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
and last but not least, to round off the evening, what else, on November the 5th, but sparklers and fireworks.
Congratulations Sammy and Craig and wishing you both a wonderful, happy, long life together!