There’s no denying it. I am so very lucky to live in such a beautiful country as Switzerland. In terms of my bucket list of places I always wanted to film, it ticks almost all the boxes
Gorgeous scenery including mountains and lakes ✓
Warm sunshine ✓
‘Chocolate box’ villages ✓
Chic and romantic cities ✓
Fabulous venues ✓
And international couples with a great story to tell ✓
Top image by Emma Godfrey Photography
My family and I moved here in November 2016, initially for six months, but decided to stay. So last year it was really important for me to film a variety of weddings here. My first was a ‘snowy’ wedding in St Moritz with all the challenges that brings, shortly followed in the spring by an Elopement at Lake Blausee.
My first summer wedding in Switzerland was at the beginning of August and well worth the wait….
About an hour’s drive from where I live is Montreux, known as the ‘Pearl of the Swiss Riviera’.
This fabulous city sits on the shores of Lake Geneva with a backdrop of beautiful vineyards and nestled below a stunning vista of the Swiss Alps.
Photography by Emma Godfrey Photography
Shahad and Abdullah travelled all the way from Saudi Arabia to Switzerland with their family for the wedding.
This gorgeous couple decided here was the perfect location for their wedding and that the exquisite Fairmont Le Montreux Palace hotel would suit their wedding dreams and wishes.
According to the five star hotel, just a month before their wedding, Quincy Jones, the Pet Shop Boys, Tom Jones, Grace Jones, Bryan Ferry, Brian Wilson and George Benson were just a few of the artists welcomed at Fairmont Le Montreux Palace during the Montreux Jazz Festival.
Many of our enquiries can come in quite late and I first heard from Shahad in the May before their wedding. She’d « fallen in love » with our films and storytelling and luckily we had availability so quickly set up a ‘virtual’ meeting over House Party (as Skype and Facetime isn’t available in Saudi Arabia). When we ‘met’ I was immediately taken aback with how beautiful Shahad was. Simply stunning.
We hit it off immediately and she told me all about her and Abdullah – they’d met in London at the Hilton Park Lane and, although they describe themselves as ‘not the usual lovey dovey couple’, she told me they know how to have fun and always making each other laugh.
Shahad and Abdullah were having a traditional Muslim wedding. Apart from filming a Royal Arabian wedding in Bahrain in the March I had little experience of capturing these stories.
There would be no ceremony as such and when we first discussed the wedding in detail there were no plans for speeches either. But in the end that changed and so I had some fabulous audio to work with as well as the more traditional sound design I love creating from the day.
Shahad and I talked about having a pre-wedding shoot and decided we’d take a boat ride on Lake Geneva and visit the local vineyards with a picnic. I organised the boat and the photographer, the lovely Emma Godfrey, knew which public vineyards we could visit and all Shahad had to do was turn up. And make sure Abdullah also made it on time. As it happens we nearly missed our time on the lake, but after a bit of sweet-talking Shahad and I convinced the boat driver to take us out.
Images from trailer
There was an added challenge for me on the boat (and for the weekend as a whole) … Shahad is a Muslim and so wears a hijab to cover her hair. But she wanted me to film her with her hair down while on the boat. We had discussed this beforehand so it was simply a case of filming with her hair under the hijab and then with her hair down. This essentially meant I would produce two trailers. A private trailer for the couple and one for them to share online.
On the day of the wedding, the ‘ceremony’ was scheduled for 6pm, the afternoon sun a more comfortable option by the Lake. I spent the morning with my team gathering establishers of Montreux and the Le Fairmont.
When I joined Shahad in her suite to film the bridal prep, my male colleagues filmed Abdullah at the barbers and then filmed him getting ready before joining him in the gardens of the hotel to meet with guests…. It’s tradition that the party start before the brides arrival.
While filming the bride prep I was very aware that in order to film enough footage for both trailers I would need to film lots of sillhouette shots, close ups and gather footage where you could not see Shahad’s hair down.
There was however, one element of their film, which I was unable to share. And that was Shahad and Abdullah’s First Look. For a videographer, a First Look is something that needs planning and ‘story-boarding’ on location to make sure all the elements are covered, especially when filming alone. As men, my team could not film this element of the day either.
Shahad decided she would wait on the balcony of her hotel suite and look out on the lake and in this instance it would be the groom walking up behind her for ‘that moment’. While it was disappointing that I was unable to share this moment within their trailer I was so happy I’d suggested to Shahad we film a First Look.
In this case, it not only meant that Shahad and Abdullah could share some time together before the wedding but that he was able to see his wife for the first time in her beautiful dress with her gorgeous hair down and have a portrait session before she needed to cover her hair for the ceremony.
As with most weddings the father of the bride gave his daughter away. He led Shahad to Abdullah waiting at a flower alter. But that’s where the similarities of this wedding ends with a Christian Wedding. Shahad and Abdullah had already married officially at home. For the following few hours all of the family members had their pictures taken with the couple. Then before heading up to the terrace for speeches and a meal, there was a traditional Mizmar ‘stick dance’ with all the grooms’ men and then the couple and all the guests were guided along Lake Geneva by a Spanish band.
Photography byEmma Godfrey Photography
After more dancing and photos it was time for the speeches, which were of course in Arabic. When it came to editing these for the film I first tried a plugin on YouTube but it didn’t work so in the end Shahad was more than happy to do the translation for me, and the subtitles appeared on the public film for marketing purposes.
There was no first dance. In fact there were many things that didn’t feature in Shahad and Abdullah’s day that I would usually capture at a wedding.
But there were many other beautiful elements of that weekend which helped make the perfect story.
The story of Shahad and Abdullah.