Damion Hamilton: Napa Valley Wedding Photographer bio picture
  • Thanks so much for coming to our page! We hope you have a few laughs, lots of smiles, and maybe even have to do the fast blink to avoid some tears. We feel like the most blessed people on earth to get to do a job we love and work with some of the most awesome people out there. We are so lucky! We are very selective about our clients and take a limited number of events per year so that we can give them the very best service possible. It's important to us that you get the kind of personalized service you deserve. We consider it an honor that someone would choose us to capture their once in a lifetime moments!

Do Weddings Smarter: First Look vs. Aisle Look?

…And the debate continues to roar about whether couples should see each other or not PRIOR to the ceremony.  This subject has been on my mind somewhat after our seeing how the choice to do a First Look or an Aisle Look affected some of our recent weddings.
ORIGIN: According to www.thebridalguide.com, “During the time when arranged marriages were custom, the betrothed couple wasn’t allowed to see each other before the wedding at all. The wedding symbolized a business deal between two families (romantic, huh?), and a father would have been pleased for his daughter to marry a man from a rich, land-owning family. But he also feared that if the groom met the bride before the wedding and thought she wasn’t attractive, he’d call off the wedding, casting shame onto the bride and her family. Therefore, it became tradition that the bride and groom were only allowed to meet at the wedding ceremony so that the groom did not have the opportunity to change his mind. And that veil the bride wears? Its original purpose was also to keep the groom from finding out what the bride looked like until the last possible minute, when it was too late to back out of the transaction.”
Choosing not to have a first look is completely fine, however you will need to adjust your expectations to accommodate not seeing each other before the wedding and to determine if the consequences are what you are desiring for your day.  First of all, determine what your priorities for the day are.  Is seeing family and friends most important to you?  Is having pictures of the bride & groom most important to you?  Once, you’ve determined what your priorities are, then it’s time to arrange your day accordingly.
This is an actual email that I recently sent to a bride regarding how to adjust expectations for a first look vs. an aisle look.  I think it explains the concept pretty well and hopefully it will help you determine what the best course is for you!
“As far as the issue of a seeing each other for the first time down the aisle, I completely understand the good mystery of that tradition.  I fear that sometimes there is a misconception that having a First Look is not nearly as romantic or exciting, although it is actually possibly more so than doing the traditional way.  Whatever you guys decide together, we will honor your desires and flow with that.  I do have to take this moment though to adjust some expectations if ya’ll opt for seeing each other first at the aisle.  You see, the images that you see on our portfolio are created because of a magic element called “time.”  When we are photographing you, it takes time for you to get comfortable in front of the camera and time for us to get to know you, what angles work best for your bone structure, etc.  When we are photographing, we hardly ever use anything shot within the first 15-20 minutes because it takes that long for most people (and us) to settle into the rhythm.  With that in mind, I feel that it’s only fair to be completely honest about how seeing each other at the aisle first will affect your day and how your expectations should be realistically adjusted for that option.
1)   You should expect less images of the groom’s natural reaction to seeing you for the first time.  Coming down the aisle, I will be at the back with you and your dad and Damion will be photographing you coming down the aisle with a long lens and trying to get the groom’s reaction.  You will see each other and then proceed quickly with the ceremony, not having the opportunity to soak in the moment and enjoy his reaction.  With the first look, it’s just the four of us, and we have one camera focused on each of you to capture your entire reaction.  We will set you up in a very romantic and special way, get ready and when he turns around to see you, we will capture his real reaction, not a restrained one.  You will have 10-15 minutes to enjoy and adore each other in just the First Look portion of your portrait session.
2)   You should expect that your family and bridal party will need to be ready earlier and available longer than with a First Look.  For example, all of the groomsmen and the groom’s family will need to be ready 2 hours and 45 minutes prior to the ceremony and be available for about 30 minutes afterwards.  With a first Look, everyone (except for you and him) would need to be ready 1 hour and 45 minutes prior to the ceremony and would be finished about 10-15 minutes after the ceremony.
3)   You should expect less pictures of the two of you, the most important pictures of the day!  These are the images that you will want to hang on your walls and will be the most important to you.  When seeing each other down the aisle first, after the ceremony, we will do the family and bridal party pictures (prob 25-30 minutes) and then whatever time is left over before the end of the cocktail hour is the only time that we will have to do the bride & groom portraits and that includes any travel time to a semi-secluded location.  That means that we will probably only have 20 minutes or less to capture images of the two of you. Honestly, in the only wedding this year that did not do a First Look, we literally did their only portraits in a space of 11 minutes of portrait time.  They came out ok, but we’re not after OK.  We’re after magical!  This is the only time that you will have alone during the day and you will want to enjoy it.  With a First Look, we like to spend an hour from First Look to ending your portrait session and you will get about 200% more images of the two of you.
4)  You should expect to spend less time with your guests.  With an aisle look, you will spend the entire cocktail hour taking pictures while your guests wait and enjoy.  With the First Look, the entire bridal party and most family pictures with bride & groom, and bride and groom portraits are done beforehand, so you are free to mingle with your guests and enjoy them before sitting down to dinner.
As I said before, we will honor your choice.  We know it’s your wedding of course! But, I am just sharing some thoughts that we’ve gathered from our years of photographing and observing many weddings. If you do decide on the aisle, these are just a few of the points that you will want to keep in mind.  Please always feel free to ask any questions.  I hope you’ve heard my heart in this, just to inform, not to push!”

