The Writings

More Than A Wedding - The Marriage of Carla and Gilly

Have you ever taken a photo of something, looked down at your LCD screen to review your shot, and know immediately that you've nailed the shot?  That happened to me for my entire day shooting the wedding of my great friends, Carla and Gilly.

Back in January, my friends had asked me to shoot their wedding, and as I explained in a blog post, I was in a glass case of emotion.  Excited, scared, nervous, happy, angry... well, ok, not angry, but I was definitely dreading the idea of shooting the wedding without any experience.  Fast-forward to the first week of October, and I've already gotten four weddings under my belt, such as Jeffrey & Brian's wedding and Amber & Anthony's.  My confidence was riding pretty high when the time got closer to the day of my friends' wedding.  And then I remembered something vitally important: I was shooting this wedding alone.  Oh, sweet baby Jeebus!  This was going to be ridiculous!

I drove up a few days before to visit my friends in Providence, RI, where I went to school and met people whom I now consider extended family at this point.  Driving up to Providence is always sentimental for me, since a flood of memories always overwhelm me as I approach the city and see the skyline as I drive in.  I've spent over five years of my life there, so driving down the streets I used to travel on and seeing what has and hasn't changed is always a thrill.  Eating at some of my favorite places, walking around some of my favorite areas, and knowing that a lot is different and a lot is still the same is so pleasurable.  The best part about this trip was the opportunity to see just about everyone that I really wanted to see, mostly being the old crew I worked with at Starbucks who are my family away from family.  We were all gathering to see our friends get married, and that in itself made this all worth while.

The rehearsal dinner gave me a rough idea of what I was in for.  A huge, Gothic church that was very scenic and beautiful awaited me, and Gilly turned to me to say, "I could see it in your eyes the moment you walked in here, your mind is already racing with ideas!"  That, it was, and though the church was fairly large, I was confident I could get the variety of shots I was looking for despite flying solo.  It had rained the few days I was there, so I was a bit nervous about what the weather conditions would be the following day, but to get my mind off of things, I helped set up the rest of the reception hall.  It was conveniently down a hallway on the church property, and the best part about this meant I didn't have to rush off property to get to the reception before the guests arrived for detail shots!  This was shaping out to be an easy wedding day!

The next day turned out to be absolutely gorgeous!  Mid-60s, clear, blue skies, and fall foliage decorating the entire area where they were getting married in Fairhaven, MA.  I arrived the next day to the hotel where Carla and Gilly were getting ready, and managed to sneak out some shots of the rings, the bouquet, and the shoes.  While the furniture wasn't anything to write home about, my mind was spinning with ideas, and after taming them a bit, I pulled off a few details shots, including a shot of the rings I knew was killer the moment I looked at it from my viewfinder.  I was off to a great start, and while the couple was getting ready and I had a few moments, I recapped the schedule for the ceremony and made my way to the church with two of my friends who were bridesmaids, which eased the tension a TON.

Before the ceremony, Carla and Gilly decided against a first look, which was slightly disappointing, since I was hoping to get their portraits out of the way and allow them to start up the reception sooner.  Usually, first looks are a great way to cut the tension before the ceremony, but since they wanted to go the more traditional route, I gladly obliged.  Since there was thirty minutes until the ceremony began, I used the time beforehand to sneak in detail shots of the table settings and other parts to the reception hall, since I wouldn't have a chance to once the wedding was over because the guests would make their way to the reception hall immediately after they congratulated the couple and while I was taking family portraits.  It was vital of me to get the best detail shots I could, since Carla designed and hand-crafted E V E R Y T H I N G.  She did an amazing job on the details, making it very fall-themed.  There was a wire tree that had "apples" made of Rice Krispy treats that were wrapped in yellow and red plastic wrap, fall decorations at every table, and the bouquet and boutonnieres for the gentlemen.  She did a marvelous job, so I had to make sure the photos did well to capture her hard work!

Oh, but that part about the wedding day shaping up to be easy?  Lies.  Lies, lies, lies.  It was times like this when I missed having Andrew around to shoot along with me!  The church somehow grew in the span of hours from when I last saw it, and running around to get every angle I preconceived the night before was a lot more work than it was made out to be during the run down at the rehearsal dinner.  Fortunately, there were enough moments throughout the ceremony that spaced things out long enough for me to get from one end of the church to the other, but by the end of it, I had done enough running around to count as a work out for the remainder of the month!  However, during all of the running around, the ceremony was beautiful, and to see my friends in the ceremony and seated in the pews made it easy for me to smile and relax the entire time.

The one unfortunate part of the ceremony was the lighting in the church.  The night before, my camera settings seemed to be reasonable enough to keep pace with the speed of the ceremony, and I assumed that conditions would only approve during the light of day.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  The church still required me to shoot at 3200, and my glass was not very happy to shoot in those conditions (maybe Santa will read over my wish list? *coughcough 24-70mm lens*).  I made due, but the main problem was that, even at the widest aperture I could go, I was shooting at a relatively slow shutter speed.  I managed to get a lot of good shots, but my usable-to-waste ratio was quite high, to say the least.

After the ceremony, I shot family portraits, and the entire crew were loads of fun to hang around.  But the ultimate highlight was the B&G portraits.  With a faded copper door to the church, I had a perfect background for Carla & Gilly to stand in front of that gave me a lot of character and added to the shot significantly.  We then walked to a tree I had seen that twisted and created cool shapes, but the best part was walking around the church and shooting them as the sun lit them from behind to create one of my favorite images from the day.  The best part was that they didn't need any direction to give me amazing shots - all I had to say was, "look at each other" and their chemistry did the rest of the work.  A photographer's dream!

The reception was wonderful, as the bride and groom entered the room and then everyone broke out dancing to "Footloose".  My friends, Ron and Jimmy, were the DJs, so it was nice to be able to hang out with them while I was sitting back, taking photos.  It's always a good idea to get in well with the DJ, since they usually have the list of events for the reception and can give you ques on when things will happen.  In this case, my task of befriending them was already done, so I pretty much got to hang out with friends the entire time while working.

One major part to this wedding was the first time I attempted a slide show that would run during the reception.  I timed it so that, while everyone was eating dinner (and a pretty picture of people was not to be had), I worked on uploading my images, put together the photos, and present the slide show.  I placed it next to the bar, which wasn't my first choice, but turned out to be the best choice, since people could see it as they went to grab another drink.  I wasn't sure if people would even watch, but throughout the night, crowds would gather around to see the images, and it seemed to be very well received!  I was extremely pleased with how this worked out, especially since I wanted this to become a staple to how I shot weddings from now on.

The rest of the night went extremely well, but the best part was being able to finally set the camera down and enjoy the time with my friends.  I got to catch up with people I hadn't seen in a while and just relax, which was more than welcomed after being on the job for ten hours!  I think the biggest relief was knowing that throughout the wedding, even with the light challenges, I could look down at my LCD and know I nailed the shot.  I don't think this would have happened without shooting the wedding with Andrew, and I'm glad he broke me into the wedding photography scene.  However, it was more important to me because of who I was shooting for, and it only gave me the confidence to repeat the same success for future weddings!

To see such great friends, especially the two who got married, and spend my time hanging out with people I hadn't seen in a few months - if not, years - capped off a great weekend.  It's moments like this when I wish they would seriously last forever, but it will definitely be a permanent fixture in my mind grapes.  I'll be sure to post more photos of the wedding on Facebook and Flickr soon!

Congratulations, Carla & Gilly!

Until next time,

- Patrick