St. Valentines Day In Iceland
“When Ingólfur saw Iceland, he threw his high-seat posts overboard for good luck. He declared that he would establish himself at the place where the beam came to land.”
Reykjavík literally translates to “smoke cove” due to the billowing steam rising from the areas hot springs. This is the sort of magic that this country delivers on a daily basis.
I first visited Iceland almost ten years ago, and was incredibly excited to be asked to return with Carly, Dale and their friends and family for their adventurous wedding trip.
I absolutely love striking landscapes and photographing them, but when you include people and raw emotions into those scenarios, that’s when I really get excited with what I can capture. Knowing that I can collaborate with a couple to create images that will be with them forever in incredible locations is what drives me to shoot weddings and couples.
When I first met up with Carly & Dale, and their awesome two little boys Xavier and Julius, they told me that they’d never been to Iceland before. I was absolutely delighted to hear this, as that’s the exact sort of adventurous spirit that I love.
Unfortunately; the trip didn’t get off to a great start.
The wedding party were delayed for 12 hours, and I for and hour and a half the following day. Carly & Dale had booked me for 3 days, (the day before the wedding, wedding day and then leaving on the morning after) I usually always try to aim for 4 days minimum for a destination wedding, to compensate for these sorts of delays, and as it happens, we extended my trip by a day whilst I was there and had to change my flight back!
We had been talking about the incredible sorts of shots that we could create, and where we could travel to to create them. Unfortunately, with me being delayed, that set us back… And then Carly and her Dad came off the road an hour from where we were staying in Reykjavik. There were 50mph winds and blizzards sweeping across the country. Luckily, the amazing chefs at the reception venue, the Borealis Hotel, came and dug them out! We didn’t start shooting until 4:30, and sunset was at 5:30. We still captured some amazing images on that first day, with an incredible golden light, but we couldn’t travel to where we initially had planned.
That’s a whole part of shooting destination weddings, if you can’t adapt on the fly then you will struggle!
The Wedding day itself wasn’t without it’s setbacks either.
Due to the blizzards and high winds still ravaging the icy little island, the initial ceremony venue had to change… and then change again… and again… and then back to the original… you get the drift.
For Carly, who is very much a planner, this was very stressful. However I kept reassuring her that no matter what, with the help of their excellent priest Páll Ágúst Ólafsson, she would be getting married on that day. It got down to the wire, and there were two options of venues.
Carly turned to me and said; “You pick.”
Most people would be petrified at this, however due to the relationship that I had built up with the family, I knew she trusted me to pick the right venue for them, and for the images. My gut went with the Arbaer open air Museum, as they had an ancient old church, that could barely seat the 30 guests in attendance. It was small, intimate, and incredibly special. We had a tractor plow the road leading up to the entrance as the snow was about 5 foot deep, and the winds were still howling.
The ceremony itself was absolutely incredible, Priest Páll gave a heartwarming, and very modern service full of love and laughter.
After that, we all piled onto a coach, drank some vodka, and headed toward the reception venue, the Borealis Hotel.
We had to wait for the roads to clear for almost 2 hours. An hour into the journey, the road was closed 10 minutes from the destination. Everyone groaned, with shouts down the coach of “come on everyone we’ll get off and push / pull the coach there!” The driver had a moment of pure Icelandic determination, and swung the coach onto a side dirt (or snow) road, much to the cheers and enjoyment of all the guests, and somehow safely got us to our destination.
The reception was fantastic, with great food and energy. The cake maker even got stuck up a mountain somewhere with the cake; just to top the day off. The chefs quickly whipped up a some cakes so that the FINALLY married couple had something to cut!
Speeches mostly centered around the “well, we all made it, and despite the trials and tribulations of this wedding, nobody here will EVER forget it!” which is exceptionally true, and made for a truly fantastic adventure and wedding to capture.
We headed out the next morning to finally get those shots we’d been talking about for nearly two years, full of excitement as the skies had cleared. We wanted to go off the beaten track, and ended up on top of a frozen lake (Kleifarvatn,) overlooking an incredible mountain range. We wouldn’t have gotten there if it wasn’t for our fantastic taxi driver, Ástbjörn, doing some more ballsy driving in his rear wheel driven Mercedes up sheer roads covered in snow and ice.
Carly, Dale, Xavier & Julius all became amazing friends to me on this very special wintry trip. And not only have they got fantastic memories and images to remember and share forever, but so do I.
The full gallery is available on my Weddings section, should you wish to view the set.
To the newly-wed Mr & Mrs Leer!
- If you’d like to have a chat about your adventure, please get in contact!