Varvara's Baptism: Bethlehem

Where do I start with this blog post?? Over the summer, Megan asked me if I'd be interested in photographing her daughter's Greek Baptism. I immediately was hesitant and politely declined as, like weddings, it scared me and I wasn't sure if I'd be able to produce what she would want. Again, like weddings, baptisms happen once and you only have that single moment to capture a memory. You can't stop the ceremony and ask them to do it again because you missed the shot. Despite my declination, I still was happy to take up Megan's offer to look at the images from her nieces baptism, which would essentially be the same as Vari's.

Looking through the pictures, I was still overwhelmed. There are so many intricate and special moments in the ceremony. The dunking, dressing, undressing, oil, hair cutting, etc. I have to say I didn't feel much better looking at the pictures. Later, Megan learned that she wasn't able to hold the baptism until February. When I learned this, I had a sigh of relief... a few more months to think about it!

I actually don't remember if there was a definitive conversation that I would absolutely do it. I suppose there must have, but by the new year with a wedding under my belt, I felt a lot better about capturing this baptism.

So, with ceremony notes on hand, lenses in place and gear in order, I captured my first Greek Baptism. Wow. What an amazing opportunity. Not only to photograph, but to just be a part of. This family is incredible. They are so close and bursting with love, pride, and culture. It's so admirable and incredibly refreshing to experience a religious ceremony and culture that is still so true to their roots. If I wasn't an Irish/Italian Catholic, I'd definitely prefer to be Greek!!

If you read all that, thanks. I'll get to pictures now.

The church. Oh. Emm. Gee. Gorgeous.

Those important and beautiful details...

When guests enter the church, they light a candle, do the sign of the cross and kiss the statue, and everything is done in threes. It was fun for me to capture this and to watch the candles go from few to many.

Now the ceremony. All of you Greeks, I apologize in advance, as I only know what Megan has told me and what I saw. My retention and understanding of the ceremony may lead to some fallacies or misinterpretations, but I'll do my best!

The ceremony begins in the back of the church. At this point, the Godparents take over. Megan and John were mere witnesses.

Since most of everything was in Greek and this was my first Greek baptism, I was trying very hard to keep on my toes (figuratively and literally) to be able to get in front of the group to capture them walking down the aisle. I caught them at the nick of time. I scurried down the aisle, but MAN were they walking fast! I'm glad I was able to get at lease one shot :).

After the beginning of the ceremony, Vari had to be undressed for her baptism. Many of the women of the family help at this time, which was special to see. They all worked together so lovingly.

Vari's big moment is coming and she doesn't even know! I love how she kept looking directly at me.

The oil...

The dunk.... (there were three complete dunks. For the sake of Vari's modesty, this is the only image I'll share. It was incredibly emotional though. Between the emotion of the tradition of the ceremony and Vari being a bit frightened by such blunt dunks, it took everything in me to keep it together! Her poor Mama had to sit and watch and wait before she could give her sweet hugs.)

These other parts of the ceremony happened so quickly. More blessings, more things done in threes, and some hair was cut too! All tradition. I'm not sure how many times I can say it, but it was so awesome to be able to see this and be apart of it.

Now, time to get her gorgeous gown on.

Another part of the ceremony is when the children of the family hold candles and walk around the alter three times. I'll say this, hair may catch on fire when you have this many children walking with open flames. Fortunately, I didn't catch any such thing on camera and there were no tragic endings or meltdowns. SO, overall it was a successful walk.

Final blessing. Again, I believe it was almost all in Greek. And/or I was so consumed in taking pictures, I wasn't listening to the words or language!

Finally, meet the new Varvara Jane! The parents come to the alter to kiss the hands of the Godparents and greet their newly baptized baby girl.

Megan was understandably in tears (I nearly was!!) and grabbed her baby girl so tightly. It was such an emotional moment. Varvara was pretty hysterical for the better half of the ceremony, looking for her mom. The second Megan held her, the crying stopped. It was amazing.

Happy and adoring parents!!

A Greek Orthodox Baptism is truly like a wedding! The receiving line was fun to photograph to capture some candid moments with friends and family.

Finally the reception! Some details...

A few portraits.

The blessing and speech.

Fun around the tables.

Such a ham after such a long day already!

Hanging with her little friends. (My little lady is on the far right!)

And the dancing. Ohhhh the dancing. In my 30 years, I don't think I've ever seen Greek dancing in person. I've see it on TV, I've known about it, and here it was. So much fun to watch. I wanted to put my camera down and join!

John and Megan, I truly can't thank you enough for asking me to capture and be apart of this day. It was such a wonderful experience. Your family is amazing. Just amazing... I'm not sure how else to say it! You're blessed beyond words. God bless your family and your gorgeous baby girl.