I'd shot the wedding of some good friends of Simon and Nikki's a few months previously and, knowing the crowd from then, I knew that this was going to be a hugely fun day. I'm a big fan of traditional at-home weddings, getting ready in the house where you grew up, putting a marquee up in the garden, making your vows in the local village church. There's something really intimate and personal about it, the culmination of a journey from child to grown-up. Plus its completely and utterly unique down to the smallest detail.
The house was the usual hive of activity that you'd expect on the morning of a wedding day but there was also an air of calm (from what I could tell anyway, maybe it was the metaphorical equivalent of the swan appearing to move gracefully over the surface of the water whilst paddling furiously underneath). All seemed well and in fact, the biggest priority seemed to be that folks could watch the Badminton Horse trials on the TV whilst enjoying a cup of tea. See? Calm.
Leaving the girls to it, there was just enough time to pop over to the town of Marlborough, park up (no mean feat on a Saturday) and head over to Rick Steins where Simon was having lunch with his chaps. I took some shots inside and out (for the group shots I always say "pretend we're shooting the cover of your difficult second album" - it seems to work), then left them to their Aperol Spritz's as I headed back to the house for the final preparations.
The beauty of this wedding was that the church was within walking distance from the house so after Nikki had put her Louise Selby dress on and the last button had been fastened, I headed over to capture some of the guest arrivals, say a quick hello to the Vicar (always very important), capture Simon waiting nervously at the alter and then head outside for the arrival of the Bride.
There is a village tradition in Milton Lilbourne where every time there is a wedding, the locals all gather on the lawn opposite the church, drink champagne and wait to toast the arrival of the Bride and wish her well before she heads into the church. How amazing is that? To see that level of support from the local community was truly wonderful to see and really added to the uniqueness of the whole day.
Bells were rung, hymns were sung, vows were spoken and then there was THE kiss. I don't know if Simon was nervous, or had been planning it but seriously, take a look at the picture because THAT is how you should kiss the Bride.
It was a real 'I'm going to wrap you in my arms, sweep you off your feet and give you a smooch reminiscent of Clark Gable puckering up to Vivien Leigh in Gone With the Wind' type kiss that every Groom could learn from. Seriously, Simon should release a tutorial or a book on it, take it on Dragon's Den. It was that good.
Did I mention the vintage Volvo? Simon has one. I don't know much about cars, in fact I know nothing. But what I do know is that this car was beautiful and what a car to whisk your Bride off in after leaving the church. It had clearly been given a lot of love, was bedecked in ribbons and with the chrome glinting in the Wiltshire sunshine, it looked fantastic.
Whilst the newlyweds did a scenic tour of the Wiltshire countryside, everyone walked back to the house and the wonderful marquee, courtesy of the team at Marquee Vision. Beautifully laid out, it was filled with light thanks to the sun shining through the large windows and the guests made their way in to enjoy canapés courtesy of the excellent Fond of Food whilst they waited for the arrival of the Bride and Groom.
After this, the day kind of went by in a blur. From family pictures (there's a new saying now - instead of "cheeeeeeese!" we went for the excellently self-deprecating "it's all about meeeeeeeee!"), to balancing on a step ladder in order to shoot the "everyone at the wedding" group shot that I love doing, to grabbing a bit of one on one time in the fields with Simon and Nikki. Everything ran seamlessly into the amazing wedding breakfast provided by Annabel and her team from Fond of Food (I know it was amazing because they looked after me very well) after which, it was time for the speeches to take centre stage in the marquee.
It's always funny with speeches because essentially, they are words and anecdotes about people that, on the surface, I don't really know all that well. But I love listening to the speeches, it's one of my favourite parts of the day and I always find myself laughing behind the camera. I feel like I'm connecting with the couple and their family and friends even more. And, of course, it's a great time to get guest photos, capturing those moments when, after a punchline is delivered, everyone roars with laughter.
So, after a lot of laughs, love and rosé it was time to hit the dance floor. Now I've seen a few wedding bands in my time but the entertainment provided by 29 Fingers was probably the best I have ever seen. Not only was the choice of tracks that they played spot on but the energy that poured off them and over the guests was really on a whole other level. I don't think anyone left the dance floor for the whole night. With props, audience interaction and a slight dash of craziness, 29 Fingers were the real deal and an inspired booking. It's not often you see the lead guitarist, wearing a blue wig, jump off the stage, run out the door, do a lap of the marquee, run back in and jump back on stage, all whilst playing. Probably one of my favourite pictures of the night was of the Bride and her bridesmaid up on stage playing tambourines along with the music. The band took audience inclusivity and fun to a whole extra level. Seriously, I can't recommend these guys highly enough.
Sadly, the day soon came to an end and it was time to leave. But I headed home with my ears ringing, my energy levels still high and lots of memories and pictures to go through.
A huge thanks to Nikki and Simon for having me along for the ride and for their family and friends for making me feel so welcome. It was one heck of a day!
Nikki and Simon used the services of some wonderful suppliers and I'd like to give them a mention as they did so much to help make the day the success that it was.
Brides dress: Louise Selby
Flowers: Flower Fairies (and also Nikki's Aunt!)
Marquee: Marquee Vision
Cake: Cannings Cake Creations
Caterers: Fond of Food
Band: 29 Fingers