Combermere Abbey, Chris & Gemma’s Beautiful Wedding

We’re hanging in here through the storms and cold weather. Summer feels a long way away now, but we don’t need to wait for summer. April, April can be glorious! Here’s what we were doing last April.

I met Gemma and her mum at the NEC. We hit it off straight away and they came back later in the day to book me on the spot for Gemma and Chris’s wedding photography. I love it when a bride knows exactly what she wants.

Getting to know Chris and Gemma in the run up to the day I discovered they were both engineers at Rolls Royce, which is just awesome. Chris mentioned in his speech that the marriage certificate is actually not the first legal document with both their signatures on it. That would be patent #R2563-B. Alright I made that number up but it was very funny.

I absolutely love meeting women who work in STEM, but Chris and Gemma also love Sigur Rós, sparklers, interesting old buildings, and garden games. So we have a LOT in common. Needless to say, the day went beautifully with the guests enjoying drinks in the grounds and orchard over a game of croquet or table tennis. A brilliant reception, very enjoyable speeches and lots of dancing. All topped off for me by waving sparklers about singing to the Jurassic Park music “I’m a dinosaur, I’m a dinosaur…” (bet you didn’t know that famous theme had lyrics, huh?)

And we got another chance to say hello back in the autumn when Gemma brought her sister Kathy to the NEC again as she was planning her own wedding. We’d actually made a sample album from the wedding to put on display and they were surprised and happy to see it there. Of COURSE we made a sample album…

James and Vikki’s Christmas Wedding at Dodmoor House

I love a Christmas wedding and Dodmoor House is one of my favourite places in the world. James and Vikki planned a gorgeous day with their families to celebrate their wedding. With some stylish details (love those chair backs) and thoughtful touches, like popcorn and beer pong! Everyone had an amazing day.

Working with a second photographer on a day like this gives us a lot more scope for capturing those informal candid moments at the same time as the portraits. We were also producing our highlights video, so keep going to the end of this post to see it.

It was only after booking James and Vikki’s wedding we found out we would also be photographing the wedding of their friends Jake and Abbie next year, so it was lovely to catch up with them too.

A winter wedding presents a few challenges with the lighting especially. And if guests are spending most of their time indoors it’s a little harder to move people around for those group photos. Fortunately at Dodmoor we’re able to use the newly styled wall of the barn for small groups, and on this occasion we set up remote lights to light the courtyard steps for that big group photo just as people went into dinner. I’m really pleased with how that one worked out considering the time of year!

The courtyard is just magic though later on and the fairy lights provide a beautiful background for some carefully lit evening portraits.

If you love Dodmoor and you haven’t yet voted in the National Wedding Awards, what are you WAITING for?! And all the love and luck in the world to James and Vikki who are quite simply wonderful.

Gorgeous Jake and Abbie, being gorgeous.

Kicking the leaves with Andy & Beth at Cliveden House

I noticed something interesting. The couples that choose us for their weddings tend to be a lot like us in some way or another. So instead of focussing our advertising and marketing on looking super-flash, wealthy, or famous we’ve always preferred to just be ourselves. Exactly as you’ll find us when we meet, and on the wedding day itself.

It means we don’t usually get to boast about having our weddings appear in OK magazine, fly to Italy just for an engagement shoot or hire a lambourghini for the photos. (I mean you could always just use your own lambourghini even though it’s last year’s model.) But it does mean we get to make a genuine connection, and lots of great friends that we love to keep in touch with.

Three location skype calls can be tricky, but when I talked to Andrew and Beth last year about their wedding plans we had a great chat, laughed easily and I felt sure we’d be friends. We met up in November to take a look at their awesome wedding venue, kick the fallen leaves and take some engagement photos around Cliveden House. It was fun to learn more about them and find out just how much we had in common as we went for a good long walk. So long in fact, we didn’t realise the place was closing just as we finished.

So here are a few photos from our shoot. I can’t wait for their big day this spring!

The last ten years

The 23rd of December this year marked ten years exactly since I bought the house we’re living in. And the start of a new decade seemed like a good time to look back. As time goes on you compact or compress the details in your memory and only remember the salient events of your life. It leaves the impression that you remember the whole thing. But when you look at some kind of complete record like your personal photos, you realise how much you packed into those years and how much you’ve lived. Honestly this is just the fastest pick of some highlights from 2009 to 2019, but it’s fun to see a few photos.

