It was a winter's evening when I got the ping of an email notifying me about a wedding photography enquiry. Lily asked me if I would drive up to meet her and fiance Lee at their home in Braintree to discuss my services over a coffee. Of course I obliged! They had chosen Leez Priory which, up until this point I had never heard of. When I got home and had a quick google of the venue I was rather taken aback at the beauty and uniqueness of the place. Shortly after having a quick nose at the various images another "ping", this time Lily and Lee confirming that they would like me to capture their wedding. It goes without saying that I was flattered an honoured as always to be chosen for this privileged undertaking.
Leez Priory is a 16th century mansion nestled in the village of Little Leighs. For 300 years it thrived as an Augustinian monastery. Rose-brick buildings and walls are to be seen everywhere at this stunning venue. The huge duck pond and grounds are kept in pristine condition by a team of groundsmen.
When I arrived on the morning of the wedding rain clouds gathered meniscingly. I got my equipment out of the car, shut the boot and then the heavens opened. I quickly opened the boot again to give myself some shelter and within about 3 minutes the rain suddenly stopped. That was the only rain that would be seen for the entire day.
I found Lily upstairs in one of the wings of the building with her party of bridesmaids and friends. They were all quite calm, rollers in hair, sharing jokes and listening to some music. It wasn't long before some fizz was opened.
Whilst the ladies were preparing I went over to see Lee as he arrived with his brother. His friends arrived moments later and they made their way to the bridal suite which is a kind of self sufficient cottage about 100 yards from the main house. The mood was a little more nervous and rushed within this party. Bags were quickly thrown down and and clothes literally ripped off. The sight of the groom's bare backside and a shout of "don't worry Tone, snap away" as Lee dashed off into the bathroom did get me on the back foot a little. I was for a split second tempted to point and shoot but then the voice of reason stopped me. A couple of the guys went out in search of the bar immediately for some nerve calming beers to bring back while the preparations continued.
Once the guests were all in the grassed court yard and Lily and her girls were ready, they made their way outside onto the lawn next to the duck pond. The wind picked up and I noticed Lily's veil flowing gently out to one side. As I framed the shot Lily's niece wondered in and I captured what turned out to be my favourite image from the whole wedding.
Lily did the formalities with the registrar while I made my way to Lee and the guests as they waited patiently at the open air ceremony. A string quartet started up as Lily made her way out to the congregation on her father's arm. In a break from tradition, the bride's maids followed behind Lily.
After the ceremony it was a simple case of moving away from the seating area and grabbing a drink which were quickly brought out by a team of waiters and waitresses. There was even an ice cream cart provided by the venue which proved to be very popular.
We had some time to kill before the wedding breakfast so I stole the newly weds away for some shots of just the two of them at the front of the priory. The ushers helped to assemble guests for some "must have" shots, something that I always insist on. These are usually photographs of the bride and groom with say, both sets of parents, or all the friends etc.
Some resident ducks bravely waddled amongst the guests which provided amusement for some of the youngsters.
The barn where the food is served was a short walk from the main gate of the priory and across the gravelled car park. Tables were arranged in a banquet style, two rows running parallel to each other. I'd never seen this layout before but I thought it worked very well.
I was fortunate enough to sample some of the food and I have to say that it was stunning. I had beef wellington which I hadn't had for years. The speeches were hilarious as always. The usual respects were paid to absent friends and family which always hits me hard. Once everyone was fed we then made our way back to the grassed court area where lawn games were set up and the band (22nd Century Music) began to belt out the tunes. I have to say I was very impressed with the band and choice of set list. Tracks from the Basildon based three piece outfit included hits from Kings Of Leon and Muse through to The Prodigy and Pendulum.
Some of the older guests moved away from the band area and sipped on cocktails whilst watching the croquet. Someone had even gone to their car to fetch a cricket set which went down treat with some of the more energetic guests. There was no mercy shown at the batting crease. A four year old boy was bowled out with what looked like a 90 mile an hour, right arm over yorker! Caricaturist Steve J Hearn made his way around the guests, quickly sketching them and providing them with a hilarious keep sake from the day. Steve sketched me whilst we were eating and for some reason he gave me a humongous hooter! Thoughts?
Lee and Lily came together under the main archway for their first dance as husband and wife. Guests crowded round and looked on admiringly as the couple slowly turned around each other to "their song". It was the perfect end to the perfect day.
Thank you for asking me to capture it for you.
Best of luck for the future.