Put the kettle on and get comfy, this one’s a long one! Last year I shot 3 weddings in 4 days. In the peak of the summer wedding season that happens quite regularly, usually 3 back to back weddings on one weekend. This time it was a little different as one was in Italy. It’s Danielle and Glenn’s wedding that I’m going to tell you the story about….
It’s 12:30pm, Tuesday 12th August 2014. The Italian sunshine is beaming down from above and I’m sat with my girlfriend Ally enjoying a coffee at a bar in Malcesine, Lake Garda. We’re enjoying the downtime before a very busy couple of days. We’re waiting to meet up with Danielle & Glenn who are getting married tomorrow in the beautiful castle that’s embedded in the heart of the beautiful, vibrant town.
This is the second trip I’ve made to Lake Garda with my camera. I was lucky enough to shoot Sarah & Grant’s wedding here 2 years ago in exactly the same venue. Having already been a part of a wedding here before, I offer Danielle & Glenn some advice and run them through the itinerary for the day. They’ll be getting married outside on the top floor of the castle, with stunning views over the lake. Ally is shooting their wedding video too so we’re busy discussing plans. We’re all set, I’ve made my notes, we know exactly what photographs we’re looking to achieve and the only thing we’re concerned about is the heat. We’ve been here a couple of days and it’s scorching. It’s so hot there’s a haze across the lake which makes it difficult to see the mountains on the other side. We’re hoping it’s a tad cooler tomorrow. We finish our drinks and we head up to the top of the mountain to enjoy the view before a quiet evening prepping gear and making sure batteries are fully charged.
It’s the morning of the wedding and the alarm goes off nice and early. I go to the window to check the weather and if it wasn’t for the brightly coloured buildings I could have been at home in Wales. Oh, oh! It’s okay though, it’s not uncommon to have a heavy shower in Lake Garda, we’ve seen plenty over the last few days, it’ll be cleared in no time. We head over to the hotel where Danielle & Glenn are getting ready to start the day’s coverage.
We’re hanging out with Danielle in her room, she’s getting ready with her bridesmaids and we’re all optimistic that the rain will stop shortly, which it does! It looks like it’s starting to clear up.
The two hours of prep photos passes in a blur and we head off to the basement of the hotel to meet up with the rest of their friends and family. There’s a few taxi’s ready to take us all on the 30 minute drive up the side of the lake to Malcesine Castle. This taxi journey was timed yesterday by Glenn, it’s dead on 30 minutes. We’re going to be there an hour before the wedding starts to get some shots of all the guests mingling in the castle and enjoying a pre-wedding Peroni in the little bars scattered around the place. Danielle and her Dad are leaving slightly later so they arrive just before the wedding at 2pm. Sounds like a plan! As we’re leaving Bardolino, the little town where we’ve been staying, the heavens start to open again and the sky turns black. As we get further up the road the traffic starts to slow down and our taxi driver explains through broken english he’s not seen rain like this in August. Before he can finish his sentence there’s a huge rumble of thunder. I’m starting to feel really upset for Danielle & Glenn who’ve flown 40 of their closest friends and family over for a beautiful wedding in the Italian sunshine. We have so many plans to take awesome portraits in and around the cobbled streets of the town. When we said yesterday we’d hope it would be a bit cooler, this is certainly not what we were expecting! I spent a lot of time choosing what gear to pack, cameras, lenses, flashes before leaving home, but an umbrella or a rain coat definitely wasn’t on my list.
There’s only one single carriageway road that runs up the lake and the traffic continues at a slow pace, it feels like we’d get there faster in a tractor. Apparently there’s an Italian public holiday this week and lots of extra people will be on the roads. I keep checking my watch and it’s getting closer and closer to 2pm. I was supposed to be at the castle at 1pm. It’s now 1:45pm and only 15 minutes to go until the wedding starts. I have no idea where Danielle and her Dad are, but I’m assuming they are around 15-20 minutes behind us. The taxi driver decides to leave the main road and take some little side streets up the down the side of the mountain which makes for a bumpy ride. Glenn calls me and says there’s a change of plan, the wedding won’t take place on top of the castle as planned, the organisers are opening up a small room in the castle grounds as a backup.
