A Wedding in Nicaragua

(written by Jon. wedding took place on 02/06/11)

Location: León, Nicaragua
Skills Used: Slight eavesdropping, Asking politely, Broken Spanish
Results:  One amazing experience after another

It all started with a late Friday afternoon staff meeting. I had been lounging around in the main office of Nuevas Esperanzas (an amazing, Nicaraguan-based NGO), waiting for the 2pm staff meeting to begin. Having been in Nicaragua for a few weeks already, I thought this upcoming weekend would be like any other- exploring the city, enjoying some downtime and sharpening my Spanish. One of my coworkers leaned over and asked one of our directors, “I wonder who is getting married tomorrow at the Cathedral…”

“Wait?! Wedding? Married? How did you know there was a wedding? I’d love to go to a wedding! I’m a wedding photographer!” I jumped in excitedly.

After some more investigating, it turned out my coworker’s husband was the Executive Chef of the premier hotel & wedding reception venue in the region– Hotel El Convento. Saturday’s wedding was to take place at the Cathedral, followed by an evening reception at that exact wedding venue. Better yet, he was happy to ask the newlyweds-to-be if I could tag along for the wedding day, photograph unobtrusively, and deliver them a CD of photos after the wedding. Saturday afternoon came, and still no word about the wedding. I was ready to call it quits and join my friends for a local boxing match, when, a few hours before the wedding ceremony was to start, I received a phone call from my coworker…  I was good to go!

Although the wedding ceremony was scheduled to begin at 7pm, the bride didn’t arrive until almost an hour later. Regardless, the ceremony proceeded beautifully. Everyone from the guests to the bridal party looked extra sharp in their attire, and the bride herself was especially stunning in her white gown. Being the one and only Cathedral in the town of León, as well as an important historical landmark, many of the people passing through the Cathedral were a mixture of tourists and locals alike. All throughout the ceremony, I watched a myriad of unfamiliar, traditional Catholic traditions unfold. Coupled with a whole lot of fast-spoken Spanish, I never really understand much at all. Of all the weddings I have been to over the last few years, this was my very first traditional Catholic wedding… and it was in Nicaragua. Thousands of miles away from home, and casually taking photos at a wedding? Thrilled would have been an understatement. (Oh and about the drunk guy who kept harassing me and shouting at me during the ceremony? The one I had to ask National Police security officers to remove? Email me and I’ll gladly tell you the story.)

As stated earlier, I was nothing more than an “unofficial third shooter” by most accounts. Technically, I did in fact receive the permissible “OK” from the bride & groom to attend the wedding. In fact, I spent most of  the ceremony photographing from the right side of the pews, maneuvering slowly and trying to ignore the incessant (and well deserved) stares of others… among other things, being the only Asian-looking person in the entire cathedral of hundreds of attendees (Not to mention my 2 DSLRs on me, a camera bag, blue polo shirt, beige khakis, and running sneakers amongst a throng of suit+ties and gorgeous evening gowns). As for proper photographer etiquette, I did make it a point to introduce myself to the two official photographers before the ceremony started– Otto J. Mejia & Enmanuel Barquero. They were both incredibly friendly & welcoming, and though I assured them I wouldn’t step on their toes throughout the night, they welcomed me like family. I carpooled with them to the reception, joined in for some portraits, and ate a fantastic meal at their table. Be sure to click on their names above & check out their photography work.

Some fun facts:
-Initial construction of the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption of León began in 1747
-Had been told that the strawberries served at the cocktail hour were imported for that special evening.
-While everyone I met that night spoke Spanish, many spoke a high-level of English, too. Not common to find oneself in this kind of situation in Central America.
-Hotel El Convento was originally built in the 1600’s, deteriorated, and rebuilt to it’s current state in the mid 1990’s. Find them also on facebook.

Last but not least, below are a selection of my favorite images from that evening. Enjoy.


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