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."