We finally arrive at 1:57pm and run through the cobbled streets struggling with the heavy camera bags, the rain is still lashing down hard and I dash into a little gift store and grab the first two umbrellas I see. I literally threw 20 euro’s at the lady behind the till and told her to keep the change. Trying to take pictures, keep your camera dry, hold an umbrella and carry 2 camera bags (I was a good boyfriend & carried Ally’s!) whilst running to beat the clock is not an easy task!
Onto the next problem…where is Danielle going to be dropped off? She doesn’t have her phone. The castle can’t be accessed by car, you need to walk through one of the many different cobbled alleyways and little streets to get to it. Does the driver know of a back door that we don’t know about? If he does, he should certainly help the bride out and get her as close to the castle as possible. Ally and I head to the spot where we’d agreed to meet Danielle yesterday and as we ran around the corner we bumped into this….
I was having visions of losing Danielle and not getting the pictures of her and Dad walking through the town together - to say I was pleased to see her was an understatement! Despite all the stress of the rain and the hour and a half journey that was supposed to take 30 minutes, Danielle was still beaming with joy. Passers-by offered congratulations and took their own photos - not something you see every day!
The bridesmaids are waiting outside the castle under a canopy for Danielle’s arrival and I have a quick 30 second brief from the wedding co-ordinator about the drastic change in plans. I rush down to the aisle, give Glenn a quick good luck handshake and everyone’s good to go….
Watching Danielle walk down the aisle with that smile on her face quickly made me realise two things. Firstly, nothing can stress you out on the morning that you’re marrying the person of your dreams. I was stressing myself out over the pictures that I wouldn’t be able to get. I never want to underachieve as a photographer and I when I was sat in the taxi en route all I could think about was failing to deliver beautiful photographs for my clients. If you’ve been to Malcesine or Lake Garda, you’ll know how quirky and how awesome the place is - it’s a wedding photographers dream. The second thing I realised, none of the thoughts I had running through my mind matter at all to Danielle & Glenn. They are here to get married and commit themselves to each other for life. They are such an easy going couple and they totally embraced the rain and didn’t let it put a downer on their day. (I still had my toes crossed that the rain would stop….)
It was such a lovely ceremony, conducted in Italian and translated sentence by sentence in English. The guests had a good giggle at the minister trying to pronounce Bridgend properly! By the time all the formalities had come to and end the rain had eased up and was only just spitting. I didn’t want to waste any time and grabbed the opportunity before the weather turned again and we went for a stroll around the castle grounds. It felt like half a tonne of bricks had been lifted off my shoulders, 10 minutes ago I was really worried that we wouldn’t be able to utlitise the beautiful castle for our photographs. The wedding co-ordinator allowed us only FIVE MINUTES in the castle. Here’s what we did in that five minutes….
The rain has finally stopped, it’s not even trickling anymore. That’s GREAT news because coming up next is a surprise open-top boat trip for all the guests that they know absolutely nothing about! The wedding co-ordinator warned us before the ceremony that if it continued raining the boat wouldn’t be able to leave. That could have thrown a huge spanner in the works as the restaurant is miles away. Everyone thinks we’re walking off to the restaurant for drinks but actually they’re being led down to the little harbour where the boat is waiting with a few bottles of Prosecco on ice. The trip goes ahead as planned and my shoulders are now clear of the other half a tonne of bricks.
The boat ride was a huge success, it stayed dry, everyone was in awe of the amazing scenery and the bubbly was flowing nicely - it was a really special addition to the afternoon. We pulled up on a little jetty just outside the restaurant and the rest of the day went something like this….
