Thursday, April 25, 2013

Laura & JP, Castlecourt Hotel, Westport

The first time I met Laura was at her salon in Knock, when I was photographing Yvonne & Matt's wedding back in October 2010, a day that always sticks in my mind, as straight after the wedding I had to hightail it to The Late Late Show, to promote a calendar I'd photographed. Last week, it was Laura herself who was in the hotseat as she prepared to walk up the aisle to marry JP.

I've met grooms on the morning of their weddings in various states of dress (& undress), but this was the first time I'd met one out herding cattle. A bunch of calves had called over from the neighbouring farm to wish JP good luck and try out his lawn. They were swiftly returned. JP is no stranger to big occasions himself, having played with and managed hurling and football teams at all levels for club & county, and he made sure the Ballyhaunis colours were flying proudly as the lads headed over to Knock. It seemed every hurler in Mayo was going to this wedding.

The Church of St John the Baptist in Knock is a busy venue, and a wedding always attracts a lot of attention from the many visitors to the town. However, the rousing round of applause from a delegation of pilgrims from Philadelphia when we popped into the Apparition Chapel next door was unexpected. I think it might have been a bit too much like being in the spotlight on the catwalk for Laura & JP, but they took a little bow anyway.

On the way to Westport we stopped at Turlough House. It had rained solidly all afternoon, but the clouds parted long enough for us to get a few photographs. We were no sooner back in the cars when the heavens opened again. Miracles obviously do happen for natives of Knock. The Castlecourt was buzzing, and Laura & JP made a grand entrance to dinner to an even bigger hurrah than they'd got from the Americans earlier.

Laura & JP Blog

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Imelda & John

The sun was shining brightly as I arrived in Brideswell on the morning of Imelda & John's wedding, and it stayed like that all day. The ice-cream van was out at the Hodson Bay Hotel, and the fine weather lifted everyones' already buoyant spirits on the day. There was even more than the usual hustle and bustle of bridal preparation in Imelda's home, as many of the wedding guests had been invited to call by before the ceremony. Champagne corks popped all morning - a great soundtrack to work by, even if I wasn't able to sample the bubbly.

At the Church, John was cool, calm and collected, leaving it to his brother and groomsman Ollie to get giddy with excitement. There was a dramatic delay though, just before Imelda and her Dad Gerry came up the aisle. The doors swung closed behind the bridesmaids and the church filled with nervous laughter from the guests. It certainly had John on the edge of his seat. Within a minute or so, the doors opened and here came the bride.... There were no less than three celebrants, with Deacon Willie Gacquin, a former teacher of John's, conducting his first wedding ceremony. There are lovely gardens behind the church in Curraghboy, where we took a few photographs before taking the short drive to The Hodson Bay.

The lawns outside the Hotel were thronged with guests spilling out of the drinks reception, and after the bell was sounded, there was time for Imelda & John to take a romantic stroll along the pier before enjoying a quick pre-dinner drink with their bridal party. I took the back way home past a roadside windfarm as the sun set and the sheep grazed in the stonewalled fields of South Roscommon, a nice relaxing end to the day. Meanwhile, the party was getting going in the Hodson Bay with the first of the two bands, All Folk'd Up and The Lols tuning up.

Imelda & John Blog Collage

Monday, April 8, 2013

Sarah & Nathan - Lough Rynn

I'm pretty sure Sarah decided to book me before she'd even looked at any of my sample albums, because when she and Nathan first came to the studio, they were met at the gate by the three dogs, a mish-mash of chickens, ducks and turkeys, and a selection of cats & horses not far behind. Sarah loves her animals - she was reared with dogs and birds - her Mum Mary is one of Ireland's leading dog groomers, and is very proud of Picasso, her talking Macaw. Sarah & Nathan's black cat, Jones, is such a pampered pet that he even made it onto the wedding cake with them.

