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CHARLOTTE AND SHAUN'S FUN,  ROMANTIC GREENWICH WEDDING

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CHARLOTTE AND SHAUN'S FUN, ROMANTIC GREENWICH WEDDING

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 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!

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LEE AND CHARLEY'S AMAZING MOVIE-THEMED COSPLAY WEDDING, HOCKLEY

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LEE AND CHARLEY'S AMAZING MOVIE-THEMED COSPLAY WEDDING, HOCKLEY

Or how I survived flu, helicopters, a disgruntled Batman, English rain and the Predator to shoot one of the most epic weddings of 2016.

"There's going to be movie character special guests, and we've hired a marquee,  the wedding will take place under a draped parachute, and we're both flying in in helicopters." 

Well - to say I was excited about this wedding is an understatement to say the least.   When a costume and set designer marries a helicopter pilot, you know you're in for one amazing day.   Sure, we had rain and mud, and sure there was the occasional hitch, what with this incredible duo having created and organised the whole thing themselves.  But Charley and Lee pulled it off, running the whole thing in a marquee and field in Hockley in Essex, and they did it with incredible spirit and style.  Read on to see just what a crazy adventure the day was.

The day started with a couple of fairy bridesmaids, doing their hair, as fairy bridesmaids do.

Despite Charley's house being only a literal stone's throw from Southend Airport in Essex, her bridesmaid's Atlanta and Mimi had no idea of the aerial surprise awaiting them. 

As a costume designer and art director, Charley;s yard was littered with the beginnings and endings of semi-human projects.  But I, her supposedly clued-up photographer, still didn't really have a handle on the proceedings that were to take place. 

For Charley, prep was not something she really wanted shot, but was very keen for us to capture the moment when her Dad saw her in her amazing Gainsborough dress and purple hair.  Comprising a design of ruched pink with silver bows, and designed by Ian Stuart, Charley's fabulous dress was a real crowdstopper

And so, in blustering wind and rain, we made our way to the secret location, where the first surprise awaited Dad and the bridesmaids

October may not bring the best weather for helicopters, but this Autumn Wedding had been a year in the planning and our intrepid couple were not about to let a little thing like rain stop  play.

I just love the look on Mimi's face here!  I'm pretty sure we all pull that face when we're in for an unexpected helicopter ride.  In her hand you can see she's holding a go pro.  As there wasn't room for me in the helicopter, with Dad getting the ultimate treat of riding shotgun next to the pilot, I loaned Mimi my Go pro and Atlanta my little Fuji x100T.

Dad's looking pretty thrilled too, right?  If a little apprehensive. 

And if you have never felt the rush of taking off in a helicopter, take if from me, the next best thing is the rush of being right underneath it as the rotor blades chop the air and send wild gusts of wind barrelling over you. 

So glad I had spare cameras to lend the girls so that we could still get footage for both the album and the film we were also shooting.  We'll all have to imagine for now the thrill of flying over Southend Pier, but watch this space and the film should be posted up in a few weeks' time.

Meanwhile, my crew and I were rushing across essex to try and beat the helicopters, knowing they wouldn't be up in the air all that long.  Sometimes being a wedding photographer is like being a paparazzi, all car chases and last-minute, snatched shots.   When we arrived at the venue, the surprise guest movie characters had also just got there. 

War Machine - from the Hollywood movie Iron man - looking suitably unimpressed by the English Weather.  You can almost imagine him thinking "It's not like this in Los Angeles".  Nonetheless, despite the rain, it was a warm day, which gave rise to the best quote of the day, when I was setting up the styled portraits and asked "Where's War Machine?" only to get the answer; "He's feeling a bit hot and tired so he's gone for a lie-down".   Not what you expect from War Machine now is it? Lol.

Safely landed, with classic chivalry, Charley's debonair helicopter pilot helps her down.

and the girls, wings adjusted now they are on dry land, get our glamourous bride ready for her walk to the aisle across the fields. 

And how beautiful does Charley look as her Dad walks her down the aisle, beneath a canopy of real parachute silk.

To be married by Gandalf, no less.   Well this was a fantasy movie-themed wedding, so honestly, who else?

Led by Gandalf, Charley and Lee made their way across the mud to the marquee to sign the register...

While Pyramid Head from Silent Hill and Indiana Jones, ominously, quietly watch over proceedings.  What could possibly go wrong?  Gulp. 

