A Letter To Brides And Grooms - What Really Matters On Your Wedding Day

A few years ago, I penned a letter to brides and grooms expressing my thoughts on what matters on a wedding day. Having been married for 7 years, photographing dozens and dozens of weddings over the years and having recently become a father, I’ve revised my original letter to reflect some of my most recent experiences. I’d like to share it with you all as a little note to remember what the wedding day is all about.


“Dear future Bride and Groom,

If you really love the idea of documentary photography for your wedding then I want to be your wedding photographer. 

I'm not about the posed photographs or manufacturing a moment to look great. I'm into film cameras, black and white photography and grabbing authentic moments throughout a wedding day. I'm about waiting and finding those authentic moments and weaving a story through them. I'm about being in the midst of things while doing my best to not be noticed. My photography is about friends hugging a groom, a bride sitting with her sisters while getting make up on, the expression on a groom's face as he nervously waits for his bride, a flower girl staring up at the bride-to-be with wonder in her eyes.

In the midst of all this, as I sit and look at the photographs I’ve taken of couples over the years, I think of this: Time is so fleeting and goes by so fast. Take a moment to breathe and enjoy the moment. Your wedding day will fly by in a flash and it is so important to live in those moments! 

Regardless of whom you choose as your wedding photographer, know that the most important decision you will make is when you say "I do" at the altar to your spouse-to-be. Things fade over time but true love prevails over it all. Embrace your man/woman and love him/her with an amazing passion and keep that flame going even when the sweat pants come out and laundry needs to be done :)

And just one day, you may have children to call your own … or maybe not. But in the end, the wedding day will be one fantastic day in the timeline that is your life. Don’t sweat the small stuff and enjoy each moment of the day as it’s happening but remember that it’s a small part of something bigger and setting the stage for things yet to come. You may one day be telling a mini-version of you about the way you danced the night away.

Regardless of how a wedding day goes and regardless of the speed bumps and meltdowns along the way, know that the love that you have created with your special someone is more important and more rewarding than anything on Earth. Forge it well over the years and may the wedding day be just a start of a beautiful journey together. 



-Jonathan Desmond-
Documentary Photographer 

2018 Year End Review - My Documentary Photography Comes Home

How do you even begin to encapsulate a year? It’s 365 days of living and being and breathing and it all goes by so fast. As a photographer, the photos I take are not only momentos of the little moments that went by but also memory place holders that let me look back and recall a time in my life: the smells, the sights and even the sounds.

A brief slideshow encapsulating my 2018 year. What a year it was! Read on below for more details :)

This year marked a major change for me personally with the birth of my daughter. It changed the way I see the world  and how I play a part in it. Being a father is at some time really tough but also other times very rewarding and I truly enjoy the reward of being a new Dad.

Seeing my wife give birth was an experience unto itself… but hearing my daughter’s first cries changed everything about who I think I am.

Seeing my wife give birth was an experience unto itself… but hearing my daughter’s first cries changed everything about who I think I am.

The Chinatown Project (Documenting Chinatown) grew externally this year. I was taking less photos and spending a little less time in Chinatown compared to before but I got a chance to exhibit photos at the Sun Yat Sen Courtyard pop-up exhibition and also talk about this long-term project at the ARC Experience photography conference in Vancouver this year. It’s also the year that I started creating the first book of my documentation of Chinatown and I look forward to making it available for sale next year. 

I worked with many families this year as well as wedding couples and it was amazing as always to be a part of people’s lives and document their day. I truly enjoy being a documentary photographer and creating photographs from the “mundane” and “unseen” moments. To be able to create authentic and honest photographs are why I do what I do every day. 

As I look back and try to pick a few “highlight” photos for this slideshow and blogpost, I’m reminded of all the good times in 2018, all the rough times and also all the celebratory times. As in previous years, I’m so thankful for all the people I worked with this year, from clients to photographers, to the people of Chinatown, to event planners and brides and grooms to the Chinatown Associations, to all my friends I’ve made at the ARC Experience to the families who’ve allowed me to document your lives. Thank you all so much! You all make my photography more than just about photographs.

The Birth Of Our Daughter:

The Documenting Chinatown Project (Photos from 2018):

Family PhotoSessions:

Documentary Wedding Photography (and some Styled Photoshoot Projects):

Hatley Castle and Empress Hotel Victoria Wedding

First, huge thanks to Ryan Flynn Photography, who took me on as a seconding photographer for this assignment of his. Ryan is a great guy!

