When I first started expanding into wedding photography around 8 or 9 years ago, there were a couple of big names I found online who’s work was just really, really good. People who I knew I need to follow and watch. One of those was Matt McGraw of Wilmington, NC. At the time I thought if I get married, this is the guy who I would ask to shoot my wedding. 3 years ago he did shoot my wedding with Debbie, and it was fantastic.
About a year ago Matt calls me up and tells me he’s engaged to an amazing woman and photographer, Lisa Brown, of Bella Rose Photography, and that she’s a wedding photographer originally from California who relocated to Wilmington, NC a few years back. Of course, I knew Bella Rose Photography, had seen and been following her work, watching how she brought in a very cool, laid back West Coast style to the East Coast.
So I was really quite silenced and blown away when these two fantastic photographers asked me to shoot their engagement photos in New York City last year, and their wedding in Paris, France about 3 weeks ago.
As it turns out, Paris is a dream city for Lisa, and when she and Matt started planning their honeymoon, they came up with the idea of combining their honeymoon and ceremony into one trip to Paris and London.
With extensive internet research, Lisa was able to find English speaking officiant Sue Ward, a great hair and makeup stylist, the van driver, Gerald, which helped things out tremendously, flowers at Jardin de la Madeleine, and not least of all, photo locations.
Matt & Lisa were kind enough to have my wife Debbie join us, on both the New York trip and the Paris wedding trip. Not only was Debbie able to get some great behind the scenes photos with her trusty iPhone, she was invaluable as an assistant to both myself and to Lisa. She did an incredible job of carrying all my gear while I was shooting, all while carrying Lisa’s camera and other bags all at the same time. Both the New York shoot and the Pais shoot would have been impossible without her help and easy going style.
Cheers also go out to Matt Davis and Natalie of Life Stage Films in Wilmington, NC. Matt is a fantastic guy who I’ve worked with in the past, and he and Natalie did an incredible job filming the event and his team in NC edited a beautiful film which should not be missed. Click here to see that film.
Needless to say, this is an extra long post, as we’re pulling in 4 days into one post. Everyone arrived on Monday morning, the wedding was on Wednesday and Debbie and I left on Friday morning. Let’s get started:
Monday, Debbie and I set out on a bit of a walking tour of the center of the city, getting some detailed images. Just a few of them below.
Tuesday morning we met up with Matt & Lisa at the Saint James, where they were staying. We spent the day getting flowers for the bouquet, then touring the city.
Lisa had researched and found the perfect place where she could pick her own fresh flowers to make her own bouquet.
Inside the magnificent Opera House. Followed by Matt & Lisa watching a street performer outside the Opera House.
We walked the long hike up to the highest spot in Paris to see the Sacré-Coeur church (which was magnificent). We ended the night with a fantastic outdoor dinner, where we hung out for endless hours, people watching, eating and drinking wine before accepting it was time to get a bit of sleep for the big day.
Wednesday – Wedding day. We started at the Saint James Hotel for the getting ready and first look, before Gerald took everyone out for the ceremony.
We had some incredible weather for the wedding day. Sunny and 72 degrees! Original plans to have the ceremony at the Saint James Hotel were scratched, and we all piled up into Gerald’s van and headed out to the base of the Eiffel Tower, Lisa’s original dream location for the ceremony. Can’t say enough about how fantastic Sue the officiant was. She smiled from the time she arrived to the hotel and said, “Take your time, let me know what you want to do, I’ve got all day”. She really was awesome.
How did we pick the exact spot where the ceremony took place?
Turns out this particular Wednesday, school was out, and being 72 degrees, the park in front of the Eiffel Tower was packed with people (on Monday when Debbie and I scouted it out, it was empty). So after about 15 minutes or so of looking around, we found an empty area under the trees, with a view of the tower, and Matt & Lisa said, “Yup, let’s get married here!”.
