Weddings

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!

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!

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!

NEIL AND EMMA'S ROCK AND ROLL WEDDING IN GOODWOOD

I first met Neil and Emma in the early spring of March 2016 for their engagement shoot at Pooh Corner in Sussex.  A relaxed, loving, and very together couple, it very quickly became clear that they had what all successful couples have, very real shared interests.  In their case, this included a love of Rock and Roll, a love of the countryside, and a love of aeroplanes and cars.  So what better venue could there be than Goodwood, just a little down the road in Sussex, home of the aerodrome, the race track and the beautiful sprawling Chichester countryside and grounds of Goodwood House. 

The Goodwood Hotel , set in the heart of the glorious 12 000 acre Goodwood estate is the perfect mix of high class modern comfort and style and classic rural English charm. 

And what became very quickly apparent on arrival was that Emma and Neil had two other traits in common.   Firstly, exceedingly good taste...

... and secondly a love of the colour blue.

There was blue...

More blue...

....and a bit more blue on top of that!

Joking aside, what Emma and Neil had created was a brilliant, styled rock and roll event, which didn't even for a minute go over the top.  I confess my jaw dropped a little at how impeccably they had paid attention to detail and good taste, whilst still incorporating the rock and roll into each corner of the venue and the day. 

But it wasn't ALL rock n roll....

This was after all, a wedding, first and foremost, and a chance for the beautiful bride to be made even more beautiful.

Meanwhile, down the other end of the hotel, the blue theme was being continued as Neil the groom and his best man got themselves ready.

With a little help from Mum.

Meanwhile, back at the bridal suite, excitement was mounting as Emma's family and entourage came to gee her on.

Because time waits for no bride... well it does a little bit, but you know what I mean...

With literally a couple of minutes to spare, we grabbed a moment to snatch a couple of hasty portraits.  Much as it may sound like the last thing you want to do when the clock is ticking, a moment to look out of the window and gather your thoughts, your breath, your earings, is something every bride needs.

That, and a sixpence in the shoe...

... and the last minute check that everything is perfect

and relax, ladies, relax.  Breathe in.  You're all beautiful.  It's going to be wonderful.

Meanwhile, not so relaxed, Neil was waiting dutifully, expectantly for his gorgeous lady to appear

...preceded by the most adorable flower girl sprinkling a trail of blue petals.  We mentioned the blue theme, right?

and then the bride was there, on time, resplendent in white, escorted by dapper Dad

There's nothing quite like seeing the excitement and joy when a groom slips the ring on his bride's finger

... and the slightly phased reaction of most grooms when the favour is reciprocated!

Joking aside, I can remember the butterflies of my own wedding, and it always gives me so much pleasure to capture these unique moments

After the confetti line, Neil and Emma were super keen to zip away to Goodwood Aerodrome, just a mile or so down the road.  Big fans of planes and cars, they got permission for us to grab a few quick shots out by these fantastic planes out on the airstrip.

Caption: "I told you it would have been easier to book a car"

Formerly a wartime RAF airfield, Goodwood Aerodrome has grown from a tiny satelite airfield to a flying school and centre for flying excellence.  The fantastic choice of buildings and planes left us a bit breathless given we only had a few minutes to grab some fun shots.

We got as far as the motor circuit and race track, but as grey clouds loomed and the clock ticked ever closer to party time, we reluctantly turned back to the venue.

All too soon it was time for us to whizz back to the hotel for the Wedding Breakfast and speeches

although some of the younger guests had already peaked early

others were just getting into their stride

All the frivolity was put aside for a few moments, as Neil and Emma wanted very much to do a balloon launch tribute to a dear departed family member.

It was an emotional moment for everyone, with tears and hugs.  But the couple, family and friends were so supportive of one another, that the mood of togetherness and celebration soon returned.

So much so that in amongst the formal group shots, there was space for a little bit of horseplay

"Do Dean Martin"

"Who?"

The superb wooded private driveway of Goodwood Estate was the perfect setting for a romantic walk.  I love how the wind catches Emma's veil...

And I love how the trees so perfectly frame this young couple's tender moment.

