What makes a great Winter Wedding? Sparklers, for sure. Some fur trim, maybe. A great venue like Lympne Castle helps of course, decked out with - or at least as far as I counted - half a dozen Christmas trees. Good weather and good light helps. And good timing. But we know what makes a great wedding any time of the year, really, don't we. A great couple with wonderful family and friends.
And that's where Charlotte and Dan got it so right. Both laid-back AND on point, they let their day unfold without fuss, without the appearance of effort, yet totally organised and perfectly timed. And what a lovely day it was. In keeping with the spirit of Christmas Charlotte had chosen and organised for her mid-December wedding a really tasteful winter theme of red and white, simple and effective, with stunning vintage styling for both the girls and boys.
My own theme, as photographer started out obsessing with hairspray shots and reflections...
I think we're gonna need a bigger can of hairspray!!!
Lympne Castle dates back to the eleventh century when it was built for the Archdeacons of Canturbury on the edge of a cliff over the Romney Marshes. The view that you see today of countryside stretching to the coast was mostly under water, submerged beneath the sea which, unlike most coastal areas, has actually retreated, which I think is fascinating. The castle was rebuilt in the fourteenth century incorporating a building with a tower at each end, and it is thought that the square tower may be on the site of an original Roman watch tower. If this is the case then Lympne's history dates back two thousand years! Restored in 1908 to its present condition, the castle boasts the kind of dark wood panelling and generous casement windows that let the light flood in and then get soaked up. This goes some way to explaining why I loved shooting bridal prep here and may have gone overboard.
The light is redolent of a Vermeer painting, wonderfully soft and falling off rapidly into areas of shadow, giving Charlotte a little the look of a tudor Princess.
Well that was my obsession with light and reflections and hairspray well and truly put to bed. But it's well worth taking a moment to congratulate the venue. While everyone was made to feel comfortable and looked-after throughout the day, the staff at Lympne had gone all out to make sure the spirit of Christmas was round every corner.
And while the girls took their time getting ready, as is only right and proper, and very much the way with girls at weddings, the boys, true to form, had showered and changed in less time than it takes to eat that ever-so-vital cooked breakfast.
Ooops! Bless. When the ring-bearer took a tumble and dropped the rings, we were worried for a moment. And that's what best men are for, as Dan's right-hand man gallantly stepped into the breach and quickly retrieved the rings and popped them back on the cushion.
Who doesn't love a Christmas winter wedding!? With sparklers and christmas trees and log fires and a medieval castle and a gorgeous couple working their vintage style in the Kent countryside. And we got beautiful December sunshine! Congratulations Charlotte and Dan xA great couple, a great venue, a great day with awesome friends and family. Congratulations Charlotte and Dan, and Merry Christmas! x
Some couples like to have everything 'just so', planning every last detail down to the last hairpin, taking everything so seriously.
And some couples just wanna have fun...
The day started, as usual, with the boys. While unflustered groom Matt and his brother nursed their hangovers, I grabbed a few detail shots.
While Dad did the important work of rustling up a full English, that staunch cornerstone of a wedding day, and the ultimate breakfast of champions.
And the boys did the equally important and no less gruelling work of breakfasting.
And then it was down the Tunbridge Wells Hotel, in the picturesque and quintessentially English Pantiles. We were blessed with a glorious and very un-English hot sunny spring day. Since the refurbishment in 2012 the hotel boasts the perfect mix of modern comfort and convenience with Regency charm and character.
Queen Victoria made frequent visits to the hotel in the early part of the 19th century and later granted the use of her coat of arms, which is displayed at the top of the building. Queen Laura, visiting in 2017 for her wedding prep granted that her kids could stay in the room to get changed, but that the parents should confine themselves to sitting outside the hotel bar terrace and sipping lemondae in the sun.
Although it first opened its doors as a hotel in 1880, The Tunbridge Wells Spa Hotel was originally built in 1766 as a country mansion. Like all big Georgian houses it boasts many intriguing and charming nooks and crannies in its maze of stairwells and corridors.
Meanwhile, back with the girls for a moment, someone didn't take too kindly to having their hair done.
