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Posts tagged Hope
Life is Happening! On Being Present at Your Wedding
Being Present at your Wedding
Being Present at your Wedding

You may wonder why I care so much about all this “being in the now” stuff for your wedding.

The busier we get in life the faster it goes. No one ever laid on their deathbed and said “I wish I’d spent more time at the office.” ...But what if “the office" was truly delightful? I spend a lot of my life on my clients' wedding photography experience, so I want the process to be meaningful both for them and for me. I want us to look back on the years working together and remember our time laughing and being inspired.

What this is getting at is How to be present in your life, how to connect with the people around you, and how to experience joy – in its fleeting moments.

I practice this myself and, just like finding a good book or a fabulous restaurant, I want others to experience it too. Especially for those big moments in life like a wedding!

I wont lie to you – this is a work in progress.

Last year I sat in a coffee shop with a client-turned-friend after her wedding and she told me “I was so obsessed on my wedding day – I must have driven you crazy! All I could think about was the photos. I just wanted everything to look perfect.”

We discussed this and realized that the ceremony was the only part of the day when she was completely present in what was happening… and you can see it in the pictures. We looked through her wedding photographs and commented on the images from the church – “they look so holy” she smiled a secret smile at the memory.

And she looks so serene. She looks like she’s come home; this is the place where she is supposed to be, and this is the man she is supposed to be with. All is well. All questions are answered in this moment. It shows.

After that conversation I vowed to make it a goal in my business, for my clients: presence. It’s an ongoing effort for all of us. If we can be awake and be together then we are living.

How do you stay in the moment? If you have tips or comments, please share them below!

2013 Year Review… Prepare Yourself - it's Emo.

So it’s mid-January and I'm finally writing a 2013 year review... There is much to say. A year ago I was obsessively researching websites for Sweetheart Empire's portfolio. For those of you unfamiliar with the phenomenon of “obsessively researching” I'm talking about Procrastination. I studied all sorts of stuff until finally – for whatever combination of reasons – I snapped out of the fog and took action.

I started even though I felt I wasn’t ready… And everything began to fall into place. A year later I have experienced the following list of awesomeness.

Neither chronologically, nor in order of importance, in 2013 I:

  • Launched my own website and had to stand by my work all on my own
  • Experienced weeks and months [on and off] of debilitating fear of rejection and failure, self-torture, doubt, excitement, and more fear
  • Flew to Las Vegas (first time) alone for eight days, and attended WPPI – the world’s largest wedding photography conference
  • Had a portfolio review by José Villa (I was starstruck, and had to concentrate so hard on controlling my facial expression that I almost forgot to listen to the feedback)
  • Attended a Jesh de Rox workshop, had my mind blown, and felt that I had found “my people”
  • Meditated and worshipped the new moon with belly-dancers, yogis, philosophers, MBA students, and other such wandering souls
  • For the first time, a couple booked their wedding date based on my availability (and sent me a delicious babka to boot!)
Jose Villa, Nico Koenig and Babka
Jose Villa, Nico Koenig and Babka
  • Celebrated my mum’s 70th birthday in the same week that I found out my sister was pregnant
  • Experienced, from afar, the death of my nana and my uncle
  • Had a broken heart
  • Faced things about myself that I had been trying to ignore for many years
  • Experienced moments of self-acceptance so profound that words couldn’t explain the shocking peace of it
  • Relapsed back into judging and then judged myself for being judgmental
  • Began to work with some of my favourite photographers in the city, and was astoundingly lucky to learn and grow both professionally and emotionally from this
  • Co-produced my first video testimonial
  • Photographed my first magazine cover (and spread!)
  • Shot my cousin’s incredible wedding in Manhattan, and got to know family members who have lived in Ireland all my life
  • Assisted in the delivery of my sister’s beautiful daughter - indescribably life-changing.
Manhattan, Persian Tribune & Elle Daftarian, Baby Aisling
Manhattan, Persian Tribune & Elle Daftarian, Baby Aisling
  • Met several new soul-sisters and reconnected with old ones
  • Made many mistakes, stayed up late nights, relapsed into perfectionist-procrastination, doubted my decisions, let down my loved ones, over-booked and over-worked, missed many birthdays, hunched over my computer for too many hours
  • Started doing yoga again, dancing more, singing louder in the shower, going for walks around the park, and making green smoothies
  • Forgave
  • Took another Jesh de Rox workshop and consequently started training in Beloved Technique
  • Had my first interview published online
  • Made the commitment to only work with people I feel a connection with
  • Doubted my commitment and felt scared
  • Read Seth’s opinion on choosing who you work for, and felt good again
  • Then booked several awesome new clients who I totally feel the connection with!
Silverline Studios, Jasper Savage, Jesh de Rox, Sunset
Silverline Studios, Jasper Savage, Jesh de Rox, Sunset

...and finally, the topic to which this website is dedicated… In 2013:

  • I got to know amazing couples who put their faith in me, and allowed me to witness their strengths, vulnerabilities, and unique expressions of love and family.
  • And felt so overwhelmingly grateful that there was no appropriately powerful hashtag… so I kept it for myself, in my heart.

No doubt this is the same year most people experienced. Possibly with fewer bouts of neuroses – though really it’s just the "normal" neuroses, I like to think. Anyway, come on - the emotional roller-coaster is pretty okay!

