Weddings

CRAIG AND SAMMY'S FIREWORKS NIGHT NOVEMBER WEDDING

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!

Group shots - what to do, and how to have fun with them

The formal group shots.  Something every wedding photography moans about.   You have to organise all these people intent on having fun somewhere else, determined to chat, to get drunk, to socialise, to congratulate, to cop a crafty snog, or nip off for a sneaky smoke.  Goddamnit, these people are here to be photographed, not to have fun, right?  

Wrong. 

They're here to have fun.    People want to look their best and act their best, and of course they've come to wish the bride and groom a lifetime of fulfilled dreams, love and happiness.  But they've also come to have a laugh, to meet old friends and new, to let their hair down and enjoy themselves.  And part of a photographer's job should be not just to not get in the way of that fun, but to add to it. 

While some weddings can be chaotic when it comes to formal group portraits, it is crucial to have an idea of what you want, so that time isn't wasted herding your friends and family with a megaphone.  (In the wedding below, the best man actually used one!)

Every wedding is different and should be as you want it.  My only recommendation would be to try to keep things to a sensible limit.  We photographers want to document a day of love and fun and we want you to have fun, rather than be worrying about the 53rd set of formal shots of your third aunt twice removed.  

With this in mind, as a help to all couples, I have put together a simple template of which groups are good to include, though, as I say, the choice is always yours. 

Bride and Groom and Brides parents

Bride and Groom and Grooms parents

Bride and Groom and both sets of parents

Bride and Groom and Bridesmaids

Bride and Groom and Bestman/ushers/suits

Bride and Groom Bridesmaids, Bestman/ushers/suits

Large group shot

Bride and Groom and any special family members.

and remember - have fun!

 

Which isn't to say formal group shots should all be wacky, ad-hoc, crazy affairs.  More often than not, the ceremony and the gathering call for refinement, formal composition and a respectful portrait of family and friends. 

 

But this shot, lit and composed and shot at the wonderful One Whitehall Place in London's Westminster embankment is a great example of the opportunity a group formal portrait offers a photographer to get creative.  When nervous planners are urging you to "just pop out in the park" or grab a few shots on the stairwell, it is often too tempting to take the quick and easy option, rather than to see that something more challenging will result in something more rewarding.  Here I lit with two small flashes behind and a studio portrait soft box in front and arranged the family in the Gladstone library to create a Downton Abbey look, perfectly in keeping with the assured and sophisticated mood of the day. 

Which isn't to say the grand, sweeping staircase of One Whitehall Place shouldn't also get a look-in when it came to the group shot.  In fact it was ideal for placing all of the guests in a sumptuous surrounding.

And there are other times when circumstances force you to have a bit of fun and jazz things up.  We all pray the day will be wonderful and sunny, but as Brits, we are also philosophical to know that those rain clouds are never far away.  So it was with Heather and Sam's Dartmouth wedding. It rained ALL DAY LONG!  And it is then, at a beach-party wedding, when a photographer, has no real alternative to shooting outdoors, that the last thing anyone needs is a stiff pose and a long face. 

Although, I have to confess, the most fun I've had to date, was shooting the group shots at London's Zetter's Town House in Clerkenwell, at the reception held for Jerome and Rosie after their Islington Town Hall Wedding.  Having arrived breathless with excitement on a classic route master bus, and eager to party on at The Artisan Clerkenwell, Jez and Rosie were more than happy nonetheless to give a little time and creativity to their group shots.  The only challenge being that the outside of The Artisan is really just a courtyard.  As Jez had stayed the night before in Zetter's, they kindly let us shoot in their townhouse club, with the proviso that we were quick.  For a Saturday night, the townhouse was blissfully quiet, and so we snuck in, at first with the idea of merely shooting some classic, stylish and contemporary group shots.  

And then this happened.

Jez and Rosie, and their family were immediately game for some fun.  They're a fun and funky bunch and responded to every whacky idea with an eager grin.  "No, we don't want stuffy posed pictures, do whatever you want", they said. "Dangerous words", I said.  "Bring it on", they replied. "Do Charlie's Angels", I said.  And this is what I got.   

"Now all have a terrible family fist fight, really try and kill each other", I urged, as, so naturally you do at a wedding.  And this is what I got. 

This image makes me smile every time I see it, front lit with a studio soft box, a little kicker backlight from a flash on the floor, and light coming in from the window, but most importantly, a wonderful, fun-loving family, all game for a laugh.  

Of course, not every formal group shot can or should be like this.  But sometimes, you wish maybe just a few more were. 

So that is probably the long and the short of it - keep it simple, keep it intimate, keep it fun. Try not to squint (we do try and shoot in shade, and if there isn't any then we battle with the sun behind you)

and please, not too many this big:

 

and smile, don't forget to smile x