Caroline & Tom’s Christmas Wedding : Part One

Caroline & Tom are a couple of great depth, fine taste and well developed visual acuity. I say this not because they commissioned me to photograph their wedding but because, quite simply, they are. These characteristics manifest themselves in their deportment, the manner in which they put together their wedding day and what underscores their everyday lives.

In Tom, this is the fourth wedding of a former student that I’ve had the great privilege to document during 2010. He graduated in 2000 and with a small group of fellow students set up a company in a glorified broom cupboard in London. A decade further on, Blue Zoo employ dozens of animators (in somewhat more spacious accommodation than a broom cupboard) and during the past year created 20% of all children’s television animation produced and aired in England. His second date with Caroline saw him take her to a BAFTA awards ceremony. Caroline works in publishing and commissions photographers routinely; she certainly had plenty of choices for her wedding day.

No pressure there then.

The story of how they met was one of those that come the day of marriage, leads one to take stock and feel gratitude that serendipity brought about a chance occurrence, a chance encounter and a number of years down the line the binding of two people that fit each other perfectly (those privy to the speeches will hopefully appreciate the elegance of that summary :~) It’s a potent example of the interconnectedness of life. Indeed I wouldn’t be where I am today, sat in a hotel room in Southport penning these words in between two Northern weddings, had they not met.

Actually I would have been in Southport regardless as those other two weddings brought me here, but had they not then I dare say I’d have been sat at home writing all of this and it’s all down to Caroline & Tom meeting, and marrying. And this is the story of their wedding day.

Or it will be, after a little digression, uncharacteristic as that may be.

I awoke to the view, above, on Caroline & Tom’s wedding day. My regular dry-cleaners had lost my lucky blue wedding tie. Not that I’m superstitious or anything but it did concern me somewhat. This has nothing to do with the view I awoke to. Or maybe it does in that the view told me this was going to be a good day visually and in a great many other respects, despite the fact I’d be wearing another tie.

When I travel far from home to photograph weddings I now look for interesting places to stay. I quickly tired of the bland, homogeneous safety of chain hotels during my earlier travels; they certainly never contributed anything beneficial to my state of mind come the dawn of a wedding day and often had a slightly deflating influence at the end of a day of joy and excitement.

I really struck lucky on this particular journey when I discovered Houseboat Riverine on (or, rather, attached to) Taggs Island on the River Thames. If you’re attending a wedding at Hampton Court and fancy something a little different for your accommodation, I couldn’t recommend the place enough. If it’s your wedding and you’re commissioning me to photograph it, I’ll beg advance notice so I can book myself in before your guests snaffle all the rooms.

Toast from home-made bread and I’ve not come across finer quality ingredients in a cooked breakfast. Delivered freshly cooked across the kitchen counter by proprietor Malcolm, complete with engaging conversation and plentiful witty repartee…

My doorstep has… a doormat. A couple of wheelie bins just around the corner too. My host’s doorstep had cool…

Taggs Island is just across the road from Hampton Court House. Actually it’s across the Thames (via a bridge), then the road followed by a field and a hedge. Aside from the one time when I slept the night before at a marriage venue, I think this is the shortest journey to a commission I’ve experienced.

I remain intrigued by the hi-tech lamp…

Good thing there were no plans for canapés on the lawn…

They say the Eskimos have a hundred and fifty words for snow*. 139 of them fell on Caroline & Tom’s wedding day. Beautiful to behold, it did however make for nightmarish travelling conditions. Sadly, a number of guests were unable to make it on the day.

On occasion I receive comments on my wedding features along the lines of, “The pictures made me feel as though I was really there.” In this instance I sincerely hope that they serve a similar function for those that were unable to get through the snow.

*The truth of the matter

Tom’s proposal to Caroline was inspiring. He popped the question with a framed card sculpture, made by his own hand, on Christmas Day a year earlier…

Lots of photographs to decorate a wedding day; always a sight dear to my heart…

Having stopped in to see how preparations were going at Hampton Court House I set off for the hotel where Caroline was getting ready. My SatNav told me the journey should take 15 minutes. It took 15 minutes. That was a pleasant surprise considering the passion with which the snow had been falling.

Repetitive it may seem but I’m gripped by the drips…

Caroline shows her eye for detail. I expose the chasm in my script-writing capabilities…

So best I get on with that thing I do, with the shoes…

It’s snowing. Heavily. When I first visited Hampton Court House with Caroline & Tom for a location recce and a bit of a pre-wedding test shoot they’d expressed hope for a bit of snow on the ground to add to the atmosphere of the wedding day. Whilst they got a bit more of the white stuff than they’d bargained for, an important visual feature of the day it remained all the same. So, the shoe safari had to involve at least some shots in the snow.

The suede shoe safari. Snooooow. Wet stuff at heart.