So. Now is not the time to list my resolutions – you're all listed-out for today. But I do hope to start posting some of the many beautiful moments that took place, here on the blog, and I hope you will join me for more adventures this year.

Follow @SweetheartEMP on Instagram to catch a glimpse of the Empire, or just reach out to me and let's have a chat. Happy 2014!



Sarah & Jason

Sarah and Jason took me on a tour of their old neighbourhood for their engagement photos. Davisville and Oriole Park on a sunny autumn afternoon. Best friends before they became a couple, the two went for sushi every week for three years, just for an excuse to spend time together. Then Jason would walk Sarah to the bus stop and wait with her, or Sarah would walk Jason to his nearby apartment where they would, no doubt, linger a little longer near the 1970s water fountain out front… Just a couple more minutes in each other's company.

This was a super meaningful session for Jason and Sarah - to take some time in the midst of wedding preparations, to remind each other about how it all began, and why they were doing this in the first place. Naturally shy in front of the camera, I used all my tricks to get them engaging together, and soon they were laughing, dancing, and being 150% themselves (including several fantastical discussions about kid-napping cute puppies from the park).


When I look at these images I feel like it was truly a photojournalistic experience. The personal nature of their locations and stories allowed real moments to happen that I was witness to (and now you are too). The three of us connected to create something authentic, and to me that is what's so inspiring about true love.

Sarah and Jason I feel privileged to have made these photojournalistic engagement photos with you, and I am simply thrilled for your upcoming wedding!

Sarah & Pierre's Wedding at the Bata Shoe Museum

Most brides tell me that they basically want two things on their wedding day - they want to look beautiful and they want to throw a kick-ass party. And hey - for one of the biggest milestones of your life, I don't think that's too much to ask! I photographed Sarah & Pierre's wedding at The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, and I can tell you right now that Sarah lived the dream of every bride. Both she and Pierre were total knockouts; their friends and family were awesome; the party was unforgettable.


Sarah looked absolutely stunning on her wedding day. Her hair was styled by Judy Marini, and her makeup by Noemi Lavoie; surrounded by the special women and girls in her life, she seemed to almost glow.


Both the ceremony and cocktail reception were held at the museum, against a backdrop of floor to ceiling windows and a candle-lined staircase. It was an unexpectedly romantic setting, and the perfect stage for this highly emotional and joyful ceremony. I loved Sarah's look of triumph as she and Pierre were proclaimed husband and wife, by their Humanist officiant Mary Beaty.


Before the cocktails, we roamed through the museum. We had the whole place to ourselves, and it felt like being in a playground! It was also a fashion- and vintage-lover's haven, with shoes from all over the world, throughout the ages.


After all the preparation, ritual, reflection, food and drink... what came next was a party of epic proportions, and these people like to get down.


Sarah and Pierre met and fell in love very quickly. They experienced life in all of its craziness, and their passion and commitment to one another has only grown. To hear the touching words of their friends and family on this joyous occasion, and to feel the gratitude in the atmosphere for being present on that day... actually it still puts a lump in my throat, and I feel pretty honoured to have witnessed it.

Thank you Sarah and Pierre for including us in your amazing day.

Photographers: Kate O'Connor and Rudo Vacula

Thank you to the creative team! Caterer: Encore Food with Elegance DJ: Andrew Graham Hussey Dress Designer: Allure Bridal Dress Shop: Becker's Bridal Invitations: Adam Patterson Favours & Gifts: Donation to Family Institute for Breast Cancer Research, Princess Margaret Hospital Flowers: Margo's Flowers Makeup: Noemi Lavoie Men's Attire: Freeman Formalwear Venue (Ceremony, Reception, Décor): Bata Shoe Museum, Victoria Pereira

Hello, and Welcome!

Wow. It's my first ever blog post in Sweetheart Empire... What to say? I didn't plan to write anything at all until I was "ready". Ready with what, you may ask? Oh I don't know: some photos, an announcement about the "launch", an actual website that's got content or even a logo? Nope - I've got none of those, yet.

But someone recently told me to Start Before You're Ready. And I was just sitting at the kitchen table on this bright, wintry day, working away at the preparations, when I was overcome with excitement (most likely caffeine-induced) and decided to write RIGHT NOW.

So I'll tell you what I know:

It's 2013 and after 8 years of shooting weddings with my amazing friend, Rudo Vacula, I've taken the leap and am starting my own wedding photography company - one that embodies the personal care that I feel for both people and pictures!

Rudo and I will continue to shoot together often. Yet the time has come to fly higher, try something new and try something on my own.

I hope that what you will see before you, this blog, will be an expression of my passions and inspirations:

  • Creating genuine, caring connections with people
  • Living life in the present moment
  • Being honest and human, with both brilliance and flaws
  • Photographing other people doing the same

It has taken me 32 years to learn that the freedom I crave in life comes when I am open and accepting with myself, with my heart, and with my fears. I know this may sound cliché, but that is honestly what I am going through.

I hope that by taking the step into the unknown with me, you will also see the beauty and feel the caffeine-like surge of anticipation, possibility and wonder, that life holds for us - whether you're in love, learning to dive, singing on stage for the first time, or taking any leap that requires hope, faith, adventure, risk, and trust > all at once. HERE WE GO!