Photographing a Wedding in Pakistan

t’s not every day that you get asked to take pictures of a destination wedding, and when I got the call off a friend who had a school friend getting married overseas and that they wanted me to be the photographer I thought – great! “It’s in Pakistan, in a traditional style spread over three days, with up to 800 guests on the final day”, maybe I should have checked the details before I hastily agreed.


This was my second destination wedding shoot after covering a skiing wedding in Italy, and this should help me towards setting up a niche portfolio of adventurous and unique destination weddings, so I would be foolish to turn down such an opportunity. Pakistan has always been very high up on my list of countries to visit, despite the media always showing negative stories about it. I had never even been to an Asian style wedding, so maybe I was biting off more than I could chew, but wanted to give it a good shot!

The Groom was from Pakistan and educated at an International school in Hong Kong and the Bride was from Holland, giving the wedding a truly diverse flavour, but the ceremonies would still be carried out in a time-honoured style of colours, traditions and etiquette, which is vastly different from the western white weddings most people are accustomed to.










There were several days of dinners prior to the main ceremonies, including a day event involving signing the wedding contract, but the first real event to photograph was the applying of Henna, or Mehndi. This is the beautiful painting of orange henna onto the bride and close friends and family. This is in preparation for arguably the most colourful and fun ceremony of the whole wedding, the Mehndi Raat.  All the ceremonies are held at night and go onto the small hours of the morning. This was hard to prepare for as, most weddings I have been to are held during the day, so that it is easy enough to use the daylight to get good pictures, where here I would have to use artificial light and flash the whole time.


The Mehndi Raat starts with the bride carried in on a dolly, which is a carriage carried in by the men. The ladies then bring in trays of Mehndi and sweets. There is a lot of dancing and it usually involves the grooms side of the family and men dancing against the brides family and the ladies. The women wear very colourful dresses, and at this wedding the dresses were in a Rajastani style. There was a lot of action, and I had to constantly go along with the flow of the evening not really know what was coming next, which made it even harder with the low light, black tent and using flash. I eventually resorted to setting up a light stand to get some static shots with an umbrella attachment to get the nice group shots and posed pictures of the bride and groom to good effect, as a flash mounted on the camera would never have produced the same results.

On the evening of the main wedding ceremony, I managed to get some pictures of the bride prior to heading to the function. The bride has beautiful fair skin, blue eyes and blonde hair, which was such a contrast to the amazing wedding dress, and in combination with the backdrop of the accommodation we were at, proved to be really colourful. Again I used my off camera flash mounted on a light stand, to simulate studio lighting conditions, as this gave me more control over the lighting.

The actual wedding is the biggest function of the last few days, and there were in the region of 600 guests there! It was truly an amazing set-up and incredible to witness. The ceremony is not that interesting though, as the bride and groom sit on stage for the duration of the night. The guests greet the couple and take pictures with them or give them presents. It is not particularly fun for them and it is mostly about their families catching up with old friends and business acquaintances. There was a fun part though where the ladies have to steal one of the groom’s shoes which he and his family have to negotiate back with the groom paying the ladies at the negotiated deal.

It was an incredible venue, despite being a marquee, with lots of beautiful features, so once the guests had disappeared I managed to set up some more posed shoots to bring out the majesty in the dresses and features of the venue. It was late at night, but the couple did very well, getting some fantastic results.

I was truly humbled to be a part of this wedding and witness another cultures traditions and ceremonies in an inspiring and beautiful country. It is very different to the western white wedding, but it was great to photograph. It was hard to get the candid shots, or much of the guests, and had to rely on quite a lot of posed shots, but this was mainly due to the nature of the events and that they were all at night. It was extremely hard work, tiring and technically difficult but I am pleased with the results. If I were to be asked to shoot another similar wedding, bring it on. I just might have to get a lot of sleep before hand though!


Shajee Fareedi(non-registered)
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