Fragments – The first dance

No matter how old you get, you’ll always be your daddy’s little girl.

From the second your tiny newborn finger wraps delicately around his, you’ve won a place in his heart… forever.

There is no denying the special connection a girl has with her father and as a wedding photographer, I see that connection week in, week out.

Sometimes it melts my heart as I watch from across the room as a proud father bursts with emotion the second a door is opened and his daughter stands ready for her wedding, dressed in silk and lace and looking more grown up than ever, and ready to flee the nest.

Walking their beautiful daughter down the aisle, proudly responding to that age old question “who gives this woman…”, is a momentous occasion for many fathers.

Sometimes though, it doesn’t happen this way.

Today I want to tell you the story of this picture. It’s a story I discovered completely and utterly by chance and captured my heart. It’s the story about a dad and his daughter and a missed first dance.

The lovely chap in the image is Ian. A jolly guy whose smile warmed any room, and whose laugh was completely contagious. He was known as one of those fellas who liked a good joke, was generous and caring. He also loved his wife immeasurably – even to the point that when he was admitted to hospital, his only thought was to ensure that his wife was taken care of.

The lady dancing with him, is his daughter Jackie.

I met them both last year when Jackie’s daughter Emma got married.

When I’m shooting a wedding, I pay close attention to family and make a point of getting to know them as much as I can in what little time I’m there. The day had been filled with happiness, fun and a few happy tears, and I felt at one with a tight knit family who clearly loved and laughed together.

All was good.

And then there was a first dance, and the guests, buoyed happily with a few drinks, threw off their cares and danced like no-one was watching.

Finally, mother of the bride Jackie took to the dance floor in the arms of her proud Dad. Naturally, I was there to photograph it and whilst it seemed like a lovely little moment, I didn’t understand just quite how momentous and significant this was.

A few months later, Jackie got in touch with me to tell me that Ian had passed away and how much this particular photograph had meant to her.

Now, this could be the end of the story right there…  but it’s not.

You see back in the day, Jackie had married Emma’s dad Dave, at the local register office. It was a bit of a rushed affair and there was no time for formalities, a lavish wedding dress or anything else. It was a quick ceremony, with no family present and no big celebration. Ian didn’t get to see his little girl in a lace and silk wedding gown. He didn’t get to walk her down the aisle… and he didn’t get to dance with his daughter on her wedding day.

When Emma was planning her wedding, Jackie and Ian spoke about dancing together. They talked about how nice it would be to finally get that Father and Daughter dance he missed out on years ago… and the seed of an idea was sown.

And so on Emma’s wedding day, surrounded by all their friends and family, Ian and Jackie, Father and Daughter, took to the floor. Ian took his wonderful girl in his arms, and together they waltzed around to a Frank Sinatra song, The Way you Look Tonight, without a care in the world. Caught up in the moment – just a dad and his little girl.

Ian finally got his dance.

Better late than never.

Of course, when a loved one is gone, we take out our old photographs. We reminisce, we smile, and we cry. We remember the way they used to laugh… their little gestures… their generosity of spirit. We might not be able to capture all of that in a photograph, but perhaps just an essence of those things. A fragment of their wonderful personality to comfort us and to remember them by.

The images I took of Ian that day at his granddaughter’s wedding were used during the funeral service, because Jackie and her sisters, said they represented him as he was… laughing, joking and proud.

To have captured moments that mean so much to people fills me with joy. They might not be award winning. They might not be epic shots. They might not be the obvious emotion filled photographs that you have come to expect.

But seemingly incidental moments like these are everything… maybe not to you.. but to someone…

And especially to Jackie.




Clitheroe wedding photographer, photography by Shelly Mantovani at Toast of Leeds.  If you’re having a wedding in the future in Clitheroe, get in touch by visiting my photography website at or you can find me on TwitterFacebook Instagram or Pinterest.  I photograph weddings across the UK in tipis, barns, country houses , iconic hotels, Industrial warehouses, town halls and cool city boozers . For more information and to check availability, contact me now.

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Wedding Photographer at East Riddlesden Hall – Kate and Katie