BY ROSS DANCE
"I met Jess and James a year and a half ago when I took their engagement photos in Banff. We really hit it off and they asked me to photograph their wedding in Jamaica in April. When I arrived a couple of days early, the bride Jess discreetly told me that Adam, her best friend’s boyfriend, would propose to her best friend and bridesmaid (also named Jess) on the wedding night. Adam had planned to propose the day after, however bride Jess and her sister Meghan thought it would be perfect if the proposal happened at the end of the wedding day. The groom was keen on the idea too.
Bridesmaid Jess had worked tirelessly leading up to the wedding, organizing a trip to Montreal for a bachelorette party, hosting a shower and making sure every detail was right. The bride thought of the perfect Thank You. Instead of randomly throwing the bouquet, she was going to turn around and walk it over to her best friend. Adam would be waiting behind her bridesmaid, ready to propose.
As the bride told me the plan, my own excitement started to build. I knew that I would only have one shot at it because there would be a split-second when it all came together, when bridesmaid Jess realized what was happening before she turned around.
As the wedding day progressed, my nervousness grew. I don't use flash, and though I am usually pretty good at hitting focus, I was tense because I didn't know what the lighting conditions would be. At one point when the wedding party went to relax for quick break before dinner, I texted my wife. She replied, "You'll nail it!" and my confidence returned.
As the time for the traditional bouquet toss approached, I could feel the adrenaline surge through my body. To my dismay, it looked like the drama was going to transpire on the darkest part of the dance floor. I cranked my ISO up way higher than I'm usually comfortable with simply because I was so worried about losing the shot to subject motion. The bride handed her bridesmaid the bouquet. She said, "Jess, turn around." The bridesmaid Jess felt Adam’s hand on her arm and everything came together in an incredible raw and honest moment. For a couple of seconds, I struggled to catch my breath and my eyes filled up with tears. I could barely see through viewfinder. I became a spectator just taking it in with the rest of the room.
The photos have since received a lot of attention and I've learned a lot from the experience. Living in this beautiful part of the world, I spend so much time finding the perfect spots to put my couples into sweeping landscape photos. But really, I should be spending just as much time and energy looking for those moments of raw emotion on wedding day. I may never photograph another wedding with a surprise proposal forming part of the drama, but there will be other moments that will be just as significant for other brides and grooms.
As wedding photographers, we have the most incredible job in the world: we get to capture one of the biggest days of two people's lives, and each and every one is filled with beauty, power and love. I feel so lucky to be able to do this job, and so thankful for the things I learn every day from the LOOKSLIKEFILM community."