Natural and relaxed winter wedding at Ballygally Castle
A crisp November day beckoned; with a fresh blue sky and a nip in the air I headed to see Sinead on the morning of her wedding to Aidan. We'd first spoken about my relaxed and natural approach to wedding photography via the wonders of Skype over a year earlier, when the pair were living in London and making preparations to head home to County Antrim to get married at Ballygally Castle.
As I hope you'll see in the images this really was an immensely happy day, with all of the beaming smiles, hugging, kissing and belly laughs that you would associate with a wedding, although there was definitely a tinge of sadness for me as I arrived at Sinead's parent's house that morning.
Sinead's lovely Mum Pauline had been battling cancer, and Aidan and Sinéad had moved their date forward by a month or so to make sure that Pauline was able to be there to see her Daughter get married.
I can honestly say that I have never, ever encountered anything quite like this group of family and friends. They were warm, welcoming and above all resolute in their determination to make the absolute most of a celebration of such a happy and joyful occasion, even in the face of such heart wrenching circumstances.
This is the story of that wonderful day.
After spending the early part of the morning with the ladies of the bridal party I made the short trip over to Aidan’s parent’s house to check in with the boys, who were busy making themselves look presentable. As the time to leave approached there was a slight air of mounting tension, even if it was masked with a good amount of banter!
After a really fun and relaxed early morning, a certain amount of nervous energy had crept in when I got back to bridal party HQ too, especially as the time of the ceremony drew closer.
After Hugh had seen his beautiful daughter in her stunning wedding dress for the first time as she descended the stairs, it was time to leave for the church, where an expectant Aidan was awaiting Sinead's arrival.
Following the ceremony, and much congratulatory hugging and kissing that followed, the Bride and Groom headed to the gorgeous surroundings of their wedding reception venue at Ballygally Castle on the County Antrim Coast.
After taking in the stunning views across the bay to Ballygally Castle, Mr and Mrs Watt headed inside to the warm welcome of all of those nearest and dearest to them.
After being seated for dinner the wedding guests heard speeches from both the Bride's and the Groom's fathers, Aidan's brother Brian in the role of best man, and of course Aidan's own speech which was both funny and heartfelt in equal measure.
After Dinner I was enthusiastically assisted by Groomsman Conor in rounding up some volunteers for a "sparkler run" (think confetti - only on fire) in the grounds of Ballygally Castle, and I'm pretty sure we ended up with almost every single guest at the wedding waving a sparkler, other than those sensible enough to have decided not to brave the cold and make the most of reduced queues at the bar!
Back in the warm once again it was soon time to head to the dance floor for their first dance as tradition dictates, followed closely by Sinead's Dance with her Dad
Staying with the theme of the dance floor; it's safe to say that the style and energy of the moves on display went up a notch or two in the hours that followed, with varying degrees of success! I absolutely love a really energetic dance floor and this one certainly did not disappoint in any way;
I do like to end a set of wedding images on something a little different to my largely natural and relaxed documentary style of photography if I can, and I had seen the opportunity for a dramatic silhouette against a pergola in the grounds of the hotel and took this image to round off the set of images from the day.
I genuinely love being able to do what I do, I'm so lucky to be able to share in such joyous occasions in people's lives, and being entrusted to capture all of the moments and memories of a wedding day is a real honour for me. I thoroughly enjoyed my day with Aidan, Sinead and all of their friends and family, and looking back through these images to write this post today just brought it all right back to me, so I hope that you can get a real sense of the "feeling" of the day too!
After packing away my cameras and saying my goodbyes I drove away from Ballygally that night and was suddenly overcome with emotion, to the point where I had to pull over to the side of the road and compose myself for a minute before driving home. I had only spent one day in the company of Pauline and her lovely family, and was blown away by their positive attitude, bravery and togetherness in the face of such a horrible disease. I was so glad that I had been able to be there and capture as many memories from the day as possible for them, it was an experience that will stay with me for a very long time.
Sadly, Pauline lost her fight with Pancreatic cancer in January 2018.
If this story has touched you like it has me, then I know that it would mean a lot to Sinead, Hugh, Maeve and Ciaran if you would be able to make a donation to Pancreatic Cancer UK, no matter how small. Almost 9,500 people just like Pauline are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the UK each year. I know that Sinead has run marathons to raise funds and awareness for this cause which is understandably very close to her heart; it is no exaggeration to say that just one small donation for research in to treatment of this less well understood form of cancer could mean that one more mother is able to see their little girl get married.
In Memory of Pauline McKeown