[Wedding] Francesca & Jake – The Manor in West Orange, NJ

If I could, I would put this whole family in my back pocket for all future weddings of my career! Words can’t express how much I loved this group of people, and it was quite clear from the get-go that these two families were meant to be together :). Excluding birthdays, anniversaries and major US holidays, there are very few entries in my calendar that have been in my calendar for as long as Francesca & Jake. If Francesca looks a familiar face to you, that’s because she’s no stranger to the camera – more specifically, mine! Over the years, we’ve had the pleasure of documenting many of Francesca’s friends, and the day had finally come for us to document hers. Together with both their amazing families, they put together a wedding celebration at the Manor in West Orange that nobody will soon forget.

Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.vWedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.Wedding at The Manor in West Orange, captured by photojournalistic North Jersey wedding photographer Ben Lau.

Venue & Catering: The Manor // Officiant: Ryan Baitzel // Hair: Salon Wisp // Make-up: Tali -eyedolizedmakeup // Dress: Sottero-Midgley // Shoes: Kate Spade // Groom’s attire: Vera Wang // Jewelry: Tony Conte // Floral/Décor: Kim Auriemma Designs LLC // Entertainment: iReserve Entertainment // Stationery: Dennis Bloom // Favors: Donation to the Alzheimer’s Association // Cinematography: MnJ Studios

2019: For Better Or Worse, At Least We’re Doing It Our Way

When we started this business 9 years ago, this was our “office”: a tiny shared desk in our attic bedroom which barely fit our two computers. It was just the two of us at the time; we didn’t have very much, but we were happy. With our first baby arriving in just 7 short months, our lives were about to be upended beyond our wildest imagination.

There’s a saying that goes: “Make a living doing something you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”
The reality is more like: “Make a living doing something you love, and don’t even think about sleeping for the rest of your life.”

While I still genuinely enjoy what I do, my needs have always taken a backseat to the needs of the business and our clients; whether it’s taking a 9pm phone call, missing birthday parties, or running out of the house on Thanksgiving Day to client meetings in the city (with a turkey leg in hand, mind you). I remember when my pregnant wife used to drive me into the city every Friday evening, just so I could take the late-night Megabus to Baltimore to photograph my friends and their families over the weekend. We knew exactly what we signed up for, and making this business work wouldn’t just be a priority, it would be a necessity. We had a baby on the way, and failure was definitely not an option.

Because I was just starting out with a limited portfolio, making uncomfortable concessions became a daily fact of life. Whether it was giving discounts, freebies, or even shooting in ways that were incompatible with the kind of work I wanted to produce – the needs of my clients always came before my own (a statement which still rings true till this day). I gave a little piece of myself away with each heart-wrenching concession that I made. For the sake of sustaining this little business that we had built, we slowly found ourselves shooting for the clients, and we were no longer shooting for ourselves. We no longer enjoyed the creative freedom we once had, and our business became more transactional and less personal. After grinding out hundreds of weddings over the years, we finally realized: this was not sustainable by any measure.

I recently met one of my heroes in the world of wedding photography, and I asked him how he managed to get the creative freedom that he enjoys in his work. “Easy. I shoot the way I want to shoot.” he says to me with a big smile. “The people who love my work will book me. The one’s who don’t, won’t.”

It all seemed so devilishly simple, and I couldn’t believe it’s taken me 9 years to come to this revelation. 

Needless to say, 2019 will be a year of many big changes for us. After personally grinding out 45(ish) weddings/year for the better part of a decade, I’m officially announcing that we will be drastically cutting down the amount of work we’ll be taking in the coming years. We’ll be taking this time to focus on our personal growth, the development of our other brands, and most importantly, our family. To all of our wonderful clients, you need not worry: we’re not going anywhere (these professional selfies don’t take themselves, you know). But as we dive into this next chapter of Ben Lau Photography in 2019, we look forward to a new and improved “us”, and we sincerely hope you’ll join us on this adventure together!