As everyone was getting ready in Lough Rynn, I was able to meet the boys before they headed off to the church. Once Tony the Groomsman had finished getting his hair just right, we headed down to the bar, where Nathan had a quick bottle of his Sponsor's product. Back with the girls, Jim Hatton was applying finishing touches to the hair and dispensing vital advice on veil & dress management before we all got ready to leave.

The Bermuda Triangle is famous, but there is a lesser-known danger zone between Mohill & Aughavas, that can lure the unfamiliar traveller off-course and leave them stranded and lost. This is what happened to Sarah's bridesmaids. We were all surprised to see Sarah arriving at the Church first, having set off 10 minutes behind them. SOSs were issued, calls were made, search parties sent out, but no trace was to be found. Eventually, news filtered through of a possible sighting of three glamourous girls in blue, 10 miles away in Drumlish, Co. Longford. The rescue services were scrambled, and before too long we were all reunited and ready to walk up the aisle.

The Walled Gardens at Lough Rynn are always a great backdrop for photos, and in the warm Spring sunshine they were perfect. There was a little reshuffling in the order of the bridal party, as Stephen got protective over his new wife Laura-Kate. With 4 groomsmen to 3 bridesmaids, he wasn't willing to leave her in the hands of Tony & Colm. And with Tony's reputation for sweeping the ladies off their feet, who could blame him?

As Pamela led Sarah & Nathan into the rugby-themed reception room, the atmosphere was as lively as a Heineken Cup Final. Though his beloved Leinster didn't make it this year, this match with Sarah must have made up for it for Nathan. I'm sure he'll be delighted for Munster yesterday too, as he soaks up the Mexican sunshine....

Sarah & Nathan Blog

Sandra & Gary - Glasson Golf & Country Club

Castlepollard in Westmeath was the destination on Easter Monday for Sandra & Gary's wedding. My first stop was at Sandra's house, where there was great excitement, not least from her Mum's prize-winning golden retrievers Deise & Gizmo, who were very keen to escape from their room to join the party. I took a few minutes out from the bridal preparations to pop down the road to the village of Fore, and Gary's Auntie Ita's Pub, The Seven Wonders. I'd never been to Fore before, so I was surprised to discover that like the Ancient World, Fore too has Seven Wonders. They are - The Monastery In The Bog - The Mill Without a Race - The Water that Flows Uphill - The Tree That Will Not Burn - The Water That Will Not Boil - The Hermit In The Stone - The Stone Raised By St Fechin's Prayers. St Fechin seems to be in the thick of most of the wonders, so it might occur to you that maybe he was a very good publicist. If you'd like to find out more though, all the details are here

Sandra looked fantastic in a beautiful cowl-neck dress with lace detailing from the final collection by famous Spanish designer Manuel Mota. While everyone else admired her as she walked up the aisle, Gary kept his eyes firmly fixed forward. Some people say it's bad luck for the groom to look around at his bride before she arrives at the top of the aisle, and Gary definitely wasn't taking any chances.

The one thing we were all wondering about when we got to the Glasson Golf & Country Club was how it could be so cold in Ireland in April. The wind whipping off Lough Rea went through you like a knife, so everyone repaired to the drinks reception for some warmth and comfort. There was lots of that to be found at the chocolate counter, where the Easter Eggs were going like hot cakes. Just as the sign promised, the Easter Bunny showed up outside, to make sure everything was going to plan before he hopped off again.

Just before dinner we braved the wind and made a quick dash outside. Eamon from Big Apple was alongside me on video, and unlike the bridal party and me, he came prepared, with a woolly hat and a heavy coat. Then it was up to the function room for dinner and to get the party started. Entourage were providing the sounds. I'm sure the breeze drifting off the Mediterranean onto the shore in Sicily this week is a little warmer than Monday's from Lough Rea.

