After 10 years as a wedding photographer, Scarlet O’Neill was tired of seeing couples obsess over the height of their centrepieces instead of living in the moment. So she made a point of reminding couples—and herself—what the big day was all about. “[I wanted to] make sure that love was the first thing that people were excited about when they talked about their wedding plans,” she says. It’s made all the difference: she now sees her job as the art of capturing true emotion. There’s plenty of emotion on display in the 34 pictures that comprise Love (Actually), the second annual exhibition of wedding photography that O’Neill has curated at the Gladstone Hotel, on now until February 25. We asked 10 of the photographers to share the stories behind their photos.
Wendy and Matthew
Photograph by Kat Rizza • June 2017 • The Guild Inn
Matthew refused to let anyone record video of his wedding because he didn’t want to remember how he looked at the time. “My appearance…was heavily altered due to the vast amount of medicine I was on to combat my failing kidneys,” Matthew wrote in the description that will hang next to the photo at the Gladstone. “I didn’t want the constant reminder of how ‘sick’ I looked on our big day.” He regrets not having video now: “When looking at our wedding pictures now, I don’t see a sick, fragile body. Rather, I see a beautiful girl with the most beautiful smile.” Rizza took this photo during their speeches, when Wendy and Matthew split a napkin in two to wipe their eyes. Matthew couldn’t get the words out to tell guests how he didn’t have to fight the disease on his own anymore.
Photograph by James Paul Correia • September 2016 • A backyard in Niagara-on-the-Lake
Dyann and Alan’s wedding was the epitome of a do-it-yourself wedding. The groom’s sister made the cake, the bride’s mother purchased flowers from Costco and arranged them herself, and the music played on an iPod. The only hired vendor was the caterer. “[The DIY feel] provided a level of intimacy that encouraged powerful emotions,” Correia says. “From the minute the bride began her march down the aisle with her father, the tears began to flow.” The tears were contagious: the audience cried during the ceremony and reception, as family members gave speeches. At one point, the bride passed a spool of string to each guest and back to the groom, connecting every person there. “As I saw that tear slowly fall, with the sun spotlighting it through the foliage of the trees, I knew this was the shot.”
Jin’s father and brother
Photograph by Janice Yi • June 2014 • The Gates
Yi describes Jin and François’ story as “movie material.” They first met during a summer exchange program in Mexico in 2007. When Jin was teaching English in Korea in 2010, François visited her and confessed his love. She turned him down because she didn’t want a long-distance relationship, and she’d had her heart broken before. By the time she realized she’d made a mistake, François was with someone else. Finally, in 2013, they reunited when they were both single and in New York. It was clear to them from then on that they were meant to be together. They settled in Toronto and got married. At the wedding, Jin’s brother made a speech about how their tight-knit family would miss having Jin to themselves. “Jin’s dad had been very emotional throughout the day and had a great sense of humour, so I wasn’t surprised when he grabbed the table cloth to wipe his tears,” says Yi. “His son was passing him a tissue when I pressed the shutter.”
Emily and Hazel
Photograph by Aleisha Boyd • February 2017 • The Market Hall Performing Arts Centre
“Not all wedding days go as planned, and that’s perfectly fine,” says Boyd. Instead of the snow they’d hoped for, Emily and Dave got a warm, slush-filled day for their wedding. They went with it, deciding not to stress. Boyd captured quiet moments like this one in their house as they prepared. Sitting in the low light, Emily took a few moments to feed her eight-month-old daughter, Hazel. The day the couple moved into the home was also the day they found out they were having a baby. Hazel slept through most of the wedding.
Andrew and Emma
Photograph by Sara Monika • June 2017 • Arowhon Pines Resort
Andrew and Emma live on a lake in Northern Ontario and love being in nature. Their wedding day was sunny until the ceremony ended, when it started to rain. Monika asked them if they wanted to move inside for their photos but they replied, “Nah, this is totally fine.” Once they got to the dock by the water, she asked them to strike this pose.
Brett and Bob
Photograph by Kimon Kaketsis • July 2017 • Smith Restaurant
Brett and Bob had been together for seven years when Brett proposed. There was no pressure or rush, says Brett. “We didn’t feel the need to stick to most wedding traditions,” Brett says; they wanted to experience the whole day together. “The day is so busy, so it’s important to have that time to bond,” says Kaketsis. He found it endearing that they wanted to wear the same tuxedos, each with their own touch. Bob added suspenders to his, and Kaketsis snapped this shot as Brett helped him adjust them. He enjoys being a fly on the wall during moments like these. “[I was] behind the camera, blubbering.”
Gillian and Carlo
Photograph by Maison Blanche (Vanessa-Lyn Mercier and Sean Berrigan) • August 2017 • A backyard in Beachville
Everything about Gillian and Carlo’s wedding stayed in the family. Carlo designed Gillian’s dream ring, her sister made the bands and her mother made her wedding dress by hand. Mercier stole the couple away before the ceremony for a few moments of peace. They went to a trail nearby that the couple had walked many times. They were smiling and laughing the whole time. Gillian had new shoes for the wedding and they were killing her feet, so Carlo carried her from one photo spot to the next. Berrigan took her favourite shot as they trekked in between locations.
Photograph by Danijela Pruginic • April 2017 • City hall and Planta
Pascal, a fashion stylist in Toronto, met Marcus at a party in the U.K., and the two dated long-distance for five years. They decided to have a small ceremony at City Hall and a private dinner at Planta. Pascal wanted a look that wasn’t “too bridal,” so she designed the skirt herself and brought four pairs of shoes, since she couldn’t decide which to wear. “They wanted their day to be fun and incorporate some of the regular, daily elements of urban living,” says Pruginic. After the ceremony, they took pictures around city hall before taking a taxi to dinner. “It was such a happy accident when the wind picked up her skirt as she was about to get into the cab.”
Michael and Samantha
Photograph by Jessica Lee Latone • August 2017 • Stanley’s Olde Maple Farms
Mike and Sam met in high school; they’d been together for 11 years when they got married. They bought a house together, and the night after they moved in, Sam came home to a surprise called “The Fairy Tale Story of Mike and Sam.” He painted words on the walls and strung up pictures for Sam to follow, leading to his proposal. After Sam said yes, he pulled down a sheet, revealing a wall where he had painted, “And they lived happily ever after.” It’s still on their wall today. Their entire wedding day was full of laughter and fun. “We were all in a silly mood,” Lee Latone says. “One of us suggested the idea of jumping on the swings really quick. We were all in stitches: I knew immediately that this would be my favourite image from the day. It embodied them perfectly.”
Leah and Adam
Photograph by Scarlet O’Neill • September 2017 • Roseville Estates
Planning the Love (Actually) show in 2017 proved to O’Neill that grooms do cry—all the time. She took this photo during the reveal, when Leah and Adam saw each other for the first time that day. They both started crying, half of Leah’s fake eyelashes fell off and Adam picked them off her face. “They were just giggling and crying for a good 10 minutes before they stopped and looked up at us.”