Sarah & Mark’s grand wedding at St Lawrence’s Church in Warkworth & Ellingham Hall in Northumberland
I really thought I’d spend all of January catching up with our blog posts. Instead, we have been just as busy with two weddings which is unheard of and a load of Newborn Photoshoots. Lisa and I debated whether we should skip the rest of 2021’s weddings and focus on the mountain that was 2022. But we can’t miss weddings like Sarah and Mark’s wedding at Ellingham Hall.
Sarah and Mark are London based and bravely booked in the depths of the first 2020 Lockdown for May 2021. We had to figure out Zoom just like the rest of the world and had some great calls with them before they had to reschedule for August 2021. Weddings were allowed at that point with limited numbers, which they had planned from the start, so they didn’t have to reduce numbers at the time but we were still all on tenterhooks in the months leading up to it. We were very excited! We loved Ellingham Hall but hadn’t been since Julie & Alan’s Wedding in 2018. Sarah and Mark’s plan’s sounded amazing. A very family-oriented wedding full of good food, amazing speeches and stunning surroundings.
A beautiful morning at Ellingham Hall
It was a gorgeous morning when we arrived at Ellingham. Almost everyone attending the wedding had stayed at Ellingham Hall the night before. Things were wonderfully laid back with a kitchen loaded with bacon sandwiches and makeup artists everywhere. Lisa had her hands full with the girls split between two rooms, floors apart. A lot of Mark’s family lived in Jamaica and they had hired makeup artists from London for the morning to pamper everyone.
A Sprinkling of Jamaican Rum
While Mark and the lads got ready I felt like I was in a Saville Row boutique with fine suits and accessories being adorned. Sarah’s dad arrived with a beautifully written card and a special present for Mark from his soon-to-be wife. She gave him an out-of-this-world watch that left him speechless.
We were then joined by Mark’s Dad and a huge bottle of rum. I thought shots were in order but it’s apparently Jamaican tradition to spill rum for good luck. If the Hall cleaning staff are reading this… I promise he didn’t spill much on the carpet.
Mark’s room had a fabulous rooftop balcony so I thought it would be nice to get outside to attach their buttonholes. This was the first embarrassment of the day for me. For the first time ever, I accidentally snapped the groom’s buttonhole as I tried to pin it to his lapel. I didn’t know what to say. After all the effort they had put into getting ready, I had wrecked the finishing touch. I got a little flustered and desperately tried to think of a way to put the rose back on its stem. I thought Mark was going to go nuts but instead, he calmly took the buttonhole and put a spare pin through the centre of the rose’s crown and into the stem. It held together all day and I was very relieved.
We had only met Sarah on grainy Zoom with bad lighting before today so we didn’t appreciate how naturally stunning she is. She was so calm and relaxed. The girls were all having a giggle and loved helping Sarah into her dress. Her dad was gobsmacked when he walked into the room and saw her. Ellingham Hall’s rooms are so spacious they let you step back and capture moments that just don’t happen when you’re right on top of people. Even though there was a steady stream of people visiting, the room stayed pristine which always helps.
St Lawrence’s Church in Warkworth
Although Sarah’s family have lived all around the world over the years they had settled in Warkworth and wanted their little girl to get married in their parish. I remember worrying about getting parked in Warkworth on a Saturday but the trip went to plan I got there just in time before the lads arrived. St Lawrence’s Church in Warkworth is a very old church. There are records stating a wooden church was on the site in 737 AD replaced by a stone building in the 12th century. Some churches just feel like pure history.
I didn’t realise I was about to experience my second embarrassment of the day. I’ve written in the past about how unpredictable resident priests and vicars can be. On this occasion, the bride and groom had told us the Reverend wouldn’t let us photograph throughout the service but normally we can charm them a little on meeting them and convince them we won’t be jumping around distracting everyone. No such luck on this occasion so I reluctantly agreed that once Sarah walked down the aisle we would stop and join the congregation in the pews and let the videographer record the service. I was worried Lisa would upset things as she never behaves in churches.
Walk of Shame
Sarah entered as if from a scene in a Richard Curtis movie. As she walked down the aisle I realised that my camera had a fault. So I sat in the pew at the back of the congregation and started discreetly working through what was wrong. After powering it down and reseating the lens, flash and battery I powered it back up. I then raised the lens to one of the guests and took one test shot.
It was at this point that the vicar stopped the service. Walked down the aisle and sternly told me to leave the church. I was speechless. In any other situation, I’d have fought for my innocence but didn’t want to cause a fuss so I removed myself from the pew and walked to the church door like a naughty schoolboy. Lisa, who was standing at the side of the church giggled her head off at me and has never let me live it down.
It feels like there is a hole in Sarah and Mark’s day. It’s a real shame because it’s a beautiful church that needs to be shown off. We may have missed all those expressions as they exchanged vows but we were allowed on the altar, after the ceremony.
As this was Sarah’s family church, the volunteers put on soft drinks and snacks for the guests while we used the grounds to get some groups together. For such an old church there are surprisingly few gravestones at its front. It’s probably the longest we’ve ever spent at a church and it doubled as a second venue, all while dodging the rain that kept threatening.
Back to Ellingham Hall
I raced back to Ellingham Hall in front of Sarah and Mark’s Vintage wedding car and they beat all their guests so we used the quiet moment to its fullest and grabbed some shots with their car. We then finished a few remaining groups as guests arrived, we knew Sarah and Mark had huge plans for their wedding breakfast.
World Class Speeches, Lots of Rum, Disney Songs and Six Food Courses
Sarah and Mark had told us about their unusual plans for a mammoth 6-course meal they were going to have with a different person giving a speech in between. These weren’t just your run-of-the-mill speeches. These were epic! Some of their speakers write speeches for a living. Special shout-outs go to Sarah’s Dad’s heartfelt words. Her sister got everyone singing Kiss the Girl from the Little Mermaid with her husband as backing guitar. And Mark’s brother got everyone to down a rum shot after what seemed like every paragraph.
Needless to say, our normal break while everyone eats was a little stop-start. I definitely felt my back the next day holding the 70-200 lens for that length of time.
The Chapel Window in Ellingham Hall
You can’t photograph a wedding at Ellingham Hall without using the Chapel Window on the Mez. It’s an amazing feature and we love it because it’s a quiet, out-of-the-way area, away from guests. It’s great for letting your couples have some alone time. Strangely, often on a wedding day romance is sometimes lacking. It’s a whirlwind. Sometimes stressful. You want to meet and chat with everyone. So being romantic with your new partner is sometimes forgotten. But it was obvious that Sarah and Mark were mad for each other.
Can you believe this is only a small selection of Mark and Sarah’s wedding? We’ve tried to ration the shots because just one year later, they did it all again for all the family and friends they couldn’t have on their big day thanks to restrictions. They booked us and Ellingham Hall all over again. For a blessing/anniversary bash and it was just as amazing. We can’t wait to share them with you too.