Marriott Hotel Wedding, York – Michael and Camilla
Overlooking York racecourse, the Marriott International is a mixture of country house and modern hotel. My recce for Michael and Camilla’s wedding venue had revealed plenty of photogenic “hotspots” both inside and out for attractive wedding photography and as a new locale for me, it was a gig I particularly looked forward to.
I arrived midday on a pleasant midsummer Sunday, and after checking in with a relaxed looking MIchael, I set about taking scene-setting shots as well as some detail shots. The couple hadn’t at this point ordered a wedding book from me, although this can be be done at any point, and so I always prepare for that eventuality by getting shots I think would make good background design elements. I usually get these shots first as part of “warming up” and include details of flower arrangements, the cake, venue facades and the ceremony room. The flowers and dressing for the ceremony room showed the couple were going for a purple and white colour scheme. I have to say, at least in my experience as a wedding photographer, this has to be the most popular colour scheme of all for weddings.
After some shots of arriving guests, I made my way to Camilla’s room where she and her bridesmaids were in the final stages of their prep, overseen by both her parents. There was a typical buzz of excitement and anticipation in the room. After a few words with the bride-to-be, checking in with how she is feeling, my common instruction is that they all try and forget I’m there as much as possible. I don’t want to be a distraction or disrupt the flow of the day, so I aim to strike a balance between treading lightly and putting myself where I need to be to get the inventive and striking photography both my clients and I are looking for, as ideas and incidents present themselves. One shot here I was particularly pleased with was of Camilla with her mum to the rear, checking her watch. It expressed well both the feeling of anticipation and parental concern. There’s also something slightly comic about it. Once I felt I had everything I needed here, I made my way back to the ceremony room which was beginning to fill with guests.
Soon, with everyone ready, the bridesmaids entered the room from the back at the head of the processional. This was for me a “blink and you miss it” processional that’s typical for a hotel and in contrast with the more leisurely processional of a church wedding. So I locked focus on a spot of floor at the optimum distance for this key photo, then re frame and fire off shots of everyone in the train as they pass through that point. I then took up my customary position to the left of the registrar for the duration of what was happily a glitch free ceremony. This is unsurprisingly one of the most focused periods of photography in the day with key moments following on in rapid succession. As well as watching the ceremony, I’m also scanning the guests for good reaction shots. One I was pleased with was of Camilla’s mum lifting a tissue to her eye to dab away tears. Moments like that are very fleeting and need to be anticipated more than happened upon. Towards the end I stepped out into the aisle to get a good shot of the “first kiss”. After the signing of the register, the smiling newlyweds walked slowly from the ceremony room and out into the bright summer sunlight.
The drinks reception was in an outdoors dining area that overlooked 5 acres of attractive, landscaped garden. Soon guests filled up the area and a celebratory mood ensued. For me, of course, the photography doesn’t stop it just becomes slightly more relaxed as I encircle the guests, occasionally taking up a vantage point that is yielding consistently good results. After about 20 minutes or so, I got everyone to move down onto the main lawn for the group shots, using a large bank of foliage as an effective background. Then for the “all in” group shot I got everyone to take a central position at the foot of the steps leading from the hotel down to the gardens so I could get the Marriott itself to feature. Moving on from this, it was time for the formal portraiture of the bride and groom. For this I invited the couple to take a slow, leisurely walk around the landscaped garden, trying for shots that looked as if they were just out for an intimate stroll together. Occasionally I’d stop them at key spots I’d earmarked from the recce and invite them to kiss or just continue their conversation. This is quite challenging photography because I need to be really connecting with them on a personal level as much as possible, to encourage their feelings for each other to be shown, while at the same time thinking about technical things on the fly like apertures and shutter speeds. One particular shot I got of Camilla walking up the steps I was very happy with after it’s conversion to black and white and some additional experimental processing in post production. It was one of the small handful of shots I get per wedding that I deem portfolio quality. Once we had finished circling the grounds, we made our way inside to make use of some the hotel’s more striking interiors. After this, there was a couple more key shots – the cake cutting and the newlyweds entrance to the wedding breakfast, and my day was done.
10th August 2018