Sarah & Sam's wedding
I was assured by Erika Szostak that this wedding in London was going to be something special, not just because it was Sarah and Sam's happy day, but for so many other reasons.
Consequently, I was really looking forward to assisting Erika at this glorious Iranian wedding, full of colour, symbolism and interest, held at the prestigious Inner Temple, London.
My part of the day started near Embankment where I met up with the groom (Sam) and his brother (his best man). I captured some getting-ready shots, incorporating London icons in the background, while the brothers ate breakfast. Meanwhile, Erika was covering the bride's preparations in another part of London.
Arriving at The Inner Temple, I made my way to the ceremony room and found a very elaborate floor spread, including several kinds of food and decorations. This is called Sofre-ye-Aghd. Items in the Sofreh included:
- The Seven Herbs: Khashkhash (poppy seeds), Berenj (rice), Sabzi Khoshk (Angelica), Salt, Raziyane (Nigella seeds), Cha'i (black tea leaves) and Kondor (Frankincense).
- The Seven Pastries: Noghl, Baklava, Toot (Persian marzipan), Naan-e Bereneji (rice cookies), Naan-e Badami (almond cookies) and Naan-Nokhodchi (chickpea cookie) are placed on the spread and traditionally served to the guests after the ceremony.
- Mirror of Fate and two candelabras, symbols of light and fire. When the bride enters the room, her veil covers her face. Once she sits beside the groom, she removes her veil - the first thing that the groom sees in the mirror should be the reflection of his wife-to-be.
- The Blessed Bread: A specially baked bread with the blessing "Mobaarak-Baad" written in calligraphy on it.
- "Naan-o Paneer-o Sabzi": Bread, feta cheese, and greens are also placed on the spread to symbolise the basic food that is needed to sustain life. They are traditionally served to guests after the ceremony.
- Symbols of Fertility: Decorated eggs, almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts.
- The Heavenly Fruits: pomegranates, grapes, apples.
- Persian Rose: A cup of rose-water and a rose extracted from the Gol-e Mohammadi (Mohammadan flower). This is to perfume the air.
- Shakh-e-Nabat: A bowl made out of rock candy.
- "Honey": A cup of honey should be on the spread. Immediately after the couple is married, the bride and groom each dip their little finger in the cup of honey and feed it to one another.
- Esphand: The esphand and frankincense are sprinkled on a brazier holding hot coals producing a smoke to ward off evil eyes and for purification.
- Coins: A bowl of gold or silver coins representing wealth and prosperity.
- The Sacred Text: The Avesta, Qur'an, Bible, or Torah is placed in front of the couple on the spread. Some families also add a poetry book such as Rumi's Diwan-e Shams-e Tabrizi, Hafiz's Divan, or the Shahnameh by Ferdowsi..
- Prayer Rug: A prayer rug (Jaa-ye Namaaz) or a traditional Iranian Termeh is placed in the centre of the wedding spread. The prayer rug, open in the Aghd-cloth is to remind the couple of the importance of prayer to god, the prayer carpet also includes a small cube of clay with prayers written on it (Mohr) and a rosary (Tasbih). Non-Muslim families may or may not omit the prayer kit.
We included a "first-look" to the proceedings too. This is where the bride and groom lay eyes on each other for the first time, prior to going into the ceremony.
This was a wonderful moment for them both and allowed us a real chance to capture some electric between the couple as they were out of the public eye - behind closed doors in the impressive drawing room. After those few minutes, the bride and groom took their rightful place sat at the Sofreh.
A silk shawl was held over the bride and groom's head by the bridesmaids. Throughout the ceremony, two cones made from hardened sugar were softly ground together above the couple's head by a happily married female relative, to shower them in sweetness.
It was a unique experience for me, and by having two photographers covering different angles, we ensured that we captured every element perfectly for the couple and their guests.
It is always great to work with someone you have a clear understanding with as you can both relax and focus on what you need to capture without wondering if the other person got 'the shot'. You just know it has been taken care of.
The Georgian style banqueting hall with its high ceilings, chandeliers, and oak-panelled walls adorned with heraldic shields and historic paintings, was the perfect environment for the wedding breakfast.
Later on, the room was transformed into a disco and the couple and their guests partied away into the night. Erika and I would like to wish Sarah and Sam much happiness for the future and to thank them for trusting us to capture their day.