While some of the older guests merely looked on impassively.
There were a few tears of happiness when the dress went on, partly because Laura is just a big sentimental softy and partly because she looked so lovely.
and just as lovely were all her bridesmaids
Now here's an irony. How often is a bride late for her own wedding with the registrar fretting and wondering where she is? Not so often are the tables turned, with the bride wondering - where the hell's my registrar?!
The lads, meanwhile were still, characteristically, completely unflustered
The ceremony was held at the Mansion House registry office in Tunbridge Wells, a nice light and spacious venue, with plenty of room for the cheekiest of boys to muck around. (that goes for Matt and Vince too)
Like a trooper Laura managed not to cry as Dad led her up the aisle.
And then caved in when she got there.
Caption for this face please?
While the registry office is lovely, there's no access to any grounds as such, so I took the wedding party off for an expedition to Calverley Grounds, just behind. While it would have been a long, long walk to the best part of the gardens, we still managed to find some trees and some shade for our group formal shots.
For future reference - must tell groom not to keep his eyes closed during the confetti shot...
And then it was off to the Grub and Liquor for the reception.
And despite the chaotic day, we still grabbed ten minutes to nip out in the last of the evening light to grab some romantic, fun portraits shots around The Pantiles.
With the help of awesome wedding DJ David Cardoso and some subdued lighting, we got the party started.
And still these two couldn't stop with the kissing. So much love!
not sure what's going on here, but mad stuff does happen at parties, right?
Although one very sensible young lady is watching serenely and sensibly from the sidelines
Congratulations Matt and Laura and love to the family x
A classic spring wedding, with classic spring weather. Well it didn't tip it down. In fact we were pretty lucky all things considered, for March, though one or two shots may speak a little of lowering gothic clouds. All in all though, this was one fun, easy, and definitely romantic day for two Hampshire childhood sweethearts.
While Julie – as resident princess for the day got the bridal suite at the big house for her preparations, Guy and Best man James spent the night in a Premier Inn in Farnham. Though, speaking as someone who virtually lives in Premier Inn, you can do a lot worse.
Time was obviously a big motif for Guy, though I don’t think there was ever any chance it would be him and super-organised James who would be the late ones, after all, that’s the bride’s perogative, right?
There’s nothing like a bit of bromance on the morning of the big day, and if Guy was feeling nervous, he didn’t show it too much. He was feeling nervous, by the way.
I love the natural easy friendship you can see in these guys’ body language. You can tell they’ve known each other for years and have that trust and bond that only true friends have.
Going for the simple classic contrast of blue and yellow gave Guy a blaze of colour, while still keeping things restrained.
and then it was time to go....
Did I mention gothic lowering storm clouds? Set within 120 acres of stunning countryside, the privately-owned Grade II listed, eighteenth-century manor house of Northbrook Park features a beautiful Orangery and Vine Room, along with tranquil walled gardens and picturesque countryside. Located near Farnham on the Hampshire/Surrey borders, couples can enjoy beautiful countryside within easy reach of London. Fountains, walled gardens and peacocks, symbolising good fortune, that roam freely throughout the estate with casual disregard for photographers and newly-weds alike.
Ahead of the bride's car, one young guest shows off the latest in pre-school transport.
The ceremony room is light and spacious, a perfect simple bright canvas to impress your own design and can easily accommodate all but the most massive of wedding ceremonies.
In measured tones of purple and pink, the bridesmaids offered a sophisticated and subtle contrast to the blues and greys of the groom and groomsmen.
While Julie was, of course, resplendent in white.
Remember that thing about the gothic sky? As a photographer, you can choose to make a feature of it...
Or you can offer up something brighter and more cheerful. While I like to sometimes over cook a dramatic sky, I always make sure my couples have plenty of choice, and let them opt for what they like best.
Although there are times and moments when black and white just begs to be the edit of choice. These few moments below I could see in monochrome long before I got to the edit. They would still work in colour, but there is something in the tones that begs for a simpler, more contrasty look.
