This modern viking wedding in Ohio had a horse, a sword, arrows, drinking horns, Tolkien, ballroom and burlesque dancers, Harley Davidson, and… Metallica!
My fans and readers will recognize Shannon and Jaysen who won the grand prize of the EngagEd 2019 contest—free wedding day photography. They entered the contest with a viking engagement session theme involving real wolves. We still decided to pursue their engagement shoot in addition to the modern viking wedding. Although we found a wolf sanctuary and looked up the dates, the shoot got postponed until next winter. By the way, the second-place winners with the Game of Thrones engagement session theme had it done by a cold waterfall:
There was no escaping the wedding prize, however, so I took a quick in-and-out flight to Cincinnati, OH past September. A family member picked me from the airport and drove me to Mason, OH where I stayed the night before.
Shannon “Shay” is a hairdresser at the Mitchell’s Salon and Day Spa. No surprise here as my work resonates with the beauty industry peers (remember a bombastic prom couture two-day shoot with Avanti Day Resort or another creative two-day bridal couture project with U-Mode Salon?) Her colleague Stacy Wallace from the salon did bridesmaids’ hair, decorating it with the hairpieces from Wedding Flower Crown on Etsy and Eros Salon to give this modern viking wedding a boho feel.
Shay is also a performer, burlesque being one of the venting channels of her artistic soul. No wonder things developed into a bridal boudoir mini-session and I wasn’t even the initiator—the girls snapped a few Polaroids with Fujifilm Instax Mini for the groom’s wedding gift box handmade by Glenn Neif of Tree to Box. I asked for a permission to bring in my take on those snaps, adding a sexy touch to the modern viking wedding. The leather cover of the book, another item of the gift box, was made by the groom’s brother Jake Lewis.
The bride received her gift from the soon-to-be-husband as well, and it is time to properly introduce Jaysen. He’s no hairdresser but his hair qualifies him for two things: having a soft spot for vikings and Nordic folklore and for playing metal. Nothing soft there, right? His FB profile pic (left) is kinda brutal but in real life I found him quite huggable. Think of a bear. Not a hungry one.
What comes out of these two traits? A song written by romantic Jaysen Lewis for his fair lady Shannon, titled “Lúthien”. That’s a mortal man Beren serenading to the immortal Elf-maiden Lúthien under the moon of the Middle Earth, as chronicled in the J. R .R. Tolkien book in the gift box. Her story was also told to Frodo by Aragorn in “The Lord of the Rings”. He’ll sing it to a guitar at the reception.
Now, what amazed me is that everyone in Shannon’s bridal party are artists and performers, too! Two of them sang later at the ceremony, adding another fairy tale layer to this modern viking wedding. One bridesmaid was rehearsing her dialogues for the upcoming theater play while sipping a mimosa. I couldn’t resists asking her to hit me up with a few lines, getting an honorable treat of personal entertainment.
A bridesmaid pictured applying makeup in front of a mirror is Maria Tsorokean. Another bridesmaid was so enthusiastic in telling me how great a dancer Maria is that she pulled out her phone and insisted that I watch her performance video. Turns out, her husband Alyenendrov Tsorokean and she are the winners of the USA Grand National Dance Championships in Cabaret division and World Stage Tango Champions. When I learned that Alyenendrov, a US-born whose Armenian-sounding family came from Romania, will be among the guests, too, I offered Maria a mini-session for the star duet with a condition that they’d bring some outfits. And they did! More on this later.
A few more bridal party photos before I run off to Jaysen:
It was time to leave this Land of Love Airbnb house in Loveland, OH (no kidding) and get to the boys. The bride just gave me the keys to her Infinity so I drove.
As I approached the house, I saw some serious black 2019 Street Glide by Harley Davidson. My heart pumped with the potential visuals. You can’t go wrong with a bike and a couple in love like in this hot session. Well, it wasn’t Jaysen’s bike but of his good friend and one of the groomsmen Joey who offered the house for the getting ready headquarters. The dogs are also his. I thought it’d be an overkill to drag those white fur balls to the modern viking wedding (wouldn’t hurt, eh?) but on the heels of dancers’ arrangements, asked him to ride the bike to the wedding for potential photos. And he did! More on this later.
Shay hinted at a sword to be involved and I met it inside, along with the pocket book of vows and one of Jaysen’s guitars. Not the electric to hit those metal cords but the classic, to be used at a surprise performance at the reception. Got him rehearsing.
The boys are boys… One is or was a Federal Air Marshal, another was fashionably late, and I didn’t get to learn about the others due to the lack of time. I had to drive to the venue for the next round of preparations.
I went to the banquet hall, The Manor House in Manor, OH where the bride needed to prepare for her own surprise. She rightly reasoned that the best way to grace into a modern viking wedding would be on a horse. Although the venue has a carriage house, it serves a very different purpose now, and no horses around. Shay brought an outside vendor, Kelly Troxel Rice, who owns the stud. We had time to meet the beautiful Tennessee Walker Jasper decorated with the flower piece from Etsy’s Avry Couture Creations and rehearse the procession.
The guy helping Shannon on and off the horse? To my delight, that was our Alyenendrov Tsorokean who grew up on a farm with 10 siblings and is familiar with horses. I gave him a heads-up on the mini-session, too.
