Happy Diwali, everyone! To celebrate the festive season, I thought I would share with you Vidya and Geoff‘s Hindu Temple Society of North America wedding photos. These two tied the knot in an intimate event at New York City’s grandest Hindu temple. This temple has always been on my bucket list for places I want to photograph, and I am proud to share the photos with you this week.
Meet Vidya and Geoff
First, as always, let’s meet the lovely couple. Unlike most of my couples who met online, Vidya and Geoff found each other two years ago in a bar in Brooklyn. After a few years of courtship, they had a low-key proposal in their apartment on their two-year anniversary. While they come from different backgrounds – Geoff is from the Southern US and Vidya’s family is from India – they wanted to combine their two cultures and introduce the Vedic wedding ritual to their Western friends and family.
A History of the Hindu Temple Society of North America
The temple Vidya and Geoff selected for their wedding ceremony is more properly known as the Sri Maha Vallabha Ganapati Devasthanam Temple. It is regarded as the first and oldest Hindu temple in North America. The central deity of the temple is Ganesha, and the temple is colloquially also known as the Ganesha Temple.
The building sits on the site of a former Russian Orthodox Church in Flushing, Queens, and construction for the temple complex was completed in 1977. The temple’s exterior was designed in the manner of the traditional Hindu temples found throughout Southern India. Indeed, granite stones for the exterior of the temple were brought over from India for the construction.
Hindu Temple Society of North America Wedding Photos – Portraits
For Vidya and Geoff’s wedding photos, the couple wanted to concentrate on the beauty of the temple itself. The main tower is a stunning piece of architecture, and the central pathway is lined with ornate sculptures.
The temple, however, does present some photographic challenges. The temple is located smack dab in the middle of a residential neighborhood, so our photo locations in the immediate area were limited. (We had originally planned to take additional photos in nearby Kissena Park, but time was of the essence.) And while the corridor leading from the sidewalk to the main temple is simply beautiful, this is the only ideal photo location within the temple complex. Furthermore, since this pathway is the main entrance to the temple, this is also a high traffic area. I love a challenge, however, and Vidya and Geoff did not disappoint as models.
All of the portraits of Vidya and Geoff, as well as all of their family portraits, were taken in the main pathway. This was a small wedding with equally small family groups, so the temple pathway was perfect. However, if you have groups of much larger size, then you will have to find a different photo location. I would recommend taking any group photos on the stage inside the community center next door to the temple.
Hindu Temple Society of North America Wedding Photos – Ceremony
With all of their photos out of the way, it was time for the ceremony to begin. Vidya and Geoff’s ceremony warmly welcomed both of their families, and each side fully participated in all of the blessings.
The Hindu ceremony itself was personalized by the couple and explained fully in a program provided to guests at the start of the event. I have photographed many Indian weddings over the years, and I have to say this program was one of the best I have ever read. The couple took the time to explain the meaning of each blessing so that all of their guests – both Western and Indian alike – could easily understand the components of their intricate ceremony. The wedding ceremony included the exchange of wedding bands, sprinkling of rice, fire offering, and of course, the seven steps.
The ceremony concluded with a star gazing ritual. This was my first time photographing such a ritual. Although my cameras almost got wet as I was standing in front of the water being thrown, it was still a great time for all.
- Here is a link to a simplified version explaining the many steps in a Hindu wedding ceremony.
- Here is a link to a much more detailed explanation of the Hindu wedding ceremony.
- Here are some examples of other Indian wedding ceremonies I have photographed in the past.
Hindu Temple Society of North America Wedding Photos – Reception
In addition to being a popular place of worship, the Hindu Temple Society of North America also has one of the best restaurants in Flushing, Queens. The temple canteen, located in the lower level of the temple, serves fantastic vegetarian Indian fare. Needless to say, none of the guests left hungry.
What is Diwali?
Finally, just in case you are wondering what the heck Diwali is, here is a short explanation of the holiday. Diwali is one of the most sacred festivals within the Hindu religion, though it is also a major cultural event for the Sikh and Jain communities. Known as the ‘Festival of Lights,’ the lights that are used during the festival rituals are said to symbolize the spiritual victory of good over evil and knowledge over ignorance. The festival generally lasts five days and is celebrated in mid-October or November. Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, and Ganesha, the god of wisdom, are the two deities most closely associated with the festival.
In addition to decorating their homes with oil lamps and performing worship ceremonies, celebrants also celebrate by wearing their finest outfits and exchanging sweets and gifts with one another. Think of Diwali as Christmas coming early to the Indian community.
- Here is a great video explaining Diwali in more detail.
Enjoy the images, and I’ll have more photo adventures for you next week!
Will you be walking down the aisle soon? Drop me a line and let’s talk about your photography needs.
If you would like to view more images from my wedding photography portfolio, then please visit my website – KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com
- Ceremony & reception venue – Hindu Temple Society of North America
- Couple’s attire – Shibumi
- Rings – Ashley Zhang