Remember the peacocks? Not only do they roam freely with scant regard, etc. But they are not entirely co operative, often refusing to take direction, like the spoiled divas we always suspected they would be. The only shot we got where the sun was truly giving a nice backlight, for example, this resplendent lady in white was showing us her feathered bottom. Still, we grabbed this shot, and Julie and Guy helpfully held their kiss for the photographer.
The function room is the old swimming pool - sadly now concreted over. One can image heady days when party-goers, in the style of It's a Wonderful Life, might have danced the Charlston before throwing themselves fully clothed in the water. This particular day's events were a little more measured, but still there was plenty of fun and laughter.
Although I did wonder if the band were just a little bit on the young side.
After some lovely speeches it was time for sparklers, cake-cutting and first dance
.... and a few extra couple portrait shots.
Congratulations Julie and Guy and all the very best for your future together
There is something special about winter weddings; the crisp, cold air; the low, brilliant sun; the early sunset and the cosiness of friends and family all brought together to celebrate that special day in the warmth of a terrific venue. Well Elliot and Charlie's big day was all this and more, from the perfect colour-coordination of tasteful reds and greys, the adorable gang of friends and family, to the serendipitous winter sunshine and Southdowns Manor, one of the most generous and perfect of wedding venues.
Ah Petersfield. Is it Hampshire or is it Sussex? Is it New Forest or South Downs? Actually bordering Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire, the Manor is perfectly situated to accommodate couples from all about and, while it nestles peacefully in secluded and beautiful countryside down a two-mile-long country lane, it is really easy to get to.
The venue had given Charlie and Elliot free run of the place, which included the honeymoon suite, perfect for pampering, prepping and some nifty portrait and prep shots.
While the girls made the most of their time getting ready, the chaps respected the man-tradition of being suited and booted in the minimum possible amount of time. Which gave us a nice little window for some fun man-portraits.
Brilliant! Come on, let's do a fight shot! Ooops!! that went well!
Having scored our men's portrait shots from the list, Elliot and the boys went off to meet and greet guests. Meanwhile, back in the honeymoon suite, Charlie, stunning in white, was applying the finishing touches.
Southdowns Manor offer three different rooms licenced for civil weddings, which was handy as Elliot and Charlie had actually booked two seperate services!
I shall lead the expedition. We head North, I tell you, North!
Elliot succeeding in looking not in the least bit groom-apprehensive.
And here, below, it looks like we have the world's youngest, littlest wedding planner calling the shots
Oh... she's the flower girl! So cute!
Charlie is a singer, but of course you can't really sing during your own wedding blessing service, so the honour fell to Lara and Dean who gave a fantastic performance of John Legend's "All of Me".
I call this wedding gymnastics. Whaddya think? Not at all distracting for anyone, right?
I love every aspect of shooting weddings, whether it be the carefully-planned portraiture, the from-the-hip immediacy of the ceremony, or the quick-reflex, intuitive style-adopting needed to make the best of available light for group shots and first dance. But perhaps my favourite part is capturing candid moments during reception and speeches.
So much orange juice, and still not a decent-looking man in sight :(
Look at him down there on his knees, damn photographer won't go away. Try not to look self-conscious lol.
Me, I don't see what all the fuss is about. Much more interesting things going on over here on my i-pad.
What do you think, is this my best side?
Some couples are so great, you have to marry them twice! Having completed the wonderful, moving blessing ceremony, Charlie and Elliot moved onto the conservatory for the full legal wedding service.
You know how it goes, you drink champagne on an empty stomach, the wedding breakfast is still some way off, so you tuck into the .. er.. confetti?
Any decent wedding photographer will used development presets to give their pictures the best overall look. A very popular look is the LXC grade you can see on the group shot below. No one look is of course to everyone's taste, so - lucky Elliot and Charlie - I also edited the group portraits with a more 'standard', colourful and bright look.
What do we think? Which look is better? As the world's most super-generous photographer, I've actually supplied you with both :)
That low winter sun we were talking about.
And winter sunsets can be something else again! I was tempted to ask Charlie and Elliot if they wanted to nip out in the middle of their meal to grab a couple of dramatic, romantic portraits, but they looked so cosy and happy, and it was so cold. And we had other portrait plans for later anyway...
