Melissa Mermin (Love Stories) has been a wedding, portrait and engagement photographer since 1996. She attended Massachusetts College of Art and received a BFA in Painting and photography. She went on to graduate from the full-time program at New England School of Photography (NESOP) studying photojournalism and documentary photography with Pulitzer-prize winning photographers from The Boston Globe and Reuters. Her first full-time job out of school was the in-house photographer at BrandEquity, a design and branding firm outside Boston. Bored with shooting products in a studio, she left the job and started assisting wedding photographers and working catering gigs passing out champagne and shrimp at wedding receptions. Watching the hired photographer pose the bride and groom stiffly and go around to each table to do pose everyone there (“the table shots”), she realized that she could bring to a wedding what the director of photography at a well-respected magazine would demand: A wedding from a photojournalist perspective, a documentary about a day-in-the-life at a wedding. Images that were strong on their own and weren’t sprayed down with Photoshop filtering and photo retouching the bride and groom’s faces until they looked like Barbie and Ken. A candid and creative love story that told the real story of the couple in a creative way, but the photographer staying unobtrusive most of the time to let the story emerge organically. To photograph the feel of the wedding, the emotional look on a face that was there for a brief moment. The little details that are so personal to a couple like a the bride who attached her grandfathers WWII dog tags to her bouquet, a special inscription inside a wedding ring or the invitations that were hand-drawn by the artist-illustrator groom.
Every wedding has a different feel. I’ve photographed “proper” Bostonian weddings at The Four Seasons Boston, The Fairmont Copley, The Ritz-Carlton, The Taj Boston, World Trade Center/Seaport Hotel, and The State Room. The stately Harvard Club, Memorial Chapel (at Harvard) The Fogg Museum and The Busch-Reisinger museum, Swedenborg chapel (all part of Harvard in Cambridge, MA). My favorite wedding venues are located outside Boston as I love being near the ocean and historic estates: Castle Hill/The Crane Estate, about 45 minutes on the north shore of Boston next to Cranes beach is a lovely historic mansion with rolling hills that look out to the sea like an Italian villa. On Cape Cod, Chatham’s The Wequasett Inn and Ocean Edge in Brewster is full of New England charm on the Atlantic. These are great destination wedding spots that your wedding guests can spend several days exploring as well as do ferry day trips to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. South of Boston are the historic and luxurious mansions of Newport , Rhode Island that are some of the most elegant wedding venues. Rose Cliff has one of the largest ballrooms with windows that look over the ocean as well as neighboring Chanler at Cliff Walk. The town of Newport has a lot of New York tourists in the summer (when they get bored with The Hamptons they come to Newport), but it’s a fun spot that’s surrounded by amazing ocean views wherever you go.
I moved to the Bay Area in 2006 because I loved the natural golden light and alfresco wedding receptions that are very popular around California and ‘green weddings’ using sustainable resources and locally grown organic produce. It almost never rains for the entire summer and fall and the weather is very temperate. When I lived in Boston, I used to look at Martha Stewart Weddings at the reception tables set up outdoors. Late afternoon gold dust light creating amazing texture on the wedding cake and silk linens. Bridesmaids with champagne flutes throwing their hair back laughing and running barefoot though tall grass, party guests hanging out in front a barn all aglow in orange light and long shadows. The vineyard in the backdrop glowing bright green and hanging grapes ready to explode into wine. Coming from a place that’s cold, dark and grey for 6 months a year, this was my wedding porn photography! It was many of the reasons I made the huge move to northern California. It was the opposite of the stuffy ‘pearls-gloves-huge wedding gown that looks like a wedding cake eating the bride’. After the ceremony I would be doing their formal wedding photos in an 1980’s flowered wallpapered room at the Four Seasons hotel rather than outside in the Boston public garden because the mother of the bride was worried that her daughter’s Vera Wang dress with 50 pounds of custom beading and train will get dirty and the humidity would ruin her wedding makeup and wilt her wedding flowers. Don’t get me wrong- I travel to Naples Florida to do society wedding events as I still work with an upscale Miami wedding planner who has hired me as her client’s event photographer for many years. She trusts that I can work well under pressure (we did a 3-day wedding that included a welcome dinner, a ladies bridal luncheon, the 14 hour wedding day and then a farewell brunch the next day.) You can see many of these luxurious weddings I photographed in Wedding Style or Inside Weddings magazine.
Getting back to my favorite weddings—outdoors, relaxed, colorful, fun, the ocean and beach, historic mansion venues, sunsets and lots of candid moments and personal details that make the wedding unique. I finally had my first ‘Martha Stewart Weddings’ wedding when I photographed a wedding at Atwood Ranch in Sonoma in the fall. You understand why it’s called Wine Country- the vineyard, wild flowers, grapes ready to be harvested. The barn was rustic but had chic modern lighting inside. You can see an image from Atwood Ranch on my wedding gallery. It’s a large group with the vineyard and mountains in the backdrop. I set up the photo 20 minutes before sunset to get the perfect light and stood on an 8’ ladder with my assistant holding me to get that image. My other favorite Napa Valley and Sonoma Wine country wedding venues to photograph are Beaulieu Garden and Trentadue Winery and Culinary Institute (CIA) at Greystone. For destination weddings seeking on-location hotel accommodations for their guests, I recommend The Harvest Inn, Carneros Inn, Rancho Caymus, Auberge Du Soleil, Silverado Resort and Meritage resort and spa. I also photograph rehearsal dinners and I’ve done a few at Tra Vigna in Napa, wonderful Italian food served alfresco under the stars.
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Melissa Mermin is a wedding photographer and photojournalist working in San Francisco, Napa, Sonoma, San Jose, Carmel and Monterey, as well as wedding destinations such as Hawaii (Maui, Kauai, Oahu, and The Big Island), Mexico, and The Tides Resort. Wedding photograph is fun for her, and she loves to work with brides who want a fresh and candid approach.