As I am based close to the city of Vancouver on the British Columbia mainland, heading to Vancouver Island and the city of Victoria is always a treat. I love the feel and sense of adventure and travel when I make my way out there. In order to make the ferry to get to the wedding on time, I had to wake up at a very early hour (i.e. it was still dark and it was Summer time) and make my way through some winding roads. Eventually, I managed to get to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal and soon relaxed once my car and I were on the ferry and on our way across the water.

The first part of this wedding took place first in the Empress Hotel and the ceremony took place at Hatley Castle. My day started with the groomsmen at the Empress Hotel, where the groom and his groomsmen were hurriedly putting on their clothes in order to make it out the door in time. Once we boarded the wedding bus, I met with the bride and the bridesmaids inside Hatley Castle and documented their time hanging out together moments before the ceremony took place. Hatley Castle and the castle grounds surrounding it are beautiful. I later found out that Hatley Castle was used in some of the original X Men movies (the ones with Patrick Stewart)!

After the ceremony, I went with Ryan Flynn and the videographers to Beacon Hill and photographed some of the in-between shots and documentary moments while the more posed photos were taking place.

Story continued below…

The second part of the day led us back to the Empress Hotel in Victoria. At one point during the night, the couple strolled along Victoria’s Downtown Harbour at sun set and had a band on a neighboring dock play their first song dance while they danced to it. The night ended with dancing to an amazing band (to who’s names I did not catch unfortunately) and I went back to my hotel room satisfied that I had been a part of an amazing wedding.

Asian Fusion Styled Wedding "Styled" Shoot

I didn’t want to do the usual styled shoot. 

When Mandy from “Eventful by Mandy” and I came together to brainstorm an idea for a styled shoot, I knew from the get-go that I wanted to do something different. I wanted to do a styled shoot that was more along my style: unposed and more authentic. Mandy brought in the idea of doing an Asian-Fusion themed wedding.

Through some continued discussion, we eventually came up with this idea of what came to be a fusion of a lot of things. Styled but not posed (cinematic, in fact), old Asian influences and homages to the past but in a modern context, classical Shanghai Jazz from grammaphones and Iphones being used for selfies: Asian Fusion.

The idea then was how to form it. As mentioned, I didn’t want to do the typical posed photos. I wanted a narrative, a story and characters you cared about. This led eventually to the creation of “script” that would dictate the flow of the photographs. From there, we found our location, our actors/models (a real-life wedding couple!) and our props and put it all together.

From my friend Jeffrey’s place to the streets and alleys of Chinatown to the final stop at Chinatown BBQ, we wanted to show that there is beauty in the moment but also that styled wedding shoots can have a narrative. We also wanted to show that you can successfully merge the old and the new and create something beautiful in the process.  

Huge shout outs to the following:
Mandy at Eventful by Mandy who helped plan and organize and give life to this project.
Henry and Katbie (@blanc143 on Instagram) who took time out of their newly married life to be a part of this project.
My friend Jeffrey Wong who opened his house to us so we could create scene.
Cathy at Sweetease Cupcakes, who created the amazingly beautiful cake.
The folks at Chinatown BBQ who gave us permission to use a part of their restaurant to create our final scene.

Our story begins with Kat writing a letter…

Our story begins with Kat writing a letter…

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Brix & Mortar Wedding - Adrian and Wendy - Seconding for John Bello

Approaching a wedding in a documentary fashion is actually quite difficult. As I'm not directing people to pose or to do certain things, I have to be able to react and anticipate moments as they happen. There's no "OK, can you look at Mom and laugh now?". I'm there to document it as how it truly unfolded. Why would I approach things this way? To me, there's something absolutely magical about creating beautiful photographs of real and authentic moments. It's telling your story as the way it happened and not how I as a photographer directed it to be. Candid, photojournalistic and unposed moments are where my photography passion lies.

Adrian and Wendy had a late winter wedding, which meant that it was a bit colder and also day light disappeared quite quickly. However, their passion in dance and for each other soon heated up the place. As usual, I'll let the photographs tell the story from there.

Thanks to John Bello for giving me the opportunity to second shoot for him!

The groom keeps an eye out for guests.

The groom keeps an eye out for guests.

A beautiful night at Brix & Mortar Vancouver. Winter time meant that the daylight was gone by the time the evening reception rolled around, which meant that the night lights and the evening ambiance took over.

A beautiful night at Brix & Mortar Vancouver. Winter time meant that the daylight was gone by the time the evening reception rolled around, which meant that the night lights and the evening ambiance took over.

Uhhh.... OK. No words for this one other than "wedding party games".

Uhhh.... OK. No words for this one other than "wedding party games".

The passion as these two danced was incredible to watch as it was to photograph.

The passion as these two danced was incredible to watch as it was to photograph.

And then the crowd comes in to dance with you.

And then the crowd comes in to dance with you.