As I’m a wedding photographer and my wife Michelle is a wedding celebrant, I think it’s best if I leave her to explain.
She recently conducted a wedding at Jimmy’s Farm on a day when I was free, so rather than cover the day telling the story of the Bride and Groom, I thought I would tell the story of the celebrant’s day.
The photo’s and their subtitles are mine, but the words are all Michelle’s.
I present to you, a day in the life of the #funkycelebrant.
Why use a celebrant? What exactly are we getting for our money?
Yay! You’ve booked me to conduct a ceremony for you; I am SO excited to be working with you as we create your perfect ceremony…
So what can you expect when you work with me?
As many meetings as you want prior to your big day.
We can meet at a mutually convenient time or location. I am really flexible and am happy, where time allows to meet day or evening and at the weekends. I will work around your time and family constraints.
Once your ceremony is written and edited to your satisfaction we will arrange for a practice at your venue. On very rare occasions we wont be able to get access to the venue, but don’t panic we can still walk through the big entrance and choreography of the ceremony. Chat through who is doing what and where and practice the all important symbolic elements
After the practice I WILL always take my couple to one side for a pep talk. Relax, breathe, the planning is complete. Rest, eat and take a moment to look around at every point of day to lock in the memories…
It REALLY does work! I can still remember all the elements from my wedding day 11 years ago.
And then the day has dawned…Dress ironed, petticoat and DM’s chosen (you so know I will be wearing DM’s don’t you??) and then I will be ensuring the car is packed with my ceremony day kit (basically everything and the kitchen sink) and I’m off. I’ll always aim to be at your venue at least and hour before ceremony is due to start.
Set up my bits; place the certificate in the folder, with pen ready for the signing and then its time to speak to the other suppliers
The string quartet – making sure they have a copy of the script to follow too!
Brief the groom and other members of his party…
And hand out the tissues…
The bride and her party have arrived…and so has a chance for my first look at her outfit …wow she looks radiant and everyone is sooooo excited…including me!
Mums escorted to their seats, I make my entrance and wax lyrical about the fact I have just seen the bride and the groom is in for a treat …he then tells me he’s close to tears already …Has he got a tissue himself? Nope…quick, dive into the box and shove some in his hand…music accompanies the bride on her final walk as a single woman, She’s chatting with her dad, but as soon as she sees her groom their eyes are locked together.
And then. …she’s here!
It says it all….
A whispered ‘You look amazing’… a squeeze of the hand, a shy smile at the guests and the biggest grin to her spouse…
And we’re off…I’ve a ceremony to deliver…
Laughter, tears, moments to savour.
Pauses, looks and touches.
Camera clicks and videographers running around trying to capture every angle.
Handfasting with mums as vows are exchanged and then rings replacing the cords…
A pause for a photo op as the certificate is signed and then we’re back to the front for that all important first kiss and pronouncement…and then a twist…
A gender reveal…I’ve no idea! They’ve kept me in the dark too!
Lining up parents, Maid of Honour and Best Man up…I get the honour of having a confetti cannon shoved into my hands too…We’re about to find out!
YES …I guessed it right!
More tears and we cheered and clapped the happy couple away and retreated to the marquee for a celebratory drink or two…
Happy people, chatting and extolling the virtues of a celebrant led wedding. ‘Never seen a ceremony like it’…’that was so much fun’, ‘so personal’, ‘how long have you known them?’ ‘You captured them perfectly’….’We love your outfit’…’can we get a photo’…
Wow what a day…
Sad to pack my things away, but pack away I must, before a last minute photo op with the happy couple and the obligatory selfie …then its time to wend my way home…
A grin on my face, another memory locked into my memory bank…
Knowing I’ve played a small part in someone’s big day is humbling and gratifying, knowing a little bit of me will live on in the script I have created inspires me to create something special every time I sit down at my laptop…Could the next ceremony be for you?
Drop me a line, lets have a chat…
Thank you to Scott & Chelsey Killen for allowing my hubby to gatecrash your practice your big day…
Thanks too to Kev …my talented hubster at www.headoverheelsphotography.co.uk
And thanks to all of the other awesome suppliers who gave me permission to take photos and use them in this blog!
It sure is getting hot out here, with the temperature set to rise even higher over this weekend.
So what are you doing to stay chilled on your big day?
Michelle (#FunkyCelebrant) and I have put our heads together and come up with our top 5 tips to surviving a hot wedding day.
Now we realise that most of this advice will seem fairly obvious, but you would be amazed at how often we have seen the “obvious’ get overlooked during all the excitement of a wedding day.
1. DRESS APPROPRIATELY
So ladies. Months and, in some cases, years of dreaming and preparation will have gone into the choosing of your wedding outfit…
Think about your style, the weight and type of material and the time of day you are planning to get married. If, for instance, you are planning a midday ceremony in the middle of June or July, you may want to rethink the sleeves and the heavily boned corset or heavily beaded dress. Ladies who are not wearing dresses, think about what you can get away with …minimise…a lightweight suit perhaps or even shirt sleeves and dare I say it …shorts! There are so many fun and funky styles out there, dress for your size, shape, style…IT IS YOUR WEDDING DAY …You are not beholden to anyone else’s ideas of what is appropriate.
Gents, that nice thick and expensive pure new wool waistcoat and jacket might look lush in the shop when you try it on in the middle of January, but how much wear will you get out of it on a very hot wedding day…If you can get away with it, put a kilt on and waft …If you can’t, go for a light weight material, be it a suit or just shirt and trousers if its a more casual wedding.
Don’t be afraid to disrobe if it is unbearably hot in the sun…I don’t want anyone fainting on me…You can always chuck your jacket back on for the photos if needed.
Michelle and I can’t stress enough how important this is! No you don’t have to bathe in a waterfall…this pic is for dramatic effect only…have to get our holiday snaps in somewhere…
A good officiant will always ensure there is water on the table or nearby for those dry moments.