Then it was back to the parachute awning for the final vows.

To rapturous applause and smiles all round.  Which is what weddings should be about.

.... unless you're Batman.  Batman didn't look too happy.  Predator looked happy enough, but Batman looks like he's been waiting too long for his glass of Prosecco. 

Happily, Catwoman seemed to be having a pretty Grrrr....eat day!

and fresh from his recuperative lie-down, War Machine came to join the  proceedings.  I mean, you can't have family group photos without War Machine, right?

So our 'Everybody' group shot included those extra special surprise guests.

One of the big challenges to this wedding, was trying to combine the movie and fantasy style elements with the more traditional.  As you can see below, and with some other staged photos, I have deliberately gone for a very stylised look, desaturated and high contrast, to capture a bit of  the Marvel Comic poster look. 

And then, boom, a dramatic turnaround in style, with warm flattering colours, and soft high-exposure skin tones for the straightforward group shots.

It helped a little that the sun came out, though of course, as you'll know, we photographers become like vampires in the bright midday sun and tend to run for cover to get that lovely glowing skin tone in our group portraits. 

Loving all the purple.  You can see how Charley being such a talented art director paid off on the day.

And then things got a little strange, with Predator deciding to strangle the groom.  Lucky we had our very own rock and roll bride to come to the rescue.

For a moment it looked like he was going to chicken out and run away, stealing the helicopter

But we still needed it for some nice couple shots, so Kick-ass bride Charley saw him off.

and once more, the contrast from the day came through, from this lovely, romantic sunny walk from the helicopter... to a Comic Con, Marvel portrait set up with Charley and Lee's special guests.

Here's a still frame from the film which we were shooting at the same time - my videographer very kindly displaying my bald patch to the world, and also how I skimp on assistants and press-gang groomsmen into holding flash guns for me

Having been together four years, Charley and Lee clearly are relaxed together and were on totally the same page when it came to their photographs, easily posing with their Comic Con pals Batman, Catwoman and War Machine.  Me, I still can't decide whether I prefer the colour or the black and white.  What do you think?

And then it was onto the reception, watched over by a host of characters, not least, Charley's fantastic Alien.

and Spiderman...

and Star Wars Storm Troopers...

 ... and the Terminator and....

....and...and... oh my God!!  Is that Arnie Schwartzenegger?!   No, okay, it isn't, but a hell of a good replica Terminator, no?

And then, just as the meal was getting underway, and it looked like we could all take a little breather, along comes that rare miracle of nature, a DOUBLE RAINBOW!

Well if you care even a jot about the pictures you take, then you can't possibly let that go.  So even though I was dying on my feet from flu and in need of a rest and some paracetamol and wedding barbecue food, I grabbed my awesome couple, who were totally game, and we made it outside in the light returning rain, to get this shot.  It may be an imperfect shot, but that isnt the point is it.  A lot of photographers would have passed on this moment in order to grab a bite and take a well-earned rest.  But some of us, the hardcore ones, we go the extra mile.  And I'm so so glad we did. 

Post wedding breakfast and onto the speeches.  And pretty soon there was that classic moment when the father of the bride delivers his speech, and the bride reaches for the nearest handy machine pistol and puts it to her head... because we all keep a few guns on the table at a wedding, right?   

What I loved so much about this wedding was that it was totally bonkers and yet at the same time, was completely organised and made total sense.... also, thankful the guns were not loaded...

and to top it all, it was someone's birthday!  

For most couples, when it comes to cutting the cake, they reach for the lovely silver cake knife left out for them. 

Occasionally, some couples it seems, prefer something a little less delicate.  Like - oh I dunno - like say a HUGE TERMINATOR-STYLE MACHINE GUN!?!

... or a Star Wars Light Sabre perhaps?  Hard to know which would work best, given you have an Empire Strikes Back/Star Wars cake and a Jaws movie cake...

At weddings of course, a lot of people bring their kids, and Alien was no exception.  He managed to mingle quite well really, making a whole bunch of new friends without, for once killing anyone.

And so to the first dance, and, naturally, it was out with the light sabres, like you do. 

Although it didn't take long for love and romance to win the day over battling it out to save the Universe

As the party progressed, Superman kept a watchful eye over the guests...

Though it didn't stop one lady from stealing the limelight as she danced with an inflatable stormtrooper.... like you do....

