Along the side fence of my family home is a gate.
It is one of those ornate iron gates that is worn and a little rusted as it sits snuggly between the rose bushes and the dog kennels, providing access to the neighbours. Over 100 years ago, two brothers built and occupied the very same two houses and it was them that originally installed the gate, creating a passageway from one backyard to another.
Decades later and that very same gate continued to swing back and forth.
There was a new family in town made up of two boys and a little girl around six years old, her name was Ashley. It didn't take long for Ashley to be shortened to Ash, for my little sister and her to become inseparable and for our new neighbours to become life long family friends.
Fast forward 20 something years and that little girl from next door who I can still picture hiding in the front hedge, floating on a tractor tube along the Barwon and laughing uncontrollably as her and my sister read my 12 year old diary; but here she was all grown up and getting married.
It is always an honour to be invited as a guest to a wedding and I was so excited when their invite arrived in the mail. My excitement only grew when months before their big day I received a message from Ash - she needed a Photographer.
No, she hadn't left it to the last minute; she had this wedding planned down to the finest of details. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, their original Photographer was no longer able to offer her services.
I only had one condition and thankfully, Ash and Sam were more than happy for me to work a little and play a little.
It was the ideal job; catching up with old friends, enjoying a few drinks, hitting the dance floor and hanging out with these two and their bridal party for approximately 18 hours (no that isn't a typo, it was a late one).
All weddings are special, but for me; the love, the excitement, the emotion - all seems amplified when there are little people involved. Ash and Sam are proud parents to two beautiful children; Mia and George. Dressed to the nines, these two were picture perfect in a 'mini-me' dress for Mia and a shiny set of shoes for George that were worn 40 years earlier by his Uncle Adam at a family wedding.
These shoes were only one example of how this couple cleverly and thoughtfully combined elements from their past, their present and their future to create a day that truly reflected them as a couple and a family. The result was loads of sentiment infused with plenty of bling, all within a genuine country style wedding.
I am a big believer in the old saying 'actions speak louder than words' and the effort family and friends made to attend this Charleville Wedding on Easter Saturday is proof of how cherished these two are to their loved ones. Older brother Scott and MC for the evening made a point of this, below is a recap:
(Discussion between Scott and Ash when planning the wedding)
Scott: Who are you going to invite?
Scott: Yeah right, where are you planning on having it?
Ash: Here in Charleville
Scott: Oh yeah, well that should bring the numbers down because it is too far for most people to travel
Out of around 200 guests, 130 made the trek out west to witness these two tie the knot - approximately 55,000km in total travelled between the guests (and that was just to get there). Those sort of km's are equivalent to driving around Australia twice - pretty impressive!
Speeches were a mixture of heartfelt messages, hilarious stories and public declarations of how loved these two are. There were tears and there were belly laughs followed by a touching first dance as Mr & Mrs Swadling beneath a canopy of stars and fairy lights.
So, what do you get when you get a crowd together in one place with Charleville, Collarenebri and Mungindi connections?
Busy bar staff and a hectic dance floor!
That wooden floor didn't know what hit it and it rarely got a breather until the early hours of the morning with a special mention going to Groomsman Joel, you can and will move!
Just as I went to put the camera away, I was given the heads up that the Brides cousin from the Coast was about to give his final performance. It is safe to say that he has retired on a high; the chaps, the work boots, the bonds jocks and pulling off the worm! I doubt anyone who witnessed this spectacle will ever be able to listen to 'Devil went down to Georgia' without getting a smile on their face. Hard to believe, I know but Reid is NOT a professional entertainer just an absolute unit and sorry ladies, but at this point he isn't taking bookings.
Sam and Ash, thank you for the opportunity to capture this huge milestone in your lives, it was such a privilege.
It is evident that the bond the two of you share is based on a strong friendship, a deep respect for family values and an authentic love for each other and your precious children.
I wish you a lifetime of old iron gates that swing open bringing an abundance of love, laughter and friendship into your lives.
Love Ange x