During the course of your wedding prep drink…… not toooooo much alcohol, but tea, water, anything that is refreshing. It will help prevent the headaches (we’ll come onto alcohol in a mo).
You have attendants for a reason, they are there to look after you, so make sure you eat and drink before your ceremony and task one of them with keeping you topped up.
Ladies in frocks don’t worry about the loo. Chances are you will find, even with drinking more, you won’t be going to the loo any more frequently than normal.
Grab a fan. You can get little portable battery operated fans or have a nice Spanish style one to waft the air around you. Lads, don’t be afraid to use a hanky or a towel if you’re prone to sweating to mop your brow…(is it the heat or the nerves??)
Seek out the shade as much as possible during the day. When planning an outdoor ceremony, if you have access to the venue in the days preceding, see where the sun is going to be at the time of your ceremony and set up accordingly.
No-one wants to be squinting into the sun whilst trying to enjoy listening to your story and ahhhhing along with you as you exchange your vows. But most people don’t mind sitting in the sun for half and hour or so topping up the tan. Make sure the kids and granny have some access to shade and water though…sunstroke can cause some serious problems.
4.PROTECT YOURSELF (WE ALL LOVE THE SUN, BUT DON’T OVERDO IT).
Ladies, have you considered a parasol as part of your wedding outfit? It offers the perfect amount of shade and you can be all ‘Vivian Leigh esque’ (Gone With The Wind… just in case you have no idea who I mean) as you perambulate the aisle towards your future spouse.
If you don’t want to buy one especially, I always bring a red and a white one with me which you can borrow for the day. If you let me know beforehand, I would be happy to buy another colour and add it to my “collection”.
Warn your guests that the wedding is outdoors and remind them to bring sunscreen, hats, brollies, insect repellent, aftersun, cooling wipes, appropriate footwear, heel protectors….or maybe you can make up a little basket and throw some of the items in there for your and their comfort…Don’t forget as you are getting dressed to slap on some sunscreen to those exposed parts too!
Ooooh ladies….If you are wearing a strapless dress, make sure if you are enjoying the sun in the lead up to your big day that you don’t get tan lines in places you don’t want them!
Yay the sun is out…that means it’s Pimms o’clock surely!
Enjoy the drink, it is your wedding day after all !! If you can’t enjoy a few cheeky cold ones on this epic day, when can you??
Be careful though, too much alcohol and too much sun is a BAAAAAAD combo. Pace yourself…you have hours of fun ahead of you, make sure you mix the alcoholic consumption with hydrating water consumption. ALCOHOL CAN HELP MAKE YOU DEHYDRATED. You want to remember your wedding day for all the right reasons…Come to that you want to remember your wedding day full stop!
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where you have your ceremony…have fun, make the most of this fabulous weather and have the most amazing day…EVER!
Every wedding I photograph has a wonderful love story behind it but not many of them get to be “published”. This one has, so I thought I would share it with you.
The tale was told in Bride magazine published on 20th April 2018. Written by them, they approached me as they wanted to use some of my images to help tell the story. Naturally I was happy to help. I hope you enjoy reading about it.
Rivers have played a huge role in the lives of Rose and Andrew McMullan. They met by a river, Andrew proposed by a river and – you’ve guessed it, they celebrated their wedding next to a river. Read this romantic story of a Suffolk countryside wedding.
Fish and chips in a Suffolk pub turned into a romantic red letter day for teacher Rose Thompson. It was the night that boyfriend Andrew got down on one knee and proposed.
Two days before Christmas 2015, the pair were getting ready for an evening out at the Butt and Oyster, Pin Mill, the scene of their first date some five years earlier. However, Rose felt something wasn’t quite right.
She explained: “We were spending Christmas with my family, and that particular evening Andrew was acting a bit funny. I put his odd behaviour down to him missing his parents, who were on holiday in America.
“Anyway, he suggested we head down to the river before going to the pub. I thought it was a bit odd to be going for a wander as it was quite cold, and I was a bit reluctant to go. But, I’m so glad I did – when we got there, he got down on one knee and proposed. It was so emotional, we both cried.
“Afterwards, we headed back to the Butt and Oyster for fish and chips and it gave us a chance to have a chat before we broke the news to our families. Andrew asked me if we wanted to wait a few years but I said no, I wanted to do it as soon as possible.”
A river runs through the story of their love.
Rivers play a large part in the couple’s lives. They met at the Shipwreck pub, which is in Shotley marina where Andrew was working at the time. He grew up in Burnham on Crouch in Essex, also by the river. They held their reception by the River Orwell.
“As we met, got engaged and married next to a river, rivers feature highly in our lives. My dad made a lot of references to rivers in his speech!” said Rose – now Rose McMullan.
They briefly thought about booking a fancy restaurant for the big day but didn’t feel that would reflect their personalities. Instead, they set about planning their Suffolk countryside wedding using Rose’s multi-talented family to pull it all together.
“I’m very lucky to have a large group of aunties and friends who all pitched in to help. My auntie made the bunting, my grandmother made the wedding cake, and my bridesmaids and I made our own bouquets – which was great fun. Also, Andy’s sister made personalised jewellery for the bridesmaids.
“We spent the day before the wedding with family and friends, decorating the church and the barns at the reception venue with hundreds of colourful flowers.
Rose drew the line at making her dress, though, and had an “amazing time” choosing her gown at David’s Bridal in Stratford, London. Her ivory dress had blue hues, echoing the colour of her wedding car.
The couple were married on August 12, last year, at the village church in Shotley where Rose grew up. She arrived in a vintage baby blue Cadillac, courtesy of her uncle – a classic car enthusiast – and left in a horse-drawn carriage organised by her mum.
“I was a bit confused when I came out and saw a horse and carriage outside the church. I thought it must have been for someone else. Apparently, you have to get all sorts of permissions to bring it across the fields, and it was all done while we were in the church.”
