Ali & Batoul Photography Blog | Ottawa Wedding Photographer
The official site of Ali and Batoul Photography. Light, airy and documentary style Ottawa wedding photographers for the adventurous couple in Ottawa, Kingston, Prince Edward County, Toronto and Montreal.
Katie and Ryan first met while Ryan was visiting a mutual friend (who is one of Katie’s bridesmaids!) in Peterborough where Katie was going to school. Here’s the most memorable part of the start to their relationship: when they all went to a party together and accidentally went home and left Ryan completely alone at the party! Luckily, he forgave Katie and returned for another visit a few weekends later. Katie knew there was something special between them. They would talk and text regularly in between a few more visits. But she had a moment of cold feet and told their friend, Natalie, that she wasn’t sure if she was ready to get into any serious relationship. Natalie had a feeling that something really good was going to happen between the two so she refused Katie’s plea to cancel another weekend visit by Ryan. In Katie’s words, Natalie said ‘I have a feeling that you will be together for a very long time!” And she was right! They continued their long distance relationship for 2 years until Katie moved to Toronto to be with Ryan.
They got engaged last year on one of the most beautiful places on earth: Hawaii. But their story wasn’t an easy one. Katie was unexpectedly diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer. It was a big shock to everyone. Katie had to go through 6 months of chemotherapy treatment. Ryan stood by her side the entire time and they got through one of the most difficult trials in their lives. They had planned to go to Hawaii after her treatment was completed and successful, so that helped them through the process thinking of the waves, hikes and nature that they’d experience soon after.
But Katie had no idea that Ryan was planning on proposing during their trip. They rented a beautiful airbnb right on the water with incredible sunset views. On one of their first nights there, they were watching the sunset on the beach, which is where Ryan gave an incredible speech, got down on one knee and asked Katie to marry him. Katie was in shock for 24 hours and later found out that her whole family and a few friends were in on it!
These two humans will be getting married this summer at the Fairmont Chateau Montebello. I only met Katie and Ryan at their engagement shoot as they currently live in Toronto but I feel like I’ve known them for a long time! Here are a few of my favourite photos from their Wakefield engagement shoot.
Our first wedding of the 2019 season started off in the best possible way. Elise from Toast Events channeled the fresh spring season with the warmest-toned flowers across long harvest tables in a church-turned-urban-wedding venue in downtown Ottawa. Being their second wedding celebration (see their in-home ceremony here) Christine and Liam, went for a family style vegetarian dinner to make all their guests feel at home while the warm sun sparkled through the floor to ceiling stained-glass windows. Here are a few to get you excited for all the gorgeous weddings coming your way in 2019.
We’ve been in newborn heaven these last couple of months and as the fog of this wonderful, exhausting, precious time in our lives has started to lift, I wanted to write down these earliest experiences of Zayn’s life before they become a distant memory. I will never forget each of these moments but there’s something extra special when it’s captured in the written words of parents, someday to share with their growing children. I hope to include these tales in Zayn and Hayat’s first year photobooks too!
During the season when Hayat was born, we were living out of suitcases, Ali on one side of the earth in humid Qatar, and me in an airbnb in urban Gatineau. We didn’t have a nursery set up and were limited on the time that we had together during her first few weeks of life. Stress was at an all-time high, but luckily I got away with a quick labour. Albeit, it was a rollercoaster onset of intense contractions in the middle of the night. No sleep, no rest in between. It was full throttle from the very start. Like a punching bag, hardly able to catch a breath before the next fist came in.
I was determined to ‘enjoy’ as much of this labour as possible. Luckily, that determination came through (thank you Zayn!). We wrote a letter to Zayn (who at the time, was yet to be named!), took some selfies in between contractions, ordered a delicious vegetarian pizza, took a shower, did my nails, took power naps, all before things got intense. The whole story is laid out below in lots of fun details, so enjoy!
Another preamble: Because we didn’t end up commissioning a photographer to capture Hayat’s birth, I thought it would be cool to document Zayn’s this time around. But, the stars didn’t align since Zayn decided to join us 5 days early - our photographer friend, Agatha, wasn’t in town. Bummer. But she captured our little family a few days later, so you’ll see her incredible imagery interspersed below along with a few photos we took immediately after the birth.
