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Joy

11 award-winning photos that captured lovely and laughable wedding moments from 2023

Weddings bring up all kinds of emotions. These photographers knew exactly how to celebrate that.

wedding photography, wedding photographer

this year's IWPOTY gave us a Disney princess

Just like the love bonds they celebrate, weddings contain a multitude of feelings—romance, commitment, joy, silliness, both reverence and irreverence all at the same time.

And wedding photographers are given the challenging task of capturing each of those emotions stirred throughout the event. Somehow, through their handful of images, we are supposed to get a glimpse into the unique lives parents are creating together. It’s obviously not easy, but the great photographers make it look effortless.

Every year, the International Wedding Photographer of the Year (IWPOTY) Awards takes entries of outstanding wedding photography from around the globe in various categories like Epic Location, Solo Portrait, and Break the Rules.

Judges selected the most memorable images from 1,700 submissions, and 2023’s winners include a rock-climbing bride and groom, a breathtaking aerial photo, and a moonlit kiss that belongs in a fairytale.


But the grand prize went to something much sillier. Canadian photographer Tara Lilly won the title for capturing the exact moment a bird landed right atop a bride’s head, sending her into a giggle fit and instantly turning her into a whimsical Disney princess.

wedding photography

The IWPOTY grand prize winner.

Tara Lilly Photography/International Wedding Photographer of the Year 2023

"Just as Mitch began his vows, a curious whiskey jack swooped in and landed directly on top of Mikaela's head," Lilly wrote on the contest website. "Mikaela's shock, surprise and laughter were not enough to dissuade this bird from his perch. 'I'm Snow White!' Mikaela laughed."

Judge and photographer Dee Kampe, who won last year's contest, said Lilly’s lighthearted image was picked the winner because “it encapsulates the emotions and narrative that runs through an entire wedding day in a single frame.”

Meanwhile, a heavy dose of dramatic lighting earned Carmelo Ucchino a Runner-Up title, as well as winning the Dance Floor category.

wedding

The IWPOTY The Dance Floor winner.

Carmelo Ucchino/International Wedding Photographer of the Year 2023

In her submission Ucchino noted that the surreal ring of light dancing around the couple is water, meant to add a surreal element to the moment and symbolize how the deep emotion of a wedding “comes to life through the bride and groom.”

Aimée Flynn won the Couple Portrait category, thanks to an incoming desert storm.

wedding photographer

The IWPOTY Couple Portrait winner.

Aimée Flynn/International Wedding Photographer of the Year 2023

"The nice thing is that in places as wide open as the desert, you can […] often see weather approaching… and you can see when that weather will clear, making for the prettiest and moodiest sunset ever," Flynn explained.

"There was so much joyful shrieking as this couple scrambled over the rocks, wind whipping their hair and clothes," she added. "It was chilly and windy, but these two had the time of their lives embracing their (very epic) wedding day."

Flynn also won the Epic Location category for her shot of a couple stealing a sky high kiss.

wedding photos

The IWPOTY Epic Location winner.

Aimée Flynn/International Wedding Photographer of the Year 2023

Flynn knew that since the soon-to-be husband and wife were avid climbers, that their shared passion would be the foundation of their engagement photo. But the rest was purely incidental.

I was turning around to find a new vantage point for photos when I heard, 'Oh, Spiderman style!' from behind me…I looked over my shoulder and saw, well, this, and then frantically started taking photos,” she said, adding, "it's wild to think I had very little to do with the set up of this photo and that this was genuinely just the two of them having fun.”

Winning the top prize for the From Above category, Ben Lane of Tinted Photography's vivid photo shows a couple lying on a dock.

wedding locations

The IWPOTY From Above winner

Tinted Photography/International Wedding Photographer of the Year 2023

“We started our day super early with Marianne and Jeremy to catch the sun rising across Lago Di Braies,” Lane wrote. “Later, they would say their vows to each other, surrounded by the indescribable peaks of the Italian Dolomites. But in between was this moment. We had the jetty to ourselves; the lake was dead calm, the row boats still in their moorings. It was a perfect time for these two to take a moment and just relax with each other.

And then this gorgeous image of bride and groom walking in front of a cathedral, taken by Fabio Mirulla, won the Black and White category.

black and white photography

The IWOPTY Black and White winner.

Fabio Mirulla/International Wedding Photographer of the Year 2023

“I always try to put order to the ‘chaos’ of the world through the lenses of my camera, sometimes through geometries,” Mirulla shared.

And that sentiment is certainly felt in his image. As Mirulla explained, everything came together as the couple was walking down a picturesque street in Italy.