The couple held their reception at Orwell View Barns, Hill House Farm, for 120 guests. “Our reception was laid back – everyone sat around in the sun eating pizza and paella and gorgeous local ice cream from Alder Tree.”
In the evening they and their guests moved to a marquee overlooking the River Orwell where they tucked into a ploughman’s-themed buffet, with music performed by an acoustic guitarist. From eight to midnight, disco music provided by a DJ friend of the couple filled the air.
The celebrations lasted through the night and beyond.
The party didn’t stop there. “After midnight my husband had organised a silent disco which went on until nearly 4am. One of the channels contained a playlist of 70s, 80s and Abba music, while the other channel was all drum and base. It was really funny watching people dancing to the different styles.
“Everyone said what a great party and celebration it was. As we stayed overnight at the venue with our families, we all enjoyed the next day together, when we had a barbecue and ate the wedding cake.”
As for the engagement ring, it could almost have been a deal-breaker.
“I like vintage jewellery, opals and sapphires and Andrew knew this, but the ring he chose was a plain Tiffany-style diamond. He said he wanted me to have something classic and, in his defence, he did take his mum along for advice.
“I had the last word, though. I made sure I chose a vintage wedding ring!”
To finish off, you can find the original on Bride magazine
Having worked in the wedding biz for a few years now, my wife Michelle and I have learnt so many things from our couples and families. The ‘what to do’s’ and ‘what not to do’s’ on the big day.
The stressful last minute issues and how to make sure the happy couple are blissfully unaware of them and the little things that just make the day run that little bit more smoothly…
I don’t want to wax lyrical for hours and I’m sure you don’t have hours to spare anyway so, in conjunction with my wife at www.mtaylorcelebrant.co.uk, we have compiled our absolute top 5 tips to help ensure your big day goes wonderfully.
We hope they help. Let us know! Oh…and have a fabulous day!
THE BIG 5 !
Congratulations your big day has arrived!
The scene is set. The seating plan, having been revised and revised again, is finally drawn up. The flowers have arrived, as has the amazing cake. The suits and dresses are hanging ready to slip on once hair has been coffered possibly even make up applied… So what else do you need to think about?
1. Hydrate & eat!! Chances are you will have been too excited to get a full night’s sleep so it’s important, whatever actual time your wedding is scheduled for, to eat breakfast and perhaps a light snack before your ceremony.
Ladies, trust me… your dress WILL still fit!
Eating something on your wedding day isn’t going to cause you to gain 7lbs in a nanosecond!
I don’t want to scare anyone but I have known it for the Bride to pass out half way through her vows because she chose to ignore this advice. You have been warned!
And you need to stay hydrated, it’s good for your skin, helps prevent tension headaches and gives your hands something to do!
By all means have a little tipple to calm nerves and just start the day in a celebratory mood, but don’t overdo it. Your officiant might not be able to marry you! (And you’ll be bursting for a pee halfway through the ceremony if you’re not careful!)
2. During the prep take a moment out to look around and take everything in, who is doing what and where. Don’t keep worrying about what you have got to do next and spend your big day clock watching! You have hired others to watch the clock for you ( your photographer for one! ) and make sure everything runs to schedule so live in the moment and enjoy it!
You know your day is going to go in a blur so lock those memories in! We followed this bit of advice and can still remember some of the minute details of our big day.
3. Don’t stress, all the hard work is done. Relax, enjoy, the day will be what it’ll be. Seriously don’t sweat the small stuff & don’t try to micro manage!
It never, ever works when you do AND it will just end up stressing you out!
So you realise just how important this is, I’ll say it again. Don’t try to micro manage!! Trust your team of suppliers… after all, you’ve picked some pretty awesome ones… right?
4. Make sure to get your ‘maids’ or your ‘men’ to assist you when you need it. They aren’t there just for the free lunch, it’s a working day for them!! They are your support for your big day after all. Don’t be afraid to ask them to perform little tasks when you need them. (Ladies if you need help with your frock when visiting the loo, make sure your girls are available … check out the bin bag tip on the old Internet too – from Michelle).
Allocate your ‘tribe’ some tasks, when they all know what they are doing and pull together it makes an amazing day just that bit more awesome…THIS is why you are friends with this lot! They have your backs!
5. Take 5 minutes time out during the reception to wander off with a glass of something chilled and your new spouse… Sit, talk and take in the moment…
You did it!! You’re finally married after all those years or months of organisation. Admire how your rings sit on your fingers, how beautiful or dapper your other half is looking.
Go for little stroll together away from the crowd, time to just enjoy each other’s company for a little while.
If you can, take a walk around your wedding breakfast area before you guests come in. No doubt a lot of thought, time and effort has gone into making it just perfect, so have a look around and take it all in.
Near the end of the day take time out to just enjoy some peace and just “watch” for a while, before getting back into the fray and throwing some funky moves on the dance floor!
So what’s it like working with a wedding celebrant?
More to the point, what’s it like working with your wife when she happens to be the wedding celebrant. This is a question we both get asked on a regular basis, especially when couples are looking at booking us both, so I will attempt to answer that question by way of a real life example.
The Meeting: The Bride and Groom had noticed my details on Michelle’s website and, though they had arranged to meet with another photographer, asked if I could come along as well. They had a good look through lots of slideshows on my iPad and looked at several sample wedding albums I had brought with me.
They said they loved my work but, as they had already arranged to meet another photographer and thought it would be rude to cancel that appointment, said they would let me know in due course. About a week later and after they had met with the other photographer, they emailed me to let me know they thought I would be perfect for their day.
The Planning: As is always the case I took a great deal of interest in the planning of the whole day and gave helpful advice when necessary. When I work with Michelle, I am able to get a really detailed knowledge of what is going to happen during the ceremony.
