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A Blissfully Sweet Russian Wedding

The rain has flooded the bay area last week, and yet nothing can tear love apart.

Last Sunday I photographed a Russian wedding for Alexey and Masha in the Holy Virgin Cathedral, San Francisco. Rain stopped one hour before the ceremony and I bet the couple must be devout Orthodox Christians!

I stood in awe as I entered the Cathedral, it was a piece of art. Designed by Oleg N. Ivanitsky, the Cathedral comprised of five onion domes covered in 24 caratgold. The interior was incredibly beautiful and was lined by Orthodox icons, religious paintings and mosaics. Beams of soft sun light radiated through the glass of the domed-shaped rooftop, bringing about streams of peace and holiness.

The bride and groom are good-looking couples. My heart was touched by how much they love each other. People don't fall in love, they rise in love. Love is a decision, they chose to walk into love with each other, taking every step and risk through the journey of live, with the grace, patience and kindness given by God.

The ceremony was conducted in Russian which I didn't understand a word at all. I have actually experienced the grace of God through the Clergy, Father Peter, and the Maid of Honor, Kseniya, who have told me what would be coming up next so I wouldn't miss a shot.

One important rite that all photographers shouldn't miss-- The Ceremonial Walk, during which the bride and groom were led by the Clergy around the Holy Table for 3 times as an expression of joy.

Another tip for photographers who are going to shoot weddings in this Cathedral; the Cathedral is in low light condition and flash is generally not allowed during the ceremony, so there is virtually nothing you can do to control the lighting. You have to shoot with a decent camera such as Canon 5D3, 5D4, 1DX, or Nikon D800, D800e, D4 etc, and photograph with maximum ISO 5000. The photos I took are all under ISO 5000, with minimum shutter speed of 1/100s. Your 70-200 F2.8 will be extremely useful in such circumstances. Shooting at the corner of the stage is allowed but you shouldn't step on the carpet leading to the altar. Post-editing to reduce noise in Lightroom (I use LR 5) is a must and it works incredibly if your ISO doesn't go beyond 5000.

The marriage was sealed by a kiss.

Special thanks for Father Peter for giving me all the valuable advices, he is also a photographer!

Posing the couple for journalistic shots after the ceremony.

More photos here.

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