Mario Lopez & Courtney Mazza wedding in Punta Mita
Mario Lopez, TV host to Extra and The X-Factor on Fox, as well as childhood star AC Slater on Saved by the Bell, and the wedding to his fiancee Courtney Mazza took place at the Joe Francis compound in Punta Mita, Mexico at Casa Aramara. For those not familiar with the name Joe Francis, he is the founder and CEO of Girls Gone Wild.
Getting hired: Celebrities have access to some amazing photographers in their own backyard. To be chosen for Mario and Courtney's wedding is the ultimate ARE YOU F-ING KIDDING ME!???! In January of 2012, I was invited out to LA for a party and that evening I was introduced to the event designer for the Mario Lopez and Courtney Mazza wedding. Michael Schultz and I spent some time together that evening and after reviewing my work, he passed it along to Mario and Courtney. The word came back pretty quickly they loved my work, and wanted me to come back to LA to meet in person.
After a family trip to Disneyland in April 2012, I had lunch with Mario in between his filming on the set for Extra TV. I recall walking across The Grove, head racing 456 miles per hour, sweating in the LA heat (of course, I was wearing a 3-piece suit) and nervous that I would blow it. I kept telling myself, just be yourself. Breathe. Just be yourself. Breathe. Over. And over. And over. Oh, and don't let them ever see you sweat. I was told it would be a 45-min lunch. After we got some momentum going about ideas for the wedding, doing an engagement session later that summer, showing him my albums, the lunch went on for a few hours. His excitement was so contagious and he quickly called Courtney to see if she had time to meet me over the weekend.
With plans to go back the following day to Chicago, but an invite to hang out and meet Mario's fiancee in his trailer at the WB's studio in Burbank where he was taping for MTV's America's Best Dance Crew, I clearly had to stay and get a little VIP treatment. I rescheduled my flight, took another deep breath and sweated in a different 3-piece suit as I was escorted to Mario's trailer in the blazing sun. I spent 6 hours with them both behind the scenes at the taping and when I left, I was not nervous, but ecstatic! I called Ryan from the parking garage who acted as a liaison to his entire family as well as texted my mother. I knew the deal was sealed.
In August of 2012, I returned again to LA but this time to photograph Mario Lopez's and Courtney Mazza's engagement session in their home in the Glendale hills which was also featured with First Rights on the Style Me Pretty blog. Afterwards, Ricky and I stayed in LA to relax and celebrate with some industry friends. However, I quickly found myself filled with a huge amount of anxiety that I had never felt before. Because everything was so unfamiliar to me, I didn't know exactly where to turn to for advice, help nor could I even articulate the feelings very well. I just had to ride it out. I did doubt myself quite a bit during the process. But I took that doubt and fought it with all the energy I could muster. That doubt fueled a raging fire inside. In my opinion, learning to channel negative thoughts into ways that help me become stronger is my recipe for a solid foundation.
Sure, we all love little inspirational quotes on our Facebook feed. But those quotes tend to leave me thinking, "Um, duh. Sure. If I don't wake up and step out of bed, nothing will get done. Yea, thanks." There is nothing wrong with negative feelings, or those voices that tell you otherwise. I use that to my advantage. I have the choice to listen to it, or tell it to F-Off. We all get negative thoughts, so why suppress them with sugar coated trite sayings? Own the feelings but redirect their power.
Their wedding: Ricky, Chadd and I arrived in Mexico a few days early to chill and get a feel for what we were going to be doing for 3 days. I found myself quiet which I think threw off my team. I just wanted peace, and listen to the thoughts in my head. I was about to experience something I have never done in my entire life. Plus, the expectations from my clients, TLC / Discovery and Mario and Courtney, those who helped get me hired on to the wedding and my network back home were suffocatingly high. We started out photographing Thursday to get our feet wet and to get to know the families better so when the 2-day celebrations started, no one was unfamiliar.
I quickly realized my entire 27 years of an insurance bank was not giving me the full tools to get through this experience. For those who complain about a videographer getting in their way, or a little iPhone jutting out in the aisle, try an entire Discovery / TLC film crew, producers, and the army it takes to produce a reality TV show getting in your way. I found myself squeezed into the worst corners to get my shots trying to avoid sound booms, walls of producers and camera men or worse, told I couldn't take pictures for extended periods of time due to the noise of my shutter.
I panicked a little wondering how I am going to get the images I needed for my client that told the story of their wedding without the clutter of TV crew and missing key moments. I am not sure if I figured that out completely, but I just plugged along and did the best I could. OK, I had a few meltdowns here and there. Maybe even cried once. Or twice. Hey, it was all new to me.
We ended the shoot at midnight, and I went back to the resort and started to download 22,000 photos because of the US Weekly first rights to publication and their deadline at 10 am the next morning. With one computer, and three CF card readers, it took nearly 5 hours just to download. Then had to upload to Aperture, let the images process, find the images US Weekly needed, tone them and upload the files to New York. I met the deadline within 8 minutes to 10. I woke up the sleeping boys and headed out for some lunch along the ocean and then started our long return trip home. Buy the time I got home, I had not slept in 43 hours. I was a hot, emotional mess.
Now that the wedding pictures are finally published in Inside Weddings, I am excited to share with you all my edit! It has been an incredible journey this past 18 months. I am most grateful for those who, despite that we never worked together at a wedding, believed in my work and the way I personally connect with people and took a huge risk referring me to Mario and Courtney's event designer. I will always be in debt to you all. You have changed my life, and my career. Thank you.
And to my clients, Mario and Courtney Lopez. Saying thank you would never be enough. The two of you treated me like a friend and made me feel so comfortable from the first day we met. You made me proud, as well as a slew of Jews out West. I have put a lot of long hours over the last few decades, and I found some folks who decided to give me my break. I am grateful to you all.
Mario and Courtney, please enjoy your blog post.
Ceremony - Casa Aramara
Reception - Casa Aramara
Caterer - Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita
Deserts - Carlo's Bakery of Cake Boss
Wedding Cake - Carlo's Bakery of Cake Boss
Band - Real de America
DJ - DJ Defari
Florist - Michael Schultz
Lighting/Decor - Gustavo Ruiz
Makeup Artist - Paul Ramirez, Linh Tran, Rodney Rinks
Hair - Lara C. Kay, Paul Ramirez
Invitations - Lehr and Black
Wedding Consultant - Michael Schultz
Wedding Dress - Ines Di Santo
Bridesmaids Gowns - Amsale
Formal Wear - John Varvatos
Wedding Rings - Gerald David Bauman
Headpiece/Accessories - Maria Elena Headpieces
Second Shooter - Chadd Foy
Third Shooter - Kiersten Rowland