This just wasn’t going to happen. I’m not going to ruin the shoes before the wedding has begun (thus far I never have afterwards, either). So I’m stood there under the canopy of the hotel entrance dangling Caroline’s shoes from the fingertips of one hand, camera wielded in the other and trying to get the depth of field and shutter speed right to get some of that mythical one hundred and thirty-nine words’ worth of falling snow to show up in the same frame when… an apparition appears out of the storm…

About Kate

Kate grew up in Dorset and now lives in the US where she runs a wedding photography business of her own. If you’re looking for a fantastic wedding photographer in Boston, Massachusetts then Kate’s your woman (if you’re looking for a wedding photographer in Boston, UK, I do travel widely). Coming to think of it, that should read awesome wedding photographer in Boston, Massachusetts.

Kate hauled her camera gear, on foot, for 25 minutes through a blizzard. Before that she navigated her way from North London to South London as travel services were being cancelled left, right and centre. She showed up early.

Kate is the best thing since sprocket holes were added to film.

We first made contact via the Wedding Photojournalist Association. Kate was coming back to the UK for a family visit and wanted to commission a photo-shoot with her folks based more on documentary principles than posed group shots. That sounded great to me. She also offered to second shoot a wedding with me if I happened to have any booked in whilst she was over. That sounded equally great. I was bowled over by Kate’s work; looking through various weddings on her blog I kept finding images composed and timed in exactly the same manner I’d wish to accomplish in my own work and her engagement sessions (I really need to loosen up my terminology with the ‘pre-wedding test shoot’ thing) inspire. Sadly the destination for the family shoot was cut off by snow but next time Kate’s back in the UK, I’m ready to roll, and I’m made up with having had her on-board for Caroline & Tom’s wedding day in the meantime. The perfect balance of fun and professionalism, it was an honour to work alongside her.

Kate took over coverage of bridal preparations as I set off to cover the grooms-men getting ready, and with the shoe safari snowed off, she set up a fine little shoe petting zoo in its place…

Dear Kate, Please explain how you do that with the shoes. Yours sincerely, Phill…

Cue, cut to grooms-men preparing… The SatNav told me it was a 15 minute journey from Caroline’s hotel to the home of Tom’s brother, where the grooms-men would be getting ready. Some 30 minutes in to that 15 minute journey and still only half way there, this was all I was seeing…

I made a call, both literally and metaphorically, the former to Tom and the latter with his agreement. I stopped at Hampton Court House. The critical need to be in place to photograph the ceremony trumps the anthropologically fascinating process of documenting men wrestling neck ties, aside from which I’d left my flashing gold and silver wedding photographer’s emergency light back in Dorset.

I made it to Hampton Court House in time for Tom’s arrival…

About Andrew

You get to see his face, eventually.

Andrew is a toastmaster and master of ceremonies. In tandem with this he bills himself as an event organiser, providing on-the-day total project management. He lives up to all of these titles and claims.

Andrew is a member of the Guild of Toastmasters (London). He is also Deputy Beadle to the Company of Security Professionals (I didn’t get around to asking him exactly what that means).

Andrew will meet and greet your guests…

And when he spots the inevitable…

Andrew will sort out all of your buttonhole woes. Much as (on the whole) this deprived me of my favoured images of men looking more than bemused by the flowers they’re expected to attach to their suits, it was an additional service that impressed greatly…

This is the first time I’ve worked alongside a dedicated master of ceremonies at a wedding and I wholeheartedly hope to work alongside someone of Andrew’s calibre again, indeed Andrew himself would do the trick nicely. He was there from start to finish, constantly ensuring the comfort of guests, communicating with other vendors to ensure everything was coming together perfectly for the benefit of the wedding party and doing all of this with a commensurate talent for dealing with people on a personal level and a fantastic deal of wit and good humour to boot.

People hire DJs and bands to provide entertainment on wedding days. I’d suggest without reservation hiring an Andrew, best of all the Andrew. He’ll add to everyone’s experience, their enjoyment of the day, whilst lifting an enormous amount of stress from your shoulders.

Andrew is in the process of putting together a Web site but for now you can contact him via email at

And it is time…

Caroline & Tom’s Christmas Wedding : Part Two >>>

Contact Hampton Court Surrey Wedding Photographer Phillip Allen : : 07870 696248

nadine austin - Oh my goodness. The couple seems amazing. I love the framed artwork proposal!

And your photography is awesome as usual!

Amanda Basteen - Beautiful job! Love the shots by the window!

Kat Forsyth - Wow! Every single moment captured…from intimate to fun, to posed…I love it! And this was only one part. You’re awesome, Mister Phill :-)

Kate - Ahhhhhh. WOW. I don’t even know where to begin. OK, so the photos are fantastic, of course. I am surprised – delighted! – at how well our styles mesh, and the story you weaved (wove??).

The photo of me … I think it’s quite probably the very best photo I’ve ever had taken – you somehow know how to reach out and grab the very soul, the essence, of the people you photograph. I squealed with delight when I saw it. And the writing is wonderful and silly as always. :)

Shoe petting zoo. Brilliant. :)

The last photo of Tom is perfect.

Heather - That is some CRAZY snow! You did a fabulous job, Phill. :D

Phillip Allen - Thanks all :~) and Kate, a heroic job perfectly done, thanks!

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