It was 5:30am when I first felt it. My eyes shot open and I looked across from me towards Ali. He was completely zonked, sound asleep. Oblivious to what I knew were the starting pangs of early labour. I stayed cuddled up in bed, hoping that I was wrong. Our fingers were crossed for a 2019 baby. And my photographer/videographer friend, Agatha, was only available starting the very next day (yup, that was one of my odd reasons to hope for a 2019 kiddo!). I cozied up a bit longer hoping that I could somehow fall back asleep, but no. The contractions continued. And this tiny creature that occupied my body for 9 months on end was set on partying it up later that day like it was 2018.
Rewind to the evening before. I was working away on my laptop, editing our family photos that I had neglected over 2018 (I’m sure there were upwards of a few thousand!), we were watching some Netflix show at the same time, and munching on fresh fruit that Ali had bought earlier that day. I suddenly felt a strange kick-like pain in the pit of my stomach at around 11pm. Deep down, I knew Zayn was telling me that he was getting ready to come out. So Ali and I dropped everything at that moment, ran upstairs, got our clothes ready, and went to bed by midnight with the lingering thought that things could get real at ANY GIVEN MOMENT. That night, I had the best 5 hours of sleep I’ve had in a long time. You’d think I wouldn’t sleep a wink, but my body needed every second of that sleep.
Based on our previous experience, our midwife (who is one of my favourite humans on earth!), said that it would come fast. I thought, if this baby is coming today, on New Year’s Eve, then I’m going to start off on the right foot. I finally woke Ali up, and after a few groggy minutes, we were both laser focused on what was to come next. Hayat woke up soon after and we spent a few minutes cuddling up together knowing that this would be the last time together as a family of 3. Those moments were so precious and I distinctly remember hugging Hayat so tightly and tearing up in between the ongoing mild contractions. It was such an emotional time and Hayat no idea that her life was about to completely change later that day.
After Ali dropped her off at my parent’s house, we started the day like any other. We had breakfast in our living room and like typical ‘Batoul-style’, started prioritizing what needed to be done next, knowing that things could speed up any second. For me, it was: shower, get my nails done (potentially at the nail salon close to my house - yes, I was seriously thinking that!), set up the camera to take photos through the phone (yup, was thinking that too!), place hospital bag in the car and labour at home as long as possible until our midwife arrived. The hot shower felt so good and I feel that it somehow slowed down the labour! Biggest recommendation to any pregnant friend out there in the early labour stage - a hot shower will help relieve some of those incessant aches and pains. And, you’ll be spic and span for when active labour rears its ugly head.
Things were progressing rather slowly that morning, and the contractions came on every 6-7 minutes but were mild. I smartly decided against going out to a nail salon. It’s kind of funny because I’ve only had my nails professionally done like 3x in my entire life. I was laughing at myself in between contractions because of where my mind was at in those early morning moments.
I was actually confused and annoyed about the slow progression because I was expecting everything to happen so quickly as it did with Hayat’s birth. I sent Ali to bed to take as long a nap as possible so that he could be energized to help me through the next phase. I was even able to join him for a short nap leading up to the middle of the day.
As I was in and out of sleep, the clock struck 12 and things began getting serious. Then everything happened all at once.
One: the contractions were coming on more frequently and the hard pains that come with labour crept up at me.
Two: suddenly, I was hungry. As if I hadn’t eaten anything in days kind-of-hungry.
Three: my parents called telling us that they didn’t know how to set up Hayat’s mobile crib for her mid-day nap.
So again, we prioritized. Ali ordered our pizza and drove over to my parents’ (luckily they live closely!) to show them how to get the crib working. For the record, that bed is still a pain in the neck and so hard to set up! I laboured on my own and prayed to God that little Z wouldn’t decide to push through in that very moment. The doorbell rang and and I told the delivery man that I was in labour, then I laughed. He laughed along, but I don’t think he believed me. I wouldn’t believe me either! I was in some sort of hysterical, worried state because of being alone at home. I could have sworn that the thought of asking the delivery man to wait around until Ali came back crossed my mind.
