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Documenting memories through the Camera Lens

Miranda and Reilly Lievers are photographer husband and wife duo at Blue Olive Photography who captured Cinnamon and Galib Bhayani’s intercultural wedding in Vancouver. I sat down with them at their Gastown home studio over looking the Pacific Ocean for a Q & A session.

Miranda and Reilly Lievers- the force behind Blue Olive Photography

Faiza: Why did you choose to be a wedding photographer?

Miranda: It was kind of by accident. We were into other types of photography. This one time Reilly booked a wedding and in a panic he made me come with him. We found that really rewarding and fun. I know what the photos from my parents and my grandparents weddings look like. These photos will stay with the couple for generations to come. Their children and their grandchildren will be looking at the pictures we created for them. There is no better job than this in the world.

Reilly: We enjoyed it so much that we’ve been doing wedding photography for eight years now. We’ve photographed over 200 plus weddings.

Faiza: How many mixed/intercultural weddings have you covered?

Miranda: About 25-30 per cent of the weddings we have covered were intercultural. Especially being in Vancouver you come across many as it is a very multicultural city.

Reilly: The trend seems to be growing and we are getting more and more mixed culture weddings as time goes by. More people are stepping away from traditional roles and people tend to choose partners different cultures with much more ease than before.

Faiza: Have you found that Vancouver is particularly more focused on mixed unions than other cities?

Miranda: Vancouver is definitely unique because the city has a very multicultural character. We have covered weddings in Edmonton and Calgary where there is less diverse population. Majority of the people living there are Caucasian. Here in Vancouver due to the large number of mixed population you will see more mixed culture weddings

Faiza: What challenges have you had to face on intercultural shoots?

Reilly: Language mostly. Spending an entire day in a room where people are talking to each other in entirely different languages can be a bit tricky. You have to watch body language to understand whats happening. Because we shoot in a very photo journalistic way we have to pay attention to whats happening and why its happening when there are four different languages floating around in the room.

Miranda: So it has happened that the bride’s family is speaking Cantonese and the grooms family might know only English. Both families may be experiencing the same thing as us where they are unable to understand the language. So we follow along and understand the traditions that way.

Faiza: Can you think of a funny story that happened on a mixed wedding shoot?

Reilly: One funny story we had was at a Hindu wedding . The groom had not really been prepped for what ceremonies will take place. He sat there looking stunned the whole three hours while the couple had to walk around the fire. I think he really wasn’t prepped at all. He did not realize he had to all these traditional ceremonies. His eyes got wider and wider and wider and by the end of the day- he seems pretty exhausted

Miranda: (Laughs) Yeah that was pretty intense.

Faiza: Have you noticed any common trends among intercultural weddings in Vancouver?

Miranda: One of the common things we have noticed mostly with South Asian and East Indian weddings is how the timely and untimely things are. Some of our clients affectionately call it “brown time” . Things will just run an hour late, or two hours late or some times even longer. We have had scheduling conflicts that way. We worked with a wedding planner who just had done western weddings and she was planning this south Asian wedding. She was panicking because everything was running late.

Reilly: It wasn’t really even that late…probably by like 45 minutes which was actually pretty good for us. We were the ones who were trying to let her know that everything was fine and things were running on time as was expected for that wedding.

Faiza: So you guys were the experts on mixed weddings there then?

Miranda: (smiles) Yes. We were. We had worked with clients from different cultures before.

Faiza: Any outrageous demands mixed couples make?

Miranda: Probably the number of family photos that are expected in some cultures. It is important to capture photos of literally everybody that’s there . We have had a six hundred people wedding and we have had to go through a whole bunch of family photos in a very small amount of time. It is not impossible and it can be done but it requires the cooperation of everyone that’s involved in the shoot.

Reilly: We don’t tend to get a lot of outrageous demands. We’re pretty laissez faire about how we do things and what somebody thinks as an outrageous demand might really be status-quo. So we go with the flow. A lot of our clients come from outside Vancouver to get married here. We also get a lot of clients from mixed cultures who come here to get married.

Faiza: Makes me want ask another question. Have you asked people why are they choosing to get married in Vancouver?

Miranda: People have ties to family here, some have lived here before, or studied here. Simply also because it s beautiful place. It is cheaper to go to a tropical destination and Europe or the US. It is actually more expensive to come to Vancouver to get married as compared to a destination wedding. Its more expensive to have a wedding in Vancouver than other places.

Faiza: Which one was the most unique multicultural wedding?

Miranda: I think the Chinese and Filipino wedding. It was such a great combination of two cultures. They had the filipino cord and veil ceremony, the 13 coin money dance followed by the Chinese tea ceremony. It was very elegant.

Faiza: Thanks so much for your time Miranda and Reilly. I think you have one most special job in the world.