With each ceremony being unique and designed with the couple so as to reflect their own personalities, this detailed knowledge is very valuable as it allows me to plan exactly where to be at the right time to get wonderful photos.
When working with a wedding celebrant I am able to attend the practice and really see first hand how things are going to flow on the day. I can work out where to stand to get great photos without getting too close or in the way and spoiling everyone’s enjoyment of the ceremony. When working with Michelle, I also have some input on where she should stand to get the best photos of the happy couple!
Most couples have an idea of the type of photography they would like for their day. This will often include some “formal” photos of themselves and their guests together with a lot of informal or “reportage” style photos. We will work out a plan A (for good weather) and a plan B (for wet weather) and identify locations in advance for the group and couple photos so that no time is wasted on the wedding day.
But I also want my couples to have something more than the photos “everyone has”, something different from the “norm”. To that end, I always encourage couples to also think a bit “outside the box” and perhaps have some photos that are taken “just for fun”. In fact, I have a dedicated gallery on my website called “just for fun”. These are the photos that usually raise the biggest smiles both during and after the big day.
The wedding day was upon us and I arrived early as usual. This meant I had time for a bacon butty and cup of tea whilst chatting with the bridal party and the Bride’s parents. I often find a good chat over a cup of tea helps put everyone at ease before I start clicking the shutter button.
Then I set about my work. The Bride & Groom will have spent a lot of time and effort, not to mention money, arranging not just the big things, but also the little details that go to make their special day exactly how they want it to be. The pictures I take now will help them remember all those little details for years to come. Everything from the seating plan to the strategically placed signs, from the Wedding Cake to the wine for the wedding breakfast, from the Bridesmaid’s dresses to the Groom’s “button hole”. All will have been carefully selected to form a small but important part of this most special of days.
Then there’s The Dress, The Shoes, The Perfume, The Jewellery, The Old, New, Borrowed and Blue. All to be recorded for posterity. The atmosphere as the Bridal party share a bedroom as hair and make-up are perfected. Then, when everything is just right, a few portrait photos of the Bride looking amazing!
The Groom and his party are not to be forgotten. It’s his day too, so some photos of him, his Best Man and friends when they are all done up to the 9s and looking their best.
The guests start to arrive. Some casual photos of them chatting, maybe catching up with old friends they haven’t seen in an age, and then making their way to their seats. Not forgetting some photos of the Groom with his Best Man as they wait patiently, and perhaps nervously, for the bride to arrive.
Then the wedding celebrant, my wife Michelle, calls all to order. She gives her introduction before leading on to the moment they have all been waiting for. All stand for the entrance of The Bride!
Photos are taken as the pretty flower girl leads the way scattering petals down the aisle. She is followed by the Bridesmaids all looking beautiful then, finally, The Bride looking amazing. I then turn to get a photo of the Groom as he sees her for the first time in her wedding dress. The look on his face says it all!
The ceremony goes brilliantly. Just the right blend of “the serious” with “the fun”. Big smiles and lots of laughter from everyone, including the celebrant. Exactly what a celebration of love should be.
As for me, I’m keeping out of the way so that I don’t distract anyone, but I’m getting lots of photos of smiling faces! Capturing those important little moments like the rings being placed on the fingers, the vows being exchanged, the first kiss and those knowing little glances the couple give each other. I can’t help but smile all the way through it all.
When the ceremony ends, it’s time for the confetti. I get the guests organised and tell them how confetti should be thrown. Then it’s time to get them organised for the group photos. It really comes in handy being married to the celebrant as she now sets about helping me get everyone organised.
The big group photo with everyone in it is usually the first. The part of the wedding that the guests dread the most. We need natural smiles, not cheesy forced ones, so it’s “Three cheers for the Bride and Groom”. That usually works. Everyone comes alive, lots of cheering and lots of natural smiles. After the photo is taken, those guests that do not “appear” in any more photos can be released to make their way to the drinks and canapés.
During the planning stage the Bride and Groom had, at my request, provided a list of the group photos they wanted. At the rehearsal we had worked out the best order in which to take the photos so that guests are not standing around for ages waiting to have their photo taken. After all, who wants to stand around waiting for photos when there’s food and drink calling out to them! About 15 minutes later, we’re done.
Now it’s on to the “fun” photos with the bride, Groom and their parties. And they really had come up with some fun ideas for these photos! Michelle joins in as my “voice activated light stand”, another advantage of being married to the celebrant (though I suspect she doesn’t quite see it that way).
Then I took the Bride and Groom off for a little walk to take some “romantic” and some casual photos of just the two of them enjoying each other’s company, and a few “formal” ones which they had wanted for “display on the mantle piece”. The Best Man and Chief Bridesmaid comes in handy here. There’s drinks and canapés to be carried, not to mention a long dress to be looked after.
Then it’s back to the guests to “mingle” and enjoy themselves. An opportunity for me to get some casual photos of them all generally just having a good time before all the guests are called to their seats ready for the Wedding Breakfast.
Some photos as the Bride and Groom are announced (usually by my wife Michelle) and make their entrance, then, when they are seated, I disappear to let everyone enjoy their meal without fear of having a camera pointed in their direction.
Then it’s time for the speeches! I take a few photos of each of the speech makers in turn but mostly photograph the reactions of the guests and top table as they are often laughing hysterically at what is said.
When the speeches draw to a close it’s usually time for me to prepare for the “First Dance”. I set up any additional lighting that I think is necessary so that I am ready when they are.
The arrival of the evening guests presents me with another opportunity for some casual photos of the Bride and Groom with their guests. Then, at some point, it’s time to photograph the cutting of the Wedding Cake before moving on to that special First Dance, both of which are often announced by Michelle.
As soon as the First Dance is finished the guests invade the dance floor and the evening party gets underway. A few photos of them enjoying themselves on the dance floor. Maybe they have asked for a particular photo that they really want me to get.
