“They will stop calling brides beautiful after today, for you have simply set the standard too high”
– Anna Godbersen
Until Mrs Faithful Imagery comes along and draws the final and definitive line on the standard of beautiful brides, this title will rightfully belong to Elise Simpson who married Charlie Cook on Saturday 28th July following a 5 year courtship.
With every wedding there is a tiny window of time; a moment of stillness in which the bride, typically accompanied by her father pauses before making her grand entrance. Inside, family and friends, who have travelled for miles to see the dress wait behind an anxiously sweating groom.
Outside, the bride takes a few moments to reflect and compose herself. With an arm firmly wrapped around the strong arms that once taught her to walk, the father gently, often through tears, assures his daughter as he prepares to walk beside her to the man she has chosen to marry.
Through a strange set circumstances, I was there; in that tiny window of time with Elise, a girl I’d only met moments before and her father Mark. Though a large man with a strong presence, he was gentle, small even, as he readied himself to walk his youngest daughter down the aisle to take the hands of Charlie.
Elise was beautiful, elegant and arresting; looking like the kind of girl who’d adorn the pages of a thousand Bridal Magazines. Perhaps an obvious thing to say about a bride on her wedding day, but in that moment, she was every beautiful and loving word her mother had ever spoken to me about her. She was strong, intelligent, funny, sassy, kind and generous. A young woman with a sense of purpose and ambition and one who gave even if she had very little. She was a fun and adventurous young woman with a big heart – a place the Spirit of God had made His home.
In those small moments, as I took a few pictures, it struck me that all of those descriptive words lived inside this beautiful woman wrapped in a stunning white dress, with her head covered in a long white veil. It was time to step inside.
As I write this, it is Tuesday 31st July. The editing process has since begun, samples have gone out and been approved and this time 7 days ago, I didn’t know I’d be acting as 2nd Photographer to Nadia Kerr.
With her mother being a very, very dear friend of mine, I’d known of Elise and Charlie as Raine spoke of them often. By her tone, it was clear that she not only approved of her daughter’s choice of partner, but loved him as her own too. Over the past 2 years, I listened as Raine spoke of their adventures as well and her delight as her youngest daughter blossomed and matured.
It was during one of our catch-ups that she’d asked me to create a video for Elise to use during her speech. As time ticked on and the wedding drew nearer, I was putting the finishing touches to the video when Nadia called and asked if I could support her; covering the groom as well as getting the less formal pictures. I was excited, not only for the creative opportunity, but for the chance to be a part of something I’d heard about for so long.
4 days later, brief in hand, I arrived at Charlie’s home to be greeted by his beaming mother Jane and brothers, George and Olly already in various stages of undress. Charlie was boyishly handsome with a shy smile that welcomed me and my ideas for photographs. I worked around them, careful to capture details. It was refreshing to see the boys wearing something different to the typical suite and tails. The boys were smartly dressed in fitted dark blue tweed suits with matching socks and antique silver pocket watches.
Following this, we moved onto the church where I photographed the boys meeting and greeting their friends and family who arrived impeccably dressed in an assortment of colourful styles, tones and textures. After introducing myself to the vicar, Nadia arrived and though we’d spoken on the phone, it was the first time we’d actually met. Feisty, vivacious and playful, we hit it off instantly and quickly discussed our strategy, whereby I’d shoot many of the wide angle shots whilst she’d get up close.
Inside the old church, preceded by her beautifully-dressed bridesmaids, and overly cute page boys and flower girls, Elise entered on the arm of her father and took her place beside Charlie. Meanwhile Nadia and I stealthily captured the intimate moments – Charlie’s first reaction, the exchange of rings, the signing of the register and of course, their first kiss.
Emerging in a vibrant flurry of confetti and applause from excitable friends and family, the new Mr & Mrs Cook took their places for the all-important group photographs. Stepping back and watching Nadia at work was fascinating. Though working differently to me, I learned as she managed the crowd with an authority mingled with gentleness. As she stayed there to take more pictures, I moved onto the reception venue – a large barn in Enbourne, Newbury.
The barn was bigger than I expected with an entire side wide open for you to see inside. I had limited time to capture the decorative paraphernalia before guests arrived so quickly got to work. With banners, hay bales, fire pits, sweet stands and a space for the hog-roast, it was clear that a lot of effort had gone into turning this old barn into a rustic themed setting. Tables were decked with flowers and foliage, glasses and confetti. There were tables, a bar, games and activities as well as the all-important dance floor. They even had an artist who worked the room drawing caricatures of the guests (I saw you brother. I saw you and I appreciated you. Thank you) I recorded all of it.
Once the newly-weds arrived and the guests had eaten, Nadia made use of the surroundings and took more photographs. Then, it was time for the speeches. A heart-warming speech by Mark, full of touching anecdotes of a young Elise was followed by an endearing send up by best man duo, Olly and George. With tenderness, Charlie round up the speeches by raising a glass to his new bride and affectionately remembering his late father. There was laughter. There were tears. There were glasses raised.
Lots of photos were taken as Nadia and I spaced ourselves out in the large space. As important as it was to capture the speeches, it was also key to capture the reactions from guests. We also noticed several of the children had got disposable cameras and mimicking our movements and starting taking photographs next to us. It was sweet, a short reminder of the impact our actions can have, not matter how small.
After cutting the cake, with Charlie wielding a freakin chainsaw, the couple had their first dance to the soothing tones of Chris Stapleton’s Tennesee Whisky before a crowd who clapped and cheered. One of the joys of photographing weddings is the positively-charged atmosphere. It’s something else being in an environment being surrounded by people who are so for the couple getting married.
Before the DJ let loose with his set list and the children danced without a care in the world, Elise played a video designed to playfully embarrass Charlie as he showcased his dance moves. Unbeknown to her, the videos were switched and a different one was played which showcased her dancing too (if you never saw it, it’s worth asking Elise). It all added to the fun and the guests devoured it.
As the guests danced, ate and relaxed, I set up a photo booth where guests could come, dress up and have their photo taken. It was a fun addition to the evening entertainment and provided alternative images to the ones taken throughout the day. Though I don’t stage these images, I was very particular about the ones I wanted of the couple. I also managed to get a few tender photographs of Elise’ grandparents.
Looking back, the day was a very memorable one. As a photographer, it was a great opportunity to apply the lessons I’d learned from previous weddings and events. It was also a great opportunity to learn from another professional in the field.
As I finish writing to get back to sifting through the 700+ images taken, I’ll conclude by not only thanking Nadia and Raine for the warm invitation and fantastic opportunity, but by wishing the happy couple the very, very best as they begin their new chapter together as husband and wife.
Elise & Charlie, as you venture forward to create new memories and face new challenges together, look up and remember that He who brought you through them, is He who walks beside you now and He who will see you through the rest.
It was an absolute pleasure!
Until the next time
For more information on Nadia Kerr’s work, please visit, www.nadiajanephotography.co.uk