, present and future, about our roots and families, life philosophy and then back to weddings as a long Indian wedding day was near. He said to me he shot R and D’s engagement session few weeks before and they are amazing people, they know each other, we will have a lot of fun together and there will be plenty of…Indian food! I was already drooling at the thought of some Bombay potatoes.
THE STORY OF A SIKH INDIAN WEDDING AT GRAND STATION WOLVERHAMPTON
For those of you who don’t know how a Sikh wedding is, I will tell you that their getting ready starts early in the morning. If you are a wedding photographer and aim to shoot Sikh Indian weddings it is mandatory to learn and know every step of the day. Further on I will briefly explain my experience and what I’ve learned after shooting many Sikh weddings.
So, at around 5.30 we had to wake up. After a quick shower I grabbed my bag and I jumped in Alexis’s car. We had a quick coffee and at around 6.30 I was knocking on D’s door, even he said to me I should be there around 7. I found him excited by what was going to happen and he was almost dressed, ready to arrange and fix his red turban. Before going to Gurdwara (the Sikh temple) for the Milni, D received his best friends and family for the Barat (Barat is the term used for groom’s side). He was blessed and fed and he also received some gifts.
After this short procession we left his house. On our way to Gurdwara, D, his mother and his best man stopped for prayers at a temple close to their house then we proceed for the Milni. There, me and Alexis joined forces. The Milni is the official meeting of both families. Key male family members from both sides exchange garlands and greet each other, symbolizing the acceptance of two families into one. After the Milni we went for breakfast and I was happy to have some veggie samosas and pakoras along with a cup of tea. We were almost ready for the main ceremony.
What do you have to know before entering the Gurdwara?
Cover your head! If you are a woman photographer bring a long scarf with you so you can cover up shoulders and arms if asked or make sure you avoid low-cut tops. As a male photographer it is easier as the temple will provide a head covering. I normally have a bandana with me, but this time Alexis provided me one and we were more than happy to take a selfie.
Remove your shoes! You will be required to take off your shoes. Don’t worry, you won’t lose them. Just be sure to put them in a part or side of the designated area you will easily remember. Once I forgot where I left my shoes, the bride and groom were ready to leave the temple and I went out without shoes to photograph their exit.
The main ceremony
R & D’s Sikh wedding ceremony was shorter than normal, but very emotional and full of colors. While I was happy to get close with my 24 mil, I also enjoyed using the 70-200. In fact, these two were the only lenses mounted on my two Canons for this wedding day. It is good to know that women and men are often seated on opposite sides of the temple and to keep in mind that bridal party and close family make up the first rows. As a photographer you may lay on the ground to find different angles and compositions, but have in mind not to point your feet in the direction of the holy scriptures book located in the front. I learnt that while I was shooting my first Sikh wedding.
During the ceremony a lot of emotional moments happen around so make sure your eyes are wide opened: guest and family praying, hugs, sometimes tears, key people will stand straight with folded hands and join in the prayer, the bride and groom will walk in tow around the holy book four times. If you photograph your first Sikh wedding you may not know all the moments and my advice is to shoot everything! You may come back home with hundreds of gigs. My first one summed around 370 gigs, but I reviewed all the frames later and I learnt a lot about their wedding day key moments.
The Sikh wedding ceremony has like 7 important moments: Kirtan, Ardas, Palla, Laava, Ardas again, Sagaan and Kara Parshad. You don’t need to learn by heart all these terms. I am interested in the Indian culture and my will was to learn as many things as I can.
Alexis informed me before the wedding day that R & D are looking for real moments and a documentary approach, so I was even more excited as telling the story as it happens is my strongest skill.
A PARTY TO REMEMBER AND A SPECIAL DOLI (THE BRIDE LEAVING HER PARENTS HOUSE)
After the main ceremony, a vibrant party started at Grand Station. Actually, I knew the Sikh wedding parties are out of this world. Me and Alexis prepared a setup of off camera flashes around the dance floor so we can easily work. R & D said to us they want to party until their feet will stop responding, so their couple portraits were not a priority. We had them probably for only 10 minutes. I won’t tell you more about how much fun they had, the pictures speaks for themselves.
After the party we went to R’s parents house for the Doli. Before being left to step inside, Dal had to bribe the bridesmaids so we witnessed some games at the door.
Doli is a very emotional part of Sikh weddings and refers to the ceremony in which the bride leaves her parents house after the wedding. The bride is usually accompanied by a younger brother or cousin. D had to say good bye in tears to everyone. Everyone hugged and blessed her, then all the boys pushed R & D’s car before leaving.
After this amazing day, Alexis drove back to his city. As I had to photograph another wedding next day I had to catch the last train to London. And we arrived just in time, three minutes before the last train of the day stopped in his city! Thank you and cheers buddy! I hope we will repeat this experience!