Where do I begin.....
The mystique, the charm, the cheekiness, it hits me a bit harder in Tahiti than any other island in the South Pacific.
The children learn three languages growing up. Tahitian Maori, French and English. Days are spent in the ocean, swimming, surfing and learning together from everyone in the family, not just mum and dad.
The woman have a beauty that is mesmerising, Jess my bride tells me “A lot of men fall under the charm of the women from the south seas and move across the globe in a heartbeat to be with them. It is very common”
The men are always in the ocean, fit and active, but with a softness to their demeanour like no other island. The handshake, is soft and respectful, unlike like the vice grip of men in Australia and New Zealand that need to prove something at the first touch of meeting you.
Now, let's get back to the charm of the woman from the south seas.
Charles, the groom, met Jess at a party in Paris, and not long after he got on a plane and set up shop in Tahiti to be closer to Jess. He is an avid lover of aviation, Jess works for Air Tahiti Nui so it was a no-brainer that they would want some shots out at the airport.
When Jess got in contact with me, she told me exactly what she wanted (The French are very good at this) with her images.
“No Cliche Tahiti Wedding Photos"
My reply was “I couldn’t do cliche if I tried, so let's just have some fun around town, leave the scouting up to me and I'll find some good spots without palm trees in the background”
I was met at the airport by Henri, Jess’s dad. We had met a few years ago briefly, he spotted me straight away and welcomed me with a beautiful lei and a warm embrace. As I sat in the car it all came rushing back to me, a photo of Henri’s wife Katrina on the dashboard took pride of place in the car. Two years ago Jess’s mum had passed and this would be the first time all the family would be back together again, the cousins coming from the outer islands and Henri’s family from France. It was going to be really emotional for everyone, I chatted more with Henri over the next few days and he was telling me how hard it was for him.
“My daughter is getting married and I feel so much joy, but the pain of my wife not being here to celebrate with our daughter is a pain that is deep”
The family was here to celebrate, and support......
The next morning after about 2 hours sleep i was on the Ferry to Moorea to meet up with Jess and Charles. We swam with the sharks and stingrays and nailed some really cool shots in testing conditions. At one point we got sucked out the channel to the deep blue sea. Our boat driver Teraina was awesome at saving us and putting us in the right spot as the tide was flying out the lagoon.
Back at the house, the preparations continued.
Wedding Day - Charles
Wedding Day - Jess
The temperature gauge hit 30 degrees by 9am, we all agreed to do the photos before the ceremony as we would die doing it in the midday sun. Charles' love of aviation was something he wanted to tie into the shoot, so we headed out to the airport and were given special permission to shoot his two loves together on his wedding day.
You Put The Lime In The Coconut
With the temp starting to really rise Jess suggested we go to the markets and grab a coconut while hiding from the sun. A perfect break from the heat while we waited for the girls to come for some portraits together in the gardens at parliament house.
96 Degrees In The Shade
You know that reggae classic by Third World - 96 Degrees in the Shade - Well thats all that was spinning in my head as we started to melt from the heat. The girls rocked up and we did a quick shoot in the grounds of parliament house. It has this amazing garden that is free to use if you are getting married and want to take a few photos. Apparently no one uses it though so we were able to stick with the "No Cliche" instructions.
Alright, we need to cool down, Charles is in a 3 piece suit and its tapping 40 degrees. I said to Jess and Charles "I have an idea but you're just going to have to trust me and go with what i tell you to do" They were up for it, so we headed to the shopping centre to cool down and blow the locals minds as to why we were taking wedding photos in the grocery store. Remember how i said Charles first love was aviation, well, like any real French girl, Jess's was NUTELLA.
So the civil ceremony is performed at the council chambers, this is the official ceremony that has all the legal documents that need to be signed to make it all official. If you are religious and want a traditional religious ceremony this is performed after the civil ceremony.
Lineage = Tears
So this is something I've never experienced before. After the bride and groom are pronounced husband and wife, its custom to have your family lineage read out. Jess' mum and auntie who have both passed away were read out, Jess' sister and cousins told me after how it brings up so much raw emotion, which is obviously understandable. I did really feel for Henri later on outside when he was clearly struggling not having his wife by his side, It's the first time I have held my camera up to my face to hide my own tears. Jess' cousin asked me if that was normal, do I cry all the time at weddings? I don't think she believed me when i said it was my first time.
Once the civil service was over, it was time for the religious ceremony at the Kingdom Hall. The service as conducted by some of Jess' families closet friends and Jess' dad closed with prayer.
Im On A Boat
OK, its done, lets start the party. All the immediate family jumped on a houseboat for an hour or two and putted up the lagoon to the restaurant as the sun set over Moorea.
The Blue Banana
Yes, this was the name of the restaurant were the reception was being held, and yes there were jokes that the after party was at The Blue Oyster Bar.
Jokes aside, it was an awesome venue on the water and they didn't care how loud the music was played. The night pumped along with lots of games, dance competitions, traditional Tahitian song and dance and even a flash mob. The speeches were funny and also very emotional, i didn't understand a word Henri was saying but knew he was paying homage to his wife who couldn't be there. Jess later told me that was him healing himself and making it possible to move on.
Thats the thing about weddings, there are always so many stories happening and all those stories make up the day and what is memorable about that occasion. In the end everyone was tearing a rug on the dance floor and partying hard to closing.
Thank you Jess & Charles, i had one of the best weeks of my life hanging out with you and your families.
I obviously enjoyed my time in Tahiti, i nearly stayed.... lol .....AK