Destination wedding venues; costume changes; five tiers of marzipan. These are just a few of the elements of wedding planning that were becoming par for the course in the pre-pandemic era. With three-digit invitation lists and florist fees alone, couples were submitting themselves to costs so extreme and schedules so unforgiving that guests were no longer surprised to end a celebration without having exchanged a single word or embrace with the newlyweds on their day.
Then along came the “C” curveball – and this flourishing industry, like many, was brought to its knees. Weddings were cancelled, postponed and dramatically downsized. Still, while it’s been a harrowing year for venues and vendors worldwide, it’s also brought about some long-overdue reflection. We take a look through the lens of wedding photographer BEATRICE CONTRINI and reflect on a year of change, adaptation and positivity.
Tell us about yourself; are you really from Romeo and Juliet’s neck of the woods?
Yes, I grew up in the Alps, just north of Verona in Italy! When I was 20, I moved to the Netherlands to study, which is where I met my husband. We soon moved to Germany where we spent 11 wonderful years.
How did your love story with Asia unfold?
After 12 years of dating, we travelled to Bali where Simon popped the question in front of the stunning Tanah Lot temple. A month later, we were married back in Germany in a small civil service with a few close family members and friends. We had planned to have our ceremony the following summer, but life got in the way. Our firstborn came not long after, and little did we know that a return to Asia was on the cards. We moved to Hong Kong in 2014 for a work opportunity that later brought us to Singapore.
Have you always been a wedding photographer?
No! I was a management consultant for much of my career, but photography was my passion. In 2008, I took time off to join a workshop with David Alan Harvey, a celebrated American photographer and member of the legendary Magnum Photos cooperative. That changed my life! I immediately quit my job and set out to pursue my dream job as a wedding photographer.
To date, I’ve photographed more than 120 weddings. The smallest was a private destination wedding for a young Chinese couple in Salzburg, Austria, and the largest a 300-strong ceremony in a grand castle in Angers, France.
What would you say your photography style is?
Natural, creative and emotional. As a wedding photographer, it’s my job to scout the backdrops, control the composition, maximise lighting and so on. Equally, though, it’s my job to capture a couple’s genuine connection.
I tend to avoid posing couples too much, because people express love in different ways; some are more physical, while others are more reserved. When they look back on their photos, they should recognise themselves, so putting them in front of a skyline and telling them to hold hands and kiss when it’s not natural for them doesn’t make sense. Instead, I set the scene and use every trick up my sleeve to put them at ease and let them be themselves.
Take us through your process, from booking to binding.
Once a couple contacts me, we meet in person. It’s important that they’re comfortable with me from the get-go. I always scope out the venue before the wedding, and it can be quite common for my clients to be without a wedding planner, so I’m always happy to help map out the schedule with them. Factoring in light and particularly the heat in Singapore is very important.
Within two to three weeks, my client will have hundreds of edited images in a web gallery that they can share with their family. There are no hidden costs; it’s important to me that my prices are transparent and they’re given all the photos so that they can enjoy all the details they may have missed on the day.
In time, we meet again and I share all the products I can offer. Usually they opt for an album; they select the images, and I create the layout. Once they’re happy, I get this printed and bound with my trusted supplier in Italy – it’s a beautiful lifelong keepsake.
How did 2020 change your approach to capturing the special day?
For those who chose to go ahead with their nuptials, weddings became a much more intimate affair. Phase 2 and 3 may have eased the capacity restrictions, but the borders have remained closed, meaning families and friends of expats can only take part from afar. The extravagance has been dialled down to beautiful simplicity. Many have chosen to have their weddings at home with just their witnesses or a few friends present. So, I match my wedding photography to the intimacy of the day; I focus on the couple, their moments and the home they’ve made together.
Has this changed your dynamic with your clients?
Absolutely. I’ve become even closer to clients. I am part of their limited numbers and a lot of the times the mother of the bride or the bridesmaids cannot be present, so I help where I’m needed – whether it’s helping the bride get dressed or easing her nerves. I’ve learnt to be present when they need me, and to disappear so I can capture the candid moments from afar.
Any advice for couples tying the knot away from home?
Embrace the positive aspect of it all. Weddings often come with hefty expectations from society and sometimes even our families – parents insisting on a church wedding, for instance, or the pressure to invite extended family or colleagues. This gives you the chance to avoid the pressure and bring back the simplicity of love. Your partner is your home away from home, and if you want to get married, it’s about the two of you and nothing else.
And don’t forget it’s not the be-all and end-all – you can always arrange a celebration on return! But when you look back in 20 years’ time, it will be your special day and I believe that will connect you even more.
What do you think weddings will be like post-COVID?
Will micro-weddings become the new normal? In many ways, I believe that this pandemic was nature’s way of telling us that we’d lost control. From travel to weddings, everything had become excessive and we had lost sight of what was important to us. I believe it will continue to push people to re-evaluate their wedding plans and that they will see that, in many ways, less is more.
A word from the bride
Beatrice was fantastic from start to finish! She was prompt to our initial enquiry, kept communication going through every stage and was swift on the turnaround of our wedding photos. On the day, she was incredibly attentive and really helped soothe our nerves. I never felt rushed or uneasy, and she even helped with unfinished jobs around the house to get set up for the wedding! We truly loved so many of the shots, from the ceremony down to the smaller details and moments. They were better than I could have ever imagined! – Amber
This article first appeared in the February 2021 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!
If you’re planning on getting married and already looking at dresses – read this!