South Farm Wedding Photography : Katie & Tom : Part One

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Some months before their wedding day, Katie & Tom spent a weekend in Dorset. We’d arranged a pre-wedding shoot and they fitted a short break around that meeting. Come the day of the shoot, the weather was perfectly appalling so we adjourned to a pub, chatted away about wedding day plans and I took some photographs all the same. They weren’t a pair to let the weather bother them, more the kind to take everything in their stride, easy going and relaxed and they simply made for really good company. The following day, their journey back to London – one that should have taken little more than a couple of hours – turned into a minor train-bound odyssey of seven hours duration. The next time that I met them (I’d been in London for a wedding and met up with Katie & Tom on the South Bank before I set off back to Dorset on a somewhat quicker train journey than theirs had been) they told me about that interminable voyage and how Tom’s best man, Yass, had offered to drive half way to pick them up and bring them home.

They related this story as an example of the great generosity of one of their friends and expressed their happiness with just how good a set of friends they shared in general. I met Yass on their wedding day, of course, and he was clearly a generous and caring soul. Similar could be said without pause for thought of Katie & Tom’s friends and family, across the board. What particularly struck me though as they related this story of offered rescue was the manner in which they exclusively pinned all of the goodness of personal nature onto their friend and were totally unassuming about themselves. Come the wedding day at South Farm, Shingay-cum-Wendy in Hertfordshire, a small army of friends and family toiled away for hours pulling everything together for them and again, those efforts were marvelled at by Katie & Tom, appreciated immeasurably, all assumptions of worthiness projected onto those people.

Should we ever be inclined to evaluate our worth as people, all we need do is look at those that take us as friends, those that raise and nurture us. They tend to mirror what we are. If they consistently pull all the stops out to help us, then we can perhaps safely assume that we’re really quite okay as people ourselves.

This is what I particularly liked about working with Katie & Tom, all part of a virtuous circle I do feel thankful for being privy to, opportunity after opportunity to experience days of great significance in people’s lives, people whose conduct and comportment reassure me that I live in a world wherein deep rooted human decency can be the norm. It was a pleasure to witness their story and it is a pleasure to relate it.

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A bold claim, I thought to myself, as I set about photographing Katie & Tom’s wedding day. And it must be a sign, I thought to myself; it’s always good to set the scene with a sign. I don’t typically pin my flag to wedding venues; they’re all cut from different cloth and I’m far more about following people wherever they may go but South Farm, it transpired, is distinctly different. On the surface it’s a place bubbling with rustic charm, there are pigs and sheep and geese and white peacocks, beautiful buildings and grounds that provide the feel of being on a farm but without need to trail dresses and wedding shoes through mud and muck, and with an inter-layered strata of elegance to it all. There are traditional Romany caravans, too, that guests can sleep in. And space to set up tents and camp out. It’s all kinds of fun country living. To me though South Farm proved most poignantly to be distinctly different under the surface, in the manner in which its staff took care of its clients (and the suppliers they’d brought along with them!) It’s certainly a highly popular wedding venue, a particularly busy one indeed, yet stands out as one that doesn’t handle its clients as transient users of a rigidly defined mould or process; no factory-farmed wedding factory but very much a free-range environment.

Katie & Tom had originally planned to have their marriage ceremony conducted in one of South Farm’s gardens, in an open sided, oak-framed summer house with guests seated across a small pond, taking it all in. Unfortunately it had rained heavily overnight and less heavily but still so throughout much of the morning and the weather was highly uncertain for the afternoon. South Farm does also have an indoor option for ceremonies and I must admit that I would have expected, from experience, that a particularly busy wedding venue would have directed proceedings towards the easiest logistical outcome for themselves. Not at all here, though. As I moved back and fore during the morning and early afternoon between Katie’s quarters and Tom’s, I witnessed how South Farm’s wedding coordinator appraised and dealt with circumstances, particularly in a couple of conversations that she had with Tom. There was very much an open attitude of the clients call the shots, we have the people to make it work whatever your decision. A gentle and understanding approach was manifestly evident. Even twenty minutes before the ceremony start time the choice was offered, we have staff at the ready to move and position chairs. Rain was picking and spotting though and the right decision was made, to conduct the ceremony indoors, but I’ll always respect the manner in which this particular aspect of so important a day was handled; no inkling whatsoever of the notion that this is just another in a long chain of weddings; this is the only wedding in the world.