I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned and grown over these ten years, as I’m sure I also did over the ones before it. Looking back like this makes me all the more keen to fill our time on earth with wonderful and beautiful moments and relationships. We’ve got exciting plans for 2020 and we hope you’ll be a part of them!

Here’s what I looked like in 2009 with no grey hairs. And a spot.

I remember how proud I was to buy this house. All the rooms looked like this. I hadn’t changed the front door lock cylinder yet so I trudged in and out through the snow-covered back garden and patio door until the locksmiths opened again after Christmas.

In 2010 this was my first wedding at a recently opened venue here in Solihull called Hampton Manor. After moving my business a couple of years previously I was keen to make friends, and I found genuinely lovely people here who cared as much as I did about giving their customers the very best of everything. It’s a relationship that’s lasted a decade and I love going back there. And hey to Ed and Helen, who are still dancing with each other.

Still feeling a little new in town I was looking for a way to get involved in the community and do something useful with my spare time. A friend suggested looking for a scout group. The moment she said it I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it already. I loved my own time in scouts and credit it in large part for helping me become the person I am today.

Most leaders join to give extra help while their own kids are members, so I think it was a bit of a surprise when I just phoned up HQ and said “right, where shall I go?” They sent me to 6th Shirley, a hugely successful group of beavers, cubs, scouts and explorers with a dedicated and skilled team of leaders. I’ve seen multiple years of kids join as teeny scared little dots and leave as hulking great noisy monsters with confidence, friends, skills and an amazing sense of humour. We camp, hike, climb, swim, build, play, shout and laugh our heads off. I can’t recommend being a scout leader highly enough. Ask me more if you’re interested.

2012 was a whopping great year for a lot of us, hey? Diamond jubilee, olympics, LOTS of people getting married. But for me it will always be the year I met my darling Kate.

I was meeting a bunch of photographers who’d set the challenge of taking fast portraits of ten complete strangers in Birmingham city centre. Afterwards we all went to a coffee shop to compare photos and I got chatting to Kate. We kept in touch and she came to photograph some weddings with me, then a big commercial job over two days, and in December we went on our first date. Didn’t take any photos – that would be weird. But here’s us testing the studio out on a Christmas event we were photographing that winter.

2012 was also the year of David and Helen’s glorious wedding in Taormina, Sicily. Being asked to photograph a destination wedding is a big compliment to your work. An exotic location is wonderful for the portfolio, but the thought that someone values you highly enough to fly you out there as well as pay you is very flattering. I want to go back!

For Kate’s birthday in 2013 I bought her a flying lesson. I think after talking about Sicily and holidays she said something about loving to fly (which she does). So I thought, “loves to fly does she…”

November is when Kate moved in and we now celebrate it as our shackingup-iversary. You need a bit more furniture when there’s two of you, so the second polaroid is Kate having to build her own bedside table.

We’ve been to Manchester a few times and we love it there. A cool mixture of old historical buildings and modern, bold architecture. A lot of cities get it wrong by constraining their architects to design things in keeping with the traditional buildings and the result is rubbish. It seems like in Manchester they say, “build whatever the hell you want as long as it’s good.” Good architects always DO consider the surroundings even when designing something revolutionary. The result is eclectic and beautiful. But what do I know about architecture?!

This was a photo from a shoot we had with Rosie Hardy, celebrity photographer and uber-creative, who Kate knew from way back.

In 2014 I started seriously playing around with videography and did my first paid video for a commercial client. It sowed a seed for something brilliant that would come in a couple more years.

And here’s a cheeky little trip to Vienna to visit my globe-trotting parents. What an amazing city – I highly recommend it.

In November of 2014 I proposed to my lovely Kate. Easiest decision I ever made. We’re so alike, and also complementary. She’s smart, funny, beautiful and so courageous, but she doesn’t know it.

I remember noticing once that she was EXACTLY my type on a long walk we took. It lasted a bit longer and the end of it was dark, wet, windy and not altogether wonderful. Then we hit the muddiest field I ever walked in. Honestly, any normal person would have felt a bit sorry for themselves at that point. But we shared a quick look and without a word about it, pointed ourselves towards the car and kept ploughing through the mud. We both knew the only way was forward, complaining about it would do nothing, and this nasty bit would not spoil our enjoyment of a glorious adventure. And we both knew that we knew. That was magic. I love this woman.