...not to say it was all soppy kisses and tender moments... this was after all a rock and roll wedding as well

with room, sure for some cute stuff

... and some more kissing as the guitar amp cake was cut with a sword

but as the first dance got underway

it was clear that rock and roll

was here to stay

and things got a little wild on the dancefloor

as the band rocked out

taking the mood up a few notches, along with the volume

oh, and pants.  Did we mention pants?

All in all, a glorious, fabulous, splendid rock and roll wedding occasion.  Congratulations and love to Emma and Neil.

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.

STEVE AND PETER'S MAYFAIR WEDDING

From St Paul's to Tower Bridge, to Mayfair to Chancery Lane and Soho, this is the story of  two lovely Aussie guys, one same-sex wedding, and more taxi-rides than most people fit into a year! 

I was delighted when Steve and Peter asked me to shoot their London wedding, not just because the locations were so cool, but also because I've known them for over a decade, having worked together in various TV broadcasting and production companies.  So I knew they were great guys, and that we would have a great day out in London. 

Instead of the traditional morning 'bride and groom prep' stuff, the guys preferred instead to meet up, already suited, to grab some informal and romantic shots of them chilling in some of London's most iconic spots, partly so they could send pics to the 'folks back home', both being Australian, and partly because, hey, London is a cool city, right?

Kicking off with a few fun shots around the Tate Modern and Millennium Bridge, with the classic view of St Paul's behind us, we moved on down towards London Bridge.

Soon it was time for the short Uber-ride down to Mayfair, to the public library in South Audley Street.

mayfair wedding same sex marriage london photography 1

Where things got a little held up when Pete's Mum, who was supposed to be giving him away and walking him up the aisle, got held up, ironically by a taxi strike. 

In the end, Steve had to lead Pete up the aisle, though thankfully Pete's Mum and Dad did make it in time for most of the ceremony.

As you can see, it was a small and intimate wedding, and again, Steve and Pete were keen to dispense with formal group shots, opting for just one simple, and touchingly close family gathering on the staircase.

.... and just one quick posed shot outside the library itself.   Many couples who marry at Mayfair Public Library like to get some romantic shots in the park next to it.  But again Pete and Steve wanted to buck convention and do something a little more interesting.  And here was their plan;  while family and friends would decamp to London's trendy Bounce club in Chancery Lane to play table tennis...

... Pete and Steve wanted some more romantic shots around Tower Bridge.

The boys were hoping for a romantic London sunset at Tower Bridge, and as luck would have it, mother nature chose that particular evening to dish up the most incredible glowing red sky as the sun dropped behind The Shard.

One of those rare cases where you don't need to ask the couple to gaze off into the sunset with a look of joy and wonderment on their faces...

With only a few minutes left before we had to jump in a taxi to catch up with the rest of the bridal party at Bounce, the boys granted me a couple of minutes to do a quick cool long exposure shot on Tower Bridge.  I had wanted to capture a passing red London Bus, to make the shot truly iconic, but with time against us, of course, there were no buses to be seen...

We got the shot, though, and then it was back in another taxi, and back to Chancery Lane, to re-join the table tennis fun in EC4.

And then it was back in a taxi yet again for the intimate wedding reception at London's Kettner's restaurant off Old Compton Street in Soho

Though once again, some people were late... :)

KIRAN AND KEVIN'S WILTSHIRE WEDDING

Kiran and Kevin chose Weddings at the Lost Orangery for their venue.  Situated just outside the picturesque village of Colerne in Wiltshire, a short drive from Bath, this stately home with private drive, ornamental lakes and breathtaking views across the rolling countryside of the Avon valley has to be the perfect location for a sumptuous, romantic wedding.

While Kiran, as bride, had the good fortune to stay in the comfort and luxury of the Orangery, others, including hardy groom Kevin, had to make do with tents pitched in the grounds outside.

Non the worse for wear for his night under the stars, Kevin was up bright and early to help with organising the day, and of course to scrub up rather nicely. 

While Kiran, out of sight, on the other side of the Orangery, looked stunning in red.

And what a blaze of colour the bridesmaids were.

Oh, and did we mention red...?