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Mixed Unions in Canada

Cinnamon wore a sari for part of her wedding festivities

A study of 16 ethnic groups in Canada has discovered that marrying outside of ethnic lines means better pay and more power.

The study completed by Leger Marketing Poll for the Association of Canadian Studies in March 2005 demonstrates mixed exogamous couples command substantially better incomes than their non-mixed endogenous union counterparts.

According to latest figures released on April 20, 2010 by a Statistics Canada study based on the 2006 census about 4 per cent of all couples in Canada are mixed unions. The reasons for these results might rest in diversity and access to different communities which could create a completely more complicated understanding of self.

“I think I make better Chicken Korma Curry than my wife. She says I am more at ease in following her cultural traditions than she is. Honestly I never felt I had the transitional phase of adapting, it just fell into place,” says Jerry Chan, an accountant at a Vancouver firm. He met his wife Fatima Ahmad, who has a different ethnic background, at a fund raiser for a local charity.

According to the 2006 Statistics Canada census, 5.9 per cent of married and common law couples in British Columbia are mixed race unions making it the province with the highest percentage of mixed unions in the country, higher than the national average of 3.9 per cent. Trailing in second and third place respectively are Ontario (4.6 per cent) and  Alberta (4.2 per cent).

Once prohibited through legislative measures and looked upon as taboo through social norms mixed marriages are a growing trend in BC.

Does the Vancouver born Chan think he fared better financially, by marrying outside his ethnic group?

“Absolutely, we both enjoy six figure incomes. I don’t think I shared so many commonalities with any girl till the time I met Fatima. My parents emigrated from Mainland China and were slightly surprised when I informed them of my decision. But they were happy to see I found the right person.”

Ahmad’s family initially questioned her decision to marry Chan.

“Jerry picked up the language, the jokes and traditions so quickly that they [the parents] feel he is more the son then I am the daughter of the family. Now they think we’re a heavenly match made in Metro Vancouver,” says Ahmad with a laugh.

Mixed race unions not unusual for BC

This is not surprising as BC has a long history of interracial mingling University of British Columbia sociology professor Renisa Mawani’s work on the history of mixed race unions in the province Colonial Proximities: Crossracial encounters and Jurdicial Truths in British Columbia 1871-1921 examines how mixed unions are not a new phenomenon but that society’s view of them has evolved. She traces the history of how mixed race peoples treated as a threat to pure race are now considered a successful part of a multicultural society.

For example, the merging of two cultures brings a unique understanding of the institution of marriages and unions. Even the ceremonies become more vibrant.

“Anytime I hear the couple is from two different cultures it gets me excited as there is room to get even more creative. The more diverse the cultures the more interesting the ceremony,” says Angela Girard, a wedding planner at Reflection Events, Vancouver.

Girard says there is no ‘one glove fits all’ rule available for mixed race wedding ceremonies. Does she find it is easy to bring everyone together on common ground?

“There are rarely occasions when I have run into an impasse. The whole marriage scene is about love and compromise. If the [couple] can get past the first step amicably the path for the future will be easier,” Girard says.

According to another study by Leger Marketing Poll for the ACS 74 per cent of the respondents would not oppose their children marrying outside the racial group, compared to only 14 per cent who were resistant to mixed marriages.

“Our daughter will have a choice of growing up as a whatever she may choose to be,” says Cinnamon Bhayani , a new mother. Bhayani, a Metis French Canadian, is married to Kenyan Galib Bhayani whose family background is Ismaili. The two met while they were working at the Vancouver International Airport (YVR) in Richmond.

Cinnamon and Galib: Celebrate their mixed union

Ethnicity was never an issue for the Bhayanis. They had other commonalities to consider in their decision to solemnize this union such as their love for photography and travelling.

“Galib showed me these photos of the Galapagos Islands that he took on a visit there that were breath taking. This drew me to him as we had similar interests. It started as a friendship at first.”

Both families were very supportive of the union.

Is love enough to conquer all battles?

“Absolutely not,” says Danielle Wong, a Vancouver mother of two daughters both with partners outside their racial group.

“My eldest married a Canadian of East-Indian descent. They met while they working both freshly out of University. Love conquered all but not the little things such as deciding menu items on a combined family dinner. It took a lot of adjustments for each,” Wong says.

The younger daughter is married to a psychiatrist whose parents emigrated to Canada from the Philippines??? . They met in university.

Wong says she is proud of what her daughters have achieved. One daughter is a beauty consultant and her son-in-law is a doctor working in Vancouver, They live affluent lives and have fulfilled their dream by overcoming the mixed marriage hurdles.

For Ahmad “, As long as your partner has the right personality traits – colour, gender, race or culture fade away. The only things that matter are ambitions, passion and the urge to live life to the fullest with the one person you desire to be with.”