Nikole & Tommy’s E-session! | Damion Hamilton | Napa Valley Engagement Photographer

“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens….”  Uh, no.  Definitely the wrong song.  Tommy Frey & Nikole D’Adamo’s favorite things are way more exciting, like heart pumping racing action and sharing ice cold beer with friends.  We try hard to incorporate the essence of each couple into their engagement session (and you know how Damion LOVES cars), so we really enjoyed this opportunity to capture Nikole and Tommy on the family property at the base of Napa’s foothills.   There, we had a chance to highlight some of the favorite things that this awesome couple shares, like the love of racing.   A need for unbridled speed definitely runs through their veins, instilled from the time they were both younger.  Tommy’s family grew up racing boats and Nikole drag races this sweet Camaro down the quarter mile in the high 11′s with Tommy and her family from B & G Tire as her crew (ask for her dad Kevin…he’s the best;)there to support her.

The wedding promises to be an exciting time as well, and we can’t wait to see you guys again!!

Hanna Boy’s Evening with the All Stars | Damion Hamilton | Sonoma Event Photographer

Hanna Boy’s Center is a great organization dedicated to changing the lives of at-risk young men.  This is our third year working with Hanna, and the more we’ve gotten to know them, the more impressed we are with their program.  They are doing a great work in Sonoma, though many of the young men who apply and come to the school are from all around the country.  We had the opportunity to photograph their annual fundraiser, An Evening with the All Stars, which was made even more special this year because they celebrated the opening of their brand new gym with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

The funds were flying from the hands of the very generous and kind donors who bid on some nice items during the silent auction and some INCREDIBLE packages in the main auction.  Without a doubt though, the most memorable and moving moments of the night, were the stories shared by the graduating seniors this year of how Hanna had impacted their lives.  I’m sure there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, including mine.  Then, we got to hear from some former graduates from Hanna and where they are in life now, in successful jobs with beautiful families and lives.  It was so inspiring to hear how Hanna’s scholarship program had changed the lives of these young men and allowed them to attend college and have successful careers in a variety of fields.

At the end of the night, I found myself wishing that I was sitting the chair of the donors and had more to give to Hanna.  If you are looking for a good cause to invest into where you will see people’s lives changed for the better, Hanna is your best bet.  They’ve been impacting not just young men, but future generations since 1945.  They are a solid program.  Please consider sharing what you have to make someone’s else’s life more successful.

Great job Hanna!

Love this mosaic made up of faces who have traveled through Hanna.

“Thanks to you, I am the first person in my family to graduate from high school.–Chan”

This display tore me up. A entire room was filled with letters written by the boys from Hanna. It was sometimes hard to read the letters as the boys described situations that are so hard to imagine a child should be facing, parents who committed suicide, parents in jail, hard times, homelessness…

Some of the great young men that we’ve encountered!

Amanda & Alex’s Vintage Estate Wedding | Damion Hamilton | Napa Valley Wedding Photographer

The picturesque Vintage Estate in Napa Valley was the perfect backdrop for a wedding where friends and family were top priority, the good wine was flowing, and most of all, the bride and groom Amanda Fechter and Alex Kuiper were (and are still) madly in love.  It was a pleasure to watch these two join their lives in marriage and to see them celebrate with all of the friends and family who have been rooting them on! The day was filled with surprises from some pretty stunning gifts for the bride and groom to an impromptu bridal toast at NapaStyle poured by none other than Chef Michael Chiarello himself.

Amanda & Alex, since the first time we met, we’ve seen your love for each other bubbling over and it is a wonderful thing.  It’s so easy to see why your friends and family love and support you so much! Cheers to many, many years of a happy marriage brimming with solid love.

 

 

Many thanks to the following vendors for making this wedding a success!
Venue: Vintage Estate
Officiant: Richard Vargas
Hair/Makeup: Mia Cook of Bloom and Michelle Jordan of Sisters Boutique
Floral: Kelly Reavis Designs
Cupcakes: Sift
DJ: DJ Dukes
Rentals: La Tavola and Hartmann Studios
VIdeographer: Thomas Hughes Films

Damion - June 13, 2012 - 5:06 pm

Thank you Amy!! Yes, it’s true..everyone was amazing!!

Amy - June 13, 2012 - 7:58 am

Absolutely gorgeous!! What an amazing day….

Roys Family | Damion Hamilton | Napa Valley Photographer

We were blessed with the opportunity to capture the Roys family portraits this year! Scott was actually our high school classmate, but it was so lovely to meet his wife and children.  It’s amazing to see how the lives of friends develop after these (cough, cough) many years! Thank you Roys family for this opportunity! It was great to connect again and see your sweet family!

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