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A picture is worth a thousand words {Jess Smith: an interview}

This is a guest post where one of my brides, Jess Smith, shares some of her favourite wedding images that tell stories to her.

I believe that the collection of images I create on a wedding day should serve as memories that are meaningful to the couple. I invest time in getting to know them to understand more of what they love and what is important to them, so that on the day I can capture the details and moments that they will value most. I want every image to stand alone and tell a story of its own, so to hear the story that their favourite images tell to them is just wonderful, and I wanted to share that with you.

Last December, we were privileged to document Jess & Andy’s wedding. It was a beautiful winter celebration held 10 days before Christmas with the ceremony at the breath-taking All Saints Church in Little Bookham, Surrey, and the reception at the Wentworth Club. Following, Jess shares 15 of her favourite images and the stories they hold for her.

Jess: When Ria first mentioned her idea for this feature, I couldn’t wait to get started. Selecting my favourite wedding photos and writing about my choice seemed a dream project – the perfect excuse to trawl through our entire wedding album for the fifteenth time and wax lyrical about my memories of our wedding; not that I needed one! I soon realised, however, that this was in fact an extremely difficult task: Ria originally suggested I choose three to five images, but I had a hard time whittling it down to fewer than twenty. What about that image of me exchanging a kiss with my beloved mum? The one of our nephew’s feet just visible beneath the tablecloth, having crawled under the table to surprise his grandmother? All those fantastic photographs of our nearest and dearest? This introduction is essentially a disclaimer: Ria’s photographs were all far too beautiful for me to choose favourites, so what follows is simply a selection of images that tell the story of our wedding day…

{The stories follow the images}

Wedding images that tell stories

This may seem an unlikely choice, but there are three reasons why I will always treasure this photo. Firstly, I think it’s simply a great shot: for its composition, idiosyncratic subject and the way in which it so perfectly captures the pale winter morning light. Secondly, flowers were one of the things I put a great deal of thought into for our wedding. With our colour scheme, taste for mixing textures, and preference for locally sourced produce, it proved a real challenge finding the right varieties of flower and foliage in the middle of what was an especially cold December. Our florist, Jay Archer, did an amazing job creating our stunning wedding arrangements; sadly though, flowers never last long past the wedding day itself, so it’s reassuring that we have photos to immortalise such details. Most importantly though, the porcelain flamingo in this image will forever remind me of home. The flamingo used to stand on the mantelpiece in the living room when I was growing up, behind which has always hung a large mirror. Every morning before school, until I decided to undertake the task myself, my mum would brush and tie my hair in impossibly high bunches in front of that mirror. I remember the reflected looks and silly faces we would exchange, the smell of the hairspray, and every tiny detail of the now beloved flamingo that I would absentmindedly scrutinise. Ria did not know this, nor had I requested that she include it; it was simply providence.

This is our niece (my sister’s daughter), who was one of our gorgeous flower girls. I don’t think anyone told her about it being improper to outdo the bride on her wedding day! Aside from looking so adorable in her outfit, I love this image of her tentatively peering around the corning at the various goings on of the morning’s preparations. She was two and a half on our wedding day, so I doubt she’ll remember it in very much detail, if at all, as she grows up. It will be lovely for her to have this picture, among others, for posterity. It reminds me also that she will never again be this little: a precious time, preserved in a beautiful photograph.

My mum, dad, sister and I looking happy and relaxed in our family home, not long before our departure for the church. As usual, Mum has prioritised everyone else and isn’t yet dressed herself… It’s nice to know that some things never change, even on your wedding day.

My beautiful bridesmaids, smiling knowingly at one another en route to the church. For me, this image captures perfectly that sense of wedding day excitement and anticipation.

Not seeing your love on the morning of your wedding is a strange thing. You think about one another constantly, anxiously awaiting the moment when you’ll be reunited at the altar. It was so lovely seeing all the photos of Andy’s morning after the event, and to see that he was so contented and relaxed.

Having someone very special walk you down the aisle is one of those defining moments of your wedding day. I count myself incredibly lucky and privileged to have had my wonderful dad fulfil that traditional father of the bride duty, and Ria captured the emotion and elation of this moment so perfectly.

Wedding images that tell stories

I will never forget this moment. Pure joy captured in our faces and those of our guests, including my wonderful parents looking so happy beside me. The service had been so astonishingly beautiful, everything we had planned and hoped for, and more besides. We were high on life and love. I think the presentation of this image in black and white lends a sense of timeless nostalgia. We have chosen to put it, along with two others, in our signing board, which we look forward to framing and hanging – another of Ria’s brilliant ideas!

This is one of the images taken shortly after we had arrived at our reception venue. We enjoyed glasses of champagne and an exhilarating ride in a golf buggy (!) out to the lake, where this photo was taken. We were totally absorbed in one another, thrilled to have become husband and wife and excited to enjoy the celebrations to come. Andy had just whispered something in my ear, which I hope you’ll forgive me for keeping between the two of us. My eyes welled up. In a fleeting moment, I glanced back at Ria and she somehow managed to capture the emotion perfectly, in my eyes and bashful smile. I also love seeing Andy’s adoring gaze immortalised in this image; I hope he still looks at me that way after forty years of marriage!

Our jaws dropped when we first saw this image – one of three that Ria sent us as a teaser just two days after the wedding (we received it whilst waiting to board our honeymoon flight, in fact). It is stunning. In spite of its dramatic backdrop, it makes for a subtle wedding portrait to hang on the wall.

Wedding images that tell stories

This may just be our favourite image of them all. For us, it achieves a perfect photographic marriage between sentimentality of the moment, and aesthetic of the composition: the white umbrella stark against the muted grey of the trees, us giggling in the rain, the stray wisp of hair dancing on the breeze, and me trying not to stamp on my dress in my wet wellies. Love it.

Whether you spend two weeks, two months or two years planning your wedding, a lot of time, effort, money and soul go into organising it. These two pictures of the ballroom at Wentworth arranged, lit and decorated down to every last detail are testament to that exciting process and the creativity and talent of all those who contributed to it. We were thrilled and amazed at how all our plans came together and were brought to life in our fairytale wintery wonderland. Unforgettable.

We love this shot of a tender moment (mid-spin!) during our first dance. The light is such beautiful colour.

A priceless memory of having a good old boogie with my dad. I had an upbeat father and daughter number (Paolo Nutini’s Pencil Full of Lead) to follow our very classic first dance (Alicia Keys’ If I Ain’t Got You).

When all is said and done, a wedding is an affirmation and celebration of love. Having all your friends and family come together in honour of your marriage is an overwhelmingly emotional and unforgettable experience. To have your loved ones celebrate with you and to see them enjoying themselves is better than any registry gift. The fun and laughter in this photo remind me that a wedding is not about the dress, the venue, the food or the flowers, however incredible they may be; it is the people present who make it.

Thank you so much Jess for sharing these moments. If you would like to see more of Jess & Andy’s wedding day, please see their premiere or watch their video story below.

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Ria Mishaal PHOTOGRAPHY

Based in Chandler's Ford, Hampshire

Ria mishaal portraits

chandlers ford, hampshire