Back in January 2013, Britt, a Dutch photographer based in the North of Holland, from Fotografie Brigitte Ruijtenbeek got in touch with me out of the blue, to say she'd been following my work for a while online, and was interested in setting up a sort of cultural wedding photography exchange with me. She asked if she could second shoot with me on a wedding, and me with her.
She was interested in finding out what a British wedding involved and I thought it sounded like an amazing experience and said yes almost straight away!
After lots of chatting on Facebook and Skype, in June, I packed my kit, and picked up a Dutch phrase book... and nervously got on a flight to Amsterdam. Britt & I met at airport arrivals, and much to my relief we hit it off immediately, with lots to chat about. She has a great sense of humour and is down to earth and friendly, which is just what you need from a wedding photographer in my opinion!!
I stayed with Britt and her family at her home, in Winschoten (Nearest big city is Groningen) which was just fabulous too. We popped out to look at the venues for the wedding which was the next day, and chatted through it all. It was so interesting to hear what was planned and how wedding photographers generally work in The Netherlands.
Bright and early, we were out of the door to start the day. Dorien & EgbertJan were the bride and groom and them and their family were so welcoming. It was a particularly special wedding, given the fact that the father of the bride had to obtain a special licence in order for the couple to get married at the family home within the grounds. It had only been used for two previous weddings, Dorien's siblings. The little summerhouse here was where the ceremony took place.
There was a lovely relaxed atmosphere for the preparations. In Holland, they don't have adult bridesmaids at all, but the bride and the grooms sisters were 'master of ceremonies' for the day and helped oversea the running of it all. Photographers don't usually take lots of detail photographs so Britt was interested to see how I approach photographing them. There was an amazing staircase to hang the dress from, it had to be done!
How amazing is that dress?! Dorien was a bride who wasn't scared of wearing something different!
We then went to find the groom, to get some photographs of him getting ready.
In Holland, it's completely normal for the bride and groom to meet up prior to the wedding, for some photographs, which usually takes around 1 hour. They then have a (usually simple) lunch together with the other people that are there, before the ceremony.
The first look involves the groom taking the bride the bouquet, and knocking on the door for her to come out.
The bride and groom then went to relax inside to wait for their guests to arrive.
Here's their very cute dog, Fritz, who dressed for the occasion!!
The ceremony was rather different to the British civil ceremonies, with the registrar talking about the couple, how they met, what they like to do together and things like that. It was very personal. There weren't many vows just more simple declarations, but there was still a ring exchange, first kiss and signing of the register. They also got given some bread, and an apple tree, which were part of the traditions of the ceremony. The registrars over there wear long robes which is rather nice!
After the ceremony, the couple went straight away to have champagne, which they pour over a big tower of glasses, and then they cut the cake and this is traditionally served then, right after the ceremony.
The children also had their own little 'champagne' tower although it got rather messy!
After some mingling time it was time for group photographs. Much to my surprise, and unlike in the UK, the master of ceremonies (the sisters) were in charge of getting each group in ready, they walked in, were photographed, and walked out, ready for the next one, so quickly, so hassle free, if only it was that quick and easy over here!!
After the drinks reception in the garden, we moved over to a local hotel for the rest of the day. When I got there, I had a mini panic that Britt hadn't got access to the room to photograph the detail photographs (room, chairs, table centrepieces etc) prior to the guests going in, which is something I do at nearly all of my weddings here in the UK. But this is just not done there. They prefer to see a room full of people on their photographs than photographs of the table and decor alone.
We were treated to a lovely wedding buffet, and then around 8pm the evening entertainment started. I can't explain how amazing the band, Papa Di Grazzi were. They were a large band, with costumes, sets, entertainment, music, dancing, and put on a real show. It went on until 1am, with just a short break for some amazing fireworks. I was in absolute awe of how much fun the reception was, everyone was on the dance floor, young and old. The bride & groom even did a spot of crowd surfing at one point. It was the most party atmosphere I've ever seen at a wedding. My jaw was open several times in the evening out of surprise!!
After 16 hours, tired but on a complete high, we headed back home for a much needed rest. One of the most interesting things about the whole wedding was the fact that although nearly everyone there could speak very good English, of course everyone was speaking to each other in Dutch. It gave me an excuse to blend right into the background and observe what was happening and photograph it, in a very different way to how I would at home. It was much less pressured than a normal wedding day is for me, and I could get creative and see things I may not normally have seen as I didn't have the pressure of being the main photographer also, or communicating with the guests all the time.
I also got to shoot with this wonderful person, who I can't thank enough!
It was one of the best photography experiences i've ever had and I would love to do something like this again!!! Britt came over to Newcastle last month and photographed Sam & Paul's wedding with me at Kirkley Hall. That was also a fantastic experience.
Here's Britt's blog post of Dorien & EgbertJan's wedding that we shot together in Holland, and a link to her main website .
All images above copyright Katie Byram Photography and must not be used without written permission from the photographer.