Today’s blog post is from a wedding we shot back in June at Essex Conference Center and Retreat in Essex, Massachusetts. The ceremony and reception were all at the Conference Center and most of the guests were able to stay on site as the couple rented out the whole conference center for the weekend. They picked their wedding venue based on it’s beautiful location, serene atmosphere, and the fact that they were able to rent the venue for the entire weekend. They had a rehearsal dinner the night before, then friends helped them get the place decorated and ready for the wedding on Saturday and were able to have bonfires Friday and Saturday night. They both love Northern Massachusetts and wanted to have their wedding geographically close to the ocean but have the wedding itself in the woods. It was pouring rain the whole morning and cleared up about 3 hours before the ceremony was due to start.
Josina and Bongani both live in the Boston area, but Bongani is originally from Swaziland and all of his six siblings came to the United States for the first time to celebrate with them! Since Josina is Jewish and Bongani is Christian, they had an interfaith ceremony officiated by Rabbi Judy Epstein. Some of the Jewish elements of the wedding were the breaking of the glass by Bongani and the signing and reading of the Ketubah, a Jewish marriage certificate and Bongani’s sister did a reading from the bible to incorporate Christianity into the ceremony. They were married under a Huppah, a Jewish structure made traditionally of tree branches and a simple white cloth, made for them by Josina’s brother and his wife. The morning of the wedding they assembled the Huppah with a team of about 6 people.
Much of this wedding was very DIY with contributions from both friends and family. Bongani’s sister made the table runners and brought them over from Swaziland. They are made from traditional African fabic called Shwe Shwe. During the ceremony Josina’s father and Bongani’s oldest sister lit a unity candle brought from Swaziland. Instead of a DJ, Bongani spent over 80 hours putting together a playlist that would mix together American and African music that kept the crowd dancing all night. Even after the music was turned off almost half the guests stuck around and sang and danced together for another half hour or so after the reception was over to traditional Swazi music. The wedding party (and even the Rabbi!) danced out during the recessional to a famous South African wedding song. CD’s with all their favorite songs from their wedding playlist were put together as party favors. Their close friend Sophia Barrett made all their cupcakes and cakes for the wedding and her sister Louisa made the invitations, programs, and table numbers. Instead of having a guest book, they made wedding mad-libs for their guests to make it a little more fun. Since they didn’t have a DJ, the bride’s sister and law was the MC for the night, with help from her husband and their little one.
Thanks to everyone who made this day possible as it really was a team effort from all the guests as well as the venue’s staff. And thank you to my talented second shooter, Molly Geiger, for doing an amazing job!