Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery wedding with traditional Serbian twist

Claire and Andrew’s winery wedding was a unique event with a special twist that Claire had planned. She wanted to incorporate Andrew’s Serbian traditions into their wedding to perfectly blend a modern winery wedding and a traditional church Serbian wedding. The result was a perfectly executed combination of the two, seamlessly incorporating all the necessary elements.

Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery Wedding

Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery Wedding Photos

Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery Wedding Photographers

Wedding Photos at Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery

Wedding Photographer for Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery

Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery Wedding Photographer

Modern Winery wedding with traditional Serbian twist

When Claire contacted me to inquire about my photography services, just listening to her plans for their day had me excited to work with them and their visions. She had a clear idea of what she wanted, and even during the inquiry stage, she had planned her entire wedding day down to the last detail.

Claire wanted to incorporate the Serbian tradition into the entire morning, the church wedding ceremony, and the events after the church ceremony. She had saved the modern twist for the wedding reception, which would be held at the Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery, a proudly supported venue under Vintage Hotels’ umbrella.

The booking process was completed without meeting each other in person, but I eagerly looked forward to our first meeting. After our engagement session near their house in Niagara on the Lake, I was 100 percent confident that we would have a fantastic wedding celebration with this couple.

The images we captured during their sunset engagement by the lake were some of the best I had taken that year. Even the best Caribbean sunset photos would envy the shots we took together.

The morning when the Serbian tradition adds flavour to this celebration

I often have to travel to different locations or send my second photographer to a separate location in order to capture photos of the bride and groom getting ready simultaneously. However, on this occasion, I had the perfect setup. Claire was getting ready at her home in Niagara on the Lake while Andrew and the boys were preparing at his brother’s house on the opposite side of the same street. This was so incredibly convenient and efficient for us!

Coming from Macedonia, a neighbouring country of Serbia, and both countries being from the former Yugoslavia, I am familiar with all the customs and traditions of Serbian weddings. Using a documentary-style approach to their wedding day coverage, I enjoyed capturing moments as they happened so that they could later relive and cherish the memories.

I hopped from house to house, capturing the unique moments of both groups as they prepared for the big day. For those who have not attended a Serbian wedding, it’s important to note that there is a lot of alcohol involved, starting with many bottles of a traditional plum brandy called “Sljivovica” as an essential part of the celebration.

Here, my 25 years of photography experience helped me accommodate both parties’ needs as I went from house to house, switching my coverage as the bride and groom required.

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The traditional part of the morning ceremony, the buying of the bride

The atmosphere became even more lively as the musicians, known as “sviraci” in Serbian, arrived on the street outside their house. They played traditional Serbian songs while Andrew’s brother, along with the “starosvat,” prepared to go to Claire’s place. There, they would request the bride’s hand from the “domakin”, or host, who in this case was Claire’s brother.

It is fantastic to be able to capture the tradition of this orthodox custom through the eyes of newer generations and non-Serbians who respect and would like to honour and keep the tradition alive.

I captured those candid elements and finished with the dance in the middle of the street while the groomsmen were escorting the bride from her house.
While this happened, Andrew and his best man were at the Serbian church in Niagara Falls waiting for the wedding ceremony.

Wedding Ceremony at the St. George Serbian Orthodox Church in Niagara Falls

Although I have always been around Serbian people, as I grew up close to Serbia, I have never taken photos inside a Serbian church. I have been to Macedonian, Greek, Croatian, and other churches but never to a Serbian one. Therefore, I was excited to experience this for the first time, even though I was 10,000km from Serbia in Canada.

The church of St. George was a relatively new building on a vast property, and it was a nice place to take photos. I met the priest (pop in Serbian), who explained all the rules and dos and don’ts I should follow in the church. I respectfully agreed to all of them, and I promised that I would be there to photograph this happy ceremony and not interrupt anything.

The ceremony was long enough for me to take photos from many angles and perspectives, which my couple would cherish for years. Before the wedding, Claire expressed her desire for me to capture the dance (kolo in Serbian) in front of the church after they exited the ceremony. Given that I was the only photographer without a second photographer, I made sure to position myself outside the church to wait for their exit.

When they emerged from the church, the scene was perfect for vibrant photos. The blue sky, red bricks, and celebratory outfits made the images colourful and beautiful. As my couple exited, the best man threw money, and the children chased after it. Meanwhile, the musicians began to play the songs perfectly aligned with the moment in anticipation of the dance, kolo. The entire scene made me feel like I was in Serbia for a moment because every element accurately represented the traditions.

