Many married people will tell you that if they ever had the chance to do it again (with the same person, of course), they would make the guest list smaller and manageable. When guest lists start going into the hundreds, it can be become daunting for most couples. It’s for this reason many of my couples go the other route, and elope in one of the most romantic cities in the world (or so they tell me), New York City. To demonstrate exactly how small the guest lists are for my New York City Hall weddings, I single-handedly become the photographer, witness, limo driver, wedding coordinator and (sometimes) caterer with a spritz of tour-guide extraordinaire in between. When I step back for a few moments, I can see why clients come from all over the world to elope in the Big Apple.

Bride

Everything You Need Is Already Here

Hotels, florists, and even a morning glass of beer. Anything that one would need for their wedding day is already right here in the city, whatever you want, whenever you want (not to mention yours truly!). You could literally throw a stone in the air while standing on any crosswalk in NYC, and you’ll find whatever you need within 1-2 blocks away. And even more importantly, the city is filled with all kinds of awesome locations for wedding portraits. Want something urban? Easy-peasy. Something outdoorsy? Done! Something historic with cobblestones and “Old” New York? Piece of cake! Compare this to say…Ridgefield Park, NJ (which is where my wife and I “officially” got hitched), where the new park was built on top of an old landfill, the neighborhood florist moonlights as a dry-cleaner, and the limo service only provides service to one of the nearby airports. There *is* a Holiday Inn nearby, but we unfortunately have a severe allergic reaction to 20-year-old, never-been-washed, paisley bedsheet covers :).

Groom gets ready in his NYC hotel before his New York City Hall Wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

These two lovebirds on the other hand, had a much finer selections of hotels to choose from. They started their day at the modern-chic Smyth Hotel in TriBeCa, about 5-6 blocks from City Hall. Even though we were nearby, ain’t no way we’re walking 5-6 blocks in those heels :). This is where I come in as the limo driver :).

But first, we had to get them out of the hotel. While Leeander was getting herself dolled up with the awesome help of Sissi Chan, Ben went downstairs to the bar and helped himself to a pint…or three :).

Rings and passport by the hotel window ont he morning of Leeander and Ben Bride gets ready in her NYC hotel before her New York City Hall Wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

I would’ve joined him downstairs, but Sissi works pretty fast :).

Bride gets her hair done before her New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

Bride puts on her earrings before her New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

If Done Correctly, It’s No Different From A Traditional Weekend Extravaganza

Most weddings, regardless of culture or guest list size, follow a certain format for that day. (1) You get ready. (2) You get married. (3) You take some pictures. (4) You celebrate. I suppose the reason why I’m constantly doing city hall weddings year-round is because of our simple belief that in the end, it’s still a wedding day – no matter how you slice it.  Big or small, we’re going to treat every wedding the same way, which is probably also why Google gives me so much love from around the world :). While elopements are a little bit different from your traditional weddings in terms of complexity, Ben had contacted me earlier about surprising Leeander with a “first-dance” later that day. If we were going to go all out anyway, I figured there was no harm in having them do a first look….on the streets of City Hall! 

First look between bride and groom before their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

First look between bride and groom before their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

First look between bride and groom before their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

It’s Not Vegas

If there are any words I could use to describe what it’s like to get married at NYC’s City Hall, it’s definitely not Vegas. While you could occasionally see a famous face (Matt Damon and Alec Baldwin also tied the knot here), it’s hardly that Hollywood-glamorous. If anything, I would describe it as being most similar to your local Department of Motor Vehicles…with a few nice couches, and a couple of chandeliers for good measure. The ceremony lasts literally 2 minutes (and if you have your own vows, then maybe 3 minutes), and you’ll be out the door and betrothed in the time it takes for me to get from Jersey to meet my couples for morning prep (that’s 30-60 minutes, for inquiring minds). It’s hardly cheesy with some Elvis impersonator officiating a wedding. If anything, it’s a bit more utilitarian and boring like your typical visit to the motor vehicles…unless of course you got yourself the right photographer :).

Bride and groom prepare their paperwork for New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

Bride and groom walk along the main hall before their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

Bride and groom wait on the bench in the main hall before their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

Bride and groom

Bride laughs before her New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau. Bride and groom wait on the bench in the main hall before their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

Bride and groom wait in the main hall before their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

Bride and groom prepare their documents before their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

Bride and groom prepare their documents before their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

Ring exchange during a New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

Groom exchanges vows during a New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

First kiss during a New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

There’s A Pretty Cool NYC City Hall Wedding Photographer Who Also Knows All The Cool Spots!

