Grays Court Wedding, York – Viv and Rod
Viv and Rod’s wedding is in my top 3 weddings that I have photographed so far. It was an occasion where all the stars seemed to align: the couple, the venue, the weather, the guests, an all day shoot from bridal prep to first dance that exceeded my expectations in the results I achieved.
The wedding location was Gray’s Court hotel. Situated between the 17th Century Treasurer’s House, the Minster and the City Walls, it is one of most historic buildings in England and the first inhabited house in York, dating back to the 11th century. York was founded on a Roman fort located at the site of the Minster and archaeologists believe the remains of a Roman gate lie buried just inside the grounds of Gray’s Court. In its 21st century incarnation, the building and its grounds provide a sumptuous venue for a wedding, with a medieval, stone-flagged entrance hall, a 90 foot long Jacobean gallery, a mix of English and French antiques, contemporary artwork and a landscaped, walled garden.
Come the day of the wedding, one of the ways Viv and Rod lucked out with me was that they got a second photographer for free, courtesy of the partner of a friend of mine who was a keen amateur photographer and who was looking to gain some experience shooting weddings. Steve, as it turned out, played a crucial part in the proceedings and made a welcome creative contribution. We met up at the venue and I allocated Steve the job of photographing arriving guests, getting detail shots and then the groom as everyone started to settle for the ceremony.
Viv and Rod made for a highly photogenic couple, with Viv looking especially radiant. Rod, unfortunately, had suffered a mishap the night before, tripping up in his home and giving himself a nasty carpet burn in the middle of his forehead. Not something you want to have happen the night before your big day! When I re-introduced myself to him shortly after arriving, he was obviously feeling self conscious about it. He pointed to his forehead and said with a mixture of hope and expectation: “You can do something about this in the photos, right?” I nodded that it wasn’t a problem. A blemish like that can be “deleted” in post production as easily as an unwanted word in a word processor. I’ve no idea how it works, but it makes my life a lot easier.
While Steve started photographing the arriving guests, I headed upstairs to the Cumberland room where Viv was getting ready, overlooking the garden, where the ceremony would be held. My day started with some relaxed shots of Viv with her bridesmaids as they were arranging the final touches, putting on making up, exchanging gifts and taking the occasional peek out of the bay windows to see how things were developing outside. I got some great candid, group and portrait shots, before her father arrived and it was time for the processional. I stayed at the front of the bride’s wedding train as it wound its way through the hotel and out into the garden.
In England, for some bizarre reason, there’s a law that if a wedding is outside, the ceremony has to be held under some kind of canopy… It couldn’t just be out in the open garden. So for this reason, Viv and Rod met up in a small, open hut on the edge of the garden, together with me and the registrar. Photographically, this setting proved to be a major head ache! For one, the stone floor was highly reflective, and the heavy sunlight produced a strong glare that bounced up and lit everyone inside from below. This kind of lighting from beneath is something associated with 50’s horror movies, not weddings. So it was virtually impossible to get a decent shot of anyone inside the hut. This lighting nightmare was not something that I had foreseen from the recce. On top of this, foliage overhung from the hut’s roof outside, so if the couple stepped outside, they were only visible to me from the shoulders down unless I stooped. And I couldn’t step outside with them without getting in the way. For these reasons, I was very pleased Steve was there, positioned at the rear of the guest’s seating to get long shots of the couple throughout the ceremony.
After the confetti strewn recessional, it was time for drinks and congratulations. Steve and I circulated for about twenty minutes getting candids, then I set Viv and Rod up for a group shot with everyone, and the bouquet toss. A delighted blond lady made the catch. Next, we moved inside and I made use of the hotel’s interior for some portrait shots and small group shots, setting up an umbrella right of camera to get just the right soft light.
The wedding breakfast followed, including the speeches. I’m always impressed with the speeches at weddings, and haven’t yet attended one where a speech truly fell flat. Even as an outsider, I often can find myself touched or amused by the anecdotes. Viv in particular seemed to be enjoying herself immensely and was at times crying with laughter. There was a hugely infectious atmosphere amongst the guests.
After the meal, I made use of the attractive wooden floor in the library and a stepladder to get some great portrait shots of Viv. Following this, I took a stoll with Rod and Viv around the gardens to take portrait shots of the two of them, occasionally stopping at particular vantage points. Like a gap in some foliage close to a wall that had formed itself into a heart shape and made the perfect frame.
Next, there were some outdoor group shots, the cutting of the cake and the first dance. And then that was it for me and Steve. Viv later told me it had been the best day of their lives. It was certainly a pleasure to be there and record it all, in our minds, with a high degree of success.
22nd May 2018