Updated: Aug 8, 2018
Everyone knows summer time is the season to get married if you want to stay dry and get photos in good light. This year has been exceptionally blissful with a lot of dry, warm and sunny days, much to the delight of the couple whose wedding I photographed at Tankersley Manor in Barnsley the weekend past. Something about the warm glow of sunshine makes the act of getting married so much more luxurious, as if the whole day is wrapped up and delivered in gold.
The day began with me arriving at Sammy's house in the morning to capture the fun and frolic of the bridal party getting ready for the big day. The house was buzzing with wedding paraphernalia, balloons, flowers, bubbly and women with beautifully coutured hair but still in their PJs. Sammy's three bridesmaids had already been made up by the very talented and award winning make up artist Cheryl Marie Wright and Sammy was about to submit herself to the array of brushes and colours laid out on the table. Good timing for my entry.
The loveliest part of photographing the bridal preparation is that it gives the photographer a chance to bond with some of the important people on the day. I had already met Sammy and her partner Dom previously for the pre-wedding meeting and shoot at Cannon Hall Park. I knew from that encounter that the couple were lovely and liked to have fun and that they wanted me to take candid and relaxed photos of them. The rest of the family also play a huge part in making the wedding a success, so it was important for me to help them relax in front of the camera. In years to come it's the little things that everyone was doing on the day that can bring back vivid memories of the whole experience. It's important to blend in and not intrude so that you can capture the ambience of the home as the bride prepares for her happiest day.
Sammy was a super cool bride who seemed very much at ease with proceedings. She and Dom have been together since high school and now they both teach at the same school. I suppose people who deal with hoards of young children on a daily basis are never going to be phased by anything as simple as a wedding. The only time a wedding is likely to be comparable to a bunch of screaming kids is if the relatives overdo it at the free bar. I had a feeling this was not going to be one of those days though. From the moment I walked in the door, the vibe was one of mild merriment and family warmth.
Sammy's Dad and flower girls arrived while the make up session was still underway but waited patiently to see the results. And when they did it was a delight to witness. The emotions were already starting to well up.
So off to the ceremony next. Sammy and Dom had organised a humanist ceremony performed by someone who led the excited couple through the marriage vows in an amiable and personable style. It helped that the room was cheerfully bathed in sunlight pouring in from the French doors at the back of the room. The atmosphere was permeated with a tingling sense of summer and celebration.
Sammy and Dom had put in a great deal of effort to make their day special. There were little personal touches everywhere. In the reception area there was a table for gifts, adorned with a string of photographs of the couple - like a personalised bunting. On a stand was displayed a large Monopoly Board with all their memorable places instead of the usual properties. Their home, the place they went to school, their parents home street, favourite hangouts all laid out like a map of the geography of their life so far. Speaking to Dom's Mum I discovered that she had met her husband at the age of 14, so had only been a year younger than Sammy when she met Dom. The couple have big boots to fill but the way in which they conducted their vows to each other left no doubt that they were built of solid stuff as well.
The ceremony took about 45 minutes, interspersed with readings and song-singing. It was a very jolly affair during which nobody seemed to care much about me tip toeing round to capture every expression and smile. A couple of times the floor boards creaked loudly and I froze like a rabbit in the headlights but the whole event was so easy and friendly nobody even noticed. Dom's mother recited something poignant and his sister read a poem he had written for Sammy that drew laughter with her delivery.
The ceremony was full of smiles and laughter. The love between the couple was immense, it emanated from them in bucket-loads, spilling out in giggles and grins and stolen romantic glances. It was a wonderful exchange that left everyone feeling like they were floating on a cloud of hope. A few tears were shed but hopefully I managed to conceal them behind my camera!
So far the day had gone so quickly and smoothly. The part where you summon groups of family members for photography is always a challenging bit. Luckily for me the groom's best man and brother had a list and took on the role of major-domo. He had no complaints from me. A relatively small wedding with 50 guests, this was not a difficult task with the weather (light) being so compliant and the venue offering numerous suitable spots to frame the occasion with elegance and charm.
As a photographer you can tell a lot about families from the group photos. Long buried family fueds and scraps can make an unwelcome comeback to bite everyone on the tender fleshy bits, but not at this wedding. It was all smooth sailing as the dozen or so groups soon got photographed and wandered back for the post-ceremony drinks and canapes. The venue itself was very relaxed and spacious.
The space felt quite large and open. Apart from the ceremony room that had plenty of natural lighting streaming in, the wedding party had reserved a windowless room next door that was later converted into a dance floor with a DJ.
In addition there was a spacious reception area connecting the party rooms to the main building. And finally the best part for families was the outdoor play area where the children could escape during the speeches. Yay! The venue had bars in several locations and very helpful staff so guests were well looked after.
As any happy couple will confirm this, the day went by far too quickly. I suggested to the bride at the start of the day that she should take moments to do some mindfulness throughout, to etch every detail of the day into her thoughts. Otherwise it just flits by and you are left reeling with the happy shock. One more reason to be grateful for this job, not only do you get to share the most special day in the life of two people and their families, you also get to immortalise it for them.
As I went through the day snapping my cameras, the sense that all this would be played back over time, perhaps for generations to come, kept me on my toes. I hope this couple have a long and happy marriage. Hopefully these images will remind them how special the day was for them and those who came to celebrate their love.