Words and images by Ellie Gillard Photography
Usually, when I blog about weddings, I talk lots about the couples whose weddings I’m showing. This time I’m going to speak a little bit about my approach to photographing a very different sort of wedding, and one I loved being part of.
Well, where to start with this one? Firstly I now get to put a massive tick under ‘shot mass wedding’. When Danielle & Dan (AKA The Dans) got in touch about their wedding and told me they were planning to marry as part of the South Bank Centre’s Annual Festival of Love I was really intrigued. I had been aware of the festival from seeing advertising around the first few years of the event, and after meeting The Dans, and having them explain a little bit about how the day would work I was really keen to get involved, but I guess with some natural reservations – how would it work tracking their guests all over the multiple areas of the South Bank, how would it work not being able to get close up to the ceremony, how would having a wedding with such an unusual structure work from a photographic point of view, and how could I make sure I still delivered them my very best work? Especially with there being so many other couples getting involved.
In the end it was one of the most fun weddings of 2016. The day started backstage at the Royal Festival Hall, which was an unusual getting ready venue – in a small, hot dressing room with not just Danielle, Dan and her bridesmaids, but a handful of other couples getting ready too, and no natural light. As it turned out, I love these shots – the sense of anticipation of being about to head out onto a stage, not just to perform but to declare your love not just in front of your family and friends, but a packed auditorium full of strangers. They have a candid, backstage feel that I love. The ceremony too, presented challenges – how would I capture all the nuances of the ceremony, the expressions, the hands held tight, from a position seated in the auditorium? In this respect I think I was just a bit lucky.
The rest of the day involved craft beer from a bus, Dim Sum, oysters, photos in the South Bank skate park, ceilidhs and a giant mass first dance to Bowie’s Heroes. It was a day full of fun and friendship, and it challenged my skills as a documentary photographer, especially given that as part of the production certain things I would usually do as a photographer on a wedding day, such as capturing a big group shot, or a ‘formal portrait’ of the couple, were all handled by the team behind the event. I got to get into the role of a photographer who might follow a band about just documenting what they do, and I loved it.
Here’s a little bit of The Dan’s story….