And in any case, soon enough, Dad kicked off the speeches...
....which were generous, touching, warm, funny...
... included something about tiny shoes...
... and some prompt-cards which were surplus to requirements.
A lot of photographers have an aversion to Pinterest boards and being given lists of shots the couple would like. As a commercials guy, I'm accustomed to the idea of working to a brief, so I love working with a couple to achieve the shots they really want. The night portraits below were someting we agreed on beforehand, and I really love them.
And sparklers! We all love sparklers! Traditionally, the width of a church aisle is the length of two swords, dating back to the days when warring clans would intermarry. In modern times, the sparkler arch is the width of a photographer carrying carrying two cameras and a cigarette lighter. How times change.
And cake! We all like cake, right?
And dancing. Nobody doesn't like dancing.
Blue Steel! Do blue steel!
So much love, so much warmth, so much laughter. What a brilliant, funny, wonderful day! Congatulations Elliot and Charlie, and all my best wishes for a wonderful life together!
Now Charlotte is the kind of girl who you might describe as a bit of a Diva. Though only, I hasten to add in a good way! We first met on her engagement shoot and hit it off from the first. I had just shot a marryoke for a lovely couple which Charlotte thought was fabulous - Charlotte being an absolute Karaoke Queen - and so it was we got chatting ten to the dozen, forgot that was what we had initially got nattering about and I didn't really give that fact a second thought until the day of the wedding. Which was when things got a little unpredictable. Again, in a GOOD way. Read on to find out how one young couple's wedding was full of enough surprises to make even a seasoned wedding photographer stay past the cut-off time!
First up, a little slice of Greenwich history. Many of you will know Greenwich and will have walked past St Alfege's church, no doubt on your way to get pie and mash rather than to say you prayers, but I'll try not to judge. An amazing choice of church for a wedding, St Alfege is full of history and character, having stood witness to Viking pillagers, the baptism of Henry VII and the German bombs during the Blitz that destroyed half its roof. Its current grade 1 listed building status is thanks to the impeccable design of Nicholas Hawksmoor, but there has been a church on this site since The Archbishop of Canterbury's martyrdom in 1012, over a thousand years ago. And no, I don't remember it well, whoever said that at the back of the classroom.
Today, just round the corner from this historic church, stands a place of even greater history... the salon that would do Charlotte's hair on the day of her wedding.
Now I've told you a little already about Charlotte, adorable, star-of-the-show Charlotte. Shall we first meet Shaun, the groom. No? Can't see him? Ah well, Shaun is the kind of guy, who.... let's just say he's modest. And time, geography and budget were against us having a second shooter. So as he was getting ready over in Canary Wharf whipping on his tie so quickly we might have blinked and not shot it, you'll have to enjoy instead Charlotte's prep for a little while before you get a glimpse of Shaun. In his place, a shot of the Greenwich Clipper, the awesome hairdressers where Charlotte got herself pampered and prepped the morning of her big day.
Below, inside the clipper, to Charlotte's left, Mother of the Bride Beverley tries not to look too nervous as her little girl gets ready for the big day. To her right, in the background, the two guys are, I think, debating the complexities of existential philosophy in a post-modern era of Foucaultian uncertainties. But it might have been shampoo, I forget.
Though on reflection - see what I did there - Charlotte herself doesn't appear to be too troubled by nerves.
The young man joining the proceedings, by the way, is brother Alex. You're going to get a little surprise from this young guy later. Just thought I'd prepare you.
Again, Charlotte was reflecting on the big day ahead... oh you know, I'm sorry. There are a couple more mirror shots later in this series, I'll try and leave the Dad jokes in my camera bag from now on, okay?
Having finished up at the Clipper, we walked round to Devonport House next to the Naval College, where yet more history was being made. Yes, the most gorgeous women ever to have worn purple on maritime soil had assembled to put on their bridesmaid dresses and makeup
bites hand to stop himself making any more reflection jokes...
