There is a smell that hits your nose as you enter this well-known hotel chain. The smell of human bodies and fried food and disinfectant. You sigh, knowing the most important thing is the sheets will be clean and it will be quiet.
You prep your kit, check your schedule, charge your batteries, copy over your SD cards from today’s wedding. All this in your pants, feeling like one of those minor criminal characters in a cop movie who sits around in a vest all day before being shot by Russell Crowe. Bake Off is on the TV. This doesn’t help with the still-in-your-pants guilt.
You kid yourself you will go out for dinner as a healthy treat, but of course you are too tired after 12 hours on your feet from today’s wedding, and the 2 hours of driving to get to this one. This is what photographers call a back-to-back.You eat downstairs something that tastes somewhere between a normal dinner, baby food and glue.
The next day, loaded with Full English and fizzing with caffeine you drive to the Bride’s house. Everyone is in their pants – except you this time hopefully - and drinking champagne at ten in the morning. After years of weddings, this is so normal to you, you don’t even notice it. You shoot jewellery, dress, flowers. You shoot girls having their hair done, having their make up done, having a laugh. The bride is stressed. You give her space and head over to the groom, who is also stressed and doesn’t want his picture taken. No problem, but now you have lost time and have to drive like Russell Crowe in that cop movie chasing the guy in his pants who escaped in a Porsche. It’s like the French Connection car chase. Only you’re in Slough. Going to Church. You fight for a parking space and lug your gear in, sweating. It’s summer. You are in long trousers with heavy gear. Hereon in it is all about the sweat.
The vicar eyes you like the naughty choirboy who did a wee in the collection box. You appease, you charm, you wipe the sweat out of your eyes, you await the bride. You will not stop now for the next three hours as you shoot the ceremony, the confetti, the group shots, the portraits.
You jump in your car and try not to kill yourself as you speed to the venue, to capture the arrival of the couple. The sun is high up in the sky. You forgot suncream. Is that a vulture up in that tree eyeing you up as you tuck your shirt in, guzzle water to stave off sunstroke. You can’t die now, they haven’t even served the canapés.
Finally it is meal time. Everyone now is sweating. It’s August, but the meal looks like Christmas dinner. You’re in a marquee without ventilation or fans. Your camera smells of palm-sweat, your shirt is soaked, the maid of honour has a moustache of perspiration, the father of the bride looks like a tomato. Someone somewhere has fainted. Everyone drinks more alcohol, everyone sweats some more. They say the human body is 90 per cent water, and right now most of it has collected in your shoes, your eyelashes and your armpits. You ARE sweat, it is who you are.
Finally your meal comes, and two mouthfuls in, the speeches start. Now you are sweat AND indigestion.
Then it’s cake cut, first dance and party time. Miss any of these moments and you will chew your own arm off. Miss out the most important relatives, same rule applies. The party kicks off and you struggle with a room so dark even Dracula would be nervous. Your lighting skills kick in, you nail it. You check your watch. Eleven hours on your feet have passed in a blur of frenzied activity so intense it feels like two hours.
You drive two more hours to get home, copy across the files, have a shower, kiss your loved one. You are wired way beyond tired. You have driven three, four hundred miles, put in 22 hours on your feet across a two-wedding weekend, yet sleep is a long way off, as your adrenaline is still set at house fire level.
And you wonder why would you put yourself through all of this? Of course you know the answer. Because you were just part of the most emotional, important, powerful day in two people’s lives. They let you in and you caught all those moments, of anxiety, apprehension, excitement, passion, hilarity, fun, love. It has been part fashion shoot, part paparazzi shoot and part obstacle course. You have been privileged to be let in to this wonderful party and be paid to do what you love for eleven glorious hours. And you know you nailed it, your bride will love you, and you got to help make someone’s special day that little bit more special.
Okay, now you can sleep