Abbey and Ralph Noyes, married May 4, 2019 at Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory.
Set atop a working observatory in the hills of Brentwood, Tennessee, Abbey and Ralph celebrated their marriage under cloudy skies and occasional rain showers. I had met them through my wife, who was pursuing her PhD at Vanderbilt at the same time that Abbey started working as a research assistant and lab manager in the brain and cognitive science labs.
She and Ralph met at a weekly Motown Monday dance party at The 5 Spot in East Nashville, one of Five Points’ most venerable dance parties. So, when they got engaged and started planning their wedding, they knew one thing for certain: they wanted their reception to be a party.
And boy, what a party it was. They booked a Talking Heads cover band called These Slippery People and threw the biggest dance party that hillside observatory had ever seen. Despite dodging raindrops during the ceremony and reconfiguring their whole seating situation due to the weather, Abbey and Ralph’s wedding was everything a wedding should be: pumped full of pure, undiluted joy and absolutely, uniquely theirs.
Here’s the thing: I don’t shoot a ton of weddings. But I do shoot concerts and I do shoot events. But, that’s what Abbey and Ralph wanted: someone they were comfortable with, who could capture the energy and excitement of their day.
I enlisted my wife as a photo assistant to split my focus at the beginning of the day, before the storms started to roll in. We needed to knock out as many shots–the first look, the family photos, the bride and groom portraits–as possible before the weather completely turned.
Fortunately, everything worked out. Even Abbey’s heels getting stuck in the rapidly softening ground made for some fun shots when Ralph had to piggyback her all the way to the Star Chamber, where they wanted to shoot portraits. (Bringing a couple of extra umbrellas certainly didn’t hurt either.)
Their only directives during the ceremony and getting ready phases were to shoot documentary style. We posed them in a few cases, but the majority of the shots were in the moment candids.
I’d said that I would shoot for six hours total, but wound up shooting the entire reception because great shots kept happening in front of me: the human tunnel formed during the cover of “Rocky Top,” the bride and groom singing with explosive delight with the band, Ralph tossing off his suit coat to play drums for a few songs with his old bandmates, the father of the groom pumping his fists in triumph as the band kicked into David Bowie’s “Heroes.”
They wanted emphasis on the party, and that’s exactly what I delivered.