The civil ceremony was conducted in the charming pergola overlooking the ornamental lake, with guests seated around it.

A joy for the spectator, a challenge for the photographer - that's me - who, with the sun shining directly at the camera, rigged up two flashes in the ceiling of the pergola, to give that nice lit look to the ceremony.

KATRINA AND BEN'S WHITEHALL WEDDING

Katrina and Ben chose the wonderful One Whitehall Place as their venue for both the ceremony and the reception of their London Summer Wedding. 

“We’d love you to shoot our wedding video and our photography”

Being both a photographer and videographer, this is always my favourite booking.   Though sadly I can’t clone myself, and of course Ben and Katrina hadn’t expected me to be in two places at once either, meaning I brought in one of my team of videographers to work alongside me.  

One of the specialities of Delirious Films is that we can offer an all-in package.   Working with videographers and photographers across the country, I tailor every wedding to suit each couple, which means sometimes I shoot stills, and sometimes video. 

On this occasion – as I had always wanted to capture the ambience and atmosphere of this beautiful Victorian building with it’s chandeliers and pillars, its history and architecture, I took the helm as photographer and director and hired in my best videographer to shoot the movie.

On arrival, the chaps decamped to the Churchill’s Bar, drinking in not just the g&t’s but also the wonderful atmosphere of a glorious history. 

Churchill was not the only political titan to debate and relax, within the National Liberal Club’s walls: Asquith, Lloyd George and many others shared a glass and a frank exchange of views here.  Churchill’s Bar captures this spirit. It’s a place of tranquility and character: of strong words, softly spoken. Ideal for a drinks reception, for small-scale gatherings or a postprandial chat. In the spirit of this great intellectual heritage, as you can see, the boys were deep into a serious debate.  Probably about the merits of beer over gin. 

Meanwhile Katrina was getting ready in the Ladies’ Room on the top floor, a wonderful, discrete and stylish space that brought out Katrina’s already highly-developed spirit of glamour.

The ceremony took place in the The Reading and Writing Room, a magnificent room that can accommodate 120 people, with its floor to ceiling windows that allow natural daylight to flood the room. The windows provide enviable views of modern day London, looking out across the Thames to the London Eye and the South Bank.

 

As Katrina's mother is Russian, part of the ceremony was  the “Bread and Salt” tradition for  when the groom’s mother greets the bride and groom. In the old days, the groom’s mother presented the couple with “Bread and Salt” at the groom’s family house when the bride moved in to live. Nowadays, as a rule, most couples of course live separately from their parents and after an official marriage ceremony or a wedding, the “Bread and Salt” ritual takes place right in the banquet hall where the wedding celebration takes place.

The bride and groom break off pieces of bread, dip them in salt and feed each other. These actions symbolize that they’ll never be without the necessities of life and they will always take care of each other.

When it came to the formal family portraits, luck was on my side.  The best end of the library had been cleared, prior to dinner, and there was just space enough to fit and light close family members.  With a handy five minutes on my side, I quickly set up a backlight flash to help balance the sunlight, and a studio soft box to give this group shot the Downton Abbey feel.  

Then it was out for a quick couple of portraits and romantic shots for the film on Hungerford Bridge, overlooking the Thames, Big Ben, and the London Eye.

This last shot is one of my favourites, and is actually a still from our film that accompanied the photoshoot.  Feel free to take a look at the film here:  

and do please feel free to leave a comment, if you enjoyed these pictures, thanks for reading. 

Adam

Don and Kayan's Vintage London Engagement Shoot

It's not uncommon to come away from a shoot having made friends with a couple, and after Don and Kayan's fantastic London pre-wedding session around Westminster, we found we had quite rapport.  Imagine then my delight when they asked if I would also shoot their engagement at various locations around the city.  

Although this shot of the couple hand in hand beneath the blossoms in Regent's Park is the last shot of the session, it is also one of my favourites, simply because it cries out "Spring! Love! Romance!" and also because, with Kayan's lovely vintage polka-dot dress, it has a classic timeless quality to it.

