Claire and Charles-31

It’s always my goal to deliver personal and emotional wedding photography, even if the significance of the images isn’t always clear to begin with.  How can it be clear straight after your wedding, when you’re looking at pictures of your favourite people smiling and happy and having a brilliant time?

Often the importance of your wedding images and the investment you’ve made in them becomes more apparent over time or some times something happens to remind you straight away.

‘The Power of Photography’ was the title of an email that Claire, whose wedding I photographed at the end of last year, sent me this week.

It knocked my socks off and I was sobbing big, gut wrenching tears by the time I was half way through. So much so that Pete ran into the room assuming something was terribly wrong. I was completely overwhelmed and you’ll see why in a second, when I share the contents of Claire’s email.

Before I do that though I would like to tell you a little of Claire’s story, which she shared with me when she first got in touch.

“Charles lives opposite my best friend from school, who insisted we went on a blind date. I went against my better judgement and we got on straight away. Charles was a slow mover, returning my emails every 2-4 weeks (!!!!), but finally made a move on our 8th date (I know, right??).

However, he came into his own when he nagged me constantly about a cough that my GP said was nothing. I was diagnosed with lung cancer just before my 40th birthday and I can’t even find the words to say how wonderful Charles was for the next 2 yrs. I knew when he turned up in hospital at 7 am to butter my toast before going to work that he was the man for me.

Charles’s crap jokes and bizarre sense of humour are recognised by all who know him, I had to explain to my Mother that he always says the wrong thing, but always does the right thing!

We are different in many ways – I have lived in Hackney for 10 yrs, he is in West London. He loves ski-ing, I love flowers and books. We both love Hilda, our dog, more than we should and she often mediates in any disagreements. After all his support, I want our wedding day to be as amazing as it can be for Charles.”

After reading about Charles’ trips to hospital to butter Claire’s toast for her, I knew I wanted to be their wedding photographer. I was already hugely emotionally invested in Claire and Charles’ wedding because I fell in love with their story and I felt hugely privileged to be able to document their wedding day for them.

Pete and I had a really lovely day photographing the wedding, Claire and Charles and their guests were warm and welcoming, we were really, really happy with the pictures we created and we considered our wedding coverage a job well done. That could have been the end of the story, but then Claire sent me the following email yesterday.

“I am sorry it has been quite so long for me to come back to you with regards to our lovely wedding album but life has been beyond fraught since we got married. I am about to respond to the original email you sent to me, but first I wanted to tell you about something that happened over Christmas…

As I think I mentioned, my Mother collapsed on Christmas Eve and went into a coma shortly afterwards. It looked very bleak for the first week or so, and the Doctors believed her to be brain dead. Eventually, however, she surprised us all by coming round and starting to recover. However, she was very confused, believing that she was being looked after Coastguards rather than Doctors, insisting also that she was in The Met Office rather than hospital and so forth. Consultants explained to us that it was highly likely that she severely brain damaged and would need specialist/ residential care for the rest of her days and that our Mother, as we had known her, was gone.

I was unconvinced, as I noticed that occasionally she would refer to past events with lucidity and asked the Doctors to reassess their position. I didn’t know how to prove this to them, until I remembered that your photos of our wedding had been sent through just before Christmas and that my Mother had not seen them. I asked them to arrange internet access and all of the medics on ICU joined us.

As my Mother looked at the photos, she was able to name every guest, even those she had met for the first time at the wedding. She remembered you (“oh, lovely Laura!”) very clearly, she could name the ushers in the photo of the kilted men outside Church, even to the point of knowing where one of them went to School 40 years previously. She still didn’t like my Maid of Honour, she remembered that Charles’s father had not let his disabilities get in the way of him trying to seduce my sister and inviting her back to his hotel room after the reception, and she was still cross with the Minister for mentioning that she had married more than once!

In short, by showing her these photographs, I was able to prove to those around us, that the old Mrs G we knew and loved (most of the time!) was very much there, and seeing your photos brought everything flooding back. It took her a few weeks to get over her short term confusion and to convince her that no coastguards had been involved in her recovery, but as a result of seeing your photos the course of her treatment was altered drastically.

I am not sure if there is a moral as such to this story, but I thought it was one I should share with you.

Meanwhile, lots of love

Claire xxx”

I was and am speechless, so I’m going to leave Claire and Charles to tell you about their day in their own words.  Before I do I’d love to tell you that Claire and Charles held their wedding reception in the church hall beneath the church they were married in and instead of asking for wedding gifts they raised a significant sum of money for the homeless shelter that also uses the hall.  I feel very fortunate to work with my couples because, honestly, they are an amazing bunch of people.