I check with the Bride and Groom that they have finished with Michelle and I before packing my equipment away at the end of what has been a truly fantastic day.
So what’s it like working with your wife, the wedding celebrant? Absolutely brilliant. I love the ceremonies my wife conducts. Every one is different and they are always full of fun and laughter. And let’s not forget, I get a free “voice activated light stand” thrown into the bargain!!
You may notice that most of my blogs are aimed at people who either already are, or want to be, wedding photographers so I thought it was about time I wrote an article which potential clients will find interesting as well.
I have chosen a wedding which took place in August last year at St Catherine’s Church and Gosfield Hall in Essex to use as the focal point for my explanation of how I do things.
My clients, Jessica and Stuart, got in touch through my “contact me” page on my website after a friend of theirs (whose wedding I had photographed the year before) had recommended me to them. We made an appointment for me to call on them for a chat about their day.
A couple of weeks later we met to discuss their plans and really seemed to “hit it off”. I showed them examples of my work on my iPad and some sample Queensberry wedding albums.
The wedding album samples proved to be quite important as they said they would be wanting a good quality printed record of their day. After a couple of hours I left to allow them time to decide whether I was the right photographer for them.
A couple of days later I was delighted to hear back from them. They wanted to meet again so that we could complete contracts and they could officially book my services for their wedding day. Contract completed, terms and conditions signed and understood and booking fee paid, I was officially booked!
The next time I met up with Jessica and Stuart was a couple of months before their wedding day. During the intervening period, Jessica had been in touch to ask advice on matters like make up (her own and that of her bridesmaids) and whether I was happy to take some very specific photographs she wanted.
Naturally I’m always happy to take photos that are specifically requested by clients and I was happy to give advice on the make up. I even offered a “test shoot” to see how her make up would look in photographs so that she could feel confident about it on her big day.
So we met at Gosfield Hall a couple of months before their wedding day and spent a couple of hours walking around this beautiful wedding venue, both in the main building and around the grounds.
We came up with two plans and a more detailed “time line” for when and where to take the requested photographs. Plan A was for good weather, whilst plan B was for wet weather. I think it’s sensible to have two plans as you never know what the weather will be like. We had a little practice shoot which was great fun then Jessica and Stuart advised me of the date they would be having a practice for their ceremony at St Catherine’s Church, which is on the edge of the grounds at Gosfield Hall.
A few days before their wedding we met again. This time it was at St Catherine’s Church for the rehearsal of their ceremony. I always go to the rehearsal if possible for several reasons.
Firstly, it gives me an opportunity to introduce myself to the officiant. In my experience, they tend to appreciate the photographer making this effort to introduce themselves before the wedding day, when no one has time to chat. I realise that some officiants have had bad experiences with wedding photographers and as a result, can be quite strict with us.
I have found that by meeting them before the day, we can address any concerns they might have about how I conduct myself when photographing a wedding and I am often granted a little more freedom as a result.
Secondly, I have found different officiants have different ways of doing things. Sometimes the Bridesmaids walk up the aisle in front of the Bride, sometimes behind the Bride. Things like that which will influence where I need to stand to get the photographs my clients are after. Staying for the practice really does have benefits.
Thirdly I get a chance to meet all the main participants in the day. Bride and Groom’s parents, Bridesmaids, Best Man, Page Boys Flower Girls and anyone else involved in the day. That way, I’m not a complete stranger when it comes to taking their photos on the day itself.
Lastly it gives me a chance to go through their entire time line once more in case there have been any last minute changes. It also gives my clients the opportunity to ask any questions that they may not have thought of up until now.
The rehearsal is usually just a day or two before the wedding so it really does give us a chance to check nothing has changed from our earlier conversations and I think the more I see of my clients, the better. It tends to help them feel more relaxed around me.
The big day arrived and the weather was fabulous. I left home early as usual just in case there are any unexpected hold ups on the roads. There weren’t any, so I arrived nice and early at Gosfield Hall. As I was early, I had a chance to grab a coffee and a croissant with the Bridesmaids before the make up artist and hairdresser arrived.
I set to photographing the dress, shoes, jewellery, perfume, flowers and all the other important little things that, when all put together, go to create the perfect day.
Then it was time to photograph the Bride (after the hair and make up are finished, of course) in some “getting ready” photos. Then casual photos of her and her Bridesmaids generally having fun.
The Groom was getting ready at Gosfield Hall as well and he wanted some photos of him with his friends and family before the ceremony. So we made our way to the location in the grounds which we had identified during an earlier meeting (it was a plan A type of day!) and had some fun taking some photos before they set off for St Catherine’s Church.
I returned to see the Bride in the Bridal Suite at Gosfield Hall and we took all the photos she had requested, together with a few she had not! I arrange for Dad to come into the Bridal Suite to see his daughter in her wedding dress for the first time (always a special moment) and took the important photos showing his reaction.
Then I photographed the entire Bridal party making their way down the stairs as they prepared to set off to St Catherine’s Church before making my way to the church myself.
I reached the church in time to record the arrival of the Bridal Party
and the look on the Groom’s face as she walked up the aisle.
The wedding ceremony went beautifully and I managed to get all the photos they had requested,
as well as a few they hadn’t!
Outside for the confetti shot! I organised all the guests into two lines and, on the count of three, the couple walked down the middle of the tunnel whilst being showered with confetti.
Off to Gosfield Hall for the wedding breakfast and evening celebration! Once more I was able to reach the destination before the Bride and Groom, so I recorded their arrival at Gosfield Hall. We gathered together all the guests and set about getting all the “group” photos. Three cheers for the Bride and Groom. Hip hip……………
I always encourage my clients to make a list of their “must get” group photos. Usually I can enlist the help of the Best Man with indetification and marshalling the guests to a location identified in advance so that we can get these photos done as quickly as possible. Let’s face it, the guests want to get at the drinks and canapés, they don’t want to be waiting around taking photos!
