One thing to remember with a wedding around Christmas is that there really isn’t a lot of natural light to play with. Come 4pm and it becomes quite a battle to eek anything out of the fast-setting sun that might light a photograph, even more so if there’s a cloudy sky blocking that sun in the first place. And even if there is light, there’s a fair chance it’ll be cold, wet, windy or, on those unlucky days, all three. As I drove from Ballinora to Fota Island Resort for the second part of Clare and Danny’s big day, it wasn’t immediately clear how the weather was going to behave or misbehave – it was one of those afternoons best described as “changeable”. As it happened, there was a short dry window in which we could have perhaps walked past the lake by the golf club house for a quick bridal party “walk and talk” type shot, but it was a window we missed. Instead we took refuge in the club house itself – quieter than the main hotel which was fast filling with 200+ guests, and drier and warmer than outside.

I commandeered a couch and took to some furniture repositioning to move it to a more useful angle, and asked the bridesmaids, groomsmen, bride and groom to pile in on and around it. Such a photo, to my mind at least, is about having everyone looking well, looking comfortable and relaxed, but also not looking like they’ve been waiting 15 minutes to have their photo taken, and the key to that is to let them pose themselves with a pointer or two where needs be around which way to face or what to do with their hands or the bouquet, and most importantly to take the shot quickly and move on. If I was to spend 15 minutes fussing over every group photo, they would look like photos of people who’ve been fussed over for 15 minutes. That’s not my thing, and usually not theirs either. So from the first bridal party photo (once the full bridal party had arrived, which did – and often does – take a little longer than planned!) to the last bride and groom photo before we made for the hotel was maybe 18 or 19 minutes in total.

The quick session at the golf club meant by the time we arrived at the main hotel entrance, we were done in terms of formal photos and (after the obligatory cake photo in the function room) Clare and Danny mingled as I snapped candids and details. I quite like the function room at Fota Island, and the pools of light that it spills on the tables makes for interesting table shots – these are scene-setters, if you like. The kind of shots that help move the story along in the slideshow or set some context in an album:

The speeches were before the meal and were a joy to photograph – lots of great reactions and expressions, and just the right length. There was no official videographer at the wedding, so the photos of the speeches would be the lasting official record of that part of the day. It’s important in that situation to not just focus on the speaker, but also on the listeners too, to get the full sense of the occasion.

I’m not a big fan of “formal” table shots where you disturb half the guests at the wedding as you suggest one half of each table moves around to the other side for a photo, and prefer to take candids as I explore the room once the eating has finished. Sometimes you get spotted, of course, and get called on to do a photo. And sometimes that photo involves fake moustaches made from the bow ties that decorated the menus!

The fact that the speeches had been given before dinner meant Clare and Danny ended up with some downtime after dinner. Clare and the girls popped up to the bridal suite and we got a few quick photos up there (while I tried and failed to find a way to get quick bridal photo on the roof balcony in pitch black darkness), and downstairs I found Danny and the groomsmen and fathers of the bride and groom for the photo you see up top which was intended to show off the Only Fools and Horses socks they were all wearing!

With the band almost ready to go, we took a quick visit outside the hotel for the following photo, with three flashes lighting the shot (two bare on the background, one in a softbox on the couple):

And with that it was back into the function room for the first of many dances, and the last of many photographs:

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