Ah, Easter memories. Last year on the day before Easter, I had barely slept the night before in anticipation of heading to Ste. Genevieve, MO to shoot my very first promotional video with my own crew. Chaumette Winery had wanted to show off their facilities to brides-to-be by following a real bride through her day from the hair salon to the chapel to the reception to finally stepping over the threshold in her groom’s arms into a beautiful Chaumette villa.
What could be more romantic than sharing your nuptials with the ones you love in the midst of the rolling hills of Missouri wine country? At least that’s what I was tasked with proving.
That morning was a bit gloomy but nothing to be alarmed about, so it seemed. We arrived plenty early and set up cameras at two locations, one in the spa where we would meet the bridal party and one in the reception area.
There were several picturesque scenes outdoors where onlookers could gather and chairs could be assembled. But there was also a quaint little chapel to use in the case of inclement weather. Our beautiful bride had her heart set on marrying her beau on a tiny island in the middle of a pond connected only by a bridge to the “mainland.”
But as the morning went on, Mother Nature whispered clues of her own plans that were not necessarily in alignment with this island adventure. The sun was shining and then it wasn’t. The rain was drizzling and then it wasn’t. The wind was blowing and then it wasn’t. In the midst of trying to shoot the bridal party coiffure, I was growing more and more concerned about shooting an outdoor wedding on a day like today. Selfishly, not so much concerned about the bride’s dreams or even the winery’s goals, but about protecting my equipment from a liquid demise.
As the sun disappeared behind the black clouds that rolled in, much to my relief, the bride made the call to move the ceremony into the tiny chapel. This would mean standing room only for the large number of guests she had invited and for me it would mean sharing the tiny balcony with attendees leaving little room for camera equipment–but at least it would be dry and that was the important thing.
I left the bridal party and raced to the reception hall to collect the second set of equipment and haul it to the chapel. Maneuvering equipment up a narrow spiral staircase is a challenge in and of itself. But finding a good camera angle in a space too small for a tripod was another hurdle altogether. These, I thought, were the lessons I would take with me throughout my career. These are the things you don’t learn in school and the ones that would make me a stronger person and induct me into the professional world of videography.
But just as quickly as the clouds swept the sky, they dissipated leaving everyone hopeful once more for the scenic outdoor venue as originally planned. Throughout the rest of the afternoon, the sun was teasing us peeking in and out of clouds like a game of hide and seek. All within the same shot, it looked as though we had filmed the same bride on two different days…maybe even two different seasons. For me, it was nearly impossible to white-balance and for the bride, well, you can only imagine the stress. The raw outdoor footage looks as though someone was flickering on and off the lights with a switch. It was a bride’s (and a videographer’s) nightmare.
Finally, a decision was reached to marry outdoors in front of the chapel–just in case. The wind was picking up but the sun was shining and relatively, this was the ideal scenario. A lovely ceremony, a blissful bride, and dry equipment. Finally!
However, back at the ranch…this day in particular, my 13-year-old son was home alone while his father was working and I was two hours away at a shoot. I had received a few phone calls from him but when you’re on a shoot and your phone buzzes in your pocket right smack in the middle of the “I do’s”, you just don’t answer. When the ceremony broke and it was time for a location change, I made a quick call home to hear my terrified son on the other end of the line begging for instructions on what to do when the tornado sirens are blaring. In my 40 years on the planet, I had heard many-a-siren with no worries. So I simply told him to stay in his bedroom (on the second floor of the house no less) and assured him that tornadoes do not touch down in the city.
As the reception grew dim and my crew grew weary, we packed it up and headed for home, but we were not out of the woods yet–literally nor figuratively. About half-way there, the radio signal was interrupted with an urgent storm warning instructing people in most counties between St. Louis and Ste. Gen, MO to get off the road and take shelter. Being a city girl, with a crew of urban-dwellers, I opted to stay on the highway out of sheer exhaustion. All we wanted to do after that day was put our feet up and enjoy some of our winery “souvenirs.”
The radio interruptions did not cease and the winds were so strong I could barely stay on the road. At this point, we decided to heed the warnings and pull off the road. It was only 15 minutes and really, if this was as serious as it sounded, did we really want to risk our lives for the sake saving a little time? As we sat in the gas station parking lot trying to determine if we should move inside and out of the car, we listened intently to the automated voice on the radio warning the people of the CITY OF ST. LOUIS to take shelter immediately. My heart sank into my stomach thinking of my irresponsible instructions to my son and worse than that, my poor parenting. A mother’s guilt never ends.
As we approached home, weaving around trees and branches and other sundry items in the road, we began to realize that this was the most serious storm St. Louis city had seen in quite some time. Luckily, my husband worked close to home and was able to break away in time to help my son take appropriate shelter. For this was the day that I now remember as the day the tornado took out Lambert Airport four miles from my front door rather than the day I shot my first promotional video.
In the end, I’m pleased with the footage we were able to recover from this disastrous day. Enjoy this 30 second snippet!