Then I took the Bride and Groom off for some special “couple” photos which, when done correctly, can be a really fun part of the day.
I usually get the Best Man or a Bridesmaid to bring along some drinks and canapés for the couple so they don’t miss out.
Several photos and lots of laughs later, they went to join their guests.
After taking some casual photos of the happy couple chatting to their guests, I went to prepare for the wedding breakfast. After taking some photos of the room set up,
place settings, table centres
and some other important “finishing touches”, I made ready for the Bride and Groom’s announced entrance.
When everyone had taken their seats I made myself scarce so that they could enjoy their meal without having to worry about a camera lens being pointed at them. Having told the Bride and Groom exactly where they would be able to find me, I went to have a sandwich and cold drink (non alcoholic, obviously).
I returned for the “speeches”. Lots of laughter and a little “embarrassment” later, I had taken photos of all the main protagonists and the reactions of their guests.
Then, as had been requested by Jessica and Stuart, we went to take some more “couple” photos at a few locations inside the building.
The architecture is beautiful and we had decided to take advantage of that fact.
For me, it was then time to set up my lights for the First Dance. Having set the lighting, we had the official “cutting of the cake” first before moving straight into the dance room for the dancing to begin.
After a couple of minutes, they were in the middle of the dance floor completely surrounded by guests so out came my ladder (which was nearby and ready) so that I could still get photos of Jessica and Stuart.
A few photos of the party in full swing with the guests having a fabulous time and I was finished for the day. Absolutely exhausted but boy had I enjoyed it.
I checked with Jessica and Stuart to make sure we had taken all the photos they wanted before packing everything into my van and setting off home.
I have tried my best to keep the “word count” down but I hope there is enough here to give you an idea of how I go about photographing a wedding. Quite simply, it’s a job I love and hope to be doing for many years to come.
I’m back again after an absence of over a month and I’m going to talk about my holiday in Australia. Now why on earth would you want to read about that and how is it relevant to running a photography business?
Well perhaps I should give it the title “Work / Life balance. Do you have one?” Stick with me and all will become clear. I’m no lifestyle coach but I hope relaying some of my personal experiences may give you something to think about and help you get the balance that’s right for you.
So my wife and I set off on what will probably be a once in a lifetime trip to Australia. We visited Melbourne ( the see relatives ), Sydney ( terrific city ), Uluru ( amazing big red rock! ) and Port Douglas ( to snorkel over the Great Barrier Reef, highly recommended ).
We were just driving into Heathrow Airport at the start of our trip when my phone rings. A new enquiry for a wedding later this year. I explained where I was and asked the potential client to submit a contact form from my website. I informed her I was available on her day and would get back to her on my return to the UK. She submitted the form and we have now arranged to meet for a chat.
We arrived in Melbourne. An email pinged up on my iPad enquiring about a date for next year. I formulated a reply and sent it. On checking my “sent” folder, there is no trace of my reply. It sometimes takes a day of two to show in the “sent” folder so I decided I would check it sent OK later on.
Now one thing that really surprised me about Australia is how difficult it was to get a reliable wi-fi signal. I kid you not. I don’t know if we were just unlucky and the places we stayed at were unusual in that respect, but it was like being in a third world country! On the odd occasions when we did get a signal, we had to pay extra for it in hotels. The best place for free wi-fi was the public libraries, if you can find one.
A couple of days later, we got a signal. I checked the emails. Another new enquiry to which I sent a reply. On checking my “sent” folder neither the reply to this new enquiry nor the one I sent a couple of days earlier were showing. What’s going on! I also found the enquiry form I have received a couple of days earlier was completely missing from my “in” box. Emails were simply disappearing from my email account!!!
Now I’m starting to get stressed. Not getting a booking because the potential clients prefer another supplier is one thing. Not getting a booking because they think I’m unreliable and don’t respond to emails (when in actual fact, I have), well that’s another. The last thing I want is a reputation for being unreliable.
Naturally I had set up an “auto reply” on my system informing clients of my absence and letting them know I would reply when I was able, but I was sending replies and through no fault of my own, I had no idea whether the potential clients were receiving them or not.
Couple of days later, another enquiry. Another reply sent. More emails vanishing from my email account. The stress levels are going up!
Now here’s the thing. I’m on my holiday. In the past when I was “employed”, I would have considered being called upon during my period of leave to be a very unreasonable intrusion on my personal life.
Yet here I was, on the holiday of a lifetime feeling stressed out and allowing “work” to ruin it. I would not have accepted such an intrusion lightly when “employed”, so why was I allowing it to happen when “self-employed”.
Those of us that are self-employed realise just how hard we have to work to make our business successful and earn a living. Sometimes we will go to extremes to ensure our clients are happy with the service we have provided and that we maintain our good reputation.
Then I thought to myself, hang on a minute. I left my previous job after over 30 years on my GP’s advice because the stress was affecting my health. I now consider myself lucky to be doing a job I love but, based on my previous experiences, I really should know better than to allow work to cause me so much stress during my holiday.
I have come to the conclusion that, whilst we need to provide a reliable and professional service to our clients in order to run a successful business, there are times when our clients need to understand that we are only human and when we are on holiday, we are on holiday. I can’t help but think it’s really important to have a good balance between our work ethic and the need for “down time”.
I decided to put the iPad away ( the auto reply will inform people that I will reply when I am able ), enjoy my holiday and ignore my emails until I returned from Australia. I believe most reasonable people will understand that we all need a break from work sometimes in order to maintain our mental and physical health. It’s no good turning up to their wedding feeling tired and in need of a break! Both our health and their photos will suffer if we do.
Let’s face it, none of our clients will attend our funeral if we work ourselves into an early grave and we will soon go out of business if our photos aren’t up to the required standard.
