Traditions and I have a… complicated relationship. Growing up as the only latchkey kid with a single mom (and then shortly thereafter as an orphan) in a community filled with stereotypical nuclear families prompted me lean into my rebel tendencies hard. If I could never really be like everyone, I was going to take that to the limit, thank you very much. During wedding planning, this manifested as a fierce determination to have a wedding that didn’t look like anyone else’s. But really, in my heart of hearts, all I wanted was to have the same kind of day that those “normal” people have. A day where your best people are surrounding you and showering you with love.
While I might be an extreme example, my hunch is a lot of y’all are walking that tightrope between bucking tradition and embracing love and community—hence what you’re doing here! And if that is the case, I found you a photographer that deeply gets just that. AJ Tamari of ONONA (formerly Studio Zu), longtime APW gal, and newly traveling nationwide for free, is here to support you in your wedding quest to have independence and tradition.
One of the ways AJ does just that—and gets epically emotional photos—is through a little tradition she calls “toast time.” All the outpouring of love of “traditional” toasts, less of the pomp and circumstance. As she told us:
I wanted to make sure that my couples have a moment to slow down with their people, for everyone to get the chance to say, “Hey, I really love you.” It took me a bit to figure out how to manifest what I was envisioning—how to get parents, siblings, and best friends to share some deep love and words that usually go unshared—but it’s ended up being a brilliant mixture of soggy tears and loud laughter, and I’m so happy with the little tradition that’s been created.
Toast time is precisely just that: a small toast with your closest family and friends. Logistically speaking it doesn’t require anything extra from my couples in terms of set up or them coordinating anything. I organize everything and give family and friends a heads up that we will be doing it so they aren’t completely shocked and have a moment to gather their thoughts. Sometimes people have drinks, sometimes they don’t, sometimes it is twenty people, sometimes it is six people.
And while it’s not mandatory for my couples, it is one of my favorite things to contribute to my couple’s day. I have found (even within my own family, which is not amazing at sharing their feelings) that big life events can be a time when people who usually shy away from sharing are willing to be more open, so I love giving my couple’s closest friends and family the chance to share some words and pass on some love.
You’re going to want to see the results over on her site, but suffice it to say, it produces photos that are downright overflowing with love. The kinds of photos that make you tear up even when you don’t know a single person in them or the story behind them. Not that, you know, that’s what I’m doing with these right now or anything…
This deep caring, not just about her couples photos, but about their entire experience, comes from AJ’s own experience as a photographer first, and APW reader herself a close second. When I say AJ gets what your wedding is all about, I mean she has literally walked the same wedding planning path you’re on right now:
I found APW while planning my own very extremely DIY wedding. It was so difficult to find helpful wedding planning information that I felt really connected to and inspired by, so thank you endlessly for existing. This is one of the reasons I’m a great fit for APW couples! I have literally been them, and I definitely know how hard it is to look out into the wedding industry and feel like you don’t see yourself. I am so inspired by couples when they step outside of the industry’s expectations and put the energy into creating a day that truly reflects their partnership. It is such an honor to be a part of those wedding days.
I’ve been carrying a pile of cameras for the past 14 years, long before I got married myself or ever arrived at a wedding with a camera, and I feel that this is a good thing. Holding onto the aesthetic that I built over the years—traveling and living overseas, train hopping, hitchhiking, studying photography at a small art school in Jerusalem, Israel—has been a big priority of mine while photographing weddings. Throughout my travels, photography became a method for me to capture ever-changing surroundings of landscape, people, culture, and experiences.
I believe that there are way too many ideas about how a wedding should be photographed, what a wedding should look like, and what moments are the most important. It is really important to me that my couples know that I am not interested in the industry’s priorities; I am interested in theirs. I put a lot of energy into getting to know them and what their wedding day vision is—hearing about their life, family, friends, and what their priorities are—so that when it’s time for their wedding day, I can be as unobtrusive as possible, and they can simply enjoy the day, trusting that I will be there to capture what is most important to them.
And all that time behind the camera deeply experiencing people, places, cultures, and moments has resulted in a candid documentary style that is legitimately unlike anything other wedding photographers are creating right now. AJ isn’t creating #goals shots for Instagram or wedding blogs; ONONA’s photos aren’t here to blend into the masses of “pretty.” They’re… here to make you run out of adequate words like I just have…
If you’ve fallen as deeply in love with AJ and ONONA as I have, this is the point where you might be starting to worry that the prices are… higher than $3,200. But! In fact, $3,200 is her starting rate, which gets you a super comprehensive package including:
And if you think you might need more—or less—than all of the above, ONONA also offers larger packages going up to $4,800, and elopement and half day coverage for couples planning smaller events.
But the best part? This year AJ is waiving all of ONONA’s travel fees, so that $3,200 will get her to wherever you are from her home base of Minneapolis, Minnesota. (And we already covered how she is a seasoned traveler, so having her come to you will be a super stress-free experience.) As she told us, “I wanted to waive my travel fee in order to connect with even more awesome APW couples who are putting conscious intention into planning their day and wanting to work with someone who..