Cooling Castle Barn - A Covid Ruled Wedding
I have finally had the chance to return back to doing what I love. After nearly five months I have been able to return back to work and shoot my first wedding since lockdown in March. As a wedding photographer in Kent, like most of us, I haven’t been able to work for what seems like forever. Being a wedding photographer, the majority of my work is booked well in advance, once a couple has chosen their beloved venue.
Venues in Kent have been working so hard, trying their best to make things happen for their clients. Sometimes even moving their dates back a month at a time waiting for new rules to apply. Especially when we were all in lockdown and nobody knew when it was all going to end. So you can understand why a lot of people have moved their weddings to 2021 or 2022. Most couples just want to move it to one clear date in the future, to keep their guests happy and not cause confusion. However when it was announced that weddings could go ahead with 30 people or less, I was quite upset because most of my weddings are around 80-100 guests, so I couldn’t imagine a lot of people would relish cutting their guest list by more than half. Weeks after this news and no change on the rules, I finally got the chance to shoot one of the smaller 30 people or less weddings. After a lot of stress and many ups and downs it felt amazing to pick up my camera and start shooting again. Where better to come back to work then the gorgeous Cooling Castle Barn in Rochester, Kent.
Before I set off to shoot my first wedding back, I had to add something extra, something very important to my camera bag… My mask of course! I knew this was going to be very strange shooting bridal prep with a mask on. A lot of how I interact with people is through my facial expressions. Even a gentle smile while walking past a wedding guest as they arrive makes my approach so much more friendly. Luckily for me I saw my two brides outside before I was wearing my mask, so I could say hi without the oddness of a mask hiding my face. I got stuck in, shooting the girls getting ready for their long awaited wedding day, along with dresses, shoes and jewellery. Nothing really seemed out of the ordinary. The make up artist Clare Lake, a good friend of mine was working away with her visor on, The girls were laughing everyone was chatting, it really is like masks and visors are now the new norm. They didn't even seem out of place!
We were quite lucky with the weather as this meant an outdoor ceremony could take place. I know that having a ceremony inside with the current climate makes for more rules to abide by. A cooling Castle Barn wedding outside or inside is very beautiful so I didn't mind wherever the ceremony was going to take place, I just want to make sure I follow all the thousands of rules, so everyone feels safe!
When it came to the ceremony it wasn't much different to the usual, apart from guests being socially distant and the chairs put further apart. The only real difference came after the ceremony. for example the signing of the register is quite a traditional shot, taken once the actual signing is completed. This wasn't allowed so I was told to capture is as it happens instead. which is absolutely fine, I just snapped a group photo of the brides and their witnesses later that day. There was a reading after the ceremony, it couldn't take place until the registrars had left, so rather than being during the ceremony it was read after. It seems everyone was doing their bit to follow the rules but at the same time, as I have said previously, it really does feel like the new normal, hopefully only for a short term.
Once the ceremony was over, this was when I thought it was going to get difficult, especially for Cooling Castle. However this was not the case. Each guest had their own individual plate of canapés so there was no picking off the same plate. There was more than enough sanitiser for the number of people that were attending. Cooling really managed to make everyone feel extremely safe and clean. Even all the staff members had the correct PPE although a lot of the time we were outside.
The hardest part for myself as a photographer was during the couple shots. Sometimes I like to position people and direct people by using my hands and moving people into the correct positions. Obviously I can't do that anymore so I had to stop myself whenever felt like I was going too.
After I had completed my round with my couple and finished all the group shots it was time for everyone to be seated, ready for the wedding breakfast. It really does feel odd, darting about getting all the natural shots inside with a mask on. once my camera goes up to my face, it's pretty much completely hidden! The guests were again socially distanced apart once they'd taken their seats. We had the speeches before the wedding breakfast which was pretty much the same as any other day apart from the very strange mic cover that looked very suspicious for the wrong reasons! The evening was going to be where the majority of the changes were going to take place. As there was no DJ or band, no first dance or any dancing for that matter. Instead they had a big movie night planned on a projector and plenty of games to keep their guests entertained. My job was complete after the speeches finished. I was home by 5.30pm which felt very out of the ordinary for me, usually I'm not home before 9 or 10pm. Overall I really felt like shooting this small intimate wedding was a success. I felt safe and I didn't think there was much that effected my job at all whilst shooting on the day. Im so happy to have been able to work again. What Covid19 has done to the wedding industry is appalling and I can't help but feel gutted for my fellow colleagues in the industry and couples that were and are to be getting married this year. We will get through this together!