Now we’re all different. Some of us appear to enjoy stress and have a high tolerance level for it. For others, the level of stress we can deal with is much lower. My advice would be to ensure you are aware of your own tolerance for stress and don’t exceed it.
Personally, I have suffered very high levels of stress in the past and know from bitter experience just how ill prolonged periods of high stress levels can make you, so I will avoid it whenever possible.
Having said that, I don’t think you could ever avoid stress completely and there is an argument that some stress is actually necessary to maintain a healthy balanced life.
I know it can be easier said than done sometimes, especially when your job is also your passion, but I think we should all build “breaks” into our working life and stick to them. We also need to be aware of stress and the harm it can do and when things start to get too much, take action. It is my belief that you will be a better person and run a better business as a result to the benefit of both yourself and your clients.
After all, surely we should be “working so that we can live”, not “living so that we can work”.
So, remember the enquiries I was getting stressed out about during my holiday? Want to know the outcome?
I had two enquiries immediately before flying out to Australia who I was able to speak to on the phone, both of which have decided to book me. That leaves the two enquiries I received whilst actually in Australia.
I had emailed both of them twice, the second email explaining my difficulties and asking if they would be kind enough to confirm receipt of my replies. On my arrival back in the UK I hadn’t heard anything from either of them, so I sent them both one further reply from my office again asking if they would be kind enough to confirm receipt just so I was satisfied they had heard from me and didn’t think I had ignored them.
I can be almost 100% certain those replies must have reached them, but guess what. Neither of them had the good manners to let me know. I heard nothing from them.
The lesson. To me this just helps confirm what I have said before. When you are on your holiday, YOU ARE ON HOLIDAY. Stressing about your business doesn’t do you any good whatsoever and most of you clients won’t appreciate it.
That brings to an end my little series of articles about starting a photography business in the real world. I hope you have found it useful and enjoyed reading it. My intention at the outset was to highlight the things I did wrong when I started out so that you don’t make the same mistakes.
If you would like to read a blog that has a more “scientific” approach towards starting a business, I recommend you read this blog on the ShootDotEdit website.
What has prompted me to ask that question? Well, I am so amazed at the attitude of the Registrar who conducted yesterday’s wedding ceremony that I have had to interrupt my scheduled blogs and “share the experience” with you all.
I don’t want to use the word “story” because that may imply that the facts have been exaggerated in some way. No, what I am about to write is 100% factual and exactly as it happened without embellishment. You can then form your own opinion as to whether it is “Time for a change”.
First some background. The happy couple have lived together for several years and are in the process of modernising their home. The Bride’s Mum falls seriously ill with cancer, so they decide to put the house renovations on hold and arrange for their wedding to take place earlier than originally planned so that Mum can be there.
Their big day arrives and the weather, that one thing that none of us can control, decides to do it’s worst. The heaviest snowfall for several years leading to blocked roads and traffic chaos. I live 15 minutes from the venue and it took me 1 hour 20 minutes to get there!
The Groom was due to arrive at 11.00am, the ceremony due to start at 2.00pm. The Groom arrives just before 2.00pm. The usual 40 minute journey had taken him 4 hours. The Bride was still on her way and whilst her make up and hair were done at home, she still has to get into her dress and do all the “finishing touches” when she arrives.
I speak to the venue planner who assures me he has spoken to the Registrar and there is no need to worry about the time. Apparently this ceremony was the only one that day.
A few minutes later the Registrar approaches me. I am “instructed” to not take any photos of the Bride whilst her Mum helps her get ready as to do so would cause further delay. ( I ignored her request. Why? Because those few moments when Mum helps Daughter put on her wedding dress are simply too special to miss out. Especially when Mum is so ill. Besides, I knew it wouldn’t cause any additional delay, I just photographed it “as it happened” ).
The Registrar then “instructed” me to be “as quick as possible” and only take a couple of photos of the Bride and Groom signing the “mock register”.
Anyway, the Bride arrives and starts to get ready. The Registrar comes to make sure I’m not delaying proceedings by taking “unnecessary” photos. I kid you not. She actually came into the Bridal Suit to make sure I wasn’t delaying things!
Finally we’re ready to go and the ceremony gets underway some 2 hours late. I can see from my EXIF data that it started at 1602hours and was finished by 1614hours. Talk about rushed, I’ve never seen anything like it. “Professional” in that the correct legal words were said it may have been. “Relaxed and fun” it most certainly was not and was completely devoid of any “warmth” towards the couple. No entrance music, guests were not allowed to photograph the “mock signing” and even the usual “Presentation” of the marriage certificate to the Bride did not happen. And this is their once in a lifetime ‘Special Day”!
When it came to the wedding breakfast I was made aware that there would be two readings in addition to the usual speeches. This was because the Registrar had told the couple just before their ceremony that she was taking the readings out of the ceremony as there wasn’t time for them!
Surely in these modern times there is no place for this “officious” attitude towards a couple on their wedding day. My wife has conducted many ceremonies in the past where they have started late. She makes light of it and always manages to turn it into a funny story that makes the guests and the couples laugh and puts the couple at ease. She never”rushes” the ceremony and she wouldn’t dream of “cutting out the readings” to save a few minutes!
In fairness to Registrars, I have worked with many over the years and this is only the fourth one I have come across with such an appalling attitude. The vast majority of them are very good at what they do and make the ceremony a joyous occasion, as it should be.
But I do wonder whether the small number of “not so good” Registrars are ever “held to account” for their work. As a celebrant, if my wife wasn’t good at her job and didn’t have the correct attitude, she would find herself out of work. Her clients interview her and if she isn’t exactly what they are looking for, they go elsewhere.
If you decide to use a Registrar, which incidentally costs £125 MORE than a Celebrant in this area, you don’t seem to have any say in which individual Registrar will conduct your ceremony. If you get one who doesn’t appear to like her job or is “having a bad day” and just wants to “gallop” through the ceremony as quickly as possible, that’s just tough luck. Once the ceremony has been held, you can’t go back and change it.
