Fina and Folau’s Tongan Wedding at Corinthian Event Center in San Jose, CA
When Nane, a Maid of Honor contacted me on January 3, 2015 with a request to photograph the same day wedding of her sister at the Corinthian Grand Ballroom in San Jose, I could feel the tension in her voice. The wedding photographer they have contracted before, have double booked their wedding and they desperately needed a new wedding photographer within 5 hours.
I have just returned from a vacation abroad and there was very little time to plan and prepare. As I was talking on the phone with Nane, I could only imagine what her sister Fina and Fina's fiancé: Folau were going through. Sure, I usually plan my weddings months ahead and take time to meet and get to know my clients, but this was an emergency. Further delay in finding a replacement photographer and capturing the memories of this special day was in real danger.
After quickly gathering the details for the wedding and finalizing the service contract, it was time to start the preparation. There were less than 5 hours to get my camera and equipment ready, get a wedding photography contract signed and research on the specific traditions and look up the location online. Fina and Folau were native from Tonga and I have never photographed a Tongan wedding before. From talking to Nane I learned the important moments the couple was looking for me to capture: the bride and groom preparation, formal group pictures with the bridesmaids and groomsmen, the first dance at the balcony in Corinthian Grand Ballroom, the traditional Tongan dances and blessings, presentation of the gifts, Tongan mats, to the married couple and the bride's money dance.
At the location, the early afternoon sun provided a pleasant and soft light during the bridal and bridesmaids preparation. Fina and her bridesmaids were joyful and so much fun to photograph. The room where the preparation was happening was every photographer's dream: large in size and free of obstacles. Simply perfect to move around and capture Fina's beauty from every angle and point of view. Folau's getting ready moments were no different. A Marine, who took pride on putting his uniform, he looked so ready and excited to meet his bride.
Fina and Folau's wedding ceremony was so emotional and memorable. It was touching to watch them at the altar committing to a union of marriage. After the ceremony, the newlywed couple performed their first dance on the Corinthian Grand Ballroom balcony and while I was taking their first dance portraits, I could hear the guests cheering and congratulating them from down the hall. Later, the rituals of presenting a traditional Tongan mats to the newlywed couple was something which I never experienced before. Handmade and incorporating very interesting patterns and designs, these Tongan mats were a traditional wedding gifts from all guests and relatives.
The performance of traditional Tongan dances reminded me of the Hula dances I have seen in Hawaii. There is so much emotion and rhythm in the Polynesian dances, that is always a pleasure to watch and capture. Another interesting part of the wedding, was the tradition of guests showering the couple with dollar bills which suppose to bring great wealth to them in return. And for the final money dance, Fina performed a traditional Tongan dance in a Tongan dress. What a wedding it was. I couldn’t be happier and felt more honored to photograph this fast paced and exciting wedding.
Congratulation to Fina and Folau for getting married! I wish them long life together. Let their days be blessed with happiness and joy!
- Venue: Corinthian Grand Ballroom, San Jose
- Videographer: Bicycle Ice Cream Films
- Hair Stylist: Nubian Beauty
- Makeup Artist: Marlyn Valencia
- Frorist: SelaSteve Teu from Ready Elegance
- MC (Mic Controller): Lolo Heimuli