When Your Best Friend Gets Married…

… and asks you to be the photographer.

I said yes.

It’s no secret that I don’t like weddings, both the concept* and the photography. During my photography training, I quickly realised that “Christian” weddings are an industry of mass production. Essentially, I was looking at the same thing with slightly different faces. Thankfully, my friend wanted a Gothic Halloween themed wedding, which reflects the personalities of the couple. She also opted for a kids party rather than a formal sit down reception.

My friend and I have been photographing each other in various locations and outfits for nine years. I knew that aspect of the day would be fine. Managing everyone else to be photographed was like herding cats. Cats that don’t like being photographed. The Registry office also had strict rules about photography, beyond “Don’t photograph the real registry book as it’s a legal document”. During proceedings, I could feel the anxiety sweat dripping down my back, and I hoped the energy tablets would get me through the day. I slept a lot afterwards (still am).

Due to a decade of friendship, the groom being unconscious for a month, and a DIY wedding, I was involved in the preparations for the six month run up. Laptop, speakers, and a music playlist on shuffle. Pumpkins painted. Fabric hoarding finally put to good use. Confetti bags were upcycled Valentine’s Day gift bags. Food balanced between price and time to make. This was a masterclass in what can be achieved with essentially rubbish – empty coffee jars, empty medicine jars, empty wine bottles were transformed into table decorations with black spray paint, ribbon, and labels printed from the Internet; becoming candle holders, light holders, paper flower jars (also home made) and sweet jars. All the guests took the decorations home. Most people were stunned silent when they entered the party venue.

Pretty much, everything that could go wrong leading up to the event did go wrong – the groom nearly died, no venue would allow skull decorations, the ordered catering wouldn’t deliver to the venue, and the taxi firm frowned on filled trunks as it slowed their turnaround for other clients (even though they were told what the hire was for). A quarter of the confirmed guests became ill, and the balloons just about floated with helium. And yet, the day itself went with the one intended hitch.

I’m not one to miss an opportunity to dress up. At one point, my friend and I were on the wedding steps together, and it looked like we had just got married! (To be honest, this would surprise no-one.) Other guests were under orders to take photographs of me, as the photographer is seldom photographed.

I knew from listening to other people’s wedding experiences that I wouldn’t have much time with the couple outside of standard shots, so we had the reception hall the day before to do relaxed shots without the demands of others. The day after, I could do arty shots of the jewellery and remaining table decorations in the comfort of my pyjamas and photo studio.

I’ve learned many things:

  • It is unlikely I’ll ever do wedding photography professionally
  • I can make a passable Irish Dandy straight out of an Oscar Wilde novel
  • British people really don’t like being photographed
  • It’s amazing what you can achieve with black spray paint and red lace ribbon
  • No-one cares about the music
  • You don’t need to order as much food as you think
  • Red velvet cake makes excellent wedding cake
  • It’s possible to stay debt free if your friends do things as presents, like hiring the hall, doing the photography, making the bouquet, and charging material costs for the cake
  • It’s also possible to keep the whole event in triple figures
  • Don’t bother with fancy name places – a print out the day you set up will do
  • Don’t bother with fancy boxes for wedding gifts and cards – they don’t fit and they have no use beyond the day
  • Budget for takeaway meals the week of the wedding, as you don’t feel like cooking or washing up
  • Social media is your friend. It allows you to talk to other brides planning a similar wedding, and you can buy/sell surplus items

I had an enjoyable week helping my friend achieve her dreams. I’m grateful for the opportunity to 1)Share in moments that are important to her, 2) Have a safe space to develop my photography, and 3) Show the world my unique perspective of weddings

*who thinks “We express our love by giving money to the government” and “I trust you so much I want a legal document for material compensation if it goes wrong” ?

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