• Ali Bell

Laura and Ashley's Wedding: Pride

I have named this blog pride, I will come onto why shortly and in truth I could easily pick on numerous other emotions for this incredible day. I hope that in writing with this view I am not doing Laura, Ashley and their wonderfully vibrant and warm family and friends a disservice on their most special of days.

As a documentary photographer I usually have to be patient, bide my time for the right images and really feel for a photograph. I am there after all to tell the story of a day, to show emotion and leave a lasting memory of a couples day for many years to come. I have to say for many reasons this particular wedding was not one of those days. Patience was not needed nor was any real need to search for any emotion. From the moment I arrived at Laura's family home just after 9 am I felt a warmth and energy within every person present. These people are real, they hold close bonds with each other that have stood the most distressing and happiest of moments in their lives and evidence of these memories lie everywhere within the four walls of a proper northern family home.

During the course of the morning as I made my way around the house I found it difficult at times to wipe the smile of my face and try my best to at least look a bit more serious, the truth is I was enjoying myself so much that became more of a challenge. Banter and wit is what we do well in these parts and this family has it in bucket loads. Laura's Grandad for instance will long stay in my memory following this day, he added charm and humor that brought with it a calmness to the morning. Weather he intends to or not he manages to relax and captivate anyone he speaks to and that is exactly what any bride needs on her wedding morning.

As Laura and her bridesmaids added the finishing touches to their preparations the two gorgeous flower girls Amelia and Alissia zipped around, full of excitement, full of life and absolutely loving the pampering they received from the hairdresser! Both of these girls were fantastic with the camera throughout the day as well and featured heavily within the final edit.

I had to add the above image in at this point also. Laura had just finished having her hair attended to and Amelia her daughter had unbeknownst to her been standing just out of sight for some time watching quietly and appreciatively. I can harp on for as much as I like about pride but an image paints a thousand words they say....I will leave that one there, I think my point is proven.

In the build up to this day I became aware of the sadness in the preceding months to date. Laura regrettably lost her Father Johnathan Mark Mitchel in February of this year and her brother Lee would be carrying out the honor of walking his sister down the aisle in their fathers place. Throughout the morning I heard reference of him in many different conversations, every one with a smile on their face and laughter in the air. On the side a lovely candle lit reminder of his life aptly placed next to the bridal bouquet and groomsmen's button holes. I did not know Laura's Father but I sensed the man he was from the discussion and pride I felt within this house on this morning. I can also guarantee that his presence was absolutely felt and that pride would be reciprocal.

By the time I was preparing to leave the house was a hive of activity, Bridesmaids, Grooms men and of course Laura and Lee's brilliantly calm mum Karen were filling the remaining moments fixing ties, applying cuff links and grabbing one last butty from the brilliant breakfast buffet before the off, there was just enough time for Amelia to have one last zip round on her scooter too.

And so I left and shot up to the church. St Bartholemews church in West Houghton is as beautifully grand and classical on the outside as it is modern and bright within its interior. This church clearly holds a special relationship with Laura and Ashley and it certainly gave them the perfect stage to declare their vows to one another. After a slightly tense wait for the nervous Ashley (He handled it well!) his bride made her entrance, flanked by her upstanding brother and led by her stunning flower girls and bridesmaids Laura carried herself impeccably. I am almost certain that any nerves Ashley felt were removed within an instant upon setting eyes on the love of his life, the tears that dripped down Laura's cheeks in this moment were of happiness and as Karen looked on a smile that said everything you need to know about her pride for her children.

The Reverend Kirsty gave those present a reading on the strong bonds of marriage and Love and in doing so the happy couple struggled to hide their happiness, glancing at one another throughout and forcing back their emotion. I am sure for them, within an instant the ceremony was over, these moments seem to flash by and following the signing of the register and some formal family shots they made there exit as Husband and Wife.