"I turned around and saw that there was a cone of light projecting this very strong shadow against Palazzo del Rettorato," he said. "I immediately took the chance to play with frames to create something different, a strong geometry totally in contrast and discontinuous with the usual aspect of the city which is a purely medieval town with its typical bricks."

"The success of a photo sometimes is being in the right place at the right time and this was definitely the case," he added.

This lively and fun picture of a bridal party won Jeff Tisman the top prize in the "I-Do" Crew category.

bridal party photo

The IWPOTY "I-Do" Crew winner.

Jeff Tisman Photography/International Wedding Photographer of the Year 2023

As Tisman explained in his submission, his goal is to not only offer clients photos, but to give them “an experience.”

For this experience, Tisman had previously taken a bridal party photo of only eight people. When the couple asked him if he could fit all 16 in, to which Tisman replied,” only one way to find out.” And the rest is history.

Another black-and-white photo won the Engagement/Non-Wedding category—this one of a couple diving in the Cook Islands, taken by Julian Zeman.

engagement photos

The IWPOTY Engagement/Non-Wedding winner.

Julian Zeman/International Wedding Photographer of the Year 2023

Zeman wrote that the couple pictured, Steph and Matt, are both marine biologists, so “it was only fitting they merge their passion for the ocean and their love for each other with an underwater photoshoot.”

Though the waters were “choppy” that day, everyone navigated through them beautifully.

This incredible photo of a couple repelling under the stars was taken by Traci Edwards, giving her the winning image of IWPOTY’s Break the Rules category.

wedding photos

The IWPOTY Break the Rules winner.

Traci Edwards/International Wedding Photographer of the Year 2023

"When planning with Gillian and Josh, it was clear how much climbing was a part of their relationship," Edwards wrote in her submission. "Their first date was on a multi-pitch trad route and they got engaged on an epic sport route in Moab. The main things they wanted to be a part of their day: warmth, time to enjoy, climbing, beer and stargazing."

Edwards’ idea wouldn’t be easy to pull off, but “With practice, holding our breaths and some help from passing cars” they ended up with an image that the couple could look back on for years to come.

Shankhesh Jariwala became the Solo Portrait winner with an image that “instantly creates a story.”

bridal portrait

The IWPOTY Solo Portrait winner.

Shankhesh Jariwala/International Wedding Photographer of the Year 2023

“While capturing [the] bride's solo portrait I saw this painting on the wall which was hanging a little higher [and] I instantly created the story in my mind about the painting. I asked [the] bride if she could stand on the little table with those high heels on and she trusted my vision and agreed to do for her perfect bridal portrait,” Jariwala shared in her submission.

Lastly, heaven and earth aligned for Van Middleton to take first place in the Lit category with her otherworldly moonlit photo.

wedding photography

The IWPOTY Lit winner.

Van Middleton Photography/International Wedding Photographer of the Year 2023

"There was a full moon that was tracing a line right between two beautiful big old trees near the wedding venue, and I had a couple that was super excited to be involved in a few outdoors nighttime creative photos (while their friends were partying hard inside!)," he wrote.

Luckily, Middleton had borrowed an LED light from a colleague, which really helped give the couple that standout silhouette.

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There's an old saying that luck happens when preparation meets opportunity.

There's no better example of that than a 2016 discovery at the University of California, Irvine, by doctoral student Mya Le Thai. After playing around in the lab, she made a discovery that could lead to a rechargeable battery that could last up to 400 years. That means longer-lasting laptops and smartphones and fewer lithium ion batteries piling up in landfills.

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12 real stories that show why ruthless immigration laws are the wrong move.

Immigration policies that rip families apart are a travesty.


If there's ever been a particularly bad time to be an undocumented immigrant, it's right now.

President Donald Trump, who launched himself into the 2016 presidential race with his support for a multibillion-dollar border wall, has been cracking down on immigration as promised. In addition to tightening border security, he's pledged to remove 2 to 3 million undocumented immigrants "immediately." And he appears to be keeping his word.

Deportation is nothing new, but Trump's plans are unprecedented. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

It's a scary climate we're facing, but unfortunately, it's not just Trump and it's not just America. All over the world, people are more concerned with their countries' borders than seemingly ever before.Nations all over Europe, for example, are tightening up immigration rules and/or ramping up deportations themselves.

Amidst all the noise and rhetoric — every "radical Islamic terrorist" attack that gets waved about by politicians with something that eerily resembles pride, every horrific crime committed by white Americans that's met with deafening silence, every press conference faux pas — there are real people and real families being ripped apart in the name of patriotism.