Jaysen & Co. arrived. The groom opened his wedding gift box, then we did few portraits, including his dandy candy mustache brother Jake.
Time for the ceremony, good people of the Middle Earth. Tears are good. And get this: during the bridal processional after the ceremony, Jasen’s “Lúthien” was played by the musicians Bill Willits (lute) and Rick Arnest (recorder).
Now came the time for portraits. Started with the formals of the family (omitting those from the blog, as usual), then the wedding party all together, and then my Holy Grail—bride and groom portraits. We only had some 20 minutes left for that so I grabbed the bull by the horns and called for a summit of bike and horse.
Subconsciously, I was after the synergy of the bike and horse. Now that I was post-processing the photos and putting the story together, I saw how an image can be developed in the realm of the modern viking wedding. I could feel the cover image right there!
My first thought was to simply dramatize one of Shannon and Jaysen’s monumental low-angle shots in my signature style like from this wedding in Mexico (right).
But then I thought: “Vikings… Wilderness… Rogue…” Why would there be a paving, a groomed yard, and a banquet hall in the background? This presented a potential addition to my budding fantasy art collection so I went on a quest for a stock epic landscape. This isn’t as easy as it seems as that low angle ruled out lots of cool options. To be believable, the landscape also needed to be pictured from the ground level, along with some other considerations of scale.
I flipped the subjects, cut them out of the original background, separated, and moved the man slightly behind for a tighter composition, reducing the size slightly.
Then I felt like giving Jasen’s hair a bit freedom. The pony tail wasn’t working for me. I scouted his FB photos and found two images with loose hair to layer on top. Lastly, took a sword from my earlier coverage and place it behind the back, manipulating with its perspective and contrast. I know the baldric is missing… Spent two days crafting this image alone, ran out of patience. It happens to me, too.
Color matching, contrast and noise adjustment, blending in, adding shadows, layering natural elements in front of the hooves and wheels (seen when zoomed in on a high resolution original) took an effort, often at a 1,600% zoom. Lastly, mixed in a few filters for the holistic (man, these trendy words…) presentation. Here’s the result:
The decor deserves a separate spotlight. The theme was entirely conceived and by Shannon, stunningly pieced together from multiple sources on Etsy and other craft stores to make you feel like attending a modern viking wedding. Look at that moss covering! And the tiny wooden swing?! And the seating chart pierced to the archery target by an arrow?? I felt like a kid reading about a Tolkien’s feast again! See that wooden round box? The rings came there, and guess who hand-crafted the box? Jasen! His sister-in-law baked the cookies! Dessertworks Cakery did the cake and rest of bakery, Etsy’s PuraVida Clay created the whimsical cake topper. I have a sweet tooth. I was in paradise.
One might think some Nordic folk song could be a good choice for the bride and groom’s entrance. Jaysen wouldn’t be Jaysen if he didn’t chose “Enter the Sandman” by Metallica! No, no, don’t skip this part. Hit the “play” on YouTube video below and listen to the first 1.5 minutes at least! You’ll feel Jaysen. The other Jaysen, not the Information Security Engineer. Experience their introduction as husband and wife to make it a true modern viking wedding! In hundreds of weddings I witnessed, none had such entrance.
When I was finalizing this blog, I learned another fun fact: there was yet another piece by Metallica, “Fade to Black” played during the wedding party processional at the beginning of the ceremony. I missed it while following the bride on the horse. Woof, double the impact!
A little disclaimer: I was a Metallica fan in youth and my enthusiasm may be biased. The band’s music tuned me to the proper wave when creating dark art for myself and my friends, like this jeans decor (left) drawn with pen in 1996 in Romania. Here are a few more drawings of mine, various topics including cover of a horror comics at the dawn of Zorz Studios (dubbed “Zorz Pictures Company” back in the late 80s).
Jaysen had that surprise performance for Shay so they sneaked his guitar in. His soft side kicked in with the ballad of “Lúthien” that he wrote.
The plan was to get the food out of the way so the cake was also cut early. Why use a knife when you have a sword, though?
Before I dove into the dancing part of the reception, I asked Shannon for a permission to leave for half an hour and invited the Tsorokean champions to their photo act. Found a few spots inside and outside the venue that worked for my vision while the guys were changing. This impromptu and brief stunt with the wedding guests worked out well!
I went back to Shannon and Jaysen for their final part that was all about dancing, drinking, gaming, and fun! Stumbled across another sword-bearer and wished more wedding guests read between the lines of the wedding invitation.
What a wedding! Truly like no other. Shannon and Jaysen, I hallow this horn of mead and wish upon you many years of starlight, courtship, love, and care!
Many thanks to the other vendors contributing to the beauty of this day:
Boudoir lingerie: Victoria’s Secret
Bridal robe: T.J. Max
Bridesmaids robes: JCPenney
Bridal gown: Galina Signature from David’s Bridal
Bridesmaids gowns: Jasmine Belsoie from Bridal & Formal
Flower girl dresses: Miama
Bridal necklace: Charmed Coast Jewelry
Bridesmaids necklaces/earrings: JBM Designs
Bridal makeup and hair: Sarah Stear of Eros Salon
Reception flowers: Oberer’s
DJ: Everlasting Sounds
Videography: Chris Knight
Kindly refrain from re-uploading images to social media during the first week of feature. Share instead and give credit to @ZorzStudios!