Following the procession I accompanied Laura and Ashley to Laura's Fathers grave site. I can honestly say in my time as a Photographer this was the most poignant moment I have had to capture. As I looked at the family I didn't see sadness, I saw a smile on their faces and a real moment to reflect and remember. Alissia and Amelia stood close together and admired their Grandads perfectly presented head stone, while others quietly paid their respects and moved on. This family have felt the pain of loss, and in this moment they felt the pride of what they had and the strength they had gained in doing so. I admire them all immensely for this.

I then followed the bridal car a short distance to the final resting place of Ashely's father. Ashley too lost his dad in recent years and just as with Laura's family, Ashley clearly has an incredibly strong bond between them all that has carried them through their tough times, leading up to today. They paid their respects in the most private and personal way they could and quietly moved on.

Now then, it was party time. As everyone knows your wedding day is full of emotion as well as a huge physical output and by the time the wedding breakfast arrived the happy couple were certainly glad for a cold drink and something fizzy to help them along. On arrival the weather was beautifully warm and bright, so much so that the sunlight was playing havoc with my camera settings, it keeps me on my toes anyway and so we made the decision to take a short break and allow guests to get a drink before the formal photographs....erm....not the best decision I have ever made I have to say! Within 5 minutes of being inside, huge thick black clouds had rolled in from who knows where and a deluge of rain fell from the sky! I have to say I felt slightly concerned at this point but there is always a plan B. Fortunately though within 15 minutes or so the rain had dissipated and that bright direct sunlight was back with us for the formals.

I have to say at this point a massive thanks to all involved in those images, It can be a little tiring at times for the bridal and grooms party at this time of the day but they really were so much fun and made for a few brilliant photographs. The wedding breakfast and speeches followed and this is the point I really cant emphasize enough my justification for the title of this write up.

Lee spoke first and if ever their was a clear changing of the guard this was it. In the moment Lee told his audience how proud he was of his sister and of course his incredibly strong toast to his absent father I watched carefully the reaction of those around him. Laura gazed at her brother, her eyes beaming with pride and acknowledgement for his words, and just about every other person in the room nodded in approval with each comment. In a moment when Lee could be forgiven for a lapse in emotion, he puffed his chest out and maintained his strength. A wonderful father of the bride speech, you should be proud of yourself.

Ashley then perfectly delivered a sensitive and funny speech of his own. He too remembered those not present and recalled those early moments in his relationship with Laura. In all though it was clear he was over joyed to be finally marrying the love of his life and he let everybody know.

Following the conclusion of the Wedding Breakfast many guests retired to their rooms to freshen up while other stayed in the bar area and made full use of the mobile casino that Laura and Ashley had provided for their entertainment! This went down an absolute storm with their guests and a brilliant and unique idea if you ask me. Before long the evenings entertainment had begun and with further guests arriving Laura and Ashley were greeted by many more friends and family so pleased to be in attendance for their day. The flower girls continued to show buckets full of energy through the night, dancing and playing on the dance floor and for Laura a great opportunity to catch up with friends and have a dance herself.

The first dance soon arrived and Laura and Ashley were greeted on the dance floor by floods of guests and from that moment so it remained. The Holiday Inn Haydock was a great venue and the staff clearly worked extremely hard to provide the little details that make the big difference.

By the end of my time with Laura, Ashley and her family however I believe I learnt a couple of things. Losing someone close to you is one of the hardest thing imaginable and something we all have to go through at some stage in our lives, it is how you honor, remember and live your life for those people however that matters most. These people have all had that exact pain but in doing so have shown on their most precious day their outstanding honor and pride for their fathers, they remembered them throughout and have now vowed to live their lives in the same vein they were brought up to do by those very same people. They have lost those closest to them and today they each gained more people they can now call family, that is something to be proud of.

I would like to thank Laura and Ashley for having me to be part of and capture your special day and spend time with your wonderful family. I wish you both every piece of Happiness, Love and Luck in your futures together.

Very Best Wishes


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