Chellise Michael and Mike Busse (of Chellise Michael Photography) didn’t know it when Nico and his bride-to-be Zoe asked them to come to Fire Island and shoot their wedding, but the photography duo was in store for an unforgettably, almost absurdly laid-back, easygoing couple of days. Cool bonus: Mike (also the groom’s bandmate) would be the couple’s officiant.
“It was the most relaxed shooting experience we have ever had!” exclaims Chellise. “It felt like we were at our family’s summer home with the best of friends. The camera was used so naturally. It didn’t feel like we were working at all. We were on/off at all times, being guests more than photographers.”
“The day before the wedding, their immediate families and a handful of their closest, dearest friends came up to spend the evening together—about 15 to 20 people,” Chellise recounts. “Dinner was prepared with so much love earlier in the day by their friends (an amazing local chef), and we ended the night watching the sunset on the beach and laughing our hearts out. The night ended somewhat early on a full belly and pure excitement for the day to come.”
The house where the whole wedding party stayed (including the photographers) had three beds, three couches, and, as Chellise says, “a lot of shared pillows and blankets. There was no fuss. Everyone crashed at the house and didn’t care if it meant sleeping on the floor. They just wanted to be there. On the wedding day, another 20 people came with coolers of food, booze, and tents to pitch in the front yard. I started shooting right when I woke up. I snuck in the couples’ bedroom and got a shot of them just rubbing their eyes awake.”
“Later I asked Zoe where the ceremony was taking place and she pointed to a lighthouse far in the distance,” Chellise remembers. “I asked, ‘OK, but where at the lighthouse? Have you been there yet?’ She replied, ‘No… We’ll figure it out!'” Being a planner, Chellise was a little concerned by the unknowns. “What if it was private property?” she wondered. “What if it was unaccessible?”
“When the walk to the lighthouse began,” Chellise continues, “I felt strangely at ease. These two humans were magical and nothing could stop them, and I knew that everything would be just fine. When everyone came together at the lighthouse, I asked Nico and Zoe ‘Soooo… where do you wanna do this?’ They said, ‘Whatever you think is good, we trust you!’ It only took me and Mike 30 seconds to find the most magical spot.”
Their favorite moment of the day? Seeing the whole wedding party walking as one for 20 minutes both ways, to and from the lighthouse. “The scene was surreal, a mix of beach meets desert meets forest animals,” Chellise says.
“By the time we all made it back to the house, hot from the walk, everyone changed in their swimsuits and headed to the empty beach and swam (some skinny-dipped!) until we all got pruney and chilly,” Chellise says. “The night ended with everyone back at the house BBQ-ing and giving their big hugs and kisses goodbye. It was a Tuesday, so may people set sail back to the city that night…including us.”
Chellise and Mike traveled light that day, chiefly because no cars were allowed on the island—though they likely had no regrets anyway, considering the nature of the nuptials.
Camera: Canon 5D Mark III, Minolta SRT-101 film camera with expired Konica VX200 film
Lenses: Canon 50mm f/1.2, Sigma 35mm, Canon 45mm tilt-shift