Four day Islington Town Hall wedding + epic weekender Widcombe Grange wedding

bohemian wedding ceremony

*Thank you to the couple for giving me permission to use this selection of photos*

Islington Town Hall wedding

Where do we start with this brilliant couple? When I met them in Soho I really hoped they would book me for their Islington Town Hall wedding ceremony and epic weekender Widcombe Grange wedding in Somerset. We chatted about the festivals they'd been to and I could see very quickly that they love to laugh together and have a real zest for life. I met them for their civil ceremony to do the legal bits with some of their friends. They held the legal ceremony in the Mayor's Room of Islington Town Hall, which is suitable for smaller wedding parties. I've shot so many Islington Town Hall weddings but in five years I think this was the first time I'd shot in this room!

Widcombe Grange wedding welcome drinks

Days later, I headed down to Somerset to shoot the three days at Widcombe Grange. We started with some relaxed welcome drinks and as the couple's immediate family were staying on the grounds, their family enjoyed some pool time. Some of the guests had a go at lawn croquet and some other games like frisbee, table tennis and badminton. This is the upside of weekender weddings for me, getting to shoot interesting and creative family portraits in a documentary style. It is so so important to tell the fuller story around the wedding, as weddings are about the people! I love seeing people practising their speeches, seeing the dynamics between couples... it all means I get a good understanding of how to shoot the main day's action.

Widcombe Grange wedding: The bohemian outdoor ceremony

On the main day, the couple got ready on site: Widcombe Grange is an old private estate. The groom and his friends set up the ceremony space in the morning- the beauty of having a personal ceremony on private land is that you can choose exactly where you want to share that special moment. They decided to set up a gorgeous heavy wooden frame, decorated with gorgeous flowers, in front of a stunning warm Autumnal tree. The couple bought several persian style rugs in red and blue and laid these out to form the ceremony space and the aisle. They then completed the look with decorations of wicker love seats and Moroccan lamps.

The bride wore a simply stunning diamante backed dress, with a very delicate light floaty skirt. The groom got ready in the living room downstairs with a few of his closest friends.

The ceremony was conducted by two of the couple's dearest friends, and personal words were read by friends, the groom's niece sang a song which reduced some of the guests to tears, and the bride and groom exchanged touching vows.

 

After the ceremony the couple were congratulated by emotional loved ones and all the guests moved to the front of Widcombe Grange for drinks, traditional lawn games and amazing canapes provided by Milkshed Catering.

The couple has also provided a temporary tattoo station for their friends to enjoy! Which definitely got more utilised as people got more drunk towards the end of the night.

After a short drinks reception, the couple headed to the white open sided marquee for dinner. The couple, best man and bride's father gave speeches, followed by an impromptu bride's speech where she shared a fun story of a skiing holiday she and a guest had gone on.

After dinner they had a surprise for the guests of DIY coffee martinis, which added a bit of fun action as each table tried to up the stakes on the cocktail shaking!!

By the time dinner had finished it started to get darker so everyone moved towards the barn where two bars and the DJ were set up. There was also a vintage photobooth in a camper van, the temporary tattoo and glitter station and marshmallow toasting by the fire to make smores!

Widcombe Grange wedding... The morning after

So after what can safely be described as an epic wedding day, the guests came back to Widcombe Grange for the most obvious activity for hungover and potentially still drunk people... archery. That's right, pointy dangerous things. Let's do this! Bloody Marys, more pool time, a burger station. What a way to end a totally unique, incredible wedding of two truly free wonderful humans!

hungover wedding guests

flamingoes in pool

bloody mary

creative photojournalism

archery wedding

wedding archery

archery wedding

saying goodbye wedding

wedding guests hugging

creative photography

creative documentary photography

archery at wedding

 

A musical London Islington Town Hall wedding and party at The Depot

musical wedding

Islington Town Hall Wedding

Steph and Ricky are a fabulously fun couple who I was very excited to shoot for as they had the perfect level of fun and chill in their wedding approach. They planned to have their wedding ceremony at my favourite London wedding registry office, Islington Town Hall, before moving their guests onto the casual urban bar and restaurant venue The Depot. I started the day with Steph, her parents and her bridesmaids getting ready in an airbnb rental, she was helped into her dress by her friend Anna who owned a bridal shop and her hair and make up was by Lipstick and Curls. Steph wore a gorgeous soft toned floral embroidered dress with a tulle skirt. The bridesmaids got into their matching baby pink dresses and we all jumped in taxis to The Vineyard bar opposite Islington Town Hall, where I met Ricky and his family. Ricky wore a fabulous dark blue checked suit with bright yellow button holes. After the lovely Islington Town Hall wedding ceremony Steph, Ricky and I wandered around the local area for some quick photos, before heading to the Depot

The Depot Wedding Venue

The Depot is a dark warm industrial style wedding venue that was beautifully decorated with greenery by Grace & Thorn, family-made bunting and personalised signs punning the couple's surnames. Steph's brother Jonny's company We Are Flamingo designed the orders of service, coasters with a custom Steph and Ricky face design on, readings and website. Some of the guests dressed up with traditional boater hats to hand out alcoholic ice lollies from We Are Pops during the drinks reception. Their dinner was a standing BBQ buffet by Big Roast, after which they had Crosstown doughnuts, delicious wedding cake and a few speeches including a bride's speech from Steph.