So when Leeander and Ben found me all the way from the UK, they had one simple request. While they loved the urban setting of NYC, they also want something that wasn’t so Manhattan-y for their portrait session. That should be easy, I thought to myself. I’ll just take them to Brooklyn! While Brooklyn Bridge Park doesn’t necessarily qualify for “off-the-beaten-path” as far as wedding portrait locations go, I also realized that most out-of-towners don’t go into Brooklyn. Additionally, the only way to get Manhattan’s skyline is either going to Brooklyn or Jersey. Between a $16 roundtrip toll to NJ, and a nonexistent one to Brooklyn, this was also an easy decision to make :).

Bride and groom pose for portraits in Brooklyn after their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau. Bride and groom pose for portraits in Brooklyn Bridge park after their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau. Bride and groom pose for portraits in Brooklyn Bridge Park after their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

Ben contacted me about two weeks before their arrival and asked if I knew of any places where he could share a “first-dance” with his future bride. The only requirement was that it had to be quiet enough for them to hear their song playing on his iPhone. This wracked my brain for about two weeks, because despite my extensive rolodex of awesome places, most were either expensive rental spaces or very public spaces (with tons of pedestrians and tourists). There was “one” place I could think of, but there was a 90% probability we would get kicked out: The Audubon Center in Prospect Park.

Bride and groom share their first dance in the Audubon Center in Prospect Park after their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

We lasted about 10 seconds before we were spotted, but not before I was able to snap this keeper :).

Bride and groom share their first dance in the Audubon Center in Prospect Park after their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

“You can’t take pictures inside…” they told us. “…but you’re welcome to snap away outside.”
Duly noted!

Bride and groom pose for portraits at the Audubon Center in Prospect Park after their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau. Bride and groom pose for portraits at the Audubon Center in Prospect Park after their New York City Hall wedding. Captured by northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

Leeander and Ben, thank you so much for entrusting your day with us and I promise you that traffic isn’t really as bad as what we experienced that day! Despite this, I wish you two nothing but love and laughter and I hope that you enjoyed these images as much as we enjoyed capturing them. We will be looking forward to meeting you guys again in five years with your mini Cakebreads!

According to my Facebook feed it’s Friday, which means I’ve got to do my stretches for a weekend filled with camera-clicking. All said and done, there will be about 22 hours of me running around…and I’m going to love every single minute of it. Only 8 more weeks left in the wedding season!

Happy Friday ya’ll,

Ben & Karis

 

 

Ram

We can’t begin to tell you how excited we are to finally be able to share Katie and Jason’s awesome wedding at the Ram’s Head Inn on Shelter Island. Firstly, we love coming into Long Island. It’s a nice escape from the all busy-ness of suburban life (and a predominantly urban work-environment!). Secondly, we just love this family to bits and pieces. I remember meeting Katie and her extended family on our FIRST meeting in a Williamsburg tea house not that long ago. We talked about Katie and Jason’s wedding plans as they perused my portfolio in great detail. As we mentioned in a previous post, we knew it wasn’t going to be easy to plan a wedding from so far away; we already understood how crucial it was for Katie and her family to ask all the right questions and to meet all the right people while she was in town sporadically over the following months. You could imagine our relief when we found the all-time-favorite-kind-of email in my inbox just a few short hours later, the one where the couples (and family!) had reached a consensus that we’d be a perfect match for their wedding day!

Invitations for Katie and Jason

 A summer wedding at a Long Island Bed & Breakfast? Count us in!

Guests relax on the beach on the morning of Katie and Jason

One of the perks of Ram’s Head Inn are its calm beaches by the bay.
Family friendly? Check!
Soaking in some morning rays before the wedding ceremony? Check!
Sand in the photographer’s shoes? Check 100 x’s!

Father of bride prepares signs for Katie and Jason

Notes with rings from the groom on Katie and Jason Groom preps for his wedding day at the Ram

We were given an honorable mention during speeches, with a query regarding all seemingly random things we were documenting that morning. My future son-in-law is lending me his cufflinks…what’s so significant about that? The answer was quite simple: we were there to document every detail of the entire day, which not only included portraits of the couple, but also the love of family and friends that surrounded them on this momentous occasion. Pictures of flowers, dresses and first dances were all nice and dandy, but when it came down to it, it was the whole act of two families coming together which made this day special.

