[Wedding] Jackie & Giancarlo – West Hills Country Club in Middletown, NY

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Just imagine: the joyful tears, the anxious uncertainty and the emotional roller coaster where you, your family and friends are the unwitting passengers. Everyone simultaneously holds their collective breaths, as they’ve resigned to a whirlwind of invisible forces they simply cannot control. And believe it or not, we’re just talking about the 72 hours leading up to the wedding day here!

But of course, this is love & weddings in the time of the coronavirus; amidst the panic, confusion and sadness that we are all experiencing, most human beings are still yearning for the silver linings on which to lay our tired and weary heads. I would have to say though: officially attaching oneself to another human being, through mind, body, and spirit, is probably one of those silver linings that we enjoy the most – reminding us that despite all the hardships and struggles we all experience in life, we are all okay as long as we are all doing it together.

Jackie & Giancarlo’s wedding marks our very first “official” wedding since the shutdowns started back in March. With guidance and rules on gatherings changing on a near-daily basis, these two newlyweds are absolute SAINTS for rolling with every punch that came their way these past few months. Together with their closest friends and family, they finally exchanged their vows during their intimate outdoor (and socially distanced) wedding ceremony at the West Hills Country Club. Though they’ll save their “big” celebration for another day, there was plenty to celebrate on this very perfect day, and we were absolutely honored to have played a small part in it.

Venue: West Hills Country Club // Ceremony/Officiant: Marcelo Aspesi // Hair: Hair by MinMin – Hopscotch Salon // Make-up: Makeup by Allie Vasta // Dress: BHLDN // Shoes: Kate Whitcomb // Groom’s attire: Suit – Kenneth Cole // Jewelry:  David Harvey Jewelers & heirlooms // Floral/Décor: Flowers by David Anthony // Entertainment: Jimmy Dee Entertainment // Stationery: Minted 

[Engagement] Melissa & Dave – Bear Mountain, NY

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With much of the world on pause these past 3 months, most humans become more plump, grizzled, and shaggier versions of their former selves. While many of us have forgotten how to conduct ourselves in a civilized society, most of us have probably been wearing the same clothes for 3 days (no worries, your secret is safe with me!). But nevertheless, as I knew from day one, there would be a light at this very dark tunnel. The stay-at-home restrictions would eventually be lifted, and we’d all be dancing in the streets (socially distanced, of course) before we knew it. Well, that day finally came and based on my own personal guesstimation, all the human beings (along with their dogs, radios and kitchenware) in the Tri-State area descended upon Bear Mountain on this particular weekend, with a line of cars out of the park as far as the eyes could see (legend has it, as of this writing, many of these cars are still waiting in line to get into the park!).

When we first tossed around the idea of doing Melissa & Dave’s engagement session atop Bear Mountain, it was a much simpler time; people would stay at home, roads would be open, and we’d have the place to ourselves. But as it were, none of that would hold true for us on this gorgeous sunny day in Upstate New York. Earlier that week, we learned that the road leading up to Perkin’s Tower would be closed to vehicular traffic. I did some quick research on the hiking routes in the area and found a 1.7 mile trail to the top.

1.7 miles? Psh. I can do 1.7 miles. Naturally, these two young lovebirds would have no problems with it either.

Little did I realize…it was 1.7 miles straight up….with all my camera gear, no less!

Long story short, we eventually made our way to the top and shared some stories, ice cream and plumbing jokes along the way. I don’t think I could’ve asked for a more perfect couple, or a more perfect way to dust off my cameras and start photographing people again. Despite all the sweat and tears to get to the top that afternoon (tears mostly), I’d happily do this all over again :). 

MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT: Stop and/or My Wife Will Shoot!

There’s a well known secret among our clients and peers in the industry: Ben Lau Photography has always been a husband and wife team. Despite the fact that our logo features only my name, our business has always been a two‐person operation. From handling our accounting to social media, to managing the schedules of our associates and itineraries for our clients, Karis literally does everything outside of drink recipes and dad jokes.

But most importantly, Karis has been shooting by my side for over 10 years, usually staying in the shadows and away from the spotlight. The unfortunate consequence of this is that folks have been admiring her work for years without ever knowing those gorgeous images actually came from her cameras. Just imagine: all of that work and absolutely none of the credit.

That, my friends, is about to change.

Over the years, we have entertained the idea of shooting separately (more than a handful of times, actually). But the timing was never right: we were always too busy grinding away at our two wedding photography brands and raising a family. So by the end of the day, we were simply too exhausted to even think about adding more to our already overflowing plates. 

And then COVID19 happened.

