Cliveden House recommended photographer

I have been Cliveden House recommended photographer for over twenty years, and its stunning historical venue is somewhere I never grow tired of photographing. From grand elaborate weddings to a more intimate affair, this venue provides a very special setting for your wedding day.

Since we celebrated the change in law, I am very proud to have photographed several gay weddings at Cliveden House, and Andy and Garfield were a fabulous couple, we had a great day photographing their wedding and they were kind enough to spend some time telling me a bit more about them and their wedding day – thank you guys and many congratulations to you both…

Introducing the couple, Andy and Garfield

First of all, how did the two of you meet, tell me about the journey of you as a couple so far? It was all very modern – internet dating. We’d actually chatted online for two years before we met! Garfield wasn’t sure about meeting Andy at first, because at the time Andy looked too thin in his photos having been dieting and hitting the gym. Eventually, we did meet for the first time and then it was Andy who wasn’t sure – Garfield seemed like too much of a handful! Thankfully after meeting a few times, it started to click and they discovered a shared love of laughter, travel and food…. Which is why Andy doesn’t look thin anymore. Since meeting 5 years ago we’ve travelled the world together and shared some amazing experiences – we hope to have many more years of exploring ahead of us.

Did one of you propose or did the two of you decide that it was time to get married? We’d spoken about it once or twice and it seemed like we’d marry when the time was right. As Garfield had a significant birthday approaching with a party and bbq at the house and all their friends invited, Andy secretly hatched a plan to propose as a surprise. It worked brilliantly – birthday cake, candles and then down on one knee. Garfield hadn’t suspected a thing! It was lovely to have our friends and family around us and to see Garfield smiling from ear to ear.

Did you have engagement rings or did you just chose your wedding bands together? After the surprise proposal with a “stunt ring” – in case Andy got the size wrong – we selected specialist jewellers Paul & Brian of Woolton & Hewitt. They specialise in rings for couples of the same gender which makes it far easier to find matching rings of the right style. The engagement rings have a diamond and are engraved with our names and the date of the engagement. We thought ahead and had the engagement rings made in a shape which allows the wedding rings to sit perfectly alongside them on our fingers. Woolton & Hewitt then made the wedding rings to match the engagement rings – narrower and without the diamond but still with our names and wedding date engraved so they are unique and personal. Brian and Paul were so lovely and easy to work with – and send lovely cards and gifts with the rings!

Cliveden House is such an incredible venue with all its history, how did you chose it for your wedding? Andy’s introduction to Cliveden House was some 12 years before the wedding when he was taken there for dinner by friends. It was such a great night, that he went back for a birthday and stayed over for the first time. He was hooked on the friendly, informal excellent service in such stunning surroundings and with all the history. For Andy and Garfield’s first Valentine ’s Day, Cliveden was the obvious choice and Garfield fell in love with the warm welcome and beautiful place, enjoying the spa and National Trust gardens. Having got engaged, Cliveden was our first choice for the wedding, but we thought it would be too expensive and being out of London presented challenges for guests, so we looked at hundreds of other places before realising that Cliveden was where our hearts told us to go. The solution was partly working with Lydia at Cliveden who is amazing and so helpful in tailoring the arrangements to suit every couple, and partly following a friend’s idea to have a smaller group at Cliveden then a bigger party in London the next day. We got to relax for a day in the spa and stay overnight before the wedding, then welcome our guests on the day and have them all stay over. It was a stretch but worth every penny as we’ll remember our day for the rest of our lives.

The two of you got ready together in The Astor Suite in beautifully tailored blue suits, where did you go to get your suits for the wedding and what is the story behind the suit linings? Ah – the suits are quite a story. Due to family illness and a bereavement in the months before the wedding, we got behind on our arrangements and hadn’t found the suits as we’d planned. We were then short of time and despite knowing roughly what we wanted in terms of colour and design, getting matching suits from the high street which ticked all the boxes and were available in both our sizes was impossible. The solution was to take a risk and order online! We chose The Drop and were able to choose fabrics for each element of the suits, waistcoats and shirts from a huge range of fabrics, and selected from a shortlist of fabric sent as a swatch. From there we went to see Jonathan in their offices near Old Street for measurements and to show him photos of the design (a mash up of several we’d seen on the high street, and one on The Drop website). As the suits were being made to measure, we could bespoke every element – buttons, monograms and yes, the lining. There was a tense moment when the suits arrived and needed some adjustment, but that is normal for tailored suits and The Drop include an allowance for alterations. We finished the outfits with ties and cufflinks from Thomas Pink and pocket squares from John Lewis. Given the shortness of time and reasonable cost, I think we look the part!

