Chris and Maria 
1.     Say “yes” and rearrange anything else you have on, I promise you it will be worth it. On Saturday I got a call at 12.30pm to see if I could stand in for a no-show photographer at a big wedding. After a moment’s hesitation (we were just about to go out for the afternoon for my daughter’s 13th birthday), I agreed to do it and asked “where” and “when?”. “In Chester in half an hour!” 
      I think the bride and I set off for the church at the same time, the bride in a chauffeur driven vintage car and me in a husband-driven Subaru. The bride looking radiant in a stunning dress and veil, with beautifully styled hair and flawless make up; me with barely dry, un- straightened hair, no make up (!) and a top I had regretted buying but was clean and not creased. Not my usual wedding photographer “uniform”.
2.     Be prepared! Every time you finish a job, put your batteries on charge and format your memory cards, just in case you ever need to be an emergency wedding photographer! This is now a new rule of mine as it would have saved me a lot of stress on Saturday! 
      Whilst I panicked over the state of batteries and cards in the car, my three companions made helpful comments to keep me calm; Sam: “you’ll look like Mad Eye Moody running into the church late…” This is a character from Harry Potter, but you don’t need to know that to get the idea! Nic: “you should always keep your batteries charged and cards formatted just in case…”
3.     Keep calm and do what you’re good at. I’ve done enough weddings and events now to know what I’m doing, despite not having time to do any preparation, never mind not having even met the bride and groom. They were quite easy to spot, in front of the alter, quite spruced up, talking to a guy wearing white robes. As I started shooting, I was picking up information on the hoof: 
  • this was a wedding attended by a lot of people from Spain (the priest kept dropping in the odd Spanish word);
  • it was a Catholic wedding (we were still there after 20 minutes);
  • it was a very big wedding (both sides of the church were packed);
  • this was going to be a lively gig (lots of laughter and spontaneous dancing and singing after the service, especially Y Viva Espagna!). This meant it was a delight to photograph, with so much Latin emotion and expressiveness, unlike us reserved Brits.
“A lively gig” with lots of spontaneous dancing
4.     Don’t be afraid to ask for help. At the first opportunity I had a quick word with the videographers (Tom & Tom from Silk Wedding Films) and sorted a lift to the hotel and got a quick view of the schedule for the day. TomTom were great all day, making sure I knew when things were happening, especially when we would get fed! 
      When we arrived at the hotel everything was happening so fast, the light was fading and I hadn’t had chance to suss out how to pose the bride and groom in the car. So I asked the chauffeur for his advice. He was more than happy to help as he wanted his car to look great in the pictures.
Great pose in the car
5.     Put the bride and groom’s needs first above everything else. It must have been awful for them to have the stress of the photographer not showing up, but I just assured them that they would still have amazing pictures by which to remember their wedding. I tried to find out if anyone had been taking pictures prior to the church service, as I knew that the happy couple would want a complete record of their big day in the album. I’ve now got a great selection of photos of the bride getting ready before the ceremony and I’m going to pick the best ones and give them a professional makeover so that they can be included.
Chris and Maria with Mark, the hotel General Manager – the man who made the call at 12.30pm
I really enjoyed being an emergency wedding photographer and would do it again in a flash. I didn’t have any time to get nervous and it was really rewarding to be told umpteen times that I was a super hero and had “saved the day”. I always knew those Wonder Woman pants would come in useful one day! I really can’t wait to show the final photographs to Chris and Maria, as they were an amazing couple, so laid back, lots of fun and totally in love, of course.

By Jane Burkinshaw, Emergency Wedding Photographer

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