Today I am jetting you off to one of my favourite wedding locations, California. Now...
For those of you who are regular readers of the blog you will know all about the Older Wiser Married feature. The idea of the feature is for couples who are married to share with you their wedding story and experiences and also the things they would do differently if they could go back and do it again. We also focus on the positives and the things they think really worked, what they have learnt and how their marriage has changed their relationships.
The wedding was a small registry office ceremony followed by a country house hotel reception with just close friends and immediate family present. However there is a bit of a back story behind why we had the wedding we did.
We had originally planned a much bigger wedding at Buxted Park Hotel. Because we were both in our early twenties when we began planning our wedding, and not long out of University, a lot of the costs were met in the traditional way by my family. Things escalated quickly out of our control with the guest list expanding to include distant relatives who we’d never even met and with none of the important decisions being made by us as a couple or even at all. With just two weeks to go and EVERYTHING organised, Alex got a classic case of cold feet, cancelled and we then separated. Suffice to say this caused quite a few ructions, not only because of the obvious hurt and upset but also because the costs were pretty much non-refundable at that stage!
After the dust had settled – and having been together already for seven years prior to cancelling the wedding – we decided to give it another go (actually, we were miserable apart!) and a year on from there we eventually got married the way we wanted to with all of the decisions being made by us but on the much smaller scale that Alex craved and with us, not unsurprisingly, footing most of the costs somehow this time round. To prove his commitment I asked him to book the first available weekend date at the nearest Registry Office which he did and we planned the rest together over three months – no point hanging about!
The reception venue
My goodness, it looks so dated now but back then it was all very nice and we had the whole place pretty much to ourselves. It was just the perfect size for our small wedding set against a back drop of the beautiful Sussex Downs. Reception venue choices in the main were fairly limited to a tiny selection of licenced hotels and country houses, nothing at all like what is on offer today. The hotel manager went out of his way to organise the reception in exactly the way we wanted and the food was out of this world!
The photographer – Catherine Gillo
Catherine was recommended to us by friends of my parents. She was just a couple of years in to wedding photography at the time. This was long before I became a wedding photographer with industry connections, before any of our friends had got married and the photos that we had seen from family weddings were all very stiff groups and a few soft edged portraits (possibly even the one where the bride and groom are superimposed on to a champagne flute!)
Catherine had a more relaxed style, putting everyone at ease. She covered all of the important bits but without too much rigidity. Our group shot was taken just as our guests had naturally arranged themselves. Our wedding was also shot on film as digital photography was still fairly new and certainly not the norm. Of course now a bride and groom would expect complete coverage right down to the smallest of details and absolutely everything else inbetween but thirteen years ago there weren’t any inspirational wedding blogs (we’d only just got connected to the internet!) and ‘details’ were limited to table centrepieces and flowers.
A beautiful bargain from a local bakery. One tier of the most delicious sponge, jam and buttercream you could hope for. The icing roses on the top are still in my Mum’s freezer!
Fabulous glitter sprayed up-do – most defintely ‘wedding hair’ – but at the time I felt like a million dollars with no gaps in that very straight fringe!
Of course now I’d run a mile from a dress like this but that big long train clinched the deal (I have the late Princess Di to thank for that!)
No evening celebrations
This might seem a bit odd but we decided not to have any evening entertainment or additional evening guests. Neither of us are big party people so after dinner we had drinks on the lawn and in the lounge with a bit of an impromptu tinkle on the piano. By 4pm we’d already said our goodbyes to everyone and headed out for a walk along the river. By teatime we were tucking in to a plate of cheese and pickle sandwiches, wedding cake and a bottle of champagne. By 10pm we were tucked up in bed in the ‘bridal suite’ watching Match Of The Day. Our friends still find this very amusing.
I wish now that I’d had my two best friends as bridesmaids – this was and still is my biggest regret. Thankfully we are all still best friends!
I would have loved a veil – probably cathedral length! At the time I think it was considered a little bit old fashioned.
Professional make up
After a disastrous trial from which I emerged with skin the colour of an Oompa Loompa I decided that I would rather do my own make up. With hindsight, although I looked perfectly alright, I wish I had just gone with another recommendation and had it all done properly on the day for that extra bit of something. And I wish I had plucked those brows!
My Dad drove me, my mum and sister to the registry office and to the reception venue in his own car. Obviously I love my Dad to bits and there was nothing wrong with his car, but it would have been lovely for us to have travelled in style to the wedding without him having to worry about the queues on the A27 and field questions at the same time from my Mum about what they were going to have for tea that evening! Likewise it would have been even nicer for Alex and I to have had a quiet 20 minutes to ourselves on the journey to the reception for similar reasons.
Getting ready photos
I wish I had listened to Catherine and had these done because now I know what a lovely record of the overall day they make. I can’t for the life of me think why I decided against them.
After dinner photos
In the same vein we should have booked Catherine to stay a little bit longer after the speeches to capture some pictures of this part of the day.
The one big lesson we have learnt – cliched though it will sound – is that the wedding is just one day of celebration. Marriage is about all of the days after that. We look at our wedding photos and at the couples who came to our wedding, our friends, most of whom have now split up and moved on to new relationships and realise just what a big commitment marriage is. It needs to be worked at everyday – if things go wrong it’s not quite as simple as packing your bags and going your separate ways. Perhaps the biggest lesson we have learnt is the value of compromise, pulling together as a team and above all that, forgiveness. Not just forgiveness within the relationship but also from those closest to you. I doubt we would have had any guests at our wedding if forgiveness had not played it’s part in some small way that day.
Thirteen years on and two children later we’d be telling fibs if we said it had all been plain sailing and that we are still the same people we were when we first made that commitment to one another. Of course there have been times when the foundations have been rocked and seriously tested but at the core, at the very root, we still feel the same way about each other as we did when we first met twenty years ago and in twenty, thirty, forty more years from now as we change and get older and wiser, that, we hope, will remain the constant.
I had been working solely as a portrait photographer before branching out into weddings about five years ago when a friend asked me to shoot her wedding and haven’t looked back since. I love my job! What a huge privilege it is to get to capture so many great couples making this wonderful commitment to each other.