In a new blog series, European photographer Anete Lusina offers exclusive access in to her colourful and culturally diverse world of weddings
As a European wedding photographer, I see that there are plenty of different wedding traditions in the British culture, which still make an appearance in modern weddings in some shape or form. But what about a Baltic wedding, or a Latvian wedding in particular?
The Eastern and Northern European nations are very rich in culture, mythology and traditions, which is why covering a modern Latvian wedding was very interesting to me, especially because it allowed me to compare the experiences as a wedding photographer in quite different settings.
The wedding of Arta and Maris began peacefully, by shooting the bridal preparations. I say ‘peacefully’ loosely, because tying the bride’s dress proved a task to test the patience and teamwork of the whole family! Whilst in the UK the bride would not normally see the groom until the ceremony begins, this time the groom arrived with his party outside the flat, where he met the first of several obstacles before marrying the love of his life.
The first task was to answer tricky questions, given out by a witch, as well as to haggle his way through the door by offering sweets, drinks and even proving himself as a worthy man as he rode on a wooden horse up and down the hallway, whilst the music was playing and everyone was clapping (what did the neighbours think!?).
You'd think that’s enough to get to see your bride? Next task involved saying ‘no’ to two fake brides the witch offered the young man instead of his chosen one. Even though they would make amazing wives and look after the household, or so they promised, the groom held his ground and requested to see his real bride. That’s when the celebration ensued, with everyone toasting with a glass of champagne or something stronger, a few snacks and prepping themselves for what was to come.
The ceremony was held in a picturesque church, that unsurprisingly attracted a group of curious tourists who peeked inside as we waited for the last few guests to arrive. The ceremony was beautiful, with prayers, vows, and more flowers than anyone could ever imagine. Before the couple heads out of the church, it’s a custom for guests to congratulate the newlyweds with a bouquet of flowers, which means the couple leaves the church with enough flowers to fill a small floral shop.
Traditional group shots of families and friends ensued, including the confetti shot - that’s something we see in most weddings, and same with this one.
So, is this the time for the couple to sit down, have a drink and relax? You’d assume so, but no chance!
After a brief rest, our next stop was a gorgeous old bridge across a river, all surrounded by masses of forest, where the happy couple had to throw a key to their new happiness over the edge, one never to be found. One thing very noticeable was how the nearby community (whether tourists or locals) all wished happiness to the couple whenever they passed them by and every single car made the same message by honking their horns and waving. And I mean literally every single car!
What’s to follow? Visiting a local point of interest - a site of caves, small bridges and a park. This time we began by smashing some pottery, as both the bride and the groom revealed an embarrassing secret of something they had done in the past. Then the groom carried the bride across a small bridge whilst saying out loud one pet name for his bride with every step he took. If you accidentally repeat the same one? Too bad, take a step back and come up with a new one!
Finally, we finished with the groom burying a bottle underground that contained small messages written by the couple of what they wish to achieve in their first year of marriage, a small touch yet so meaningful and intimate.
As we arrived at the venue, Sapnu Salina - a large guest house next to a small lake, the couple still had a few tests before they were allowed to actually sit down and put their feet up. Gifts, such as confectionary and alcoholic drinks, are customary for newlyweds to offer to anyone who might stop them on the way before they’re allowed to pass through. Inside the venue the couple’s parents lit one candle each, with the couple using the two to light their own candle, a symbolic way of beginning a new family.
The food, the dance and the music all intertwined in the beautiful evening as the sun began to set. We still managed to catch a few shots of the couple just before the light turned dark. A wedding day this long and full of various ‘challenges’ for the new couple to complete is not something as customary in the UK, but we all have our own beautiful traditions, we make new ones constantly, but in the end we all officiate our unions by saying "I do" and celebrating.