For what felt like hours but were actually only a few minutes, Ali came back home and relief washed over me. At least someone would be there if baby Z decided to come early.
After enjoying the most delicious vegetarian Pizza Pizza pizza (maybe it was my hormones, but man I will never forget the juiciness of this lunch!), we decided to call our midwife, Grace (from East Ottawa Midwives - best midwifery practice in town!) and she was at our place within half hour. I was 6cm dilated at that time and she recommended that we head on over to the birthing centre because we were progressing well and fast.
When we gave birth to Hayat at our local hospital, the one thing I didn’t like was how much walking we had to do from the entrance, to the waiting room, then from the waiting room to the delivery room. Plus, parking was a nuisance and expensive and Ali was absent figuring it all out while I was close to giving birth! One of the reasons we chose the birthing centre instead of a traditional hospital was because of the easy and quick entranceway. Yes, I’m serious that this was one of the biggest consideration! We literally parked right in from of the main entrance, within a few steps we were at the main door and another few in the check-in room. It was so wonderful to have Ali by my side the whole time rather than him running back in and out to find a parking spot and to grab our hospital bag.
We arrived at the Ottawa Birth and Wellness Centre at 2:30. By the time we walked over to our room, got settle and checked, I was closer to 8cm dilated and felt ready to push. By 3:30pm, after 7 minutes of pushing (please don’t hate haha), holding Ali really hard (more like strangling him because there weren’t any side railings to hold onto!), baby Zayn Ibrahim joined us just in time to celebrate New Year’s Eve that night!
Here’s our timeline summary, which I think is pretty fantastic and fast:
12:30 - painful-I-cant-breath-through-them contractions begin
1:30 - midwife comes over for a check, confirms active labour in progress
2:30 - at birthing centre
3:30 - baby Z joins our world
7:00 - home
Both Ali and I enjoyed some skin-to-skin before our families arrived at the centre to celebrate with us! Luckily, I was able to shower and clean up good before everyone arrived, which somehow made me feel like I recovered much quicker. My over-the-top cleanliness tendencies served me well here! One of my favourite moments was when my parents brought Hayat over to meet her new baby brother, just a couple of hours after Zayn was born. She sprung into the room filled with so much excitement, because that is how she is all the time! But as soon as she saw Zayn in my arms, she turned around to everybody, brought her finger to her mouth and said ‘shhhh, baby’. I wanted to eat her right then and there!
Ali was an incredible support! He did make a couple of jokes here and there throughout the labour, and whenever he tried to massage my back or touch me, I probably bit back like a raven, but I couldn’t have done it without him encouraging me the whole way through. I’m also proud of him for not flinching as much as I thought he would throughout the process. He was probably more focused on not getting strangled by me. #labouringhusband for the win! As much as everything was such a blur going through each stage of labour, I remember it all so vividly and I felt more present and focussed than ever. If you’ve read all the way through to the end, kudos to you! I didn’t think that my rambling would get anyone that interested to get to this point haha. This may very well be our last 'birth story’ (cue the tears), so I am extremely lucky to have enjoyed the experience this time around.
I think 2018 was our biggest year ever on all fronts, both business and personal. We moved back to Canada after two years living between Doha and Ottawa, we found out we were expecting right before wedding season began and had a baby on December 31st, just in time to ring in the new year in style! We shot the weddings of the sweetest, kindest and funniest couples who we connected with so perfectly. It felt like we were photographing our friends’ weddings, so there were lots of tears (from Batoul) streaming down our faces throughout many first looks, ceremonies and speeches.
Although this blog post comes in later than I had hoped (the blame is all on baby Z who came a few days earlier than expected so this blog post has been delayed for 2.5 months!), I still feel the need to share just a slice of my favourite photos from our 2018 weddings. I mean, there are almost 200 images here, and it was SO hard to choose my favourites. So sit back, relax, and take all these beautiful moments in. I’ve linked each wedding to the full feature blog, so if you’re itching for more, click on the added links I’ve created!
Where there are big, beautiful, garden-style bouquets, there is Brittany from Frid Events. Emily and Jonah threw a kick-ass wedding party and sang + played music + danced late into the night. Here is the full feature of their Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello wedding.
