Bronx Wedding Photographer Couple Redo Their Ceremony to Get Perfect Pics
PARKCHESTER — The second time around, Danielle and Wilfredo Rivera decided on a different type of wedding.
For starters, it would be a surprise — friends and family arrived at a South Bronx bar Sunday afternoon expecting to celebrate Danielle’s 30th birthday.
Also, it would be fun.
She donned a $5 thrift store dress over hot pink tights. He sported pink suspenders, which matched the hue of his high-top laces. Guests wore purposefully cheesy 80s attire.
The surprise ceremony unfolded on the sixth-floor roof of the Clock Tower building in Port Morris, which houses the Clock Bar. Pastel balloons, standing in for flower arrangements, blew in the wind.
The couple exchanged homemade vows. Hers were a greatest hits compilation of vows she found online. His were straightforward — “You’re awesome!”
After they kissed, they danced to Adele.
“It was a perfect day,” Danielle said.
But it wasn’t their official wedding day — it was the one-year anniversary of the original ceremony.
The Bronx couple, a husband-wife wedding photography team, staged the picture-perfect wedding redo Sunday to correct a painful mishap that occurred last November — their official wedding photos turned out awful.
“We did everything we had wanted to do last year, this year,” Danielle Rivera said.
The two New York natives met at a salsa-dancing convention in Atlanta a few years ago. They were engaged on New Years Eve, during the first moments of 2011.
Danielle created a bridal blog that February to document her wedding-planning saga and, before long, it averaged 15,000 page views per month, she said.
Finally, the wedding day arrived. Everything appeared perfect.
“The dress was to die for, the flowers were just right and the reception details were the perfect blend of the two — a little bit she, a little bit he,” Danielle wrote on her site.
But as the day went on, she got a sinking sense that the photographer friend she had hired wasn’t capturing the hundreds of details the couple had spent months obsessing over, or their spontaneous moments of joy that day.
When she saw the photographs after the wedding, her fears were confirmed.
“I got the pictures back, and my heart broke into a million pieces,” she said.
Shots were out of focus or poorly lit. There were no group portraits. Nothing was retouched.
Out of 1,700 pictures the photographer sent her, Danielle could not find 100 worth including in an album. The week after the wedding, she hired another photographer to retake the bridal portraits.
“That experience was everything that fueled my decision to go into wedding photography,” she said. “I try to take the pictures that I would have wanted on my own wedding day.”
Her decision was reinforced by the fact that, not long after the wedding, she was laid off from her job as a hospital dietitian.
This January, she turned to her blog readers. For five months, she wrote, she would photograph their special occasions free of charge as she honed her craft and built up a portfolio.
Before long, she was shooting three to five events a week. At her home in Parkchester, a particularly pretty plant and her husband served as models for nightly practice sessions.
By May, she felt ready to launch her own wedding and event photography business, which she called Danfredo — a mash-up of her and her husband’s names.
As she developed the business, Danielle attended networking events and enrolled in online photography classes. She also assists wedding photographers that she meets online and in person.
Twah Dougherty, owner of the photography company Style Art Life, hired Danielle earlier this year to help shoot weddings when she was shorthanded. Before long, she elevated Danielle into an associate photographer who handles weddings when Dougherty herself is booked.
“She’s one of the few photographers who I felt like I could truly trust with my business,” Dougherty said. She described Danielle’s style as “quirky, charismatic photojournalism.”
Since May, Danielle has helped photograph 32 weddings in New York and beyond, including Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and even Mexico.
Wilfredo, who works at a law firm in Manhattan, accompanied Danielle to some early shoots to offer support. Soon he was taking photos with her.
“I never thought I’d like it,” said Wilfredo, 34. Now, he hopes to work full-time with his wife within a few years.
The couple’s photographs look thoroughly modern — naturally lit, candid shots that seem equally suited for glossy bridal magazines or Instagram.
While that style is all the rage many places, it has yet to catch on in The Bronx, the pair said, where more formal, posed pictures remain popular.
Though most of their work so far has been outside of The Bronx, the couple said they are intent on developing a clientele in their home borough.
“I grew up in The Bronx — I want to keep it here,” Danielle said. “I'm hoping we can be that breath of fresh air."