But with all the craziness, and all the hard work, and all the amazing art direction, still the abiding memory for everyone from Lee and Charley's wedding will be the simple, warm feeling of togetherness, the abundance of love, and most of all, the sheer romanticism of the day. 

Congratulations Lee and Charley and wishing you both a fantastic (literally) future together x

PS, if that has left you hungry to see more, here's the film we shot that day too - complete with bridesmaid go pro footage, some awesome first dance music and, in case we hadnt mentioned it too much before, some Helicopter action!

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TONY & KATE'S HERTFORDSHIRE WEDDING

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TONY & KATE'S HERTFORDSHIRE WEDDING

Sometimes you meet a young couple and there is something so generous about their spirit, and so serendipitous about the day, that everything just falls into place.  I won't ever forget how Tony's simple and humble recommendation "I think there's a field just up here with quite a nice view when the sun goes down"  would result in a red gold glory of poppies and the sunlight.  Possibly the most dramatic and beautiful sunset of the summer of 2016 and we were right there.  But enough about us, this is about them.  Tony and Kate, and the story of their day.

Which started off in brisk and elegant fashion at the Sun Inn in Hitchin, a beautifully, tastefully restored 16th century coaching inn located in the heart of one of Hertfordshire's many charming market towns.

While you can arrange to have your whole wedding ceremony and reception at The Sun, Tony had opted for reception only.  And a little groom prep. 

One of my favourite ring shots ever, achieved in a couple of minutes with the help of some optics behind, and a purple shot glass to balance the bands on.  Look close enough and you can make out a ring-reflection selfie.

But enough about me, meet the boys.

Tony and his best man, looking suave, dapper and handsome, as they tog up for the big day ahead

with of course, the help of a stiff drink, a good pair of cufflinks...

...and...er... a couple of goes on the roundabout in the market square!

Meanwhile, down the road at Kate's house, the mood was surprisingly calm and serene

with ample time for me to capture some of the lovely bridal details

Dad's garden had been carefully and lovingly tended, with a bit of extra attention, knowing that we might well have time to grab a few shots out there.

Beautiful Kate, elegant and modest as a true English Rose, was the perfect model, allowing me to experiment a little with the light and grab these portraits, which, because we had that little extra bit of time, I could make look a little like paintings.

It's a curious irony of wedding photography that often has to be explained - most weddings are summer weddings when the sun is bright and high, and yet us photographers take to the shade.  These shots show why a little.  See how the light reflects back onto the girls, so that even though they are shaded, their skin seems to have this lovely glow. 

A nervous moment for Tony when a car identical to the one driven by his father-in-law-to-be turned up twenty minutes early.  When he'd finally recovered from a close encounter with a near heart attack, it turned out of course to be the bridesmaids arriving just on time. 

St Mary's Church in Hitchin is the largest parish church in Hertfordshire and is remarkably large for a town of the size of Hitchin.  This has been cited as evidence of how Hitchin prospered from the wool trade. The present church stands on the site of two previous churches and dates from the 14th and 15th centuries, with its tower dating from around 1190.  As well as being generously proportioned and impeccably restored, it is also wonderfully light inside.  No gothic gloom here.

As Tony's expression testifies.  The vicar, by way of a bonus, it should be said is a lovely, warm, generous and good humoured priest, welcoming all with a smile and a twinkle in his eye.

While every photographer will strive to capture the bride arriving...

... I think we all treasure those delicious candid moments of apprehension as the groom waits inside

Owner of the highly successful production company HitchinTV, Tony has a keen eye himself, and was eager to try all kinds of different portrait shots.  I think I may have gone a little over-gothic with this one, but it was the one overcast moment of the day, so I like to think at least we were being in some way true to the day.

Back at the Sun Inn, meticulous preparations had seen the reception room beautifully decorated with restrained good taste.

While the party got started, Tony was keen to see if we could grab the sunset shot we had talked about.  We jumped in his car and he showed his true Italian heritage by racing across town with all the speed and dexterity of a Formula 1 driver keen to get home for his champagne dinner.  And boy was it worth the pedal to the metal.  

When we arrived at the chosen location, we were greeted by this stunning field of poppies. Capturing a sunset is always a matter of luck - will cloud cover ruin it?  Will there be too little cloud to make it truly dramatic.?

On this occasion we were blessed with one of the loveliest and most dramatic summer sunsets.  

And as dusk quickly settled in we even had a go at a Gone With the Wind moment.

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