The speeches were absolutely brilliant, some of the best I’ve ever witnessed. Everyone was in stitches and the best men were like a double comedy act. They even got one of the Italian waiters involved in one of the jokes which had the room in tears. Everyone then tucked into some gorgeous Italian food. I couldn’t get enough of the lasagne!
I was super happy that I was able to create the following portraits of Danielle & Glenn. I used a combination of natural light and flash to create these pictures. I had one flash and a monopod to use for my lighting. Seeing as “selfie stick” was a buzz phrase I had a queue of quests willing to hold the “really cool selfie stick” up high over their heads for the flash shots. Worked a treat!
We managed to grab a few quick shots before it went completely dark and the party started. And what a party it was. Back home it’s common to have 150 plus guests at your evening reception. This evening party was 40 of the bride and grooms closest friends and family and there was a super cool vibe. Cake, cigars, limbos, Tom Jones impressions, a few worms on the dance floor, Peroni and Presecco followed by a dip in the lake to top the night off.
Ally and I were absolutely shattered by the time 1am came and our taxi’s arrived to take us back to the hotel. There were plenty of invites to after parties at various different hotels but we politely declined, got back to the room and crashed out. We’d had a few drinks but when you’ve got bags full of expensive camera gear and you’re in a foreign country you can’t switch off. Plus the fact you’re flying home tomorrow and you’ve got 2 weddings in a row to shoot, there’s certainly no time to have a hangover. Turned out for the best, I managed to capture some great action shots on the dance floor!
The following day arrives and this time there’s no alarm, we have a nice lie in and go and make the most of the afternoon. When I say make the most of the afternoon, I mean eating as much lasagne and pizza as possible before heading to the airport for our 6pm flight back to London. We’re due to arrive at Gatwick at 8pm which gives us plenty of time to grab our bags and head to the train station for the 9:30pm train home. I’ve got a wedding tomorrow morning at Court Colman Manor - There’s no room for any error here. We board the plane and I sit back in my seat ready to relax, I’m a bit achy from all the hard work yesterday. The captain comes on the PA system “Ladies and Gentlemen…..unfortunately we have a delay on our takeoff slot due to debris being stuck in the engine that happened when we landed.” UH OH! That doesn’t sound good. My hour and a half safety net is slowly being eaten into here and apparently a bird or some part of a bird had hit the engine. That doesn’t sound like a quick easy fix.
We eventually took off around an hour later than planned, which gives us 30 minutes to grab our bags from the carousel, get out of the terminal and find our way to the train station, pick up the tickets from the machine and find our way to the correct platform. We’re running around the airport, just like we were running around Malcesine yesterday in the rain. This time we’re not being rained on but the baggage is twice as much as we have our suitcases too. We managed to get on the train with around a minute or two to spare. PHEW! Headphones are in, Charlie Simpson’s new album is hopefully going to send me to sleep. We hit home around 2:30am and it’s time to get those batteries on charge and clean out the memory cards ready for the alarm in 6 hours time. I was a little tired but nothing a strong coffee won’t sort out.
Despite yesterday’s journey, I arrive at Court Colman raring to go. I had such a brilliant time at Hania & Stu’s wedding that it didn’t really feel like I was working. None the less, it was still a good 12 hour day. I repeated the process of charging my batteries and cleaning the memory cards when I got home. Time to do it all again tomorrow at Abbie & Aaron’s wedding, this time in the Heronston Hotel. Guess what I did on Sunday? NOTHING! I enjoyed a well earned day off.Who said life was boring hey?
Go and check out the amazing video Ally made for Danielle & Glenn, she did an awesome job and I’m so proud of her. We had a lot of hurdles to overcome and she remained as cool as a cucumber. Look out for the rain when we were taking photos in the castle!
And when you’re done watching that one a few times, here’s a slideshow of black and white images from the day….
A massive thanks to Danielle & Glenn for flying us out to Italy for their big day and making us feel so welcome as part of the wedding. If you’re getting married abroad get in touch, I’d love to discuss coming with you!
Until next time,