If there’s one silver lining we could glean from this COVID19 catastrophe, it’s that those excuses of the past no longer applied. When the universe hit the pause button, it was a gift that gave us a much-welcomed buffer to clear our post-production and general housekeeping. Our days are now filled with homeschooling and video games; and quite literally, we now have all the time in the world.

So without further ado,  I’m incredibly excited and proud to announce that Karis will finally have a new photography brand to call her own. You can check out her new home here: https://heykaris.com. This next chapter in our career has been long overdue, and I can’t wait to see all the magic that Karis will be bringing to her clients’ weddings.

So what will this mean for Ben Lau Photography? Our clients may rest assured that they will continue to enjoy the same experience and imagery as they always have. The only small adjustment is that I may now have someone else co-shooting with me on any given wedding day (basically how we did it when we were starting this business while we were starting our family – a crazy life I probably wouldn’t recommend to everyone).

I sincerely hope you guys will enjoy what you see, and that you’ll join us on this exciting new adventure. And if you do, please show your support by adding her on Instagram (https://instagram.com/heykaris) and Facebook (https://facebook.com/heykarislau.com). We want to thank all our friends, family and clients who’ve helped make this possible, and for all the love and support they’ve given us over the years. We look forward to sharing this next chapter of our lives with you!

We now resume with your regularly scheduled programming :).

Ben

SPECIAL COVID 19 ANNOUNCEMENT FOR OUR COUPLES

 

Dear friends,

We hope you and your family have been staying safe and healthy during these uncertain times. If you are currently in the process of re-planning your wedding, please know that Karis and I are incredibly heartbroken for you and that we’re here to support you in any way that we can. Due to the unprecedented nature of what we are collectively facing, we are fully aware that perfect solutions are few and far between; but if we can be methodical and compassionate in our approach, we are confident that we can minimize the devastating impact COVID19 has had on our families, our work and of course your wedding plans.

In response to all the frantic emails and phone calls we’ve received since the COVID19 pandemic began, we felt that now would be a great time to provide some clarity to our current clients and hopefully provide a little bit of relief as well. In our 10 years of photographing weddings, we’ve anticipated and addressed almost every single contingency one can possibly face as wedding photographers: from deaths in families, break-ups, hurricanes, and even venue closures. For the folks who remember from our initial consultation, you “may” recall that we have backup plans for every contingency, even something as catastrophic/improbable as COVID19 (it’s true, I promise).

But for those who don’t remember; here’s a refresher, just in case:

Is there really a backup plan?
Yes, there are several backup plans – the primary one being your ability to reschedule your wedding to a later date without penalties, fees or rate-hikes.

Will I lose my retainer if I reschedule?
No, you will not lose your retainer if you reschedule with us. As per our contract, we will be happy to apply your retainer to your new date, pending availability.  If you need us to hop on a call with your other vendors, I’m happy to do that too. To make things SUPER EASY for our clients who are currently considering a reschedule, we’ve prepared an availability calendar which you may access here: https://benlau.com/availability-calendar. The calendar is updated regularly as the cancellations and hold-requests come in. We want to make this process as seamless and easy as possible for all of our clients!

What if you’re unavailable for my date?
In the off chance that I’m personally unavailable for your date, Karis will be be stepping up as the lead photographer on your wedding day; as discussed during our initial consultation and detailed in the contract (as you may or may not have been aware, the “substitute photographer” has always been Karis, since Day 1). As my co-shooter of over 10 years, she brings with her a wealth of experience and a style of photography that is most closest to mine. Our clients can rest assured that they’re in capable hands; but you don’t have to take my word for it. You can check out her work here: https://heykaris.com.

And just for good measure, you can also check out our talented photographers at our associate brand here: https://pearlpaperstudio.com. Inquiries, service and post-production are still handled by me and Karis, with the only difference being the photographers who will be providing coverage on the day of. 

So what you’re saying is: Karis will shoot exactly like you?
Like fingerprints and DNA, no two photographers will ever be 100% identical. But as we’ve been co-shooting together for over 10 years, her style of photography will still most closely resemble mine, especially if compared to any of the millions of photographers out there in the universe. 

What if I’ve found another photographer?
In that case, you won’t owe us a penny more. And while we would be very sad to see you go, we understand your decision would not be a personal one, and we would sincerely wish you the best on your journey moving forward. We would simply need an email from you confirming your intention to cancel so that we have everything on file.

Can I get my retainer back?
The retainer we receive from clients is not a deposit (which is defined as a partial payment for services not yet rendered); but rather, it’s a firm reservation and guarantee clients make with us (as well as a promise that I make to them) that I will be working for them at a future date (and would therefore turn other business away because of this personal guarantee). However much we genuinely love the work that we do and the amazing folks we get to do it with, there is a tremendous amount of work that we devote to every client outside of having an actual camera in our hands. For this reason, the retainer is and always has been non-refundable. Our retainers and refund policies were both calculated and planned with all of this in mind.

