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Carolyn and Cyprien chose to have their wedding in Bordeaux, among the vines and the sunshine. Their 3 day celebration took place just outside St Emillion, a village famous for its wine. Their wedding would also become famous for the hottest day recorded in France at 44 degrees Centigrade in the shade.

The first day was for the official paperwork. Weddings in France must happen in the Marie, the town hall, for the official part. It’s a great opportunity to meet the Mayor of the town and is a rather nice way to start the marriage, with they Mayor’s welcome and congratulations. That evening we celebrated the marriage with a cocktail party in Chateu St Georges, where the following day the ‘real’ wedding would be happening.

The next morning was one of the most relaxed, hottest and most touching mornings I’ve been privileged to photograph. Carolyn and Cyprien, along with the bridesmaids, all got ready together. We did a boulangerie run for breakfast, made coffee and ate in the morning sun while hair and makeup was done. Later a nice salad and some light manicuring before the first look. Wow, was that an emotional moment!

The ceremony took place in the orchard of the chateau and offered us some respite from the incredible heat of the day. Carolyn’s friend translated into French for the English speaking celebrant as well as readings by Carolyn’s mum. Their vows were beautiful promises to each other and left few people with a dry eye in the Orchard. After the ceremony and the congratulations we moved to the gardens to dance to French Jazz and drink boozy iced tea and champagne. It was all perfect.

Dinner was a buffet of wonderful southern French and American plates interspersed with touching speeches to the couple. Carolyn had even written a song for Cyprien, which she sang a capella with three friends.

Meals done, it was time to party. We walked to the dance floor and found Carolyn and Cyprien serving ice cream to their guests before the first dance. Then the music rang out in the orchard as we danced into the small hours of the morning. The DJ played an excellent set. All the guests were up dancing in the warm summer night air, occasionally breaking for drink or ice cream to cool down. All in all it was a fantastic weekend for a wedding.

Challenges

The challenges that destination weddings bring to a photographer is how to manage travelling with enough equipment to do a professional job while still staying light and mobile. On top of that, photographing a wedding in a foreign language adds another level of difficulty in getting the shot.

I always arrive a couple of days before the wedding so that there is enough time to scout out the location for getting the best images. I also travel early because if there are problems with transport I have enough time to arrange an alternative way to get there. Preparation is the foundation of success.

I’ve also discovered that big gestures and big smiles can accommodate for lack of speech skills. I can speak a bit of French but not enough to be entertaining for photos. Luckily mime works great for that too!

The biggest issue for this wedding was water. It was so hot that it was essential to keep hydrated throughout the day. Carolyn and Cyprien were amazing hosts and made sure that I was looked after at all times. My favourite drink, iced tea, was on hand constantly so I was hydrated, energised and able to photograph to my full potential.