An intimate flower-filled affair at Christine and Liam’s Westboro home was beautiful in so many ways. Planned, designed and executed by Elise of Toast Events, it was a fine art masterpiece with the best vegetarian food I’ve ever had! Here’s the full feature of their intimate flower-filled wedding.
With the help of Frid Events, Genevieve and Jason elevated the typical rustic barn wedding to a luxurious, wild-flowered garden delight! One of my favourite colour palettes ever. Their full French countryside wedding can be seen here.
It has been one heck of a 2019 so far! We celebrated New Year’s Eve welcoming sweet baby Zayn into our lives, officially promoting us to a family of 4. I’m in the process of putting together the details of his birth story, so it will be coming to the blog very soon. It’s going to be a fun read!
Over the weekend, we celebrated Hayat turning two! It seriously feels like we just blinked and now we have an adorable, fierce, smiley little girl who dances and sings at every opportunity she gets.
I wrote a letter for her, but really, it’s more for me to remember this special time in our lives. And to bawl my eyes out just a little bit! Here it goes:
It makes me so emotional just thinking about it. Reflecting on the day that you came into this world and completely transformed our lives into something more meaningful and deeper than we ever expected. You have blessed us with two wonderful, tender, heart-exploding years of parenthood. Parents to you. Our special little girl.
To be honest, I never felt that I had that ‘motherly’ instinct. The one so many other women talk about. Those who dreamed of the day that they became mothers. I never had that. Since marrying your baba, I was completely content in my life. I had freedom, choices, opportunities, a social life. I travelled around the world to my heart’s content and didn’t feel hindered to follow my dreams and passions. I didn’t want my life to change by having a baby. I was selfish, and happily so!
So I was so nervous leading up to your birth because I didn’t think I had it in me to love you and care for you the way that you deserved. Once in a while, I still feel completely and utterly incapable of giving you everything you need and deserve. But what I’ve learned throughout these two years is that all you ever want and need from me is time. Time to sit with you and stare into your deep, beautiful brown eyes as you play and read to me and quiz me ‘ya lown?’ (what colour?).
Time to lay with you on the floor in your bedroom and read countless books, one after another, all of them memorized in multiple languages by you and recited in the cutest little voice. Time to sip make-believe tea from your brightly coloured tea set and pretend that it’s ‘hot hot hot’ while offering a cup to each one of your stuffed animals, including your security blanket you so lovingly call ‘mano’. Our random dance party outbursts to your favourite songs including Old McDonald, Baba Black Sheep, and Baby Shark, just to name a few. Time to sing Happy Birthday at every possible opportunity, even though it’s not your birthday, you squeal with excitement and happiness whenever we do.
You have become more attached to me since little Zayn joined us, making us a family of four. This season hasn’t been easy on you and I am trying to spend as much time with you as I can to make up for the shake-up that you’re experiencing. I know that soon enough you’ll feel more comfortable about our new normal, you’re already asking for ‘Zayno’ and wanting to kiss him good morning and good night every day, but I can’t help but feel heart-broken whenever you are crying for me ‘mama’ and I can’t be there to comfort you, hug you and kiss you…or just be there by your side so that you know that everything is ok.
Luckily, your baba is the most incredible baba out there, and he is taking care of you while I figure out how to keep your brother healthy, safe and warm in these early days of his life. You are so brave!
You won’t always be calling for me the way you are now, so I will revel in these moments as much as I can because once they disappear and a new phase of your life comes into play, those moments will be gone forever. Instilled in our memories and words, photographs and hearts. Until we get to tell the tales to you when you begin to understand what it means to live a conscious, meaningful life full of purpose and kindness and love. While that makes me sad, it just means that you are growing into a beautiful, thoughtful, curious little soul.
All this to say, Happy 2nd Birthday to the love of my life. The one who gave me the gift of motherhood. Helped me learn to become more selfless and forgiving. Who’s belly laughs fill me with delirious joy. And who holds a special place in my heart forever.
Big thanks to Jamie-Lynn from Batter Up Bakery for making such a beautiful and delicious chocolate cake to celebrate both Hayat and Zayn!