We started off our shoot in fact in London's Portobello Road in Notting Hill.  Don and Kayan had dressed for the part and threw themselves fully into the Vintage theme.  While Don is the modest, slightly camera-shy kind of guy - and let's face it, most guys are - you can hardly tell from the pictures.  Part of a photographer's job is to put a couple at ease, and a big benefit to shooting an engagement is the chance to get a couple accustomed to being the attention of a day-long shoot.  

Of course a good vintage shoot is nothing without a great vintage dress.  Kayan sourced her wonderful dress and hat from bowlers in York, while the photographer - yes, me that is - happily let Don have a play with my beautiful retro-styled fuji x100s.  More of which, later on. 

Kayan had done a little modelling which is always a treat for a photographer – you can see from the poses she pulls that she has a natural flair in front of the camera.

And although we achieved amazing results in colour, helped by gorgeous weather, and the pretty, multi-coloured Victorian terraces and Villas of Notting Hill and North Kensington, still it was hard to resist adding the odd black and white.  After all, no vintage shoot surely is complete without a little monochrome styling.

The stalls and shops on the Portobello Road are a magnet for tourists and shoppers, so inevitably on a beautiful sunny London spring day, London W11 was pretty hectic, yet we managed to clear enough space for Don and Kayan to get into their shoot, and I think this in part was simply down to us having so much fun, and them relaxing and getting into the pure spirit of fun that an engagement shoot should be. 

Here in this mews off the Portobello Road you can see the fuji x100s at work.  A lot is talked about the tones and colours that different cameras produce, and while you can achieve almost anything in Photoshop, you can see the subtle difference in tones and textures between the two shots.  Above is taken with my Canon 5D mark iii on a 70-200 f2.8 while below is taken on the Fuji using it's fixed 23mm (35mm equivalent) lens.   Of course a telephoto zoom and a medium wide angle lens will produce different results, but what is interesting is not only how great the results are from such a little compact camera camera, but also how - even shooting raw - the pictures have very much their own visual quality and character.

Then it was off to Regent's Park, a location that just gets more beautiful, every time spring comes round. 

because no spring engagement shoot is really complete if you don't grab some blossoms.  This year, spring came late, so those were words I couldn't utter with assurance to some of my couples, but with Don and Kayan we hit gold!  Admittedly some of that is my gold reflector, which I think adds a fabulous look to skin tones, if you are going for something styled, warm and passionate. 

And of course, when in Regent's Park, to not feature the BT Tower would just be plain wrong, right?

I like to offer my couples as much choice as possible.  So when I deliver photos I always make sure there are a variety of edits.  Above was one colour grade that I really like, desaturating the tones of the blossoms, the green, the skin tones.   It has a subtle, slightly faded look that I think is quite classy.  But for full-on picture postcard vibrant romance, it is hard to resist the full glorious colours that a London spring has to offer. 

And sowe come to the last shot of the series which, ironically was one of the first of the shoot.  It is almost everyone’s favourite shot and I think I know why.  Somehow everything came together to perfectly reference Cartier Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Audrey Hepburn, and Paris and London in the 1950s.   Somehow we effortlessly nailed Vintage!  How did we do that?   Partly because despite the relentless modernisation and development of London, the chains and oyster bars and luxury apartments, Portobello Road has been able to hold onto the charm, the architecture, and the character that made it such an iconic location in the first place.  Somehow Notting Hill is still Absolute Beginners, it’s still The Lovers, it still has the charm of say Montmartre or Lisbon Old Town.   Somehow it is still picture-postcard London without being cliché. 

Thanks also go to Don and Kayan whose enthusiasm and sense of style mirrored this classic, timeless innocence.  They say the camera never lies, and these two were charm, style and good grace personified.   They were Grace Kelly and  Cary Grant, George Peppard and Audrey Hepburn.  All I had to do was point and click. 

GREG & TINA'S HAMPSHIRE WEDDING

Now here was an unusual situation.  I couldn't sleep and got out of bed,  early one Saturday morning, when, at six in the morning, my Facebook  pinged an urgent message from my good friend, fellow photographer Lisa Gigante-Field.  She was horribly sick and could I help her cover Greg and Tina's wedding?  No photographer ever wants to call sick on a wedding.  We'll turn up half dead, half-severed limbs dangling, on crutches, you name it.  The show, after all, must go on.  And we have committed.  So I knew she must be tremendously ill.  Sure, I can help, where is it?  Portsmouth, she replied.  A two hour drive.  No problem!  

