As a wedding photographer, I come across brides and grooms at all stages of relationships. I have photographed couples in their 30s, who have endured years of the frustrations of the dating world, only to suddenly chance upon each other. I have shot couples who have undertaken the commitment of marriage only knowing each other for a couple months. While I have photographed younger couples than Ilya and Eve and certainly couples that have been together longer than they six years they have, I do not think that I have photographed a couple getting married whose relationship started so early in life, when each year truly shapes one’s character. Eve was in fact only 14 when she met Ilya, who was 18, and they started dating a year later. Those formative teenage years, often cast away on mere crushes or ‘first loves’ that never endured the ‘first fight’, were spent instead investing in each other and forging an inseparable bond.
Ilya and Eve share a passion for art, photography and aesthetics. This was reflected in the choice of their venue at the NY Palace, that magnificent Roman Renaissance Style mansion on Madison Avenue, opposite the rear of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Originally known as the Villard House and designed by McKim, Mead & White, the design broke with an architectural tradition that had existed in New York for decades. It certainly continues to provide an inspiring backdrop for photography, and Ilya, Eve and I thoroughly canvassed it before the big day to make sure we chose the most enchanting rooms.
I thought it was incredibly touching that their Rabbi asked each of them to document the things they love about each other. It is never easy to put into words what is often indescribable or to explain the unexplainable. But it struck me as a beautiful and worthy exercise to take a step back from the rather intoxicating feeling of being in love as well as the pressures of the wedding day itself, and to reflect upon why you are marrying someone. Eve spoke of Ilya’s consideration, his unending optimism, his serene strength and wisdom, how he contributes to making her a better person, and how he is “truly a part of me.” Ilya spoke of Eve’s passion, her wit, the strength of her opinions, the allure of her femininity, and her blending of seemingly contradictory elements- of being both extremely mature and silly. “I love Eve,” he wrote “because she infuses my life with life.”
The first night that Ilya walked Eve home, they connected instantly and continued through the night chatting online. Ilya thoughtfully saved that first conversation and showed it to Eve two years later on their anniversary. It was not only a beautiful and romantic sentiment but a metaphor- for all relationships really are conversations. Sometimes they are calm and, inevitably, sometimes heated. The meaningful ones, however are always open and honest, challenging but without judgment, and most of all stimulating. As a photographer, through my lens I could not only see this lovely couple embark on a new stage in their lives together- I could hear their conversation of six years continue.
This is story of how they met in Eve’s words:
“One night some friends invited me to a local place the kids would hang out. I arrived and was having a terrible time (I never had similar interests to the other teenagers and neither did Ilya) , so I decided to walk home. It was late and I remember wishing some nice guy at the gathering would walk me home…but no one offered. Just as I was leaving, Ilya said “where do you live?” I told him and he said he lives a block away and would love to walk me home.
Instantly we connected. We had so much in common and talked all the way. We went on a couple of dates, but I’m not sure why I decided it was better to be friends for a whole year before I finally realized we belonged together–6 years later I chalk my initial decision not to date this amazing man up to immaturity.
On a dinner date as just friends one night later that year was when I finally realized i wanted to be more than friends. His eyes were so green and his smile made me happy. So we kissed, and kind of started casually hanging out.
As fate would have it, high school Prom is what really brought us together. One of Ilyas ex girlfriends who he had asked to go with him several months before (right around the time I realized I wanted to be with him, but couldn’t find a way to say it) cancelled on him last minute. Her loss was my gain…sort of. Ilya scrambled to find a date to his senior prom. After asking a couple of other girls (2 or 3 to be exact), my “Casanova” called me at 11:45 pm the night before prom and said “there is no one I would rather go to prom with than you. Come with me.” haha. I instantly said yes. From then on we were inseparable. We have grown so much these past six years, but every singly day we have butterflies in our stomach for each other.”
Venue: NY Palace Hotel
Videography: Kiss the Bride Films
Flowers: Floralia Decorators
Lighting: Intelligent Lighting Inc.
Cake: Ron Ben Israel
Make Up: John O.
Invitations: Oblation Papers & Press
Shoes: Jimmy Choo
Update: A day after the wedding I received this sweet email from Eve. It was so nice to read this email and get appreciation from her. Her words truly touched my heart! It really makes all the hard work worth it
“We woke up this morning and after many happy moments of discussing the wedding, we came to one conclusion. You are amazing. You are an absolutely committed and talented photographer. The fact that you stayed with us all day and did whatever it took to get the shot, makes you the best NYC photographer in our book. It’s so evident that you love what you do and your talent is undeniable–as I’m sure you know, talent is one of this gifts that people are always awed by. And, Shira, we are truly awed. Thank you for everything you did and for staying till the very last frame. We loved loved loved working with you. No one else could do it better.” -Eve
I had the idea to hang the dress on the chandelier. It took me awhile to convince the wedding coordinator from the NY Palace Hotel that it would be okay.
The photo below tells the story of how the dress eventually ended up being hung from the ceiling by the make up artist, John O.
You can see the mother and the wedding coordinator holding the table so he doesn’t fall, and the bride looking on bit nervous
Here’s Ilya and Eve’s wedding video from Kiss the Bride Films: