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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.

True

Do you ever feel like you could be doing more when it comes to making a positive impact on your community? The messaging around giving back is louder than ever this time of year, and for good reason; It is the season of giving, after all.

If you’ve ever wondered who is responsible for bringing many of the giving-back initiatives to life, it’s probably not who you’d expect. The masterminds behind these types of campaigns are project managers.

Using their talents and skills, often proven by earning certifications from the Project Management Institute (PMI), project managers are driving real change and increasing the success rate on projects that truly improve our world.

To celebrate the work that project managers are doing behind the scenes to make a difference, we spoke with two people doing more than their part to make an impact.

In his current role as a Project Management Professional (PMP)-certified project manager and environmental engineer for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Joshua Williard oversees the cleanup of some of America’s most contaminated and hazardous waste sites.

Courtesy of Joshua Williard

“Recently, I was part of a four-person diving team sent to collect contaminated sediment samples from the bottom of a river in Southeastern Virginia. We wanted to ensure a containment wall was successfully blocking the release of waste into an adjacent river,” Williard says.

Through his work, Josh drives restoration efforts to completion so contaminated land can again be used beneficially, and so future generations will not be at risk of exposure to harmful chemicals.

“I’ve been inspired by the natural world from a young age and always loved being outside. As I gained an understanding about Earth's trajectory, I realized that I wanted to be part of trying to save it and keep it for future generations.

“I learned the importance of using different management styles to address various project challenges. I saw the value in building meaningful relationships with key community members. I came to see that effective project management can make a real difference in getting things done and having on-the-ground impact,” Williard says.

In addition, Monica Chan’s career in project management has enabled her to work at the forefront of conservation efforts with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF-US). She most recently has been managing a climate change project, working with a diverse team including scientists, policy experts, data analysts, biologists, communicators, and more. The goal is to leverage grants to protect and restore mangroves, forests, and ecosystems, and drive demand in seaweed farming – all to harness nature's power to address the climate crisis.

Courtesy of Monica Chan

“As the project management lead for WWF-US, I am collaborating across the organization to build a project management framework that adapts to our diverse projects. Given that WWF's overarching objectives center on conserving nature and addressing imminent threats to the diversity of life on Earth, the stakes are exceptionally high in how we approach projects,” says Chan.

“Throughout my journey, I've discovered a deep passion for project management's ability to unite people for shared goals, contributing meaningfully to environmental conservation,” she says.

With skills learned from on-the-job experience and resources from PMI, project managers are the central point of connection for social impact campaigns, driving them forward and solving problems along the way. They are integral to bringing these projects to life, and they find support from their peers in PMI’s community.

PMI has a global network of more than 300 chapters and serves as a community for project managers – at every stage of their career. Members can share knowledge, celebrate impact, and learn together through resources, events, and other programs such as PMI’s Hours for Impact program, which encourages PMI members to volunteer their time to projects directly supporting the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

“By tapping into PMI's extensive network and resources, I've expanded my project management knowledge and skills, gaining insights from seasoned professionals in diverse industries, including environmental management. Exposure to different perspectives has kept me informed about industry trends, best practices, and allowed me to tailor my approach to the unique challenges of the non-profit sector,” Chan says.

“Obtaining my PMP certification has been a game-changer, propelling not only my career growth, but also reshaping my approach to daily projects, both personally and professionally,” Chan says. Research from PMI shows that a career in project management means being part of an industry on the rise, as the global economy will need 25 million new project professionals by 2030 and the median salary for project practitioners in the U.S. is $120K.

PMI’s mission is to help professionals build project management skills through online courses, networking, and other learning opportunities, help them prove their proficiency in project management through certifications, and champion the work that project professionals, like Joshua and Monica, do around the world.

For those interested in pursuing a career in project management to help make a difference, PMI’s Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification could be the starting point to help get your foot in the door.

A map of the United States post land-ice melt.


Land ice: We got a lot of it.

Considering the two largest ice sheets on earth — the one on Antarctica and the one on Greenland — extend more than 6 million square miles combined ... yeah, we're talkin' a lot of ice.

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US mom living in Sweden scolded for swaddling baby

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Imagine the surprise of an American mom that gave birth in Sweden being told to never swaddle her baby again. Surely the midwife must've been mistaken, assuming something else was going on. Miranda Hudgens recently posted a reenactment of her experience giving birth at a Swedish hospital to social media where it went viral.

In the video, Hudgens is holding her swaddled baby when the midwife comes in and asks what she's doing, while looking disgusted. The mom explains she's swaddling the baby. Shortly after the midwife leaves, Hudgens' husband tells her that the midwife said "not to do that to the baby anymore."

