Holy Epiphany Russian Orthodox Church Wedding Photos
Maria & Daniel*
I've always said that one of the coolest parts of wedding photography for me is that it often helps expose me to different people and cultures I may have never met or experienced otherwise. This was particularly true back in June as I was fortunate enough to photograph my very first Russian Orthodox wedding as Maria and Daniel said "I do" at Holy Epiphany Russian Orthodox Church in Boston, Massachusetts.
I loved everything about Maria and Daniel's wedding day, from the beautiful weather to the stunning church and the amazing party afterward but what really stood out to me, without question, was the timeless feel of a serious but beautiful ceremony that was steeped in history for the bride and her family.
It doesn't hurt that the bride's father was one of the officiants, either, and that sense of family really turned what would have been a beautiful wedding day anywhere into an absolutely unforgettable one.
* These photos were taken as part of my work as a second photographer for George Street Photography
and are presented here strictly for portfolio/display purposes.
My time with Maria and Daniel began a half hour before their ceremony started and, as is typical with weddings I second shoot — as I did here for George Street Photography — I walked into the location having never met the groom, his groomsmen or anyone on the bride's side.
Often, when I know I'm getting ready to shoot a very religious ceremony, the nerves I feel because of this are magnified by ten because, if you're not lucky, you may be dealing with a far too serious person who has no desire, whatsoever, to take the photographs you've been hired to capture.
Thankfully, Daniel was an awesome groom and I knew right away he had a very go-with-the-flow vibe that would serve us well throughout the day. And, even though the religious ceremony he was about to participate in was a serious one that was obviously very important to those in attendance, he and his family had an excited vibe that told me we definitely were not in for a stuffy day.
I'll be honest: I needed that type of atmosphere. Having never photographed a Russian Orthodox wedding, I was initially out of my element and unsure exactly what to expect but thanks to some incredibly helpful members of the church, I felt right at home once the ceremony began and I knew I'd be able to move around somewhat freely.
Or, as freely as a smaller church packed with a hundred plus people allows you to move, anyway.
And once Maria walked in to start the ceremony? I knew this was going to be a fantastic experience for me as a photographer and, more importantly, for the bride and groom getting ready to become husband and wife.
Maria and Daniel's wedding ceremony began with an exchanging of rings at the entrance to the church and I was immediately moved by just how many traditions and speeches were part of this celebration. This was not a casual wedding ceremony. This was one defined by history and full of rites and rituals that have been passed down generation to generation.
I especially loved how serious the bride and groom were during this ceremony, particularly as they shook off burning candle wax gathering on their hands. Even the groomsmen seemed determined to carry out the rituals of this ceremony to their fullest potential, as they were tasked with holding up a pair of very important crowns over the bride and groom's head for nearly a half an hour.
I was fascinated by this wedding ceremony and couldn't help but compare it to other religions which have similar, but vastly different, components that they all do. For a lifelong Catholic who has attended more masses than he could count, the rich tradition and colors of the entire event were a sight to behold.
My only worry during Maria and Daniel's wedding ceremony was not knowing exactly when to expect their first kiss but, thankfully, I figured it out rather quickly once they were brought to the front of the church for the final portion of their ceremony.
After a beautiful ceremony, Maria and Daniel took a handful of family photos at their church's altar and capped off the religious portion of their day with a grand exit that signaled pretty quickly that we were starting the party part of the evening.
I couldn't wait and they didn't disappoint, particularly when we arrived at their reception site at Nara Park in Acton, Massachusetts and rolled right through bride and groom formal photos.
I could have spent hours working with Maria and Daniel during their formal photos but the pair wanted us to get through them as fast as possible and I can't blame them one bit. Thankfully, working with the incredibly talented Becky MacDonald as the lead shooter for this wedding meant we had everything we needed to get a ton of great shots and move to the dance portion of the evening.
And once we hit the dance floor, you could feel the energy of the day skyrocket.
Maria and Daniel wasted no time establishing the tone for the evening with their first dance and I knew, despite having just met them a few hours earlier, that this was not the first time these two had embraced in each other's arms on a dance floor.
They were comfortable, they commanded the room and they rocked it. What a moment.
Speaking of moments, by far my favorite moment of Maria and Daniel's wedding was a surprise one that very few people knew was coming. Because of their faith and the rules that govern their religion, Maria was not able to dance with her father, a member of the clergy, at her reception.
As her dad said, however, this slight setback only meant he had to get "creative" in finding a way to honor her on her big day and boy did he ever.
Grabbing a mic, Maria's father explained that her godfather would be stepping in to fill his shoes but he would play a different role, leading a pack of family and friends wearing Elvis wigs in a rendition of "Can't Help Falling in Love," the song he and Maria's mother danced to at their wedding.
It's was the exact right balance between romantic and beautiful and absolutely silly and it is easily one of my favorite wedding moments in quite some time.
And the photos. My goodness the photos.
I absolutely loved that moment for Maria and for everyone in attendance and I can think of no better way for this bride and groom to have kicked off their reception.
A beautiful, traditional mother-son dance with Daniel and his mom followed, as did two great speeches and the tone was set perfectly for a night no one in this crowd would soon forget.
The one drawback to being a second photographer is, sometimes, your time ends when you really don't want it to. I could have spent the rest of the night capturing candids of Maria, Daniel and their friends and family but, thankfully, I knew they had a very talented lead photographer with them who would knock it out of the park and she sure did.
Nevertheless, I left Maria and Daniel's wedding reception with a huge smile on my face and PLENTY of photos that I know capture the day oh so well.
I adored this wedding for so many reasons but, by far, the biggest was getting to see how a completely different culture celebrates their big milestone moments. And if this is the type of wedding day I can expect from all Russian Orthodox weddings, where do I sign up to shoot all of them?
So, congratulations Maria and Daniel on an amazing wedding day and thank you for including me in a small way to help you remember if for the rest of your lives.
-Paul J. Spetrini
Check out more of my most recent wedding blogs:
Mark & Julie
Our Lady of the Rosary Church,
Providence, Rhode Island
June 12th, 2021
Paige & Ryan
Glocester, Rhode Island.
June 5th, 2021