Wait..you just mentioned “refund policy”. Under what circumstances would a refund be appropriate?
If your originally booked date gets re-booked with a new client, then we would be happy to issue you a refund of all monies paid – no questions asked. However during these days of COVID19, this scenario would be highly unlikely – which is why we stress the importance of finding a date that works with everyone’s availability. The good news is that I personally have a ton of availability within the next 12-18 months, along with the wide-open availability of our very capable photographers via Karis and our talented crew at Pearl Paper Studio.

Will my retainer be applied towards the new photographer if we decide to go with one of your other brands?
Yes. Absolutely. There will be some price-adjustments since everyone’s rate is a little different; Variables will include whether or not you’ve completed your engagement session, as well as the starting rate of your newly selected photographer. Feel free to ask us anything if you’d like to explore your options with us!

And below, some COVID19-specific FAQs:

What if I don’t want a Thursday wedding?
That is totally fine! Within a rolling 18 month period (which is the average length of time our average couple spends planning their wedding, if they were to get engaged today), there are 156 possible weekend dates, (234, if you include Fridays), and I’ll likely only be booked for 50ish of them. That leaves you with at least 100(ish) days to consider for your reschedule. In the interest of full transparency, and to reassure you that there are no shenanigans on my end, I’ve made my calendar public here: https://benlau.com/availability-calendar.

How soon should I be thinking about rescheduling my wedding?
I would not recommend panicking if your wedding is more than 3 months out; in fact, I wouldn’t recommend panicking at all, regardless of the circumstances :). We understand your guests may have to make travel arrangements, so I would probably say that the 2-3 month mark is when you should start considering your options.

We’re currently exploring our date options with our other vendors. Can we place soft holds on several dates?
Yes, you absolutely can. But please note: out of professional courtesy to our other clients, we won’t be able to soft-hold multiple dates indefinitely; but we’ll be happy to hold as many dates as you’d like while you sort out the details on your end. Should a new inquiry come in for one of the dates we’ve placed on soft-hold for you, you would be immediately notified and our availability would be granted on a first-come-first-served basis.

We are planning on eloping/having a small intimate wedding with under 10 people. Is this something we can possibly do?
At the time of this writing, wedding photography is neither essential work nor permissible in the states of NJ and NY. So unfortunately, under the current state of affairs, governmental regulations, and an overwhelming abundance of caution, we would not be able to photograph your intimate elopement or intimate wedding ceremony.

In the end, it goes without saying that we are all in this together. Your pain is our pain; your hardships are ours. You can rest assured that we will do everything in our power to help you where we can, and to be fully transparent and honest with you when we can’t. Just like you, we are simply trying to make the best out of an unfathomably impossible situation; and sometimes this means having difficult conversations together and moving forward with imperfect solutions if necessary. Together in good faith, we hope we’ll be able to find compromises that will disrupt the least and accomplish our original plans as closely as possible. You have our word on that.

Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions, or if there’s anything else we can possibly do to accommodate you better. In the meantime, we wish you safety and good health, and keep on washing those hands :).

With much gratitude,

Ben & Karis

[Wedding] Ping & Stephen – Maritime Parc in Jersey City, NJ

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I love it when couples write their own vows, especially if there’s a roasting component to them. Listen: everybody in the room knows ya’ll love each other, and there’s a good chance they know about your quirks too. But for your future co-pilot-for-life to acknowledge all the weird/oddball/endearing things you do, and they still absolutely adore you (quirks and all), it speaks volumes beyond any poetry you can muster up on the internet. In those moments you’re speaking truth, and in truth there is beauty. And that is why we all love it so much :).

Ping & Stephen tied the knot at the Maritime Parc in Jersey City, which followed a very busy tea ceremony (one of the busiest I’ve ever documented). This was a first-time experience for many in Stephen’s family, and they were just super honored and thrilled to have participated in something so traditional and meaningful for the family they’re marrying into. Although we were barely out of winter when their wedding took place this past February, one wouldn’t have been able to tell with the bride walking along the Jersey City waterfront with her bare shoulders against the chilly wind. I surmise it must’ve been all that tea they shared earlier :).

Venue & Catering: Maritime Parc // Ceremony/Officiant: Joseph Giordano // Hair & Make-up: Reiko Utsugi // Dress: Justin Alexander // Shoes: Badgley Mischka // Groom’s attire: My.Suit, TieBar, Beckett Simonon (shoes) // Jewelry: family heirlooms // Floral/Décor: Julia Testa // Entertainment: MingtheMC and DJ Wilson // Stationery: Minted // Favors: Joe & Ruth Cellars

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