Before we got married we thought we’d tackle a bigger outdoor adventure and climb Snowdon in June 2015. We had special T-shirts which we wore to a fun run later (Kate with a white tutu) and we won a prize for fancy dress.

Anyway, being outdoors is just our favourite thing to do. You don’t have to travel all that far to expand the mind. I can show you photos but nothing compares to the immersive experience of turning your head and seeing this vast expanse BELOW you, after having climbed for hours with your best friend. We’ve climbed a couple more mountains since, and got our eye on Ben Nevis next.

In 2015 just after my 35th birthday I got the best gift any man ever got. I thank my lucky stars for this wonderful lady and I’m so glad I found her. We signed the book in a registry office in Ashbourne in a dress Kate’s Mum made for her and my new blue suit. Then on to our real ceremony in a cottage garden in the Peak District led by my best man and old friend Steve. On the engraved hip flash we gave him it says, “What Steve Hath Joined Together – Let No One Put Asunder.”

While saving up for our proper honeymoon we snuck off to the Lake District for a mini-moon camping and exploring. There are so many amazing places in the UK you can’t quite believe are in this country when you get there. If you spend most of your time on planet Earth squashed into a city you’ve got to get out there in what Kate calls the three-dimensional world.

And in October we visited Rome for a glorious honeymoon. It’s a great time to go. Warmer than here, but not scorching as it is in their summer. This view literally took my breath away, from the top of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. As did the thought that I’d snagged the best wife anyone ever found.

2016 and Paris in the Spring. We invented a new word for extreme cold. There’s cold, freezing, baltic, Bolvanger, and then there’s “Eiffel Tower”.

There are cousins and cousins, and Susie is the latter. We’re more like siblings really, and we were so proud and happy to see her marry Paul in 2016. I had Clive come and photograph the wedding with me so I could be in it. I wasn’t expecting the button-hole I got to wear at her house in the morning. I was very touched.

A few days after the wedding, “returning” the photo booth props we must have left behind at the venue!

And then in December 2016 this little creature nudged her way into our lives. Kate had talked about wanting a rabbit, and brought it up again one day. She said “You know I wanted to get a rabbit? Well can we really get one? It’s just… I’ve already found her”. I’ve got to say though, who wouldn’t?

We quickly discovered Betty is a window-licker. Oh Betty.

Took a little longer though to discover Betty is actually a boy. Huh. We still call him Betty because we figure he doesn’t care what he’s called. It’s funny though how many people just can’t wrap their heads round it, even when they know. He’s a boy and he’s called Betty. What could be simpler? Good boy.

As I mentioned before, I’d been playing with video for years and years, but always assumed I needed some special training to do it professionally. Which you don’t. You just need to be good. Then I discovered Casey Neistat on youtube who I love. The biggest take away I got from him is you CAN just grab a camera, film something cool and make a video. So I started doing that, and as you learn in any new field you start to discover what you still need to learn, and before you know it you’re doing quite well.

We took video cameras along to Nick and Rebecca’s beautiful wedding at Prestwold Hall in 2017 and filmed our now popular highlights video alongside their stills. The combination we offer has been very successful. So much so that we’ve decided to double our attendance at national wedding shows and take on a lot more bookings for 2020 and 2021 so far. We’re really excited about it. We also moved into full wedding videography as distinct from stills, so we have two ways to cover weddings and fill up the calendar moving forward.

We’re producing a lot more video now about lots of subjects, and you can find my brand new youtube channel here. Please do subscribe!

Right at the end of 2018 Paul and Susie brought our little Neice into the world and called her Holly. She just turned one this year and we love her. Here she is with Kate, and a few months later hanging out with her great grandma.

2019 has been another exciting year of weddings, as well as a very proud achievement, winning the national wedding awards photographer of the year. I was so proud to be at the glamorous evening dinner with my lovely Kate by my side to accept the award. I always said I was more interested in my clients than in going for awards and things. But it was them that put me up for it!

Thank you to everyone who’s played a part in these wonderful ten years. 2020 will be my 18th year photographing weddings which I can hardly believe. I still love it, and I can’t wait for another season of exciting big days for very special couples. Andy and Beth – you’re next!


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