I loved the pop of orange in your button holes and wedding flowers, who was your florist? Did you have a big input to the flowers and colours on the day and who supplied them? Cliveden’s wedding brochure and recommendations from Lydia the coordinator, were invaluable. We chose Blomster Designs Flowers as we didn’t really have a clear idea of what we wanted beyond ‘classy and traditional with a splash of tropical colour to reflect us’. Russell New came to meet us at Cliveden and was able to show us lots of photos of different types of flowers and designs to help tease out what we like. Afterwards, Russell emailed his proposed designs – again using pictures to illustrate what he meant – and after a couple of emails back and to, it was all set. In truth, we had very little input and Russell picked up on our personalities and one-line brief to create arrangements and matching button holes which really worked in the rooms of Cliveden and suited us. He even moved some of the arrangements from one room to another during the day to save cost and provided cellophane and helped dismantle them the next day so our guests could take bunches of the beautiful blooms away with them.

Tell me about the importance of the two ceremonies, you had a ‘hand binding’ ceremony on the lawn? Andy sadly lost his Mum in the months leading up to the wedding, and we really wanted to find a way to bring her into the day. We were able to tailor our vows in the Registrar-led ceremony in The Boudoir, but to be able to really do something personal and special, we decided to follow the example from friends’ wedding a few years ago and find an independent celebrant. Once again, Lydia at Cliveden not only worked out how we could weave this into the day but also recommended the right person, Elspeth Thomson celebrant, who she knew would work well with us and convey what we wanted to say. Elspeth suggested the hand fasting (tying) as a symbolic act, using one of Mum’s favourite scarves and wrote some lovely words about both of us and Andy’s Mum. It was a really moving moment when Andy’s Dad tied the scarf around our hands.

Your wedding cake as really stylish with your initials and silhouettes, who designed your wedding cake? We spotted Abigail Bloom’s Cake Company in the Cliveden wedding brochure, and looking at her website we could see the range of possibilities. One of her gallery of cakes sparked an idea, and we got in touch with Abigail to see if she would be able to help. The cake for Cliveden was white and gold to match the French Dining Room and flowers, the initials an ideal borrowed from another of Abigail’s cake but the silhouette of us was our idea – based on a skyline silhouette Abigail had done for someone else. We got Andy’s Dad to take a photo of us wearing suits, which Andy then turned into black figures on a white background for Abigail to use as a template. The result was amazing, personal and fun! The silhouette came out so well and the spicy fruit cake was delicious.

I loved the way everyone said a few words about the two of you for the speeches – how did you plan that? We didn’t plan that at all… after a few glasses of champagne, Andy decided to spring it on our guests  – probably giving the Cliveden kitchens a nightmare of a 30 minute delay on the main courses! The idea had come from Andy’s boss, Ian, who had talked about seeing this done at an event recently, so Andy just asked Ian to kick it off, and everyone took part and did a fabulous job. There was so much love in the room with people saying how they had met us, what we meant to them and there was much raucous laughter and a few tears. Sometimes it’s the things you don’t plan that just work.

Your friend played the piano in the evening – did you all continue to dance and party into the night? We’re lucky to count Norman Levene as a close friend – he is an amazing musician who plays piano bars all over the world. He is also incredibly funny and irreverent (changing lyrics and rattling off the one-liners). We are getting old and knackered these days, so danced and laughed until gone midnight, before returning to the Great Hall for nightcaps. There were sore heads the next day!

Documentary wedding photography

What special moment of your wedding day are you looking forward to seeing a photograph of? That’s hard – the whole day was such fun. Garfield loves the Registrar ceremony pics as we stood in front of friends taking our legal vows. Andy loves the picture of his Dad tying their hands in the ceremony outside – a poignant moment. But then there were so many moments and great pics – it’s impossible to choose!

As your photographer, and Cliveden House recommended photographer, I am always really interested in finding out how you found out about me, and what were you looking for in the wedding photography that made you chose me? Initially we saw your name in the Cliveden wedding brochure, but honestly having seen your work and the emotion and movement you capture in the documentary style, we were sold. Then we saw the wedding of two other guys you had photographed at Cliveden a year before and couldn’t believe our luck finding a photographer who could shoot a wedding in that way. What we loved was that it isn’t boring “say cheese” it is candid, unposed, informal, and really documents how it felt to be there on the day so that it jumps out at you. Having seen the photos of our wedding, we were smiling ear to ear every time we’ve looked through them, and our guests are commenting that it’s like being back there enjoying the day again. Thank you!