I like to meet my couples before the big day to get to know them and make sure we’re a good fit. Micheál and Johnny were different: we hadn’t met – we’d hardly even chatted. When the day of the wedding came, I didn’t know what to expect.
Up for an adventure, and travelling with an open heart, I arrived first at Micheál’s house. Inside, the place was buzzing. I found Micháel’s Mum being made up by Dublin’s make-up sensation Orlaith Shore. Knowing you can’t get better than Orlaith, I began to see that “best of the best” ran through everything the grooms had chosen – from the fabulous Dingle Skellig hotel down to the tiniest (and designer) details.
Johnny and Micheál’s level of attention to detail and excellence was on another level. I was blown away by the awesome midnight blue tailor-made suits curtesy of Michael Andrews (NYC), personalised for each groom. I made sure to shoot these special details – from the pop-art lining in Micheál’s suit and the faux snakeskin lining in Johnny’s, to the ‘fucking fabulous’ personalised Tom Ford Eau De Parfum, designer denim jackets and the gorgeous Christian Laboutin red-soled shoes, which everyone took great joy in wearing and showing off.
There was just so much to delight and that made me well-up, too. I like to get all the moments that make up the day, some the grooms see and others they don’t. In this case, Micheál’s father had passed away the previous year, so it was important to capture how his absence was felt. The perfect opportunity came when I saw Micheál, looking Hollywood handsome, getting ready in front of a beautiful black and white photograph of his father, making the moment especially poignant.
From Micheál’s family home, ringing to the sound of Champagne fizzing in crystal cut glass, I went to Dingle Skellig hotel to meet Johnny and the ebullient, fabulously attired bridal party. Everyone looked drop dead gorgeous and their mood was infectious.
As locations go, you can’t get better than Dingle Skellig hotel, not least for the majestic scenery, but also for everything else: from staff who are ready to do anything to make the day perfect, to the enormous ballroom, absolutely perfect for a large party, and the dining area with incredible views out over Dingle Bay where you can watch the sky change, the sun set and the starry night roll in as you enjoy the wedding speeches, free flowing drinks and, of course, the mouth-watering food.
The lawns of the hotel were where the grooms hoped the ceremony was to happen. Given the incredible summer Ireland had been having, the boys didn’t believe the day’s grey skies would last. I accompanied Micheal, his best man, his friend Orlaith, brother and sister down to the quintessentially Irish Dick Mack’s pub as they went to buy some time for the sun to come out and to imbibe the luck of the Irish with a pint of the black stuff in the atmospheric snug.
Unfortunately, the sun didn’t come out, but the hotel had already prepared an inside area – opulently decorated with golden-hued flowers by Forget-Me-Knot Florist.
The congregation gathered before Micheál’s sister who was the celebrant, making the ceremony extra special with her warm humour and clear affection for both grooms. Johnny and Micheál strode into the ceremony to the sounds of Michael’s sister Eileen singing “Somewhere Only We Know”. The congregation laughed and shed tears throughout the ceremony, which ended in traditional hand-fasting orchestrated by Michael’s brother Daniel.
The best time to get everyone together and to capture the all-important portraits is after the wedding ceremony. As we had a break in the weather, the newly married couple and I went to Bin Bawn, the beach area where Micheál spent much of his childhood playing. The surf smashed white froth into the air as the grooms posed and played, looking the epitome of glamour and happiness against the dramatic scenery.
Portraits done, it was time for the reception. There was a gold and midnight blue art deco backdrop which the party used for a red-carpet photo call. Everyone took great delight in striking poses while others got to work on the array of beverages.
One of the best things about weddings is noticing creative choices that show off a couple’s union of personalities. The fusion of Celtic and American was worked into giant glass bowls of Californian Sierra Nevada and O’Hara’s Irish beer down to cards translating common Irish sayings into American so that nothing was lost in translation. J & M initials were on just about everything: cocktail glasses, midnight blue serviettes, even yellow and blue M&Ms. The colour scheme even made its way into the 8-tier wedding cake, by Melanie Hughes of Dream Cakes Dingle, artfully arranged with different uses of white, gold and dark colouring.
As the wedding party enjoyed their many courses, the band, Deja Boo, set up in another part of the opulently festooned ballroom, heaving to the sound of cutlery chinking. Heavenly dinner courses devoured, the dancefloor welcomed Micheál and his red-soled dancing shoes to perform the Ceili. Later, with the wedding party well and truly started and with speeches captured, my camera and I stole away feeling I’d made friends as well as had my mind blown by Micheál and Johnny’s shared vision and taste.