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Pop Culture

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@skylerleestutzman/TikTok

People were shocked to find out how much Skyler Stutzman earned as a UPS driver

People are seriously considering switching careers after finding out how much can be made as a UPS delivery driver.

Back in October, Skyler Stutzman, an Oregon-based UPS delivery driver went viral after sharing his weekly pay stub on TikTok.

In the clip, Stutzman showed that for 42 hours of work, and at a pay rate of $44.26 per hour, he earned $2,004 before taxes, and ultimately took home $1,300 after deductions.

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Identity

A Christmas PSA: Please be mindful about what gifts Santa brings your kids

A mom is asking people to consider the bigger picture when deciding what Santa will deliver to your house.

Mary Katherine Backstrom/Facebook, Photo by Samuel Holt on Unsplash

Mary Katherine Backstrom makes a strong argument for keeping Santa gifts simple.

Every family has its own traditions and ways of doing things around the holidays, from cooking specific foods to engaging in specific cultural rituals to how the myth of Santa gets handled. In general, it's wise to live and let live when it comes to such things, but one mom is making a strong case for rethinking what gifts Santa brings kids for Christmas in the larger context of community.

Mary Katherine Backstrom has been posting a public service announcement of sorts every year for the past decade, asking people to be mindful about other families' economic realities and how a family's Santa gifts can impact other people's children. Her message makes perfect sense, but it's something people who have never struggled financially might never consider.

"My annual PSA from a child who grew up poor," Backstrom captioned her video plea. She began by sharing that her parents separated when she was little, and she lived with her mom, who didn't always have the means to give her kids a lot for Christmas.

"Every Christmas, I would split my time between my mom and my dad," she said, explaining that her dad's side of the family had a lot of money. She would see her cousins getting thousands of dollars in gifts from Santa, while her gifts from Santa at home were far more modest. So she would go from being happy with what she'd received to questioning why Santa didn't think she'd been good enough to receive the expensive gifts he brought her cousins.

"There is seriously nothing wrong with what you can give your child for Christmas. It doesn't matter. That's not the point," she said. "But when we tell children that Santa Claus brings all of our gifts, what happens is kids like me and other children who don't have as many things will see other children getting all of these expensive toys and they'll wonder what they did wrong."

As Backstrom points out, children are naturally going to compare; that's developmentally appropriate. Kids are also very aware of what's fair and what's not, so when Santa lavishes some children with expensive presents and gives other kids a lot less, the kids whose parents don't have as much end up questioning their goodness through no fault of their own.

Watch Backstrom share her story (starting at the 2:00 minute mark):

Many people in the comments expressed gratitude for the message, saying that they, too, were the kid who thought Santa didn't like them.

"I was that child too," shared one commenter. "I hated when school started back after Christmas and the teacher would go around the room and ask everyone to tell what they got for Christmas. It was painful and humiliating. I thought I was the only one who hated how Christmas was such a stressful time."

"I remember very clearly my friend that lived next door getting everything on her letter to santa and I didnt understand why santa hated me! I agree 100%!!" offered another.

"100% CORRECT! I was also that child and yes, I wondered if I wasn't a good enough girl to deserve the same things Santa was bringing the other children," wrote another.

Other people shared that they had simply never thought of this aspect of Christmas giving and they were thankful for the widened perspective.

"Thank you for opening my eyes. I wish I had thought about this when I was Santa!!" wrote one commenter.

"I never thought of it like this. It really has opened my eyes and heart... You are so insightful and wise. Thank you," shared another.

"I love your honesty. I never thought about this when my son believed in Santa. I wish I had," wrote another.

Unfortunately, not everyone received the kind and gentle plea with grace and understanding. Some doubled down on their "right" to have Santa bring whatever gifts they darn well please. Backstrom posted a blunt follow-up video pointing out that she was speaking from her own lived experience, not sharing some hypothetical what-if with no basis in reality.

"This PSA is telling you that you are hurting children when you associate Santa Claus with expensive gifts," she said. "I'm not gonna be delicate about this anymore, because I've been doing this PSA for 10 years now and I still get people arguing with me about it. There is nothing to argue here. We are talking about children's feelings."

Backstrom pointed to the number of people in the comments who shared that they were hurt by expensive Santa gifts as a child to illustrate that this is, actually, a real issue. And the solution is simple: Keep Santa simple and let the expensive gifts come from parents or other family members. It's really not a lot to ask to preserve a little holiday magic for kids who don't have much instead of making them question why Santa doesn't think they're good enough. Santa is a tradition millions of people share—let's keep that collective reality in mind and keep the fun in it for everyone.

You can follow Mary Katherine Backstrom for more on Facebook.

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