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The First Day Back After Lockdown!

Photographer John Woodward tells us about what it was like returning to work after a three-month lockdown.

I did a wedding!

Yep, July 4th this year was the open day for weddings to go ahead again, but with limited numbers and social distancing in place.

The wedding I had on that day was a late booking for a couple who had their reasons to want to get married ASAP. The bride was Brazilian and had visa constraints, their wedding was already postponed and venue couldn’t accommodate, so they went ahead and just did it. Social distancing (ha! I will come back to this later…..) and short notice with family and friends regardless. And it was lovely! On the whole…….

“So, how was it for you?” I hear you all say. Well, let’s break this down into a few things.

Firstly, there was the nerves on my part. I hadn’t picked up a camera for over 4 months! And although the wedding was only booked for 2 hours of coverage, I really was very nervous. Have I still got the eye for it? Will I have lost the touch? Could I actually do my job anymore?

And these thoughts I am sure will be going through every supplier who hasn’t actually done a wedding for this time.

We have to get on with it.

Secondly, there was the actual logistics of how I was to do my job. It was a church ceremony, so a maximum of only 30 people were allowed within the church. The vicar was lovely and was “on the ball” in regards to making sure social distancing and cleanliness was observed. Family and friends were spaced with one pew between each group, the groups had names on them so everyone knew where they were sitting, there was a one way system in the church, although for a wedding this was overlooked somewhat as would have been difficult to police…..it was spot on.

Myself and Mark Asplin of White in Motion Films both masked for the majority of the time, which in itself brought its own very specific issues for me, while trying to take photos the view finder instantly “fogged” up, I learned very quickly that I had to pick and choose my shots a little more carefully and when I did, I had to hold my breath so I could see what I was doing! Being a videographer, Mark didn’t have that issue and it’s probably not one that will affect many more in the industry, but it was a good illustration of the fact that each supplier is going to face their own unique issues when they finally get back to work, however that may manifest itself.

Then there was the issue of the distancing itself. Now, at church weddings we tend to have some restrictions on movement placed on us anyway by whoever is giving the service….registrars and venues tend to be a lot more relaxed in this area. But even with a really lovely vicar, we had to agree and work out beforehand where we could and couldn’t move and WHEN we could move to get certain shots. This all had to be pre-planned in advance so we knew where we could be to get a shot, remain socially distanced AND not disturb the proceedings. It was even more restrictive than usual to get “creative” with the shots – it was an “interesting” experience to say the least!

Again, I suspect it will be the same for all suppliers as all parts of the industry will have their own unique constraints and will have to be adapted to.

The ceremony itself went off without a hitch – outside of the constraints, it was pretty much as any other church ceremony I have done. Groom in place, music played (no singing!), bride walking down the aisle… all the usual stuff.

But when the ceremony was over and the couple left the church…

Yeah… that’s when things went a bit pear shaped.

At least another 30 people turned up outside the church, partly to surprise the couple and give them a cricket bat guard of honour (the groom played cricket) and the rest to give their congratulations to the couple.

And social distancing went completely out of the window.

Disparate groups of people mingling together shoulder to shoulder (not everyone knew each other), no masks, lots of hugging and cheek to cheek kissing… yeah, it was like nothing was wrong.

It did feel very, very strange and it did make me feel extremely uncomfortable, especially as I and my family are one of those ones who have been ULTRA vigilant during lockdown. To get images of the bride and groom, I had no choice but to walk through them and I can’t say I was happy about that part. Even the vicar commented as I walked back in to the church “so much for social distancing eh?” For a period of about 45 mins after the ceremony, it was like nothing was going on at all and the world was entirely back to “normal”.

It was indeed a very strange situation. In their defence, they did disperse… eventually. Only the family were gathering later for celebrations at the house. Everyone else eventually left, so no parties or social gatherings.

I guess that’s something we are going to have to get used – policing the social distancing or stopping others from turning up is going to be, quite frankly, impossible. So we need to make a conscious decision – do we feel comfortable enough to be able to do our job? Can we financially afford to NOT do the job and consider the risk too much? So, brace yourselves I guess. My job means I have to be in the thick of it with people. But there are some suppliers who’s job means they only interact with the bride and groom – only you will be able to decide what is best.

Whilst it was a huge relief to be back out there and all in all it WAS a lot of fun, it also had some very strange emotions attached to it. The feeling of the unknown. Trepidation and nervousness. Logistically it was all so very different.

Be prepared to have to have a chat with yourself a few times as new things occur or changes to your usual working practices happen. If it was like Saturday, you have to take a big gulp, put your head down and get on with it. For the immediate future there may well be no other way.

Good luck! Enjoy!

You can find out more about John Woodward at his website: www.johnwoodwardphotography.co.uk

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