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!