While along the corridor, Charlotte and Beverley were applying the finishing touches .
I had thought the shot below was such a smart idea, it not occurring to me in the morning's rush that, like.. duh, brides don't wear hats! In fact, of course, the Jacques Vert was for Mum, with Charlotte's dress being Galina Signature.
Insert reflection joke here....? No, I'm not gonna do it. You know who the dress is by, you know where the hair was done, you know how gorgeous Charlotte looks in the soft light from the windows looking out onto the garden, it's time for the Rolls Royce, isnt it...
A classic Rolls Royce Silver Cloud, and look how proud and doting Dad is as he holds the door open for his beautiful little girl. Oh God, I'm getting mawkish, I'm getting a tear in my eye, time to zip off and meet Shaun. We've waited long enough now...
Here he is!! Looking a bit apprehensive. Or is that just expectant? He's a pretty cool customer is young Shaun, so you wouldn't expect him to be too nervous really.
Even with this gorgeous, lily-clutching lady walking down the aisle in white.
And before you say it, no Shaun and Charlotte are not in a family of giants; petite this lovely lady vicar may be but she is large in personality, generosity and charm.
I love how black and white can enhance areas of light and shadow, creating contrasty tones and artistic textures. I call this shot "view of the stalker'.
And here the stalker gets a bit of tasteful foreground blur for the blessing.
While here below, we say a big thank you to the god of wide angle lenses for helping with the most awkward angle ever invented for the signing of the register.
Huge white lilies for a bouquet, and smiles that could light up the darkest of churches.
Oh, and did we mention Rolls Royce Silver Cloud?
Is any London wedding complete without a classic red Routemaster bus? Such a lovely, thoughtful thing to do, to put on a routemaster for the guests.
And macaroons. There were macaroons for everyone. One of Charlotte's favourite things. Along with Karaoke, purple and polkadots. Much more about which, later.
We arrived at Charlton House and, oh. Look at that sky. This is meant to be a summer wedding. What's going on?
Perhaps if we do the ancient weather ritual of "pretend you're Kate Winslett in Titanic" maybe the clouds will break and the sun will show.
Hmm... no, still looking overcast and gothic. Let's just silently pray and do some more portrait stuff...
Snogging! That'll do it. That'll bring the sun out! We'll do some kissing shots with the Roller - guaranteed to push the clouds away.
Now, can we try and take the group portraits seriously. Please? Can we?
No? Okay, let's have a bit of a laugh and maybe flash some ankle. Did I mention purple? Charlotte's favourite colour. Purple. How you were going to see a lot more of it?
Built in 1607, Charlton House is a wonderful example of Jacobean architecture, with a wonderful library gallery upstairs and plenty of walnut wood-pannelling downstairs.
Oh oh, the stalker's still prowling around up there with the books, raise a glass and let the poor lonely camera dude come down and join us.
Notice the purple and polka dots? I did tell you.
And so the speeches began and I decided to make use of the purple fairy lights to create what we call bokeh, lovely blurred circles of light that can add a cinematic texture to pictures.
And then the tears started coming, as they do sometimes in speeches.
Oh how they cried....
... and smiled...
... and laughed....
...and, yes, cried some more.
When it came time to toss the bouquet, that marvellous tradition where the catcher will be the next to get married, tradition was once more respected when the catcher - lying prone here on the ground - was... a boy!
Oh, clouding over. Shall we do some more kissing see if we can get the sun back out?
I took Charlotte and Shaun for a walk in the Peace Gardens for their informal portrait session. A serene and tranquil environment of simple and subtle colours and textures, the garden was opened in 2006 to mark Amnesty's Stop Violence Against Women campaign, and is the perfect oasis for a newlywed couple to stop, take a breather and collect themselves.
And then it was back to the reception for cake, baked by Shaun's sister Hanna and then the fun and games began...
...and surprises. Most couples opt for a simple slow waltz for their first dance. Something low-key and sedate. Not these two. Without a word of warning to anyone, including me, they launched into an extended, choreographed routine that started with The Contours' Do You Love Me and The Human League's Don't You Want Me Baby
....through to Disney's Sleeping Beauty Once Upon A Dream and The Pokémon Theme tune..