It was great. People walking by, stopping, taking pictures, smiling. One couple from England stopped and watched the whole ceremony. They left a message with Debbie for Matt & Lisa, to let them know, that 25 years ago, they themselves, got married right here, on a whim, in the same spot. Can you imagine, seeing this by chance, 25 years later? Awesome. (Their picture is below as they watched. I didn’t know the story at the time, just noticed they seemed to really be enjoying the ceremony).
After the ceremony, we headed to the Tuileries Garden. At the gardens a group of kids on a trip saw Matt & Lisa as they were posing for a photo, and started clapping. That of course led to our first impromptu reception and announcing of the new husband and wife. Matt & Lisa and the kids are so happy – look for the huge smiles. That was later followed by some Moroccan friends who pulled Matt over for his first toast of the day.
Pont de l’Archevêché is also known as the “Love Lock” bridge where lovers clasp a lock on the bridge and then throw the key into the Seine River. Debbie was crucial in doing two things here, 1) Getting people to stop (which was no small task) to get clean images just of Matt & Lisa, and 2) then to get people to walk in front of me, which proved to be even more difficult than getting them to stop.
We continued walking on the bridge, across the street to find Gerald and the van, when we spotted two guys playing guitar. Having been through spontaneous music before (in Central Park during the engagement shoot) , I think it just took eye contact with Matt and we knew what was coming next. Skip the van, let’s go to the guitars. Time for the first dance.
A secret spot Lisa knew well from research was this cityscape with the Eiffel Tower in the background. They spent some time here having wine, getting congratulated and letting me take a few photos.
The thing about the Eiffel Tower is that there are two main spots to view it from. This is the second spot, on the opposite side, across the river, from where the ceremony was. Our timing was perfect as it was sunset, and Matt & Lisa had their second dance here. You’ll see a photo Gerald took of the whole crew. Matt Davis and Natalie of Life Stage on the left of Matt & Lisa, and Debbie and I on the right. As a side note, Natalie used to live in Wilmington and work for Life Stage. By chance, she is studying abroad in Paris, and at Matt Davis’ request, she came back to help for the day.
Matt & Lisa had set up an amazing sunset riverboat dinner cruise along the Seine River. It was quite exceptional to be part of their wedding dinner table, as we went under the “Love Lock” bridge we were at just hours ago, went past Notre Dame and saw the Eiffel Tower light up. Take note of all the Parisians hanging out on the banks of the Seine. This is one thing that really stuck out to me. This scene, of people hanging out, was along the entire length of the trip, on both sides of the river, all night long.
After the dinner cruise ended, we went back to the base of the Eiffel Tower for one last set of night images. I posted two similar photos so that you can see the crowd around them smiling and watching, followed by a vertical image which isolates Matt & Lisa with the tower.
That photo of Matt McGraw, Matt Davis and myself was taken by Lisa. She had us give our best “wedding laugh” (you guys know what I’m talking about lol) and she got a great photo of the three of us. To give a sense of time, we started the day at 9am, and ended with these final shots a bit after 11:30pm.
On our last day with Matt & Lisa, we were back in tourist mode. Matt had his UNC cap on (and would you believe, yes, we met a group of people from the US who were so excited to see Matt and that he was a Carolina fan. Even in Paris, Carolina fans come out lol. Below you’ll see images from The Louvre and Notre Dame, and naturally, Lisa was happy to have her camera back in hand, and Matt, well, he was more than happy to take tourists cameras and give them a lesson from the Matt McGraw school of modeling.
A great big thanks to Matt & Lisa for having us part of their dream wedding! We had impromptu wedding guests from England, we had grand entrance cheering from 30 very excited kids, we had a first dance to a couple of guitar players, a toast from some Moroccan’s, a second dance at the Eiffel Tower and a river boat wedding party dinner table. It was an amazing trip, wedding and experience, which we are very excited to have been a part of.
I’ve put in a few behind the scenes photos Debbie took, so you can get a sense of how some of these images came about. They’re all from the images posted above, as well as 2 small behind the scenes video clips.
Paris Wedding Photography