April 24th, 2017
Spring in Calgary is a gorgeous time of year, and perfect for a local wedding. This city dutifully became the elegant backdrop of Jessica and Kevin’s wedding, who took advantage of the perfect photo opportunities in and around Hotel Arts and St. Patrick’s island. The ceremony was a combined cultural celebration, bringing together the traditions of both families for a lovely evening.
The owner of JM Photography and CBA member, Jeremy Martal, captured the memorable day with stunning detail. His photos and words bring the day to life for us to experience.
The Woo’s Wedding at Calgary’s Hotel Arts
Kevin and Jessica Getting Ready
The Guys Getting Ready at the Bride and Grooms House
At 10 am on Chinese New Year we drove out to Jessica and Kevin’s house and met our groom and his guys. As they were finishing getting all ready, we photographed some of Kevin’s details. Their fluffy cat Mao, the other love of Kevin and Jessica’s life, was hiding in his little apartment. Kevin and Jessica always like to include him in photos, but today he didn’t seem interested. He was hiding in his little kitty apartment, content to stay put.
As Kevin tried to pull him out, he grabbed the scratching post in desperation. So, alas, we let him decide when he was ready for the spotlight. Sure enough, once the guys settled in for a drink, Mao wanted some attention and found his way over to the group. Kevin has an in-home keg, so it’s fairly obvious that he loves beer. He poured a pint for each of the guys, and they made a toast to Kevin and his new life as Jessica’s husband.
The Girls Getting Ready at Hotel Arts
After the toasts, we left Kevin and headed to Hotel Arts to meet Jessica and the girls. The contemporary downtown hotel has several beautiful event spaces, including a grand ballroom. Over the course of the day, we were lucky enough to shoot inside many of these wonderful spaces.
When we first arrived, we headed into the Galleria, where the girls were having their hair and makeup done. Allison and Shea from the Collective Salon & Spa were both working on hair, and the makeup artist put the finishing touches on the girls. We shot some of the details of the preparation.
Jessica left to get into her dress, a stunning Alvina Valenta gown designed by Jessica Williams. She found it at Cameo & Cufflinks, a sophisticated salon that merged with Calgary’s historic Parisian boutique in 2006. Her gown, completely covered in lace and delicate details, was gorgeous. While she was getting ready, Sergey & Alex from Milky Way Films staged a few shots. Once the buttons we all done up, we set up group shots of the bride and her bridesmaids. We captured some cute shots of the girls, huge smiles on all their faces.
Jessica and Kevin’s First Look
We went upstairs to one of the suites on the 12th floor to stage the first look. The window opened onto the towering skyscrapers of Calgary. Kevin waited in front of the window for Jessica, who gently tapped him on the shoulder. He turned, and saw his bride in her gown for the first time!
When they were ready, they made their way down into the lobby to greet the rest of the party. We took the group shots inside and stepped out briefly for a shot in front of the hotel. By this point, guests had begun to filter inside, and they filled the space with smiles and congratulations.
The Creative Formals on St. Patrick’s Island
After the group photos, we broke away from the party and headed out to St. Patrick’s Island. In 2015, the Bow River park underwent revitalization. Last year, the Canadian Institute of Planners named it the best Great Public Space, in their ‘Great Places in Canada’ competition. St. Patrick’s Park spans 31 acres, with winding creeks, park spaces, and the ‘Rise’, a mound that overlooks the city. We began at the bottom of this hill, looking up a huge set of stairs. The January weather was nice at 5 degrees Celsius, which meant that the snow was turning to slush. Even though the stairs looked treacherous, Kevin and Jessica braved the hike to the top. At the top, it was obvious that the climb was worth it. The reward was a beautiful sweeping view of downtown Calgary.
On our return to the Hotel Arts, we crossed over the George C. King Bridge. This contemporary pedestrian artery links St. Patrick’s Park to the rest of downtown. The bridge’s graceful arches provided us with a gorgeous modern backdrop. We posed Kevin and Jessica on the apex of the arch, and the foot traffic was kind enough to stop for us. In the distance, a beautiful Chinook arch was rolling in, hovering right on the edge of the downtown core. It gave the shots a stunning backdrop that only Mother Nature could have provided.
Back in the warm hotel, we shot family photos. We lit up the lobby fireplace with a red gel, red being an especially lucky color in the Chinese culture. Plus, it was Chinese New Year, so we couldn’t have gone with any other color. After family photos, Kevin and Jessica took a short break before the ceremonies began.
The Ceremonies in the Studio at Hotel Arts
Starting with a Traditional Chinese Tea Ceremony
Right across from the Galleria is a room called the Studio. It was an intimate space and was the stage for Kevin and Jessica’s private ceremonies. The only guests in attendance were their immediate families and wedding party. Two tables were set up in the Studio, one for the Chinese Tea Ceremony, the other for the Jewish ketubah.