Bride gets her make-up done on her wedding day at Ram

Flowers for Katie and Jason Guests wear sandals for Katie and Jason

I probably could’ve gotten away with wearing a pair of pink flip-flops, but that would’ve made it double tough for me to chase everyone around :).

Bridal portraits on her wedding day on Shelter Island. Captured by Northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

Groom preps for his wedding day at Ram Groom preps for his wedding day at Ram

Some of my favorite groom prep shots :).

  Groom with his father and brother on his wedding day at Ram

Groom sheds tears during his wedding on Shelter Island. Captured by Northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

Someone’s always cutting onions when I’m shooting a wedding ceremony. Not sure what the deal is :).

Bridesmaid smiles during a wedding ceremony on Shelter Island. Captured by Northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

Bride and groom make their grand exit after their wedding ceremony on Shelter Island. Captured by Northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

Bride and groom share a kiss outside the chapel on their wedding day on Shelter Island, NY. Captured by Northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

Luggage tag table place cards for Katie and Jason

Hands down, one of the coolest table-seating systems I’ve ever documented.

Sparklers for the guest of Katie and Jason

That’s some serious Cost-Co quantity of sparklers we got there! Surprisingly, all were gone in a matter of 30 minutes!

Brother in law of the bride teaches young boy how to use a camera on her wedding day on Shelter Island, NY. Captured by Northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau.

This…brings a tear to my eye :).

Group photo on Katie and Jason Father of the bride makes a speech on Katie and Jason Brother of the groom makes a speech on Katie and Jason Bridesmaids make a speech on Katie and Jason

Katie and Jason laugh during speeches during their wedding reception at Ram

I’m going to nominate this photo for “Best of Laughing-During-Speeches” for my 2012 Ben Lau Photography awards :).
The fact that we actually have enough for a contest means we’re totally booking the right kind of clients!

First dance between bride and groom on their wedding day on Shelter Island, NY. Captured by Northern NJ wedding photographer Ben Lau. Father and daughter dance on Katie and Jason Mother and son dance on Katie and Jason Guests dance during Katie and Jason Guests dance during Katie and Jason Guests dance during Katie and Jason Guests dance during Katie and Jason Guests dance during Katie and Jason Guests dance during Katie and Jason Guests dance during Katie and Jason Guests dance during Katie and Jason Katie and Jason poses for a photo with Ben Lau during their wedding reception at Ram

You can’t begin to imagine how hard it was to do this shot with 10 lbs of camera and no live-view :).

This celebration wouldn’t have been possible without the help of these wonderful people.

Ceremony : : Union Chapel on the Grove
Reception : : Ram’s Head Inn
Gown : : Cymbeline, Paris
Jewelry : : Diamond Shop in Antwerp, Belgium
Hair : : Vera Barron
Make Up : : Vera Barron
Grooms Attire : : Austin Reed, London
DJ/Entertainment : : DJ Andy Entertainment
Photo Booth : : DIY
Catering : : Ram’s Head Inn
Cake : : Ram’s Head Inn
Floral : : Kimjon Designs
Favors : : DIY – Mother of Bride
Stationery : : Village Invites, NYC
Secondary Photography : : MJ Park

Bride and groom portraits at Ram

Congratulations to the both of you, Katie and Jason.
We were so incredibly honored to capture your beautiful day, and we wish you two many, many years of happiness!

As for us here at Ben Lau Photography, we don’t even know what day of the week it is, much less our own names.
Wedding season + two kids in the house = House full of zombies (though Karis lets me occasionally sleep in on Mondays!)

We’ve got a whole lot more in store for you. Stay tuned for more!

Much love,

Ben & Karis

At least once a month, we’ll receive an inquiry that will sound something like this:

Hi Ben,

We really love your work. But we’re wondering if your packages include the raw files. We’re [graphic designers/photographers/creative people], and we’d like to process the images ourselves. We have all the necessary programs to do this, so if you could give us ALL the images from your day, that would be great too. Is this something we can do?

Sincerely,

Graphic Designer/Photographer/Creative Person

Asking for raw beef patties from a burger place is like asking for raw files from your photographer!