But Lisa hesitated.  Could she really let the couple down?  It's a strange thing, but wedding photography is like no other business.  You so badly feel you owe the couple, you are so involved in their day, in their happiness, and in capturing that as you promised.  So Lisa hesitated.  She would try and shoot the wedding.  But just in case, could I hold out in case she pooped out?  Sure thing.  That's what we do, photographers.  We help each other out.  

Bravely Lisa tried to make it to the venue, but to no avail.  The virus had her in its grip.  And now it was too late for me to get there for the ceremony.  Another good pro photographer friend, close to hand, Anthony Burdett-Clark stepped in to cover the ceremony, but couldn't stay any longer.  And so it was I jumped in the car, to cover the rest of the day, foot down, whizzing my way down the M3 to Portsmouth.

That's right, let's raise a glass to the brave photographers... erm.. no that's not right.  Let's raise a glass to the wonderful Greg and Tina who were the sweetest of couples, with the loveliest of close friends and family around them to celebrate.

The wedding ceremony and reception took place at the lovely Meon Valley Country Club.  Mother nature had been kind and offered up a beautiful sunny day.

And though only a few photos are posted here, I delivered something like 500 images from the day's celebrations!  Well Lisa - and I - were very keen to show that no couple should miss out because their original photographer was struck down so ill.  And who wouldn't have wanted to keep snapping with such a fun-loving, lovely family?!

But if we were lucky with the sunshine, we were also lucky with the sunset.  And I was luckier still when Greg and Tina were happy to take a little walk with me and my studio soft box to grab a couple of romantic dusk couple portraits. 

And then it was back to the golf club house for the party.  And boy, what a swell party it was!

MEERA AND HUSSEIN'S SURPRISE ENGAGEMENT - OR HOW I ALMOST DIED SHOOTING A PROPOSAL

So let's make one thing clear, this was the most fun I've had on a friday lunchtime ever, ever ever!

So my very good friend Holly Poulter at Join the Revelry dropped me a line.  Was I free to shoot a secret surprise proposal in Hyde Park?  Without hesitation, except to double check my diary, I said yes, and here's where the craziness started. 

City banker Hussein had approached Bernadette at Dream Occasions,  together with Holly, to come up with some ideas and help organise a romantic treasure hunt proposal event across London.  The big thing, he said, was to make it a surprise.  

After an excited brainstorm, and finding out all of Meera's favourite things, it was on to the planning.

On the morning of the proposal, Hussein's brother collected Meera from her Mayfair apartment under the pretence of going to a meeting.  Instead, he gave her the first treasure hunt clue scroll - along with a single rose from Phillippa Craddock flowers, and an Artisan Du Chocolate box.

The next surprise stop was at Meera and Hussein's old apartment in Knightsbridge, just behind Harrods, where Bernadette was waiting with the next clue, and another flower. 

So far, so romantic.  And what could be more fun than being dragged away from your work in the sunshine to be taken on a whirlwind treasure hunt mystery?    

But what, I hear you asking, does this have to do with the photographer having a near-death experience?

Because, chasing them across London like a crazy fool, on a motorbike, camera bag swinging from his side, swerving and battling the insane city traffic of Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch, was our intrepid photographer, shooting the whole event like a paparazzi, with telephoto lens and ninja stealth skilz.   At least my younger friends might put it that way.  "You're too old for this lunacy", is how my wife put it.  But what fun, what thrills, dodging the insane cab and bus drivers of the capital on a glorious Autumn afternoon, to capture the special moments of two young people in love.

Ooops!  Looks like Meera spotted me, right?  By then, of course, we were at location three and it was pretty clear what would happen next.  Hussein's brother drove her on to Hyde Park, with me just a little ahead of them on my bike, and Holly and Bernadette of course, already way ahead of them, waiting with flowers and message cards. 