The Beginning

Charles proposed under a lemon grove just above Amalfi one evening in the spring. It was very romantic except, after going down on one knee, he went off on a tangent about the logistics of collecting the ring in time for our holiday, and forgot to say four very important words. I made him get back down and actually ask me! (I’m not often bossy, but….). We were engaged for five months before our wedding.

Scroll to the bottom to read more, including the credits!

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The Venue

I was baptised at St Columba’s, so was my sister, and my Mother was also married there, so it has a special place in our hearts. I am Scottish, and Charles went to Uni at Edinburgh so has some Celtic sympathies – there were plenty of kilted men on the day. The fact that Church allowed us to hire the hall downstairs made it an obvious choice for us – no issues of transport, and so (in theory) less to think about. I was keen to have a venue I could put my/ our own stamp upon, rather than going with a hotel’s pre-set ideas. St Columba’s were very open to us doing whatever we wanted (within reason) and were super helpful in terms of allowing suppliers access to come and look around etc. Also, being in Central London/ SW1, it made it easy for our guests and on the whole saved with the hassle of having to suggest nearby hotels etc. For friends coming from afar (e.g. Australia, Switzerland, South Africa etc), we made sure we liaised with other friends so everyone had somewhere to stay.

The Outfits

I have a love of vintage dresses anyway, and my lovely friend Marcia has a vintage bridal showroom in Old Street. She found me the perfect 1930s lace dress, which I loved more (and cost considerably less) than anything new I could have had made. That also fit into our whole ethos of trying to leave as little a footprint behind on our wedding day too – we considered this when choosing a lot of our suppliers. It was fun for Marcia to see one of her dresses going down the aisle too.

Charles’s suit, meanwhile, was made at the insistence of a friend of ours, who is a fashion designer. Katharine told him in no uncertain terms that a new suit was required and marched him off to one of the tailors who used to make her collections for her.

The Ceremony

We loved our ceremony, it was all so special to us. Hilda the Schnauzer was allowed to attend as flower dog, in spite of the “no dogs” rule at St Columba’s, so our micro family felt complete. Charles got the giggles as it was only during the first hymn that Hilda realised he was next to me, and she kept wagging her tail at him to get his attention (she hadn’t seen him for almost a day), as if to say “Daddy, I’m here! Over here!”. My sister’s reading of “Falling in Love is like owning a dog”, which she performed wonderfully, with Hilda under her arm, got a round of applause. I am also pleased we went with the Roy Croft reading – it struck a chord with me in particular. The Associate Minister loved it so much, she wrote it out and gave it to her husband for his birthday (she confessed last week). We didn’t tailor our vows, though. Charles in particular is quite conservative about these things, and I figured once I’d slipped the dog thing in I would quit whilst I was ahead!

The Flowers

Miss Pickering‘s blog was the first blog I ever read. I loved her wit as well as her flowers and eventually met her about this last year on one of her courses, and again in the spring. I love her style, and her commitment to use English/ local flowers where possible, and was thrilled when she said she would come down to London from Stamford to do our big day. Seeing her smiling, friendly face as she arrived with our bouquets whilst I was getting ready was such a wonderful thing! Also, we had much fun on Pinterest for a few months before, playing with floral ideas and colours and themes – her attention to detail is second to none – and possibly a few glasses of rose and chat too, from time to time.

The Photography

Working with you was so easy – from our first meeting in the pub through to the big day. Everyone commented upon how friendly both you and Pete were, and by the time we set off in the VW for the Church, you already felt like family/ guests and I wanted you to enjoy our day too (is that cheesy?). The reasons for booking you were initially based on other recommendations I had read on line (e.g. on Charley’s London Bride blog) and seeing your work made it easy to get an idea of your style – which we both really loved. We didn’t want anything too formal or stuffy – our wedding was relaxed and we wanted people working with us to have the same approach. Also, I enjoyed our first meeting in Walthamstow very much – we hadn’t talked to any other photographers, and I knew we didn’t need to. Hilda liked you too, and we always take her opinions on other humans very seriously.

The Entertainment

Mister Kanish!!!! How amazing are they? They did one set during the drinks reception, and another after dinner. We completely and utterly loved them and were planning an excuse for another big party just so we could have them again. All our thank you letters commented just how great they were. As with Babb photo, we initially read about them on blogs, then listened to them on You Tube and Charles agreed we should hire them if I would just stop dancing around the kitchen to their songs meanwhile…

The Words of Wisdom

Don’t assume that by hiring a blank canvas/ space and doing the planning, organising and hiring yourselves that you will save money. Although I loved the end result, and would do the same again, the cost of the reception we had was considerably more than the price per head of the nearby Knightsbridge hotels we originally looked at, and we went for sensibly priced (and brilliant) caterers and bought our own champagne and wine in France etc. That said, I think it was more fun too. But definitely not cheaper!!

The Credits // //
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