Musician's wedding

Steph is a talent agent and Ricky and his best man were in the band The Ruskins, so there was a running theme to the wedding reception of music and performance. After the speeches the couple themselves performed a special song, and their friends then took over an open mic night with loads of singing, including from Steph's choir The Adam Street Singers and two thirds of Ricky's band!

 

Anna and Steph’s DIY gay pride rainbow wedding at Bellows Mill

gay pride wedding

Rainbow wedding in a marquee

I went up to Bedfordshire the day before to shoot a bit of Anna's family helping them set up. Bellows Mill is a barn and marquee-in-a-field type venue that sits next to a stunning lake. It has cottages where you can stay on site, making it ideal for an intimate relaxed festival style wedding. Anna and Step hung rainbow coloured Chinese lanterns all over the marquee, and named the tables after important music albums in coloured bottles with descriptions and stories behind the meaning of each album for them. Anna says "We decided early on that good food, good music and fun were of central importance to our wedding and all the fiddly bits (e.g. stationary, paper invitations, seating plans) were less important. We aimed for a relaxed wedding with lots of 'chill out' opportunities for guests, which turned out to be very welcome as the day was super super hot! Due to our outfits being less bridal than is traditional; and the day in general being less 'wedding-y,' we wanted to be a bit more traditional/bridal in the barn decoration so we went for cream and gold. The theme to our reception and wedding cake was Pride colours; the vibrancy reflected the festival feel which we aimed to bring to the day.

We realised early on that it is hard to find a wedding venue that allow for the flexibility that we wanted. A lot of venues require you to go with set caterers, decorations and/or bands etc.. When we found Bellows Mill we knew we were on to a winner as they were so welcoming and worked with us to facilitate all the elements that we wanted. The set up day before the wedding was a series of mini disasters including a car breakdown, a fire (!) and illness. It meant we still had some prep on the morning of the wedding and we didn't even have time for a rehearsal of the ceremony. But all our family and friends grouped round to help us and the actual day ran so smoothly, none of it mattered."

 

Anna and Steph and their family got ready on site, wearing the most awesome orange and blue suit combos! As two women they decided not to go down the traditional 'one dress, one suit' route. Anna knew that she wanted to wear blue and was inspired by Janelle Monáe's style to wear a suit with braces. Steph decided to go for a bridal jumpsuit in her favourite colour, orange (with a touch of lace). For both of them, pockets were an important feature. Anna's bespoke suit was designed by a fabulous online tailor; iTailor.com. The electric blue silk gave that 'Pow effect' that she was looking for and she had orange buttons to match Steph! Steph's jumpsuit was designed and made by Tina Waller Bridal Wear. She arrived at Tina's studio with the unique request, which Tina brought to reality. Steph and her mum attended a number of design consultations as the outfit was created and Tina's welcoming, knowledgeable and fun approach made the whole experience unforgettable. The couple said "seeing each other for the first time in our outfits on the day was a standout moment which Marianne captured so perfectly. "

Barn wedding ceremony

They had our ceremony and reception at Bellows Mill, on the edge of the Chilterns in Bedfordshire. They were married in the barn in a ceremony where they wanted to emphasise being mindful in the moment. They said "the emotional words of the day are another standout memory for us both; our vows, the readings and the speeches." The ceremony was very moving with a few tears from Steph and the guests. Speaking about their engagement, they said "it was quite early on in our relationship that we decided that marriage was probably on the cards for us, although at that stage it was not legal in the UK. For many years we focused on our careers and engagement kept getting put off despite our many conversations about it. Eventually Anna hatched a plan. We had a summer holiday in Slovenia and took a trip to Bled island in the middle of Lake Bled in the northwest of the small country. On the day Steph thought that we were on the brink of an argument because Anna was acting so strangely. It later transpired that Anna was preoccupied because the island of Bled was so crowded and she could not find the right place to pop the question. Eventually Anna found a small wall which she made Steph perch on. Steph was confused as Anna fumbled around in her bag but eventually when Anna pulled out a ring box, it all became clear. Anna, not wanting to be presumptuous about Steph's tastes, had arranged a ring fitting at a small jewellers on Chancery Lane on their return. Steph said yes! Prepared with a piece of ribbon, Anna fashioned ribbon rings for both of them to wear in the meantime. Steph cried for the whole boat journey back to the mainland."