[Wedding] Betty & Gordon – Park Asia in Brooklyn, NY

Having photographed several amazing couples in Betty & Gordon’s extended circle of friends, we knew we were in for a treat when we were invited to document their Chinese wedding banquet in Brooklyn. Say what you will, but this group definitely knows how to have a great time :). We started this fabulous day in Staten Island, with some of the most original Chinese wedding door games I’ve ever seen in my career life. Who knew there were so many creative ways two men could pop a balloon? The private tea ceremony was followed by a western style wedding ceremony at the Stone House in Staten Island, where I literally fell heads over heels…..in love with their vows to one another :).

We don’t get too many opportunity to photograph Chinese banquets these days, and these fun, outrageous games kinda make me miss them even more! Here’s to many more laughs and smiles to this newly, happily married couple!

Venue: Stone House in Staten Island, NY // Catering: Park Asia
// Officiant: Sister of bride // Hair & Make-Up: TOPBridal Wedding Studio // Shoes: Ted Baker // Groom’s attire: Indochino // Jewelry: Swarovski // Floral/Décor: Melissa Creations // Stationery: DIY // Favors: DIY Smores // Cinematography:TOPBridal Wedding Studio

[Wedding] Helen & Prad – Central Park in New York, NY

So Helen & Prad probably have one of the coolest jobs in the universe: they design shoes for a living! These two met at work, and somewhere between their deep conversations about insoles and revolutionary shoe-fastening systems, Helen asked Prad on a date (this is all conjecture btw). Prad enthusiastically agreed to this proposition, and the rest was history (also conjecture, likely). Helen & Prad have been dating on opposite sides of the pond for at least two years now (with Prad on the West Coast and Helen back in the UK), and NYC just seemed like the perfect meeting point between the two to get married (100% truth!). Under the shelter of the Ladies Pavilion in Central Park, these two made a solemn oath to be the perfect pair for the rest of their lives. 

Vintage NYC Yellow Taxi: Film Cars

[Wedding] Sindy & Ryan – West Hills Country Club in Middletown, NY

Sindy & Ryan’s West Hills Country Club wedding brought together some of my favorite people, favorite colleagues, favorite foods, and most importantly, references to one of my favorite films of all time: Star Wars. When I first noticed the special cufflinks on all the men (and let’s not forget about the groom’s socks!), the inner nerd in me was basically somersaulting with joy. At first, it struck me as mildly odd that all their characters of choice happened to be on the dark side of “The Force”. It was a bit unorthodox, to say the least. But to their credit, Sith Lords are all pretty badass, and I would be the first to confess that there are currently two Stormtrooper figurines next to my computer at this very moment. But for the uninitiated, followers of the light side of the force are always taught to stay neutral, to be in control of their emotions, which is the key to maintaining peace. Followers of the dark side on the other hand, adhere to an entirely different set of rules, where they are encouraged to be consumed by their emotions, and allow their emotions to dictate their actions. By my estimation (and possibly Ryan’s as well), there is nothing inherently evil about drifting off into the dark side, depending on what the endgame is. On one hand, one could fall hopelessly in love with the that one special person in the entire galaxy. And on the other hand, you could also obliterate an entire planet. Why Ryan truly prefers the dark side we may never know, but I have good reason to believe that Ryan is more the former kind than the latter kind :). 

After celebrating their Cambodian Wedding Ceremony only 24 hours before, these two were ready to rock-and-roll when we arrived at their respective suites that morning. We could’ve have asked for a more amazing couple to spend our weekend with, and we’re just so honored and thrilled to have been a part of the festivities. We wish these two lovebirds a lifetime of love, laughter and happiness – and may the force be with these two!

Venue & Catering: West Hills Country Club // Officiant: Rev. Norma Moutal // Hair: BW Bridal // Make-up: Make-Up Artistry by Jillian //Dress: Casablanca // Shoes: Kate Spade // Groom’s attire: The Groomsman Suit; Charles Tyrwhitt // Barber: Johnny Trix //Jewelry: Rings by Tacori; Earrings by BHLDN; hair piece was hand-made by Ryan’s mom // Floral/Décor: Lavender & Leaf Designs // Entertainment: DJ Bri Swatek // Stationery: Shine Wedding Invitations // Cinematography: Preston Films // Coordinator: Taylor Checchia from WHCC // Ceremony Musicians: Dorian String Quartet

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