Always unofficial chief bridesmaid, until my little brother’s wedding day…
If you’ve ever been to a wedding that I’ve shot, you’ll know I’m the photographer who is, unofficially, one of the bridesmaids. I always have my emergency supply of hangers, safety pins, baby-wipes, tissues, rescue remedy, duct tape – anything to help the day go smoothly and so that everyone looks beautiful. Five years into professionally shooting weddings, I’ve never actually been a bridesmaid. But, then this summer…
…My brother James and future sister-in-law, Penny, asked me to shoot their big day. I was flattered, and I wanted to, but if I shot it, I’d be working. I wanted to be part of their celebrations. So, for the first time in a long time, I became an official bridesmaid.
The preparations were very different from what I’m used to. Instead of meeting to discuss timetables and shot requests, I found myself standing in Debenhams trying on silver strappy shoes then shooting pictures via WhatsApp to the bridal group. We bridesmaids were on look-out for the right footwear to go with our dresses.
Finding a reading that suited James and Penny was even harder, partly because public speaking makes me so incredibly nervous. Thankfully, I have shot a lot of wedding readings, so, in the end, the hardest thing was getting over the fact that I was going to have to do it.
Flying into Cornwall, with bridesmaid’s dress creased in the suitcase, I had butterflies. Not only because of the reading, but because I wouldn’t have my camera. Who am I at a wedding without a camera? I was going to find out. Still, I desperately hoped to steal James and Penny away for romantic sunset shots…
As it happened, I left my camera, unthinkably, in the car for just about the whole wedding. With Cornish wedding-photographer Paul Keppel doing a great job, I had no need to transform into Emma Jervis Wedding Photographer. I’d have to wait for another day to play with the beautiful Cornish light and coast-line.
Instead, I set about cracking open the Champagne with the rest of the bridesmaids Carly, Tara and bridesman, Ashley. Sure, why not let go and embrace the celebration?
Dress steam-ironed and squeezed into, slipping about in my giant silver shoes, with hair curled by Jade and gorgeous make-up by Hannah Symons, I was officially looking and behaving like a bridesmaid. I didn’t lose my photographer’s eye or instinct, though. I still wanted to reach for my camera.
We arrived at St Winwaloe Church, Gunwalloe in a beautifully restored 1960’s split screen VW camper van. After that, the ceremony flew.
All too soon, the reading was upon me. My legs shook and hands trembled, yet the rhythm of the words and the lesson they contain fitted with James and Penny’s style and literal love for the ocean. Ann Morrow Lindburg’s Gift from the Sea was perfect.
One really lovely thing about the reading was seeing how happy James and Penny were together. Another thing I noticed was how hard a wedding photographer works. If you don’t anticipate where the next shot could come from, or keep an eye watching everything, you miss the precious moments. I got to watch everything, and I will never forget the look on James’s face as he said his vows.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished a nervous groom would look at his bride instead of the floor. James delivered. The synergy and laughter that flitted between he and Penny was tangible and made me melt. That eye contact between bride and groom is what wedding photographers need: it tells a couple’s unique story of binding love and deep affection. It’s the sort of thing that makes me well up.
One ride in a convertible 1960s Karmann Ghia to The Sand Bar in Praa Sands later, Penny’s hair needed attention. I checked her windblown barnet and deftly knocked it back into shape before she and James met their guests.
Later at the reception at The Sand Bar in Praa Sands, I was determined to get Penny into a ‘trash the dress’ photo, so grabbed her hand and dashed with her into the sea. Penny went with it, and Paul got some fab shots.
From about that point onwards, the reception and celebration took over. I discovered who I am at a wedding without a camera.
Looking at the photographs when they arrived a few weeks later, I didn’t recognise myself. “Is that me?” I gasped when I first saw the picture of myself and the pageboy. Photographs helped me to remember what I’d forgotten in the rush of the day. Apparently, I befriended all the kids, failed to learn the Floss, realized I cannot do the splits and smashed it on the dancefloor. Maybe I can learn something from this, like perhaps I’m always the photographer for a reason.
All Photos copyright @Paul Keppel
Thank you so much to Paul Keppel for doing such an awesome job at capturing the memories for all of us. His photos really were exceptional. Thank you for letting me share them here on my blog x
Thank you to Anna Loewy Copywriter extraordinaire x
And finally, being a photographer, I couldn’t help but grab one frame of my brother and Penny being totally loved up on their favourite beach on their own special day. xxx