...to Breaking Free from, yes, from High School Musical and The Magnetic Fields'Nothing Matters When We're Dancing.
Oh and Coolio's I'll See You When.
The next surprise was when Charlotte stepped up to the microphone to kick off the Karaoke. Now, I had some idea that Karaoke was happening, but what I hadn’t reckoned with was the sheer glorious power and talent in the voice of the Diva with the mostest.
As Charlotte delivered her incredible, note-perfect version of the classic love song I will Always Love you, she truly out-Whitneyed Whitney Houston
Followed by Shaun's brothers' version of He Ain't Heavy. By which time there wasn't a dry eye in the house.
As if this wasn't surprise enough, Charlotte's brother Alex gave an impromptu ballet performance.
I am tempted to say that Alex swooped through the air like a gazelle, reminding me of the classic description of Fred Astaire “cutting an elegant swathe across the room like an exquisite paperknife”. But that would be pretentious of me, so I won't.
Enough to say that it was amazing to watch this talented young man, now a star lawyer in the making, flying through the air.
As the evening party continued, this young lady's face, I think said it all.
And there was just time for us to grab one last romantic shot, I think my favourite of this wonderful, loving, hilarious, generous special day. Congratulations Charlotte and Shaun and all my sincerest wishes for your wonderful new life together!
I first met Craig and Sammy in a crowded bar in Paddington Basin in London after a day's work, and it was one of those wonderful encounters where you know pretty much from the outset that this will be a great wedding, that the couple are truly, madly, deeply in love, that you will hit it off immediately with them, and that it will be a big day of laughs.
Having shot their engagement in Virginia Water, and having already during that shoot, popped in at the Royal Berkshire Hotel in Sunninghill, I was familiar with the grounds and with the venue. What I hadn't expected was the incredible blaze of autumn colour that awaited us.
Originally built for the family of Winston Churchill, this lavish country hotel is housed in an 18th-century mansion just a stone's throw from Ascot Racecourse. And as you can see, you can also play a game of draughts with any nearby giants that happen to be wandering the Surrey countryside.
The rooms are large, generous and comfortable, and Sammy's suite had plenty of room for all the bridesmaids to relax and prep.
and that, of course, included Mum!
and the dress, of course...
Now it may surprise some of you to hear this, but girls take a little bit longer than guys to get ready. On this Saturday, I rocked up, bright and breezy at 10 am to find Sammy and her girl crew already in curlers and prepping. Four hours later, at 2pm, when the ceremony was due to start, they were still adding the final touches. The boys on the other hand...
The boys took a record fifteen minutes. No word of exaggeration. I've never in my life seen a swifter transformation from jeans and trainers to mourning suit and cravat.
Shooting a wedding is always an adrenaline buzz, there is always chaos and rush. But, boys, seriously, fifteen minutes?
and that goes for you dads too!
I guess there was a bit of a rush to get to the bar, so much of a rush that one or two of the chaps appear to still be empty-handed...
And then that moment when Dad goes in to make sure his daughter is okay, and it's a kind of a farewell moment, and always so touching
While the boys, well, they don't seem too worried do they?
Nah, nope, nothing to worry about...
and everything to be thankful for, with such a beautiful bride-to-be walking down the aisle
and these next two moments I love so much. There is nothing but love, youth and enthusiasm in Sammy and Craig's faces. So much hope and excitement for the future they will share together.
Despite the November cold, Sammy and Craig were game to do a little walkaround and grab a few shots. The window for couples portraits is always a nice opportunity too for a newly-married couple to gather themselves together and get away from the bustle - kind of like quiet time, except I'm there, and I'm not that quiet.
Just look at those autumn colours! And with the last rays of the sun, the light has that golden glow to it
A quick walk around the fountain and, even with Craig lending Sammy his jacket, frostbite looked to be close at hand, so we grabbed just a last few snatched portrait shots and headed indoors
For the speeches
and, inevitably, the tears...
...looks like Craig's Dad was working hard to keep those tears back as well