Previously at a BBQ, I was asked to give a recount of some weddings shoots I had worked at. I told them about the best and the worst wedding photo shoot I had ever attended. This is the story that had them wondering whether getting married was worth it!
It all began three days before the shoot. I was planning to have a lazy weekend, but instead got a phone call from a wedding planner in Bali. She was a frantic mess. Her photographer for the upcoming wedding on the weekend pulled out at the last minute. I had been highly recommended by someone and could I please come at last minute?
I had never been to Bali and didn’t really know much about it except for what I heard through newspaper stories. But, keen for an adventure, I assured her that I was available and would be there by Friday morning so that we could go over the running sheet for the Saturday wedding.
I couldn’t get a flight Thursday afternoon, so booked the earliest one possible on Friday morning. With the time difference, I would still be there by 9 am.
On Friday morning I awoke to a beautiful sunny day and as I drove to the airport I thought how lucky I was to have the job I did. Traveling to exotic locations and taking photos of beautiful people on their wedding day.
Boarding the plane, I put my camera bag under the seat and settled back for a smooth flight. After 10 minutes, we were asked to leave the plane. Suddenly I didn’t feel so lucky as I grabbed my bags and tried ringing the wedding planner to let her know I would be late. She didn’t answer.
I sat back at the airport for three hours with the other passengers before we were allowed to board again. I was not amused. The wedding planner was still not answering her phone and I was now over 3 hours late.
When we finally arrived in Bali, I was way behind schedule and still hadn’t been able to let the Wedding Planner know. I looked around for the driver who should have been there to pick me up and help me with all my gear. Nobody. Obviously they had gotten tired of waiting and left. I went to pick up my luggage from the carousel. Nothing. My luggage was not there. All my lighting gear and tripods and other bits and pieces were lost! Thank goodness I at least had my camera!
By the time I lodged a claim with the airport, it was past lunchtime. I would have to spend the afternoon trying to hire some photography gear from somewhere. I decided to get a taxi.
I gave the taxi driver the address of the Private Villa that Liz Conrad, the Wedding Planner had given me. Although he didn’t speak much English, he appeared to know where he was going. Sitting in the back, I was so engrossed in trying to contact Liz and Google the best places to hire photography gear that I didn’t look up until we stopped. At the Conrad Hotel! I couldn’t believe it. He had read Liz’s surname and taken me to the Hotel of the same name! Could the day get any worse?
I decided it would be quicker to pay the fare and try to speak to someone at the Hotel who could speak fluent English. But the taxi driver wouldn’t let me go until I had paid him a tip and bought one of his pirated DVD’s for a dollar. In the end, I threw the money at him, grabbed my gear and found a lovely English speaking gentleman at the front desk of reception.
He could see that I was only just holding it together and kindly helped me get a car and driver to reach my destination. He gave me phone numbers of the best places to hire some equipment and offered his services at the Hotel should I ever return to Bali.
When I eventually reached the Private Villa, Liz came racing out, phone in hand.
“Where have you been?” She screamed. She had red eyes from crying and her phone was ringing non-stop. And I thought I was having a bad day!
“The white leather wedding shoes are mouldy from the humidity, the place cards, chocolates and everything else with the date on it arrived yesterday with the American date on it (meaning the date read 5th November instead of the 11th of May), and the mother of the Bride is Godzilla!” She started to cry again.
I didn’t dare tell her of my own troubles and hoped that things would eventually work themselves out.
She got yet another phone call about a disaster that was in progress and raced off to deal with it.
I felt very tired and despondent. A kind Balinese woman who obviously worked in the Villa must have seen my face for she said, “Here. You go.” She gave me a card with the word massage on it. “She my friend.”
A massage might be just the thing, given that I couldn’t prepare without Liz and all of my gear. I followed the woman’s directions down the street and came to a small dirty building. I hesitated, but a small young lady saw me from inside and pulled me in. I gave her the card and she said, “Yes. You sit.”
She pushed me into a massage chair (not what I had in mind) and proceeded to take my shoes off and give me a pedicure. I was too tired to care. Although I must admit, when I saw the dirty water in the bucket and the fact that the nail brushes and scissors were not sterilized, I did wonder if I’d made a mistake. When the scissors nicked me and I accidentally knocked over the bucket of water, I knew I had made a mistake. I left in a hurry and tried to find Liz. The evening was spent waiting for gear to arrive and calming Liz down.
The next morning was as stormy looking as the Mother of the Bride and I prayed that all the hired equipment would work properly. After taking the obligatory photos of the Bride and Groom getting ready, I set up on the beachfront for the ceremony. The guests looked relaxed and happy and I took a few shots.
Then, as the music started and the flower girls and page boys walked down the red carpet, it started to pour down with rain. Whether it was from the rain or nerves, the page boy stood there, cried and wet himself. What a disaster! Everyone ran for cover and because of the magnitude of the storm, not one person was left dry.
It was bedlam inside the Villa. The Bride was crying, her makeup and hair ruined, the Mother of the Bride bellowing out instructions, the Groom trying to calm everyone and kids running throughout people’s legs screaming.
I quietly move to a corner and captured it all on film. Things finally calmed down and the wedding went ahead, but I heard months later that the marriage didn’t work out and they were going to divorce.
It was definitely the worst photo shoot I had ever attended and to make it worse, I ended up coming home with a bad case of nail fungus after my unfortunate experience at the so called massage place. Give me my best wedding shoot any day!