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 destination wedding in Tuscany Italy

tuscany destination wedding

A destination wedding in Tuscany, Italy

This weekender destination wedding in Tuscany was set in the quiet town of Barga, up a mountain in the Tuscany region of Italy. I travelled out to join the couple and their close family and friends, whose wedding venue was a private home called I Cedri that backed onto an orchard and swimming pool! For the first few days friends and family were welcomed with a carbtastic dinner of pasta and pizza (this becomes a running theme fyi) and as both the bride and groom are medieval historians, they organised a tour for everyone to visit a local medieval town and cathedral.

 

The Italian wedding day!

The couple got ready in different areas of I Cedri, including a stunning red brick villa that overlooked the Tuscan mountains. Before the ceremony they opted to do a first look so they could share the moment of first seeing each other in private. Amazingly a thunderstorm was raging throughout the prep time, which added some exciting drama to getting ready! The bride had handmade flower crowns for her sisters/bridesmaids, decorated with oranges and matching her own incredible giant bouquet.

Italian wedding ceremony

It was only the third time ever that the venue had to hold the ceremony indoors due to the rain, but the couple graciously rolled with the weather limitations and had their Italian civil ceremony conducted in a beautiful glasshouse. They also received a gift of silver plates with their names and dates engraved, which apparently is custom in the region!

After the ceremony the guests had anti pasti and nibbles during the drinks reception, whilst myself and the couple went to take advantage of the outdoor space we didn't get to use during the ceremony due to the weather

A Tuscany wedding reception

The couple got their family to help them DIY their wedding decor- they had home made pom pom strings tied to the back of every chair

After the dinner, speeches and traditional Swedish toast, the couple cut a huge fruit cream cake outside on the warm lawn, before turning their speakers out so everyone could enjoy the party and dancing outdoors!

 

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!

A three part Wales, Malibu and New York destination wedding

New York City wedding

I only shoot a handful of destination weddings per year, but Chloe and Mike were the witnesses at my previous New York City elopement and they very kindly insisted that I come back and shoot for them in their multi-day extravaganza wedding! With a British groom and an American bride they decided the easiest thing to do would be for them to travel to everyone else! So I started the day in their New York Manhattan apartment, where they got ready with their parents and their cat. Chloe wore stunning Oscar De La Renta shoes, and Mike had a fun time tying his tie three times to make sure it was absolutely perfect. Chloe's dad made the bouquet for her out of white lillies. They had their ceremony in the Ladies Pavilion in Central Park, before strolling over to get a taxi from Boludsud for a private dinner with family who had managed to travel in. After dinner I went with the bride and groom to visit their favourite bubble tea and take some couple shots around their local favourite spots, including their local greengrocer!

Cardiff wedding reception

Stage two of the wedding tour took me to Wales, to have dinner with lots of Mike's friends and family. We kept it simple here with a top quality restaurant and a pub afterwards! Mike gave a short speech in the middle but otherwise the day was very much about mingling and catching up with loved ones who they don't get to see as often!

Malibu wedding at home

I was really excited for this part of the wedding tour as I have never been to Malibu before and it has always just been somewhere that appears on TV where famous people live! I didn't see anyone famous but I did get to stay in Santa Monica. I did all the touristy things of cycling along the beachfront to Venice Beach, stared at excessively fit and strong people whilst gaining a body image complex and then ran around the beach to try and fit in. After a few days of chill I went to Malibu to shoot the wedding drinks reception, which took place in Chloe's dad's home. Chloe wore a gorgeous classic white belted shirt dress and all her family friends came for a standing cocktail and buffet reception. I also shot the morning after brunch, where the groom and kids played with a drone. This wedding really sums up why I love multi day weddings, that I often called weekender weddings. Being around the family for longer helps me to get to know the family, for them to get comfortable with me and to shoot what is effectively some unique documentary family portraits. When I left Malibu it was really sad to know that was the last shoot we would have together!

   
Marianne Chua.

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