Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Wedding in La Paz!

Back in August, one of our coworkers (a former student) asked us to participate in her wedding:  our daughters as flower girls and I (Nathan) as photographer.  Naturally, we were all very excited to accept, not least because of an excuse to go see La Paz!  Although we have traveled through the capital city, we have never had a chance to get out and see it.  Because the wedding was planned for the end of January, during our long break (in the training program), we made a week of it.

(I am including a few photos here.  Many more can be found in our Google Album. As usual, you can click on these to see them in a larger size.)

There were several things that made the whole week uncertain.  We had hoped to drive up, a two day trip, but due to political unrest at the time, we were forced to make the decision to fly.  The wedding was going to be outdoors at a botanical garden, but the weather was forecasted to be pretty miserable.  However, God timed everything so that both unrest and rain happened in ways which did not impede any of our activities!

La Paz was founded by Spanish conquistadors in 1548 on the site of an Inca settlement -- in a deep valley on the edge of the Altiplano at 12,000 feet above sea level.  The downtown area retains much of the colonial architecture that was built in the succeeding years, now combined with more modern high rises, while the outlying areas are built up in a more local style.  Naturally, I was ecstatic to have something to photograph besides the flatland of Santa Cruz. ;)
The main road into town, with the Basilica of Saint Francis, at dusk
We only had one day free to explore, but we made the most of it! In spite of a transportation strike/protest, we managed to get to the central plaza and several museums.  We started our day with the Museo Nacional de Etnografía y Folklore (National Museum of Ethnography and Folklore) which turned out to be the best museum we have ever visited here.  We were impressed not only by the extensiveness of the exhibits, but the presentation and information provided as well.  Kaylee was in love as soon as we walked into the first exhibit and found alpaca yarn with traditional tools and dyes!

Beyond the yarn we found textiles, pottery, ceremonial masks, metalwork, woodwork, farm implements, and other important aspects of Bolivian life.  One thing we appreciated about the exhibits is the cross-section of various strong cultures in Bolivia.  Although the highland cultures (Quechua and Aymara) tend to overwhelm the others based on sheer numbers as well as technological advances,  there was a good representation of the different cultures of Bolivia.  Most of the featured items are historically important, with an emphasis on what life was like before the Spanish invasion.
Aguayos and ponchos from the Quechua and Aymara cultures
Pottery and Ceramics.  There's a closeup of that jaguar bowl in the photo album.
Lydia and Addi checking out some of the headdresses 
We are amazed at the delicate work they do in silver here!
We wanted very much to get up to Lake Titicaca, only a short drive from the city, but without a vehicle and with very limited time, it just didn't work out.  Maybe next time.  Until then, this will have to do:
My girls at the Titicaca exhibit
We also had fun at the plaza, feeding the inevitable pigeons and looking at the government buildings and the cathedral.

In the main plaza
On Friday, we had a completely new cultural experience.  Although we have attended church weddings in Bolivia, we have never been present for a civil ceremony, in which the couple is married legally.  Other than the two witnesses and the notary (who, in the Bolivian legal system, is a lawyer representing the government), we were the only non-family members present.  It was held in the home of the bride's parents.  I expected that it would be a short affair centered around signing documents, but the notary actually preached a very good "sermon" focused on the contractual aspect of marriage.  There was an exchange of vows and a kiss and they were legally married!

Naturally, I was excited to find that the house was up on  a steep hill and I took advantage of the time we had to wait between events to wander a bit and take some photos!
I was visited by a group of stray dogs and this one decided to pose for me!

The urban gondola system has been a feature project by the current government to help with congestion on the crowded, narrow, steep streets.  It's a lot of fun, too!

Someone told me once that La Paz is the only city in the world where the poor live uphill from the wealthy
Finally, on Saturday, it was time for the event which we had been anticipating for several months.  The wedding was held outdoors at the local botanical garden.  It had been raining on and off all week and we had been praying for a dry day and God answered abundantly.  Not only was it dry, but beautiful as well!

I had been very, very nervous about how it was all going to go for me, since I had never before been THE photographer at something so critical as a wedding.  Thanks to help from Kaylee and the preparation I had done ahead of time, it all went fairly smoothly with only a few hiccups.  I obviously have a lot to improve, but I am content for my first time.  I ended up taking 1,500 photos!  Here are a few of my favorites (more in the album):

The girls' first wedding!

My beautiful ladies

Bride's entrance


I literally did a happy dance when I saw how this shot turned out :)

After all of the congratulating and photo taking and hugs and cake-cutting, our family escaped with the bride and groom and went to take some more photos.  We first went to a lookout called Killi Killi where there is a fantastic view not only of the city but its biggest, best, most beautiful feature:  Mount Illimani.

Mt. Illimani as seen from Killi Killi

Speaking of Illimani, my one other goal for this trip was to get up to the west side of the La Paz valley and shoot the mountain over the city at sunrise.  Mt Illimani is almost due east, so it naturally lends itself to sunrise/sunset photos.  I put quite a bit of time into figuring out where to take the photos from and when.  The last night of our trip, I set my alarm for 4:30am, but I woke up naturally at 3:00 (I didn't sleep well all week, probably nerves/stress) and found a taxi to El Alto, above 13,400 ft.  With the bad weather, I wasn't sure what I was going to get, but I had to try.

As conditions changed throughout the morning, I made a video of the experience:

Here are a couple of my favorite photos from the morning:


  1. Loved this blog entry, Nathan! The video too, the snapping of the pictures. The captions were remarkably accurate, but not "Mount Iggy money!"

  2. Nice wedding. It was just so nice to have a look here. I would also be attending a destination wedding at a beachside venue NYC. We would be taking our son too this event and it would be his very first trip to NYC. I am sure it is going to be a fun experience for him.