VIVIAN & DRAGOS in Iceland » Hotel Budir Destination Wedding & South Iceland Portrait session
When Vivian Chen from Brooklyn, NY reached out me over a year ago, her email gave me goosebumps. Here was another Vivian Chen living on the opposite side of the country wondering if I would shoot her destination wedding in Iceland. Moments prior to seeing her email in my inbox, I had been literally daydreaming about going back to Iceland. Since we had the same name, this East Coast Vivian said she had been stalking me for years, hoping I’d give up the URL “vivianchen.com”. When she got engaged and started planning her wedding, she decided on a whim to contact me. Her inquiry felt too serendipitous to pass up, so I immediately wrote her back and a few days later we were video chatting. From our mutual love of cats, similar home design aesthetics and easy going personalities, we clicked immediately and it felt like I was talking to an old friend. There was no question we’d be going on an Icelandic wedding adventure together.
In HER Own Words // HOW THEY MET
“Dragos and I met at a housewarming party in the West Village in New York City. Dragos followed me up the stairs and claimed that he never ran up the stairs faster and made a point to talk to me during the party. At 6 ft 5 inches, I noticed Dragos right away as he was hard to miss. Once Dragos finally found the opportunity to talk to me, I remember thinking "Oh God, what did he say was his name? I have no idea how to say that." We chatted about our jobs, life in the city, and our mutual interests in social impact. He asked me for my email and a few days later, asked me out to continue our conversation and the rest is history.”
“When we started the planning process, we knew we wanted a destination wedding. We love to travel and wanted the beginning of our life to be an adventure that we can share with all our guests. It was fitting that our life journey would start with a physical journey, but the big question was the location. As most of our friends and family were scattered across North America and Europe, Iceland's ideal location midway between the two continents became a top choice. We fell in love with the idea that we would bind our love at the land where the two continents, North American and Eurasian tectonic plates touch. Once we found the quaint and rustic Hotel Budir on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, home of the Snaefellsjokull volcano, the famed gateway in Jules Verne's novel “Journey to the Center of the Earth”, it all just felt right.”
What It’s Like to have a Name Twin
“I want to tell you about Vivian Chen. No, not me, the other Vivian Chen, my wedding photographer! For many years I’ve been trying to buy the URL “vivianchen.com” and every year I lamented the fact that it’s occupied by ‘this photographer chick in California’. When I began the search for a wedding photographer, I remembered this other Vivian Chen and a crazy idea popped into my head. I thought to myself, “Hmmm, I wonder if she does weddings?” So I went on vivianchen.com once again and discovered a beautifully written About Me section where she detailed her love of clouds, Norwegian ponies, the great outdoors, and natural, photojournalistic wedding photography.
Three days before the wedding, we went on a pre-wedding shoot. Vivian traveled with us (ahem, drove us, because after all these years I still can’t drive) from 8am to 10pm all the way past Hof and took these majestic photos of glaciers, canyons, black sand beach, and of course Icelandic ponies.
It’s a weird feeling when you meet someone with the same name and I couldn’t help but wonder if we were more alike or different. We compared signatures, noticed random similarities, and I had this feeling that I’ve known her for years. The other Vivian Chen is a kinder, more thoughtful, and unbelievably talented soul. I am so grateful and honored to have had Vivian Chen present at our wedding. After getting to know her, I have to admit, I think she’s the cooler Vivian Chen and I’m not even mad that she has my URL.” — Vivian Chen
Our South Iceland Road Trip Engagement Session
Three days before the wedding, we shot an epic engagement session that took us along the most scenic parts of South Iceland. Originally Vivian wanted to just go to the black sand beach but when I found out that we had the whole day free, I said, if you’re up for driving all day, let’s hit up a few more spots! And of course, she and Dragos were up for the drive! Setting out early in the morning, we started our day long portrait session at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon before driving to Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon and ending the day at the black sand beaches of Reynisfjara. And of course, we stopped to say hello to Icelandic horses along the way.
The Wedding Weekend
Nestled on a lava field on the Snaefellsnell Peninsula, Hotel Búðir provided the perfect backdrop for Vivian and Dragos’ celebration. Whether it was the famous black church Búðakirkja, Snæfellsjökull Glacier, the Búðir-estuary, or the expansive mountain range speckled with waterfalls, you were treated to a stunning view no matter which direction you looked. The hotel is also home to a sweet mastiff named Thor who likes to spend his evenings watching the tide go out and chasing seals. (Not that he’s ever caught one!)
Gathering 71 of your closest friends and family for a destination wedding in Iceland means pulling out all the stops. Just one day of celebration wasn’t enough so before their Sunday nuptials, Vivian and Dragos kicked off the festivities with a beach bonfire Saturday night with local drinks and barbecue. I was invited to attend and felt at home. Everyone was so warm and welcoming and I especially enjoyed introducing myself as “the Other Vivian Chen” among her friends. The evening continued and impromptu toasts were given as the moon rose above the horizon. Once the embers died down, guests were treated to roasted marshmallows and s’mores. Those who braved the dropping temperatures a bit longer were rewarded a beautiful display of the northern lights, dancing in the sky.
The Big Day
The next morning, Vivian and Dragos got ready in the hotel while guests spent the morning riding horses or exploring local lava caves. For their first look, we chose a spot next to the hotel near the dock with a view of the mountain range and the estuary. After a few sweet moment alone, Vivian and Dragos gathered with their wedding party and headed over to the ceremony site down by the beach. Their good friend Anna played a beautiful rendition of Sigur Rós’ “Starálfur” on her violin as Vivian and her father walked down the grass path where everyone was waiting. Their friend, Laura, who threw the housewarming party where Vivian and Dragos first met, officiated the ceremony. In addition to exchanging rings, they drank traditional spirits—homemade Romanian plum wine and Chinese baijiu—out of chalices. After they sealed their vows with a kiss, Vivian and Dragos lead everyone back to the hotel for cocktails. As Dragos earned his degree in mathematics, they had their guests try to find their seat assignments by answered riddles and math equations (some more successfully than others!) As the evening light faded away, everyone was treated to a delicious three course meal in the cozy dining room before heading out to the lobby for dessert and a dance party that went on well into the night. It was an incredible wedding weekend that was made even more magical because of the connection Vivian and I felt for one another.
Wedding Venue: Hótel Búðir // Floral Design: Thordis // Hair + Make-Up: Margret Magnus // Baker: Sætar Syndir // DJ: Atli Már Gylfason // Vivian’s Dress: Enzoani (Handmade cape by Vivian’s mother) // Vivian’s Shoes: Aquazurra // Dragos’ Suit: Enzo Custom // Paper Goods: Minted // Rings: ID Jewelry