I avoided writing about Alex and Suzi’s stunning wedding in mid-May until the photographs were ready. Now that I have shared them with the bride and groom, they are available for your perusal. They are an unusual set for me in that it is the first time I have shot with the intention of supplementing someone else’s work. Their official photographer was the excellent Jeff Ascough, who is so good at his craft that many barely noticed his presence at all, particularly during the ceremony. I took on the role of official unofficial photographer, or perhaps unofficial official photographer, I am not sure which. They key is “unofficial” — many of you know this is a rule as, whilst I will inevitably take many photographs at friends’ weddings and I am happy to share them, I simply cannot guarantee that I will nail each of the key moments and you only get one chance to do so.
As Ascough would be photographing the bridal party prior to the ceremony, Alex specifically requested that I shoot the chaps over the morning, and in this I was happy to oblige. As an usher, I did not shoot the ceremony at all and broadly sought to stay out of Ascough’s way during the day’s main set pieces. Between these Alex and Suzi largely circulated separately amongst the guests, with the unusual result that I ended up with virtually no photos of the two of them together.
The day began at the RAF Club, some of the ushers nursing their heads in the bright sunlight after two successive nights out with the bridesmaids and family. Corks were swiftly popped on two medicinal bottles of champagne. We had allowed plenty of time to get ready but, being men, required virtually none of it. As an usher, one’s key role before the ceremony is essentially to stop the groom from doing anything dangerous. Like thinking. So we set off to find him a drink. Unfortunately, in the morning before the pubs had opened, the only available option was the Hard Rock Café around the corner — not the most natural venue for a dozen men in full morning dress. The tourists peered at us in bemusement, not entirely sure whether we were preparing for some event or whether this was simply how the British dress for the weekend. We chose not to dispel their confusion.
After a short ride in two gleaming white taxis, the next stop was The Windmill, a pub round the back of St. George’s Church. Given the proximity, it gradually filled up with wedding guests over the next hour, after which we adjourned to the church. Ascough had arrived already and, upon our enquiry about the bridal party, made a slightly cryptic comment. The ceremony itself was a lovely, simple affair inside a beautiful church. It was only afterwards, aboard the routemaster buses that took us on a winding trip around London before returning us nearby at the Lansdowne Club, that one of the bridesmaids spilled their morning’s events to which Ascough had alluded.
Suzi, having awoken early that morning, had decided in preparation for the impending nuptials to transfer her engagement ring. Unfortunately the fingers of her right hand turned out to be slightly larger than the left. Being a determined sort, she was disinclined to back down and it became hopelessly stuck with her finger swelling up. As it began to turn purple she decided it should probably be sorted out and so she found herself in A&E having the ring cut off. Typically calm, she was the one telling her bridesmaids not to freak out as she explained the situation from hospital.
The remainder of the day went far more smoothly, the Lansdowne providing a wonderful suite of rooms as the backdrop for the reception. I caught up with Sarah and Frankie, as well as Amy whose band provided background music. The wedding breakfast boasted a delightfully multinational menu, accompanied by Swedish snaps for toasting and wedding favour bottles of Tuscan olive oil.
I was slightly concerned that Peter, my boss, would be joining for the evening reception, after I had indulged in a full day of drinking. Photography duties slowed my intake slightly and he was on great form, so I need not have worried! The night wound on with much dancing, frivolity and it was the only wedding at which I can remember the bride’s garter being tossed in traditional fashion as well as the bouquet.
As we sent the bride and groom on their way (to the Ritz no less) it was time to recover my top hat and relinquish the morning suit. Whilst I avoid hats because they inevitably destroy my hair, I was disappointed to part with the well-fitting top hat and found myself purchasing a great old-style brown trilby for a film noir themed night a few weeks later. Any wedding that can alter your fashion tastes must be considered a resounding success.