Their stories are terrifying and heart-wrenching, but they're massively important.

1. A DREAMer gave a powerful speech about deportation. Moments later, she was arrested.

Daniela Vargas, who has lived in the U.S. since she was 7 years old, spoke at a news conference in Jackson, Mississippi, about the importance of the DREAM Act, which aims to help immigrant children who have lived in the U.S. for more than five years and graduated high school receive permanent legal status.

After the event, Vargas and a friend were pulled over and arrested by immigration agents.

2. A Sri Lankan student studying in North Wales was saved from deportation only by a last ditch effort hours before her flight.

Shiromini Satkunarajah, an electrical engineering student at Bangor University, was nearly sent back to Sri Lanka earlier this year. Despite having lived in the U.K. since she was 12 and being only three months shy of graduation, Satkunarajah was only allowed to stay after receiving an outpouring of community support.

3. A woman living in Great Britain was sent back to Singapore without being allowed to say goodbye to her husband and two children.

Irene Clennell had lived in the U.K. since 1988 but was abruptly sent back to Singapore after having her indefinite leave to remain revoked. Clennell is married and has two children with her husband but was not afforded the chance to see them one last time.

4. A mom living in Phoenix was sent back to Mexico. Her children would later face Trump as he addressed a joint session of Congress for the first time.

Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos' children were reportedly in attendance as Trump addressed Congress. Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/AFP/Getty Images.

Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos was sent back to Mexico in January this year for having a criminal record. Her crime? Working under the table to provide for her young children.

5. A beloved restaurant manager in a deep-red town in Illinois was arrested, and now the community is reeling.

Most of the people in West Frankfort, Illinois, voted for Trump. They never thought anything would happen to Juan Carlos Hernandez Pacheco, the friendly restaurant manager who seemed have done at least one kind deed for everyone in the community. Now, he's been detained by ICE and is currently waiting to find out if he'll be sent back to Mexico.

6. A Kuwaiti man and father of two living in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the other hand, was miraculously spared from deportation because it would cause his family too much hardship.

Yousef Ajin has lived in the United States for 18 years with his wife, with whom he has four children. He reportedly met with immigration officers frequently, but on Jan. 30, 2017, he was suddenly detained.

In February, a judge granted a deportation waiver in order to spare Ajin's family from hardship. Many other immigrants aren't so lucky.

7. One man was caught trying to cross the border and returned to Tijuana. He appears to have jumped to his death shortly after.

The man, Guadalupe Olivas Valencia, had reportedly worked in the U.S. before to provide for his family back home before being deported multiple times. Caught trying to enter the country once again, he seemingly decided jumping from a bridge was his only option.

8. A single mother in California was sent back to Mexico, leaving her two young children in peril.

Photo by Jose Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images.

On Feb. 7, María Robles-Rodríguez was nabbed by U.S. Border Patrol and sent back to Mexico, leaving her twin 18-year-old daughters to fend for themselves.

9. Gay men being deported from Britain to Afghanistan are being told to pretend they're straight.

The British government's advice to gay men being sent home to Afghanistan, where they can be freely persecuted for their sexual orientation? Just don't act gay and everything will be fine!

Seriously.

10. Jose Escobar was detained after a routine meeting with immigration officers. He's a husband and father of three.

Escobar, who has lived in the United States for 16 years, had a deportation scare a few years back but was told he'd be safe if he checked in with immigration agents every year. Only this year, an agent reportedly told his wife, "We're just doing what President Trump wants us to do with the new rules."

Escobar will likely soon be deported.

11. A Mexican man living in Idaho was deported. His wife and the mother of his children could be next.

Tomas Copado ran his own auto body shop in Idaho Falls until he was sent back to Mexico earlier this year. His wife, for the sake of their children, recently had her own deportation deferred.

For now.

12. Some undocumented immigrants may be deported to Mexico even if they're not from there.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

According to several reports, the Department of Homeland Security plans to send anyone who crosses illegally over the southern border of the U.S. back to Mexico, even though they may be citizens of another country.

Needless to say, this is horrendous and possibly in violation of international law.

Statue of LibertyPhoto by Guzmán Barquín on Unsplash

Every modern nation needs smart, empathetic paths to citizenship. Any immigration policy that tramples on human rights and rips families apart is a travesty.

It's time to bust the narrative that foreigners primarily come to our country — or any country — to do harm. They come mostly to find opportunity, to escape persecution, or to be with family.

If we can't come to see them as human beings rather than inanimate outsiders, finding the money to pay for a giant wall will be the very least of our problems.


This article originally appeared on 03.02.17

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