And the ceremony was perfect; it was lovely, moving, profound. And the sun broke through, so everyone got to enjoy a perfect outdoor experience come time for celebration (it did then rain again in the evening but everyone was inside dancing, so that didn’t matter a jot :~)

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M.C. Hugh (that’s Master of Ceremonies, not his name, though Hugh is indeed his name) is currently in the process of setting up his own wedding venue somewhere in Lincolnshire (I believe the first marriage that will take place there will be his own, with fiancée Claire)…

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Lilliputian clothes pegs on a giant of a wedding day…

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From one side of a wall to the other…

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Katie did her own hair and make-up but was thrilled when her good friend (and talented hair-dresser) Emma turned up to add the finishing touches…

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Polly had helped Katie choose her outfit and get ready for her very first date with Tom :~) It was rather poignant therefore that she helped Katie with her dress as she prepared for an even more significant date with Tom just minutes away…

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Come rain or shine…

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Katie & Tom both read vows of their own making, autobiographical, biographical and aspirational gems…

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That did he remember the rings moment. Of course he did!..

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A conspiracy of confetti…

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About Alex. That’s him there, in the background (once we actually get to the next image :~). He’s not the only one that spotted me, of course, and I wouldn’t usually feature an image the intention of which had been to represent a fully candid moment but in the making of which I’d been caught out, so to speak. This however is something of a trophy shot for me as he’s so downright difficult to capture in a photograph. It goes like this. Alex is the owner of Wedding Memories, a Dorset based wedding film-making outfit (though much like myself, he travels all over). This was the third wedding at which I’ve worked alongside Alex (the second time was at the wedding of another Katie & Tom, funnily enough). When Katie & Tom travelled down to Dorset to meet with me for a pre-wedding shoot and we ended up ensconced in the pub for most of the day (rain never stops play), Alex was due to come along later to meet with them in person and to discuss plans for filming on the wedding day. Before his arrival, I described to Katie & Tom my past experiences in working with Alex, the strong symbiotic link that I perceived in our work (when I watch Alex’s films, I often feel as though I’m experiencing motion based versions of my own stills work; he seems to look out for the same things, interaction and relationship between people, in particular) and how much I like the end result of what he produces but then I stated that I have just one problem working with him. I detected a slight flinch from Katie, then instant relaxation as I described the problem. I apply a roughly hewn adage when I’m photographing a wedding, “If they paid for it or made it themselves, I photograph it.” This extends more broadly to the hiring of people as well as to the creation of material decor. If a couple have hired a videographer, I will seek to get at least a photograph or two of that videographer in action as that was part of the material reality of the day. Alex however has an uncanny ability to dematerialise instantaneously whenever my camera is pointed in his direction (really, time after time it’s left me wondering how on earth he knew where I was and where I was looking), a veritable film-making ninja, and it’s not that he’s camera shy, it’s simply that he’s utterly considerate of others needs and requirements and importantly, alongside that, still manages to get absolutely everything that he needs for the benefit of his clients. This is the first time I’ve managed to capture Alex in action and I can’t even say ‘managed’ with any degree of honesty because it was, truth be said, a fluke of timing (and he dematerialised a split second later! :~) You can see Alex’s highlights film towards the end of the Rock My Wedding feature on Katie & Tom’s wedding (and read Katie’s eloquent words on her and Tom’s wedding day while you’re over there).

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Conducting a conversation…

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Tom & Katie went off for a walk together. I felt that I should follow them just in case they forgot the way back…

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I’d hate to think that the level of my fee meant compromise was required on the scale of bouncy castle that was ordered for the day…

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Time to eat, drink and be merry >>

Contact Herts Wedding Photographer Phillip Allen : phill@misterphill.com : 07870 696248