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St. Lucia Destination Wedding for Ashley & Paresh

I met Ashley and Paresh for their engagement session at Cathedral Park, and we had a great time. When they reached out to me earlier this fall to see if I'd be up for photographing their destination wedding in St. Lucia, how could I say no?!?

The engagement session was such an important step in building our relationship, and was the major factor in Ashley and Paresh wanting me to be their destination wedding photographer. They prioritized knowing and being comfortable with me, which was a huge factor during the time we spent together on the island.

Ashley and Paresh booked the Fond Deux Resort and invited their immediate families and closest friends. Paresh's family hadn't had a full reunion in over 30 years, so they flew from around the world to attend.

The first day of wedding festivities in St. Lucia was a Mehndi ceremony, where everyone got a henna design painted on by other family members. The only rule was that the groom couldn't see the bride's henna, so he had a small design painted on his hand and went off to grab some food with other family members. That left Ashley to get the most intricate henna design I've ever seen, taking close to 3 hours to complete both sides of her hands and the top of her feet.

My favorite henna design was an eloquent drawing of a block of cheese.

The next day, we started wedding festivities early due to impending rain. Because we were in St. Lucia for the rainy season, we had to be a little more flexible with the timeline. The ceremony was originally planned for 3 PM, but we decided to shift it to 12:30 PM, which meant it was the hottest (but hopefully driest) part of the day.

Ashley got ready in her parents' larger cottage while Paresh got ready in his smaller cottage so they wouldn't accidentally see each other before their first look. Once Ashley had her 2-piece dress on, Paresh's aunties came to adorn Ashley with facial jewels and bindi jewelry. Although the cottage had air conditioning in the living room, due to the St. Lucian heat and humidity, it was a little harder to get all of the facial jewelry adhered in place, but it ended up looking perfect!

Once Ashley and Paresh were ready, Paresh got into position at the spot we had agreed upon for their first look. It was important to Ashley to have lush greenery and iconic scenery in their photos, so I had suggested a spot by the blue pools that had a break in the foliage. The edge of the pool was the first look location, and I just kept imploring them both not to fall in (or jump, with the heat)!

The first look was so beautiful - sunny and dry! Because getting ready had run a little longer than expected, we finished the first look and started heading down to the ceremony location.

The ceremony location was a historical gazebo that was nestled inside a grove of cacao trees. As guests arrived for the ceremony, one of Paresh's family members played a bansuri flute and welcomed everyone to their seats.

Just before the ceremony started, the emcee, Sanjay, explained what was to come in the ceremony. Paresh's uncle was the celebrant and priest, and he was already in the process of blessing the gazebo to ensure it was a sacred space. No one could enter it before first removing their shoes. The ceremony began with the priest and Paresh's family praying in the gazebo while Ashley's parents walked up and were blessed to enter the gazebo.

The bride and grooms parents took seats inside the gazebo, symbolizing a "negotiation" and agreement between the families. Then, the groom made his way to the altar, led by his friends and family, in the Baraat.

Once Paresh was at the gazebo, his brother helped him remove his shoes, and he stepped inside to be guided through a series of questions that the priest and Ashley's parents posed to him. He answered that he intended to marry Ashley, be a respectful and kind husband, and to always put her first. Once the priest confirmed Ashley's parents were satisfied with Paresh's intentions, Paresh was hidden behind a curtain so Ashley could walk up to the gazebo.

There were some questions asked of Ashley, and when she was ready to see her groom, the curtain was dropped so the nearlyweds could see each other for the first time during the ceremony. When the curtain was lowered, Paresh had the BIGGEST smile waiting for Ashley, and was glowing with excitement.

The ceremony continued with the couple being blessed by the priest and their families. They wore a red cord, symbolizing their union, to complete steps to the ceremony, which included taking turns leading each other in a specific number of loops around the altar inside the gazebo. Their ceremony concluded in parents and the bride and groom all feeding each other, then presenting gifts to one another.

After the ceremony in the altar was finished, it was time for the Joota Chupai, the tradition of the sisters and friends in the wedding party of stealing the groom's shoes. The groomsmen have to beg and barter to impress the thieves. It seemed effective for the bartering to be coordinated by the emcee, Sanjay, and the groom's relatives. The groomsmen begged, offered compliments, and made many promises to try to win the shoes back. Out of desperation, they performed a dance to try and convince the ladies to return the shoes, but even that daring display wasn't enough. Finally, Sanjay broke down and used cash to buy the shoes back, and the entire wedding cheered!

Once everyone had their shoes back, we all needed a few minutes to grab water and cool off a bit. Because of the forecasted rain, the ceremony had taken place during the hottest part of the day, and everyone was feeling a little sweaty and crispy. That 15 minute break gave me a chance to duck into the reception area and grab a few photos of the colorful decorations and cake.

Once the newlyweds had rested, we started on formal photos, which were very important to the couple and their families. Because some of Paresh's family hadn't seen each other in over 3 decades, siblings were eager to get photos together as part of their reunion. I had different family members coming up and telling me that it had been 20-25-30 years since they had all been in the same place together. It was so special for a wedding to bring so much joy to the reunion!

We took a ton of beautiful photos of just the newlyweds, then with their friends and families, and then a few more of just the two of them around the resort.

Towards the end of the romantic photos of the two of them, Ashley and Paresh noticed that almost all of Paresh's family had changed into bright red Hawaiian shirts... and Paresh's face was the pattern on every single shirt!

Because it was starting to get dark, we moved the party into the reception area, located inside one of the resort's restaurants. After an Indian-St. Lucian fusion dinner, the bride and groom cut their cake and had their first dance. Once the DJ started playing some popular hits, the families hit the dancefloor!