Personally, I think it’s time for a change. I believe people need to be made aware that they have a choice.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO USE A REGISTRAR FOR YOUR WEDDING CEREMONY.
And I believe that, when couples choose to use a Registrar, they should be allowed to choose which Registrar conducts their ceremony.
Perhaps then the small minority of Registrars who obviously don’t enjoy their work would find themselves having to look for an occupation more suited to their own personalities.
My wife has asked suggested I mention the following. Should you choose to use a Celebrant to conduct your wedding ceremony then you must go to the Registry Office to have your marriage “Registered” to make it legally binding, similar to the way the law requires you”Register” a birth or a death.
Must have wedding photos part three, the wedding breakfast and evening.
Usually the first photos to get arranged after your wedding ceremony are the dreaded group photos. Lets face it, all your guests want to do is get a drink, have something to eat and chat with the other guests. No one enjoys standing around waiting to have their photo taken. But chances are that having all your family and friends together in the same place at the same time is a very rare event, so you want to make the most of it.
I always advise making a list in consultation with your photographer and visiting the venue to identify locations for your photos before the big day comes along. This saves such a lot of time and saves your guests having to stand around waiting too long. You need a plan A for good weather and a plan B for bad weather. If you prepare properly and if your photographer is able to be assertive in a polite and friendly way, you will get the group photos you want done much more quickly than leaving it all to chance on the day.
If you don’t want your group photos to be all “stiff and starchy” a full of “forced” smiles, use a photographer who is good with people and not afraid to talk to them. I usually find a good old “three cherries for the happy couple. Hip Hip…” works wonders for loosening people up in front of the camera.
And when it comes to the smaller groups, you can have as much fun as you like. Let your imagination run riot and have some fun!!
After your group photos, think about the type of photos you would like of just the two of you together. Perhaps the two of you going for a stroll around the grounds.
Or something that makes the most of the location.
Maybe a more formal one, what I call a photo for Mum and Dad to put above their fire place.
Maybe something a bit more romantic.
Something to show off your wedding dress.
Or maybe you want to be more creative and come up with something a bit more original.
Or something that really takes advantage of the architecture or quirkiness of your venue.
Talk things through with your photographer. If they are good at their job, they will be able to take the style of photos that you want so you can remember your day, your way.
Usually, when you have finished you photos, it’s time to catch up with your guests before moving on to your Wedding breakfast. Talk through what you would like with your photographer. You don’t have to settle for all “boring” straight on photos.
Putting a bit of an angle on the photo can make it look much more dynamic and interesting.
And when people are making their speeches, that’s the perfect time for your photographer to take photos of your guest’s reactions. Terrific natural smiles and laughter ( providing your speeches are funny, of course ).
When the wedding breakfast draws to a close, that’s when your photographer will start preparing for your “First Dance”. A special part of the day not to be missed.
When it comes to your First Dance, you will find that the lighting is different for every venue. Some venues have their own quite unique way of doing things.
Some venues just leave the DJ to sort out their own lighting.
It might just be worth asking your photographer how he does things. If you want to maintain the “ambience” or feel of your venue, you don’t really want a photographer who simply lights up everything with lots of flash.
Perhaps something a bit more romantic on the dance floor.
You might like to have some photos taken after your guests have joined you on the dance floor .
Or perhaps you are going to have a “Father Daughter” dance as well.
At the end of the day, why not finish off with a special photo. You could have a night time shot taken outside your venue.
Or, if you are having a fireworks display, make the most of it with a photographer who knows how to photograph fireworks to your liking.
Perhaps say it with sparklers!!
Maybe a photo of you walking off into the distance knowing that an exciting journey called “life” lies ahead of you both.
Or simply have a photo of the two of you retiring at the end of the day.
Whatever you choose to do for your special day, I advise you choose a photographer who is a good “fit” for you both. Who understands what you are looking for. Who is prepared to take some time to get to know you. Be prepared to work with that photographer. Be creative. You don’t have to have the same old photos that everyone else has. You are only going to live this day once, so make the most of it and have some fun with your photography.
This is part three. Don’t forget to check out parts one and two for more ideas.
For the second part of this 3 part blog on ideas for Must Have Wedding Photos I am going to concentrate on The Wedding Ceremony and immediately afterwards. Not all the ideas may seem appropriate to your day as all weddings are unique, but I think it’s always better to have too many ideas than too few. It might be best to agree with your photographer which ones suite your day beforehand, otherwise your wedding day could turn into a “photo shoot”.
So, you arrive at your ceremony venue
in your chosen wedding transport
get out and thank your driver
then make your way with your wedding party
to the entrance where friends and family are eagerly awaiting your arrival.
You enter your wedding venue
As you walk down the aisle, your Groom can’t resist the temptation to turn and look. He sees you for the first time that day and the look on his face say it all.
From this point on, the photographs your photographer is able to capture will depend to a large degree not just on their ability and equipment, but also on the Priest / Vicar / Registrar and how much “freedom” they allow your photographer during the ceremony. I will always do my very best to attend any rehearsal you may have so that I can build up a bit of a rapport with the officiant ( I have found this does help as they can see for themselves that I will treat the ceremony with respect and I am no longer a complete stranger to them on the wedding day ).
But even if the officiant is strict, there are certain Must Have photos your photographer should be able to capture. The placing of the wedding rings on the finger, both for the Bride’s
and for the Groom’s.
The exchanging of vows
the First Kiss
the blessing of your union
the odd amazing but unexpected moment,
the signing of the register with your bridal bouquet on display
and with your witnesses
before you leave the ceremony as partners for life.
Then it’s time for the confetti to fly
before departing and making your way to your wedding reception venue for your wedding breakfast.
Don’t forget this is part two. Take a look at parts one and three for more ideas.