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I'm Ali Rae and I love building brands.
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Saturday holds the record for the hottest wedding day I have ever shot. With a temperature of 97 degrees and a “real feel” of 112 (thanks, Virginia humidity!), it was a blessing we made it through the day with no heat strokes or dehydration. Chidimma and Amit were so very welcoming to their guests and had their best interested at heart. That meant moving their ceremony inside literally minutes before the bride and groom were to walk down the aisle.
Despite the last minute changes, the ceremony remained as beautiful (and air conditioned) as ever. Their entire day was adorned with personal touches. During the ceremony, they had two readings—one Biblical, one poetic. Before the ceremony concluded, Chi-Chi’s friends’ band, The Fake Tapes, sang a beautiful rendition of “Come Live with Me,” originally sung by Dorothy Ashby.
Once the ceremony was completed, we braved the heat to step outside and take bridal party pictures and bride and groom portraits. I had on a very light and airy dress on and I was sweating bullets, so I am so thankful that Chi-Chi and Amit were such troopers throughout all the photographing. It was so, so worth it too. When Chi-Chi and I originally spoke over the phone, she told me about her vision for their wedding day. She used words like “whimsical” and phrases like “secret garden” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” It was my first time shooting a wedding at St. Francis Hall. Of course I had done my research before their wedding and had seen pictures of the beautiful garden, but…they didn’t do it justice! Chi-Chi found her secret garden, so we had to spend some time taking pictures there. The colors of the garden were gorgeous and the seclusion of the garden was so romantic…exactly what Chi-Chi had envisioned.
We then took respite from the heat by making our way into the reception. Oh, what an entrance their families made! This wedding was one of many firsts for me—the heat, the traditions, the culture, the mid-reception wardrobe changes—and I loved every second of it!
The bride’s family broke the Kola nut, which is a Nigerian tradition that welcomes the guests of the family to the celebration. It was shared with in-laws, Americans, and other elders of the tribe. Once it was shared, the celebration could begin! Chi-Chi and Amit perfectly blended components of an American wedding and a Nigerian wedding into a day that suited them.
Chi-Chi and Amit danced their first dance, all the while the guests were preparing to shower them with gifts. The dancing continued throughout the night, but one dance was particularly special. Darlene, one of the bride’s sisters, had prepared a special dance just for the bride and groom. It was spectacular! Darlene’s movement was simultaneously graceful and powerful. The way she moved seemed to honor Chi-Chi and Amit’s promise to one another.
A special appearance was made by the pastor who married Chi-Chi’s parents. His blessing of the food was beautifully stated, and completed by the story of Chi-Chi’s parents’ wedding day and their first few years as newlyweds, which included Chi-Chi’s birth. The sentiment was heartfelt and personal. It seems Chi-Chi grew up with a beautiful example of what marriage should be. And her parents are still so in love…in fact, her father asked me if I would take a picture of just the two of them during family formals and, oh, the way he looks at her is the same way Amit looks at Chi-Chi (see the images below for proof!).
What seemed like the grand finale to an already outstanding night of celebration was when the bride, groom, and rest of the bridal party changed into traditional Nigerian attire. The colors were so vibrant and all perfectly coordinated with one another. Chi-Chi truly looked like a queen the entire night! Amidst the party that the DJ was concocting, we snuck off for a couple portraits in their traditional wear.
The celebration of the Baruas was one for the books. To Chi-Chi and Amit, thank you for having me along for your secret garden wedding. It was an honor to document it, and I hope you always look at each other the way you did on your wedding day.
Throughout the day, I watched Amit watch Chi-Chi…I know that sounds odd, but the way he looks at her is remarkable. Every move she makes, you can tell he is intrigued by her, protective of her, and so supportive of her. So I had to compile a collage that showed all the unposed images of him watching over her.
Lastly, I had to add my blooper reel…except their bloopers are seriously so fierce that I don’t even think I can call them bloopers. But also, here is a behind the scenes shot of Amy being a hardworking second shooter by throwing Chi-Chi’s veil and sprinting out of the shot. Thank you, Amy!
Venue | St. Francis Hall
Photography | Ali Rae Haney Photography
Videography | Smuuv Studios
Planner | Kolena with Blue Sapphire Events
Make-Up Artist | Christin with Conceptual Beauty
Ceremony Music | Fake Tapes
Catering | Main Event Caterers
Florals | Eight Tree Street Florals
Cake | The Cake Bee
DJ | DJ Don X
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