Now imagine going into your local McDonalds and asking for two raw beef patties, a whole head of lettuce, and two slices of bread. Doesn’t make sense, does it? That’s because it’s not what they do. They sell fully cooked burgers, millions and millions of them, in fact. Now let’s say you found a burger restaurant that did sell you those two raw beef patties, would it make sense to then ask for the cow? Probably not :).

It’s a bit unorthodox for customers/clients/patrons to purchase something up the supply/production chain simply because they have the ability to produce a certain good/service themselves. By this logic, Morimoto would never dine at any sushi restaurant other than his own. This would also imply that Martha Stewart never buys finished window curtains either. While neither of these postulations are likely true, we can probably assume that these folks go out and buy stuff anyway – simply because they can appreciate it when someone else does it for them. Just because I’m a pretty good cheeseburger chef doesn’t necessarily mean I can’t go out to enjoy a Big Mac, does it?

To be fair, there are probably steak restaurants that would happily sell you a 32 oz. raw slab of steak, just as there are probably wedding photographers who would be willing to put together shoot-to-burn packages for you. We just don’t happen to be one of them. But that’s the beauty of any marketplace. You’re not obligated to buy anything you don’t want, and the sellers aren’t obligated to sell you something they don’t offer.

When our clients inquire about our services, we whole-heartedly believe it’s because they enjoy our work. They’ve viewed our portfolio, done their due diligence and may have even reasonably concluded that we’re pretty nice people to work with. Quite simply, if it’s our style of work that they’re looking for, then it’s our style of work they’re going to get – nothing less, and possibly a whole lot more. They are receiving a premium product with premium service because in the end, they are most certainly paying a premium for it.

There are a laundry list of reasons why our clients don’t get raw images, least of which have anything to do with their ability to process the images themselves. We spend many, many hours culling and perfecting our images to maintain some sense of consistency for our brand. We take pride in this part of our work, and it’s one that we find most rewarding. While we realize we could probably shave off a considerable portion of our workload and spend more time with our families, we owe a certain obligation to our clients to produce the kind of work they see in our portfolio. Any deviations from our usual workflow could potentially have negative impact on our final deliveries. We never took any shortcuts to get to where we are today, and we most certainly don’t plan an taking any shortcuts anytime soon either.

And quite honestly, we’re 100% confident that all of our clients, present and new, can appreciate that.

If you guys have any questions you’d like to ask us, please feel free to leave us a message below or send us an email at ben@benlauphotography.com.

Here’s to more burger and sushi (our two fave foods!) posts in the future :).

Ben & Karis

 

  • Michael - Great blog! Can I borrow this if I attribute it to you?

    Thanks in advance,

    MikeReplyCancel

    • Ben Lau - Of course. Be my guest! Thanks for enjoying and sharing :).

  • Michael Bethea - OMG awesome blog. Can I borrow this if I attribute it to you?
    http://www.michaelandcarina.comReplyCancel

Planning weddings can be a tough endeavor, but planning a wedding that will eventually take place 3600 miles away from home will probably require some patience, resourcefulness and a whole lotta coffee! Even if the celebration takes place in your old stomping grounds, it’s no different from planning a destination wedding on some tropical island in the middle of the sea. And even as I’m writing this, I’m finding this somewhat amusing because Katie and Jason’s wedding did in fact take place on an island in/near/around the Atlantic ocean. You see, Katie hails from Long Island, NY but is currently teaching at an International School in Belgium with Jason. So for all intents and purposes, they were indeed planning a destination wedding as well – just in reverse. So how in the world did they end up with a New Jersey wedding photographer?

That’ll be our little secret :).

Table cards for Katie and Jason

Katie and Jason incorporated a travel theme to their wedding day. Luggage tags and country fun facts –  we absolutely loved all the details!

Groom gets ready for his wedding at the Ram

When we first asked Jason if he was camera shy, he smugly replied “Nope!”.
Fun fact: You may have seen this Jason’s face on an episode of NYPD Blue :).

Bride gets ready for her wedding at the Ram

And for the record, there’s no such thing as a camera-shy bride :).

Bride and groom

One of these days, a guest is going to catch me bawling my eyes out behind my camera.

Bride and groom share a kiss on their wedding day at the Ram

 Sneak peeks for now, please stay tuned for more!

It’s Friday and the weather’s been so indecisive these past few days. I’m only grateful that it’s not humid. As the fall season descends upon us, we look forward to the explosion of colors like kids look forward to their birthdays. We’re totally stoked!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Ben & Karis