Outdoor drinks reception

After the beautiful ceremony all the guests moved to the lakeside for Champagne, whilst family and friends jammed with percussion and brass instruments; and played lawn games.

Trinidadian wedding dinner

After a few drinks, the guests sat down in the stunning marquee where they enjoyed a welcome speech from the couple, followed by a Trinidadian feast by the lakeside. Trini Caribbean Catering made a mouth-watering menu of all their Trinidadian favourites, including the best dhal puri roti and doubles they've ever had! After dinner they had more emotional speeches, vegan puddings by Vinnie and their Godmother Christine, floral cupcakes by their friend Sukanaya and prideful wedding cake. Steph paid homage to Anna's love of slam poetry and give her speech in the slam poetry style with everyone clicking at the moments of appreciation!

 

 

After the dinner the guests enjoyed the sunset and the party kicking off with a number of impromptu moments which we are still talking about today: one of the children asked the band if she could sing us a song and promptly got up on the stage in the break between their sets; one of our teenage guests performed a stunning ballet piece for us which inspired one of the youngest guests to attempt to recreate her moves. The band Hot Keys also played our favourite Tina Turner song, Proud Mary, to which we had a choreographed routine ending in an unchoreographed collapse at the end for Steph! The incredible seven piece band, The Hot Keys, kept the party going late into the evening with the help of an alfresco bar with plenty of Aperol!

I asked Steph and Anna if they had any key planning tips, they said "In the beginning we thought about what was high, medium and low priority for us and just got rid of anything that was 'low priority.' It was important to us to have a wedding that reflected us. Also we made a Gantt Chart - we couldn't have got through the planning without it even though it drove Steph mad!"

When I sent the couple the photos, they sent me these kind words back: "The first time we looked through your photos of our day, it took us nearly 3 hours was like reliving the day all over again. All the emotions resurfaced because they were captured so perfectly in every shot. We just can't get enough of the stories within each picture, the colour and vibrancy and the creative compositions. Every photo has so much to discover within it. It was so emotive seeing bits of the day that we didn't know had even happened. It is absolutely the best wedding gift that will last forever. Thank you so much for all the over and above gestures. The things that stand out to us are you staying so much later than we had expected and capturing so many late evening shots; being a calm presence during the stress of not being quite ready when the registrars had arrived; finding us after the ceremony and announcing our arrival over the bridge, bringing us Champagne; braving the sting/bite in the line of duty (!), and getting every shot without us even realising you were there! We completely understand now why you describe yourself as a ninja on your website! It was so nice to meet you and to spend our most special of days with you. We are forever grateful."

A Chinese-Indian Ace Hotel Wedding in Shoreditch

london chinese wedding photographer

Chinese wedding tea ceremony at Ace Hotel

I only shoot Chinese weddings on occasion but when I do they're ruddy awesome like this amazing Ace Hotel wedding! For those not familiar with Chinese wedding traditions, the more important and unique bits are the morning forfeit games and the tea ceremony. The morning games are a fun adaptation of old traditions where the groom would come asking for the bride and pay a dowry. Most modern couples don't ascribe to that anymore but the games are still popular because who doesn't want to force their mates to down something gross tasting at 9am!? These bridesmaids got creative and made the groom and his groomsmen eat ice cubes for keys, play chubby bunny whilst guessing hummed songs, down spicy mixes in baby bottles, do complicated group yoga poses and write in Chinese. The bride wore a family heirloom dress.

After the games they held a tea ceremony for both sides of the family, which got beautifully emotional.

First look at Ace Hotel wedding, Shoreditch

After the morning activities we headed out to the East London streets to shoot a few group shots in the surrounding streets, before the bride returned to the hotel to change out of her red evening dress into a lovely light champagne pink gown.

Civil Indian wedding ceremony at Ace Hotel

The groom is half Indian, and the couple wanted to pay homage to his heritage with a traditional exchange of beautiful jasmine flower garlands between the parents and an exchange of sweets before their Ace Hotel wedding ceremony. They also chose to get married in front of a jasmine backdrop with Indian musicians playing traditional music.

East London wedding photos

With the outfit change we headed back out for some solo couple shots this time, taking advantage of the unique street art surrounding this Ace Hotel wedding.

Ace Hotel wedding

The couple came back for the wedding dinner, which was followed by a series of great speeches, including the bride's dad bringing half the room to tears when he revealed he had saved the bride's hospital bracelet, and the bestmen performing a rap written for the couple in the style of Hamilton. The couple had fun with sparklers on the balcony and then handed up fun glow stick glasses to all their friends to enjoy during the party!
Marianne Chua.

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