As a wedding photographer you are fortunate enough to see many different weddings. However you sometimes get completely caught up with the job in hand that you forget just how stressful and emotional the wedding day can be for the folks getting married and their guests.
So on Saturday I found myself in the position of being right there on the front line. I had the experience of being part of the wedding party as I was the best man. A unique feeling for me as I was at a wedding and was not the photographer.
I've known Frank for 16 years and were actually the first people each of us met when we started university. So when Frank asked me to be his best man I was shocked but delighted. So what was the first thing that I worried about? Nope, not the speech....it was being on the other side of the camera. "I hate having my photo taken" I told the photographer when he arrived at Frank's parents farm. I wish I had a pound for every time a bride/groom have said that to me and there I was saying it to our photographer on the day.
Next up was to check what cameras he and his assistant were using....Canon. So the Canon v Nikon banter started. But I promised myself that was as far as I would go and I wouldn't interfere with the photography process......easier said than done!
The weather was perfect. Sunny, but not too hot. The ancient little church in the village of Cuxham looked amazing and Frank seemed extremely calm. I spent the morning zipping between the farm, the reception venue and Frank and Pen's house making sure everything was sorted and ready. As we walked to the church I could see a hint of nervousness in Frank's expression but other than that he was fine.
Once in the church, Frank started laughing, turned and said "I can't believe I'm getting married". Something he had repeated over the previous 24 hours and his sister Jane had responded to by cheekily saying "Neither can I!" When the time came for Pen to enter the church I turned look while Frank, as promised, kept looking straight ahead to the alter. She looked stunning as she entered the church. I think I said "Wow" to myself, but I definitely remember turning to Frank, putting my had on his shoulder and said "She's amazing!" Unfortunately the vicar heard and told the congregation what I had said.
The service was packed full of emotion and laughs. And this was mirrored at the garden reception at Pen's mum's house. It was so relaxed, but I couldn't help get a little tense knowing I had a speech to do. In the time that I've known Frank I've never seen him happier and this showed in his speech. I've actually never seen him so emotional. For my speech, I decided to ease my nerves a bit by having a walkabout in amongst the tables as I spoke. Some of the gags came off a lot better than I had anticipated. And the pauses for the laughs helped me as I made could keep check on where I was in the speech. I struggled at one point as I tried to stop myself getting choked up when I told everyone what a superb friend Frank has been over the years. But I got through it OK.
Speeches done, we cranked the music up and danced the night away. I did comment to a couple of the guests that I felt naked being at a wedding without my camera....like superman without his cape and powers. As the evening progressed there were a lot of laughs and a few more tears.....actually, a lot more tears especially when I spoke with Pen late on in the evening and thanked her for making Frank so happy.
And that was that. My three best friends all married off. Frank on Saturday, Kerry a couple of weeks ago and Matt a few years earlier. We've all settled down and have families. As both Frank and Kerry said at their respective weddings....it all feels quite surreal. As Matt said at his wedding....does this mean I'm a proper grown up? In both cases, yup, it does. I love all three of you guys and am so pleased we've all stuck together over the years through thick and thin.
Pen and Frank - I wish you all the best for your lives together. It really was an honour to be your best man on your special day. You both looked amazing on Saturday and so in love. The day was perfect and I'll never forget it. Have fun on your break away and I'll see you soon