Lisa & Daniel - Belclare Church & Claregalway Hotel, Galway

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It’s probably not wise to confess to having favourites in this game, but I can say that on a short list of my favourite weddings that I’ve photographed, Lisa and Daniel’s wedding would most certainly feature. What’s funny is that in some ways it was one of those that could have been a difficult gig – it rained, it was late in the year with the day short and the light levels low, their hotel didn’t have any grounds whatsoever, and wasn’t of the castle or country house variety that often photograph well indoors. And the family home where Lisa was getting ready is so in the middle of nowhere that there was a real chance of me getting lost in the back roads of Galway never to emerge!

So just even the photographs going smoothly would make me happy, but Lisa and Daniel’s wedding had much more going for it than just the photos going smoothly. It had style, attention to detail, two lovely families, the prettiest bride you could imagine, lots of red, and the coolest wedding car vehicle ever. And the best part? This was one of three occasions over five months in which I would get to photograph many of the people involved.

Finding Lisa’s house was easy in the end – I made my way (via GPS) to Belclare (where I got to quickly suss out the church, too) and Lisa’s sister’s fiancé Colin (whose wedding to Amy I photographed last week) came to bring me the last two miles.

Finding Lisa’s house was easy in the end – I made my way (via GPS) to Belclare (where I got to quickly suss out the church, too) and Lisa’s sister’s fiancé Colin (whose wedding to Amy I photographed last week) came to bring me the last two miles. And even with four bridesmaids (two wearing red, two wearing black), a bride and a mum all having makeup (by Sandra Gillen) and hair (by Emer Coen) done, things were actually quite calm.

I set about photographing the dress, as I usually do, and for a moment thought I had found the flower girl’s dress. In fact it was Lisa’s dinky little short dress that suited her as well as any dress has ever suited a bride, and was perfectly complemented by red shoes and red flowers. The red couch in the brightest room in the house was a happy coincidence!

This was Amy’s turn to help Lisa tie up the dress – four months later it would be Lisa’s turn to help Amy!After the dress came the head piece, and while Emer fixed that I captured a very shallow depth of field photo of Lisa that I really like. It made her album, so she must like it too!

Another shot that made the album was the photo looking out the window just after the post man called. Life goes on in the outside world as normal as inside the house things move closer to the start time of a ceremony that has been months in planning and years in the making.

With Lisa ready, I navigated by way (with the help of GPS) back to Belclare, but not before stopping to admire the exceptionally cool wedding VW that Lisa was about to travel to the church in.

Daniel was as calm as a groom gets at the church, and before Lisa caught everyone by surprise by arriving before her bridesmaids (apparently I’m not the only one who was at risk of getting lost going from the house to the church) he stepped outside for a quick photo – the “before” shot, so to speak.

Within half an hour they were saying “I do”.

I'm always watching out for moments to capture during the ceremony, obviously, and I spotted Lisa checking out some of the detail on her dress and thought it made for a good story-telling photo.

Ceremony done, and with the rain falling outside, they stood in the foyer of the church to greet their guests, and even though it was November, the light was quite lovely

Once all the guests had filed out, we went back inside for a bridal party photo and family photos in the comfort of the church before heading onto Claregalway Hotel.

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Claregalway is just north of Galway city and is well known for, amongst other things of course, being a bit of a traffic black spot. The hotel has no grounds other than a fairly extensive car park, and so there was half a plan to stop off en route from the church in Belclare at Claregalway Abbey, an old ruin which sits alongside the hotel and is popular with couples having wedding receptions at the hotel as a location for photographs.

It being only half a plan, myself and Lisa discussed it on the morning when I reached her house and it turned out that she didn’t have much of an inclination to stop there, and neither did I. Her motivation was really just to get the hotel asap, which is understandable.

Mine was, having visited the abbey that morning and observed that there was a lot of graveyard to be walked through before getting anywhere photogenic, that it wasn’t ideally suited to the task. Furthermore, with light that wasn’t what you’d call stunning and a sky that was drab, what photos it did offer up might well have proven to be a bit, well, bland. So we ditched the idea before anyone was even dressed that morning and planned instead to head straight for the hotel and do all the bridal party photography indoors.

Logistically that made things easy. In terms of light, I would be entirely in control. But in terms of locations, I was at the mercy of what the hotel had to offer. Thankfully, the hotel came up trumps, and we were quickly and easily able to dispense with the formals, getting some unusual perspectives along the way, and Lisa and Daniel got to mingle with their guests. Win win! Below is just a sample of what the hotel had to offer photographically speaking.

I pretty much got only one outdoor photo at the hotel - as the happy couple arrived - because it rained from there on really. The photo of their arrival, however, went straight into my favourites of 2012, and I’ll be forever grateful to Nora, the wedding coordinator at the hotel, for wearing a red jacket. Incidentally she later told me that her choice of red wasn’t a coincidence. How about that for attention to detail!

We headed straight for the function room, but en route found a nice quiet area of the hotel for a couple of quick photos of Lisa and Daniel.Spotting the flash of red uplighting behind a couch I asked Lisa to take a seat for a moment, and with the aid of a single off camera flash held by Daniel at camera right, took the photo of Lisa sitting. The red shoes, flowers, light, and hair all work well together in this one. The flash throws interesting shadows on the curtains too to give an interesting background.

We made our way back out to the foyer to catch up with the rest of the bridal party and I decided to use the spiral stairs as a location for a bridal party photo that’s a little different to the norm.We did a couple of “safer” bridal party photos too but didn’t linger – the idea, after all, was for Lisa and Daniel to get to mingle with their guests before dinner for as long as possible. Of course, it’s not only the official photographer who takes photos at a wedding so I took photos of those taking photos too.

Daniel’s sister, Sandra, did Lisa’s makeup (she's a brilliant make up artist if you're ever looking for one) and her husband and four kids were in attendance also so we did a quick family photo.

As the guests filed in for dinner, the bride and groom had some time alone for a couple of minutes before being joined by their bridesmaids and groomsmen. Through a mixture of a lucky break and persistence, I got a shot of them all from above that I quite like. I was up on a mezzanine level and looking down could see all but one groomsman milling around by the couches. The final groomsman was just under the balcony I was standing on, but I knew if I called down to him to ask him to move over and join the others I’d ruin what had the potential to be a truly natural candid photo of the whole group, so I waited, and waited, and waited. About two seconds before the wedding coordinator returned to bring the bridal party down to the function room, he rejoined the others and I literally got one single frame.

Lisa and Daniel picked Gangnam style as the song to walk into the room to. The bridesmaids and groomsmen discussed outside how they were going to actually walk in – as in, would they walk or dance. One groomsman in particular seemed more keen than the rest!When the bride and groom’s turn came, they didn’t try to out-dance that particular warm up act!

I left them to enjoy their reception and so that the rest of the dancing would happen away from cameras, but I would meet Lisa and Daniel again at her sister’s wedding 4 months later. Lisa and Daniel are now starting a new adventure on the other side of the world, having recently moved to Australia. Hopefully life is going well for the newly weds down under!

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