It was unusually hot for June. It felt more like the dogs days of summer. I was mentally asking myself why we even did wedding photography in hot weather when my sister said, “That must be the church. There’s a white bow attached to the church sign.”
Lila and I had been doing professional wedding photography for almost 15 years. We seldom photographed a wedding without meeting the couple for engagement pictures, in-studio formals, and working out the contract, but this particular couple did not live in our area and we had done all the arrangements by phone. The bride had moved away several years earlier and wanted to come back to her home church for her nuptials. We were not expecting anything but a regular wedding shoot.
Before we unloaded our equipment, we went in the church to find a room where we could set up our mini-studio. All the rooms were occupied but one, so we didn’t have a big choice. It was so small we had to physically remove all the chairs to the outside in order to have room to work and move around. By the time we placed a backdrop and opened the umbrella lights, there was just a path to the door. We worked fast and methodically, as over the years, we knew that even ten extra minutes could be important.
Lila went to get the bride so we could begin, but she was nowhere near ready. Sometimes I wondered why we even gave the bridal party time schedules. as they never followed them. But this was no problem; we’d just start with the groom. We found him down the hall. He was drunk. I don’t mean just a nip or two; he was over the hill drunk. This was a “first” for us, but the photography had to keep on schedule if possible.
Since the couple had requested most of the photos be taken outside, we convinced all the men to follow us to the side of the church where the trees at least gave a little shade. We started with the group shot of the groomsmen, making sure that the groom had someone to lean against. It didn’t go as planned, but we got through that part. Lila even got a half-way decent pose of the groom and best man without the groom falling. Now all we lacked was his outside formal photos, but try as she might, she could not get him to stand up straight. It didn’t matter how she posed him, as soon as she moved back for me to snap the photo, he would put one arm up in the air and the other one on his hip. And, he was doing this all in a disjointed stance.
It was so hot, we decided to give him a breath of fresh air by having him take off his jacket and hang in on his thumb over his shoulder for a close-up. Our mistake. He took the jacket and began circling it over his head like a lasso. All this he found uncontrollable funny. We did too, so we didn’t even make eye contact for fear we would join with him in his bizarre behavior. She got the coat out of the air, put him back inside and tried to straighten his boutonnière. I left the camera and helped her walk him to a nearby tree so he could lean rather than stand. They weren’t the best photos I’ve ever taken, but considering the situation, they were passable.
When we went back in to get the bride, she was not in a good mood. Not at all. She finally came out the front door with her hand swinging the long dress like she wanted to slap someone with it. We made small talk with her to make her feel more relaxed, but she chose not to acknowledge our banter. She was a beautiful bride and Lila had moved her to a gorgeous model-like pose. I managed to get one photo made before she whirled around and exclaimed, “Oh it’s too damn hot out here. I’m going back in.” And she did.
Having no choice, we followed her inside the church. Lila tried to direct her to the studio room for her close-ups, but she decided her makeup needed refreshing, so we just sat down on the front pew. I glanced at my watch and realized time was not on our side. She finally came out and we got some decent formals. We needed the groom’s ring for the last of her close-ups, but there was no ring to be found. The maid of honor said she had put it up so she wouldn’t lose it, but she didn’t remember where. After a complete search, we found it on one of the pews toward the back of the church. She shrugged her shoulders: “Oh yeah, that’s where I put it.”
Moving the entire wedding party to the sanctuary for the main group shot took a lot longer than expected. We were both posing the wedding party as fast as we could when we discovered there was no groom or best man present. Telling everyone to stand right where they were, we both went in opposite directions to find the two missing men. Lila finally discovered then in the men’s room. The best man had put the bride’s wedding band on his finger and it would not come off. We found soap and finally washed and tugged enough to get it off, but not without them voicing their opinions of each other (and us) in choice words.
One more time we had the group all together only to discover that now the maid of honor was gone. I felt another bead of water drip off my hair onto my nose. “Where is she?” I asked. No actually, I think I may have yelled. Again we started to search. We found her locked inside the other bathroom. She refused to come out because her tan had started to peel. We ended up having to get the bride to talk her out of the locked room. I’m not sure how, but we managed to get the group shots done as the first guests were being seated.
We took all the pictures of everyone coming down the aisle, the final shot of the bride and her father just before they started in and breathed a sigh of relief. There wasn’t a dry thread on either of us. The bride had said she definitely wanted photos taken from the balcony so we grabbed the camera and tripod and headed in that direction. The balcony door was locked. Why was I not surprised. We tried everything, but it wouldn’t budge. In a panic, my sister ran outside to the truck, grabbed one of her credit cards and came running back in. Her face was red from the heat and I was beginning to feel nauseated.
She jimmied the door as quietly as possible while I tried to hold all the equipment. We had about given up hope when the door finally opened. We barely made it up the stairs to get a few photos before the wedding was over and we had to run back down the stairs to get the couple coming out. By now, we were so hot that we weren’t even talking, just trying to make it through the afternoon.
The reception had been set up under a huge tent, and as far as I could tell, there was not a leaf moving. It felt like at least 100 degrees. The bride and groom finally left their friends and well wishers and got behind the reception table for the routine cake and punch photos. Lila had posed the glasses for the toast, when something moved just enough to catch everyone’s attention. From behind the camera, everything started to move in slow motion. All eyes were on the cake. The middle layer of the cake had started sliding. Everyone stood mesmerized as the second layer went off the bottom layer landing half on the cake, half on the table. This unbalanced the little top layer. It chose to go the opposite direction sending the bride and groom statues flying through the punch cups.
I stood up very slowly from bending over my camera. The groom found all of this hilarious. He was slapping his knee and laughing. The bride was furious. She looked like she could have bitten a nail in two. “I’m changing clothes and we’re leaving!” she yelled as she stomped back into the church. The guests kind of melted back and waited to see what was going to happen next. No one got in line for any cake or punch, and the servers just stood in a huddle. It was really quiet. We tried to busy ourselves by fooling around with the camera and tripod.
When the bride did not make an appearance in ten minutes, most of the guests just went to their cars and left. It was only us, the servers, the groom and a couple of groomsmen. The bridesmaids had followed the bride inside. The caterer came out and tried to put humpty-dumpty back together, but it was a lost cause. She was making all kinds of excuses and apologies to anyone who would listen, but everyone just kept quiet. I felt like we should say something, but for once, we both were speechless.
Apparently more sober than he had been all day, the groom decided to go find his new wife. After a few minutes, we also went in the side door, hoping we could get the final shots of the new couple with their first kiss, etc. But this was just not our lucky day.
We heard them before we saw them and it was really a bad, bad argument. He kept saying, “Just come on and let’s go.” and she was screaming that she didn’t even know if she wanted to be married or not. We took all this to mean that we should probably not press for any more pictures.
We were wet, stressed and worn out, but we managed to take down our mini-studio and carry the equipment to the truck. Neither of us had much to say.
After a few minutes, Lila said she thought she would go back inside the church and see if we could help or if they needed us for anything. She came straight back, got in and said quietly, “I really think our session is over here.” Not one to question, I started the truck and flipped the air conditioner to maximum.