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Arrival of the bridge on her wedding

Groom in expectation of his bride in a church

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Sue-Ann Staff Estate reception

All of the wedding locations on that day were conveniently close to each other, including the getting-ready locations, the church, and the Niagara region winery where the reception was scheduled. This helped me be able to arrive at the breathtaking Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery in advance from my couple. The tent for the reception was spacious and positioned perfectly to showcase the property’s beauty.

However, the weather forecast had predicted rain for the entire day, which was a concern for us. We had been lucky this far; it was cloudy but not rainy. When I arrived at the winery and saw the beautiful open space, I could not help but notice the dark clouds moving in, and it looked like it would rain soon.

The bride, Claire, had planned to take photos with her friends first, followed by the bridal party and finally with Andrew, the groom. While I was taking pictures of the group, Sue’s dog (the winery owner) joined us and stayed with us throughout the session, which helped keep everyone excited and smiling.

In doing so, they did not realize that the rain had started. I finished with the photos, and we all sheltered in the tent, waiting for the rain cloud to pass.
Being a fall wedding, I knew there would be another opening for us to take photos once the rain stopped, but I couldn’t just sit and wait while the rain fell.

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Wedding at Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery

Wedding Photography at Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery

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Winery photo session in the rain

The rain fell lightly, so I invited Claire and Andrew to take shelter in an area out of the rain, and we worked together, taking some more great photos until it stopped. The moment they exited the tent, the rain stopped, and the sunshine came out. “What a treat!” I exclaimed. Then, we continued having fun taking photos all around the winery property, which offered many beautiful locations.

It was amazing how much fun we had without the stress of trying to control every aspect of the wedding day. Our photo session ended with a shot of Claire and Andrew walking away from the modern wrought iron gazebo. Then, I went into the tent for their cocktail hour. By this time, the tent was packed with their wedding guests, who enjoyed shots of Sljivovica, delicious finger food, and a fantastic selection of Hors d’oeuvres.

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Tent wedding at Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery

After the sun went down, the temperature dropped considerably. However, the inside of the tent was warm due to the number of people and the heat blowers that were providing warm air. I was busy taking pictures of speeches and stepping outside to capture the beautiful scenery that can be seen only from this location. With the strong winds, the sky at sunset was so lovely, and I couldn’t resist stealing my couple for a few minutes and capturing photos of this sunset with them.

Food courses kept coming at dinner while the guests were getting increasingly ready for the dance floor to open.
I couldn’t help but wonder if the Sljivovica was the reason for everyone’s enthusiasm, but once the dance floor opened, there was no stopping the party. A mix of songs from Serbian kolo to new dance songs kept everyone on their feet.

In the middle of all the fun, I noticed some fireworks in the distance, just above the point of Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery. Although my couple did not organize it, I thought using it for our nighttime photos would be fantastic. I quickly got hold of Claire and Andrew, positioned them in the modern white gazebo just below the fireworks, and patiently waited. I was thrilled and captured some of my favourite photos of the day.

Vintage hotels feel at this Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery

In the meantime, Andrew and Claire’s guests had joined us outside to take in the fireworks display as well. In this way, I completed my signature nighttime photos without having to take my couple away from their guests.

It was truly a lovely day celebrating Claire and Andrew at Sue-Ann Estates Winery. Their wedding blended traditional and modern elements beautifully. The vendors that Claire handpicked worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make everything appear seamless for the guests.

The vintage hotel wedding venue was new to me, but I couldn’t recall any issues that occurred on the day. The reception manager was exceptional, handling all of the guests’ requests with professionalism and a smile on her face.

Sunset Wedding Photo at Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery in Niagara on the Lake

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Fireworks at Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery wedding

Wedding Photographer for Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery

I want to thank Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery for this lovely experience and Claire and Andrew for trusting me with their one-in-a-lifetime event.

Credits to below wedding professionals and locations that helped Claire and Andrew’s wedding to be one-of-a-kind.
Photos taken by Dragi Andovski, published ©2024 DA Photography
Wedding Ceremony: St. George Orthodox Serbian Church, Niagara Falls
Cocktail, wedding reception and photo session: Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery, Niagara on the Lake, proudly presented by vintage hotels.

If you want to see another vintage hotel wedding check Kate and Bruce’s Wedding. Here you can see another winery wedding of Sam and Sofia at Lincoln Estates.

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