Sofia Bulgaria Destination Wedding Photography
Diana and Sean’s destination wedding at St Sofia Church and reception at Hotel Marinela, Sofia, Bulgaria
I woke up in Greece before Hanna + Mark’s wedding in the summer of 2017, checked my emails on my phone and I had received an enquiry for a “wedding in Europe”. It was from Diana – she wanted to know my availability for the whole of the summer of 2018 so she could plan her wedding around it. “I have no clue yet where we will get married, but I know I would be thrilled to have you as our photographer after seeing what you did in Taormina, at my friend Elena’s wedding.” Wow. Well, eventually Diana and Sean did decide where they were going to get married and it ended up being in Diana’s home country – Bulgaria. People putting this level of trust in what I do will never cease to amaze me but it’s such a huge compliment and I was delighted to be going to Sofia…
So here we were! Diana and Sean had a couple of days of celebrations planned, starting with a traditional Bulgarian evening at their favourite outdoor restaurant. On the way there, Diana was almost arrested for crossing the road, but luckily she knew what to say and was spared some jail time! So we made it to the restaurant and it was such a beautiful place and such DELICIOUS food! Great to sit with Elena and Alex whose wedding I’d captured two years earlier and catch up with them too! During the evening they had some traditional dances, and the ancient ritual called “Nestinarstvo” which involves dancing with bare feet on glowing embers, and is such a valued tradition it’s included in the UNESCO list of world cultural heritage. It was amazing to watch – sadly I wasn’t allowed to use any flash or lighting and it was pitch black apart from the embers so I had to resort to being ‘artistic’ with my exposures!!
The next day was a glorious day in Sofia. Diana and Sean both started the day at the really cool Sense Hotel in Sofia, before heading over to St Sofia Church for their orthodox ceremony. This was really something special, conducted by two orthodox priests who you could tell were so emotionally invested in the ceremony, full of ancient traditions. A really unique experience for everyone involved, especially those of us from overseas.
At the end of the ceremony was a truly amazing moment. Diana and Sean emerged from the ceremony as husband and wife a little bit delirious, and were greeted at the end of the aisle by an elderly lady with a bunch of flowers. Diana was instantly emotional on seeing her, accepted the flowers and walked out of the church visibly moved by what the lady had said to her. I later asked her what had happened, and it turned out this lady was the former neighbour of Diana’s late maternal grandmother who was very very special to Diana. This lady had travelled all the way from Coventry in England to congratulate Diana on her late Grandmother’s behalf. What an incredible moment and story.
After some confetti and group photos we had a quick walk around the streets of Sofia (it was SO hot) and then headed over to Hotel Marinela for the reception. I could tell the whole day that Diana was so happy to be ‘home’ for her wedding even though her and Sean are now very settled in London. I could also tell how much it meant to Diana’s family that they had their wedding in Sofia, and how much Sean’s family enjoyed the chance to really experience such a culturally traditional wedding.
My other favourite moment was during the reception, during another tradition in which the bride kicks a pot of water containing two flowers – one red and one white. I’d seen this tradition before at Elena and Alex’s wedding and knew what to expect, or so I thought. Turns out Diana has quite a powerful kick and my brave positioning led to me narrowly missing a facial injury and getting covered in water!! You’ll see Diana’s reaction in the photos — but I got the shot I wanted for Diana and Sean so it was well worth the risk!!
Thanks so much to Sean and Diana for inviting me to capture their destination wedding in Sofia Bulgaria, and for putting so much trust in me! I loved every moment.