Blog Collage-Sandra & GaryBlog

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Sinead & Kieran - The Ardilaun Hotel

Not since the hurlers won the county title 35 years ago, or since Sinead's brother Paddy rode Imperial Commander to victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, has Ardrahan seen such celebrations as it did last week when Sinead married Kieran. At one point, it looked as though the entire village might go up in flames as the bonfires blazed to salute Sinead on her journey to the church in Spiddal. All was well though, and the party continued into the night at The Ardilaun Hotel in Galway City.

Sinead was just having the finishing touches applied to her make-up when I arrived, and after that she put herself entirely into the hands of her friend, and owner of Thistles Bridal Couture in Tuam, Owen Togher. He was Sinead's personal dresser/fashion adviser/florist/calmer-downer and wedding planner all rolled into one on the day, and he was there again at the church door to make sure she looked perfect as she walked up the aisle. Kieran too, had his own valet in Groomsman Eamon, who fitted his cufflinks, straightened his collar and got his groom shipshape.

The church in Spiddal was beautifully lit with candles, and the floral displays were gorgeous. It lent a great atmosphere to the ceremony conducted by Fr Barry Horan. The only drawback was for me - there was very little light - in fact I can say it was the darkest chruch I've ever worked in. I hate using a flashgun during the ceremony, so this meant pushing my equipment and technique to the limit. For any photo-nerds out there, that was shooting at 5000iso handheld at 1/30sec at f1.8 & 2.8 - something that wouldn't have been possible until recent technological advances. Thank you Nikon.

After the ceremony, we stopped on a very windy Silver Strand with the Bridal Party, and then nipped across the road to Barne Woods for some nice romantic shots of the happy couple. I've mentioned here a few times that the average Irishman isn't always great with public displays of romance, but Kieran was only too happy to get cuddly with his beautiful bride.

I had Ger with me again, and he put together a slideshow of images from the day that caused a few tears to be shed, not least by Sinead. That's always the reaction you like to see, as a wedding day should be full of emotion. A fine set of speeches rounded the day off for me as The Wondertones were setting up. John Murphy was alongside me on video which was a pleasure as always. I was delighted to get a call from Sinead to say thanks for everything from the airport before they headed off to South Africa - it's always nice to get positive feedback, and I can honestly say it was an absolute pleasure.

Sinead & Kieran Collage Blog

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Carmel & Joe - Mill Park Hotel

What do you do if on the morning of your wedding you wake up to a hurricane outside, and the news that most of the northern half of the country is under snow? And your reception is in Donegal? And you're being driven the hour-long drive to the hotel in a vintage Ford Anglia with no heating? Well, if you're Carmel & Joe, you take it all in your stride and enjoy the day regardless of the weather. It may as well have been 30 degrees for all the difference it made to their fun and appreciation of the day. We even stopped and went for a stroll along the banks of Lough Mcnean in Garrison. We all agreed that, with the possible exception of Antarctica, it was the coldest place on the planet that day, but you wouldn't tell from the photos, as everyone visualised summer sunshine.

Of course, they breed them hardy around Ballinaglera & Dowra. It's beautiful, mountainy country and no doubt you get used to wind & rain. I've done quite a few weddings there now and have always enjoyed them. Last year at Carmel's sister Catiriona's wedding, we were able to take sunny hots down by the lake at their home place. That wasn't an option this time round unfortunately. While I photographed the girls' preparations, Ger was with the boys as they got ready and headed for the Church. Fr Sean Mawn conducted the ceremony with his usual good humour and grace, and then it was into the Anglia and off to Donegal. As Joe said when thanking Tommy in his speech, "slow & steady wins the race"!

Once we got to the Mill Park, Ger got busy putting the after-dinner slideshow together, while we took shelter in the bridal suite, where there were roses strewn dramatically across the bed. Joe was tempted to take one between his teeth and solemnly declare his love for Carmel, and maybe if I wasn't there he would have. He did make it clear in his speech a little later just how much she means to him. The meal ended with a lively song and dance routine from some of the hotel staff, which was a nice warm-up for the entertainment to come from Brian McDermott & his Band.

Blog Collage-Carmel & Joe F