As Meera got out of the car at the park, in the glorious October sunshine, Hussein was there to greet her with a bouquet of enormous pink roses and hydrangeas - her favourite colour.   They walked towards the fountain in the dramatic Italian Gardens, where Bernadette and Holly had cleared the space from tourists to create a beautiful backdrop for the proposal. 

Hussein got down on one knee and pulled out the ring to ask the all important question.

.... and though by now it must have been clear what we were all up to, still you could see that somehow it still really WAS a wonderful romantic surprise for Meera!

And of course, it needn't be said, but Meera did say Yes!  Congratulations to you both Meera and Hussein, and congratulations on your forthcoming wedding day!

SAMMY & CRAIG'S SPRING ENGAGEMENT, VIRGINIA WATER

I met Sammy and Craig in a teeming bar in London's Paddington Basin development.  Despite the terrible January weather, or maybe because of it, the bar was jammed full of people to the rafters. Amidst the yelling and laughing and the loud music and the swell of human bodies, this beautiful young couple seemed to be able to separate themselves from the craziness and the hubbub, as if they existed in their own little world of peace and affection.  

It's important to meet a couple  before you take on shooting their wedding.  Wedding photography is a very personal and often intimate relationship.  If you don't get on, if there is no chemistry, then you can be sure that will be reflected in the day, and in the final pictures.   I have yet to meet a couple and not hit it off with them, and Sammy and Craig were no exception to this, their warmth and easy relaxed manner being something I knew would be reflected in their e-shoot. 

Part of any shoot is about posing.  You can't just say to a couple: "sit there and be yourselves, stand there and snog".  But there are times, as with Sammy and Craig, when a couple has that easy, relaxed way about them, when the natural affection just comes across, and then it is best to let them be themselves and to just gently, subtly place them in the right settings.

With, sure, just a little direction, here and there. 

We chose to shoot the engagement in Virginia Water, a lovely little town which takes it's name from the lake in Windsor Park nearby.   Nestled between Windsor, Ascot and Sunninghill in leafy Surrey, it is best known for the park, woodlands and waterfall that enfold the lake and is Crown Estate property. 

As well as the famous totem pole, which we didn't have time to get to, there are also historic Roman Ruins - originally the remains of a three-thousand-year-old Phoenician city known as Lepcis Magna which were given to George IVth as a gift.   While once, they would have made an amazing, atmospheric backdrop to any shoot, they are now fenced off, making them a nice enough background, but not quite the photographic wow factor we were looking for. 

Still, the sun was shining.  We had been gifted that rare and beautiful thing, a perfect English spring afternoon.  So we grabbed a few natural shots at the ruins, and made our way to the waterfall. 

A magnet for tourists, not just from the UK, but all over Europe, the waterfall at Virginia Water gave us that fantastic glittery light, with some gentle shady spots where Sammy and Craig could relax in each other's arms while I coped with vertigo and tourists.  

Many might think that a crowded tourist attraction is the worst place to shoot in, particularly as these shots were taken on the little bridge directly in front of the waterfall, and on a path deeply trodden by almost anyone who comes here.  In fact, it's probably the best way a couple and their photographer could warm up for the public marathon appearance that is their wedding day.  If you can relax with your photographer, and be at ease in front of the camera in public, then that bodes very well for your big day, when you may well be appearing in front of hundreds of people. 

As you can see Sammy and Craig had little trouble relaxing in front of the camera, and this may be in part down to the choice of lenses.  Unlike a lot of photographers, I carry a 70-200 portrait zoom, which means I can work at a slighter greater distance from my couples when necessary, which helps them feel the session is more discrete, more relaxed, and gives them space to laugh and love.   Also, I am a firm believer that every shoot should be fun.  Whether it's a couple shoot, a wedding shoot, or a high-end corporate or commercial shoot, there should be fun and laughter. 

So there you have it, a simple mix of two people in love, of black and white and colour, of horsing around, and just walking had in hand.   No forced poses, no awkward, constrained set-ups, no crazy complicated lighting, and absolutely no stress.  What every shoot should be - an easy mix of joy, fun, love and laughter.  Thanks Sammy and Craig for a great afternoon, can't wait for the wedding day at the Royal Berkshire Hotel.  Gonna be amazing!