I can always get behind intimate flower-filled weddings and this one is no exception. Christine and Liam commissioned the best of the best in Ottawa, Elise from Toast Events to design, plan and execute their in-home wedding and it turned into such a stylish yet laid-back affair. Her subtle makeup was done by none other than my girl Klava Zykova, flowers by Erin Carmichael and gorgeous earrings from Sarah Walsh Bridal.
I’ve blogged my favourites below, so get ready to tear up at their first look and be wowed by all the beautiful details.
Laura and Chris’s wedding was everything artful, luxury and class. Laura and her ladies got ready at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier in the downtown core of Ottawa while Chris and the groomsmen got their suits on at the Andaz Hotel not too far away. These two different starting points of the day totally spoke to their personal styles: sophisticated and trendy with a clear love for European-inspiration.
Their ceremony took place at The Sussex Contemporary, the coolest new art gallery in town and they brought the wedding party over to Restaurant E18hteen for the reception, a perfect place for foodies to enjoy dinner and dancing. Carla from Capital Florist Ottawa created a huge, colourful, garden-inspired bouquet that perfectly complimented in the creamy hues of the bridesmaid dresses.
It was a beautiful evening filled with heartfelt speeches, lots of laughter and delicious food to end the night off right. I’ve blogged some of my favourites of the day below!
Thea and Kellan first met when they were both working in Ottawa at Shopify. Their connection only grew as they would seek each other out during social gatherings and Friday afternoon drinks to chat about the best places to eat and outdoor adventures to escape to around the city.
Kellan was a keeper from the very start. Once he learned that Thea loved yoga, he decided to join her at her 6am classes... during the winter! Which he states was well worth the sacrifice. Thea characterized herself as a proper Southern belle, so she allowed Kellan to court her for the next several months which included winter hikes through blizzards. Definitely a keeper!
On their fourth year anniversary, Thea and Kellan went on a hiking expedition to Mount Christoffel in Curacao’s national park. Of course, a 6am hike was in store. But Kellan also had other plans. Once they reached the summit, Thea began taking photos of the breathtaking view of the entire island while Kellan, breathless, exhilarated and excited, got down on one knee and waited for Thea to turn around. Once she did, she was speechless, and so was he! He finally remembered that he needed to actually ask the special question, ‘Will you marry me?”.
Thea and Kellan will be getting hitched at SOCIAL next year, a perfect place for these classy, food-living humans. Here are some of my favourites from their fall-turned summer Arboretum engagement shoot (it was suddenly over 25 degrees when we fully expected autumn weather!). Many appearances of their adorable pup, Charlie Brown, scattered throughout their shoot.
Jessica and Rylan’s Gatineau Park engagement shoot was one of the most colourful fall foliage experiences I’ve had in a while! Jessica was really excited about capturing the autumn gorgeousness we have in the region, so we were lucky to stumble upon the brightest colour palette against the backdrop of Canadian history near the Abbey Ruins and MacKenzie King Estate. We are pumped to be shooting their wedding next year at the Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello. Here are a few of my favourites!
You would have never known that a tornado struck the night before their wedding and that they were scrambling to find a backup venue up until the morning of the ceremony because their brunch wedding plans had to be cancelled due to no electricity! Maxine and Felix were both laughing, smiling and calm throughout the whole ordeal and even considered having a pizza party at the church as their backup option. That’s a big deal for these huge foodies. Although I’m sure they would have found some sort of super delicious, gourmet pizza somehow.
Luckily, the owners of their brunch venue, Gezellig, also own Beckta, one of Ottawa’s favourite upscale dining experiences, and everything was moved over to this location that very morning. You really wouldn’t have known because the incredibly fluffy french toast, fresh raspberry and strawberries and everything else in between was the tastiest brunch we’ve also ever had.
Everything turned out spectacularly and Maxine and Felix couldn’t have been happier. We spent some time at the end of their reception around downtown Ottawa, capturing photos in some of their favourite spots, including a last minute rooftop appearance overlooking the cityscape. It was truly a beautiful day and one that they (and we) will never forget!
To the two biggest troopers of the day: thanks for showing us what it means to ‘go with the flow’ and to be happy in the midst of chaos. What a wonderful way to start your marriage together!