The tea ceremony is a treasured traditional part of a Chinese wedding. They began this ceremony with Kevin’s sister sharing some of its history. Documents mention the tea ceremony as far back as 800 CE. She also explained that it is one of the most significant events in a Chinese wedding. It functions to show respect to both families and to formally introduce the couple. She touched on the different types of tea and showed Jessica’s family how to accept the cup with both hands. Jessica and Kevin first served tea to her family, and then to his. After drinking the tea together, the two families became relatives. Next, red enveloped gifts of money or jewelry we given to the bride and groom. Jessica received heirloom jewelry, worn by Kevin’s maternal grandmother. She promptly adorned the pieces and wore them for the rest of the day.
Followed by their Private Jewish Ceremony
After the tea ceremony, it was time to sign the Jewish marriage contract, or Ketubah. The agreement is an integral part of Jewish wedding ceremonies. Traditionally, the document contains the responsibilities of the groom to his bride. The first half of the document is written in Aramaic or Hebrew, the second half in English.
Jessica and Kevin’s Ketubah contained designs of significance to them. The drawings included mountains, snowshoes, and of course, cats. Their Ketubah even included the Chinese symbol for “double happiness”. On the back, the explanations for the designs were written out. It was a beautiful contract of their marriage. Jessica signed the Ketubah in Hebrew, Kevin signed in English, and his brother signed in Mandarin.
Toward the end of this ceremony, they shared the Jewish tale of why the groom must lift the bridal veil. It goes something like this:
Jacob fell in love with Rachel. With the money to support them, he went to her father Laban and asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage. The two men struck a deal in which, after seven years of laboring in Laban’s fields, Jacob would be free to marry his daughter.
The time passed quickly, and after seven years of work, Jacob was ready for marriage. After the ceremony, he threw off the veil to find not Rachel, but her older sister Leah! Because Leah was the eldest, it was customary that she be wed before her younger sisters. Upon seeing another woman under as his bride, Jacob was furious. But, lucky for Jacob, polygamy was in common practice. If he agreed to work another seven years for Laban, he could marry Rachel as well.
The story serves as a warning against veiled secrets and gives rise to the tradition of unveiling the bride. At the end, Jessica’s brother in law Emmanuel got up to do a toast. He brought along a nice bottle of bourbon and shared a glass with everyone in the room.
Their Civil Ceremony in the Spectrum Ballroom at Hotel Arts
After the private ceremonies, everyone got ready for the civil ceremony. While the guests mingled over cocktails, we photographed the immediate families. The day ran really smoothly, and thanks to their fantastic wedding planner Jennifer Hadley, there wasn’t even a hiccup.
At 6 pm, officiant Floralove Katz helped everyone find their seats in the ballroom.
Then, Jessica made her way up to the chuppah to meet her groom. She circled him seven times to represent the seven days of creation and the seven wedding blessings. Then, it was time for Kevin to lift her veil and see the face of his beautiful bride! Inside the chuppah, the family read prayers in Hebrew. Kevin and Jessica then took sips of wine from a silver chalice, the same cup her father drank from at his bar mitzvah.
Kevin placed a ring on Jessica’s pointer finger to connect it to her heart, before moving it to her ring finger. The family then wrapped the newlyweds in a shawl, showing that love will always surround them. Then they kissed as man and wife. After the blessings, Kevin stomped on a glass, the congregation shouted “Mazel Tov!” and the party began.
The Woo Reception in the Spectrum Ballroom at Hotel Arts
Entering to the sounds of Side One
When the newlyweds entered the reception, the band kicked off with a few Jewish songs that got everyone dancing. A big circle opened up, out came the chairs, and before we knew it, Jessica and Kevin were up in the air! The atmosphere was electric! Their band, Side One, was fantastic, and they really knew how to get people up and excited. They showed off their phenomenal vocal ranges with covers of popular and traditional music. Everything they sang sounded great!
Once the entrance dance ended, dinner began with a beautiful five-course meal. The soup came out first, followed by salad, beef, chicken, salmon, and desserts. The speeches punctuated the space between the courses. As soon as supper wrapped up, the first dance was underway.
Kevin and Jessica had their first dance as a married couple, to John Legend’s “All of Me”. Once their song ended, they invited everyone to get back up onto the dance floor, and the dance party began. Around 11 pm the Dim Sum came out, and the candy bar was loaded up with trays of baked goods, including carrot cake and donuts.
With full stomachs and great music, the party continued into the night. We had a great time with Kevin and Jessica, and wish them many years of happiness together!
Photography | Jeremy Martel JM Photography
Officiant | Flora-Love Katz
Ceremony & Reception Venue | Hotel Arts