Spending their slow season tromping around Southeast Asia to explore all of the amazing visuals that beautiful part of the world has to offer, Tim and Laura of Lightworks 360 (originally based in Seattle and Chicago) were linked up with some friends of friends to shoot this Thai Hill Tribe ceremony between bride Fletcher and her groom, Sert.
"We'd Skyped with them earlier in the summer to get the scoop," Tim and Laura explain, "but we arrived with almost no idea of how things would unfold, other than the bride's resigned warning: 'There will be lots of homemade rice whiskey, so just...do what you can with that.'"
The photographers fell right into step upon arrival at the multi-day celebration, and were fully integrated into the wedding (they even helped with prep work by transferring huge garbage bags full of the home-brew into recycled bottles). Witnessing and shooting this wedding was different than what Tim and Laura were used to, in a good way.
"There is no way to prepare for a Thai Hill Tribe wedding," they say. "It's a much more relaxed pace than the frenetic energy of western weddings. Fletcher peacefully wandered up to the main house at around 9 a.m. after quietly having her hair and makeup done, overlooking the vibrant rice paddies. Local Buddhist monks performed the ceremony, which was cramped and intimate in the upstairs living space of the home that Sert has been building for Fletcher for years. Downstairs, the village gathered in constantly shifting groups, surrounding the newly married couple to say blessings over them as they tied white strings around their wrists. And all throughout, the atmosphere was unrushed and lovely."
The bride even took a nap midday. "What bride in the west has ever been able to do that?!" they say. "We hula-hooped with village kids, groups split off for more whiskey or dark local coffee or some mixture of the two, and the atmosphere was one of unhurried joy. We have a lot to learn about organizing a wedding day in the harried west!"
Luckily Tim and Laura didn't really encounter any big challenges with this wedding, but they wanted to make sure whether they needed to be made aware of any customs, do's or don'ts to keep in mind. "The village was gracious and lovely and not easily offended," the photographers relay. "But from the first hour, friends and neighbors became our biggest teammates: pulling us toward photo ops right before they happened, beckoning us into their homes to show us their lives, and basically encouraging us to document every moment of the day as naturally and honestly as possible."
Helping couples implement a wedding day that's more personal, truer to who they are and what they want, despite preconceived notions of what those celebrations should look like, is something Tim and Laura have been more and more passionate about. "This wedding completely reaffirmed everything that we try to convey to our couples," they say, "to keep running toward that freedom rather than into doing things just because it's 'how they're done.' The world is bigger than that."
In the Gear Bag
Cameras: Canon 5D Mark IIIs
Lenses: 35mm f/1.4, 50mm f/1.2, 85mm f/1.2